Between These Lines (A Young Adult Novel) (4 page)

BOOK: Between These Lines (A Young Adult Novel)
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“Psst.
Chase.”

I
turned in my seat toward a boy named Brent Lockhart, who gave me the chin-nod.

“Nice
move on switching ranks, Mitman.”

I
wanted to tell him I never switched. Evie was the one who asked me to lunch to
talk about a paper, and ever since, I’m a freaking super-star.
 
I returned the chin-nod and turned back
around to face front, which wasn’t much better. Rhonda Simpson stared at me. I
managed to give her a half smile, then whipped out my pencil and began erasing
the top of my desk in a metaphoric effort to make everyone in my classroom
disappear until the bell rang, and when it did, I couldn’t get out of there
fast enough.

 
“Mitman!” The steady fall of footsteps
grew closer and caught up to me just outside the South Wing of the school, near
the walking path that would take me home. Jake Shellinger was half-laughing by
the time he caught up to me. “Man, are you deaf?”

“I
didn’t hear you.” The truth was I thought my ears were playing tricks on me, so
I kept walking. I never figured he was actually tracking me down.

“Well,
you’re tall, so I guess you can’t tell when you’re hoofing it.” Jake stood and
took a deep breath. “You should go out for basketball next season. I hear
they’ll hold cuts early.”

“Nah,
basketball’s not my thing.”

“Too
bad,” he said. “They’re always looking for a few good guys to go out for the
team.”

For
lack of a better conversation, I decided to stick with the athletic
suggestions. “Maybe you should go out for track?”

“Yeah,
that’s a good one,” he snorted, as if considering leaving the Crew team was an
option. “So, I heard you’re coming this weekend.”

The
nerve in my cheek twitched. Here it was, the scam of the century currently in
progress, only I couldn’t detect any suspicious vibes coming from Jake at all.
In fact, he seemed rather comfortable about the whole thing, as if inviting me
had been in the works for a while, and he was just now getting around to
talking to me about it.

“I
really haven’t had time to think about it yet.” I didn’t tell him I was still
leaning toward ignoring the invitation. The only reason worth giving it a go
would be Evie, but reality was telling me that was pretty moot. She would be
there with Shane.

“No
worries. I only wanted to give you my address. 311 Pine. It’s the only house up
on the hill, so it’s easy to find.”

I
gave a nod, filing the street name and number away in my head, and stuffed my
hands deep into my pockets. Of course I knew of the place. It was the exclusive
A-frame on the hill. I imagined myself there, hanging out, blending in. It made
for a pretty laughable picture.

“If
you want to come, the door’s open. Anyone who’s a friend of Shane and Evie’s is
welcome. Catchya later, Mitman.” He turned to head back to the school, but
stopped short.

“Oh,
almost forgot. I’m supposed to give this to you, something about a study
session. Evie said you could text her anytime.” Jake smacked my back lightly
then sprinted off in the direction of the main building.

I
waited until he was a good distance away before unfolding the paper, and when I
did, I was surprised, and admittedly relieved, to see a cell phone number
printed in Evie’s neat handwriting. I shoved it into my pocket to keep company
with the other, and walked home. In the last two hours, the unexpected fell
into my lap. Either I was the luckiest guy in the world, or things were about
to get complicated.

 
 
 
 

Chapter Six

Evie

 

Out of
Shane’s friends, it was Jake I trusted most. Sure, he had the party boy image
down pat, but beneath that was something the others didn’t have, not even
Shane, and I held my breath as I watched out the window while he caught up to
Chase.

 
“You’re quiet,” Tara whispered as she
leaned over the seat behind me.

“I
don’t feel like talking.” I couldn’t help being short with her, and, given the
fact that she chose not to share a seat, I assumed she would accept my silence.

Tara
watched closely to see if I would cave and turn around. It wasn’t going to
happen, so she could just lean there for all I cared.

“Oh,
come on, Eves. Can’t you see I was trying to help?”

The
way I saw it, she was ruining things. I turned and faced her and instantly saw
the look in her eyes; the one that screamed “I won!” simply by my shifting
position.

“The
last I heard, this was a joint project. Wasn’t that what you kept saying all
along?” Tara asked me.

I
turned back around and felt her foot kick the back of the seat in frustration.
If only I could get the image in the chemistry window out of my head, but it
was bent on lingering and haunting me. No matter how brief, or silent, that
moment was, the look shared between them was a message that rang loud and
clear. Something was going on between them.

Tara
gave up speaking to me and wasn’t about to pursue it any further after we were
off the bus, and that was just fine with me. I considered that her reluctance
to pull me out of my funk was a measure of guilt on her part, and kept on
walking. Even as I rounded the corner of my driveway, I ignored her, and then
it hit me. She was Tara. She didn’t feel guilty. She just didn’t care.

“Mom?”
I called out as I let myself in the back door. I’d been a latchkey kid for
years, so it was unusual to find my mom’s car parked in the driveway this time
of day. Strange butterflies hit my stomach. It wasn’t a secret that I wished
she was here for me; that maybe I would open the door to the smell of cookies in
the oven, or a movie on the television screen, anything really.

“There
you are,” her voice chimed as I walked into the living room. “I was just on my
way out. I have a
big
client this afternoon who wants his entire home
redone in Neopolitan.” She switched her attention to the booklet of fabric
swatches and the large portfolio against an end table.

So much for wanting
cookies.

“How
late will you be?” I swallowed my disappointment and let my fingertip glide
along a tiny square of velvet, before she included with the others.

My
mother was an Interior Designer. Not a decorator. It was a huge difference,
according to her. Ironically, she created palatial rooms for her clients while
ours paled by comparison. We lived in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, but
most of my parents’ income went to my tuition at Whitley, which left a good
number of the rooms in our house bare.

“I
should be back by nine. Dinner’s in the fridge. Your father’s picking something
up at the office
.
” Her voice paused. I could feel it coming; the usual
dig at my dad. “As if that’s anything new
,
” my mother muttered beneath
her breath.

“Mom,”
I started, but she interrupted me.

“Don’t
even get me started on your father. I don’t have time for that right now.” She
turned around and began stacking tile samples.

When
it came to my dad’s workaholic schedule, my mom always got angry, yet she was
gone just as often. Ninety percent of the time, I found myself without either
of them.
 

“Why
don’t you invite Tara over tonight? Or study with that cute boyfriend of
yours?”

My
brain skipped over Tara and unexpectedly bee-lined for Chase, only he wasn’t
who my mom was talking about. In fact, I should have pictured Shane’s face in
my head.

But
I didn’t.

“I
study better by myself.” That’s the line Chase gave me when I asked him to
lunch and I couldn’t help the smile forming at the corner of my mouth.

Besides,
keeping Shane for company while alone in my house wasn’t a thought I wanted to
entertain. He was gorgeous. He was sweet and polite . . . on the outside. But
to be alone with him was something else entirely.

“Evie?”
my mom interrupted my thoughts. “I’m sorry you have to microwave dinner again,
but I can’t cancel this one.”

I
nodded my head, and tried to pull the brightest smile I could find out of myself.

She
kissed my cheek, which was more air than kiss, plucked the velvet sample from
my hand and stuffed it into her bag. Before I could find the words to convince
her to stay, she was out the back door, getting into her Crossfire, leaving me
with the scent of her perfume.

I
grabbed my backpack and made for the stairs to the safety zone of my room. I
flung open the door to my closet and felt inside the sleeves of my bathrobe for
the square lump hidden in the crook of the plush armpit.

My
diary
. My
escape.
 

Mom
gave it to me for Christmas so I could inscribe all my whims and wants within
the pages; that I could dream big and record anything I wanted during those
hours while my parents slaved to provide a life for me. Instead of fantasies
and silly, petty thoughts, I did write down my dreams. Dreams of what life
would be like if my parents worked nine to five, of days filled with laughter
and the smell of baked cookies when I walked in from school. I would wear jeans
and sneakers every day instead of looking like a prissy Whitley girl. I would
choose my own friends and who I wanted to love.

I
grabbed my pen. By the time the sun faded from the window, my diary had been
filled in with entry after entry of the most perfect dream I could muster. A
practically tangible dream that included me and a mystery named Chase Mitman.

 
 
 
 

Chapter Seven

Chase

 

“Chase?
That you?” the warm voice bellowed from down the hall over the clatter of pots
and pans.
 

I
let my backpack slip to the floor at the bottom of the steps.

So
much for quietly sneaking up to my room
.

Backtracking
my way down, I meandered toward the rear of the house as I pulled my shirt
loose from the cinching waist of my Dockers. The kitchen smelled of warm bread
and spices, and I finally spied Aunt Claudie hidden halfway inside the pantry.
She emerged with a disheveled hairdo and a wrinkled, floury apron tied to her
body, and I stepped around the corner to kiss her doughy cheek.

“School
okay?” she asked.

“Tolerable.”

“That
good, huh?” She sent me a sideways smile that connected all the way up to her
gray temples. Aunt Claudie was my father’s aunt, making her my great aunt, and
the surrogate for both halves of my parental unit.

I
responded with the same look I gave her every afternoon when she asked this question,
and leaned across the counter to pick at the tray of cooling Monkey Bread,
allowing the sweet, sticky dough to finally melt in my mouth.

“You
need friends,” Aunt Claudie offered. “Good friends to go hang around with and
have fun with, instead of sticking around here with an old broad like me.”

“You’re
not old.”

“Well,
I’m getting there. There’s no denying that.” Aunt Claudie looked at me long and
hard while I continued to pick at the bread, my fingers now stained with melted
cinnamon and sugar.

It
was the same issue. Friends. How I needed them. How in the long run, they
needed a friend like me to hang around with. Yada. Yada. Yada.

I
licked my fingers. “You’re more fun than those morons.”

Aunt
Claudie placed her hand across her heart and sighed deeply, “It’s like a gift
that you place me higher than the privileged lot at Whitley Prep. Really, it
is.”

There
was no wonder why late afternoon was my favorite. Others went home from school
to something loyal with four legs and a pedigree, or monstrous mega stereos, or
video games. I came home to Aunt Claudie, which far outweighed any pricey
possession. I ran my hands through the sudsy water at the sink and let the
warmth melt away the thick coating of coagulated sugar, while Aunt Claudie
busied herself behind me with dinner preparations.

“Any
prospects on the horizon?

A
nonchalant phrase like that was like a smack to the back of the head, but I
played her game. “Yeah, and they’re all beating down the door to get their
hands on this.” Elaborately, I waved my wet hands in front of my chest and
chuckled. The truth was, the “this” I was referring to was not only severely
lacking, but also invisible, at least to the girls at Whitley Prep.

Aunt
Claudie was smart enough to hone in on that, which was why she mentioned it at
least once a week—as if her throwing it out there could be just as
effective as injecting it into the vein of the universe, and that maybe, her
words could do something about it. Who knew?

Maybe
they could. If anyone could make a scrumptious Monkey Bread like Aunt Claudie,
then perhaps she did have the power to change the world. Or at least mine.

“Dinner’s
in half an hour” trailed after me as I left to go to my room.

BOOK: Between These Lines (A Young Adult Novel)
9.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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