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Authors: Amber Garza

Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance, #Contemporary

Tripping Me Up

BOOK: Tripping Me Up
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TRIPPING ME UP

 

 

Amber Garza

Cover Models: Kagen and Britnie Hopkins

Cover photographer:
Lindsie West

Graphic Artist: Lisa Eneqvist

Author Photo: Megan Squires

Copyright © 2013 Amber Garza

All rights reserved.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

To anyone who has ever felt invisible

ONE

HADLEY

 

I
am invisible as I walk to class wedged between the other students all laughing and chatting with their friends. I keep my head down, my eyes trained on my tennis shoes as I take deliberate steps forward. Sometimes I like to think of myself as the ghost that roams the campus of Gold Rush High. Not that I’m complaining, exactly. It sure beats the alternative. There was a time when I sought out popularity, but now I realize that being unnoticed is better than being bullied, so I welcome the anonymity.

As I near my next class, I glance up just in time to spot something white hurtling in my direction. Before I can move out of
the way it smacks me right under the eye. It doesn’t really hurt, and when I glance down I see that it is just a wadded up piece of binder paper. But my pride stings, and I feel my face heat up. Giggles and whispers swirl around me. Millions of eyes sear into me, burning my skin. Lowering my gaze, I draw my hair forward using it to hide my face. This is the last thing I want. Being noticed is precisely the thing I try to avoid at all costs.

“I’m so sorry,” a boy’s voice bellows.

My skin prickles and the hair on the back of my neck stands up.  Without even looking I know that it's Tripp Bauer. I’d recognize his voice anywhere. For years Tripp was the focal point of all my fantasies. However, recently I'd given up on that dream, realizing that a fantasy is all it will ever be. It’s not like I’m the only girl attracted to him. Almost every girl in school crushes on him.

“I didn’t mean to hit you.” His shadow casts over me, but I still can’t bring myself to look up. I hide behind my hair the same way the wizard hid behind his curtain in the
Wizard of Oz
. “It was an accident. I was actually trying to hit Mav, but he moved out of the way.”

I dare a peek up at him. His dark eyes stare into mine
, and I find it difficult to draw breath. He looks sincere enough as he runs a hand through his short hair, his toned biceps bulging with the motion. But then I spot Tripp’s friends, Maverick Jones, Jack Winston, and Toby Kenneth laughing at me from just feet away. They aren’t even trying to mask how funny they think this is. Humiliation descends on me. They aren’t the only ones gawking. It makes me angry, and I narrow my eyes at Tripp.

“Are you okay?” Tripp asks, his brows furrowed in a look of concern. He sure is laying it on thick. If I didn’t know better
, I would say the guy is genuinely sorry.

“I’m fine. It was just a piece of paper. No biggie.” I shrug, skirting around him.

“I really am sorry.” His hand lights on my shoulder, and I freeze.

“Whatever.” I shake his hand off.  “It doesn’t matter. Just leave me alone.” Without a backward glance, I stalk off as quickly as possible with my heart hammering in my ears.
I’m so grateful when I reach the science classroom. I slip inside and hurry to my desk in the back row. After dropping my backpack on the floor, I unzip it and pull out my notebook and pen. I hunch over my desk just as the bell blasts through the room. Mrs. Tennant’s heels click on the linoleum floor as she moves out from behind her desk. While her voice drones on in the background, I take deep breaths and will my heart rate to slow. Just when I think I’ve got it back to its normal cadence, my cell vibrates in my pocket, jumpstarting it again. With quivering fingers, I snatch the phone out and hold it under my desk so Mrs. Tennant won’t see it.

It’s from Paige, my best friend.

Paige: What happened with you and Tripp? Spill.

My face flames.

Me: How did you hear about that?

Paige: I was across the quad and saw
u talking.

I exhale, grateful that she hadn’t heard about it through the rumor mill.

Me: It was nothing. Tell u about it after school.

Paige:
Ok.

I shove my phone back into my pocket before getting caught with it. The last thing I need is any
more attention brought to me today. However, I’m not surprised that Paige texted me the minute she saw Tripp and I together. I’m sure she was shocked. Paige knows all about what happened to me freshman year. In fact, it was right after I lost all my friends and was shunned from my old group that I met Paige. She was new to the school and found it hard to fit in. She’d always lived in this area, but had gone to private school. What I love most about Paige is that she doesn’t really care what people think of her. She has her own style and way of doing things. I think that’s why the popular girls hate her so much – because she doesn’t even try to fit in. She’s confident in who she is. The truth is that I wish I was more like her. As hard as I try, I do care what people think of me. I guess that’s why I spend so much time hiding.

 

The minute the final bell rings I bolt out of my seat and head toward the parking lot to meet Paige, since she’s giving me a ride home. I turned sixteen over the summer and immediately got my license in hopes that it would buy me freedom. Only I was wrong. Mom and I share a car, so I only get it on the days she doesn’t need it.

“Hey, Hadley, wait up!”

I stop in my tracks, shocked that a guy is hollering out my name. That never happens. Slowly, I pivot on my heels.

Tripp approaches me wearing the most amazing smile. My stomach flips, despite my best efforts to stay calm.
He’s wearing a t-shirt and jeans that hug him in all the right places.

“You look surprised,” he says.

“Yeah, surprised you knew my name.”

“C’mon, we’ve gone to school together for years. Of course I know you.”

“And yet you’ve never spoken to me before,” I point out, a smug smile on my face.

“Ouch. I guess I deserve that.” He runs a hand over his hair, looking agitated. “I just feel bad about earlier and want to make sure you
’re okay.”

“It was just a piece of paper. I’m fine.”
Why does he care so much?
“Look, you don’t have to worry. I’m not going to tell on you or try to get you back or whatever it is you’re worried about me doing.”

“No, it’s not that. You just seemed upset earlier and I was concerned, that’s all.”

I almost laugh out loud. This must be some kind of joke. Shifting my gaze, I notice other students staring in our direction. Clearly they are just as stunned by this as I am. “Well, don’t be.”

“You’re still mad at me, aren’t you?”

Exasperated, I whirl away from him. “I’m not mad. I just want you to leave me alone, okay?”

“Okay,” he says softly from over my shoulder.

His voice is so dejected, I almost turn around. Then I remember that this is Tripp, and I keep walking. No way is Tripp concerned about me. He’s playing some sort of game, and I’m not going to be the dumb girl that falls for it.

TWO

TRIPP

 

A
s I watch Hadley walk off I wonder why she hates me so much. She doesn’t even know me. It can’t just be about me accidentally hitting her with some paper. Although from the way she’s acting I can tell she thinks I did it on purpose. But why would I do that?

“Hey.” Maverick runs up to me, out of breath. “
Why were you talking to Hannah?”

“Huh?” I glance in the direction of his gaze and catch sight of Hadley’s back as she races out to the parking lot. “Oh, you mean Hadley?”

He shrugs. “Whatever.”

No wonder she was surprised that I knew her name.
“Mav, we’ve gone to school with her since Junior High. Did you seriously think her name was Hannah?”

“Yeah.
So?” Mav takes a step back, his eyebrows furrowing. “What’s going on here? Do you have like some nerd girl fantasy you’re hoping she’ll play out or something?”

“Hell n
o, man.”

Mav holds up his hands as if in surrender. “Cause if you do, I’m not one to judge. Have your fun. I won’t say anything.”

Exasperated, I shake my head. I glance around to make sure no one else can hear this conversation. But there are hardly any students left in the halls. Mostly everyone’s already gone home. “No, that’s not it.”

“Cool, because you know Sonya is into you, and
you don’t want to screw that up.  She is so freaking hot.”

He’s right. Sonya is hot, and she’s a cheerleader. She’s exactly the kind of girl I should be going out with.
Exactly the kind of girl everyone expects me to date. So, why am I not attracted to her the way I should be? All my friends would do anything to get with her. But it’s me she wants, and for some reason I just can’t get excited about her. However, I can’t admit that to Mav. The teasing would be endless. “I know, man. She is.”

“Are you taking her to the fall dance?”

My stomach churns at the idea. I hate school dances, and going with the most high maintenance girl in school is not my idea of a fun Saturday night. But if I don’t ask her all the guys will think I’ve gone crazy. I give a nonchalant shrug. “Of course.”

“You asked her already?”

“No, but I’m going to.” I paste on my best cocky smile. “And you and I both know she’ll say yes.”

“Yeah
, she will.” Mav says in a lewd way, rocking his hips back and forth. Everything is a sexual joke with Maverick. “So if you like Sonya, then why were you wasting your time talking to ‘what’s her face’?” He scrunches up his nose.

“Hadley. Her name’s Hadley.” I don’t know why I feel the need to keep reminding Maverick what her name is. It’s not like he’ll ever call her by it. “And I was just apologizing for earlier.”

“Oh, right. Dude, that was so funny.” Maverick snorts. “When that paper smacked her in the eye, the look on her face was classic.”

The image of Hadley’s expression fills my mind
, and my chest tightens. I know what it feels like to be humiliated and ridiculed. I never want to make someone else feel that way. “It wasn’t that funny,” I mumble.

“Oh c’mon, what’s going on with you, man?”

Feeling embarrassed, I force a light smile. “Nothing.” I pat Mav on the back. “C’mon, we better get to practice. Coach’ll kill us if we’re late.” I mostly say it as a way to evade this topic, but I honestly don’t want to be late to football practice. The last thing I need is for coach to ride me anymore than he usually does. Together Mav and I head back down the hallway toward the locker rooms.

On the way
, we pass the gym where the cheerleaders practice. Sonya, Molly and Trista stand outside wearing short shorts and tank tops. Their shrill laughter pierces my ears, and I wince. I dated both Molly and Trista last year. Now Molly’s with Toby, and I heard Trista’s dating some guy from another high school. When Sonya spots us, she lifts her shiny lips into a seductive smile and saunters in my direction. Her tight, low cut tank top and tiny shorts leave nothing to the imagination. Mav’s eyebrows shoot up as his gaze roves over her taut body. But for some reason when I look at Sonya, I just feel tired. Something about this chick makes me feel exhausted.

“Hey
, Mav,” she says, using his nickname. It sounds funny coming out of a girl’s mouth since usually only the guys call Maverick that. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me. Sonya likes to think she has the inside track with all of us. She turns her gaze to me with a flutter of her long lashes. “Hey, you.”

“Hey you back,” I try to sound flirty, but the truth is I’m kind of annoyed. I hate how she acts like I should feel special that she chose me.
And I hate how she assumes I automatically reciprocate her feelings. Hasn’t she ever had a guy turn her down? I take in her long sleek hair, smooth tanned skin, heart shaped lips and almond colored eyes.
Yeah, I guess that she probably hasn’t.

She comes closer, and her fruity scent chokes me. Reaching out, she runs a red lacquered nail up my chest. “Where are you off to? Football practice?”

I swallow hard, enjoying the feeling of her fingertips through my shirt. As much as she annoys me, I’m still a guy, and her touch does feel good. “Yeah.”

“Don’t work too hard,” she says with a wink.

It seems that her words have a double meaning, but I’m not sure what it is. I nod anyway.

“We’re late, dude,” Mav whispers harshly.

I glance up at the clock on the wall and groan.
Great. Just what I need.
Looking down at Sonya, I smile apologetically. “Gotta run. Talk to you later.” Without waiting for her response, I spin around and race toward the locker room.

BOOK: Tripping Me Up
9.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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