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Authors: L. M. Augustine

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By L.M. Augustine

Copyright © 2013 by L.M. Augustine.

Cover art and design by B Design

 

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval systems, without prior written permission of the author except where permitted by law.

 

This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locations are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.

 

Chapter 1

 

Half of the guys in my grade get girls with one flash of a smile. The other 49.999 percent either get straight A’s, college scholarships, or a million dollars from their so-rich-they-need-a-personal-chef-even-though-they-always-eat-out parents. And me? I get a camera and a broken heart.

Sunlight warms my back as
I push open the front door and reach for my computer. Red and yellow leaves litter the entire front yard, and the poignant smell of autumn is everywhere. I breathe it in, smiling to myself. Everyone knows this is the best season. I mean, winter is all about snow and it’s common knowledge that snow stops being cute after the third time shoveling out the driveway. Spring is okay, although I’m mostly in it for the Girl Scout Cookies, and summer is too much fighting over which half-naked girl to flirt with next to be even halfway enjoyable. But autumn is cool, rich, and lively. Autumn is dancing in the leaves with that one person you can’t go without. Autumn is running and jumping in the wind. Autumn is smiling, kissing, loving.

Autumn
is happy.

Well, at least it’s supposed to be.

Ever since Mom died, though, that whole “happy” thing has been more of a struggle for me than anything else in the world.

With another breath, I
log into my computer, click over to my vlog page, and scroll through the fifty-something new comments on my latest video. Most are complimentary, despite the one troll who seems to think my incredibly gorgeous face (my words) is “fat.” Honestly, I’m not entirely sure
how
a face can be fat, but okay.

After a quick skim,
I already know none of the comments is the one I’m looking for, though.

I started my vlog two and a half years ago as a high school freshman with too much free time and not enough friends to spend it with. Mom used to call it my “imaginary friend” or my “replacement friend,” but if that’s true, this vlog is one badass imaginary friend.
Not too many imaginary friends come with over one-hundred-thousand subscribers.

I check my watch—2:01.
She should be commenting by now.

She. Harper. The girl who comments every day at exactly 2:02 in the afternoon
, and who is one of the few bright spots left in my life. I don’t know what she looks like or anything about her, really, aside from our occasional deep philosophical messaging on why pizza tastes so delicious and the fact that she says she lives in the same state as I do. But as stupid as it sounds, I can’t stop thinking about her. Can’t stop picturing what she looks like, how she smiles, talks, laughs, or even how her lips taste in the moonlight. (I just hope like hell she isn’t actually a fifty-year-old man pretending to be a sixteen-year-old girl because talk about awkward.) Sometimes I even wonder what it would be like to see her every day, to have her sit next to me and make fun of me for my taste in cupcakes (pink frosting for the win), to just laugh and talk with her until the world melts away.

I refresh the page and check th
e time again. 2:02.
Where is her comment?

It doesn’t come until a
few seconds later. As a response to my video about love notes in class, “HarperLikesPizza,” whose profile is complete with an avatar of a cow riding a bicycle while simultaneously eating pizza, wrote,
“I got a love note once during Spanish class in seventh grade.
I’m pretty sure it said I was hotter than a frozen potato.”

I smile
to myself. Together, Harper and I are the dorkiest people in existence, and I can’t help but love it. It doesn’t even matter that her comments are so short. Every interaction with her, no matter how small or pointless, is worth its weight in gold. She could probably lecture me on how a refrigerator works and it still would be awesome.

That’s just how she is, though: awesome. Perfect.
Mine
.

I
scroll the mouse across the page and click over to message her. A few months back, when our friendship really started to grow and we needed a place to talk outside of comments and emails, Harper and I made this chatroom for each other. Only we have access to it, and it’s basically our own little corner of the internet to talk about the history of the tomatoes and not care about the stupidity of it, because we’re talking with each other. Sometimes, when I’m bored, I even go back to the chat, reread our conversations, and catch myself smiling at it.

Harper always makes me smile.

Nice
, I type.
Being hotter than a frozen potato is pretttty impressive. You deserve some sort of award.

I know
, right?

Plus, it’
s one hot frozen potato.

S
o hot it practically burnt the freaking kid’s hand, I bet.

W
ell, it’s no wonder with that super sexy new avatar of yours
, I type, because I’m smiling just looking at it. Something about a pizza-eating-cow-biker is just so…
her
. I mean, I don’t know what she looks like or who she is, but somehow, I still feel like I know her, like we’re longtime friends and I don’t even realize it. And whoever she is,
wherever
she is, I can’t shake off this feeling that she is the one for me.

Yeah. I kn
ow. Falling in love with a girl over the internet. Welcome to my effed-up life. (My poor therapist.)

Hey, what can I say?
she writes.
My avatar brings all the boys to the yard.

I stifle a laugh. Oh my g
od. She is perfect.

Harper commented for the first time on my vlog almost
four months ago, and for every week after that, she’s kept commenting. Back then, I only liked her platonically. I thought she was just a funny girl on the internet who I enjoyed talking to. Nothing more, nothing less. But slowly, as months passed, I realized I cared about her—like, for real. And at first, that scared the hell out of me.

I
bet it’s the
cow, I say.
Major turn-on if you ask me.

I knoooow
! So what’s up with you anyway?

Nothing
. Just way too much homework.

SAME!

#awkwardhighschoolsingleprobs

Truth. We’re
practically
oppressed as a species.

We should make a club.

I think we already have. Exclusive. Only two people allowed. Just us. One hot potato and one… socially inept video blogger.

I hate you,
I type.

I know.

No you don’t.

Oh, Sam Green, believe me, I do.

Harper
calls me “Sam Green” because that’s my vlogging pseudonym, and I still haven’t had the guts to tell her my real name. I try to keep my vlog as separate as possible from my real life. My vlog is my happy place; my real life… isn’t.

Whatever
, I type.
I’m fabulous.

You sound like a total diva.

Probably because I am.

Oh yeah? What’s your
most popular album and how come I’ve never heard of it?

My album is called “Love Letters To Myself” and you have never heard of it because you
were raised poorly and have poor taste in music.

Creative title.
And the album cover? Is it a picture of you tossing your hair in the wind?

Obviously. You doubt me?

Of course not.

Sitting on the porch
, a slight breeze ruffles my blond hair, and several birds chirp overhead. I glance out at my tightly-packed neighborhood, which is lined with five small houses with even smaller yards per street, and catch myself smiling. When I talk to Harper, all I want is for her to just keep going, for me to keep talking to her, for her to write away the world for me. To make it just us, just me and her.

I’m not sure how one
goes about falling in love with a girl over the internet, but I guess I did it pretty freaking easily. One second I thought she was funny and kind of cool and the next I was thinking so much more. I have no idea why I’m so sure about loving Harper, but I just… am. Sure, I could be overestimating this whole thing, but by the deep longing I feel for her every time I’m not back here, talking to her, and by the way I just wish she were closer and closer to me, I don’t think so.

Hey
, Harper?
I type after a while.

Yeah?

Your avatar is sure as hell bringing this boy to the yard.

Chapter 2

 

When I
first started my vlog, it was just another way to pass the time. Back then, I vlogged about high school relationships and also really whatever popped into my head, because let’s face it, I am the farthest thing from experienced in the field of relationships. I was bored and I needed a hobby, so I took a deep breath and started filming, thinking I’d just make a few videos and be done with it. But 135,789 subscribers later, it’s become a part of me. Vlogging is something I can’t
not
to do, and I never feel more at peace than when I’m talking in front of the camera, filming my next vlog. Some nights I stay up thinking about what to vlog about next, while on other nights, I lie awake smiling at the fact that I have, like,
real
subscribers—the one constant in my life nowadays. 

I wish I could say vlogging is my whole life, but it’s not. It’s my
safe zone, though—the one thing I can escape to when everything else seems to be falling apart.

As far as I know, no one from
my tiny high school, not even Cat Davenport, my best friend, knows about my vlog At least, I have yet to be approached or made fun of for my “loser vlog series,” so that’s a plus. I vlog under the pseudonym Sam Green for a reason, as this vlog is where I open myself up, and I want it to remain a secret. The only ones who know about it are my mom and me—and that’s it. It’s weird, how I’m more comfortable being who I really am to complete strangers than to the people I’ve known all my life. But all the same, it’s the truth.

I
film my vlogs with the same ritual over and over: I drink a glass of water, take a deep breath, and stare straight into the camera.
You’re just talking to Mom
, I remind myself, because I know I can’t talk to her any more outside of this, because this vlog is the only way I can feel close to her again. Then, I click play, smile, and begin.

Mom died
six months ago, far enough into the past that I should be able to talk about her with a smile, with the months of pain turned to fond memories and rainbows, and her death just another memory.

Keyword: should.

But every morning when I wake to find her gone from the house, it feels like I’m reliving that first day without her over and over again, like I’m trapped in this sub-reality of tears and death and so, so much emptiness. The worst part is I’m not sure I want to leave it, leave her.

I’m not sure I
want to let go.

The therapists say it’s because of Dad. After all, her whole death
was
his fault. He was wasted one night and decided it was a brilliant idea to drive her home and then… nope. According to the police he was speeding and ran a red light when another car slammed into the passenger door, killing Mom instantly. Dad survived it, even though I wish he hadn’t. I mean, I’ve always hated him, but now? Now he’s dead to me. The way I see it, if I can’t have Mom, then he can’t have me, either.

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