-Never use the restroom next to the science lab. Ever. Not ever.

-Only wear your backpack across one shoulder. Never double-arm it, it’s lame.

-Always check the date on the milk.

-Befriend Stewart, the maintenance guy. It’s good to have him on your side.

-The cafeteria. Avoid it at all costs, but if the weather is bad, just pretend you know what you’re doing when you walk inside. They can smell fear.

-If you get Mr. Declare for math, sit in the back and don’t make eye contact. He loves high school girls, if you know what I mean. Or, better yet, sit in the front. It’ll be an easy A.

The list goes on, but I can’t read anymore right now. I’m still stuck on, “they can smell fear.” It’s times like these that I wish I had a cell phone, because I would call Six right now and demand an explanation. I fold the paper up and put it back in my bag, then focus my attention on the lone runner. He’s seated on the track with his back turned to me, stretching. I don’t know if he’s a student or a coach, but if Grayson saw this guy without a shirt, he’d probably become a lot more modest about being so quick to flash his own abs.

The guy stands up and walks toward the bleachers, never looking up at me. He exits the gate and walks to one of the cars in the parking lot. He opens his door and grabs a shirt off the front seat, then pulls it on over his head. He hops in the car and pulls away, just as the parking lot begins to fill up. And it’s filling up fast.

Oh, God.

I grab my backpack and purposefully pull both arms through it, then descend the stairs that lead straight to Hell.

Did I say Hell? Because that was putting it mildly. Public school is everything I was afraid it would be and worse. The classes aren’t so bad, but I had to (out of pure necessity and unfamiliarity) use the restroom next to the science lab, and although I survived, I’ll be scarred for life. A simple side note from Six informing me that it’s used as more of a brothel than an actual restroom would have sufficed.

It’s fourth period now and I’ve heard the words “slut” and “whore” whispered not so subtly by almost every girl I’ve passed in the hallways. And speaking of not-so-subtle, the heap of dollar bills that just fell out of my locker, along with a note, were a good indicator that I may not be very welcome. The note was signed by the principal, but I find that hard to believe based on the fact that “your” was spelled “you’re,” and the note said, “Sorry you’re locker didn’t come with a pole, slut.”

I stare at the note in my hands with a tight-lipped smile, shamefully accepting my self-inflicted fate that will be the next two semesters. I seriously thought people only acted this way in books, but I’m witnessing first hand that idiots actually exist. I’m also hoping most of the pranks being played at my expense are going to be just like the stripper-cash prank I’m experiencing right now. What idiot gives away money as an insult? I’m guessing a rich one. Or rich ones.

I’m sure the clique of giggling girls behind me that are scantily, yet expensively clad, are expecting my reaction to be to drop my things and run to the nearest restroom crying. There are only three issues with their expectations.

1) I don’t cry. Ever.

2) I’ve been to that restroom and I’ll never go back.

3) I like money. Who would run from that?

I set my backpack on the ground below my locker and pick the money up. There are at least twenty one-dollar bills on the ground, and more than ten still in my locker. I scoop those up as well and shove it all into my backpack. I switch books and shut my locker, then slide my backpack on both shoulders and smile.

“Tell your daddies I said thank you.” I walk past the clique of girls (that are no longer giggling) and ignore their glares.

It’s lunchtime, and looking at the amount of rain flooding the courtyard, it’s obvious that Karma has retaliated with shitty weather. Who she’s retaliating against is still up in the air.

I can do this.

I place my hands on the doors to the cafeteria and open them, half-expecting to be greeted by fire and brimstone.

I step through the doorway and it’s not fire and brimstone that I’m met with. It’s a decibel of noise unlike anything my ears have ever been subjected to. It’s almost as if every single person in this entire cafeteria is trying to talk louder than every other person in this entire cafeteria. I’ve just enrolled in a school of nothing but one-uppers.

I do my best to feign confidence, not wanting to attract unwanted attention from anyone. Guys, cliques, outcasts or Grayson. I make it halfway to the food line unscathed, when someone slips his arm through mine and pulls me along behind him.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” he says. I don’t even get a good look at his face before he’s guiding me across the cafeteria, weaving in and out of tables. I would object to this sudden disruption, but it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to me all day. He slips his arm from mine and grabs my hand, pulling me faster along behind him. I stop resisting and go with the flow.

From the looks of the back of him, he’s got style, as strange as that style may be. He’s wearing a flannel shirt that’s edged with the exact same shade of hot pink as his shoes. His pants are black and tight and very figure flattering...if he were a girl. Instead, the pants just accentuate the frailty of his frame. His dark brown hair is cropped short on the sides and is a little longer on top. His eyes are…staring at me. I realize we’ve come to a stop and he’s no longer holding my hand.

“If it isn’t the whore of Babylon.” He grins at me. Despite the words that just came out of his mouth, his expression is contrastingly endearing. He takes a seat at the table and flicks his hand like he wants me to do the same. There are two trays in front of him, but only one him. He scoots one of the trays of food toward the empty spot in front of me. “Sit. We have an alliance to discuss.”

I don’t sit. I don’t do anything for several seconds as I contemplate the situation before me. I have no idea who this kid is, yet he acts like he was expecting me. Let’s not overlook the fact that he just called me a whore. And from the looks of it, he bought me…lunch? I glance at him sideways, attempting to figure him out, when the backpack in the seat next to him catches my eye.

“You like to read?” I ask, pointing at the book peering out of the top of his backpack. It’s not a textbook. It’s an actual book-book. Something I thought was lost on this generation of internet fiends. I reach over and pull the book out of his backpack and take a seat across from him. “What genre is it? And please don’t say sci-fi.”

He leans back in his seat and grins like he just won something. Hell, maybe he did. I’m sitting here, aren’t I?

“Should it matter what genre it is if the book is good?” he says.

I flip through the pages, unable to tell if it’s a romance or not. I’m a sucker for romances, and based on the look of the guy across from me, he might be, too.

“Is it?” I ask, flipping through it. “Good?”

“Yes. Keep it. I just finished it during computer lab.”

I look up at him and he’s still basking in his glow of victory. I put the book in my backpack, then lean forward and inspect my tray. The first thing I do is check the date on the milk. It’s good.

“What if I was a vegetarian?” I ask, looking at the chicken breast in the salad.

“So eat around it,” he retorts.

I grab my fork and stab a piece of the chicken, then bring it to my mouth. “Well you’re lucky, because I’m not.”

He smiles, then picks up his own fork and begins eating.

“Whom are we forming an alliance against?” I’m curious as to why I’ve been singled out.

He glances around him and raises his hand in the air, twirling it in all directions. “Idiots. Jocks. Bigots. Bitches.” He brings his hand down and I notice that his nails are all painted black. He sees me observing his nails and he looks down at them and pouts. “I went with black because it best depicts my mood today. Maybe after you agree to join me on my quest, I’ll switch to something a bit more cheerful. Perhaps yellow.”

I shake my head. “I hate yellow. Stick with black, it matches your heart.”

He laughs. It’s a genuine, pure laugh that makes me smile. I like…this kid whose name I don’t even know.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Breckin. And you’re Sky. At least I’m hoping you are. I guess I could have confirmed your identity before I spilled to you the details of my evil, sadistic plan to overtake the school with our two person alliance.”

“I am Sky. And you really have nothing to worry about, seeing as though you really haven’t shared any details about your evil plan yet. I am curious though, how you know who I am. I know four or five guys at this school and I’ve made out with every one of them. You aren’t one of them, so what gives?”

For a split second, I see a flash of what looks like pity in his eyes. He’s lucky it was just a flash, though.

Breckin shrugs. “I’m new here. And if you haven’t deducted from my impeccable fashion sense, I think it’s safe to say that I’m…” he leans forward and cups his hand to his mouth in secrecy. “Mormon,” he whispers.

I laugh. “And here I was thinking you were about to say gay.”

“That too,” he says with a flick of his wrist. He folds his hands under his chin and leans forward a couple of inches. “In all seriousness, Sky. I noticed you in class today and it’s obvious you’re new here, too. And after seeing the stripper money fall out of your locker before fourth period, then witnessing your non-reaction to it, I knew we were meant to be. Also, I figured if we teamed up, we might prevent at least two unnecessary teenage suicides this year. So, what do you say? Want to be my very bestest friend ever in the whole wide world?”

I laugh. How could I not laugh at that? “Sure. But if the book sucks, we’re re-evaluating the friendship.”

Monday, August 27th, 2012 3:55 p.m.

Turns out, Breckin was my saving grace today…and he really is Mormon. We have a lot in common, and even more out of common, which makes him that much more appealing. He was adopted as well, but has a close relationship with his birth family. Breckin has two brothers who aren’t adopted, and who also aren’t gay, so his parents assume his gayness (his word, not mine) has to do with the fact that he doesn’t share a bloodline with them. He says they’re hoping it fades with more prayer and high school graduation, but he insists that it’s only going to flourish.

His dream is to one day be a famous Broadway star, but he says he lacks the ability to sing or act, so he’s scaling down his dream and applying to business school, instead. I told him I wanted to major in creative writing and sit around in yoga pants and do nothing but write books and eat ice cream every day. He asked what genre I wanted to write and I replied, “It doesn’t matter, so long as it’s good, right?” I think that comment sealed our fate.


Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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