Troublemaker - Kayley Loring

1

Emilia

Here I am.

I am so ready.

My golden retriever and I made the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Paso Robles, California to Los Angeles two days ago. I was towing a 4’x9’ cargo trailer (filled mostly with books, school supplies and teaching materials) behind my Subaru. I was leaving behind my parents, a lifetime of safe memories, and one on-again-off-again ex-boyfriend who is totally off-again for good. My “Road Trip to a New Life” playlist was dominated by Kelly Clarkson songs, and it ended just as I was starting to panic about being able to cross four lanes of Highway 101 traffic to make it to my exit.

I did not miss my exit.

Because I am Miss Independent.

Now I am a warrior, a shooting star.

I’m so movin’ on, yeah yeah…

Etcetera.

I am here.

Now, after spending hours and hours unpacking, organizing, and rearranging the pieces of myself that I brought with me to this big bright bedroom in this big bright city, I am so ready to curl up in my overstuffed armchair. I’m ready to think about what the next chapter of my life is going to be about. This is the only piece of furniture that I brought with me. I just want to dangle my legs over the side of the chair and write in my journal, with a mug of tea and Atticus in his dog bed nearby. I just want to think about how lucky I am to have this chance to start over.

But I can’t.

Because a very well-groomed, well-intentioned asshole is banging on my new bedroom door and insisting that I go out with him to actually begin the next chapter of my life and start over—tonight.

My best friend, Franklin Baldwin, bursts in, belting out the chorus from “Defying Gravity.” He is all about me letting go of the man that I used to love so that I can fly. If it weren’t for Franklin, I’d probably be dragging my feet all the way back to Brent’s place already. Still, it would be nice to feel like I’ve landed at my new home first before taking flight.

“Why are you sitting down?” He claps his hands together, and my dog perks up a lot more than I do. “It’s time to celebrate! We do not celebrate being single by plopping down in nondescript armchairs that don’t match the rest of the carefully curated furniture in this house.”

“You said I could bring it.”

“And I’ll let you keep it as long as you promise not to spend the rest of the summer in it. Up! Get up!”

“Okay, but can we do an Eat Pray Love sort of celebration? But you know—locally? We could go to an Italian restaurant and then come home to meditate and watch a Javier Bardem movie. But not Eat Pray Love. Because we don’t like the movie version.”

“We can definitely do the first part of that, except instead of an Italian restaurant we’re going for sushi. It’s beach season—we’re low carb. Get up! Get up!”

Groan. “You aren’t going to make me wear a penis hat again, are you?” I came to visit the last time I broke up with Brent. Franklin took me out and told everyone we were having a bachelorette party to celebrate the fact that I wasn’t going to marry Mr. Wrong. And then I accidentally got back together with Mr. Wrong again. But that was the last last time I made that mistake. As Franklin says, I only have a few years left in my twenties to make some really great new mistakes. So I’d better start now.

“I’m going to make you wear the full penis costume if you don’t get up off of that fat chair immediately.”

Franklin is my new landlord and housemate. He has been my best friend since high school in Paso Robles. He called me Hermione because I was a prissy nerd, and I called him Ferris Bueller because he was always trying to get me to take a day off. Not much has changed in terms of our dynamic since then, although I am considerably less prissy. He has been an in-demand interior designer in LA since he came here to study at the Otis College of Art and Design. He has more followers on Instagram than most of the authors I read. He is a quarter Jamaican, a quarter English, a quarter Norwegian, a quarter Chinese, 1000% gorgeous, totally gay, a nonstop bossy pain in my butt, and the only reason I can afford to live in such a beautiful