He searches my eyes for a moment, then kisses the top of my forehead and presses his lips hard against mine. And when our kiss breaks, he smiles at me. And it’s not just any smile. It’s his smile — that one that holds a lifetime of promises that I know he won’t break, that one that says: I’ll never leave you. I’ll never let you go. I’m here forever. I love you. I love that smile.

“You ready?” he asks.

I nod my head, and he lifts me up and sets me onto the little backseat. Then, he swings his leg over the bike and straddles it, while I make sure my sundress is positioned just right.

“You know they’re going to kill us,” I whisper into his ear, as I hand him the camera.

He’s quiet for a moment — but only for a moment.

“Babe, if I die tomorrow, I die a happy man — with your ring on my finger.”

He reaches back and squeezes my leg.

“Your helmet, Wife.” He hands me the pink helmet.

“Thank you, Husband.”

I take the helmet and squeeze it over my head.

“Husband,” I say again, just to feel it on my tongue.

I hear the click of the helmet’s strap under my chin and watch as Andrew slides the marriage license and the camera inside the backpack and zips it closed.

“Guard this with your life,” he says, angling back toward me.

I force my arms through the bag until it’s resting on my back.

“Oh, and I put my sweatshirt in there too just in case you get cold on the way back,” he says. “Let me know if we need to stop, so you can put it on.”

I nod my head, and the big, pink helmet moves with it.

“I love you, Logan Amsel. Forever and a day.” He reaches back and squeezes my leg again.

I adjust the backpack, then tighten my arms around his waist.

“I love you too, Andrew Amsel.”

There’s a moment, and then suddenly, the purr of the bike’s engine fills the air around us. The sound grows louder and louder as the bike leaves the curb in one swift motion, forcing my body backward. I squeeze my arms tighter around Andrew’s waist.

“Forever and a day,” I whisper, pressing my cheek against his shoulder as the warm June air brushes feverishly over the parts of my bare skin.

Chapter Five

Four Years Later

(The Present)

“This is a nice place you got here, sis,” Hannah says, throwing herself onto the couch. “It’s different now that it’s finally all decorated — homier, I think.”

I pull out a glass from the cabinet. “You want some tea?”

Her face darts toward mine in a severe kind of way. “You never have to ask, you know?”

I laugh and grab the tea from the fridge and pour two glasses as Hannah goes on another tangent.

“I’m just so happy you’ve got your own place. And this one is so much better than your last one. And much, much better than the one before that.”

I look up at her.

“Hannah, the one before that was my dorm room.”

“I know. That one stunk…literally.”

I chuckle and shake my head. “It did,” I agree.

“Your own place. No roommates. A great, big-girl job. I just feel like you’re so grown up,” she says and then stops.

“It’s like you’re not Little Logan anymore.”

If looks could kill, I’m pretty sure Hannah would be laid out on the couch by now. I really don’t even mean to send her my death stare; it just comes naturally.

Hannah eventually looks up and scrunches her lips to one side.

“I’m sorry, I mean Ada…Lada.”

She finally settles on the nickname she made up for me that I’ve also come to answer to.

Having a sister definitely comes with its advantages. But being so comfortable that you just spit the first thing that comes to your mind out of your mouth is not one of them.

“Lada, it just came out,” Hannah pleads.

I continue to stare at her across the empty space. But I guess I really can’t be mad. She had called me Logan for eighteen years. I imagine it’s hard to retrain your brain after almost two decades of knowing someone by a different name, and I imagine it’s even harder when you have a brain the size of a pea.

“It’s fine,” I say, picking up the two glasses.

But I’m still trying to shake off the sound of my own name when we hear a loud thud outside the door.

I catch Hannah’s face light up, and then suddenly, that look somewhere in between mischief and curiosity fills her eyes. I recognize it instantly.

She jumps up and rushes to the door as I bring our drinks to the living room and set them down onto the coffee table.

“What is it?” I ask.

She’s got her face plastered to the door; her eyes are glued to the peep hole.

“I think someone’s moving in across the hall.”

“Oh,” I say, in the most enthused voice I can muster.

I haven’t had a neighbor for two weeks, and now, I think I’ve already kind of gotten used to it. Plus, I’ve only ever had weird neighbors. In the dorms in college, the girl across the hall always left messages on my door about her Renaissance club meetings. I’m not sure what I did to convince her that I would ever be the slightest bit interested in “keeping the Renaissance alive,” as she put it, but that didn’t stop her from stalking my door twenty-four-seven with little sticky notes that included words like: Good morrow, prithee and fare thee well.

Then, there was Suri. When I was nineteen, I moved off campus and right next door to Suri. Suri had a strange obsession with cats. She believed that cats were really people on their second lives. She had four of them — cats — even though I think we were only supposed to have one — and each had a story about whom he or she was in his or her first life. One was a doctor who practiced herbal remedies; one traveled with the Russian ballet; one was an aide to Ronald Reagan. The other… What was the fourth one?

“Hannah, what were Suri’s cats in their past lives?”

Hannah doesn’t move her eye from the peep hole. She doesn’t question my query either. Both responses are expected.

“A ballerina, a doctor, a presidential aide and a TV meteorologist,” she says, without skipping a beat.

“That’s right,” I say out loud. “The cat that could predict the weather.”

How did I forget that one?

“O.M.G.,” Hannah squeals. “Lada, get over here. You’ve got to see this.”

I’m almost positive that whatever it is on the other side of my door, it doesn’t warrant me running over to Hannah and shoving her out of the way, but I do it anyway — just in case Publishers Clearing House or Brad Pitt is on the other side.

“What?” I ask, forcing one eye to the peep hole.

“Is he the mover or the one moving in?” she asks.

“I don’t see anything.” My shoulders slump. No big check. No sexy actor.

“Just wait,” she says. “He’ll come back.”

I stand there motionless, breathing into the little space between my lips and the door, for a few more seconds — just long enough that I start to feel as if I’ve somehow turned into the weird, creepy neighbor that I’m so afraid of. Then, suddenly, he walks by and disappears into the apartment across the hall. I immediately gasp, turn and quickly force my back against the door.

“It’s the mover, right?” I say to Hannah.

She pushes me out of the way and glues her eye to the peep hole again.

“But he’s the only one. Have you ever seen just one mover?” she asks.

I push my lips together.

“He’s got a weird obsession with his mother or his cats have afterlives, right?” I ask her.

She doesn’t say anything for a second.

“Or he’s just as sane as his abs are perfect,” she says. “And God, his eyes are so blue.”

I let out an audible sigh.

“Come on, Lada,” she scolds, “be excited. You don’t see eyes like that every day — or abs, for that matter.”

I gather myself and slowly make my way back over to the tea on the coffee table.

“Hannah, he’s probably got a girlfriend or a wife or he’s a priest or something.”

I pick up a glass and take a drink. I think I’m trying to convince myself just as much as I’m trying to convince Hannah.

“Lada, he’s no priest,” she states, confidently.

I shrug my shoulders to try to show some indifference.

“But I’ll look for a ring,” she adds.

“Hannah,” I whisper loudly. “You’re being Creepy McCreepster. What if he can see your big eyeball through that hole?”

She tilts her head toward me just enough that I can see her face — the one that’s pretending to be put out.

“You’re kidding, right?” she asks. “He can’t see me.”

I flash her an impatient look. “Yeah, well, he can probably hear you.”

She furrows her brow and purses her lips. She knows I’m right.

I take another sip of my tea.

I really hope there’s something wrong with this guy — something that would make it easy for Hannah to just let it go — because Hannah anywhere near my love life scares the hell out of me. And I already know where this is all going.

“O.M.G.,” she squeals in her high-pitched voice.

“Hannah,” I scold in my loudest whisper.

She turns her head to the side and stares intensely at me. “You guys have the same tall lamp.”

I close my eyes and exhale.

“Hannah, everyone who shops at Target has the same tall lamp.”

She turns her face away again and goes back to her peeping. “It’s a sign,” I hear her whisper into the door.

I laugh and fall into the couch with my tea in hand. “A sign that he shops at Target,” I mumble under my breath.

Chapter Six

Next door

It’s 6:30 in the morning. I’m barely awake. The light pouring in through every window in this little apartment is blinding me. I readjust my sweatshirt and let it hang over the boxers I sleep in every night. There are exactly eleven steps from my bedroom to the door. Sometimes I get bored of doing the same thing over and over again, so I count. Ten. Eleven. I swing open the door and reach down to pick up my paper. It’s there every morning — without fail. I slide the rubber band off — like I do every morning — and unfold its accordion pages. And as if it were second nature, I turn to the last page just when the door across the hall opens and a man freezes in the doorway and stares at me.

I panic. I feel as if I should be embarrassed of stalking him yesterday — as if he knows or something — even though it really was Hannah who was doing most of the stalking. I quickly roll the newspaper back up and force my lips to move.

“Hi,” I say and quickly drop my eyes.

Oh my God. I notice my bare legs where my sweatshirt ends. It looks as if I’m not wearing any pants. I tug at the boxers, trying to will them to be longer, but I don’t think they’re any match against my oversized sweatshirt.

“Hi,” he says, with a warm smile. “I just moved in.”

There’s a second where I don’t say anything. I know it’s my turn to talk, but I haven’t got the foggiest idea of what to say. What if he heard Hannah yesterday through the door? What can I say that makes me look less like a creeper?

“Really?” I ask, at last, giving him a pretend, puzzled look. My voice sort of cracks, and I clear my throat and try my best to recover. “You must be a really quiet mover. I didn’t even notice.”

He chuckles and looks down at his welcome mat.

“I tried to keep it down,” he says, looking back up. “I’m Jorgen.”

He takes a step and extends his hand toward me.

“Ada,” I say, meeting his hand.

“Ada,” he repeats, almost as if he’s questioning whether I know my own name or not. But he seems strangely relieved, at the same time.

My eyebrows instinctively wrinkle a little in response to his questioning look as I take my hand back and run it through my wild strands of hair. But I figure out quickly that trying to tame my bed head is pretty useless, and I give up.

He’s still staring at me — as if he’s trying to place me in his memory or something.

“We’ve uh…,” I stutter. “We’ve never met, I don’t think,” I try to reassure him.

He doesn’t quite look satisfied.

“I’m a…,” I start and then laugh nervously. “I’m not a one-night stand or a girl you never called, I promise,” I say, forcing out another laugh.

He doesn’t even crack a smile, and his deep stare on me turns even more unreadable. I put my hand on my doorknob and start to turn it. I’m now completely and utterly embarrassed. But at least the mystery is solved. He’s a weirdo who stares a lot and who can’t take a joke. I can’t wait to tell Hannah.