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PROLOGUE

 

 

 

I could drink myself into a stupor (and trust me, I’ve tried), or pop as many pills as humanly possible, but I know that no matter how much effort I put into obliterating her from my memory, I will never forget the first time I saw her.

It was a cold, mid-September, Friday afternoon—a boring school day like any other. I was zoning out at the back of Mr. Tanore’s English class, when ten minutes to the bell she walked in accompanied by our principal. She had long, silky black hair and the brightest green eyes I’d ever seen. Mr. Tanore froze mid-sentence and a few words were whispered between him and the principal.

“Everyone, I’d like you all to welcome our newest student, Samantha Boward,” Mr. Tanore finally announced.

His crooked, gray mustache twitched at one end as it always did when he was feeling uneasy. No one spoke, and Samantha didn’t smile. Her eyes carelessly scanned the room.

“Hi, Sam!” Jack called out.

Jack Durham—the loud, goofy moron—somehow managed to make people laugh, regardless of how immature his comments tended to be. Samantha didn’t reply. She stared. I could tell this wasn’t going to be an easy change.

Mr. Tanore cleared his throat and extended an arm in my direction. “Well, Samantha, you can have a seat beside Kaitlyn, and we’ll continue on with the lesson.”

That’s when my chest tightened. Her cold stare suddenly turned on me, and she started walking my way. I felt butterflies drowning in the pit of my stomach, and my hands became clammy. She was so beautiful, yet so terrifying with her crystal-green eyes outlined in black. Who stares that long? I felt my face turn bright red, so I turned away. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the source of my fear, nor could I determine whether or not I was enjoying it as one does a scary movie.

She sat down, dropped her black, safety-pinned bag by her chair with a thud, pulled out a pencil and a sheet of paper, and raised one of her legs onto the desk’s metal side bar. I looked down at her studded black leather boots and then up at her. It felt as though someone had punched me in the gut when she caught me staring.

“What the hell are you looking at?” she asked.

And at that moment, I knew that although everything about her warned all living beings to keep their distance, I did somehow, perhaps masochistically, enjoy her presence.

 

CHAPTER 1

 

As I made my way to the school bus that afternoon, thinking about how unprepared I was to see her again, I heard her raspy voice call out, “Hey, you.”

I considered ignoring her altogether. There were hundreds of students out there in search of their own buses; why would she be calling out to me? But, feeling somewhat rude and also curious, I turned around. There she was—an unlit smoke in one hand and the “no-smoking” sign wrapped underneath the fingers of her other hand. I stared, speechless. She was definitely looking at me. What did she want? I noticed a smirk curve the corner of her lips, and she swung her head to the side, signaling me to approach. So, I did.

“Got a light?” she asked.

“No, sorry.” I said it much more quickly than I had planned.

I became uncomfortable when I noticed she was still staring at me, so I smiled and turned around before she could notice I was blushing.

“Hey, wait,” she said.

What now? I wanted to run to my bus, to pretend that Samantha didn’t exist. How could such a person make another so nervous? I didn’t get it. I turned back to face her, and again, forced a halfhearted smile.

“Who are they?” she asked me.

“Who?” I asked, following her bright eyes.

They led me to a group of three girls who were giggling.

“The ones pointing and laughing. Kinda hard to miss, don’t you think?” she asked.

And sure enough, the three girls were standing at the end of the school’s parking lot, pointing in my direction and laughing among themselves. Although they were strangers to Samantha, they were no strangers to me.

I laughed uncomfortably, but she didn’t find it amusing. Her eyes narrowed on me, and she tilted her head.

“Are they laughing at you or at me?” she asked.

I weakened. Her eyes were deadly. But the good news was that I knew precisely what those girls were laughing about—they did it nearly every day when I walked past them: “Lesbo,” “Dyke,” or “Rug-Muncher,” were their usual shouts. Why? Because they thought I was gay. Because I wasn’t like the other girls. I had never been. I wasn’t overly feminine, and I had no interest in boys.

“Oh, um, me,” I said.

“You sure?” she asked, now glaring at them.

I knew this had saved me. They weren’t laughing at her; therefore, she had no reason to be upset.

“I’m sure.” I smiled. She didn’t reply, so I nodded and started walking away.

“I’m not done,” she said.

Kill me now, I thought.

Once again, I retraced my steps and found myself facing Samantha. I raised my eyebrows and waited.

“What are they laughing at, exactly?” she asked.

What did she care? She barely knew me. I didn’t understand how this was any of her business, and quite honestly, I thought it was a little intrusive of her to ask. My thoughts must have found their way to my face; she grinned—the most stunning grin, I might add—and shook her head.

“Oh don’t get all offended. It’s just a question,” she said. “Oh, hey, got a light?”

Did she suffer from memory loss? I gawked at her.

“I already told you, I don’t—” I said, but then some guy behind me reached out a lighter and lit her cigarette. I felt like an idiot.

“Thanks, man,” she said. She blew her smoke out in my direction and smiled again.

“Well?”

“Well, what?” I asked.

“What. Are. They…” she said, emphasizing each word.

Now she was just being rude.

“They call me a lesbian,” I said.

“Are you?” she asked. Wow, again with the intrusiveness.

“No,” I blurted out quickly.

I wanted to return her the question, but even I knew that it wasn’t very polite, not that Samantha had any knowledge of the term politeness. Besides, what did I care if she was gay or not?

“Even if you were gay, I don’t see how that’d be worth a laugh.” She blew out another lungful of smoke and reached down to grab her bag. “See you around Kaitlyn.” She started walking towards the lesbian-trashing group.

Oh no. What was she going to do? Fight them? It would be three against one; although they were rather tiny girls, Samantha would probably win. No, she wouldn’t start a fight over me, would she? I stared wide-eyed, afraid of what was about to come. From this distance, I noticed the group of girls tense at the sight of Samantha’s angered arrival. They grabbed their bags and ran to their bus, quickly boarding it.

Samantha’s long, black jacket swam through the wind in perfect alignment with the waves of her hair as she moved straight forward. There was no turning to even look at the girls, no attempt to chase them—nothing. She walked along, passing all of the buses, and continued down the street and onto a small path leading into the forest. I sighed in relief.

I went home with a feeling of exhilaration I couldn’t explain. I had never felt this before. Fear? Happiness? Worry? A crush? How could I have a crush on a girl? I wasn’t gay. I couldn’t be. I had just broken up with my boyfriend. Although, I did have a tendency to get nervous around pretty girls, and I’d never had sex with a boy because I thought it repulsive. Shit, maybe I was a lesbian. No. I wasn’t. I mean, the thought had crossed my mind before even meeting Samantha, but I had pushed it away. I couldn’t be. I couldn’t. But maybe…

BEED-A-LEEP.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell. A text from Matt. Matthew Semmer. Speak of the devil. My ex-boyfriend. It read,

“Can I plz c u tonight?”

I didn’t hesitate. I typed in a clear “NO,” still fed by my anger at his overly persistent attempts at getting sex from me. But, right before I pressed send, I realized something. It was Friday night, and I had no plans. I wasn’t in the mood to be alone, nor did I want to stay in. I backspaced my reply and replaced it with:

“Only if there’s a party going on.”

Hah. That was perfect. He’d get drunk, as he always did, and I could go off to do my own thing, as I always did. I threw off my shoes and ran upstairs to my small, cozy room. I plopped down on my bed and stared at my ceiling. It was a very white, very plain ceiling. And that’s when I realized that the only decorations visible in my room were karate trophies and yellow happy-face stickers. Where were the boys? My sister’s room had tons of hunks smiling down at her.

Why was I suddenly questioning my sexuality? Because Samantha accepted it? What did I care what Samantha thought? I knew nothing about her. But for the hell of it, I imagined what it would be like to have a very attractive woman smiling down at me, sporting nothing but a thin, red bikini. To be honest, it did nothing but make me uncomfortable. So I blinked those thoughts away and attempted to visualize a man—a tanned hunk with a muscular six-pack. Nothing. If anything, I was jealous of his abs. What the hell was going on? I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.

BEED-A-LEEP.

Yes! A distraction! From Matt,

“Ya, there’s a party. Wanna go? Kim’s place.”

Kimberly Tompson. Yeah, you guessed it. One of the populars. But hey, stereotypes aren’t always accurate. Kim was rather nice and pleasant to be around. She wasn’t insecure, and therefore, had no reason to mock the smaller people. She spoke to me when she needed help with a mathematical equation or when she apologized on behalf of her half-brained friends. I always turned tomato red every time she leaned in close. I remember having stuttered out a wordless answer when her breast had accidentally pressed up against my shoulder. With all of these clues, I was beginning to solve a rainbow puzzle.

I shook out of my daze and replied to Matt's text:

“Sounds good. What time?”

I had barely put down my phone when it went off again. Wow, someone was excited.

“Great! 9. I’ll pick u up then.”

I was about to reply, I can get there myself, but realized this was a little harsh. It was better to have a friend than an enemy. After all, he was just a horny boy. It wasn’t his fault he wanted to sleep with me so badly. I figured it was best to accept this as a compliment, rather than as an offensive gesture. But then again, he should have respected my wishes. I have rights too. Oh man, was I now a feminist? Enough thinking for one night! I needed rest if I was going to make it past nine. Very old woman of me, I know.

So I closed my eyes and turned onto my side. And although I had no intention of shifting my thoughts in such a direction, I suddenly realized that I was visualizing Samantha’s perfect white face.

*   *   *

KNOCK, KNOCK.

“Kaity, supper’s ready.” My mom’s voice penetrated my sleep.

I opened my tired eyes and looked around, completely disoriented. The party! That’s right.

“Coming,” I moaned.

It was the same routine every night: my mother, my father, my older sister Amy, and I gathered at the dining room table for supper. You could say we were your typical perfect family. As I made my way down the stairs, the savory smell of seasoned chicken breast filled my nostrils. Amy was already out of her room and opening a bottle of white wine for my parents and herself. I filled my plate with food and sat down.

“So, any plans for tonight?” my mother asked, eyeing both my sister and me from behind her stiff, red bangs.

Amy spoke first. “Actually, I have a date.” The smile on her face nearly reached her ears.

My mother grabbed her hand and grinned. They looked like sisters. Fire twins. I sometimes wondered whether or not I had been adopted. They were both pale, petite in size, red-haired, and green-eyed. My father’s hair was dark brown like mine, but our personalities were nothing alike. He was too stern. I had to have been adopted, I thought, staring at the two sisters and wondering if I’d ever been that excited about anything in my life before.

“Really?” my mother asked. “What’s his name? What does he look like? What does he do?”

“No sex in this house,” my father intervened, pointing his fork at Amy.

“Dad!” Amy shouted, her nose wrinkled with disgust. “His name’s Andrew. He’s so handsome. I met him in my psych class today. I still can’t get over how many hot guys go to uni.”

“Amy and Andrew,” I chuckled. “Cute.”

“Shut up,” she said, laughing.

“All right, well that’s great!” my mother said. “Is he picking you up?”

“Yep,” Amy said, smirking. “He drives a Lancer.”

My mother’s eyes widened, but my father spoke first. “Good, because he’s coming in here to meet us.”

“Dad!” Amy whined.

“Your father’s right. I want to meet this hunk of yours,” my mom said, winking terribly with her mouth half-open.

The embarrassing sister, I thought.

All of this date talk led them to forget about me. But I didn’t care. I was used to receiving minimal attention. We finished supper and the clock turned to seven pretty fast. Amy was all dressed, her hair and makeup touched up to perfection. I thought it cute how my mother had also brushed on a little powder for presentation. At precisely 7:02, the bell rang. I poked my head out from the staircase to observe. I wanted to see what this gorgeous fella looked like.

Right as he walked in, I understood why Amy liked him. He had a prominent jaw structure; clean, blond hair; and bright blue eyes. Your average Ken, I thought, snickering to myself. A grown man. Nothing like Matt, who was tall and scrawny. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a thin guy, but in Matt’s case, his size easily shaved five years off his appearance, which wasn’t necessarily a positive thing for an eighteen-year-old guy.

The meeting of parents seemed to have gone smoothly; my dad shook Andrew’s hand and patted him on the back.

“You take good care of her for us, all right?” my dad said.

“Absolutely, sir,” Andrew said, and he led Amy out of the house with such tenderness, that I wondered whether or not he’d have the muscles ready to catch her if she happened to slip.

The car pulled out within minutes, and it was now my turn to get ready. Unlike Amy, I simply threw on a pair of nice, tight jeans, and a black T-shirt. Simplicity was key. Why bother getting all dressed up to be uncomfortable? I wasn’t going out to meet anyone; what did I care? At a quarter to nine, I went back downstairs and realized my parents were already getting ready for bed.

“Where do you think you’re going?” my father asked.

“Oh, I’m going to a party with Matt.”

“Matt? That boy you broke up with?” my mom asked, joining in on the interrogation.

“Yup.”

They both exchanged confused glances, but then shrugged and smiled.

“All right, well, no drinking, no smoking, and be back by ten,” my father ordered.

“Ten? Dad! The party starts at nine, come on,” I said.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking—he must have been joking. I would have assumed the same thing from a third-party point of view, but my father wasn’t the type to deliver funnies.

“Come on Jon, don’t be such a downer,” my mom said. “Kaity, as long as you come back home, you can stay out as late as you want.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I hugged them both and made my way to the kitchen for a quick cookie feast.

I could hear some bickering behind me. I hoped I wouldn’t be the cause of a marital fight.

BEED-A-LEEP.

I opened my phone. Matt:

“I’m outside.”

I said my goodbyes, and I was out of there.

Kim’s house was at the opposite end of the city, a good fifteen minutes away. I noticed Matt stir in his seat a bit, and I knew precisely what was about to unfold—a relationship talk. So, I blasted the music and smiled at him. His attempt ended before it had even begun.

We parked on the street since the driveway was already packed. I’d been there once before, the previous year. The house was extremely spacious and perfect for parties, unlike my parents’ place, which contained too many glass vases and delicate decorations. Kim’s parents were always out of town for business, which proved to be quite convenient for her social life.

A dozen empty cases of different types of beer were piled up in the oversized foyer, just as they had been last time. The full cases were probably already loaded in the fridge. I slid off my shoes and entered. Everything was loud—the music, the chatting, the clinking of glasses and beer bottles. Not even five minutes into the party, Matt had abandoned me to go drink with his buddies. I knew I’d be driving his drunk ass home, which was fine by me, so long as he didn’t try anything stupid.

“Hey Kaity!” came a familiar voice.

I turned and spotted Jody Smith, a girl from my English class—one of the only familiar faces there. I assumed that everyone from school would be here, but I was mistaken. Kim’s main followers were here of course, but the party consisted mostly of brand new faces.

“Hey, what are you doing here? I didn’t know you were friends with Kim,” I said.

“Nah, I’m here with Chris. I’m not sure where he’s at right now,” she said.

Her boyfriend, I assumed. I didn’t know all that much about her.

“Ah, I see. He’s probably getting sloshed with Matt.” I forced an awkward laugh.

“You guys are back together?”

“Oh, um. No, not really. We’re friends now,” I said.

I wondered how we’d ever started dating. I was never attracted to him; I didn’t even like him romantically.

She smiled and raised her plastic cup.

“Want a drink?” she asked.

“No, I’m good, thanks.”

I didn’t drink. I had never had a drink in my life. What was the point? I looked around for reassurance, and sure enough, it was received—people stumbling, others slurring their sentences, most guys groping the girls they desired most. Disgusting, really. Animalistic behavior.

“All right, well, I’m in the living room with my friends if you want to join us,” she said.

I couldn’t refuse. I had nowhere else to go, so I followed her. As she started introductions, I spotted long, shiny, black hair. My heart sank and I swallowed hard. Samantha? Samantha was already friends with Jody and not with me? What the hell was she doing here? I could feel my hands getting clammy as they always did. I tried hard to focus on the people being introduced to me, but their names went right over my head. I smiled, staring blankly at them. I shook a few hands before I was finally about to be introduced to Samantha.

“Shay, meet Kaitlyn,” Jody said.

The black-haired girl turned to face me. She had large brown eyes and a silly grin on her face. My heart regained its regular beat. Of course it wasn’t Samantha. What had I been thinking? Samantha? Bitchy girl. Coming to Kim’s party? I extended my hand and smiled.

What a scare, I thought. Although I was somewhat relieved, I also wished it had been Samantha.

The party consisted mainly of Cheetos, water, and bathroom breaks for me, as I watched everyone else fall to pieces. When the clock reached two a.m., Matt came stumbling around a corner in search of me.

“Kaity!” he shouted, sprinkling saliva on my face.

“I’m right here,” I said, my voice dull. I wiped the underneath of my right eye.

“There you arrrre, sexy!” he said.

Oh, great. He was going to be a handful. I only hoped the music would silence him again during the ride home.

“You ready to go?” I asked.

“Only if you are,” he said, nearly losing his balance.

One eye was noticeably smaller than the other (the eyes of a drunk), but I didn’t find it humorous. It was pathetic, really.

“Come on.” I grabbed his arm tightly, led him to his car, and pushed him into the passenger seat. He willingly gave me his keys and smiled.

“Where we going?” he asked, excitement in his drunken voice.

“You’re going home, and so am I.”

“Oh realllyyy?” he said.

“You’re going to your home, and I’m going to mine,” I clarified.

“You know, Kaity—” he said.

And I blasted the music before shifting out of park and speeding away from Kim’s house.

I drove as fast as legally acceptable, not wanting him to speak to me. But when I looked over, he’d fallen asleep. Well, passed out. I pulled into his driveway and slammed the breaks to wake him. His head rocked forward and he mumbled something incomprehensible, opened his eyes, and stared at me.

“Where are we?” he asked.

“You’re home. Get out, please. You can come get your car tomorrow, okay? Have a good night, Matt.”

I was tired and getting moody. I didn’t have time to babysit. What’s worse was that regardless of my unfriendliness, he still leaned in for a kiss. I nearly laughed in his face, but regained my composure and pushed him away.

“Matt, I’m not your girlfriend. We’re friends now. Friends don’t kiss.”

“Friends with benefits do,” he said, sliding a suggestive hand down my thigh.

“Alright, perv. Go drink some water. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Like a gentleman, I hopped out of my seat, walked around the car, and opened his door to help him out.

“Come on. Let’s go,” I said.

He did as he was told and stumbled to the front of his house. I jumped back into the driver’s seat and watched him struggle to unlock the front door. I shook my head and laughed. I kind of felt sorry for him. But that feeling didn’t last very long. I pulled out and drove away, eagerly wanting to jump into my warm, cozy bed and sleep my weekend away. All I wanted at this point was for Monday to come around. Samantha would be there.

 

CHAPTER 2

 

 

 

Although I didn’t sleep the weekend away, it did pass by quickly. A lot of movies and junk food aided me in my quest. I prepared my school lunch Monday morning and ran to the bus stop when it was time to leave.

I was anxious the entire ride to school. Why? Because of Samantha. I felt so dumb. When I finally arrived, my eyes didn’t rest. I continuously scanned my surroundings. I was nervous, but I wanted to see her. Only one look. I wanted her to see me. As irrational as I was being, I couldn’t help my wanting.

My first class was Science. Was she going to be in it? I crossed my fingers and entered the classroom. To my disappointment, Samantha wasn’t there. The anxiety followed me to Math and then to History; it left me, only to be replaced with disappointment. Finally, English. Surely, she would be present beside me. Wouldn’t she? She had attended English class last Friday.

An alien sadness overwhelmed me when I realized that her seat was empty. My papers were now pointlessly damp due to anxiety, and Samantha was nowhere to be seen. I sighed and went on with my day.

Supper went the same as usual that night—Amy went on about how wonderful Andrew was and how she wished she’d met him sooner. I didn’t have much to say; I preferred to listen. That is, when I wasn’t daydreaming about Samantha. How could a person have such a strong hold on me? I was losing my mind. Perhaps if I spoke to her, these mysterious feelings would go away. It was only a matter of facing my fear.

Tuesday came around, and Samantha was still not there. Maybe she’d decided to change schools after Friday afternoon? Perhaps something had happened that I was unaware of. I counted the days painfully, hoping every morning that I would see her. When Thursday came around, I was doodling some crap in my Math binder when I realized that it was probably best to forget about her. She wasn’t coming back.

“Sorry I’m late,” came a cold voice.

It didn’t quite click at first, but when my eyes rolled up to the front of the class, I saw her. She wore baggy brown pants and a tight, white T-shirt. What a perfect body, I thought. Our eyes locked and she walked my way. Samantha, in my Math class?

“Could you please move? You’re in my seat,” Samantha said, staring down at Jessica Law, some girl who sat beside me.

“But this is—” Jessica said.

“Look, I don’t want any trouble,” Samantha said, an exaggerated smile plastered on her face.

Jessica looked for the teacher’s eyes, but they were facing the chalkboard. Samantha leaned over, placed an elbow on Jessica’s desk, and narrowed her eyes.

“I’m going to give you three seconds,” she said.

I wanted to scream. Scream with joy. I wanted to hug Samantha but run at the same time. She wanted to sit beside me. Me! Out of all people. Did I have this same hold on her, too? I hoped so.

Jessica stumbled out of her seat, binder in hand, and made her way to an empty desk at the back of the classroom. There were whispers shared among the students, but no one spoke up. Mrs. Demmy was still chalking away, completely oblivious to the entire spectacle.

“Oh, you again,” Samantha said, glancing sideways at me.

You again? She had picked that seat! Had she truly not seen me, or was she simply playing mind games? I smiled as best as I could and looked away. Although uncertain of her true thoughts, I could have sworn I heard her exhale a laugh.

We didn’t speak again that day. She was quiet in English class, and I saw her walk home alone, as she’d done the previous Friday. So she lived near the school, I concluded. This made me feel slightly stalkerish, so I hopped on the bus and blasted my iPod.

I rested my head against the bus window, completely out of touch with reality. I replayed those three words she had said, Oh, you again. Did she not like me? Or maybe she did, which was why she had sat down right next to me. Please like me, I thought. I suddenly visualized Samantha’s lips pressed against mine, and an electric jolt shot from my neck down to my pelvic area.

“Kaity!”

I snapped out of it, slightly ashamed of what I had felt. It was Jody, the one from the party. I didn’t know she took this school bus.

“Hey, Jody,” I said.

“I’m not following you,” she said laughing. “I recently moved to the East End, so I’m on your bus now.” She hopped in the seat next to mine and grinned.

“Oh, no way! Very cool,” I said.

We chatted about all sorts of things: boys, mainly. But all I could think about was Samantha.

“Well, this is my stop! See you tomorrow,” Jody said as she rose to exit the bus.

When I walked through the door of my house, Amy came running down the stairs, a huge childlike grin causing her cheeks to balloon.

“Kaity! Get dressed. We’re going out for supper,” she said.

“Why?” I asked, nonchalantly.

“Why not? Andrew’s joining us. A nice family supper for you guys to get to know him.” She bounced up and down and ran back upstairs.

Great. Well, I hadn’t gone out to eat in a very long time, so I supposed it would be nice. I was all dressed up—tight black dress pants and a silky purple top—by the time my parents came home.

“Oh, Kaity, don’t you have a dress or something?” my mother asked.

What was so fascinating about dresses? It was the same story every time. I didn’t like dresses, okay? I pulled my long, straight brown hair back into a ponytail and gawked at her.

“Mom, I look fine like this.”

“All right, all right. I only wish you’d be more ladylike sometimes,” she said.

I rolled my eyes and walked away. At the same time, Amy came rushing down in a red dress, a pair of red heels held tightly in the elbow of her arm.

“Mom, tie me up, please!” she urged and turned around.

My mother zipped her up, turned her around, and grabbed her shoulders.

“You look incredible,” she said. “You must have guys lined up for you in class.”

Amy laughed and fixed her lipstick in the mirror. I stared at them for a moment and went off to eat a cookie. You look incredible I repeated in my head. Blah blah blah blah blah. I looked good too, but instead, I constantly received tips on how I could look better. I didn’t want to be better. I wanted to be me.

“We’re leaving in ten!” my mother announced.

“Patricia, how do I look?” My father came down the stairs with open palms.

My mom’s jaw dropped, and she grinned up at the handsome, well-dressed man heading in her direction. She grabbed his face and kissed him on the lips. He did look good—a black suit, a white button-down shirt, a black tie, and shiny black shoes. His dark hair was gelled back—he looked like James Bond!

As you have probably already guessed, our family didn’t go out very often. So when we did, it was an event. At precisely six o’clock, the bell rang. Punctual—impressive, I thought. Andrew was welcomed with open arms and we hopped into my parents’ silver Santa Fe. The restaurant, The Blue Crystal, was located in the heart of downtown Loshano. It was pretty busy when we arrived, but my mother had of course made reservations.

As we looked over the menu, I learned that Andrew was aiming to become an electrical engineer. He currently worked with his dad as a mechanic, and he was religious—a perfect match for my parents. Oh, and for Amy. A lot more information had been shared, but I zoned out halfway through the conversation.

“Kaity?” my mother asked.

“Huh?” I mumbled.

I suddenly realized that I had been staring at my waitress’s short-skirted legs.

“Are you ready to order?” she asked, looking at me and then at the waitress.

The young, blonde-haired woman stared at me, pen and pad in hand. How embarrassing. Had she caught me staring?

“Uhm… I’ll have a burger and fries, please,” I said quickly.

I saw Amy wrinkle her nose.

“She’s only joking,” she assured our waitress, “she wants number ten, please, with a side of steamed vegetables.”

I had no idea what number ten was, but I smiled and nodded when the waitress looked at me. I tried to read the menu to see what had been ordered for me, but the waitress had been too quick. She snatched up the menus, smiled politely, and assured us that it wouldn’t be too long.

I didn’t bother asking Amy what she’d gotten me. I figured I had already embarrassed her enough in front of Andrew. Our meals finally arrived, and to be honest, I had wanted to comment on the portion size, but refrained from doing so. Before my eyes—which were probably larger than the meal itself at that moment—was a ridiculously small salmon fillet sautéed in butter, with a very tiny serving of steamed vegetables at its side.

It was tasty, but I didn’t care about that when the bill showed up. I popped my head beside my dad (something classy, well-educated people don’t do, apparently) and read the total: $396.25. What. The. Fuck. I could have purchased three microwaves and a year's supply of Kraft Dinner with that money! Or better yet, a 120 GB Play Station 3! Gah!

“That’s almost four hundred dollars!” I shouted.

I hadn’t realized how loud my words were. I saw Amy’s face turn red when a few tables turned their heads in our direction. The waitress leaned in and asked, “Is there a problem here?”

“No problem,” my father said, smiling and raising an open palm.

He pulled out his Visa card and handed it to the waitress. No one spoke, but their eyes told me everything. I decided it best to shut my mouth for the remainder of the evening. To avoid being yelled at or given a lecture, I ran to my room when we arrived home and jumped into bed. I wasn’t in the mood to be talked down to. I was always doing something wrong.

I didn’t even bother to brush my teeth or wash my face. Instead, I locked my door and went to sleep on a full stomach, which made falling asleep that much easier. But I knew I could only evade the consequences of my actions for so long when I woke up the next morning. I went downstairs after my shower and, as expected, my mother was standing in the kitchen.

“Kaity, about last night—” she said.

“Look, I know I was an idiot. And I’m sorry. I’ve never been to a high-class restaurant before, but I promise to keep my mouth shut next time,” I said, before allowing her the opportunity to bash me.

To my surprise, she didn’t reply. Instead, she nodded and left the room. I got ready for school, as I did every day, and made my way to the bus stop. Did I belong in my family? I felt like an alien… like the black sheep. I blasted my iPod to escape my reality and stepped onto the bus.

Jody was there, waving at me. Irritated at the thought of having to socialize, I forced a smile, removed my earbuds, and sat down beside her.

I told her about my restaurant incident, which somehow turned out to be a relief. She laughed at the idea of any restaurant charging so much and told me that she’d have done the same thing in my shoes. Maybe Jody wasn’t so bad after all. It was me—I wasn’t very social.

I walked into Math class and looked up at the board: “Assignments on my desk, please.”

Shit! I had completely forgotten. I slid a hand through my hair and sighed.

“Want the answers?” I heard someone ask.

I turned to my left and spotted Samantha. Samantha! How had I forgotten about her? How had I not seen her? I looked down on her desk and saw that she had completed the assignment. But I wasn’t a cheater. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. She tilted her head to the side, a sly smirk on her lips. “Are you scared of me?”

I couldn’t answer.

“Do I make you nervous?” she said, that evil smile still on her face.

“No,” I finally said.

“No, what?”

“I’m not scared of you,” I lied. And I also avoided commenting on how nervous she made me. I didn’t look at her to see her reaction.

Fortunately, Mrs. Demmy suddenly spoke up, “Those of you who didn’t complete the assignment, grab your desk and go finish it in the hallway.”

Great. How embarrassing. I sighed, stood up, and screeched my desk towards the door. I heard a few people laugh, but the ruckus ended abruptly when I noticed Samantha got up and did the same. What was she doing? She had finished her assignment! My heart raced. This was it. She was going to torture me to put me in my place. Why had I denied my fear of her? I should have simply said yes.

I rushed out of the room and sat down, my hands clammy. She slowly backed out, her silver-ringed fingers gripping the desk tightly. She moved a little further down the hall, ten feet or so behind me. Great, now I really wouldn’t be able to focus. I would feel watched, hunted.

Mrs. Demmy came out, shook her gray-haired head at us, went back inside, and closed the door behind her.

Five minutes into the assignment, I hadn’t completed anything. All I could think about was whether or not Samantha was watching me. Was she planning to kill me, or was she restarting her assignment to kill time? Was she going to try to give me the answers again? I didn’t want them.

I nearly jumped out of my seat when something warm touched my back. I closed my eyes and inhaled. Silky black hair brushed against my cheek, and I realized that Samantha’s large, soft breasts were pressing up against me. She leaned in closer, her minty breath against my ear, and slid the tip of her pencil down my arm, and onto number three of the assignment. Pins and needles descended into my groin area.

“You having trouble? This one’s the hardest,” she said.

“I…” was all I could say.

“Are you sure you aren’t scared of me?” she asked.

Her voice was so soft, so seductive. I closed my eyes and thought I would faint. My cheeks burned and my palms moistened. I was speechless. Powerless. Vulnerable.

Instead of waiting for my response, she wrote a number and a name on the corner of my paper. A phone number. Her cell number? What was she doing? She could have taken a knife to my throat, and I wouldn’t have cared right now. I was in heaven. I breathed in her perfume and closed my eyes.

“It’s Friday; I’m having a party. Text me later and I’ll tell you where to find me.”

“Okay,” was all I could say. My eyes glazed over.

She playfully squeezed my shoulders and walked away. I must have remained red in the face for nearly five minutes. All I wanted to do was jump into a swimming pool to cool off. I didn’t get any of my work done. I simply stared at my paper.

“Well, I’m done,” I heard her say behind me.

She stood up, pulled her desk back towards the classroom, and smiled at me one last time before disappearing. I slid my finger across her phone number and smiled to myself. I noticed that below her number, she had signed her name, “Sam.” Sam, I thought dreamily.

Was this happening? Would I go to the party? Would I even have the guts to text her? There were so many thoughts flowing through my mind, I couldn’t grasp any form of answer. We didn’t speak again after I returned to the classroom. When the bell rang, I was scared to see her again in English, but at the same time, I couldn’t wait.

I entered the classroom; however, she was nowhere to be seen. She had skipped, I assumed. Maybe she too was embarrassed by what had happened. Maybe it had been a dare? A dare to test my sexuality? Fury built up inside of me. I looked around, absolutely paranoid. Who else was in on this big joke? But there were no visible signs. Deep breaths. So maybe I was being paranoid.

I went home with a nasty feeling in my stomach, contemplating whether or not to text her. I lay on my bed, opening and closing my cell phone. I entered messages a few times but chickened out and closed my phone again. I conversed with myself, Come on, Kaity, just text her. It’s not a big deal. See what happens. If it’s weird, you don’t have to talk to her again. If you don’t text her, you’ll regret it for a long time, and you’re always gonna wonder what could have happened.

This was true. What was I supposed to do? Sit at home Friday night, wondering how Sam’s party was going? It would be absolute torture. I opened my phone again and wrote,

“Hey, it’s Kaitlyn. Still having a party?”

I entered her phone number and allowed my finger to hover over the send button for a few minutes, as I read, and reread the message to reassure my brain of its perfection. Just send it! And before I could think about it anymore, I quickly pressed down on “send.” I wanted to cancel! What had I done? It was too late now. Sam was going to receive my text, and I would have to go to the party. I felt queasy.

BEED-A-LEEP.

I quickly reopened the flap and read,

“Hey babe, of course. 117 Dolly Avenue, 8 p.m.”

I sighed and held the phone over my heart. Yes!

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