Thank you for all your support, once again!

Soren refused to talk to anyone, but it seemed he wasn't above simple communication by cell.

He texted me the next Saturday, asking for my address so he could come pick me up.

Yes, I was ecstatic that he had asked for my number and yes, I was equally ecstatic that he wanted to drive me over to his house.

It wasn't hard getting permission from my mother to go to a strange boy's house. My mom's chill like that, as long as it's for school.

What was hard was deciding what to wear. Should I dress to impress or stay casual? A simple dress or jeans or denim shorts? A blouse or a t-shirt or plaid flannel? Should I wear strappy sandals or just regular sneakers?

In the end, I went with the flannel. It was a bit nippy outside so long-sleeves were encouraged.

I wondered if my demographic still used words like nippy.

I saw Soren park his vehicle through my bedroom window. I squealed, clasped my hands excitedly, took one step toward the bedroom door, and promptly tripped over smooth carpet.

God, I was a mess.

Soren's dark blue Chevy didn't match his image at all, but somehow it suited him. Don't ask me how. I couldn't explain it even if I wanted to.

Soren was a perfect driver, and I mean perfect.

His turns? Perf. His yielding? Perf. His stopping at red? Perf. His speed? Perf. His attractiveness? Perf.

I shook my head. Remember, Allison. Remember that this is an unrequited love. Don't turn this into anything but a school project.

When we hit a stop light, Soren leaned over to open the compartment in front of me. I blushed at his close proximity, but my eyes quickly widened when I realized what he was pulling out.

Cigarettes. Camel Blues, to be exact.

I immediately snatched them out of his hand, threw them back into the compartment, and closed it.

Soren glared at me, but before he could do anything, the light turned green. I sat in my seat, nervously biting my lip as Soren fumed, driving a bit faster than he previously was. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and spoke.

"You're a good person, Soren, and good people don't smoke. I-I don't mean that smokers are bad people. I just mean you're too smart to do something like this and it's a bad habit and I know you can stop it because you seem like the type with tons of self-control. I just want what's best for your health and I think if you stop smoking then it would be good for you and your lungs won't turn icky and you'll be richer because they cost a lot and you'll be happier and you—"

He slammed a hand over my mouth.

It was then that it happened. I peeled his hand away with mine looked at Soren with determination, ready to finish what I started, but my heart skipped a beat when I saw what I did.

Soren was smirking at me.


I could have died and gone to heaven.

And then his shoulders started shaking. It took me a while to realize he was silently laughing at me.

Oh, are those angels I see in front of me? Have you come for me? My heart can't take it anymore. Save meeeeeeeee.

Soren sighed before pointing his head toward the compartment. He turned at me, and then made a flicking motion with his thumb. Did he want me to open the box in front of him or something?

Soren nodded.

Oops. Must have said that out loud.

I was hesitant, but I put my faith in Soren and did as he asked. I opened the compartment, grabbed the Camels, and flicked open the box.

Inside were mini M&M's.

Soren had an adorable little apartment. One bedroom and one bath, with a fully stocked kitchen, and space for a small dining table and a worn-out couch on the side. There was only one problem with it.

Everything was brown.

The walls were a nice dark brown, but all he had was wooden furniture. The couch was a lighter shade of brown, as was the carpeting. Heck, even the seat covers on his chairs were brown!

But that was okay. I had read a home-making magazine once. With a couple of colorful cushions for the couch, maybe a table cover for the dining table, and maybe we could repaint the kitchen cabinets. Color would bring the place to life. I think he'd like it. Hopefully. If not, we could go to IKEA for ideas. Maybe some green—Allison, what the fuck are you thinking? You don't even live here!

But green really would be a good contrast.


I jumped at the noise before my mouth dropped. "You! What are you doing here?!"

Sitting underneath the dining table was the same cat I had seen Soren feed soup that day. How did I know it was the same cat? It had the same white stripe running down its back as the other one.

The cat simply regarded me with mild curiosity before deeming me unworthy and running into the kitchen.

Soren, thankfully, hadn't heard anything as he was busy locking up the door. Why he had three different locking mechanisms, I wouldn't know.

He gestured toward the couch and I quickly sat down. I knew Soren wasn't going to talk (duh, Allison) so I took it upon myself to take the lead in this project.

"So," I clapped my hands together, "what should we do first?"

Soren shrugged.

…okay then. Progress.

I sat there for a bit. Soren stood there for a bit.

He then left for the kitchen and I let out the breath I had been holding. Being around him was weird. I had always admired the man from afar so working with him so closely felt too strange.

He returned with a plate of chocolate chip cookies in hand.

I gasped with happiness. "YAY!" I gratefully accepted a cookie or three from the platter. Chocolate chip cookies were my favorite.

Soren sat in a chair, an amused smile on his lips. I noticed this, of course, but pretended not to. I wanted to indulge and I was going to, so help me God!

When I had swallowed down six cookies, I leaned back into the couch, rubbing my tummy.

I felt fat. A good kind of fat.

"Okay, let's do this!" I said, finally rejuvenated and ready to work. "How about I make the poster to hang up in school and you start making a flyer? We can make the copies at school."

Soren, to my surprise, shook his head. He made a circle with his finger. I frowned. A circle? What did it mean? I thought hard before coming to a possible solution.

I started hesitantly. "Did you… want to make the poster instead?"

He nodded.

…okay then.

I was done with the flyer in half an hour. Soren had let me borrow his computer so I could make it through a program. All that was left was the copies. I made sure to email the flyer document from Soren's to my own.

Don't worry. He let me use his email. I didn't sneak into it.

Soren was making the poster on the dining table so I went to join him. What I saw took my breath away.

That seemed to happen a lot around this man.

The poster was beautiful. It was bright, it was colorful, it was the most eye-catching thing I'd ever seen. It was almost perfect. The middle was adorned with a picture of the red and white Campbell's soup can while bold bubble letters hovered above and below it, declaring the poster's intention and reason for existence.

"You're so good at painting," I marveled to myself. He seemed to have heard me, as he raised a brow. I flushed. "I just mean… the poster looks great. You have a great talent. Did someone teach you how to paint or did you learn on your own?"

Soren stilled. He dropped his chin low until his hair was covering his eyes. I couldn't tell what kind of expression he was making. Did I say something wrong?

Unsure of what I had done, I tried to change the atmosphere by grabbing a paintbrush in attempt to help him paint the bubble letters he hadn't gotten to yet.

He smacked my hand away.

We both stared at my hand for a long minute.

Soren's eyes widened while mine turned sad.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly. "I… I didn't want to get in your way. Should I leave now?"

My house wasn't too far from Soren's. I could walk if he wanted me to.

Soren shook his head and finally raised his head. I blinked when I saw his face. That emotion… was it…

He mouthed a word to me.


I didn't move for a second, shocked, before I smiled. "That's okay. Not sure what I did, but as long as I'm not in trouble, I don't mind. So I guess what I'm trying to say is… I forgive you?"

It came out as a question. Was there anything to truly forgive? He just didn't want me in his way, right?

Soren sighed before the corners of his lips quirked upward. It was the closest to a real smile I had ever seen from Soren and it made my heart thump.

I wiped the back of my hand against my forehead, and yawned. Soren and I had walked around the third neighborhood that day, ringing doorbells and gathering soup cans.

Some were enthralled by the fact that two high school students were working hard for a good cause and heartily offered a can or two from their pantry. The rest took one look at Soren before their eyes brightened and readily gave up at least three cans each. A few girls even looked like they wanted to give up more just soup cans.

I didn't blame them. Soren was Soren, and that was saying a lot.

The wheelbarrow (yes, I had a wheelbarrow at hand in my garage) was so full and heavy I had to get Soren to pull it. He had rolled up his sleeves and used his delicious arm muscles to do so.

Trust me when I saw it was a drool-worthy image. I almost did, by the way. Drool, that is.

"I'm tiiiiiired," I complained.

By this time, I had become comfortable enough around Soren that I could act my regular self. Mostly.

Soren simply rolled his eyes at me and gestured to the houses on our left.

I groaned, by followed him nonetheless. "Five more houses, okay? I can't do this anymore."

Soren poked my forehead.

I blushed, but quickly scowled. "Hey, you're the one who volunteered to pull the wheelbarrow so don't be like that. I can't help it if you've been working harder than me. Especially since the only reason we're getting cans is because of you."

At this, Soren gave me a quizzical look. It was as if he didn't know what I was talking about.

It was so hot outside, I was exhausted, and so, I let my mouth talk, forgetting to carefully choose my words.

"Did you know you're really attractive? Like, seriously. It should be a crime. You've got this nice shiny hair and these really pretty eyes. How can women not succumb to your good looks and give us whatever we need? I mean, I would too if I was on the receiving end like they are."

It was when I finished that I realized what I had just said.

I stopped walking, my mouth dropped open in horror, and I slowly turned to look at Soren.

He was smirking at me again.

I wanted to cry.

I gritted my teeth and hastily stomped away from him, ready to finish the last of our houses so I could go home. I was so glad he didn't respond to anything I said.

Now, there was a thought. Soren could smirk all he want, but he never responded to anything I said.

Mr. College Algebra gaped when he saw our progress at the end of the school day on Friday. "You mean to say, that you've collected over 200 cans of soup in less than a week?!"

I grinned. "Yup. And it was all thanks to Soren."

He blinked. "You mean, he actually helped?"

"Yes. Yes, he did. In fact, without him, we would never gotten anything done."

And it was every bit the truth.

My teacher frowned. "You don't have to cover up for him, Allison. It's okay to admit that he didn't—Uh…"

Someone growled from behind me.

Mr. CA yelped and ran away.

I turned around, only to find myself face to face with Soren Fisher.

He was wearing a polo today and no jacket today. A polo which fit deliciously with his body. Which meant eye candy for me. Sighhhhh.

I gulped and pasted a smile on my face. "What's up?"

He used his thumb to point backward. I looked over his shoulder, only to find his car.

I blinked. "You want to give me a ride?"

Soren nodded.

My stomach churned. It couldn't help it. Here was the man of my dreams, my literal prince charming, and he was offering to drive me back to my humble abode.

I felt like Cinderella.

What a wrong choice of words, for the moment I stepped forward, I fell flat on my face due to my shoelaces having come undone.

Damn Cinderella and her stupid shoe problems.

A hand appeared in front of me. I gratefully grabbed it, and it pulled me up to my feet. Soren then bent down in front of me and—What?

…he was tying my shoelaces.


I wanted to faint.

My bottom lip trembled when he finished and stood up. "You… um… thank you?"

Oh, why did everything come out as a question?

Soren shrugged and turned toward his Chevy, but I swore I saw a small smile on his lips before he did so.

It took me a few minutes to realize that we were not headed to my house, but to Soren's apartment.

I frowned. "What are we doing here, Soren?"

Soren said nothing.

Duh, Allison.

We got out of the car when we reached our destination. When Soren finally got his door open, I was instantly met with an air of excitement. Why though? What could possible happen in an empty apartment containing no one but a love-struck girl, a very handsome senior, and a cat?

Zip. Zero. Nada. Unrequited, remember?

I jumped when Soren placed his hands on my shoulders and slowly led me to his kitchen. He moved away from me when we got there and opened a cabinet.

My jaw slackened.

Inside was soup. Lots of soup.

Chicken noodle, tomato, potato and leek, beef, clam chowder, cheesy, butternut squash…


"Wh-why do you have so much soup?"

Soren simply beckoned me closer with a crooked finger. He then pointed up at the cabinet.

I tilted my head. "You want me to choose?"

He nodded.

I sighed, but decided to humor him. "I'll take potato and leek then."

Soren grabbed a can of potato and leek. He then gestured toward the dining table. I ventured away from the kitchen hesitantly, still unsure as to what Soren was doing. Were we going to eat soup together? But one can wasn't enough for two people.

When he was done cooking the soup (I noticed he hadn't heated it up all the way), he poured it into a bowl and set it on the ground.


I stared as the alley cat came sauntering into the room, its tail sticking up in the air, and sat down next to the bowl. It slowly bent down to lap up the soup with its tongue.

"Ever since I fed it soup, Calico doesn't want anything but the stuff. Hence the soup cans."

…okay, who the hell said that?

"I did, dummy."

My entire body was frozen. No, no, no, no, no. This couldn't be happening. This really couldn't be happening. Was it truly what I thought it was? Was it really? It couldn't. How could it? How could I become the lucky one? Maybe… maybe I wasn't the only one?

"Nope. You're the only one in a very long time. Years, to be honest."

The voice was deep and throaty, as if it wasn't used a lot. It had a baritone sort of feel to it and it was calm, soothing. I desperately wanted to hear more of it.

"Turn around, Allison. Look at me."

I couldn't. I still couldn't move.

"Fine, then. I'll do it myself."

I felt arms spin me around and hands latch onto my hips. I refused to look into his eyes. I absolutely refused to look.

"Allison, I swear to God. If you don't look at me, I'll make you do so, and you don't want that to happen."

This made me immediately lift my head up. My breath hitched when I did.

Soren was grinning down at me. I'd never seen such a vibrant smile from him ever in all the time I'd known him. His green eyes seemed brighter than usual, with a mischievous glint to them. If I wasn't mistaken, there was also a light flush to his cheeks.

"So," he started, that smile still glowing. "Care to tell me when you first fell for me?"

Say something, Allison. Something. Anything.

"Uh… when my shoelaces came undone?"

…good job, Allison. You idiot.

To my surprise, Soren laughed. It was the most magical thing I'd ever heard. EVER.

"Yes, that too. But I'm talking about something else, silly girl. I'm asking when you first started liking me."

I wanted to cry. How was I supposed to answer him? I couldn't just tell him that I've been in 'love' with him ever since I saw him feed that damn cat, now could I?

Soren blinked. "That long ago? That was last year, wasn't it?"

I wanted to smack myself. I chuckled nervously instead. "I-I didn't mean it. You see, it… um… see, this is what happened. I—" "No need to explain anything," Soren said, cutting me off. "I understand everything perfectly."

I gaped. "You do?"

Soren nodded.

He then leaned down to kiss me.

Excuse me, now. He did WHAT?

His lips left mine. I then fell over.

When I regained consciousness, I found myself sitting on a chair in a dim room I'd never seen before.

I heard a chuckle from behind me. "Finally awake? I didn't know a simple kiss could garner such a reaction out of you. I thought you'd be thrilled."

A chill went down my spine. "Where exactly am I?"

Soren moved so that he was at my side. "You once asked if someone taught me how to paint. Well, see for yourself."

He flicked the lights on and I gasped.

Paintings hung on every wall, were scattered around on the ground. All of them were absolutely gorgeous. Most of them were scenic landscapes.

My instant favorite was the one of a sunset overlooked from a cliff by the sea. There were two people with their backs to the painting, holding hands as they watched the colors of the sky meld and mold together into beauty.

"You like the sunset one? Fine then. It's yours to keep."

I frowned. "Excuse me? What do you mean it's mine to keep?"

"I mean," said Soren, "that I want you to take it home. It's not too big. You should be able to squeeze it in somewhere in your house."

My eyes widened and I quickly shook my head. "No, no. I couldn't. It's too beautiful for—"

"A beautiful painting for a beautiful girl," Soren grinned. "Seems fitting, don't you think?"

I looked down at myself. Beautiful? I was just plain Allison. I wore my wavy hair down, my brown eyes were bland, and I never wore make-up. I was simple. Boring.

Soren rolled his eyes. "You're a lot prettier than you give yourself credit for. Besides, I was mostly talking about your personality."

I blushed deep red. "Now you're just flattering me."

"Nope. Just telling the truth."

I closed my eyes and quickly changed the topic. "You said someone taught you. Who was it?"

Soren sighed "My mother. Before the crash, my parents were both artists. Not professional, but it was a love they both shared and bonded over. It was how they met, actually. They attended the same art class once upon a time."

I turned to Soren. "So that day, when I asked you…"

"Sorry about that," he said sheepishly. "I just get touchy over the subject sometimes. It was my mother's birthday that day, to be honest. I guess it just hit hard when you started mentioning it."

I couldn't help it. I stood up and gave Soren the biggest hug I could muster. "I'm sorry."

Soren seemed shocked at my sudden show of affection, but laughed lightly. "What are you sorry for, child? You didn't do anything."

I glared at this. "I'm not a child. I'm only two years younger than you."

Soren responded with a kiss to my forehead.


"Oh. She died."

I couldn't help the tears that were streaming down my face. "C-c-c-con-congratulations! I-I'm so p-proud of you, S-Soren!"

The graduate stuck his newly received diploma into his pocket, not even worrying about it getting crinkled, and attempted to console me.

"Shh. Calm down, Allison," he said with an amused smile. "I'm not going anywhere."

I buried my face into his chest. "Y-Yes, you are. You're off to bigger and greater places. You'll go to college, you'll get a good job, you'll meet a decent girl, and get married, and have two point five children and a dog, and… and… and—"

Soren laughed out loud, shocking everyone around him.

Even though Soren had started talking again in public, people still weren't used to it. It did, however, make him more approachable. Especially to girls. Whenever they attempted flirting though, Soren would always pull me closer to him and say "Sorry, I'm taken."

I blushed like crazy while the girls left with a huff.

…I was still crying.

Soren lifted me up in his arms, despite my protests, and spun me around. "You crazy, crazy girl. I'm not leaving you." He set my dizzy self onto the ground and whispered in my ear. "Haven't I told you yet? I'm going to the local community college. I won't be far from you."

My mouth dropped. "Really? You'll stay with me?"

He placed a small kiss on my nose. "Forever and ever until I die."

I continued bawling. "YOU CAN'T DIE!"

"Dear God, Allison. Stop already."