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“You’re exactly zero fun,” I tell her, my eyes scanning over the clothes lined up for me.
They’re all . . . fine, really. Boring colors, mostly, definitely Ellie Wear, but nothing too terrible.
Ellie is flipping through a catalog Glynnis has left lying on the table, and she pauses on a page with several ballgowns on it. “Oooh,” I say, pointing at one that seems to be a mix of tartan patterns, all purple and green and black. The skirt is wide and floofy, and a narrow green ribbon belt separates it from the purple strapless top, and I tap the page. “Can I get one of these?”
Glynnis looks over Ellie’s shoulder and makes a tutting sound. “You may have an occasion to wear a ballgown, but that one is a bit . . . out there.”
“I like out there,” I say, but Ellie is already closing the book and handing me a gray cardigan.
“Go try this on,” she says, nodding toward a screen set up in the corner, and I frown, taking the sweater from her.
“You’re less than zero fun,” I tell her.
“Something that should be fun is your friend Isabel’s visit,” Glynnis calls out as I step behind the screen and I poke my head out the side.
“Is that all set up? Isa coming, the Ash Bentley signing . . .”
Gathering up more clothes from the table, Glynnis nods. “She’ll be here the day after tomorrow, just in time for the signing.” Then she flashes that predatory smile at me.
“Won’t it be nice to surprise her with your new look?”
Ah. I get it. This is the payment for getting an Isa visit—I princess up.
Well, sister-of-the-princess up.
As I slip the cardigan over my shoulders, scowling at the little pearl buttons, I wonder if even Isa is worth looking like my own grandmother.
Chapter 17
The palace puts Isabel up at the Balmoral, the same fancy hotel we’d stayed at when we came to Edinburgh. I was finally getting used to saying, “the palace” did this, “the palace” thinks that. Ellie said it so naturally, and so did Glynnis, that I could almost forget that “the palace” meant some weird cabal of people who made all the decisions for anyone even a little bit related to the royal family.
In any case, this was one time when I was really happy with the palace. The Balmoral was gorgeous, and I knew Isabel would love it, especially after I told her that J. K. Rowling finished the last Harry Potter book in one of the suites. That would send Isa into geek heaven.
I didn’t get to see her when she’d gotten in the night before, but the next morning, I hop in the back of a black town car (another thing to get used to) and head straight for the hotel.
No one takes a second glance at me when I walk through the front doors, which is a relief. I’d thought after the race, my face might be getting a little more familiar, but then I remind myself that famous people stay at this hotel all the time.
I take the elevator—sorry, the lift—up to the sixth floor and walk down the hall to Isabel’s room, my head already full of plans. It’s not a huge walk from the hotel to the National Museum of Scotland, so we can do that first, see some art, look at weird Scottish knickknacks, maybe say hi to an ancestor or two of Alex’s. From there, it’s a short walk to Greyfriars Kirkyard, which is both beautiful and super creepy. Very much Isabel’s bag. Lunch at Nando’s, tea and some cake, and then we get to go see Ash Bentley speak and sign books at this amazing little bookshop on Victoria Street. The perfect Isa and Daisy day.
Stopping in front of room 634, I knock a funny little knock, three quick taps, two louder ones with my fist, and after a minute, the door opens just a little bit, Isabel’s face appearing in the crack.
Her red, teary, kinda snotty face.
“What happened?” I cry.
Isa opens the door wider to let me in. The second I slip into the room, the door shuts behind me and Isabel’s face crumples. “It’s Ben,” she says, spitting out her boyfriend’s name like it’s a bad word, and uh-oh.
Isabel and Ben have always been the nicest, most stable couple I know. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times I wished Ben wasn’t in the picture, but that was only in moments when I was feeling a little lonely, and maybe a little envious. On the whole, he was a good guy, and it definitely wasn’t like Isabel to cry over him.
“What about Ben?” I ask, taking her arms and steering her toward the little sofa in the suite. She’s wearing one of the white hotel bathrobes, her black hair still wet from the shower. A room service tray is untouched on the table, so I pick up the silver pot of coffee and pour her a cup, putting in plenty of sugar the way she likes. She takes it from me but doesn’t drink, her gaze focused somewhere around her bright orange toenails.
“He sent me this email,” she sniffles. “While I was flying across the freaking ocean, my boyfriend was typing me out his thesis on why we should maybe take some time apart this summer.”
I sit down heavily on the sofa. “What?”
“That’s what I said!” Isa takes a sip of the coffee, shuddering a little. “Look at this.”
She fishes her phone out of her robe pocket and hands it to me. The email is already open.
“I just saw it,” Isabel says. Her voice is still wavering, but she’s not crying anymore. “Literally got out of the shower, sent him a text to say I was here safe, and he asked if I’d checked my email yet. That’s all he said. Three years of dating, he knows he’s breaking up with me in an email, and not ‘glad you’re safe, but we need to talk when you get a chance,’ just ‘have you checked your email?’” She takes another sip of coffee, her hair dripping water onto her robe. “Are you done reading it?”
“Um, almost,” I say, but the truth is, Isabel wasn’t lying about this being a thesis. It’s like two thousand words of Ben’s feelings and concerns, and while I like Ben, I really don’t need this much of him.
But I skim it enough to see his general point—because Isabel is going to be gone for nearly a month, and Ben is going up to see his grandparents in Maine, he thinks they should use this time as a sort of “test run” for college, to see what it’s like being apart . . . before they’re apart? I don’t know, I’m not following Ben’s logic, and I suspect this is more about wanting to make out with girls in Maine than any sort of journey of the soul he and Isa should take as a couple.
“It’s total bullshit,” she says flatly, echoing my own thoughts. “He’s probably got a thing for some girl in Bar Harbor.”
“At least he’s not planning on cheating?” I say, but it’s the wrong thing to say, and we both know it. Isabel takes a deep, shaky breath.
“But what if he already has?” she asks in a small voice, and then she’s crying again, and there’s this entire story coming out about how Ben was weird after his trip to his grandparents’ last year, that there was this girl, Carlie, on his Facebook that he’d only added after that trip, that she didn’t have a location listed, but all her pictures sure looked like Maine, and as all this spills out, I sit there, stunned.
Finally, when the saga of Ben and Carlie has come to an end, I blink at Isabel. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?”
Isabel gets up from the sofa, sighing as she makes her way to the massive desk and a box of tissues concealed in a marble-and-gilt box. She picks up the whole thing, shaking her head slightly at the over-the-top packaging, then sits down again, tucking one leg under the other.