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Everyone always says I can get any guy I want. But Matt Fowler was the exception. Matt was Taken with a capital T.
I sat on the wide front steps of South Central High School and watched Matt pass by the ivy-covered fence at the far end of the parking lot. Hundreds of kids streamed toward the school, but Matt stood out in the crowd.He stood out in a big way.
�Hey, Kerri. Where's Jessica?� Maya Greer asked me, breaking into my intense zone-in. Maya was one of my closest friends, but I didn't answer her. Not yet. Matt was coming toward us. I turned my head a little so I wouldn't look as if I was staring.
�Hello?� Maya persisted. �Kerri, what are you staring at?�
�Don't advertise it, okay?� I whispered to her. Sometimes Maya was kind of clueless when it came to scoping out guys. It's probably because she's a year younger than the rest of our group. But I love her anyway.
Maya clamped her mouth shut as Matt approached.
He's tall and solid, a football player. That day he was wearing khaki shorts and a worn green Packers jersey. He pushed his wavy brown hair off to the side and glanced at me. My heart gave a funny little jump as I saw his spectacular blue eyes.
�Hey, Matt,� I said, with a slight smile.
�Hey, how are ya?� He nodded as he passed, then climbed the stone steps of the school two at a time.
And that was that. No �how was your summer?� or �you look great with that tan.� Most guys would stop to talk to me even if I didn't talk to them first. But not Matt.
Matt knew me because he was a football player and I was a cheerleader for the South Central Lions. I wanted him to know mebetter, though. Too bad he'd been going out with Jill Warner since the end of junior year.
�Oh. That's what you were staring at.� Maya tucked her skirt around her legs and sat on the low wall that edged the stairs. The sun warmed our shoulders as we waited for our friends Jessica Carvelli and Erin Yamada.
Teachers and students filed past us, plodding up the steps on the first day of school. Some kids hung out on the lawns and benches, playing catch, laughing, mostly talking in clusters. Nearly 1500 students attend South Central, so we kind of take over the neighborhood when school is in session.
�Am I a step behind, or what?� Maya asked. �I feel like I spent the whole summer in solitary confinement. A prisoner, shuttled between the country club and Greer Castle.�
That was our name for the big house near Lake Monona where Maya lived with her father.
�I am so glad to be back in school,� Maya went on. �At least when I'm with you guys, Dad backs off with the psycho security. But over the summer, I barely got a chance to go out for pizza.�
�No sympathy. You got to go to Argentina!� I pointed out.
�Which might have been fun, if any of my mom's relatives were under the age of ninety. Picture a bunch of old ladies sitting in a circle trying to teach me how to crochet a mantilla. As if that string thing is going to keep anyone warm through a Madison winter. As if I'd even wear a mantilla.�
I laughed. Only Maya could make a trip to South America sound like a corny quilting bee. �Just remember that Jessica and I were stuck here while you were globe-trotting with your dad. I worked all summer buttering bagels at Bernie's, and Jess was stranded up at Camp Mosquito.�
�I'm just glad to be back,� Maya told me. �I mean, it's senior year! Can you believe it?�
�Yeah,� I said. �This year is going to be the best. The ultimate, X-treme finale.�
Maya narrowed her big dark eyes, then shielded them from the sun with one hand. �You think so?� she asked, pushing her brown hair behind an ear.
I smiled. �I know so.�
�What do you know?� a snappy voice asked. �You still think you know it all, Kerri?�
I turned to see Erin striding past some boys in baggy pants. She's Japanese-American, with a slender build and a killer smile. She was wearing a denim hat and bubble-shaped sunglasses, sort of like the goggles race car drivers use. A batik print skirt swirled around her Converse sneakers.
�Erin!� Maya and I ran down the steps, dodging a group of tenth-grade girls. With a squeal, I jumped into Erin's arms. �You're finally back!� Erin had spent the whole summer vacation with her aunt on a houseboat in Seattle. I gave her a huge hug, knocking off her denim hat. �Purple hair?� I shrieked, staring at the three lopsided ponytails emerging from her shoulder-length haircut. �Your parents must have freaked.�
�Mom and Dad were not enthralled by Raspberry Limelight, but what could they say? It was Aunt Joyce's idea.� Erin shook her head and the ponytails bobbed.
�We love,� Jessica said from the top of the school stairs.
�Hey! What were you doing in school so early?� I called up to her.
�Yearbook. Alex and I were going through the files from last year. Big mess.� Jessica and her boyfriend, Alex, were the co-editors of the yearbook.
Jess is what you'd call an overachiever. This year, she was going to have to squeeze into half a day what the rest of us had all day to do. She'd spend mornings at South Central and afternoons taking classes in a special program at the University of Wisconsin, rushing back to high school for yearbook and all the other things she was involved in, like student government and the honor society.Turning Seventeen #1: Any Guy You Want. Copyright � by Rosalind Noonan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.