Authors: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Tags: #YA, #social issues, #contemporary romance, #teen, #love
“Who can tell me which vehicle has the right of way at this stop sign?” he asks, pointing to a chalk diagram sketched on the blackboard. No
Board for Mr. Drum—he’s totally old school.
Unsurprisingly, no one volunteers.
“Miz Matthews, let’s hear your perspective.” Just the force of his gaze has me shrinking a few inches in my seat.
“Give it a try,” he says.
“Okay … I guess it would be … whoever has the biggest car?”
Mr. Drum redirects his attention to the blackboard. I swear the cleft in his chin wobbles as he restrains a burst of laughter. Even his dark hair seems to shake.
“Would you further enlighten me as to your reasoning?” he finally asks, crossing his arms in front of his chest and tapping his fingers on his rock-hard bicep. He still can’t look at me.
“Because you don’t want to get steamrolled by a Hummer if you’re only driving a Corolla?”
Sophomore guy next to me raises coughs into his fist, covering his own bout of hysterics. Newbies think Driver’s Ed is all fun and games, but right now the idea of repeating this class has lost most of its humor for me.
“Interesting theory, but no.” Mr. Drum clears the final echoes of restrained laughter from his throat. “I hope you never get behind the wheel of a tank. Anyone else?”
Sophomore guy’s hand shoots into the air. He knows he can’t possibly screw up his answer as badly as I did.
Needless to say, my post-Driver’s-Ed mood is foul. Jana talks me into grabbing lunch at the indoor market located in the shell of an old textile factory a few blocks from school. Since I’m craving comfort food and my morning latte money is still in my purse, I decide to drown my sorrows in a big bread bowl of chicken noodle soup.
At the Main Street traffic light, Jana’s backpack rings.
“Hold up, chica.” She breaks her pace, searching for her phone buried beneath a makeup bag, our still blank achievement list, and her driving manual.
Standing in the cold, my teeth begin to chatter. “I’ll go inside and find us a table.” When the light changes, I step closer to the intersection.
Bam! A snowball pummels the left side of my head, spraying frozen slush into my hair.
“What the …?” I whirl around and find Andy and his friend Sidh standing at the corner, chortling like a couple of delirious baboons.
An angry scream escapes me, echoing through the frigid atmosphere. I bend over and scoop snow with my bare hands, but when I attempt to return fire, my backpack slides down from my shoulder. The heavy bag bounces off my cheap plastic boot and a jolt of pain shoots up my leg, triggering an explosion of stars, dancing in my line of vision.
“Andrew!” I scream, stomping my uninjured foot on the ground like an irate two-year-old.
Sidh chuckles and points at Andy. “Dude, your future wife is pissed. She called you Andrew.”
“She’s not my future wife. Senior Superlatives are ludicrous, and I’m filing a formal appeal,” Andy says, but he’s laughing.
“Yeah, sure you are.” Sidh flashes a toothy grin. Then his dark eyes roll side-to-side, as if he suddenly realizes he’s now a target.
He’s right, of course. From behind me, Jana pegs him with a snowball. But, with Jana’s hand-eye coordination basically being non-existent, she might have been aiming for Andy. Her throw is wide right, and shaves Sidh’s spiky-black hair above his ear, leaving him with half a head of snowy highlights.
“Got your back. But, girlfriend, you jumped about ten feet in the air.” Jana laughs right along with the guys. I extract my soaking wet backpack from a pile of snow and stalk away, leaving the three of them on the far side of the street when the light changes. I hope Jana enjoys spending time with her recently elevated to datable guy status, super-nerd Andy Kosolowski.
Right now, they are all dead to me.
Two blocks later, Andy calls my name. “Sadie, I want to apologize.”
I ignore him and continue power sulking.
“Sadie, stop. Please. I didn’t mean to hit your head. I was aiming lower, but you’re so …”
I whirl around and face him. “I’m so what?”
Andy’s gaze drops to the ground as he kicks at the snow with his sneaker. “Let me make it up to you. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Something from the bakery?”
Damn. One bad thing about going to school with the same person for approximately eleven years, five months and six days—he knows the best way to bribe me into forgiving him.
“An éclair,” I snap, crossing my arms in front of my chest. “No, make it two. And a vanilla chai.” With a quick nod, Andy plows through the bakery door, sending the tiny bell attached to the frame into a tinkling frenzy.
I wait five whole minutes in the cold, stomping my boots to shake off a crust of powdery snow. Eventually, Andy returns, carrying my order in a crisp, white paper bag. His glasses fogged over inside the steamy bakery, but I still catch a glimpse of the rest of his face, twitching under the duress of holding back laughter.
Great. First, Mr. Drum, then sophomore guy, and now Andy. Nice to know I’m considered highly entertaining by the general male population.
“Ah, sorry about your hair,” he says. His large hand reaches out to tuck a damp lock behind my ear.
I shake away and thrust my arm out in defense, fearing another destroy-Sadie operation is underway. “You’re sorry about my hair? You bombarded my entire face with snow. I might have frostbite!”
“Nah, you’re good. Your lips are still moving. Enjoy the éclairs.” He hands me the bag. “Oh, and sorry about Sidh’s future spouse comment. I know how much you hate the whole Senior Superlative thing.”
“Yeah, I saw
article in the paper.” I spit out the name like my mouth is filled with snake venom. Andy looks confused and opens his mouth to say something, but then decides against it. He waves good-bye and sets off in the opposite direction, whistling a happy tune, like a really tall dwarf from the Snow White fairy tale. Super-sized Dopey.
Jana passes him on her way up the street, her dark hair now tucked beneath a bright red knit cap she keeps in her backpack.
“Did Andy just buy you not one, but two éclairs?” she asks, stunned. She grabs the bag from my hand and peeks inside, then glances at his retreating form, as if checking to make sure he’s not an apparition.
“And a vanilla chai.” I hoist my cup in the air.
“No freakin’ way. A large chai costs at least five bucks. He could have taken you to a movie or something.”
This comment has me spraying fifty cents worth of my hot beverage on the ground. Me and Andy at the movies? Together? In the dark?
“Geez-us, Jana. Do you want me to suffer third-degree mouth burns on top of everything else?”
“Sorry. He just seemed—overly concerned when you walked away.”
“Unlike you, best friend.”
“I thought we were joking. I didn’t know you would take a little snowball so personally.”
“Little? I was crushed by a flying ice bomb.”
“You’re absolutely right. It was a direct hit. Any lasting damage?”
“No. But don’t tell Andy.”
Fill It In - Random List
Ten Things I Completely Despise (okay, strongly dislike) about Andy Kosolowski
1. He thinks it’s hilarious to whack defenseless young women with snowballs.
2. He’s way too tall. It’s disturbing.
3. His mission in life is to humiliate me. I still think he paid someone to fix the Senior Superlative vote.
4. And then after he humiliates me, he does something really nice like buying me two éclairs and a chai, knowing I can’t possibly stay mad at him.
5. He’s smarter than me. Okay, he’s smarter than just about everyone in the universe, so this should not make me mad. But it does. And, rumor has it, he could skip school for the rest of the year and still be a lock for valedictorian.
6. He can drive.
7. He has his own car.
8. His parents probably trust him and don’t ask him to leave notes whenever he goes out. I can’t even walk into town alone. Hello, Mother! I’m almost eighteen.
9. He doesn’t get mad. About anything. Ever.
10. He’s a hair hypocrite. He tried to fix my hair after he totally wrecked it with his snowball, yet his hair always looks like he just finished wrestling a snow blower. And the snow blower won.
Monday morning, I’m still mad about the snowball. And the article in the school paper. When I see Melinda in the hallway, I do an internal “Grrrrr” like an angry cat. In Calculus, I pull out my copy of
Fill It In
and fire off my list about Andy while he sits right behind me, so close I swear I can feel his raspy breath on my neck.
I know I should be capable of reaching deep into my tiny Grinch-like heart to get past his minor transgression. And he’s claimed over and over that he had nothing to do with our unfortunate pairing up on the Senior Superlative board. But, possibly, he protests too much?
To be honest, I know Andy would instantly forgive me if I’d thrown a snowball in his face. He wouldn’t be angry at all, because he’s one of those people who rolls with life’s ups and downs. He sees the forest for the trees, the mountain from the molehill, or something stupid like that. But I refuse to let the incident slip away and I really don’t understand why. I’m not just upset because Andy clocked me with a snowball. The whole aftermath left me with a squeamish feeling, one I spent all weekend trying to shake. Why did Andy have to go and act like a gentleman? He makes me feel small for losing my mind over a mundane practical joke.
Gawd, what a loser he is.
To redirect my emotional upheaval, I decide the time has come to do something spectacular. On the way to lunch, I stop by my locker. Buried under a pile of first term assignments, I find my copy of the student handbook, still in mint condition. I jam the slim book into my purse and head to the cafeteria.
When Jana appears, I glance up from the pages of Harmony High’s Rules and Regulations. Apparently someone in district headquarters is also an avid lister.
“It’s time for action. We keep talking about doing something, but we haven’t achieved anything awesome.”
“We’re working on it,” she says, sliding into the seat next to mine. “We’re running. For couch potatoes like us that’s super-awesome.”
“Yeah, but exercise is
for you. I’m talking about an achievement on the opposite end of the spectrum.”
“Like what? You want to start smoking?” She scoots closer and peers over my shoulder. “How about violating the alcoholic beverages policy? We can get drunk before school.”
“We’d need a supplier.” Mom never brings alcohol home; although she’s been known to highly enjoy indulging in adult beverages when out with friends.
“I might be able to sneak a bottle of wine.” Jana’s parents refer to themselves as oenophiles, meaning they’re abnormally fascinated with Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. They swish and sniff before drinking and stuff like that.
We read on. Jana points to a sternly worded paragraph focusing on underage drinking. “Look here. If we drink alcohol, we’ll break a real law, a school rule and possibly serve detention too. Three awesome achievements before first bell.” She does a double fist pump in the air.
“Yeah, but if we’re caught, we’d be banned from all afterschool activities. We wouldn’t be allowed to run track or star in the musical.” And we’d definitely get caught. Based on our limited experience draining half-empty wine bottles at Jana’s parents’ parties, we still have a long way to go before we build up an acceptable booze tolerance.
“Oh, right,” Jana says, her mind meeting mine, no additional explanation needed.
We continue to scan through the seemingly endless number of ways to get kicked out of school.
“Check this out,” Jana says, tapping the bottom paragraph of page fifty-three. “There’s a zero tolerance policy for obscene language or gestures. Automatic detention.”
“I know a few obscene words I’d like to direct at Andy.”
Jana looks up from the handbook. “You know, chica, you have an amazing ability to hold onto a grudge.”
“It’s an exceptional talent that will definitely benefit me later in life.”
“If you say so.” Jana shrugs. “We could skip homeroom. We only get detention if we’re caught.”
“Perfect. Tomorrow. We’ll hide in the gym.”
Tuesday morning, Jana stations herself in front of my locker, looking green. She showed up extra early for school just to skip. Hilarious.
“Are you sure about this?” she asks, gnawing away at her bottom lip.
“Relax, Jana, we’re not committing a crime. We’re skipping homeroom, the most useless twenty minutes of the day.”
“Sure, first homeroom and then a full day. Next thing you know, we’ll be smoking pot underneath the bleachers.”
What a drama queen.
“By the time we work up to marijuana, we’ll have graduated. Besides, neither of us can afford a drug habit. We’re both broke. All the time.”
The first bell rings, sort of a low-decibel fire siren rather than an actual, pleasant, hurry to class please kids, type of sound.
“It’s time. We need to hide.” Jana’s eyes dart up and down the hallway, on the lookout for authority figures.
Just then, a long streak of blue sweatpants, meeting gray sweatshirt, topped with a mess of curly blond hair blurs by. “Morning, ladies. You’re late,” Andy informs us.
“Thanks, but we’re skipping,” my best friend says, suddenly developing a backbone.
I cover her mouth with my hand. “Zip it, Jana!”
Too late. Andy’s boat-sized feet freeze mid-jog, and his beanpole body bends forward, almost snapping in half. “If you’re caught skipping, McCaffrey will throw you out of mathletes,” he says, his blue eyes wide behind his thick glasses.
“Oh, the horror!” I say. “No extra calculus.”
“Yeah, Andy, you’d better cover for us. The talent drain on the team would be devastating,” Jana agrees.
“What’s going on here, children?” sounds a male voice behind me. For a second I panic, assuming a teacher has spied us congregating in the hallway and suspects we’re up to no good. But the voice is too familiar. I whirl around and catch Dominic Altomeri surveying my backside, which I must say is having one of its better days in my skinny jeans.