O N E  F O R  T H E  R O A D

Better late than never.

It’s the phrase on the tip of everyone’s tongues. For three years, every staff member and regular at Taverne Toulouse has watched Zach and DeeDee edge their way closer to the grand finale of a ‘will they, won’t they’ dance that feels like it’s lasted for decades.

Bets have been placed. Wagers have been drawn. The whole of Montreal’s most famous dive bar is holding its breath. Will the small town boy with a heart of gold finally make a move on the wild, pink-haired bartender he’s been in love with for years, or will the moment pass them by and leave Zach and DeeDee insisting they’re ‘just friends’ yet again?

A rowdy night at the bar gets served with a twist that sends DeeDee spinning—not into Zach’s arms, but straight into his living room. With his dream girl crashing on his couch for a few weeks and brightening his days with spontaneous dance parties and eventful forays into the art of hair dyeing, Zach’s feelings only get stronger, and DeeDee’s follow right behind.

He calms her storms, and she streaks his skies with lightning. They fill each other’s gaps with a symmetry neither of them can ignore, but every step closer only raises the stakes of losing it all.

Late or never. A choice three years in the making. Their final shot to get it right.

E X C E R P T

“Remember when we used to do the origami competitions?” DeeDee asks.

“Yeah, and you always beat me.” She can make swans out of napkins. I can make lumps. “Do you know how many YouTube tutorials I watched? A lot, that’s how many. I swear the whole world is trolling me. There’s no way you can actually make that stuff out of paper.”

Her laugh follows me down the hall as I take the garbage out. When I get back from dropping the trash bags in the dumpster behind the bar, she already has her coat on.

“You good to go?” she asks.

“I’ll just grab my jacket.”

Once we’re out on the sidewalk, DeeDee gets the door locked up while I take a few deep breaths of night air. Taverne Toulouse is on Avenue Mont-Royal, one of Montreal’s best streets for eating, shopping, and sitting in bars. Everything on our block is closed for the night, but there are lights and people swarming around an intersection away.

“It’s actually kind of warm out.”

For the end of March, which is still a winter month in Montreal.

Ouais, I think all the snow will be gone after this weekend.” She tucks her keys into her pocket and smiles at me. “I can’t wait for summer.”

She is the summer. With her candy-coloured hair, bright brown eyes, and jacket hanging open to reveal a sliver of bare stomach, she’s all heat and sunshine and ice clinking in glasses filled with something sweet. Sometimes I think her parents must have made a last name up for her instead of giving her their own.

Beausoleil. Beautiful sun.

 “Do you, uh, want me to walk you home?”

“Aww, that’s sweet.” She grins again. “I’m okay, though. I’m meeting X at a place up the street, and we’re going home together.”

Right. X.

The boyfriend.

The boyfriend who wears muscle shirts every day of the week and whose party trick is crushing beer cans against his forehead.

That boyfriend.

Another thing I’ve learned about DeeDee during the many hours we’ve spent at Taverne Toulouse together: there’s always a boyfriend.

W I T H   A   S I D E   O F   S M A R T

R O M A N C E   S E R V E D   S T E A M Y

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