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The Secrets of Boys
By Hailey Abbott
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2006 Hailey Abbott
All right reserved.
Cassidy Jones wished her best friend, Larissa King, were Amish at times like these. It would have made life a lot easier, especially when it came to going to parties. Instead of obsessing over which pair of jeans to wear (either the low-waisted, boot-cut Citizens of Humanity ones that make her appear to have a butt, or the stretch, dark True Religion ones that were perfectly broken in), Cassidy could spend her time burying her nose in her sketchbook and drawing while sitting on the beach in Malibu. But that was not her fate today. She was about an hour away from attending a Pepperdine University party with Larissa, and Cassidy knew all too well what that meant. Soon Larissa would be acting the opposite of Amish -- smoking, drinking, dancing, and perhaps even sexing it up with some college hottie. As for Cassidy, she was preparing for another night spent in the corner like your typical pretty wallflower.
Then she told herself that she'd have her boy-friend, Eric, to talk to, but even that didn't make her feel like going out tonight. Maybe her melancholy mood could be chalked up to a bad case of PMS, or maybe it was because she was a few days shy of getting her last report card for the year. That always made her nervous, even though she usuallydid just fine. Maybe it was because she worried her chronic shyness was going to get the better of her once again. Whatever the reason, she looked at Larissa as she got all dolled up and hoped her friend would break one of her well-manicured, Hard Candy-painted nails. Beauty crises had derailed their plans many, many times before, so why not now?
"If this shirt doesn't get me groped at least once tonight, I'm suing the designer." Larissa tugged at the straps of a rainbow-striped terry cloth tank so that it draped lower on her chest. She posed in front of the mirror hanging from the door of Cassidy's walk-in closet, flinging her long, straight hair behind her shoulders. She'd recently added bold red streaks, and they glinted in the late afternoon sunlight streaming through Cassidy's picture window.
"Larissa," Cassidy reminded her, "you are the designer."
"Too true," Larissa agreed. "What do you think? Will it be a hit on the runway?"
"You'll have Dior begging for mercy."
Cassidy rolled her eyes. Ever since Larissa had picked up an issue of Nylon magazine three months before, it was nearly impossible to tear her away from her sewing machine or get her to talk about anything besides cuts and fabrics. Larissa was convinced she was the next Coco Chanel, and Cassidy was waiting patiently for her to get over her fashion craze the way she'd gotten over rock climbing, karaoke, and synchronized swimming. They'd spent four summers together, and Cassidy just loved how Larissa's ever-so-fleeting passions always took them somewhere unexpected.
"Excellent. But if not," Larissa decided, "I'll give it to you."
"Thanks a million," she said acidly. "I'll wear it every day."
Cassidy knew that Larissa was well aware of the fact she wouldn't go anywhere near rainbow-striped terry cloth. She preferred simple, elegant clothes that made her blend in, not stand out. With her porcelain-colored skin, huge blue eyes, and endless lashes, she got enough attention as it was -- too much, considering she was usually too timid to talk to any guys besides Eric. Even so, she still got tongue-tied around him, and they had been dating for almost two years.
Wow, has it really been that long? she thought.
"Look, a little color won't kill you." Larissa sighed, taking in Cassidy's black crepe button-down shirt from Theory, plain white flip-flops, and short denim skirt. "Come on, I've got this new eye shadow that would look amazing on you. It's hardly a color at all. Actually, it's more of a subtle shimmer. . . ."
Larissa began rummaging in the enormous straw tote she carried everywhere she went. Cassidy giggled to herself, picturing the mess of makeup, loose change, and empty Twizzler wrappers lurking in the bottom. She imagined the bag swallowing Larissa whole, so that only her newly painted lime green toenails stuck out from the top.
The image was too good to pass up. She grabbed her sketchbook off the nightstand and began covering a page in small, quick lines. As she drew with her favorite Hello Kitty number-two pencil, she felt the tiny knot she always carried around inside her begin to loosen. Secretly, she called it "social tension" -- the feeling of always having to say something and never knowing what to say, so that she ended up just not talking and seeming stuck-up to everyone but her closest friends. Drawing was always good for that. It let her enter a silent world where she could sit back and watch without having to say anything at all.
In fact, the walls of Cassidy's room were covered in her sketches: Larissa morphing into Kelly Clarkson as she belted into the mike of a karaoke machine, Eric riding a horse backward along Zuma Beach, and all three of them playing tug-of-war with a giant Twizzler.
Her favorite, which she'd tinted with colored pens and hung prominently over her bed, showed Larissa as Batman and her as Robin, both poised to leap off the roof of their high school and save the desperately bored students trapped inside. It seemed to sum up their friendship perfectly: the way outgoing, talkative Larissa always took the lead and quiet Cassidy was content to play sidekick. Some girls might not have been into playing Haley James to Larissa's Peyton Sawyer, but Cassidy found it comforting. She didn't want the limelight and liked that Larissa was always thinking of new fun things for them to do. As far as she was concerned, they complemented each other perfectly. Besides, she knew Larissa wouldn't be so gutsy without Cassidy's support -- and if it weren't for Larissa, Cassidy would probably forget how to talk entirely.
Excerpted from The Secrets of Boys by Hailey Abbott Copyright © 2006 by Hailey Abbott. Excerpted by permission.
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