“I’m so confused,” he said, pushing his plate aside. “Are we breaking up?”

“Yes.” Ann reached across the table and took one of his fries. “Pass the ketchup?”

He held the bottle out to her, but didn’t let go when she grabbed it. “For real?”

“For real.”

“But why? I thought . . . I don’t know . . . I thought things were going well.”

Ann tugged the ketchup free and popped the cap. “They were going well.”

“Okay, so . . .?”


“So are you going to explain? You’re not going to say things are going well, break up with me, and then not explain why?” He hesitated. “Are you?”

Ann frowned. “Well, I thought it was obvious.”

“Thought what was obvious?”

“Well, to put it nicely . . .” Ann shrugged. “Dating you could get me killed.”

He gaped. “Excuse me? What are you talking about? Is it the motorcycle? You don’t have to ride if you don’t want to – I – ”

“It’s not the motorcycle,” Ann said, rolling her eyes and applying ketchup to the fries on her own plate. “The motorcycle isn’t what could get me killed – it’s you. You could get me killed. Like, no hard feelings or whatever, but I want to go to college and get married and see Europe someday.”

Still gaping. “I – what – but I want those things too.”

“Uh-huh. Sure.”

“I do – we have that in common! We both think long-term; we both want to study and travel . . . ”

“Don’t get hysterical now.”

“I’m not getting hysterical!” He took an upset gulp of water. “What’s this about me getting you killed? That’s a crazy thing to say to anyone: a crazier thing to say to your boyfriend.”



She picked a fry up and broke it in half, letting the insides cool. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Kidding? What would I be kidding about? Do I look amused to you?”

“Dude . . .” Ann glanced at the other restaurant tables around them, but they were mostly empty, and their server was nowhere to be seen. “Look, I know about you, okay. And I don’t want to be unsupportive, but . . . you’re dangerous.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, yeah?”

He crossed his arms. “Yeah.”

Ann crossed her arms too. “Don’t play dumb with me.”

“You know I don’t play dumb: I don’t know what you’re talking about. How could I get you killed if we’re not talking about the motorcycle?”

“Because . . . ” Ann slid down in her seat, voice lowered. “You’re the Chosen One.”

He leaned toward her, over the table. “What?”

The Chosen One.”

He looked deep into her eyes, unblinking. “What does that even mean?”

“Oh, come on.”

“I’m serious!”

Ann made a face. “You know . . . the Chosen One. The One Prophecy Has Foretold. The One of Destiny. The Hero.”

“The hero of what? What prophecy?”

“As if I know. I don’t read up on unfulfilled prophecy.”

“You don’t know? Then why would you think I’m a Destined One -”

“The. The Chosen One.”

“Whatever. I don’t get it. I don’t have anything to do with anything like that.”

Ann groaned. “You mean you don’t know yet? You really don’t know?”

“You think I’m stupid, don’t you. That’s what this is about: I’m not smart enough for you.”

“That’s not it. You’re plenty smart, but I’m smart too, and I know enough to get out before the Evil Overlord’s minions burn down your uncle’s farm.”

He sighed. “There’s no such thing as evil overlords. Even if there were, my uncle wouldn’t let them burn down the farm.”

“He would if the Evil Overlord gets to him first.”

He blinked, obviously stalling for time to respond. “Has someone been threatening you? Are you getting hate mail? Am getting hate mail and you just happened to see it first? Did someone leave a note on the car or something, threatening to burn down my uncle’s farm and kill you?”

“No, no, no.”

“So what is this about? I’m not following you.”

“How can you not be following me?” Ann pointed at him. “Where’d that scar on your left temple come from?”

“I told you,” he said, baffled. “I was two: I climbed up a dresser and fell off onto a toy. I don’t even remember.”

“And you don’t remember your parents, either.”

“They died when I was an infant; how could I remember?”

“So you’ve lived with your aunt and uncle this whole time.”

“Do you have a problem with that?”

“On your aunt and uncle’s farm?”

“This is a rural community! Most of us live on farms or work on farms or in farm-related industry!”

“So, who,” Ann said, shifting to point at another table in the restaurant, “are those people? They look menacing, and mysterious, and they’ve been spying on us all day.”

He swiveled to look, then swiveled back to glare. “That’s my neighbor and his friend Kyle. This is their favorite place to get dinner. My neighbor recommended it to me, actually, when I mentioned I wanted to take you someplace nice. If I’d know you were going to – ”

“You get advice from that old bearded guy? He mentors you?”

“Dinner recommendations and mentoring are entirely different things.”

“Just look at him. He’s wearing a robe.”

“That’s not a robe – that’s protective gear. He was out spraying the rosebushes to keep Japanese Beetles away. And he’s allowed to have a beard.”

“And I’m allowed to break up with you if I decide it’s in my best interest! Whether we like it or not, the fact of the matter is that the Chosen One’s first love usually ends up dead.”

He flushed. “Are we saying ‘I love you’ now?”

“We might have been, eventually, if I wasn’t breaking up with you.”

He flushed a darker red. “Okay, let’s just see if I understand you correctly: you’re breaking up with me because I’m an orphan with a scar on my face.”

And because you grew up on a farm with your aunt and uncle, overseen by a mysterious, bearded old man who mentors you sometimes.”

“About where to get good burgers.”

“Still mentoring.” Ann sighed. “Look, I’m sorry too. I wish things were different. But I’ve got to look out for myself.”

He shrugged – a helpless, hopeless gesture. “I don’t know what to say. I – it seems like you’re overreacting.”

“I could be. But I don’t want to be an inspirational memory just before you march onto the battlefield.”

“But there’s no battlefield. I’m not going to war. I’m still in high school, remember? We had classes a few hours ago.”

“For the Chosen One, it’s just a matter of time.” She picked up her burger. “Yes, you’re in high school now, but who’s to say what will happen down the road?”

“After the Evil Overlord burns down my uncle’s farm?”

“Mmmmpfhhh,” Ann said through pretzel bun and medium-well patty. “Exachthhhly.” She swallowed. “You should probably try and get your neighbor to teach you more than the best places to take a girl out to eat. Although to be fair, this food is amazing so far. Aren’t you going to eat yours?”

“I,” he said, “have lost my appetite.”