Authors: Becky Albertalli
FROM: [email protected]
DATE: Jan 1 at 1:19 PM
SUBJECT: Re: auld lang syne
Poor zombie. Hope you're already sleeping again as I type this. The good news is that there are still four days left of vacation, which should clearly be devoted exclusively to sleeping and writing to me.
I missed you last night. The party thing was fine. It was at my stepmother's grandmother's house, and she's about ninety years old, so we were back home in front of the TV
by nine. Oh, and Mr. Sexual Awakening was there. His wife is extremely pregnant. She and my stepmom were comparing ultrasound photos of their fetuses at dinner. Our Little Fetus looks like your basic cute little alien with a big head and tiny limbs. You can actually see his or her nose, so that was kind of cool. But, unfortunately, Mr. Sexual Awakening's wife had a 3D ultrasound picture. All I can say, Jacques, is that there are some things you can't un-see.
Any plans until school starts again?
FROM: [email protected]
DATE: Jan 1 at 5:31 PM
SUBJECT: Re: auld lang syne
Zombie is right. I'm a freaking mess. We just got back from Target, and I actually fell asleep in the car on the way home. Which, thankfully, my mom was the one driving. But you have to understand that Target is like five minutes away from my house. How weird is that? So now I feel kind of strange and groggy and disoriented, and I think my parents are going to want to do dinner tonight As a Family.
Sorry to hear about the trauma of the 3D ultrasound,
from which you so kindly tried to spare me the details. Unfortunately, I'm a freaking idiot with very little self-control when it comes to Google Images. So now it's forever seared into my memory as well. Oh, the miracle of life. You may also want to look up “reborn dolls.” Seriously, go do it.
Nothing much going on here this weekend, other than the fact that every freaking thing in the universe reminds me of you. Target is full of you. Did you know they make these big massive Sharpies called Super Sharpies? And then there's superglue, obviously. It's like an office supply Justice League. I seriously came this close to buying them, just so I could text you pictures of their crime-fighting selves. I would have made capes for them and everything. Except SOMEONE still doesn't want to exchange numbers.
FROM: [email protected]
DATE: Jan 2 at 10:13 AM
I think you've rendered me speechless. I just read the Wikipedia article, and I'm looking through pictures now. I
kind of can't stop looking at them. You might have found the creepiest thing on the entire internet, Jacques.
And I seriously laughed out loud at your crime-fighting office supply Justice League. I wish I could have seen them. But about the texting thingâall I can say is that I'm really sorry. The idea of exchanging phone numbers just terrifies me. It does. It's just the idea that you could call me and hear my voice mail message and KNOW. I don't know what to say, Jacques. I'm just not ready for you to know who I am. I know it's stupid, and honestly, at this point, I spend about half my waking hours imagining us meeting in person for the first time. But I can't think of a way for that to happen without everything changing. I think I'm scared to lose you.
Does that make sense? Don't hate me.
FROM: [email protected]
DATE: Jan 2 at 12:25 PM
SUBJECT: Re: Reborn
I guess I'm trying to understand where you're coming from with the texting thing. You have to trust me! Yes, I'm nosy, but I'm not going to call you if you're not
comfortable with it. I don't mean for this to be a big deal. And I don't want to stop emailing. I just also want to be able to text you like a normal person.
And YES, I want to meet in person. And obviously that would change thingsâbut I think I'm kind of ready for them to change. So maybe this is a big deal. I don't know. I want to know your friends' names and what you do after school and all the things you haven't been telling me. I want to know what your voice sounds like.
Not until you're ready, though. And I could never hate you. You're not going to lose me. Just think about it. Okay?
IT'S THE FIRST DAY BACK
at school, and I honestly consider spending the entire day in the parking lot. I can't explain it. I thought I would be fine. But now that I'm here, I can't seem to get out of the car. I feel a little sick just thinking about it.
Nora says, “I really don't think anyone is going to remember.”
“It was on there for, what, three days? And that was over a week ago.”
“Four days,” I say.
“I don't even think people really read the Tumblr.”
We walk in through the atrium together just as the first bell is ringing. People are stampeding and pushing down the stairs. No one seems to pay any particular attention to meâand for all of Nora's reassurances, I can see that she's as relieved as I am.
I move with the crowd, working my way toward my locker, and I think I'm finally starting to relax. A couple of people wave at me like normal. Garrett from my lunch table nods and says, “What's up, Spier?”
I toss my backpack into my locker and pull out my books for English and French. No one has slid any homophobic notes into the slats of my locker, which is good. No one's etched the word “fag” into my locker yet either, which is even better. I'm almost ready to believe that things have gotten a little better at Creekwood. Or that no one saw Martin's Tumblr post after all.
Martin. God, I don't even want to think about having to see his stupid evil face. And of course he's in my first fucking period.
I guess there's still this quiet pulse of dread when I think about seeing Martin again.
I'm trying to just breathe.
As I'm walking into the language arts wing, this football guy I hardly recognize almost runs directly into me coming down the stairs. I step back to steady myself, but he puts his hand on my shoulder and looks me right in the eye.
“Why, hello there,” he says.
“Hi . . .”
Then he grabs me by the cheeks and pulls my face in like he's going to kiss me. “Mwah!” He grins, and his face is so close I can feel the heat of his breath. And all around me, people laugh like fucking Elmo.
I yank my body away from him, cheeks burning. “Where are you going, Spier?” someone says. “McGregor wants a turn.” And everyone starts laughing again. I mean, I don't even know these people. I don't know why in God's name this is funny to them.
In English class, Martin won't look at me.
But all through the day, Leah and Abby are like freaking pit bulls, throwing down the stink-eye in all directions whenever anyone even looks at me funny. I mean, it's really pretty sweet. And it isn't a total disaster. Some people sort of whisper and laugh. And a couple of people randomly give me these huge smiles in the hallway, whatever that means. These two lesbian girls I don't even know come up to me at my locker and hug me and give me their phone numbers. And at least a dozen straight kids make a point of telling me that they support me. One girl even confirms that Jesus still loves me.
It's a ton of attention. It kind of makes my head spin.
At lunch, the girls take it upon themselves to discuss and evaluate the fifty million guys they apparently think are boyfriend prospects for me. And it's all perfectly fucking hilarious until Anna makes some joke about Nick being gay. Which causes Nick to drape himself all over Abby. So then Leah's irreparably pissed off.
“We should find Leah a boyfriend, too!” says Abby, which honestly makes me cringe. I love Abby, and I know she's just trying to lighten the mood, but Jesus Christ. There are times
when she manages to say the exact opposite of the right thing.
“No fucking thank you, Abby,” Leah says, in this sickeningly pleasant tone. Except her eyes are like crackling fireballs of rage. She stands up abruptly, pushing her chair in without a word.
As soon as she leaves, Garrett looks at Bram, and Bram bites his lip. Which I'm pretty sure is straight-dude code for Bram likes Leah.
And I don't know why, but it pisses me the fuck off.
“If you like her, just ask her out,” I say to Bram, and he immediately starts blushing.
I don't even know. I'm just so sick of straight people who can't get their shit together.
Somehow, I manage to survive until rehearsal. It's the first day without scripts, and we jump right into running some of the big group scenes. There's an accompanist at rehearsal now, and people are really focused and energized. I guess it's just dawned on everyone that opening night is in less than a month.
But partway through the pickpocket song, Martin suddenly stops singing.
And then Abby says, “You're fucking kidding me.”
And everyone is quiet for a minute, looking at each other. Looking everywhere but at me. For a minute, I'm confused, but then I follow Abby's gaze to the back of the auditorium. And there's this pair of random dudes in front of the double helixes who look a little familiar. I think they were in my health class
last year. One of them is wearing a hoodie and fake glasses and a skirt over his khakis, and they're both holding giant poster board signs.
The first guy's sign says, “How u doin' Simon?”
And the guy in the skirt's sign says, “WHAT WHATâIN THA BUTT!”
The guys are grinding and some other people peek through the doorway laughing. This one girl laughs so hard she's clutching her stomach, and someone says, “Stop, y'all! Oh my God, y'all are so bad.” But she's laughing, too.
It's strangeâI'm not even blushing. I feel like I'm watching this happen from a million miles away.
Then, suddenly, Taylor freaking Metternich, of all people, runs down the steps at the side of the stage and down the aisle of the auditorium. And Abby is right behind her.
“Aww shit,” says the guy in the skirt, and the other guy giggles. And then they haul ass out of the auditorium, letting the door slam shut.
Taylor and Abby burst through behind them, and there's this huge commotion of yelling and footsteps. Ms. Albright runs after them and the rest of us just kind of stand there. Except somehow I end up sitting on one of the platforms, smushed in between two senior girls who have their arms around my shoulders.
I catch a glimpse of Martin, and it looks like he's been crumpled. His hands are covering his face.
A few minutes later, Abby bursts back through the door, followed by Ms. Albright, who has her arm around Taylor. And Taylor is splotchy and flushed, like she's been crying. I watch as Ms. Albright guides Taylor to the front row, lets her sit next to Cal, and then kneels down in front of them for a minute to talk to them.
Abby walks straight back up the stairs to me, shaking her head.
“People suck,” she says.
I nod slowly.
“I honestly thought Taylor was going to hit one of those guys.”
Taylor Metternich. Seriously. Almost hitting some guy.
“You're kidding me.”
“No, really,” Abby says. “I almost did, too.”
“Good,” says one of the senior girls, Brianna.
I look briefly at Taylor. She's leaning back in her chair with her eyes closed, just breathing. “But she didn't hit him, right? I don't want her to get in trouble because of me.”
“Oh my gosh. Don't even say that. None of this is your fault, Simon,” Abby says. “Those guys are douchebags.”
“They can't get away with that,” says Brianna. “Don't we have a zero tolerance policy?”
But Creekwood's zero tolerance bullying policy is enforced about as strictly as the freaking dress code.
“Don't worry,” says Abby. “They're sitting in Ms. Knight's
office right now. I think their mommies are getting called.”
And sure enough, moments later, Ms. Albright gathers everyone in a circle on the stage. “So, I'm sorry you guys had to see that.” She's looking at me especially. “It was beyond disrespectful and inappropriate, and I want you to know that I take this extremely seriously.” She pauses for a moment, and I look at her. And I realize that Ms. Albright is absolutely livid. “So, unfortunately, we're going to have to end here for the day so I can deal with this. I know this is unexpected, and I apologize to all of you. We'll pick back up tomorrow.”
Then she walks over to me and squats down in front of my platform. “You okay, Simon?”
I feel myself blush a little bit. “I'm fine.”
“Okay, well,” she says quietly. “Just know that those assholes are getting suspended. I'm not even kidding. I will make it my hill to die on.”
Abby, Brianna, and I just stare at her.
It's the first time I've ever heard a teacher cuss.
So, Abby's stuck at school until the late bus leaves, and I feel really terrible about that. I don't know. It just feels like all of this is a little bit my fault. But Abby tells me not to be ridiculous, and that she can kill the time by watching the soccer tryouts.
“I'll come with you,” I say.
“Simon, seriously. Go home and relax.”
“But what if I want to heckle Nick?”
She can't argue with that. We cut through the science hallway and down the back stairs, toward the music room, where there appears to be some pretty badass drum and guitar business going on behind closed doors. They almost sound professional, except the vocals are strange and random, like the lower part of a harmony. Abby dances to the drumbeat for a minute as we pass, and then we bust out the side door near the soccer fields.
It's really freaking chilly out, and I have no idea how these soccer kids are surviving with their shorts and bare legs. The girls are on the close field, and it's dozens of ponytails in motion. We walk past them to get to the boys, who are running around orange cones and kicking soccer balls back and forth to each other. Abby lets her arms hang over the side of the fence, leaning in to watch. A lot of the guys are wearing these long-sleeved spandex shirts under their soccer shirts, and a few of them are wearing shin guards. And they all have those soccer calves. So it's kind of a nice view.
The coach blows his whistle and all the guys gather around him for a minute while he talks. And then they disperse, passing around bottles of water and dribbling balls and stretching their legs. Nick jogs over to us right away, pink-faced and grinning, and then Garrett and Bram come, too.
“It's weird that they're making you try out again,” says Abby.
“I know,” says Garrett, panting. He's sweaty and red, and
his eyes look electric blue. “It's like a formality. Kind of. Just to see”âhe pauses to catch his breathâ“like, where he wants to put us.”
“Oh, okay,” she says.
“So, what, you're just blowing off rehearsal?” Nick says, smiling at Abby.
“Pretty much,” she says. “I was likeâ
. I'm gonna go ogle soccer boys now.” She leans in closer to Nick, grinning up at him.
“Oh, really?” says Nick.
It's starting to feel like I shouldn't be listening in on this.
“So, it's going well?” I ask, turning to Garrett and Bram.
“Pretty well,” says Garrett, and Bram nods.
It's funny that I eat lunch with these guys five days a week, but we never really hang out apart from the group. I kind of wish I knew them better. Even if Bram doesn't have his shit together about Leah. I don't know. For one thing, both Garrett and Bram have been totally cool about the gay thing all day, which I guess I didn't expect from a bunch of athletes.
Also, Bram is cute. Like, really, really cute. He stands a foot or so back from the fence, totally sweaty, with a white turtleneck under his soccer shirt. And he's not really talking, but he has very expressive brown eyes. And light brown skin and soft dark curls and cute, knobbly hands.
“What happens if you really screw up the audition?” I ask. “Can they kick you off the team?”
“Audition?” asks Bram, smiling so quietly. And when he looks at me, I feel this happy sort of ache.
“Tryouts.” I blush. And I smile back at him. And then I feel a little guilty.
Because of Blue. Even though he's still not ready. Even though he's just words on a laptop screen.
It's just that I also kind of feel like he's my boyfriend.
I don't even know.
So, maybe it's the winter air or maybe it's soccer boy calves, but after everything that's happened today, I'm actually in a pretty decent mood.
Until I get to the parking lot. Because Martin Addison is leaning against my car.
“Where have you been?” he says.
I wait for him to move. I mean, I don't even want to look at him.
“Can we talk for a second?” he asks.
“I don't have anything to say to you,” I say.
“Okay, well.” He sighs, and I can actually see his breath. “Simon, justâI seriously owe you an apology.”
I just kind of stand there.
He stretches his arms forward, cracking his knuckles under his gloves. “God, I'm just. I'm just so sorry. What happened in there. I didn't know that wouldâI mean, I didn't think people still did shit like that.”
“Right, who'd have guessed? Because Shady Creek is just so progressive.”
Martin shakes his head. “I just seriously didn't think it would be such a big thing.”
I don't even know what to say to that.
“Look, I'm sorry, all right? I was pissed off. The whole Abby thing. I wasn't thinking. And then my brother basically ripped me a new one, and I was just . . . I just feel like shit, okay. And I deleted those screenshots ages ago. I swear to God. So can you please just say something?”
I mean, I almost start laughing. “What the fuck do you want me to say?”
“I don't know,” he says. “I'm just tryingâ”
“Okay, how about this? I think you're an asshole. I think you're a huge fucking asshole. I mean, don't even fucking pretend you didn't know this would happen. You blackmailed me. This wasâI mean, wasn't that the whole goddamn point? Humiliating me?”