Authors: Becky Albertalli
I squeeze through my row and back down the stairs, feeling like every eye in the stadium is on me. Then I reach under the banister to tap Cal on the shoulder.
“What's up, Simon?” he says. I like that he calls me Simon. A lot of the guys call me Spier, and I don't mind that, but I don't know. Honestly, I think I would like whatever Cal Price called me.
“Hey,” I say. “Can I join you guys?”
“Definitely.” He scoots over a few feet. “Plenty of room.” And there isâI won't have to sit on his lap, anyway. It's actually kind of unfortunate.
I spend a full minute trying to think of something to say. My brain feels foggy.
“I don't think I've ever seen you at a game,” Cal says, pushing his bangs out of his eyes.
And seriously, I can't even. Because Cal's bangs. Cal's eyes. The fact that he apparently notices me enough to know I'm not at football games.
“This is my first time,” I say. Because I just have to say the most virginy thing ever.
“That's cool.” And he's so calm. He's not even facing me, because he can talk and watch the game at the same time. “I like coming when I can. I try to make it to homecoming at least.”
I try to think of a way to ask the thing I can't ask him. Maybe if I mentioned something about the smell of the air, just to see how he would react. But if I said that and Cal really is Blue, he'd know immediately that Jacques is me. And I don't think I'm ready for that.
I'm so freaking, ridiculously, absurdly curious, though.
“Hey.” Suddenly, someone slides in next to me on the bleacher. It's Martin. I scoot down automatically to make room.
“Adderall,” some guy behind us grunts, messing up Martin's hair. Martin grins up at him. Then he smooths his hair back down, or tries to, and chews his lip for a minute.
“What's up, Spier?”
“Nothing,” I say, and my heart sinks. He turns his body toward mine, and he's clearly in the mood for a conversation. So much for talking to Cal. So much for the air smelling like possibility.
“Hey, so, this Abby thing.”
“I asked her to the dance,” he says, super quietly, “and she shot me down.”
“Okay, um. Sorry. That sucks.”
“Did you know she already had a date?”
“Um, yeah, I think I did know that. Sorry,” I say again. I probably should have gotten around to speaking to Martin about that.
“Could you give me a heads-up next time,” he asks, “so I don't embarrass myself?” He looks so miserable. I feel weirdly guilty. Even though he's blackmailing me, I feel guilty. So that's a little fucked up.
“I don't think they're like boyfriend-girlfriend,” I say.
“Whatever,” he says. I look at him. I don't know if he's giving up on Abby, or what. And if he does give up on herâwhat happens to the emails? Maybe he gets to hold them over my head forever.
I actually can't think of anything worse than that.
FROM: [email protected]
DATE: Nov 11 at 11:45 PM
SUBJECT: Re: all of the above
Okay, first of all, Oreos absolutely qualify as a food group. Second of all, they're the ONLY food group that matters. My sisters and I actually made up this place called the Shoreo a few years ago one night when we were staying at our aunt's house. It's like this place where everything is made of some kind of Oreo, and the river is an Oreo milk shake, and you sit on top of this massive
Oreo and float down it. You get to scoop up cups of milk shake whenever you want. It's kind of like that scene in
, I guess. Who the hell knows what we were thinking. We were probably just hungry that night. My aunt is a really shitty cook.
Anyway, I forgive you for your ignorance. I know you didn't realize you were talking to an expert.
FROM: [email protected]
DATE: Nov 12 at 5:37 PM
SUBJECT: Re: all of the above
It's true, I had no idea I was talking to such an Oreo connoisseur. The Shoreo sounds like a magical place. So, Doctor, how many servings of Oreo products are necessary for a balanced diet?
I'm getting the impression that you have a bit of a sweet tooth.
FROM: [email protected]
DATE: Nov 13 at 7:55 PM
SUBJECT: Sweet tooth?
I can't imagine why you'd think that.
All rightâI have a sneaking suspicion that you're not 100% committed to your Oreo diet. The guidelines are really pretty basic. No excuses. Breakfast is obviously an Oreo granola bar or Oreo Pop-Tart. No, they're not gross. Shut up. They're amazing. Lunch should be Oreo pizza with an Oreo milk shake and a couple of those Oreo truffles my mom makes (a.k.a. the most delicious freaking things in the universe). Dinner is deep-fried Oreos served on top of Oreo ice cream, and for a drink, it's Oreos dissolved in milk. No water. Only Oreo milk. Dessert can be Oreos straight up. Sound reasonable? It's for your health, Blue.
I swear to God, typing this is actually making me hungry. This totally used to happen to me when I was younger. Isn't it funny the way you fantasize about junk food when you're a kid? It's really all-consuming. I guess you have to obsess about something before you know about sex.
FROM: [email protected]
DATE: Nov 14 at 10:57 PM
SUBJECT: Re: Sweet tooth?
I really appreciate you looking out for my health. It will be hard, but I know my body will thank me. Seriously, I can't argue with the fact that Oreos are extremely delicious, and the menu you described actually sounds amazing. Although, for me, I'll have to leave out the deep-fried Oreo dinner. I made the mistake of eating one once at a carnival right before going on the Tilt-A-Whirl. I'll spare you the details, but let it be said that people who get nauseated easily have no business riding the Tilt-A-Whirl. I haven't been able to look at deep-fried Oreos the same way since. Sorry to even have to tell you that. I know Oreos are really important to you.
I have to admit I like to imagine you as a kid fantasizing about junk food. I also like to imagine you now fantasizing about sex. I can't believe I just wrote that. I can't believe I'm hitting send.
HE LIKES TO IMAGINE ME
fantasizing about sex.
That's something I probably shouldn't have read right before bed. I lie here in the pitch-darkness, reading that particular line on my phone again and again. I'm jittery and awake and completely in knots, all from an email. And I'm hard. So, that's kind of strange.
It's really confusing. A good kind of confusing. Blue is normally so careful about what he writes.
He likes to imagine me fantasizing about sex!
I thought I was the only one who had those kinds of thoughts about us.
I wonder what it would be like to meet him in person, after all this time. Would we even have to speak? Would we go straight into making out? I think I can picture it. He's in my
bedroom, and we're totally alone. He sits beside me on the bed and turns to look at me with his blue-green eyes. Cal Price's eyes. And then his hands cup my face, and all of a sudden, he's kissing me.
My hands cup my face. Well. My left hand cups my face. My right hand is occupied.
I picture it. He kisses me, and it's nothing like Rachel or Anna or Carys. I can't even. It's not even in the same stratosphere. There's this electric tingly feeling radiating through my whole body and my brain has gone fuzzy and I actually think I can hear my heartbeat.
I have to be so, so quiet. Nora's on the other side of the wall.
His tongue is in my mouth. His hands slide up under my shirt, and he trails his fingers across my chest. I'm so close. It's almost unbearable.
My whole body turns to jelly.
On Monday, Leah intercepts me as I walk into school.
“Hey,” she says. “Nora, I'm stealing him.”
“What's up?” I ask. The ground slopes, and there's this concrete ledge that curves around the courtyard. Parts of it are just low enough to the ground that it makes a kind of shelf for your butt.
Leah avoids my eyes. “I made you a mix,” she says, handing me a CD in a clear plastic case. “You can load it onto your iPod when you get home. Whatever.”
I turn the case over in my hands. Instead of a track list, Leah has composed what appears to be a haiku:
Wrinkled neck, gray hair
Sorry to say this, Simon
But you're fucking old
“Leah. It's so beautiful.”
“Yeah, okay.” She scoots backward on the ledge and leans back on her hands, looking at me. “All right. Are we cool?”
I nod. “You mean about . . .”
“About you guys ditching me on homecoming.”
“I'm really sorry, Leah.”
The edges of her mouth tug up. “You're so freaking lucky it's your birthday.”
And then she pulls a cone-shaped party hat out of her bag and straps it onto my head.
“Sorry if I overreacted,” she adds.
There's a massive sheet cake at lunch, and when I get to the table, everyone is wearing party hats. That's the tradition. No one gets cake without the hat. Garrett seems to be gunning for two pieces, actually. He's got a pair of cones strapped onto his head like horns.
“Siiimon,” Abby says, except she actually sings it in this low, husky opera voice. “Hands out, eyes closed.” I feel something
nearly weightless drop onto my palm. I open my eyes, and it's a piece of paper folded into a bow tie and colored in with a gold crayon.
A couple of people from other tables look at us, and I feel myself grinning and blushing. “Should I wear it?”
“Uh, yeah,” she says. “You have to. Golden bow tie for your golden birthday.”
“Your golden birthday. Seventeen on the seventeenth,” Abby says. Then she tilts her chin up dramatically and extends her hand. “Nicholas, the tape.”
Nick has been holding three pieces of Scotch tape on the ends of his fingertips for who knows how long. Honest to God. He's like her little pet monkey.
Abby tapes on my bow tie and pokes my cheeks, which is something she does weirdly often because apparently my cheeks are adorable. Whatever the heck that means.
“So, whenever you're ready,” Leah says. She's holding a plastic knife and a stack of plates, and she seems to be making a point of not looking at Nick or Abby.
Leah slices it into perfect little squares, and seriously, it's like waves of magical deliciousness have shot into the atmosphere. Guess which table of A.P. nerds have somehow become the most popular kids in school.
“No hat, no cake.” Morgan and Anna lay down the law
from the other end of the table. A couple of kids tape pieces of loose-leaf paper into cone hats, and one dude manages to wedge a brown paper lunch bag on his head like a chef's hat. People are shameless when it comes to cake. It's a beautiful thing to see.
The cake itself is so perfect that I know Leah picked it out: half chocolate and half vanilla, because I can never commit to a favorite, and covered in that weirdly delicious Publix icing. And no red icing. Leah knows I think it tastes too red.
Leah's really amazing at birthdays.
I bring the leftovers to rehearsal, and Ms. Albright lets us have a cake picnic on the stage. And by cake picnic, I mean drama kids hunched over the box like vultures shoveling cake by the fistful.
“Ohmigod, I think I just gained five pounds,” says Amy Everett.
“Aww,” says Taylor, “I guess I'm lucky I have a really fast metabolism.”
Seriously, that's Taylor. I mean, even I know people can justifiably kill you for saying stuff like that.
And speaking of cake-related casualties: Martin Addison is sprawled out on the stage with his face in the empty cake box.
Ms. Albright steps over him. “All right, guys. Hop to it. Pencils out. I want you writing this stuff down in your scripts.”
I don't mind the writing. The scene we're blocking takes place in a tavern, and I'm basically just making notes reminding myself to act drunk. It's kind of too bad these aren't the notes
we'll be tested on for our finals. That would really improve some people's grades.
We push through without a break today, but I'm not in every scene, so I actually have quite a bit of downtime. There are risers pushed to the side of the stage left over from a choir concert. I sit near the bottom and rest my elbows on top of my knees. Sometimes I forget how nice it is to just sit back and watch things.
Martin is standing downstage left, telling a story to Abby and using lots of twitchy gestures. She's shaking her head and laughing. So maybe Martin hasn't given up after all.
And suddenly Cal Price is standing in front of me, nudging my foot with the toe of his sneaker. “Hey,” he says. “Happy birthday.”
This is a happy birthday.
He sits beside me on the riser, a foot or so away. “Doing anything to celebrate?”
Okay. I don't want to lie. But I don't exactly want him to know that my plans consist of hanging out with my family and reading birthday messages on Facebook. It's a Monday, right? I'm not actually expected to do anything cool on a Monday.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I say finally. “I think we're having ice cream cake. Oreo,” I add.
I just have to put the Oreo thing out there.
“That's cool,” he says. “Hope you saved room for it.”
No discernible reaction to the Oreos. But I guess that doesn't have to mean anything.
“Okay, well,” Cal says, scooting forward. I will him not to stand up. He stands up. “Enjoy it.”
But then he puts his hand on my shoulder for the briefest fraction of a second. I almost don't believe it happened.
I mean, I'm dead serious. Birthdays are fucking amazing.