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Authors: Anna Banks

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BOOK: Of Poseidon
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to escape. When she puts it like that, staying home is tempting

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and not just because of the chocolate. Watching Mom try to act girlie would be entertainment in itself. Our last attempt at a girls’

day started with a pedicure and ended with a monster- truck rally. That was fi ve years ago. And so was her last pedicure.

Still, I’ve already decided that today starts the rest of my normal life. Dragging a comforter and half gallon of ice cream to the couch feels like a cop- out, and risking another monster-truck rally is about as appealing as growing a third nostril.

Picking up my dishes and walking them to the sink, I say, “Actually, I really want to go to school. Change of scenery, you know?

How about a rain check?”

She smiles, but I know it’s not real because it doesn’t crinkle her eyes. “Sure. Some other time.”

I nod and grab my car keys. Before I fl ip the light on in the garage, she’s behind me, tugging on my backpack.

“You want to go to school? Fine. But you’re not driving.

Give me the key.”

“I’m okay, Mom, really. I’ll see you to night.” I plant a quick kiss on her cheek and turn to the door again.

“That’s nice. Give it to me.” She holds out her hand.

I clench the key in my fi st. “You practically shoved that car down my throat Monday, and now you’re taking the key. What did I do?”

“What did you do? Well, for starters, you used your face to stop a cafeteria door from swinging open.” Foot tapping,
check.

Angry eyebrows,
check.
I’m-about- to- get- grounded tone,
check, check,

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check.
All the signs are there— I’m in trouble and I don’t know 0—

why.

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“Uh, I said I feel better. Dr. Morton said I could resume normal activities if I feel better. And I’m about to be late for school.” Dr. Morton said no such thing. Since he was my dad’s best friend though, he waited until Mom left the room to tell me I probably had a concussion. He knows how obsessive she can be. She has an affi

davit on fi le at school not to call an am-bulance for me in case of emergency, since Dr. Morton’s offi ce is

across the street.

“School, huh? Are you sure that’s where you’re going?” Her hand is still outstretched, waiting for a key that she isn’t getting.

After a few empty seconds, she crosses her arms.

“Where
else
would I be going with my backpack and books?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe Galen Forza’s house?” Yep, didn’t see that one coming. If I did, I might have stopped the blush sprouting on my cheeks. “Um. How do you know Galen?”

“Mrs. Strickland told me about him. Said you were arguing with him in the hall and that you were upset when you took off running from him. Said he carried you to the offi ce himself

when you ran into the door.”

I
knew
he had something to do with my accident. And Mom talked to the principal about it. My lips turn so dry I expect to taste dust when I lick them. The blush spreads all over my body, even to my ears. “He
carried
me?”

“She said Galen wouldn’t leave your side until Dr. Morton got there. Dr. Morton said he wouldn’t go back to class until he assured him you would be okay.” She taps her foot faster, then

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stops. “Well?”

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I blink at her. “Well, what?”

Did my mother just growl?
She throws her arms up and walks to the sink, leaning back and clutching the counter until her knuckles look like white beans. “I thought we were close, Emma.

I always thought you would be open with me about this stuff , that you felt comfortable talking to me.”

I roll my eyes.
You mean like the time I almost drowned and you laughed
in my face when I told you how the fi sh saved me?
Who is she kidding? We both know Dad was my parental trash can, the fatherly recep-tacle on whom I dumped my emotions. Does she think because she off ered me a blanket and chocolate- covered what ever that I’ll just hand over the keys to my inner diary? Uh, no.

“I know you’re eigh teen now,” she huff s. “I get it, okay? But you don’t know everything. And you know what? I don’t like secrets.”

My head spins. The fi rst day of the Rest of My Normal Life is not turning out as planned. I shake my head. “I guess I still don’t understand what you’re asking me.”

She stomps her foot. “How long have you been dating him, Emma? How long have you and Galen been an item?”
Ohmysweetgoodness
. “I’m not dating Galen,” I whisper. “Why would you even think that?”

“Why would I think that? Maybe you should ask Mrs.

Strickland. She’s the one who told me how intimate you looked standing there in the hall. And she said Galen was beside himself when you wouldn’t wake up. That he kept squeezing your

-1—

hand.”

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Intimate?
I let my backpack slide off my shoulder and onto

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the fl oor before I plod to the table and sit down. The room feels like a giant merry- go- round.

I am . . . embarrassed? No. Embarrassed is when you spill ketchup on your crotch and it leaves a red stain in a suspicious area.

Mortifi ed? No. Mortifi ed is when you experiment with tan-ning lotion and forget to put some on your feet, so it looks like you’re wearing socks with your fl ip- fl ops and sundress.

Bewildered? Yep. That’s it. Bewildered that after I screamed at him— oh yes, now I remember I screamed at him— he picked up my limp body, carried me all the way to the offi ce, and stayed with

me until help arrived. Oh, and he held my hand and sat beside himself, too.

I cradle my face in my hands, imagining how close I came to going to school without knowing this. How close I came to walking up to Galen, telling him to take his tingles and shove them where every girl’s thoughts have been since he got there.

I groan into my laced fi ngers. “I can never face him again,” I say to no one in par tic u lar.

Unfortunately, Mom thinks I’m talking to her. “Why?

Did he break up with you?” She sits down next to me and pulls my hands from my face. “Is it because you wouldn’t sleep with him?”

“Mom!” I screech. “No!”

She snatches her hand away. “You mean you
did
sleep with him?” Her lips quiver. This can’t be happening.

“Mom, I told you, we’re not dating!” Shouting is a dumb

—-1

idea. My heartbeat ripples through my temples.

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“You’re not even
dating
him and you slept with him?” She’s wringing her hands. Tears puddle in her eyes.

One Mississippi . . . two Mississippi . . .
Is she freaking serious?
. . .

Three Mississippi . . . four Mississippi . . .
Because I
swear
I’m
about to move out.
. . . Five Mississippi . . . six Mississippi . . .
I might
as
well
sleep with him if I’m going to be accused of it anyway.
. . . Seven Mississippi . . . eight Mississippi . . .
Ohmysweetgoodness, did I really
just think that?
. . . Nine Mississippi . . . ten Mississippi . . .
Talk to
your mother— now
.

I keep my voice polite when I say, “Mom, I haven’t slept with Galen, unless you count laying on the nurse’s bed unconscious beside him. And we are not dating. We have never dated. Which is why he wouldn’t need to break up with me. Have I missed anything?”

“What were you arguing about in the hall, then?”

“I actually don’t remember. All I remember is being mad at him. Trust me, I’ll fi nd out. But right now, I’m late for school.” I ease out of the chair and over to my backpack on the fl oor.

Bending over is even stupider than shouting. I wish my head would just go ahead and fall off already.

“So, you don’t remember what you talked about? You defi -

nitely should stay home and rest then. Emma? Emma, don’t you walk away from me, young lady.”

She doesn’t come after me, which means this conversation is over.

-1—

I pull into my parking spot and check my makeup in the rear-0—

view. The porcelain foundation hides my blush as well as a

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magnifying glass. It’s bound to get worse if I run into Galen.

Taking a deep breath, I open the door as the bell rings.

The front offi

ce smells of fresh paint, crisp notebook paper, and coff ee. I sign in as an unexcused tardy and wait for my hall pass. Mrs. Poindexter, a nice older lady who’s worked in the front offi

ce since she was a nice younger lady, pulls a pad from a drawer and scribbles on it. She’s recognizable in old faculty photos because, like then, she still stacks her white hair into an honest-to- goodness beehive, using enough hairspray to get the attention of the EPA. Oh, and she shows more cleavage than most prom dresses.

“We’re all so happy you’re feeling better, Miss McIntosh.

Looks like you still have a good bump on your noggin, though,” she says in her childlike voice.

Since there is no bump on my noggin, I take a little of-fense but decide to drop it. “Thanks, Mrs. Poindexter. It looks worse than it feels. Just a little tender.”

“Yeah, I’d say the door got the worst of it,” he says beside me. Galen signs himself in on the unexcused tardy sheet below my name. When his arm brushes against mine, it feels like my blood’s turned into boiling water.

I turn to face him. My dreams really do not do him justice.

Long black lashes, fl awless olive skin, cut jaw like an Italian model, lips like—
for the love of God, have some dignity, nitwit. He just
made fun of you.
I cross my arms and lift my chin. “You would know,” I say.

He grins, yanks my backpack from me, and walks out. Try-

—-1

ing to ignore the waft of his scent as the door shuts, I look to

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Mrs. Poindexter, who giggles, shrugs, and pretends to sort some papers. The message is clear:
He’s your problem, but what a great problem to have.
Has he charmed the sense out of the staff here, too?

If he started stealing kids’ lunch money, would they also giggle at that? I growl through clenched teeth and stomp out of the offi

ce.

Galen is waiting for me right outside the door, and I almost barrel into him. He chuckles and catches my arm. “This is becoming a habit for you, I think.”

After I’m steady— after Galen steadies me, that is— I poke my fi nger into his chest and back him against the wall, which only makes him grin wider. “You . . . are . . . irritating . . . me,” I tell him.

“I noticed. I’ll work on it.”

“You can start by giving me my backpack.”

“Nope.”


Nope?

“Right—nope. I’m carry ing it for you. It’s the least I can do.”

“Well, can’t argue that, can I?” I reach around for it, but he moves to block me. “Galen, I don’t want you to carry it. Now knock it off . I’m late for class.”

“I’m late for it too, remember?”

Oh, that’s right.
I’ve let him distract me from my agenda. “Actually, I need to go back to the offi

ce.”

“No problem. I’ll wait for you here, then I’ll walk you to

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class.”

0—

I pinch the bridge of my nose. “That’s the thing. I’m changing

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my schedule. I won’t be in your class anymore, so you really should just go. You’re seriously violating Rule Numero Uno.” He crosses his arms. “Why are you changing your schedule?

Is it because of me?”

“No.”

“Liar.”

“Sort of.”

“Emma—”

“Look, I don’t want you to take this personally. It’s just that . . .

well, something bad happens every time I’m around you.”

He raises a brow. “Are you sure it’s me? I mean, from where I stood, it looked like your fl ip- fl ops—”

“What were we arguing about anyway? We were arguing, right?”

“You . . . you don’t remember?”

I shake my head. “Dr. Morton said I might have some short-term memory loss. I do remember being mad at you, though.” He looks at me like I’m a criminal. “You’re saying you don’t remember anything I said. Anything
you
said.” The way I cross my arms reminds me of my mother. “That’s what I’m saying, yes.”

“You swear?”

“If you’re not going to tell me, then give me my backpack. I have a concussion, not broken arms. I’m not helpless.” His smile could land him a cover shoot for any magazine in the country. “We were arguing about which beach you wanted

—-1

me to take you to. We were going swimming after school.”

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“Liar.” With a capital L. Swimming— drowning—falls on my to- do list somewhere below giving birth to porcupines.

“Oh, wait. You’re right. We were arguing about when the
Titanic
actually sank. We had already agreed to go to my house to swim.”

Bells are going off in my head, but not the kind that should be ringing if this were true. I don’t remember talking about the beach at all, but I
do
remember answering the question about the
Titanic
in Mr. Pinner’s class. Even Galen, wielding his smile as a thought deterrent, couldn’t have talked me into getting in the water, could he? “I . . . I don’t believe you,” I decide as I say it. “I wouldn’t get that upset about a date. Historical or otherwise.”

BOOK: Of Poseidon
9.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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