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My best friend, Amy, wants to wait until college to “do it,” but until then she’ll do “everything but” with boys she thinks are cute and have good bodies. She thinks lots of boys are cute and have good bodies. One of Amy’s favorite activities is scoping out the jocks at the annual seniors versus teachers football game at East Fort Myers High, which everyone calls EFM. It’s the largest local public school, and as lame as it sounds, this game is the hottest ticket in town the day after Christmas.
I couldn’t care less about sports, let alone ogling athletes, and a school is the last place I want to be during winter break. But I’m tagging along this year because I’ve been holed up in my room all week finishing college applications, and I desperately need a change of scenery. Not surprisingly, Amy’s boy-crazy jabbering makes it impossible even to pretend to focus on the game.
“See him?” she asks me while pointing to one of the senior team’s broad-shouldered linebackers, who’s also in her woodworking class. “I had this amazingly intense dream about him last night. We were in this, like, psychedelic art studio, and I was posing nude for him—”
“Amy!” I cut her off. We’re sitting on the bleachers one row ahead of a pack of pervy-looking freshmen, and I know they’re eavesdropping.
“What?” she looks at me innocently. “It was really hot! Then he knocked over his easel, tore off his overalls, and said, ‘My canvas is your body, and my paintbrush is my peni—’ ”
“Shhh!” I almost choke on my hot dog as I press my hand over Amy’s mouth. “First of all, gross! Second of all, the entire population of Florida does not need to know this.” I motion with my eyes to the cackling pervs behind us. “Can you please tone it down?”
Amy tears my hand away. “Oh, c’mon, Dominique. You sound like a librarian . . . and not the kinky kind.” She grins at me mischievously before turning her attention to the buff, freckled junior on her right. I just roll my eyes in resignation.
If we weren’t in a public place, I wouldn’t mind hearing the steamy details of Amy’s dream. That’s the key to our friendship—we can be open with each other past the point of too much information. She ends up doing most of the talking, though, since she has a lot more experience to draw from. But the fact that I’m probably the only seventeen-year- old in Fort Myers who hasn’t French-kissed a guy yet does not mean I’m a prude. My dreams at night can get just as X-rated as Amy’s, and sure, I guess I’d like to have a boyfriend. I just wouldn’t want to hook up with a guy unless I really, really like him, and in my experience all boys can be classified as either assholes or bores, unless they’re both.
Maybe it’s a blessing, because the last thing I need is relationship drama to sidetrack me from my grades. Amy, on the other hand, has never been the studious type but still managed to score an early acceptance to Amherst College. She’s a master painter and graphic artist, which makes sense given her expressive, exhibitionistic personality. I’m way more introverted.
My biggie Sprite makes itself known a few minutes into the third quarter. I maneuver my way down the bleachers toward the row of light blue Porta Pottis behind the end zone, but when I get to ground level I see I have competition. A chunky mom type with a bulging fanny pack is waddling in the direction of the only unoccupied stall. Nature is calling loudly, so I start chugging across the green, eyes on the prize. That’s when I feel my feet slip out from under me, and the next thing I know I’m sprawled facedown on a patch of newly watered grass.
“Shit!” I shout as I scramble onto all fours. I look down at my sweatshirt and shorts, now coated with wet topsoil. I don’t care if you’re the most confident person in the world—when something like this happens, all you want is the superpower to become invisible.
“Jeez, you okay?” a deep voice asks.
Startled, I gaze up through the strands of my bangs, now shellacked to my forehead with sprinkler water. All I see are blazing blue eyes against a halo of high-noon sunshine.
“Um, yeah, I’m fine,” I gasp, half-frightened and half-hypnotized by his proximity.
“You were fast. You should go out for track.” He grins.
I force myself to laugh. “Thanks, but I think mud wrestling’s more my style.”
He grins a little wider in a cute, bashful manner. My stomach suddenly feels uneasy, but not in a bad way. I don’t need to pee anymore either.
“Let me help,” he says.
Without giving myself time to think about it, I reach for his outstretched hand. He clasps my forearm, since my palms are caked with dirt and grass, and pulls me to my feet.
I’m still squinting from the sun’s brightness, but it’s clear that this boy with the sparkling blue eyes is around my age. His angular features are balanced by his gentle, soulful stare and the shaggy blond hair falling softly over his ears. He’s skinny and tall, around six feet. Amy and I are both five six, except I look shorter because I tend to slouch, which my grandma never fails to give me a hard time about.
“Hmmm.” The blue-eyed boy crinkles his brow while staring at my legs. “Your knees—they’re pretty scratched up. I have some Band-Aids in my car just over there.” He looks at me expectantly.
The part of me that’s humiliated to be standing there dripping with mud wants to run away. But this boy’s rare combination of niceness, humor, and good looks is drawing me in. I can hear a tiny Amy on my shoulder whispering, Whatever you do, keep talking to him!
“Thanks, but I’ll be fine. Um, so, do you go to EFM?” I ask, going for the obvious.
“Yep. I’m a senior.”
“Oh? So why aren’t you out there on the field?”
“I’m not into football, but I know some guys on the team, so I’m here rooting for them.”
“Cool. Well, I’m a senior too. Not here, though. I mean, my best friend goes here, but I—”
“Chiiiild, are yeew alriiiight?” I hear in the world’s most grating Southern drawl. “Ya fell like a rock in a pond.”
Damn! It's the fanny pack lady I was trying to outrun. I instantly hate her for jarring me out of my cute-boy moment.