Monday, October 13
“It’s all a total fantasy,” Devin Macy says as we shove our way down the crowded school hallway, making the long trek to the gym after last bell.
Devin’s my best friend and that’s what she thinks about internet relationships. She’s not much on fantasy—or relationships. Not because she’s not beautiful. She’s completely gorgeous, like supermodel unbelievably pretty, but she’s way Baptist. Which is fine. But kind of strict about stuff like fantasies and serious boyfriends.
I’m not sure I believe in real-life boyfriends, not since the whole Adam-P nightmare last year. Adam Pierpont’s a quarterback, not a Baptist. He’s not my friend at all anymore, he wouldn’t know a fantasy if it busted him in the nose, and he might not even be human.
I squeeze my stack of books against my chest to keep them from flying everywhere and get close enough to Devin to say, “I don’t want to get into anything real with a guy.”
She manages to laugh at me even though fifteen people bang against us with backpacks or books in a span of less than five seconds.
“Not exactly,” I add. “Well, sort of. Maybe?”
Devin laughs again and doesn’t even bother looking at me as we leave one building and jam our way into the next one.
“Okay, not a flesh-and-blood boyfriend, but is it a huge crime to want a nice guy in my life without all the complications?” I elbow past a couple of sophomores near a water fountain. “Somebody I can be close to. Somebody I can talk to who’ll say sweet stuff to me and be there when I need him and tell me everything about his life and his mind and his heart.”
I can’t help a big, huge sigh, but I so shouldn’t be thinking about any of this right now. And I definitely shouldn’t be thinking about it here at school in the hallway before practice, right beside Devin, who has asked me everything about why I’m thinking about finding a guy online—including whether or not I’m planning to sign up with an online dating service.
Though that would be an idea. . . .
“I’d like it if you had a special guy again.” Devin sounds a little faraway and distracted, even though she’s having to talk really loud when our heads aren’t right together. “It’d be nice to see you happy that way.”
Her expression says the rest—that we both know I’m never going to find a boyfriend here at West Estoria High School. Even if I did find someone I liked, he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. Not after the Adam-P mess.
Thinking about all of that makes us both go quiet as we walk.
Devin whips through guys like disposable tissues, so it’s not like she doesn’t want a guy, too, in spite of her religious beliefs. She’s looking for that feeling just as hard as I am, only she doesn’t have my problem or my reputation, so she has more options.
It’s been a year for me.
It would be so nice to have somebody again. A guy I can ask anything, tell anything to, do anything with and not have to worry, ever. Except about Mom (uptight, even though she’s a Democrat). And Dad (not uptight, even when he should be). And my little sister Lauren bursting in on my private conversations because she can’t sleep (if Lauren were black, I’d think she was secretly Devin’s sister and not mine. She’s high maintenance and gorgeous, too, even though she’s only eight).
Thinking about trying on-line dating and maybe getting caught by somebody in my family makes my heart beat fast.
What will he be like when I find him?
Imagining him makes me tingly, and I never get to feel that way except when I’m planning how I’ll talk to him or living in that place in my head where only he’ll be able to take me.
So, some of it will be fantasy, yeah. But some of it will be real, too.
And we won’t get serious for a long time, and it won’t really be serious even if we do, at least not in my opinion.
I shake my head and try to focus on here, now, on real life and the next hallway and Devin. There must be two hundred things I need to be doing instead of daydreaming about online guys. Like plotting a new strategy to help my dad lose weight or figuring a better way to help my little sister get over freaking out all the time. Oh, and finding an aspirin before twirling practice because we’ve got to dance today and dancing makes my back hurt, never mind my brain.
I just wish any of that seemed important.
People are still bashing against us as we make it to the last building before the gym. It’s god-awful hot and the air smells like sweat and mold.
Devin stays close, briefly changing subjects, chattering about the English paper we just got assigned and all the outlines and rough drafts we have to turn in before the final product, how we’re dividing up the workload, how we’re going to get our other work done—and I could care less about that, too.
It’s him in my head.
Whatever he’ll be, whoever he’ll be.
I know it might be a totally screwy idea, but the weird thing is, I’m not sure that bothers me. It’s not like I’ll ever see my soon-to-be dream guy in person no matter how bad I end up wanting to. So, I could fall in love with him, no strings, no complications, no problems. Unless I get caught, of course.
“Skank!” yells a girl I used to like. Ellis Brennan. Blond. Senior Majorette. Thinks she’s better than the rest of the universe.
She’s banging Adam now, so I should feel sorry for her.
Ellis and her friends act like I stink as they mince past without touching me, like I’m poisonous. Add that to the care-less list, along with the half of the school that thinks Ellis is exactly right about me.
Devin ignores the witch-monster and her minions because she’s good at that, and we’ve both had a year of practice.
“So are you going to try this tonight?” Devin asks as we finally get out of the main school buildings and reach the gym door. “Finding a guy online?”
Her question melts me to the door handle, fingers on the warm metal. Two seconds flat and I’m already there in my head, tonight.
“It might not be such an awful idea.” Devin’s worry and excitement cuts beneath the class-change clatter. “The pickings around here are way slim. Totally slim.” She clutches her books and bounces up on her toes like a little kid, stretching her long, dancer legs as she waits for me to open the door. “So how are you going to do it? If you’ve been thinking about it all this time, you’ve got to have a plan.”
“No plan.” I’m smiling like a total freak and sort of lying, and not getting the door open no matter how hard I try. “I’ll just put myself out there and hunt around a little.”
Devin grins until she’s all teeth. “I’ll bust you when you start scribbling love poems all over your class work.”
“Yeah, well, at least I don’t draw hearts. With flowers. Shaded flowers.”
She blows me off with, “You’ll have to give me all the details every step of the way, or I tell the Bear something awful, like you ate six cupcakes last night.”
The Bear is Alexa Baratynsky, our twirling coach. Russian. Short. Wicked. Does not approve of cupcakes.
I yank at the door and it bangs open against the outside wall. “I did not eat six cupcakes!” I grab it before it can swing back and smash me in the face. “Only two. Well, maybe three. And a half.”
Devin’s laughing. At almost six feet tall and totally slender and graceful, she has to be the most perfect majorette ever, no matter how many cupcakes she can stuff down her throat in one sitting. She’d never tell the Bear about our food binges, either. That would be like blasphemy or sacrilege, or one of those other heinous-betrayal words.
“Brat!” I shout over the roar of people jamming the gym hallway as we head toward the locker room.
“I want all the dirt!” she yells back. “When are you going to start? Tell me.”
If I could steal a magic lamp and rub out a genie, my three wishes would be sooo simple—after I tried the whole infinite-wishes trick and endowed myself with wealth, brilliance, and the ability to write poetry like Emily Dickinson, of course.
Wish one: Let me look like Devin and dance like her, too.
Wish two: Make my dad healthy, my mom patient and understanding, and my little sister all relaxed and happy.
Wish three: Find a really cute, really sweet, totally perfect guy to talk to online so I can have all the fun and absolutely none of the real-life hassle.
“When are you going to start?” Devin repeats, twice as loud to make sure I answer her.
“Okay, okay.” I lean toward her as we stop outside the locker room door and whisper the magic word.
“Compulsive, page turning reading.” –Booklist
“Vaught does an excellent job of portraying the kinds of vulnerability that predators exploit and gradual, innocent-seeming seductions that lure the girls into compromising situations.” ―BCCB
“…An important, timely topic…” —School Library Journal