Authors: J. Hughey
sexy,” he called.
yourself,” she said. “Wanna walk over to Dr. Debra Damasco’s third circle of hell with me?”
“I might be going that way
.” He smiled at her with a flash of stunningly whitened teeth.
I burst out laughing a
s Mia waggled dark purple fingernails over her shoulder at me.
Most girls didn’t know quite what to think of Mia, but boys loved her.
She attracted men like ComicCon attracted gamers, even though she avoided involvement. She didn’t date or fool around, and they all knew it.
My image of her life at home consisted of vague scenes from crime-drama shows.
At a youthful thirteen, her virginity had succumbed to a twenty-year-old. She’d made a point of telling me it was consensual, that she hadn’t been raped or anything. I believed her. I also knew she hadn’t had sex with anyone since she’d come to college and probably for a year or two before.
Her path from
her turbulent childhood to Western Case began with a teacher friend of her Gram’s giving Gram the word in church one Sunday. “Mia is growing up
,” she’d warned. Gram had quickly removed both grandchildren from her daughter’s home, where crack rated higher than offspring. The takeover suited everyone but young Tony. He thrived on the streets and now probably worked for the dealer who kept his mother supplied. I figured Mia took after her absentee father, a young professional on a business trip who’d tinkered with Mia’s mom long enough to impregnate her before departing out of Philly International.
Mia still looked tough, in a way, but she wasn’t a brawler by nature. School and mainstream socializing suited her better than survival on the rough side of Camden. She’d devoured her honors classes in high school, helped on the yearbook, and adjusted to attending church every Wednesday and Sunday. And the celibacy part? I wasn’t sure, but I thought she hoped to revert back to virginity somehow.
Those few details and the pixelated
pictures she showed me of her teen-gangsta brother and stern Gram were all she’d ever shared. I’d tried to invite myself to Easter break at her house last spring, partly out of curiosity and partly to avoid going home. The suggestion earned disapproval on a scale worthy of a slow runner dumb enough to ask to take a field trip to the zombie apocalypse.
,” she’d said. “I think Gram has some cousins coming. Or something.”
Her summer had sucked, too, but when I’d vowed, on our first night back at
Head Case U., to never live at home again, she vowed she would get her little brother off the streets.
I didn’t use creative nicknames for people in my phone contacts ever since my mom saw I’d named her Voldemort and took my cell away for a month in the middle of my high school senior year. Sometimes I still felt bad, ’cuz I know I hurt her feelings majorly that time, and I think about Mia’s mom who doesn’t care her own children call her Crackhead to her face.
Anyway, I don’t use nicknames in my phone.
It took me longer to write that text than to compose my college application essay. I’d thought about at least using WTW for “what time when” but figured WTW probably meant something else, like “when turkeys write” or “wouldn’t touch whack” or “I’d rather have hot needles stuck in my eyes than go to a pre-game party with you, Boone Ramer.” Rather than make a mistake, I’d typed it all out, purposely removing some punctuation so I didn’t highlight my geekness.
Text from Boone:
His quick reply
made me bounce on the bed. But…he’d stop by? Guys only stopped by for formals. And he knew my dorm? I chewed my lip, undecided between awesome or creepy. I remembered his amused glance over his shoulder this morning and landed on awesome. In fact, I landed so hard on awesome I said the word out loud in a sing-sing voice
bouncing on the bed. “Awesome!”
Text to Boone:
and I dug through my wardrobe on Saturday, a day of perfect football weather. Chilly temps on the walk to cafeteria “brunch” morphed to blindingly sunny and warm by noon. Mia and I had
different taste in everything, which meant I couldn’t pull off her ruffled mini skirt and black leather jacket look. She understood me, though, and we settled on a pair of skinny jeans, a yellow sleeveless top with black trim (school colors!), and my sporty flip-flops with floral straps. I slathered sunscreen on my shoulders and arms while Mia searched her collection of hair clips.
My brown hair
rested a tad below my shoulders. I finger combed a sloppy part down the middle most day and usually had at least one side tucked behind my ear. I tried not to pull it up all the time ’cuz the bulk made the top of my head look too wide. Mom said my face was heart-shaped which I interpreted to mean my chin was too narrow for my forehead.
twisted the front pieces of my hair back and secured it with a bobby pin so it didn’t blow into my lip-gloss if a breeze kicked up at the stadium. (I’d rejected a rhinestone clip and a daisy barrette.) “You sure you won’t wear some eyeliner?” she asked for the third time. “I could make your eyes look big as pool balls if you’d let me.”
“Just the look I’m going for,” I said, picturing one
of those big-eyed puppies that adorned every greeting card a few years ago. “This is a football game, not the prom.” I already felt overdone with one coat of black/brown mascara.
“If one wants to be treated like an aristocrat, one must dress like an aristocrat,” she said in a voice like the
Queen of England’s.
“I’m a Copperhead, not Princess Kate.”
“Whatever.” She sulked. “Ooh, ten ’til one. I’m outta here.”
“You don’t have to leave
.” The panic I’d been fighting since daybreak changed my breathing to hitching gasps. Boone Ramer. Here. To get me. Soon. I thought I might puke up my ham and cheese omelet.
roomie ever grabbed my shoulders to show me my reflection in the mirror screwed into our dorm room wall. “You got this thing, sister. His Hotness obviously likes you, and you’ve been ready to have his babies for a year. Be you. Except lose the expression of terror.”
I nodded and smiled and practiced
not looking like a deer in the headlights.
grabbed her jingly neck lanyard and skipped through the open door.
What if I blow this
, I thought as I tucked away all evidence I’d spent even one minute perfecting my casualness. I scouted the room to make sure nothing appalling like a box of tampons lurked. Safe. My worst sin was Gloria, with her oval plastic eyes and tiny pink ears.
What if my first date with my twelve-month obsession crashes and burns like a space shuttle with a faulty tile
I sat cross-legged in the round chair, pretending to be engrossed by something on my cell while my stomach turned flips and my heart thumped.
I glanced around the room again,
in the midst of a minor panic attack and, seeing my bike, remembered the first time I’d ever talked to Boone, for real. Last September, on a gorgeous Saturday evening, I’d taken my old bike—a heavy blue Neanderthal compared to my Giant—for a quick spin to escape the freshman roommate from hell who’d gotten high, or drunk, or both—in the middle of the afternoon, no less—and drained her cell phone battery with sobs to her hometown boyfriend. When I tried to be sympathetic, her wordless snarl told me she didn’t want my support, though I’d tattled to our RA on my way down the hall. I really didn’t want to return from biking to find my cray cray roomie dead from an overdose.
After my responsible escape,
I’d ridden four or five miles out of town then looped back on the country roads. At the first stoplight, a biker came toward me on the perpendicular street. He nodded at me and looked away then looked back at about the same time I recognized him. Boone freakin’ Ramer. The unexpectedness both jazzed and horrified me. Hotness, all to myself, yes, but he was seeing me in a helmet, sports sunglasses and a water bladder backpack.
“Hey,” I said.
He wore sunglasses, too. The reflective orange lenses hid his eyes, but not his frown. “Aren’t you a freshman at Western Case?” he asked. His voice was nice, not crazy deep but definitely masculine, and he spoke with a slow cadence, in no hurry at all.
“Yeah,” I said. Scintillating. Brilliant.