In the end, only three things matter:
How much you loved,
How gently you lived,
And how gracefully you let go
Of things not meant for you.
“Are you in love with Noah, Mercedes?” Cora asked. “I mean . . . I know you love him. You’ve been friends forever. We all have. But are you in love with him?”
Mercedes had wondered since if her response would have been different had she been facing Cora, looking into her big, blue eyes as she answered the question. She didn’t know if she would have been able to hide the truth from her. Cora knew her too well. But Mercedes had been lying to herself for a long time, and she was good at it. She was the mighty stone-face, the tough chick, the sassy Latina, and Cora loved Noah too. She was in love with Noah.
So Mercedes lied.
“Ha! No. Not like that. Never like that. Noah is like my brother. No.” Mercedes heard the lie in the way her accent suddenly appeared when she said “never.” Her r curled, and curled again on “brother,” underlining the falsehoods. Mercedes didn’t speak English at home, but she spoke it fluently, and her accent only reared its ethnic head when she wanted it to. Or when she was full of shit. Mercedes wasn’t selfless. Noah had kissed her, and she had kissed him back. She thought about him constantly. Morning, noon, and night. If it had been anyone else—anyone—she would have stuck out her chest, folded her small arms, and let her feelings be known. She would have claimed him. She would have.
But it was Cora. Brave, beautiful, broken Cora.