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Authors: Sarah Jeffrey

Me & My Invisible Guy (6 page)

BOOK: Me & My Invisible Guy
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I shifted but kept staring at her, still unsure exactly what she was getting at.

She picked up another arrow. “All I mean is that you’re popular, and, well, he’s just not that type of guy.”

Now she looked uncomfortable.

“So because I’m popular, he wouldn’t be interested in me? Is that what you’re saying?”

“No. It’s more than that.”

“Then what is it?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

I will not kill Lexi. I will not kill Lexi.
“You think Liam is too good for someone like me?”

Lexi’s eyes widened. “No, that’s not what I’m saying.”

“Then what are you saying?”

Lexi stared, her eyes glassy. “I’m sorry… I just…” She dropped the bow on the ground and ran back toward the gym.

I stood there with a handful of arrows feeling hurt, confused, and a little guilty.

I filled in Tess on my Lexi encounter at lunchtime.

“Okay, now that’s weird.”

“Yeah, but she obviously didn’t tell me everything. Do you think he’ll only date girls like Lexi or what?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you should ask him.”

I looked over at where Liam was sitting with some guys at a table by the windows. It was one thing to try to get info from Lexi, but talking to Liam again was a whole other proposition.

“Or just ask him out and get it over with. Mallory, you’re stressing over nothing. There are plenty of other guys who would go out with you.”

But I didn’t want to go out with plenty of other guys. And I couldn’t even explain why I liked Liam. There was just something totally different about him. I was drawn to him. I loved the way he tapped out a rhythm on his jeans with his pencil when he was thinking hard in class. I loved how when he smiled, it made me want to smile, too. It had been so easy
to stick with Todd before, because while I had found a few guys in my school cute and nice, I never really cared enough to do anything about it.

Liam changed all that, and I had no plausible explanation for it.

Tess threw her straw wrapper at me. “Snap out of it, girl. Just do it. What do you have to lose?”

“My dignity.”

Tess laughed. “Dignity is overrated. And if you don’t want him dating Lexi Do-Gooder by next weekend, you’d better do something. Because somehow, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to date around.”

And Tess was totally right. As usual. But I couldn’t bring myself to do anything except stare at him from across crowded hallways. Which really wasn’t very useful.

I dragged myself to cheerleading practice and tried to focus on Tess’s fund-raising event. She stood in front of the entire JV and varsity squad and went through her plan. I knew about it and was still impressed. The coaches asked most of the questions, but at the end they gave her the go-ahead to put together a committee to pull it off. Everyone split up to practice, and she came bouncing over to me.

“I can’t believe it. So you’ll help me, of course, but who else should we recruit?” Tess turned and looked out across the gym. Everyone was inside because of the rain. “Maybe Olivia. She’s like a math whiz. That would be helpful,” she said.

“Should we ask any of the seniors?”

“I was thinking no, because what do they care if we get
new uniforms for next year? They’ll be gone. The juniors will work harder, don’t you think?”

I agreed. It was also the juniors who would get to vote for team captain. Smart girl.

By the end of practice we had a committee, and I realized that Tess’s project was going to take a huge chunk of time. I was put in charge of trying to find a building where we could collect the toys and do the pictures, for free, during the first part of November.

I decided to enlist Darby’s help for two reasons. One: Mom’s rules included finding ways to keep her involved with the family (as long as it wasn’t stressful). And two: she had a car—a major advantage.

After I told Dad he was relieved of his Darby-sitting duties that night, I found Darby on the back porch with her laptop, asleep.


She stirred, opened one eye, then sat up slowly. “I fell asleep.” She looked up at me. “How long did I sleep?”

“No idea. I just got back.”

“I hate these meds. Hate them. I was actually getting that stupid essay done and then I fall asleep.”

She didn’t seem to be in a very good mood, so favor asking was risky.

She opened her laptop and then growled, “Well, at least it’s saved. Mom’s got some teacher meeting thing tonight.”

“Well, I was going to see if you wanted to help me with something.”

She looked up. “Like what?”

I filled her in on the fund-raiser and my need to be driven around town to beg for space.

“Sure.” Darby gathered up her laptop and papers. “Let’s go.”

After we grabbed dinner at the Sub Shop, we drove around town looking for buildings that were vacant and for lease. A lot of them were too small; but we gathered names, addresses, and phone numbers for the ones that seemed large enough. In the end there were only about five possibilities.

“Why don’t you let me call around?” Darby asked when we got home.

“Oh, I can do it; it’s fine. This was a huge help.”

“Well, lots of these are businesses, and they’re going to be closed by the time you get back from practice. I don’t mind.”

I hesitated, weighing whether the task was too much pressure or the right kind of involvement. I wasn’t sure, but I needed the help, so I handed her the list. “If you’re willing, I’m game.” I also gave her the info that Tess had typed up about the project.

“I think this is great. When I was in school, all the cheerleaders did was try to look sexier.”

“Not Tess.”

“I’ll call around and see what I can find out. You don’t mind me stepping in?”

“No way. I’m thrilled. Ecstatic. Thanks, Darby.”

She smiled sadly. Her dark moods were pretty standard fare, but I still wondered what was on her mind. Darby had been through so much that it could be any one of a dozen things nagging at her. I felt a little guilty, but Darby wouldn’t have offered to help if she wasn’t willing. That’s what I’d tell Mom when she asked.

I called Tess to let her know that Darby was going to work on securing the building.

“I’m picking you up then.”


“’Cause if Darby’s doing your job, then you can help with mine.”

I didn’t argue. Mom was on her way home by that point, so I wouldn’t get in trouble for leaving Darby. I changed and waited by the front door. Tess pulled up in her Jeep.

“Did you ask your dad yet?”

“Not yet. He left as soon as I got home.”

She wanted me to borrow one of my dad’s digital cameras for the pictures to save money. He had all the equipment—the cameras, the computers, the printers—but talking Dad into letting a bunch of cheerleaders use them was not something I was eager to do. I knew how to use the equipment, but I was no expert. My personal plan was to convince Dad to come and help us that day instead of me being responsible for thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. I wasn’t comfortable with that kind of responsibility.

“But he’ll say yes, right?”


That satisfied her.

Tess drove to Hope House, the local domestic violence shelter. She parked, and I followed her inside the building, which was basically a large, two-story house. A heavy-set woman with short red hair came out of a small office next to the entrance.

“Tessie! I haven’t seen you in ages.” The woman squashed Tess into a hug. “What brings you by?”

“I have an idea that might help us both,” Tess said. “This is my friend Mallory. Mallory, this is Tammy.”

“Come on into my closet here and we can talk. Your friend can come, too.”

I looked at the tiny office, barely big enough for its owner much less two teenagers. “I’ll wait out here.”

Tess settled into a chair to give Tammy the pitch while I leaned on a wall in the hallway. I looked around at the simple home. A stairwell led upstairs, and the hallway I was standing in led back to a kitchen that was full of different voices. A small sitting room was across from me. It was shabby but clean, with couches and some bookshelves and tables.

Tess had stayed here for more than a year when we were in fifth grade. I remembered it well.

Looking around, it wasn’t hard to imagine Tess living there. I actually wished there were a place for her to go now. A safe place for kids to go when their moms were too drunk to take care of them. I wondered if Tammy could help Tess, if Tess was willing to ask.

Tess came out of the office, followed by Tammy, who was wiping her eyes.

“Thank you, Tess. You know how much it will mean to the kids here.”

“Well, we’re hoping to get enough toys to give some for Christmas, too, but we’ll have to see.”

Tammy grabbed Tess into another hug. “You’re an angel. Truly. Is your family doing okay? Your mom?”

Tess waved her hand. “Everything’s great. You don’t mind if we take a look at what kind of stuff you already have?”

“Nope, go on down. They closed up already.”

Tess gestured for me to follow her to a set of stairs that led down to the day care center in the basement. It was a little dark, but some light came in from the sliding door in the back. Outside, I could see playground equipment. Tess flipped on the lights and started walking around the room with a notepad, writing down things.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

“Can you start on that side? Just write down what they have and what’s missing pieces and all that. I think it’ll help when we go through the stuff we get.”

She tore off paper for me, and we worked our way around the room. There were toys, but not many. And most of them were missing parts: wood puzzles that had only half their pieces, plastic dollhouses with only a few pieces of furniture. It was sad.

It didn’t take us very long, and after a quick look at the playground, we were back in her Jeep.

“Hey, Tess.”


“How come you didn’t tell Tammy? About your mom. I mean, maybe she could help.”

“She can’t,” Tess said. “And if I tell her, she’ll have to call social services, and that’ll land us both in foster care. And I’m not going into foster care, or letting them take Ashley. They’d have to kill me first.”

Tess parked the car in my driveway and leaned back in her seat.

“I only have to make it eighteen more months, and I can become Ashley’s legal guardian.”

“But what about college and all of that?”

“It’ll just take me longer. Believe me, it’s better this way.
I can deal with my mom. I have been, anyway. Tell Darby thanks for me.”

“No problem.” I left the car and watched her pull out and drive off waving. I trudged back into the house, feeling helpless.

Mom was at the sink washing dishes. I looked at her for signs that she might be angry with me for being so busy this week, but she seemed fairly content.

“There you are. Did you eat?”


She dried her hands on a towel. “What’s wrong?”

I looked at her, all normal and motherly, and felt this rush of gratitude. I gave her a hug. There were things I wish I could change in my life, but I knew I had it better than a lot of people, especially Tess.

BOOK: Me & My Invisible Guy
8.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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