Exclusive! Bonus Scene from The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Exclusive! Bonus Scene from The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

“How about jam?” Boomer suggested. “Who doesn’t like jam?”

I shook my head. “It needs more.”

“You could throw in some peanut butter. Or some toast!”

“No – not toast. This needs to be big. Epic. Monumental.”

“Monumental is awesome!” Boomer cried out. “But who are you going to find to erect one in only nine days? You can’t rush statuary, dude.”

“No – not toast. This needs to be big. Epic. Monumental.”

Such is the absurdity of my mind that I actually imagined for a second what a statue of Lily would look like. Last year, it would have been illuminated from within, glowing with all the welcome of a fireplace on a cold-dark night. But this year? The stone would feel more like stone. The statue would stare off in the distance, spotting the future on the horizon and not liking it one bit. I needed to change that.

“What about tortoise-shell combs?” Boomer offered. “I hear they make a perfect gift.”

I didn’t even know what a tortoise-shell comb was. It just seemed sad that a creature could live that long and end up a comb.

“Oh no!” Boomer cried. “You could get her the tortoise-shell combs . . . but what if she cut all her hair off?!? Then it wouldn’t be a good gift at all!”

What did Lily like? Well, she liked baking. (The Great British Bake-off kind, not the Burning Man kind.) But my present last year had been baking-related. She liked knitting, but after The Sweater Mess, I didn’t want to unravel us further. She loved her family, but I didn’t know what kind of gift card would cover that. She loved dog-walking, but it seemed like it was a different kind of boyfriend who’d get his girlfriend a leash for Christmas. I could have just gotten her a World’s Greatest Girlfriend mug – but that would have made it seem like I’d tried all the rest of the girlfriends before getting to her. Which was as far from the truth as June 25th was from Christmas.

Another thing Lily liked was . . . well, me. Or us. Or at least I hoped I was still in the like column.

“Take her to a movie,” Boomer suggested. “Girls love movies. And boys love movies. So you’ll both be happy. Plus there’s that new romantic comedy, the one about the two vegetarians who end up working at the Carnegie Deli to try to save it. The one starring Maggie-what’s-her-name? What’s it called? Boyfriend Sandwich? No, that’s not it. Thin-sliced Love? Meat Me in St. Louis? No.”

“It’s called Meat Cute,” I told him.

Meat Cute! You should totally take her to see Meat Cute! That would be a totally kosher thing to do!”

I wasn’t sure a single romantic comedy could do it. But there was something about the idea of meeting cute, about meeting.

“Maybe I should go back to the start,” I told Boomer.

“An apple? A fig leaf?”

“No, our start. Together. Like a gift card to the Strand. That bookstore brought us together, right?”

Another thing I knew Lily loved was this city, New York City.

Boomer put a finger down his throat and made a barfing noise. “You are not allowed to get Lily a gift card. Gift cards are for grandparents who only have a vague idea of what Timmy likes to do with his time. Gift cards are for bosses who haven’t noticed whether their secretaries – male or female – wear jewelry or not. Gift cards are for people who like each other, not for people who love each other.”

“I could get her a dozen new red Moleskine notebooks.”

“Blank?”

“I don’t think you can buy them already filled in.”

Boomer shook his head. “I think she’d rather have one notebook written in by you than a million blank ones, stupidface.”

“Did you just call me stupidface?”

“Maybe.”

And maybe I was being a stupidface.

Another thing I knew Lily loved was this city, New York City. Especially this time of year, when the streets and shops reconfigured into humanity’s best attempt at a winter wonderland. When you were down, it was a pretty depressing place to be – like seeing a parade passing by while you’re too busy cleaning a toilet to go outside. The season was ever-present, but you could still tune it out. I’d spent years tuning it out . . . until Lily showed me the magic in the movements, the genuine joy that lay beneath the manufactured cheer. At some point this year, Lily had lost sight of it.

“The answer is the city,” I told Boomer. “I need her to see the city again.”

It was my answer. It had to be.

What do you give a girl who needs to wake up to life again?

You give her the thrill of the chase.

You give her the roar of the crowd.

You give her a bombardment of sights and sounds and people and wonders.

You give her the center of the world and the center of your world.

In other words, I knew I had to give her New York.