Authors: Christine Hurley Deriso
Tags: #teen, #teenlit, #teen lit, #teen novel, #teen fiction, #YA, #ya novel, #YA fiction, #Young Adult, #Young Adult Fiction, #young adult novel, #eating disorder
© 2014 by Christine Hurley Deriso.
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E-book ISBN: 9780738741055
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In memory of my beloved mother, Jane Kamack Hurley,
whose soul guides me still.
I look up from my Faulkner novel and push a lock of windblown hair behind my ear, squinting into the sun.
Play it cool, Forrest. Play it cool.
“Um … ” I glance self-consciously at the book on my lap. Darn. The book might as well be a flashing neon sign:
PROPERTY OF GEEK.
“Is it good?” Jake asks.
“I have to read it for a stupid class,” I lie, and hate myself for lying. But, for god’s sake, Jake Bennett, a senior, the senior I’ve had a crush on for two years, is talking to me! To me! Of all the things he could be doing during his lunch period (and why oh why did I pick today to read Faulkner during mine?), he’s smiling his adorable grin at
Jake glances at the space beside me on the bench I’ve chosen under an oak tree outside the school cafeteria. “Mind if I join you?”
I feel my face flush. “Um … ”
Don’t blow this, Forrest!
“Sure.” I sweep my arm toward the vacant spot in what I intend as a nonchalant do-whatever-floats-your-boat kind of gesture. But my arm sweep is too exaggerated, too clunky, the kind of gesture moms use to get their first grader’s attention in the school pick-up line. I’m such a loser.
But Jake sits down anyway, clearing his throat and running his fingers through a tousled lock of hair. His blue eyes sparkle in the balmy spring sunshine.
“So … did you go to the prom last weekend?” he asks me.
Yes. Then I went to the Queen of England’s palace for brunch the next day.
“No … ” I say, wondering frantically whether that’s the right answer. Does not going make me a loser? Or does it signal that I’m available? I can actually hear my heart beating against my T-shirt. “Did you?”
“Yeah,” he says. “You didn’t miss anything. It was totally lame. The theme was ‘Midnight in Paris.’ The prom committee makes an Eiffel Tower out of Popsicle sticks, and yeah, I’m totally sold.”
I laugh, my heart now actually fluttering. Here I spend the whole year worshipping Jake from a distance based on his studliness, and wonder of wonders, he’s wry and sardonic as well!
“So the original isn’t made of Popsicle sticks?” I ask, then feel a wave of relief when he laughs.
“You’re funny,” he says, and the heavens part as I sense that he considers that a good thing.
I gulp, hoping he doesn’t notice. This whole exchange is almost too surreal to believe. See, when I started high school last year, I actually thought I had babe potential. With my long blonde hair and hippie figure, people tell me I’m pretty, and my big brother’s really cute and popular, so I figured
I’ve got a decent shot at high school fabulousness, right?
But then I discovered that no, I didn’t at all. I was immediately sized up as a brainiac, and if the frizzy-haired president of the friggin’ freshman debate team would blow me off (which he did, by the way), then the odds of someone like Jake Bennett noticing me were approximately the same as my dreaming up a cure for cancer en route to picking up my multimillion-
dollar lottery prize. I’ve learned my place.
The rolled eyes of Olivia and the rest of the cheerleading team every time they see me in the hall glued to my brainteaser app have sealed my fate as Sophomore Most Likely to Excel at the Math Meet (which I did, by the way). But now, wonder of wonders, the cutest guy in high school is cutting through all the cliquish crap and seeing me for the incredibly nuanced babe that I am. I
this would happen! My high school fabulosity officially begins
“So … who did you go to the prom with?” I ask, aiming for casual.
“Just a bunch of other guys,” he says. “I’m totally unattached … but I’m hoping not for long.”
Okay, my heart is now dancing the polka in my chest.
He blushes and smiles. “Yeah. See, I hope you don’t mind me asking you this, but … ”
“Yeah?” I prod, willing myself not to sound as breathless as I feel.
“ … but I noticed that Brian and Olivia didn’t go to the prom.”
I stiffen oh-so-slightly.
“Yeah … ?”
“Right, so, you know, there were rumors that they, like, broke up.”
My stomach muscles clench.
Jake’s eyes study mine. “So … did they?”
My eyes narrow. “I’m not my brother’s keeper,” I say, an edge seeping into my voice.
He furrows his brow. “What? Oh, right. No, I didn’t mean that you … I just thought you might … oh, hell. You know what? I’m just gonna say it.”
Please do. There’s still a sliver left of my ego to pulverize.
“See, I’ve had a crush on Olivia for a while now,” he says earnestly, and yup, there goes that last slice of my ego, right into the blender. “I mean, I’ve dated other girls, but
… ” As if on cue, his eyes seem to literally turn into silky puddles of lovesick goo. Adorable.
I clutch my novel tighter, the novel that I’m
being forced to read as a class assignment but that I
to read because I actually have some depth, unlike all the other morons in this godforsaken school, and it’s a good thing I love Faulkner since he’s apparently the only guy I’ll ever hang out with.
“And I’m totally good friends with your brother,” Jake continues, “so I would never in a million years screw that up, but if Brian and Olivia
officially broken up, then … ”
I guess I’m staring into space. “ … and I didn’t want to ask Brian,” Jake blathers on, to fill the awkward silence, “because, well, you know, it’s kind of sensitive, and he’s seemed really bummed lately, so … ”
Another pause, one that I’m evidently expected to fill.
“They’re still a couple,” I say simply.
Jake rubs his hands together, and I guess I could fill this awkward silence too, saying something cheerful or funny or consoling or cajoling or what-the-hell-ever.
Except that I don’t. I’m done with this conversation.
… okay,” Jake says, rising from the bench, clearly hoping we’ve shared the last nanosecond that he will ever have to suffer through again. “Got it. And, hey, Brian and I are totally cool. I just thought … well … hey, enjoy your book.”
Two weeks. There are two weeks left of my sophomore year at Peachfield High School. After so many months of disappointments, humiliations, mortifications, and general crapfests, who would have guessed that my nadir would come so late in the year? Assuming this
the nadir. After all, I have two weeks to go … then two more years of high school after