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Authors: Whitney Lyles

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BOOK: Love Off-Limits
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“It's okay, Buster.” He smiled at her while on his hands and knees.

She glanced down at the collar and tag around her neck and rolled her eyes. “Oh yeah.” She felt self-conscious and awkward beneath his gaze.

Sweat trickled down her back as she collected pieces of the vase from the floor. Unfortunately, Jeremy was right. The vase looked like a pile of cookie crumbs.

“I should've never agreed to try on this stupid costume in the first place,” she mumbled.

“You look hot,” Matt said. She paused to glance at him. “I mean, not that kind of hot.” He quickly corrected himself. “The hot where you sweat and you want to cool down.
Not that you aren't hot or anything…I mean, just never mind. You know what I mean.”

Interesting that he was the one stumbling over his words when she felt like the fool. Not only was she crawling around in a dog costume that was ten sizes too big, but she didn't normally hang out in the newsroom to begin with. He was probably dying to know what she was doing here.

They threw handfuls of clay fragments in the trash, and Natalie felt horrible with every toss.

She never worked in the newsroom.

“I was working on the column,” she blurted out. “I didn't have a chance to tell you and Mr. Moore that my computer at home is broken, but I have a deadline on Thursday.” She tried to sound nonchalant. “My brother's fixing my computer tonight. So I won't be in here anymore after that. I mean, I'll be in here for newspaper stuff…just not to write.” She was babbling now, and she prayed he didn't ask to have a sneak peek at the column.

“Okay.” He ran his fingers through his curly hair. “If your computer breaks down again, you can always borrow mine. I don't
care if you come to my house. It's better than someone finding out who you are.”

“Thanks. I would've borrowed Jo's, but she has a paper due.”

“How's the column going?” he asked.

“Don't worry. I'll have something in time for the Halloween issue of the paper.”

Matt shrugged. “I wasn't worried. With you, Nat, I know I never have to worry.”

If he only knew how ironic that sounded to her. She'd much rather be writing about the lack of vegetarian choices on the cafeteria menu, or even
writing
the cafeteria menu, for that matter. Or other things she felt passionate about, like, what was the whole point of algebra? Someone had yet to explain this to her. Really, what was the point? And why did she have to understand the meaning of the little letter
x?

Matt put his hand on her shoulder. “Thanks for taking this on, Nat. You're doing an awesome job, and I really couldn't picture anyone but you doing this.”

She forced a smile. If he only knew the truth.

Two

After Jeremy and Natalie left the newsroom, they headed to Natalie's house. They wanted food, and for whatever reason Jeremy believed they would find a treasure trove of after-school snacks at Natalie's. The reality was that Natalie's younger twin brothers, Thomas and Brandon, gobbled up anything good within hours of a trip to the grocery store. Natalie figured the main reason Jeremy had wanted to hang out at her house as opposed to his was because of his parents' separation and all the strange feelings involved with his dad moving out.

Today was their lucky day. Apparently her mother had really stocked up at the store, and the pantry was full of treats like
Doritos and English muffins. The fridge revealed an assortment of Go-Gurt, string cheese, and cold drinks. While they dined on string cheese and chips, the twins bombarded Jeremy with questions about his new skateboard and what he thought about the last Chargers game while attempting to wrestle with him.

Occasionally Jeremy took a break from his after-school feast to wrestle one of her brothers to the ground.

Saying that her brothers loved Jeremy was an understatement. “Worship” came to mind. They idolized him. Her brothers were complete opposites: Brandon was just like Jeremy, athletic and competitive, but even Thomas the computer whiz was enamored with Jeremy's charisma and capability to do anything.

Really, her whole family was in complete awe of Jeremy. Her mother and grandmother thought he was “so handsome,” and her father always seemed to vibe with him about sports and other such guy things. Even her grandmother's dog seemed to fall under Jeremy's spell. Both her parents were at work, and her grandmother was upstairs taking a nap with her dog, Prints William.
Otherwise they would've been in the living room too, gathered around Jeremy as though they were in Antarctica and he was the only source of warmth. Maybe that was why Jeremy liked to come to her house so much. Here he was treated like a celebrity.

“Jeremy.” Brandon poked at him.

“Jeremy.” Thomas poked on the other arm, competing for attention.

“Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy” was all she'd heard since she walked in the front door. It was like listening to a CD skip. The sound got annoying fast and it needed to be changed.

Natalie decided to announce that Jeremy had a new name. “You guys,” she called to her little brothers. “Give Jeremy a moment to breathe. And how many times are you going to say his name? Today he has a new name. He's only responding to…” She thought for a moment. “Frederick.”

“Frederick?” The twins looked puzzled.

“What's up with that?” Jeremy asked. “At least give me something cool, like Chief or Slash.”

“No. It's Frederick.”

“Frederick, will you show us how you
can go down our patio stairs on your skateboard?” Brandon asked.

Thomas put in his request. “And then play that one song on the piano you made up about when your mom makes something crappy for dinner.”

There wasn't anything Jeremy couldn't do. He was even a composer of humorous music.

“Please, Jeremy,” Thomas said.

“Ah!” Natalie called him out. “It's Frederick. He can't respond to anything other than Frederick.”

“Please, Frederick.”

“It's not Frederick. Frederick sounds like a guy with his pants pulled up too high who collects stamps. It's Slash,” Jeremy said.

“Please, Slash.”

Instead of going outside, Jeremy hopped on their piano bench and began singing “Natalie loves Hurley from
Law-hawst
! Natalie loves Hurley from
Laaaaw-hawst
!” while playing “Chopsticks.” Her brothers fell to the floor with laughter.

Natalie rolled her eyes.

They sang around the piano for a few more minutes before heading outside to watch Jeremy Frederick Slash skateboard down the
patio stairs. Natalie stayed behind and looked at the latest issue of the
Coyote Chronicle
for the twenty millionth time. A copy was still sitting on her parents' coffee table. It was starting to look as though someone had been using it as a coaster. Evidence of cold soda cans and glasses of water covered the front page. It didn't matter, though. A dozen other copies could be found around the house, and both her proud parents took several copies to work to show off her non-column articles to their friends.

Natalie looked at Coyote Courtship. It was weird reading the column. Her advice sounded so solid. How could she be dishing out that kind of advice when she didn't even know if she liked her boyfriend anymore?

Dear Coyote Courtship,

I am dating a guy who is really nice, but I am just not into him anymore. I don't want to hurt his feelings and I still want to be friends. How do I break up with him?

Yours truly,
Heartbreaker

Dear Coyote Courtship,

My boyfriend of ten months recently broke up with me. I am heartbroken. No
matter what I do I can't stop thinking about him. He has totally moved on, and there is no hope for us. How do I heal a broken heart?

Sincerely,
Brokenhearted Me

Coyote Courtship says…

Breaking up is never easy, my friends. That's why there are a million sad, slow songs devoted to the subject. Wouldn't life be simple if it were one big fairy tale? If we found the one we were meant to be with on the first shot, and rode happily into the sunset? Unfortunately, that's not how life works, and we're probably all going to be a heartbreaker or heal from a broken heart at least once in our lives. But the bottom line is that breakups are usually for the best. It might be hard to realize at the time, but when something isn't meant to be, it will end up better for you in the long run.

Here are a few good pointers to keep in mind when you're the one breaking a heart:

  • Honesty is always the best policy. Be kind, but don't string the other person along.
  • Talk to your soon-to-be ex before you tell all your friends you're going to break up with him or her. Be respectful. The person you're breaking up with is likely to feel humiliated as it is, so keep it as private as possible.
  • Don't ever break up with someone in public. Give that person a place to cry and express his or her feelings.

When you are the one dealing with a broken heart, time is the most valuable thing. The healing process may be slow, but here are a few suggestions to make the journey less painful.

  • Occupy yourself with things that will make you feel stronger about the situation and steer clear of things that will only intensify the pain. For example, turn to Pink. I don't mean the color. I mean the singer. Make a playlist of songs that will make you feel empowered. Pink has a ton
    of hits devoted to the topic. Don't turn to old photos and cry over his sweatshirt that he left in your car, which leads me to the next pointer.
  • Get rid of any memorabilia—for instance, that sweatshirt. Have a friend give it back if it will be too hard to see the person.
  • Hang out with your best buds. Go to the movies, eat lots of ice cream, play video games, shop—anything to keep your mind off the breakup.

Whatever situation you're in—whether you're heartbroken or heartbreaking—keep in mind that everything happens for a reason. The reason may not present itself now, but it will eventually. Best of luck.

She'd made it sound so easy. If it was so easy, why couldn't she take a break from her own boyfriend? Because her situation was far too complicated. It wasn't just that her family would adopt Jeremy if they could. Another big reason was that his parents had recently separated. Up until his parents had separated, she had thought Jeremy was actually drifting from her. But lately he'd seemed to need her.
He'd reached out to her more than ever. She couldn't kick the guy while he was down.

The back door flew open, and her brothers came trailing in behind him.

“Okay, Slash has to go now,” Jeremy said.

“Can you come over every day, Slash?” Thomas asked.

“Sure, I'd love to.”

 

An hour later Natalie found herself sitting on the ground outside Bank of America watching Jeremy glide on his new skateboard down a ramp meant for wheelchairs, which wasn't exactly how she'd pictured spending the rest of the day.
Let's see,
she thought. Homework and laundry sounded more exciting. Not to mention she felt like she needed to visit her new favorite website, Romeohelpme. She'd been driving Jeremy home when he'd spotted the ramp and asked her to pull into the bank “really quick.” Really quick had turned into forty-five minutes. She knew it was only a matter of time before security came and busted her boyfriend and the two other skateboarding friends that he'd made outside the bank.

Fall was typically a warm season in Oak Canyon, and today was no exception. The
heat made her feel tired and lazy, and she longed to go home and take a nap. Instead, she decided to text her best friend, Jo. Maybe Jo was finished with her Howl at the Moon committee meeting by now. She found her cell phone in the small pocket of her backpack.

Where r u? Call me.

She waited, praying Jo was around to dish.

Can't call right now. Debating colors for the backdrop at dance. Don't you think we should go with something new, like all black and a big dark blue full moon in the background? Everyone wants the same old orange and black. Call u as soon as I leave. XO.

Natalie wrote back.

Luv the full moon idea.

Then she sent a text to her next-best friend, Vincent. Natalie, Jo, and Vincent had been friends for as long as Natalie could
remember. When they were little kids, they'd lived on the street where Natalie currently resided. Then Jo's father had launched his construction business and her family had upgraded to a more posh neighborhood encased by coded gates and palm trees. Vincent's parents had divorced, sending him to a condominium complex with his mother.

Hey Vinny! What are you doing? I'm bored. Call me.

She was the only one who called him Vinny, just like he was the only one who called her Natty. Jo had never really taken to their nicknames. She thought Vinny sounded so Italian mafia and Natty reminded her of “naughty.” Her phone beeped. Vincent was one of the best at replying to text messages. She could always count on him for a speedy response.

Can't talk now, Natty. Auditioning for South Pacific. Let's chat L8R.

She felt relieved when Jeremy began to skate her way. She was ready to head home.
She wondered if her computer was back in action and what her mom was making for dinner. He slowed down, leaned over, and plucked a white flower from a planter near the bank. He picked up speed again and came to a scraping halt at her feet.

“It's for you.” It seemed like it had been a long time since he'd given her a flower. It was a sweet gesture and made the fact that she'd been sweating her tush off in the heat for what seemed like an eternity seem sort of worthwhile. What girl didn't like to get flowers from her boyfriend, even if the flower was pilfered from a bank's planter? She couldn't help but think back to the days when she'd shown up to school and Jeremy would be waiting by her locker with a rose he'd “borrowed” from someone's front yard. Her heart would race and she'd tell herself that whomever he'd taken it from had a million more to spare. She was easy to please in that way. Flowers, little notes left on her windshield or her locker—the small things made her happy. She didn't need extravagant gifts or expensive dates.

As she took the daisy she felt a little pang of butterflies again. It was a welcome feeling, and it was moments like these that made her
want to never let go of him. “Thank you.” She smelled the inside and didn't think it really had a scent, but its white petals and purple center looked pristine. “That was sweet of you.”

“Did you see me catch air off that ramp? I probably caught five feet!” He seemed so excited.

She nodded, even though she wasn't sure if she remembered. “That was cool.”

“You ready to roll?”

She stood up.

“Can I have my sunglasses?” he asked.

She dug inside her purse. “Don't forget your iPod, too.” She found the iPod first. When she pulled the sunglasses out, she quickly realized that one of the lenses was cracked. “Oh no,” she said.

“You broke my shades?” he asked loudly.

“I didn't break your sunglasses.” Her tone was defensive as she watched him check out the damage. “I didn't even touch them,” she said.

“They were in
your
purse.”

“All I've been doing is sitting here watching you skateboard. I haven't even moved!”

“Well, they weren't like this before I gave them to you.”

How could he be Mr. Skateboarding Flower Delivery Man one minute and then so annoying the next? As if she deliberately broke his sunglasses. She hadn't done more than yawn and text Jo since they'd arrived. In fact, she'd been sitting in the heat watching him ollie off the sidewalk ramps, and if he thought he'd caught five feet of air, he was wrong. It looked more like five inches! If anyone had broken his sunglasses, it was him. He was so hard on everything, always breaking things; he'd probably dropped them during one of his skateboarding stunts and hadn't even known a crack had started to form. He was so annoying sometimes.

“Are you sure they weren't like that before? I mean, you're kind of rough with everything. How many pairs of sunglasses do you think you've lost or broken in the last year?”

“I didn't break them. And I'm the rough one? You're the one who dropped your cell phone in the pool last summer!”

Her mouth dropped. “You pushed me in!” She was fuming. “And maybe next time you skateboard you should carry your own stuff!” She stormed toward the car. He followed, carrying his board beneath his left arm.

BOOK: Love Off-Limits
7.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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