The minute Rosa saw Juan, she knew she was in trouble.

What’s worse, he knew it too.

Juan Morales was the first boy Rosa had ever loved at the tender age of 15. He was tall, tan and, tantalising, with the greenest eyes and the plumpest lips. After crushing on him for over a year, Rosa had shyly invited him to her quinceañera, where, unknown to her, she’d kissed him under the watchful gaze of the entire town. Her puffy blue dress had made her feel like she was floating on air – right into womanhood. They had dated for three years, until Rosa went off to Los Angeles for college.

Now 23, her relationship at 15 was still the most successful one she’d had so far, a fact she tried to ignore as much as possible. Juan had been a wonderful boyfriend, well, as wonderful as a 16-year-old boy could be. He had managed to be charming and playful yet surprisingly sensitive when he wanted to be. His one weakness – like almost every teenage boy’s – was his knack for pranks and mischief.

Rosa prayed and hoped he’d grown out of it in the last five years.

Back when they were dating, she was the envy of the entire sophomore class. Juan would wait for her after class, bring her little snacks and knickknacks every day, hold her hand in school without a second thought. Rosa, on the other hand, was the shy, withholding one in their relationship. But, despite the many girls who flitted around him, hoping to convince him of a “better option,” he never had eyes for anybody but her.

One of their classmates, Jadalyn Perez, had even tried to pull a Brooke Davis on him and showed up scantily clothed in the backseat of his car. Only, he’d spotted her blonde highlights from a mile away and left her stewing in there, choosing to walk home with Rosa instead. Nobody knew how long she remained in that car, but the next day she’d shown up with severe bedhead and a scowl that could wither flowers.

Basically, for a 16-year-old boy, he hadn’t been a complete dingus. They would stay up all night helping each other study, go on dates on the weekends, play laser tag with their friends, and spend every waking minute together. In short, he was the perfect boyfriend. Or so Rosa thought.

About three years into this picture-perfect relationship, she had broken Juan Morales’ heart. She didn’t know what, but there was something wrong. Not with him, no. With her. His constant presence, his eagerness to be with her. The daily phone calls, texts, dates, presents. It felt too much; too perfect. And nothing could be perfect. It almost made her...uncomfortable. How could she not like it? But she just didn’t. She didn’t know why she didn’t. She couldn’t put a finger on it for the life of her, but after a year-long struggle with this unidentifiable, all-pervading feeling, she ended her first – and only –relationship.

And Juan had taken it like she expected he would, a fact that set her guilt on fire like it had been doused with the strongest tequila. With a smile on his face and a warm hand on her cheek to reassure her – her – that it’d all be okay. In that moment, she’d realised: She would always be thankful that Juan Morales was her first boyfriend. Rosa prayed and hoped he’d not changed in the last five years.

“I was hoping I’d run into you,” Juan said, his face beaming – with happiness or mischief, she couldn’t be sure.

“Hi! What’re you doing here?” she replied, realising there was no escape.

“Ouch! No “how are you” or “how is the missus”?” he asked, grinning.

Rosa was taken aback. “You got married?”

“No, but I could be. You’d know that if you’d stayed in touch.” Juan’s eyes twinkled.

Rosa took a deep breath and fought the urge to flick him on his smooth brown forehead.

“Right. I’ll do better. But right now I should get going. I have an appointment to keep!” she said brightly and tried to move past him.

“Oh, come on, an old friend comes into town and you don’t have a few moments to spare?” There was obvious laughter in his eyes.

“No! No, that’s not...Of course I have time to catch up! Let’s go to the coffee shop in the next lane, they have some amazing brews.” Rosa started to pull him by the hand. She had to get him out of there to do some damage control before one of her other co-workers spotted her there.

“Or we could just head upstairs to your office.”


“That’s not my...I mean I can’t...I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Rosa caught his eye and realised it was too late. He knew.

All resolution about what a good person he was flew out of her head. Maybe he had stalked her. Maybe he had been taking pictures for months so he could expose her secret. Maybe he had been planning this as revenge for years after the break-up. The possibilities were endless!

That’s insane.

“No? But, you’re out here on a Tuesday at 2 pm. Last I heard, you had a job,” Juan pushed.

“And where did you hear that?” Rosa demanded, suddenly afraid that the whole town knew already.

“I have my sources.” His eyes suddenly turned serious, the friendly crinkles around his eyes disappearing. “Rosita...what’re you hiding?”

“Who says I’m hiding anything? In fact, what are you doing here? You don’t even live in LA! What, are you stalking me?”

“No!” Juan let out a real laugh. Wow, okay, ouch. She hadn’t realised she was that unstalkable. He seemed conflicted for a moment, and finally sighed and said, “I...I booked myself an appointment with your friend over there.” Juan pointed to where Eloise had disappeared.

That was the last thing she had expected to come out of his mouth.

“Appointment for what? You got some back problems? Knee problems that you need a physiotherapist for? You are an old man now,” she tried to joke in a last ditch attempt to salvage the situation. But the best she could manage was shaky rambling.

“ know.” He tried to meet her eye. “Fine, if you won’t talk, I will. A couple of months ago, while filming, I was talking to our intimacy coordinator about some...problems I’ve been having, and she suggested I check out your company.”

What problems? Intimacy coordinator? Our company? Rosa had heard he worked in films now as director of photography, but this was all too much information to process.

“What’s an intimacy coordinator?”

“It’s this person on movie sets who dictates how an intimate scene should be filmed. You know, the angle, position, the works. Essentially, create a safe, comfortable space for the actors. Maybe you’d be good at that...considering. Want me to put out feelers for you?” he chuckled. He was back to his joking self, but there was a strained look in his eyes.

“I already have a job, thanks,” she said, bristling.

“Right, you do, obviously. And it is...?”

“Okay, look,” Rosa cut him to the chase. “You can’t tell anybody. Please.”

“Why not? Are you...ashamed of your work?”

“No! But do you really think anyone back home will feel the same? I’ll be crucified and my parents will very possibly disown me!”

“You’re being dramatic.”

“Just tell me what you want in exchange for keeping quiet. Free sessions? Tacos? Froyo for a month?” She was edging on hysterical now.

“Are you bribing me with froyo?” Juan laughed, all the tension disappearing from his face. “Relax. I’m not going to tell anyone. I didn’t mean to ambush you. I was just...surprised. Besides, you can’t tell anyone you saw me here either, so we’re even.”

Rosa’s shoulders sagged, and she felt the urge to almost cry with relief. “You promise?”

“Yes! Why would I? It’s none of my business, is it? You’re a grown woman who can make her own choices. I trust you know what’s best for you. Who am I to say anything about it?”

And just like that, the Juan Morales she’d loved was back.

Excerpted with permission from Eternally Single, Rosa Álvarez, Neerja Pawar, Saga Fiction.