Saving Face (a young adult romance)






T.J. Dell

Chapter One




was probably too late to ring the bell.  Alyssa Maddow stood outside on the
sidewalk in front of her best friend, Brent Carter’s, house.  She pressed the
glow button on her cell phone.  11:43— definitely too late to ring the bell. 
Ms. Carter worked at the post office and she usually worked early so she would
most likely already be asleep.  Brent might be asleep too, come to think of
it.  Making up her mind Alyssa continued down the sidewalk to the next
walkway—her own.

            Alyssa and Brent
had been next door neighbors for as long as she could remember.  Longer than
that actually.  Ms. Carter had been her babysitter when Alyssa was still just a
baby. That was back when she was Mrs. Carter.  After the divorce she had kept
the last name but switched to
 Back then Ms. Carter hadn’t worked at
the post office.  She hadn’t worked anywhere.  Even after they were old enough
for school Alyssa had still gone to the Carter’s afterwards.  Her entire
childhood was a blur of memories that all starred a blond-haired-green-eyed

was Ms. Carter that taught her how to cook, because Alyssa’s own mother was a
terrible cook.  That didn’t matter so much since Mrs. Maddow was a doctor, and
when you’re a doctor it isn’t particularly important if your meals come out of
a microwave.  Alyssa got tired of frozen dinners by the time she was nine, so
she started watching Mrs. Maddow fix dinner.  Brent learned too.  He said it
was stupid girl stuff, but that was better than playing alone. 

and Alyssa were the best sort of best friends.  They had plenty in common, and
even when they didn’t they each made the effort to show some interest.  So
Brent had learned how to cook, and Alyssa had started reading comic books.  Her
favorite were the X-Men.  He teased her mercilessly when she admitted to having
a crush on Gambit—the New Orleans bad boy super hero with a Cajun accent. 
Alyssa might have been more embarrassed, but after all if he told anyone she
could always share his dirty little secret—he made the best quiche.

let herself into the house, yelled to her dad that she was home, and jogged up
the stairs to her room.   Alyssa’s room had changed a lot over the years.  When
she was five it was pink and decorated with cute little teddy bears and bunny
rabbits.  When she was eight her parents took her to a real ballet, and the
bunnies and bears were replaced with graceful dancers in pretty tutus.  By the
time she turned 12 she had convinced her mom to let her repaint the walls a
pale shade of green, and the pretty dancers had been replaced by posters of boy
bands, and cute TV stars.  Now, at 17, those posters were mostly gone too.  The
walls were still green, but they were decorated instead with photographs. 
Brent was really getting to be a very good photographer, and she had a lot of
his best landscapes framed. 

was pretty sure she’d embarrassed him by insisting he sign and date each print
before sealing the frames, but she was serious when she said he would be famous
one day.  And when he was making millions working for national geographic she
could sell her photos, and quit her much less satisfying job in retail.  She
didn’t want to work in retail, but with her skill set (okay her lack of a skill
set) it wasn’t looking like she’d be finding anything much better than a
position at the local sporting goods store anytime soon.

into her room Alyssa toed out of her sneakers, pulled off her cheerleading
uniform and pulled on gray sweatpants with her favorite faded Philly Flyers
tee-shirt.  More comfortable, she crawled onto her bed.  What a terrible
night.  At least it was Friday and there wasn’t going to be school in the
morning.  But there would be school eventually, and when your mom is a doctor
you never get to play sick. 

though it was almost midnight she wasn’t tired.  Alyssa sat up and looked out
her window and into Brent’s.  Dark.  Brent’s bedroom window was so close to her
own that they had had no trouble hopping back and forth when they were kids. 
Alyssa’s dad put a stop to the window crawling when they started high school. 
He said it wasn’t appropriate anymore given the changes their bodies were going
through.  Really, he said
changes their bodies were going through
!  It
was so embarrassing.  Also it never really mattered—she still crawled over
there occasionally when she was feeling too lazy to walk over the
way and use the front door.  Alyssa reached for her cell phone and texted her

R U Home

Nope, why?

just wanted some company, call me later?

Im on my way see you in 15


should probably be feeling badly that Brent was cutting his evening short.  She
knew his curfew wasn’t for another hour and a half yet.  Brent was eighteen—no
driver’s license restrictions.  Plus his mom was way trusting.  Alyssa was
pretty sure that even after her birthday in a few months her mom wouldn’t raise
her midnight-on-weekends-eleven-on-school-nights curfew.  Not that her parents
were unfair.  She could always get curfew extensions for special occasions. 
And the Carter’s house had become sort of exempt from curfew years ago.  They
knew she was safe there.  Anyway Brent was probably on his way home; he
wouldn’t have left in the middle of anything important.

it struck Alyssa as odd that she didn’t know where Brent was.  Usually, they spent
most of their free time together.  It was a little strange to think he was off
having fun without her.  Of course they rarely spent Friday nights together. 
Not since she’d been old enough to date.  And it was dumb for her to think he
sat around the house on Friday nights. 

went to the local public high school and she spent most of her Friday nights
out with a boy, or some of her other school friends.  Tonight she had been at
the football game and then at a party.  Brent used to go to school with her,
but when they reached high school he was accepted at the Hillfield academy, a
pricey private school across town that his dad paid for as part of the divorce
agreement.  At some point he’d been seeing a girl named Melissa from Hillfield,
but he hadn’t mentioned her in a couple weeks.  She supposed he might have been
at a Hillfield football game.  Of course the game would have been over a couple
hours ago.


voice sounded muted through the glass.  She opened her window and saw his
familiar face hanging head and shoulders out of his window. 

come over?”

it wake your mom up?”  Alyssa was already scrambling over her windowsill.

she’s on a date.  Come on.”  He held out his hand and helped her hop the short
distance between the low roofs and climb into his window.  “Your parents gonna
be worried?”

at the hospital and dad never checks on me before bed.  Even if he did I’m sure
he would call here before panicking.”

nodded as he settled himself into his desk chair.  Alyssa sat on the floor
leaning against his bed and drew her knees to her chest.  Brent was fiddling
with his lap top, not particularly concerned with playing host to Alyssa.  She
loved that about their friendship.  He never felt the need to force
conversation, or change his routine to fit her.  She could just sit here
enjoying his company while he did whatever he was doing.  It looked like he was
transferring photos off his camera.  Brent’s bedroom had changed less over the
years.  About the same time she painted her walls green, Alyssa convinced him
to paint his blue.  Originally Brent wanted green because then their rooms
would have matched, but in her 12 year old wisdom Alyssa explained that boys
liked blue.

the walls were still blue.  And the same cream colored area rug covered most of
the hardwood floor in the center of the room.  One corner of it was stained
purple from a grape Icee they had let melt in its paper cup a few years ago.  A
bookshelf stood in one corner still crammed full of comics that had gone
untouched for years.  Any newer books were piled haphazardly on top of the
shelf or balanced lengthwise across the rows of comics.  Another shelf held a
small TV and several video game consoles; the floor directly in front was
strewn with game cases.  Boys were such slobs.  Alyssa crawled over to them and
started snapping games back into their cases, and making room for them on a

wrong Lyssa?” 

turned to find Brent leaned forward in his desk chair, hands propped on his
knees, and his eyes trained on her.


Chapter Two




“How can you
tell?”  Alyssa didn’t bother denying her sour mood.  There was very little you
could hide from someone who had known you all your life.

            “You only clean
up after me when something’s wrong.  Things not going too well with Pete?”  His
tone betrayed an
I told you so
he was clearly fighting to hold back.

            Pete was Alyssa’s
boyfriend.  Well her ex-boyfriend.  They had been dating since the beginning of
the school year.  Head cheerleader and captain of the football team—she’d been
sure was fate.  Brent wasn’t so easily convinced.  This was probably because
Pete had smashed Brent’s Batman lunchbox in the fifth grade.  At the time
Alyssa, of course, had been just as mad as Brent, but that was seven years ago
and she figured it was time to let it go.

            “We broke up!” 
Alyssa flounced backwards taking up most of the throw rug with her outstretched

            Brent cocked his
head to one side waiting for her to continue.  He knew she’d start talking when
she was ready to; no point in asking questions until she did.

            Alyssa lay where
she was for a moment and then rolled onto her side to face him again.  “Do you
want to make out with me?” 

            “Sure.”  Brent
looked surprised— and skeptical of her sincerity.

            “You don’t want
to know why?”

            “Nope.  I’m more
of a make out first—ask questions later kinda guy.”  He winked and wiggled his
eyebrows at her.

was awful.  We went to a party after the game, and I caught him with that slut
Lisa Thompson!  And I do mean
 He went on and on about why Lisa
was so much better for him than I ever was.  In front of the whole school!” 

want I should give him the old one-two?”  Brent swung his fists through the air
punching imaginary Pete.  Alyssa smiled, and almost laughed.  Brent always made
her feel better.

She sighed and rolled back onto her back.  “I’m not all that upset really.”

probably could though, she thought.  Brent had always been a little soft and
squishy when they were kids, but last year he took a weight lifting class to
cover his PE credit for school.  And he liked it, so the routine stayed even
after the end of term.  Actually now that she thought about it Brent was
downright attractive.  Not that he had been unattractive before, well she
hadn’t really noticed one way or the other before.  He still had the same shaggy
blond hair as always and the same green eyes.  Only now his arms bulged beneath
the fabric of his long sleeved tee shirt, and when he moved the cotton pulled
nicely against a flat stomach.  He’d traded his glasses for contacts a few
weeks ago (a birthday gift from his mom) and now there wasn’t anything to draw
attention away from his eyes.  Which were a very striking shade of green.

this is you not upset?”  Brent twitched a disbelieving smile at her.

is me
.  First he tried to weasel out of it by accusing me of
being hung up on you.  He kept saying he wouldn’t be surprised if we were
sleeping together.  When I set him straight about that he started in on how
unfeminine I am.  Apparently guys don’t want to talk sports with their girlfriends. 
He said no wonder I couldn’t even turn you on and that I was probably a
lesbian.”  She paused to take a breath

you think you’re a lesbian?”  Brent ignored the implied insult to him. 

of course not.  But if we
sleeping together than other people
wouldn’t think it either!”  She was being melodramatic and she knew it. 
Tomorrow she would think of a realistic solution to her impending social

you want to have sex?”  Brent took on a bored indulgent tone of voice.

serious for a minute Brent!  I am so sure you imagined your first time to be
with me, on your floor, and in my old sweats!”  He just stared at her. 
Actually he looked a little surprised “Brent?”

so if we aren’t going to have sex… wanna play Mario Cart?” 

was the look for?”

nothing Lyssa.”  She punched him in the arm.  “It just wouldn’t be my first
time.  Not that it was a serious possibility anyway.”  Brent handed over a
controller and settled on the floor against the bed.


rolled his eyes.  “It isn’t a big deal Lyssa”

Of course not.  Everyone’s having sex, but me!  Pete, Lisa, even Brent!  Who
are you having sex with?”

“At the
moment?  No one.  I am just trying to get a game of Mario Cart going.”

was undeterred.  “Brent!  I tell you everything!”

a chick.  It’s different, chicks talk more.”

on—who?  Is this a macho thing?  Cause you don’t have to have to be macho with

rolled his eyes again.  “I just don’t think it would be polite.  Anyway we go
to different schools Lyssa; I doubt you would know them.”

Plural?”  Alyssa’s eyes went wide.  “So you’re what?  Doing it in the
bathroom between classes?”

because I go to school in a porno flick.  I do date Lyssa.  You know …pick the
girl up, take her to a movie…”  Brent rolled one hand in an et cetera et cetera
motion.  And then, seeing a genuine measure of anguish on his friend’s face, he
got serious.  “It’s cool Alyssa don’t let that jackass Pete or anyone else tell
you when you’re ready.”

was horrified.  “How did I not know this?  My best friend is the Hugh Hefner of
Pennsylvania.”  Shaking her head, she picked up her controller.  “I am totally
gonna own you Carter.”

chuckled, acknowledging the end of Alyssa’s dramatics.

that where you were when I texted you?”  Alyssa asked without taking her eyes
from the TV.

I having sex?  No.  I don’t think it would have been very good manners to take
any calls during sex.”           

dummy.  Were you on a date?”

a good one.”

nodded, mollified, and concentrated on the screen.

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