Authors: Abby McDonald
Tags: #Romance, #Young Adult, #Chick-Lit, #Contemporary
You have to understand: I’ve been madly, hopelessly,
in love with Garrett Delaney for two years now — ever since the fateful day when I looked up from my list of the Top Ten Couples of All Time and saw him sauntering into the local coffeehouse.
(And before you say that fourteen-year-olds aren’t capable of real love, well, my Couple Number Four, Romeo and Juliet, were barely out of junior high when they first met, and nobody doubts the burning force of their passion.)
But back to Garrett. There he was, all long limbs and faded corduroy pants, his dark blond hair falling carelessly over cloudy blue eyes. He stood in the doorway, a battered leather satchel slung across his chest, and right then I knew. He was the one I’d been waiting for, sent by the heavens to make my life infinitely better and exquisitely painful all in one fell swoop.
Because it was fate — don’t try telling me otherwise. How else can you explain the fact that Totally Wired — usually half full at most with study fiends and hard-core cappuccino addicts — was packed solid with baby-yoga moms and their bawling brats, meaning that I, Sadie Elisabeth Allen, was sitting next to the only free table in the entire room?
Never mind that my BFF Kayla was stuck late at viola practice, so I was waiting there alone. No, the real reason I know that Garrett and I were destined to meet is that out of all the trashy, uncool books I could have brought along (this being the Judith Krantz era of my sexual education), I happened to pick a battered old copy of Pablo Neruda poetry my dad had given me, so that when Garrett collapsed into the chair beside mine, he looked over and lit up with a crooked half smile that to this day still does strange things to my stomach.
Twenty Love Poems
?” he asked while I tried not to choke on my cheesecake. The teen boy god was looking at me. The teen boy god was
to me! “Neruda is my favorite. I love his surrealist work.”
He waited patiently while I took a gulp of my mocha whip and tried to register this new reality where cute boys actually made intelligent conversation with me instead of just shooting spitballs into my hair all through third-period bio. Maybe Kayla was right: maybe high school really would be different.
“Did you know he wrote only in green ink?” I replied at last, reciting the only factoid I knew about Neruda. I took a breath, thanking the Gods of False Advertising that I was wearing a padded bra, which could, maybe, possibly make me look
sixteen. “He said it was the color of hope.”
“Really? That’s cool.” He gave me an admiring look. “I’m Garrett. I just moved to Sherman.”
“Sadie,” I managed. “Hi!”
“Sadie,” he repeated, and my name — which had always seemed like such an old-lady name to me, up there with Gertrude and Ada — suddenly sounded glamorous and exotic. “So, Sadie, tell me what the hell you do for fun in this town.”
He grinned at me like we were in this together. Friends, partners, future class couple. Prom king and queen. And in that glorious instant, I could see it all stretching out in front of us, like those cute couple montages in all those romantic-comedy movies Kayla and I love: Garrett and me fooling around with old video games in the arcade; Garrett and me snuggled up in a listening booth at the record store; Garrett and me lying out by the riverbank, holding hands, making out… .
So what if I couldn’t play arcade games and the nearest record store had closed down the year before? I looked over at him and knew that this was the start of my own real-life love story. Move aside, Elizabeth and Darcy (Couple Number Six); make way, Scarlett and Rhett (Couple Number Nine) — there was a new entry on that list, and our names were Sadie and Garrett.
“Hey, birthday girl!”
I sit up so fast I get a head rush, the world tilting from blue sky to gray bleachers and back to the lush grass of the empty football field. It’s the first week of summer, and there’s nobody here but Garrett, heading my way with a knowing grin on his face and both hands hidden behind his back. He’s in his usual uniform of faded corduroy pants and a crumpled button-down shirt, this time over an old Clash T-shirt that I can’t help noticing hangs against his torso just so. Fifty percent prep, twenty percent punk, thirty percent old-school British indie rock, and one hundred percent gorgeous — that’s Garrett for you.
“Close your eyes.” He stops a few feet away, the setting sun shining through his hair like some kind of halo. “And no peeking.”
“Is it a kitten?” I clap my hands in excitement, my bracelets jangling. “A unicorn? A kitten-unicorn hybrid?”
“You wanted a kitti-corn?” Garrett teases. “Why didn’t you say so? They had them at the store, but I just figured, you know, your allergies, and those wings flapping around …”
“But all the other girls have one!” I laugh. “And ponies are
last season!” There’s a thud as he collapses on the ground and I open my eyes to find him smiling at me.
“Sorry, I failed. Will you ever forgive me?” He presents me with a package.
“Forgiven.” I give the package an exploratory shake. Garrett never just takes the store gift-wrap option or grabs a roll from the closet at home. This time, he’s created wrapping out of pages from old books, the paper yellowed and fading at the edges. “I love getting older,” I muse as I carefully begin to peel the layers away. “You’re closer to death, but there are presents.”
“They should put that on a Hallmark card.” Garrett laughs. “And file it under Consumerist Celebrations.”
“Is there any other kind?” I quip. The last layer of paper flutters to the ground, and I’m left with my bounty: a bundle of
s, an old-school mix CD, and a beat-up copy of a Kerouac novel,
The Dharma Bums.
“Thanks!” I beam, turning the book over in my hands. “This is awesome! I’ve wanted to read this for ages — ever since you told me about it.”
Garrett smiles. “Let me know what you think. I left some notes in the margins for you. I can’t wait until we do our own big road trip,” he adds. “Nothing but open highway, all the way to California.”
“Staying in seedy roadside motels …” I lean back on my elbows, slipping into our well-worn refrain.
“Living off diner food …”
“Stopping to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn.”
“No way,” he protests. “None of that tourist trash. We’re going to see the
America.” He sprawls out beside me, carelessly flinging one arm over his eyes to block out the sun.
I watch him for a moment, shadows falling across those perfect cheekbones. I should be happy, I know — with my gifts, and Garrett’s daydreams of our awesome plans — but there’s one thing wrong with this picture. With every picture.
He’s not mine.
I don’t understand it, either. We’re supposed to be together. I knew the day we met that it was fate! But I guess even fate finds a way of destroying your hopes and dreams, leaving your heart dashed on the cruel rocks of life — just ask the poor souls in all those Greek myths. See, it turns out I wasn’t entirely right about me and Garrett back then. Not the friends part, because despite my fears that he’d show up on the first day of school, get sucked into the vortex, and never speak to a lowly freshman girl again, that’s exactly what we turned out to be: buddies, pals, BFFs. Everything except the only thing I ever really wanted us to be.
And it kills me. Mom says I exaggerate, but I’m not even kidding about this. You can die of a broken heart — it’s scientific fact — and my heart has been breaking since that very first day we met. I can feel it now, aching deep behind my rib cage the way it does every time we’re together, beating a desperate rhythm:
Love me. Love me. Love me.
I sneak another look at Garrett, lying out on the grass beside me. He yawns, stretching a little as he does; his shirt rides up, revealing a whole inch of pale-golden stomach.
Be still, O heart of mine!
I stifle a familiar sigh of longing. It would be one thing if he was completely unobtainable — gay, for example, or madly in love with some other girl — but I have no such comforting reason why we can’t make it work. No matter which girl he’s dated — and there have been plenty — he’s stayed just as close to me. Closer, even, since I’m the one who gets to listen to all his deepest, darkest fears and secrets, the one who brings over pizza and root beers after the (inevitable) breakup.
For two long years, we’ve been inseparable. And for two long years, I’ve been desperately waiting for more.
Garrett can never stay still for long, and sure enough, after a couple of minutes, he sits up, restless. “So, you ready for the next part of your birthday? We’ve got a whole night o’ fun ahead of us.”
“As long as it includes sugar and caffeine,” I reply lightly, as if I haven’t just been meditating on his delicious abs.
“Done and done.”
I stuff my goodies into my own beat-up leather satchel and head back toward the parking lot, my frayed jeans dragging on the grass.
“Did you pick your classes yet?” he asks as I curl my fingers into my palm to make up for the fact they’re not wrapped around his.
“Not yet,” I admit. “The short-story class sounds kind of fun… .”
“It will be — you’ll love it,” Garrett insists, enthusiastic. “And your short fiction is getting really great; you’ve improved so much this year.”
“Thanks.” Praise from Garrett is praise indeed. “Then short stories it is!”
I think again of the fabulous summer ahead of us. Six weeks together at an intensive writing camp in the woods of New Hampshire — who could ask for a more romantic retreat? Sure, there are eight-hour days of classes scheduled, but those will fly by. It’s the nights I’m looking forward to the most. Snuggling together around the campfire, walking in the moonlight down by the lake … It’s the chance I’ve been waiting for — I just know it. We’re still waiting on our acceptance letters, but Garrett knows one of the instructors through his parents and swears we’re a lock.
We reach his old Vespa, parked in the middle of the concrete. “Hey, Vera,” I coo, stroking the metal. “How are you feeling?”