That workday, my God. You know the kind. Seconds are actually minutes, and minutes are hours, and the entire day goes by in the span of a decade. By the end of it I’d thought about the evening so many times that I started to suspect I had made up Niall Stella in the first place and this entire situation was a figment of my imagination.

Finally, it was five thirty and the office started to thin out. I slipped into the bathroom in the hall on my way out to check my makeup and clothes and was jolted out of my odd fugue into a full-on panic.

My silk top was massively wrinkled and sweet Jesus what was I thinking this morning? My sassy-short skirt suddenly seemed extremely short. Slutty short. What-do-you-charge-per-hour short. I groaned and leaned in closer to the mirror. My mascara was smudged . . . basically all over my face, and my blush had been rubbed off entirely.

I did what I could to fix the mess, but the problem was that I was so nervous I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep down the water and crackers I’d barely managed at lunch. Should I stay in the bathroom in case I’m going to throw up? Should I carry an extra bag? Why had I waited so long to go see him? What if I couldn’t manage to get a word out?

But then the oddest thing happened: I laughed. I was freaking out over seeing Niall Stella. I was checking my makeup and contemplating vomiting and worrying I would be mute or rambling.

This was normal. This was what I did.

Without another look in the mirror, I grabbed my purse and walked from the bathroom.

Hallway, elevator, street. Seventeen blocks, one bridge, and there I was. On the corner, making a decision.

That was when my heart decided to explode and my blood evaporated and I lost control of my brain.

He didn’t know I was coming. I hadn’t seen him or spoken to him in over two months. I asked him to give me time, and he had . . . I was grateful and mad about that at the same time. What if he had moved on? That would break me more, I thought, than the unknown. I could keep walking forward and head home to a quiet flat. I could do cereal for dinner and Community reruns until it was time to sleep, then get up and do the same thing tomorrow. I could keep working at this easy, boring job until it was time to move, and then I could disappear from the city entirely without ever having to face this. Someday I might get over Niall Stella.

Or, I could turn right, walk two blocks to his flat, sit on his stoop, and wait for him. I could tell him I still wanted to try and then let him tell me yes, or tell me no. If he said no, I would go home and do the cereal and the sitcom and the eventual painful heart repairs. But if he said yes . . .

There wasn’t a choice, not really.

I stared at the sidewalk as I moved, at my bright red shoes on the dull gray concrete. It made it easier to move forward to have something to watch. I counted the Number of Cracks Between Decision Corner and Niall’s Flat (twenty-four) and the Number of Times I Considered Turning Around and Going Home (about eighty) and went through what I wanted to say again and again:

Hi. I’m sure it’s really weird to find me here on your steps and I’m sorry for not calling, but I wanted to see you. I missed you. I love you.

Keep it simple, I thought. Lay it all out there and let him decide.

I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be home yet when I got there, but rang his flat just in case. When there was no answer, I stared blankly at the steps for a few breaths before sitting down, prepared to wait, repeating my opener.

Hi. I’m sure it’s really weird to find me here on your steps and I’m sorry for not calling, but I wanted to see you. I missed you. I love you.

The sun fell in the sky slowly, reluctantly. Cars drove by, or parked, neighbors climbed out and went into their flats after studying me with curiosity for the most brief and British amount of time. The post-work-hours movement slowed almost abruptly, and then lights went on inside. Dinner smells drifted onto the street. And still, no Niall.

Every time I began to think that I should leave—maybe he was out for the night with the guys?—I then thought, but what if he walks up a minute after I’ve left?

I expected him maybe a half hour after I arrived, but I sat for an hour, and then two, three, and finally I’d been sitting waiting for four hours without any sign of him when it occurred to me: Niall could be on a date.

The thought was so sour, I actually groaned. Resting my arms on my knees and pressing my forehead there, I focused on breathing in. Breathing out.

I may have stayed like that for another half hour or even three more, I don’t really know. But when I looked up, it was because of some odd awareness, some change in the atmosphere. The sound all around me dipped and then I could hear it: the faint click of men’s dress shoes on pavement. The steady, long strides of Niall Stella.

The Number of Times I Have Listened for Niall Stella’s Footfalls: infinite.

I turned my head down the street and saw the long shape of him. What happened inside me had to be described in a medical text somewhere under “lovesick”: my heart evaporated and then returned as some beastly enormous thing that seemed to beat far too fast and with too much force. It pulsed in my ears, rushed blood to warm into my hands and feet until they tingled. I was dizzy, narrowing my eyes to see him through blurred vision, and fairly sure I was going to be sick.

He was wearing his navy suit—I could see in the distance, under the regularly intervaled light from streetlamps—and looked . . . amazing. Strong and confident and walking with his trademark posture: shoulders back, arms at his sides, head straight.

Until he was about twenty feet away and saw me sitting on his steps.