Page 17


It’s 2:39 in the morning.
My heart is racing. I’m sweating and chugging water and feeling helpless.
I turn on the lamp, grab the pen, and, at the end of a very, very long note about boys and darkness and adulterers and liars, I write this simple addendum:
It’s not Dad.
Then somehow, amazingly, I will myself to sleep.
1/30 (Sun.)
—Faded Levi’s
—Red sweatshirt
—Bring book for English
—Review drills for Spanish quiz before school
—Buy SAT prep book
Important stuff:
Jamie. Still not speaking. Try asking her to help with finding Dad (read back and look in the big envelope in the desk). Also, try to think of a plan to help end her tragic relationship.
Mom. See the big envelope mentioned above.
Luke. SUPERHOT BOYFRIEND! He’ll be there before school with coffee and food of some sort; don’t worry about breakfast. Dating almost three and a half months. Supergood kisser. Flip through notes and check out the photos all over the room. See Saturday’s note about a party at his friend Adam’s house. Today, we went to the movie Elephant Bride and it was really stupid but the day was fun anyway. I beat him at a fighting video game before the movie. I was the Red Warrior.
Held hands the whole movie and shared popcorn; he called me a popcorn hog. Went to his house after and he played his guitar for me for a while until Mom called and told me to come home for dinner. We kissed before I got out of the car. Yum. Oh, he drives a minivan— don’t hold it against him.
What I’m really thinking right now is “whoa.” What comes out of my mouth, miraculously, is a simple, sultry, “Hey.”
“Hey yourself,” he says, backlit and beautiful, standing on my porch with a lidded coffee cup in his hand. I can see his breath in the frigid air as it escapes his mouth.
There is something overwhelming about the moment. His unwavering gaze, effortless smile, and obvious ease, combined with the February sunrise, make me feel like my legs might give out underneath me.
“Ready?” he asks gently.
“Yep,” I say, in a measured tone that I’m surprised I’m capable of using. I follow him from the porch to the minivan idling in the driveway.
I thought I was prepared.
This morning, I read months of notes. I flipped through dozens of photos.
But Luke in real life is something else.
Luke in real life is something no amount of notes could prepare me for. My living, breathing boyfriend is amazing.
Trying to act as if I remember being here before, I slide into the passenger seat and buckle my belt. Once I’m settled, Luke gestures to a coffee waiting for me in the passenger cup holder.
“There are muffins in the console,” he says casually as he backs out of the driveway. I open the compartment between us to find breakfast from what will be my favorite bakery until it goes out of business in a few years.
I know from notes that this has become our ritual: Luke driving me to school each day, often surprising me with morning treats. But thanks to my lack of proper memory, it feels like a first for me today, and I love it.
“Jamie ever call you back yesterday?” Luke asks as he drives. My notes didn’t say I called her, but they would have if she’d called back.
“No,” I say, pretty sure that I’m telling the truth.
Too soon, we’re pulling into the student lot. Even though we’re one of the first cars there, Luke turns into a space in the back row.
“Easy escape,” he says when I look at him quizzically. He puts the gearshift in park but leaves the engine running and the heat pumping. I wonder whether Luke always parks in the back and make a mental note to include that tonight so I don’t wonder again.
“Are you cold?” he asks.
“No, I’m fine. If anything, I’m hot in this jacket.”
He turns down the blower.
“Your hair looks good like that,” he says, as easily as someone I’ve been dating for a while might. He takes a slow sip of his coffee, and I find myself wishing my own nearly empty cup would magically refill itself.
I grab a smooth strand of hair. I must have flat-ironed it last night; I didn’t wash it this morning.
“Thanks,” I say, gazing into his blue eyes.
“So, what’s new?” he asks.
I have no idea, so I talk about my best friend some more. “I’m worried about Jamie,” I begin cryptically, hoping to draw out information if I’ve already discussed this particular issue with Luke. According to my notes, I haven’t. Then again, notes could be wrong.
“How come?” Luke asks innocently, taking another drink. The parking lot is starting to fill around us, but we are in our own world.
“Can I tell you something in confidence?” I ask.
“Of course. You know you can trust me, London.”
I do know that, I think to myself.
“Okay,” I begin. “You can’t tell anyone.”
“Of course,” he says, as if it’s a given.
I sit for a moment, looking into Luke’s expectant eyes, trying to think of a way to buffer what I’m going to say. Instead, I finally just blurt it out. “Jamie is having an affair with a teacher. A married teacher.”
Luke doesn’t make a sound, but his jaw drops slightly, and then he recovers. “Wow,” he says, clearly letting the news settle in his brain.
“I tried to talk her out of it, but she’s too stubborn to listen,” I continue.
“How long has this been going on?” he asks.
“It started around the time we met.”
I think I see a speck of hurt flash across his eyes—maybe because I didn’t tell him sooner. I’m surprised myself that I haven’t, but it’s not really my secret to tell. And here now, sharing it anyway, I can’t help but feel a bit guilty.
“Which teacher?” Luke asks, and all at once I’m defensive.
“It doesn’t matter,” I snap.
“Whoa, calm down,” he snaps back, making me wonder whether we’re going to have our first fight. “Just asking,” he says, looking toward the line of cars pulling into the lot.
“Sorry, it’s just a sensitive subject. No matter how stupid she is sometimes, Jamie is still my best friend. But I didn’t mean to bite your head off.” Luke looks back into my eyes and smiles. I can see we’re okay, but just to make sure, I add, “It’s Mr. Rice.”
“Driver’s Ed.?” Luke asks. I nod.
“I guess I can see that,” Luke says. “He’s young and all. At least it’s not Mr. Ellis.”
“Ew, gross!” I squeal, and we chuckle a little at something that really isn’t that funny, but it lightens the mood just the same.
A car parks in the space on Luke’s side and two girls get out, looking enviously at him and then scowling at me. As they walk toward the school, I remember that one of them is going to get pregnant at the end of next year. I feel like shouting after her, “Use protection!”
Instead, I keep the conversation going.
“I really don’t know what to do. I want to find a way to end their relationship without having Jamie know it was me.”