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“I hate… I hate having to talk about this when you’re far away,” says Else.

“I know.” His voice chops a little over the cell. “I love you. -ove you.”

“I love you,” she says. “I just want to see you…”

“I love you. I gotta -ta go.”

“Yeah,” she whispers, “bye,” and the connection’s dead before she finishes the word.

“You spend a lot of time talking to him,” says Mom a moment later, cocking an eyebrow as Else climbs back up the stairs.

“Well,” says Else breezily, “he’s having girl troubles,” and she realizes it’s not even a lie.