Authors: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Tags: #YA, #social issues, #contemporary romance, #teen, #love
“We’re skipping, Dom.” Jana buffs her nails on her sleeve, appearing totally chill with the class cutting thing. “Want to come with?”
“Excellent. Did I miss something on Snapchat?”
“No,” I say. “Jana and I decided to be rebels. Let’s hide in the gym.”
The three of us turn away from the senior wing. Andy pauses, considering, and then takes off in the opposite direction. “I’ll cover for you, but if I’m skipping a class, it’s not going to be homeroom. You’re already in school and have nothing better to do. At least go to Starbucks or something.” He shakes his head in disgust.
“AK is too cool to hang out with the non-genius crowd,” Dom says with a low chuckle. The late bell blares, sending the three of us hustling into the gym. We bang open the double doors, and walk right into a teacher’s meeting.
Wait. Hold the phone. Does the definition of meeting include tonsil hockey? Hooking up?
Mr. Banks, our WWE Champion-sized gym teacher, has his hands all over Miss Parson, the latest addition to the Harmony High English department. Her skirt is hiked up past the point of decency as she balances on spiky heels, reaching her arms around his pumped up chest.
“Looks like he’s showing her the ropes,” Dom says.
Jana lets out a startled squeak and then flies back through the open door. Dom hooks his arm in mine and backpedals out of the gym, both of us choking back laughter. He keeps a casual hold on me as we search for Jana. Secretly, I’m thrilled. This is Dominic Altomeri. And he’s touching me—Sadie Matthews.
“What now?” Jana asks when we find her crouching behind a glass trophy case, as if that will somehow make her invisible to Principal Dailey. Desperately, I try to devise a new plan while my best friend hyperventilates beside me, shaking in her glitter-covered boots.
This is a perfect example of what happens when you never break the rules. We should have worked our way up to cutting class. Started out by coming in a few minutes late before we jumped right into skipping an entire period.
Before I can formulate a list of alternate hiding spots, a flash of steel gray hair and black wingtips rounds the corner.
“Dailey!” I hiss.
“Library.” Dom spits out the word with the assurance of someone who actually knows how to avoid class-cutting punishment. As total newbies in this department, Jana and I have no choice but to follow him. The three of us high tail it down the steps leading to the freshman hallway. Dom raises a finger to his lips to shush us before tapping open the library door with the finesse of an expert and poking his head inside.
Behind the circulation desk, Mrs. Strong, the librarian, perches on a swivel chair, pecking at her laptop and squawking into the phone. The morning announcements crackle through the old public address system.
Before the door clicks shut behind us, Dom, Jana and I duck behind the closest set of bookshelves. By the time we tiptoe to the far end of the library, our faces are red from holding our collective breaths. Dust flies from the stagnant population of history books, tickling my nose. I struggle to subdue a sneeze as we race to the lounge area and collapse on an overstuffed sofa, still reeling from the shock of the scene we witnessed in the gym, our hands clapped over our mouths to restrain fits of laughter.
“You girls are epic.” Dom wraps his arms around us after we more or less regain control. “I haven’t had this much fun since we pantsed Eric Fulman walking out of Spanish last month.”
“Ooh. Boxers or briefs?” Jana asks.
“Boxer briefs?” I venture, hopefully. I picture Eric’s massive cheesesteak filled belly, and his pasty white skin. Not exactly a guy I want to see pantsed.
“Nope. None of the above. He was full on commando.”
“Yick,” Jana says. “Why do guys think pantsing each other is so funny?”
“Humiliation is an important part of high school,” Dom says. “Deal with it.”
“Has it happened to you?” I ask.
Dom cracks a leering smile. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” An obscene image of Dom fills my mind. I shift away from him and fumble with the zipper on my sweatshirt, tugging it all the way up to my neck.
“So, girls, what’s next? Are we ditching first period, too?” he asks.
“Not today,” I say.
“We wanted to see what we could get away with,” Jana says. “You know, test the waters.”
“Speaking of water, we should plan a cut day and go to the beach. Swim in the ocean,” Dom says.
More images of Dom float through my head. At least this time he’s wearing a bathing suit.
“Only if you drive, Dom,” Jana coos, batting her long, heavily mascaraed eyelashes at him. She’s going to take credit for getting us a ride in his car; I just know it.
Oh, well, I arranged our initial triumph. She would never have skipped homeroom if I hadn’t pushed her into it.
I mentally add achievement number one to our list.
Jana and I spend the entire period relaxing on the cushy library sofa, flirting with Dom and planning our next adventure as a threesome.
When the move-to-your-next-class riot alarm wails, Dom leads us between the bookshelves and bends his neck around the corner, checking for Mrs. Strong. Thankfully, she’s still fixated on her screen and gabbing away on the phone. As soon as he flashes a thumbs up, the three of us race out of the library.
Of course, when I meet up with Andy again in Calculus, I have to deal with his withering look of disapproval. He awaits my arrival, arms folded across his chest, long legs sticking out into the aisle, balancing his workbook on his knee.
“Did you miss me?” I ask, high-stepping over one of his protruding limbs and sliding into my seat. Mrs. McCaffrey scripts a lengthy proof on her
board, to the tune of groans from the math haters, who apparently make up a sizable portion of the class.
“Not at all,” Andy says, his eyes darting between his workbook and the board. He picks up a pencil and begins to solve step-by-step, his wrist moving rhythmically down the page. His penmanship is so neat that the numbers look digitized. I glance at the trail of formulas and sigh. If he wasn’t acting so damn self-righteous, I would beg him for help.
“Homeroom was quiet for once,” he continues, circling and underlining his final answer, leaving no doubt about its accuracy. “Mrs. Warren asked if anyone had seen you because you weren’t on the call-out list. I told her you felt sick, and Jana walked you to the nurse. You need to stop by the office and ask the secretary to mark you present, or they’ll call home looking for you.”
“Really? You lied for me? Would that still count as skipping homeroom?” I wonder aloud.
“Do you want it to count?” Andy’s light eyebrows pop up above his heavy frames. He probably thought he was doing Jana and me a favor. I scowl up at him, but when our eyes meet the sunlight streaming in the windows seems to bend behind his glasses and illuminate his eyelashes, turning them into wisps of gold. For a second I imagine them turning even lighter in the summer.
“Yes, of course, I want it to count.” I snap out of my eyelash fantasy and settle into my work, deciding it’s about time to pay attention to Mrs. McCaffrey.
“Why?” he asks, continuing our conversation during the next problem-solving interval.
“Because, Jana and I have this thing going. And skipping homeroom is part of it.”
“What’s the thing?” He leans forward and rests his elbow on his desk, anxious to hear my answer. Wow, Andy’s teetering on the edge of insubordination.
“It’s a girl thing. You wouldn’t understand.”
I burst out laughing. Mr. Smarty-pants is genuinely confused. When Mrs. McCaffrey glances our way, I drop my eyes back to my notebook. “Sure, Andrew, like PMS. Whatever.”
We return to class work.
“Hey, what’s up with you calling me Andrew?” he asks a few minutes later, after finishing the second problem light years ahead of the rest of us. Over my shoulder, I notice a deep crease develop between his eyebrows, but whether it’s due to intense concentration or frustration with my evasiveness, I have no idea.
“Oops. Sorry. My mom uses full names when she’s angry, and her habit must have rubbed off on me. I’m still mad about the snowball.”
“Oh,” Andy says, and I can practically hear the light in his extra–large brain click on. “Actually, I kind of like it. No one calls me Andrew. Besides my mother.”
At this revelation, my mouth drops open. I look up from my problem set to find him smiling at me. The corners of his blue eyes crinkle and I think to myself, for the second time, Jana is right. Andy has the potential to move up from a four on the datability meter. The eye crinkling thing gets him to at least a six.
Fill It In – Your Awesome Achievements
To Be Completed By Sadie Matthews and Jana Rodriguez Prior to June 1
1. Break a School Rule – Sadie & Jana Cut Homeroom!
“How’s the daughter of anarchy thing working for you?” Dom asks when I plop down next to him in A.P. Bio.
“So far, so good.” I rummage in my backpack for a pen, preparing to copy the lab assignment posted on the blackboard. Animal dissection. Gross.
“Do you vant to drink the blood of pigs? Mwhah Hah Hah.”
And today, I’m sitting next to Count Chocula. I shoot him a telling look.
“I need a new partner, then,” he says, reverting to his normal tenor. “Someone’s gotta do the work while I catch up on my texts.”
As he speaks, Dr. Brownstein enters the room, hefting a plastic mail bin. Based on my gut reaction to the odor crawling through the lab, he’s definitely not toting paperwork. “Class, we’ll need to work in groups of four today. I haven’t got enough specimens to go around.”
“Want to work with me and Sidh?” Andy leans across the aisle, his blond curls brushing my shoulder. I glance over at Jana’s table and notice Arlene is absent.
“Dr. Brownstein, can we work in a group of five?” I ask. “The four of us and Jana?”
“Hoping to avoid being outnumbered by the opposite sex, Sadie?” Dr. Brownstein asks, breaking into a thin-lipped smile. “All right. One group of five. But I expect stellar results from the largest group.”
Jana jets over to our lab table and slaps down her notebook. She practically kissed Andy’s feet at lunch when she found out how he lied for us in homeroom.
“Thanks again, Andy,” she whispers and puckers her lips, sending air kisses in his direction. He smiles down at her. She pats his arm. Since when are Jana and Andy so friendly?
Dr. Brownstein drops a clear plastic bag on the lab table. Inside, our unwitting subject awaits total decimation. The five of us stare at the poor soul, who, once upon a time, was almost a baby pig.
“Gosh, he looks like he’s just sleeping,” Jana says and sniffs.
“Sidh, read the instructions,” Andy says, pushing onward before Jana sinks into hysterics. Sidh clears his throat a few times and holds his notebook in front of his nose. I copy his action, hoping to block some of the eau de swine.
“Fetal Pig Dissection Lab Part One. External Anatomy. Rinse all preservative off the subject.”
“Eww. I’m not touching it,” Jana says, her voice no longer carrying any trace of sympathy for “the subject.”
“Not it. I’ll take notes,” I say.
Sidh and Dominic both step back from the table; hands raised.
“I’ll do it,” Andy offers, rolling up his sleeves. He flips on the sink and holds the pig by the hind legs under a stream of running water. The two front legs dangle, and for a second I swear the thing is contemplating a dive down the drain.
“Be careful, Andy,” Jana warns. “Don’t break him.”
“He’s already dead,” Dom says. “What could be worse than that?”
Sidh reads through a list of features we need to first observe and then describe in excruciating detail. We rely on Andy’s familiarity with anatomy as he maneuvers the animal’s limbs and points to various body parts. I concentrate on recording our findings. After determining the sex (definitely male), the next step is to slash the poor sucker open.
“Do the honors, AK. You’re the only one with medical expertise,” Sidh says.
“Are you an EMT?” asks Jana.
“More like a candy striper,” Dom interjects.
“His Dad’s a doctor,” Sidh says and pokes Andy in the arm with a pencil. “Doesn’t he take you to work and let you watch him slice and dice?”
“He’s a pediatrician,” Andy says. “Most of the time he’s looking up babies’ snotty noses.”
“Close enough.” Dom nods to Andy. “I vote AK for pig surgeon general.”
“You’re the best. We owe you lunch or something.” Jana shines her mega-watt smile for Andy’s benefit.
Andy sucks in a breath and removes a ball of string from the dissection kit. As he ties back the pig’s legs, Jana makes a few more sad comments about the poor dead mammal. With the end of the day rapidly approaching, Dom’s texts roll in like ocean waves at high tide. He yanks the phone from his pocket and settles back in his chair to tap out replies.
“Scalpel?” Andy asks, doing his finest imitation of a medical professional. Sidh rifles around in the lab kit and comes up with a knife-like instrument, which he hands to Andy, who then opens the pig’s stomach in one long cut.
We all lean forward, wrangling for a better view. Even Dom stops texting. The scene turns into something like one of those gross horror movies Jana forces me to watch on our frequently dateless Saturday nights. I’m completely reviled, but unable to look away. The smell of formaldehyde intensifies, and I cover my nose with my sleeve.
“Hey, where’s all the blood? Shouldn’t it be gushing?” Dom asks. His normally tanned skin pales a bit.
“No, there shouldn’t be any blood present. The pig’s been drained ahead of time,” Andy replies, rooting around in the abdomen with the knife. “Just a bunch of random organs and muscle. I think this is the liver.” He stabs a squishy brown body part, plucks it out of the pig’s belly and holds it up in front of Dom’s nose. Dom goes cross-eyed right before he doubles over and barfs up his lunch.