Authors: Stephanie Pokorney
To My Gorgeous Readers,
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my novel. I am always a reader first, and a writer second.
I write because I love to write, and now I want my readers to love my stories as much as I enjoy writing them.
Everyone always has something to tell. Some act it, some say it, and some write it.
Because he always appreciated the beauty in everyone and everything.
“Would you like to go to the dance with me?”
I stare up at my newest suitor’s bright green eyes. They have specks of gray, the color of gray that makes me think of the type of love you grow old with. I mentally kick myself for having let myself notice the details of a typical guy who won’t get the answer he’s looking for.
I smile my softest smile, the way I always do, and politely say “I’m sorry, I can’t go, maybe another time.” I continue smiling as I turn to walk away. I don’t look back, I don’t need to. I already know what I’ll see; the same thing I always see when I turn down nice guys. I really shouldn’t have given him false hope, I know I shouldn’t have. I know it’s wrong. But hope is what keeps you alive; it’s what keeps the tears from suffocating you at night. Everyone needs hope. Even if it’s false hope, it’ still the kind of hope that just keeps you alive and kicking until you can find something else that makes it all better. There isn’t anything wrong with just making him mediocrely happy until he finds a better girl that he can truly love, than he won’t ever remember I turned him down.
I turn the corner and my eyes lock on Bruno. My heart skips a beat as I notice another one of “his girls”, or a girl (because she looks new and probably hasn’t completely fallen in love with him, YET), is standing next to his locker speaking quickly and using highly over exaggerated hand gestures. If I was the type to snicker, I probably would. I should be used to this by now, but honestly, I’m not. Her hair is a dirty blond, like fate couldn’t decide whether or not she should be light haired or dark haired. She looks pretty. Not crazy breathless beautiful, but she’s a cute girl. After analyzing her looks, my eyes focus back onto her mouth. She’s stopped speaking, and her hands have stopped moving. She’s just staring at Bruno, waiting for a reply; yearning for any type of response from the beloved Bruno Castino.
He smiles back at her, like he always does. I know he doesn’t love her. I know he won’t ever like her, or date her, or give her anywhere near as much as she wants from him; just like he never has the others. But unlike her, unlike every single other girl, I know why he won’t. His smile is sincere, though. The way mine is. He really doesn’t want to hurt anyone; he really doesn’t to make anyone sad. The same way I don’t.
He says something polite, shuts his locker, and turns to leave. He sees me there, standing, looking. He doesn’t smile at me. Not because we’re fighting, not because we hate each other; but because we don’t have to pretend. I pivot sharply and start to walk home. It’s rainy. I smooth my hair down with my hands. Naturally curly hair hates the rain.
I read about an exercise in some random journal my mom threw out about how to block out your mind from thinking. I try really hard to not think all the way home. I’m so focused on not thinking that I arrive at home faster than it usually takes. I chuckle to myself as I open my house’s big French doors; I really am going to try this exercise more often.
The kitchen table has three backpacks on it already, which means my brother must already be home. My mom used to hate how we’d always leave our things lying around the downstairs area. She doesn’t mind as much anymore. Every once in a while she’ll make a comment about shoes and gym bags around the entryway, but nothing more. I know that after last spring, she appreciates the fact that she has children who can leave their things where they don’t belong, instead of children who aren’t around to do so. I think that’s why my brother stopped doing his laundry at school. He comes home more often these days, every couple of weekends, and makes sure to bring a big bag of laundry for my mom to wash. She appreciates it. He doesn’t know this, but one time I noticed that some of the clothes in his dirty laundry bag still had tags on them. I figure he just throws any clothes he can find in a bag for my mom to wash, even if they’re clean. I ripped off the tags to help keep his secret. If my mom knows, she doesn’t show it. Moms know everything, so maybe she just doesn’t want to see it. Maybe she’s pretending like Bruno.
The water I grabbed from the kitchen is wet and cold. I gulp it down anyway, and log onto my computer. I know it’s too soon after school for many people to be on, but I want to already be logged on for whenever Bruno gets on, so I don’t miss a second of our after school video chats.
I’ve just finished changing into shorts and a shirt (our school dress code prevents anything below the knee) when I hear a knock on my door. Before I can ask who it is, the door is thrown open.
“You didn’t wait for me after school. Mom told you that she wanted you to walk with me.” My twin is nothing like me. Our mother’s reminders are usually replaced with sport trivia. It’s ironic he remembered that’s what mom said.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t find you, and I had homework, and it was raining and I didn’t want to get wet…” My excuses travel on. I used to be a horrible liar, but by the way he’s looking at me, it’s like he believes me. Maybe I’ve become good at pretending, too.
“Wait for me next time. I have gym last period and we’re always running drills for football, so I always get out a few minutes late. Wait under the yawning in front of the school and I’ll be there.”
I reply with an “okay, fine” the way sisters do, and my brother shuts the door. I know he is heading out with his best friend to go get greasy food before dinner, to laugh and joke, to be a kid with no worries. I’m jealous. I start to think of all the reasons I’m jealous, when I hear a beep coming from my laptop. Bruno has signed on to Skype. My jealousy, my sadness, any bad emotion I feel disappears as love and butterflies fill my stomach and chest.
Before I can sit down properly on my desk chair, I am receiving a Skype call from Bruno. His face pops up after clicking answer, his Italian curls filling my screen. That deep voice of his that never fails to give me chills booms through my speakers, “Saw you in the hallway, today.”
Geez, I should have known that was coming.
“I was looking for Melanie.” Melanie was a girl that my brother had dated briefly. They still have a thing, but everyone knows The Callaway’s aren’t one for settling down. Pfft. She was one of the few girls my brother’s brought around that I actually really liked. She was nice and I became pretty good friends with her. With that being said, I normally don’t go to her locker; I just say I do when I am caught starring deeply at locker 203- Bruno’s.
His smile flickers across my screen, “No way, you were ease dropping on Adrian.”
“Adrian?” I make a face. So that was her name… “No, really, I was just waiting for Melanie. She let me borrow her pink nail polish, and I…” before I could even finish, he was interrupting me, which isn’t like Bruno. He lets people talk as long and as much as they want. He’s a really good listener.
“No. I know you just headed that way because Mark asked you to the dance. Then you saw Adrian speaking to me about doing the spring play.” He always knew. I couldn’t lie to him. I guess everyone has that one person they just can’t pretend with, even when you try.
“Why was she asking about the play?”
“She wants me to sing. They’re doing a play that’s popular over-seas and she claims to have heard that my singing voice is best in foreign languages.”
I roll my eyes. “Did you accept?”
“Well, I considered, but of course I’ll have to enviably decline. It would ruin my macho image I try so hard to uphold.”
I laugh. He’s so full of it. He’s not one of those guys that gets more emotional than girls, but he isn’t anything like the tough-macho jerks, either. I knew he was taking a shot at my ex and other guys I had briefly dated. Most of the guys I tend to date all had one thing in common: they were big athletes who couldn’t tell my eyes from my chest.
He is smiling as he watches me laugh. He loves making me laugh, which is good, because I absolutely love to laugh. He isn’t laughing with me, just smiling because for some reason I am collapsing with laughter. Here I am: hunched over, grabbing my stomach because my abs are throbbing from the pain, and he’s just getting a kick out it. I know of guys who never ever laugh, they just smile really big. Bruno isn’t like that. He does laugh, but just very rarely. It’s almost like his laugh is saved for only the specialist of moments. Apparently, me laughing at his reference on my past relationship’s isn’t considered special.
Once I have composed myself, he changes the subject back to Mark. “What did you say when he asked you?”
“That I couldn’t go. He’s really nice… but, just, not my type, I guess.” I try to shrug it off.
I could have told Bruno that I already had plans for that night. But that wouldn’t be true, and more than anyone, Bruno knows that. For the past several months, my weekends have been taken over by my laptop, my T.V., and possibly a good book when I can find one. And him. My favorite part of my weekend, of my life really, -
. I only leave the comfort of my room every so often when I can’t make up excuses not to hang out with my girlfriends. Making up excuses for guys is so different and so much easier than making up excuses to not see your girlfriends. Most people think I have a secret fling from another school. I’ve heard rumors that make me chuckle. I don’t know how people can honestly come up with these things. Whoever said imagination and creativity was dead obviously lied. Little does everyone know that my attention, affection, and all my heart belongs to Central Connor High School’s very own Bruno Castino.
“That’s the fourth one this week,” he says.
I nod. There were several last week, but I don’t mention them. It doesn’t matter if he knows or not, because how many guys ask me out doesn’t matter to me. I only have eyes for Bruno.
I see another head full of Italian curls pop up onto my screen, except these ones are lighter, like they haven’t been darkened by life.
“Ciao!” calls a little voice. I smile. Bruno’s little brother might be the only thing on this world more loveable than him.
“Hey, A!” I yell, loudly, to match the little tikes’ volume control-issues. Bruno lightly nudges Alex out of the video view and starts speaking to him in Italian. I wait patiently for his attention to return to me. After a moment, Alex runs behind Bruno and starts frantically waving his hands. I start to laugh again. Encouraged by my laughter, Alex starts doing the running man –backwards. I laugh even more as Bruno pushes him lightly out of his room. He returns to the seat in front of his laptop, sighing huffily as he plops down.
“Gosh, he’s such a cutie!” I exclaim.
“Tell me about it,” Bruno replies, rolling his eyes. “Mom want’s us downstairs for dinner. She made my favorite - spaghetti and meatballs. Gross. It hasn’t even tasted the same since last year. I think she’s trying to get me to love it like I used to, before… well, you know.”
The mood that was once so happy and full of life thanks to Bruno’s little brothers’ innocence is now washed away by a somber feeling of sadness. I nod because I’m scared to speak. Bruno waves to me and ends the conversation. I sit there starring at my now blank computer screen. I know he’ll be emailing me later, that’s a given. I glance at the clock and it’s already 6:30.
I’ll be called downstairs for dinner in twenty minutes. All my brothers will be back from their outings with friends, ready to eat more food that has been prepared; my dad will be home from work, his smile bright as his youngest and only girl descends down the stairs; my mom will want to know every detail of our day, eagerly awaiting mine, wanting some type of normality to what my typical days used to be like. I will look into her big blue eyes, the same color as mine, and have to tell her that I didn’t do anything. Her eyes will fall but her smile won’t. She will keep dishing out the food like moms do, telling my brothers to get their elbows off the table, asking my dad about any new business at work. And there I will sit: a daughter she used to know; a daughter that has her same looks and personality; a daughter who used to cheer and socialize; who dated frequently; who had steady boyfriends; who loved and was loved in return; a daughter who didn’t have to pretend.
Bruno is walking home. His mother has offered him her old Honda countless times, but for some reason never to be understood by me, he always refuses. His hands are in his pocket, his curls bouncing naturally as he steps over the leaves and cracks in the sidewalk. I slow my car to a roll, honking. He doesn’t even jump. Instead, he tilts his head to the side and smiles.