Read Love Drugged Online

Authors: James Klise

Tags: #young adult, #teen fiction, #fiction, #teen, #teen fiction, #teenager, #angst, #drama, #romance, #relationships, #glbt, #gay, #homosexuality, #self-discovery

Love Drugged (6 page)

BOOK: Love Drugged
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“Let’s talk tomorrow,” I said to Celia.

She seemed to hesitate. “I’m busy this weekend, but call if you want to.” She gave me a slip of paper with her number on it. “Oh, and I’ll try to get in touch with Amanda.”

I felt myself grinning, pleased to share that secret with her.

Dr. Gamez reached over the seat to shake my hand again. “Jamie, you are always welcome in our home.”

“Thanks. And thanks for the ride!”

I ran from the car. Inside the hall, I dropped my backpack in a chair by the phone stand and heard the sound of my grandparents’ TV. “I’m home!” I called, but didn’t expect an answer.

My grandparents had to eat supper by five o’clock or they couldn’t sleep. In the kitchen, a plate of baked fish, now cold and covered in plastic wrap, sat waiting for me on the countertop. I wasn’t hungry. Instead I went to my room, closed the door, and put on a CD. I stretched out on my bed, imagining Celia and her father at a table in an elegant restaurant, reviewing the menu, talking about their day. Now that I was alone again, in my cramped bedroom in this stale and dark house, I felt that familiar pressure against my chest—envy.

I did not go upstairs to tell my parents about my day. I did not join my grandparents for an evening of boring television. I did not call Wesley to report on my progress with Celia.

Instead I lay on the bed with my eyes closed. I tried to picture the college girl, Amanda Lynn, with her lover on the dark lawn between the house and the riverbank. I wondered if sex was always like that, a frantic fumbling in the wild, a spontaneous reaching for warmth and connection. I felt light-years away from that kind of experience. Even the guys I had fantasized about kissing were never people I actually knew. They were on TV, in magazines, or on the Internet. Maybe that had been my problem all along. Maybe if I focused on real people—flesh-and-blood
girls
—things would change for me. Maybe I would change.

Was Celia Gamez the girl who could change me? Was she the one who could finally turn me on? Maybe I was like an expensive electronic device that required a very rare kind of battery.

six

Boys in high school were different from the boys I’d known before. They seemed older, tougher. Part of it was that I hadn’t known them since the first grade. I hadn’t watched them learn to read and tie their shoes. Plus, there were so many of them now, these tribes of scowling boys in the corridors between classes, punching each other. Arm jabs, titty twisters, whacking each other’s balls from behind. They couldn’t take their hands off each other. They never carried schoolbooks. They didn’t smile at strangers. If they caught me looking, they stared me down until I looked away.
Take a picture, faggot, it lasts longer!
In sheer number, these boys were cuter than the boys at my old school. Sexier, more dangerous. As a safeguard, I wrote with a Sharpie on my binder:
Remember … KFC.

Leave me alone.

The best strategy, I decided, was to focus all my attention on Celia. It wasn’t enough to
talk
about my crush with my parents and my friends. I needed to act.

On Monday morning, I went to the Commons before school because I knew Celia would pass by on the way to her locker. I would go every day if necessary, as if exercising a muscle I wanted to develop. I was in training.

A tap on my shoulder from behind, and Celia said, “You didn’t call me this weekend.” Not angry, just an observation.

“I didn’t have time,” I lied. The fact was, I had intended to call her. I’d wanted to call. But I couldn’t dial the number. My nerve kept failing. I didn’t want this thing to flame out before it began. “Did you track down Amanda Lynn?”

“No luck,” she said as the first bell rang. “Now listen. We need to put our heads together and come up with a
plan
.”

I liked the sound of that.

In the library, we saw Mr. Covici’s ladder again, leaning against the circulation desk. The air in the room was laced with the smell of fresh paint. “Uh oh,” Wesley said. “Michelangelo must be back at it.” We dropped our backpacks and took seats while Mimi went to a computer to print out an essay for World History. Wesley opened a newspaper to the basketball scores.

I scanned the room, hoping like hell I wouldn’t see Crazy Paul. I didn’t like being there. I had quit the habit of going to the library during my free periods. Cold turkey. It only made sense; like a gambling addict who needs to stay away from the big bad casino, I didn’t want to be tempted into repeating past mistakes.

Across the room, in shiny red letters on the wall above the photocopy machines, Mr. Covici’s latest artwork broadcast a new message to the people:
KINDNESS OPENS MORE DOORS THAN THE VILLAGE LOCKSMITH.

“Do you think he’s got permission to be doing that?” I whispered to Wes. “Like from the administration?”

Wes lowered the newspaper and squinted to read the new quote. “Whoa. My uncle’s a locksmith. He doesn’t need this
kindness
crap to come in and steal his business.”

Mimi returned from the printers, scowling at the world as usual. She flung her essay at the table as if the paper were a Frisbee. She was one gruff customer.

“Want me to proofread that for you?” I asked. It was always my goal to make Mimi smile.

She stuffed the pages into her folder. “Down boy,” she said. “You’re not opening
this
door, no matter what the damn wall says.”

“Any progress with Señorita Gamez?” Wesley asked.

I shrugged. “Still laying the foundation.”

“Yeah right,” Mimi said. “My prediction? That’s the only thing you’ll be laying.”

I wasn’t ready to describe my afternoon with Celia to them—too much pressure. I could admit a little crush, but given this new access, Wes and Mimi might now expect a full-blown relationship.

Naturally, therefore, I didn’t tell them about the folded-up note Celia slipped to me as we passed between lunch periods:

Help Wanted:
Investigator needed to track down criminal trespassers and sexual outlaws. Part-time only, but the pay is truly terrible. Applicants should inquire
at locker #3442 between lunch and fourth period.

At the appointed time, I made a beeline to her locker.

“Terrific, you’re hired!” she said, shaking my hand.

After school, riding the bus across town toward Celia’s neighborhood, a persistent thought dominated my head:
Would I see her bedroom this time?
This scenario seemed entirely possible, and yet the prospect amazed me. This was one of the miracles of high school—how quickly connections were made, relationships formed. Until a week ago, I knew Celia only from First Knights meetings; now we were spending time alone together, sharing an R-rated secret, and rushing toward her bedroom at twenty-five miles per hour along Western Avenue.

“I want to meet her,” Celia said, studying the ID picture. “To give her stuff back. I’ve become obsessed with this chick.”

“Understandable. I’m curious about anyone who’s named after a musical instrument.”

“Can you imagine somebody having
sex
in your backyard?”

“Celia, my backyard is surrounded by a chain-link fence. The central feature is a knee-high statue of the Blessed Virgin.”

“Hey,” she said, “my dad has one of those in his office. Very sexy.”

“For real? That’s too weird.
And
a three-story apartment building across the alley looks down into our yard, so you’d probably have an audience.”

“Hot, hot, hot,” she said, laughing.

“Old people staring at you from behind their greasy window blinds.”

“Stop, you’re driving me wild!”

We got off the bus and walked along Wilson Avenue to the bridge. The sky was getting dark already. The river reflected white Christmas lights that lined private docks up and down the riverbank. The air smelled of wood smoke from a nearby chimney. We didn’t stop this time, and minutes later we pushed through the fancy iron gate at Celia’s. The immense house rose above us, dark except for an impressive spotlight on the front door. I felt thrilled to be back so soon.

At the front door, Celia punched in the code. Fleetingly I thought of Mr. Covici:
Kindness opens more doors than the village locksmith.
As if reading my mind, Celia joked, “Kindness may open some doors, but not ours.”

“Nope. Kindness can just freeze its butt in the cold!”

She whispered, “I shouldn’t tell you this, but … it’s my birthday.”

“Oh my God, Celia! Today is your birthday?”

“No, the
code
is my birthday. When I was young, I could never remember the code. My parents changed it to my birthday so I would stop getting locked out.”

“Wow,” I said gently. “That’s a little bit pathetic.”

“I know, right? Trust me, I’m a lot smarter now.”

Inside the main hallway, Celia slipped out of her coat and tossed it over the stone staircase banister, so I did the same. Underneath, she was wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt that drew attention to her chest. This girl wasn’t afraid to show some skin.

I followed her down the hallway into the kitchen, which was four times the size of my grandparents’ boxy kitchen. I noticed, this time, that the floor tiles were made of real tile, not plastic linoleum like at home. Matching tiles covered the vaulted ceiling, where a dozen copper pots hung from an elaborate iron rack. I looked again at the family photographs; Dr. Gamez watched us from multiple points of view.

“Is your dad around?”

“Somewhere, yeah,” she said.

A glossy travel brochure lay on the black countertop. I opened it to a random spread, where the pictures showed beaches and palm trees, a romantic estate, pebble paths with peacocks. “What’s this?”

“It’s for Spring Break. We’re going to Mexico—the Yucatán. I don’t know why he has that brochure. We always rent the same
hacienda
. It’s nowhere near the beach, but it’s got a nice pool.”

“It looks amazing.”

“Have you ever been to Mexico?”

I shook my head. “We went to Florida once. That’s about it.” My family’s one big vacation had taken place years ago, before my dad lost his print shop. I’d been too young to appreciate it. All I remembered was chasing tiny lizards around the lava rocks in the motel parking lot.

“Florida’s cool,” she said. “Okay, Inspector, so where do we begin?”

“Internet?”

“I Googled her already—
nada
.”

“Maybe we need to go through the university.”

“I tried that, too. The switchboard said she doesn’t live on campus.”

“Let’s try another department then. Do you have, like, a phone book?”

Celia pointed. “Center drawer.” She leaned against the kitchen counter, her bare arms folded. “Are you hungry?”

I nodded. “Sure.”

She opened the huge stainless steel refrigerator. “How about soup?”

“Soup is good.” I found the university in the phone book—a long list of departments and offices—and reviewed the various options. My finger stopped on one that seemed promising.

Celia removed the lid from a plastic container. She dumped its contents into a saucepan, a solid block of shiny orange. She fired up the gas burner and then stood at the stove, stirring. “Ginger carrot,” she said, as if I’d been looking at it funny. “My dad made it.”

“Your dad cooks?”

“Yup, always. Even, you know, before my mom died.”

The comment floated in the space between us. It seemed like an invitation to ask questions, but I didn’t know what to say. So I picked up the phone and dialed.

Celia whispered, “He has a certificate thingy from the Chicago Culinary Institute. He worked as a chef when he was in medical school.”

“Cool.”

A woman’s voice answered the phone. “University switchboard.”

“Hi, can you please connect me with the Jobs Placement Office?”

“One moment please.”

Celia gave me a doubtful look, and I held up a finger as if to say,
Just
wait.

“Jobs Office,” a young male voice said.


Good afternoon
,” I said, dropping my voice an octave. “My name is Roger Johnson. I’m trying to contact one of your students. Amanda Lynn Hampton? I received a résumé from Amanda Lynn a while back—a very
strong
résumé—but when I called the number today, it said the line had been disconnected. Would you happen to have up-to-date contact information for Amanda Lynn?”

Celia’s hands flew to her mouth. She leaned closer to listen.

“Who did you say you were?” asked the man on the phone.

“I’m Robert Johnson,” I said firmly.

“Didn’t you say
Roger
before?”

“Yes … uh, well, Johnsonville Furniture,” I said.

“You own the business?”

“That’s correct, and I’m very, very busy. I’m just looking for Amanda Lynn’s contact information.”

“Have we placed students with you before, sir?”

I glanced at Celia. “It’s possible. I … couldn’t say.”

The man’s breathing was steady and patient, as if he spent all day on the phone with boneheads like me. “Hold on a sec.” There was a click at the end of the line, then music. Really bad, smooth jazz.

I covered the mouthpiece. “I’m on hold,” I whispered.

“Mr. Johnson, I am
impressed.” She kept her eyes on me as she stirred the soup.

I swallowed. “I should have rehearsed.”

“You do sound a little bit constipated.”

I held my stomach. “I may be!”

The man on the phone returned. “Mr. Johnson?”

“Yes, this is
Roger
Johnson.”

“Listen, sir, I can’t give contact information about students over the phone.”

“Really?” A moment ago, this had seemed like a done deal. “But as I told you, Amanda Lynn already sent me her résumé. I’m only following up.”

“If she’s interested, I’m sure she’ll contact you again.”

“But the job—”

“Sir, if you like, I can take
your
information, and when she comes in, I’ll be glad to give it to her.”

I stared at the receiver. “That won’t be necessary. Thank you.” I hung up.

The only sound was the soup bubbling on the stove.

“Damn,” I said.

“You were
awesome,
” Celia said, clapping her hands.

“We were so close!”

“It’s okay. We’ll try another department.” She poured the soup into white bowls with elegant gold rims. Then she set out heavy round spoons—real soup spoons, the kind you get in restaurants. The soup wasn’t watery like my grandmother’s potato soup. It was thick, like gravy.

“Ginger carrot,” she said, setting a bowl in front of me.

“You said that already. Your dad made it.”

Our faces were close and she was staring up at my eyes—again, not casually. For the first time since I’d known her, she didn’t look confident or strong. She looked …
willing.
With her eyes cast upward, the difference in our heights became apparent, suddenly significant. The moment for our first kiss had arrived. She was waiting for me to make a move.

BOOK: Love Drugged
6.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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