Cheyenne is a nineteen-year-old college girl whose life is all about emotional walls and happy appearances. Her story starts with her finding her long-term boyfriend in bed with another woman. But while an ordinary girl scorned might have cried, screamed, consumed her weight in chocolate, for Cheyenne that act of betrayal awakens much deeper triggers in her relating to an inherent fear of abandonment and resulting in severe panic attacks. Her own mother’s neglect and ultimate leaving when she was a child have shaped her into a young woman subconsciously convinced of being unworthy of love and deserving of being overlooked and discarded by those closest to her. Her boyfriend’s infidelity does not break her heart, it crushes her self-esteem and makes her desperate to re-build her fragile little wall of appearances around her. She does not wish him back, she does not even mourn the loss of him in her life – she just wants everyone around her, including him, to think that she is moving on.
“What is it about me that makes people think they can take advantage and toss me aside? Why am I so easy to betray? … I’ve worked so hard not to be that girl – the girl whose own mother couldn’t love her enough to stay around.”
Colton is in so many ways the opposite of Cheyenne. He does not care what people think of him, he does not even care what he thinks of himself, the only person in the world whose opinion counts for something to him being that of his dying mother. He is a young man with no real ambitions, plans, or dreams for the future. He moves steadily ahead in life only to fulfil and honour his mother’s wishes for him. He is unmotivated for himself but does everything her can to make sure that his mother is well looked after and wanting for nothing. Even when the means to that end involve doing the very thing his mother fears the most for him.
“You can do anything in the world. I’ve always known that. Don’t forget it.”
Cheyenne and Colton meet at a low point in both their lives. They need very different things from each other but are desperate enough to reach an agreement to play a little charade for the sake of those around them – Cheyenne getting a fake new boyfriend in the process and Colton finding a source of funds necessary to continue paying his mother’s medical and living expenses. What starts as a simple little arrangement, an innocent game of pretence between two uninvested and uncommitted individuals, quickly becomes the very thing they were both needing in life – someone to lean on.
“Tomorrow… don’t remind me I said this. I won’t want to talk about it, but tonight… keep me safe.”
The more time they spend together, the more they are drawn to each other, and soon real emotions are at stake. They get into each other’s heads and for the first time in their lives they show their vulnerable sides to another person. While they pretend to be together for the benefit of others, emotionally they are stripped bare before one another, keeping each other’s secrets, making the very thing they are faking into the most real thing in their lives.
“For most of my life I’ve never been able to count on anyone. Even when I could, I hated it. I mean, really depend on someone. Not pretend to or play it off. You saw me at my worst… the part of me I hate and I don’t want anyone else to see, but you were there. That means something to me.”
Through heartbreak, personal tragedies and inner demons from the past, this is a genuinely romantic and beautifully written story about wanting more out of life and finding someone to be your true self with. It is also a story about overcoming unbearable pain and conquering it rather than emotionally succumbing to it. This is a book about love and all the hope it fills us with.
“I thought this was a game,” I remind him.
“Not anymore and you know it. Everything else in my life is all f*cked up. This is the only thing that’s real.”