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He glanced down, leaned to pickout my keys from the bits and pieces of my personaleffects. We know what that means for Jacqueline. He was just… sketching something in class Friday. Automatyczne logowanie. Take the sleeve offMe:
Once we were official, he changed my name—andeveryone followed suit, including me. His parents were just weirdly political—and also at odds with each other. He had a sister named Reagan and a brother named Carter. It was just the only one Icould getback. Ifollowed Dr. Heller to his office, running through variousappeals in my head to induce him to give me a chance tocatch up.
Now that the possibility had become a probability, Iwasterrified. Ihad never failed a class. What would Itell myparents and my advisor? This F would be on my transcriptfor the rest of my life.
So go ahead. Ijust sat in a differentseat. You still have six missed classdays and a zero on a major exam. As if a plug had been pulled, the jumbledexcuses and realizations came pouring out.
Ibit my lip to keep from sobbingoutright, staring at his desk, unable to meet the repulsedexpression Iimagined him wearing. Iheard his sigh in the same moment a tissue appearedin my line of vision. She recently endured a nasty little breakup. My whip-smart, straight-A student turned into an emotional wreckwho did nothing but cry, sleep, and cry some more—forabout two weeks. And then she came to her senses and Do weunderstand each other? Iknow; Iused to be one. Ihad my shot.
All Ihad to do was get in touch with thisLandon person and turn in a project. How hard could it be? Inunrelated reasoning, that was also where Kennedy wasmost likely to be; we went there almost daily after lunch. And five waiting for drinks! Who the hell areall of these people? She scowled back at him and Ipressed my lips together to keep from laughing.
Acouple of guys wanted his wallet. Rowr, if youknow what Imean. Iscooted forward with the line, my mind going overSaturday night for the thousandth time. Kennedy had scooped me into his armsmore times than Icould count, one time tossing me over hisshoulder and running up a flight of stairs as Iclung to hisback, upside down and laughing. No, that was all Buck. Icouldblame the alcohol… but no. Alcohol removes inhibitions. My mouth hung open but nothingcame out. And just like this morning, Saturday night cameflooding back.
The name Ino longerused, as of sixteen days ago. Ireturned his penetrating gaze and couldsee he remembered all of it, clearly. Every mortifying bit. Myface burned. His voice was calm, but Ifelt theexasperation of the restless customers behind me. But he marked the cup, which was when Inoted the twoor three layers of thin white gauze wrapped around hisknuckles.
He passed the cup to the barista and rang up thedrink as Ihanded over my card. He swiped mycard and handed it back with the receipt. As Itook the card and receipt, hisfingers grazed over mine. Isnatched my hand away. His jaw tensed almostimperceptibly when he shifted his gaze to her.
Marking the cup, he gave her the total in clipped tones,his eyes flicking to me once more as Istepped away. Iwaited for my coffee atthe other end of the bar, and hurried away without addingmy usual dribble of milk and three packets of sugar. Economics was a survey course, and as such the rosterwas huge—probably two hundred students. Chapter 3Idutifully emailed the econ tutor when Igot back to the dormafter class, and started on my art history homework. With Erin at work, Icould buckle down to an evening ofquiet studying.
While Iattempted tocram for an algebra test last week, the followingconversation took place: My roommatewas a hostess at a swanky restaurant downtown, a positionshe frequently used as an excuse for overspending herclothing budget.
Three hundred dollar shoes, essential for ajob that paid nine bucks an hour? Istifled my laugh when Her father always caved,especially when she employed the D-word—Daddy. As an upperclassman and a tutor for a huge class like Dr. Iwas prepared toshow him Iwould work hard to catch up and get out of hishair as quickly as possible. Fifteen minutes after Iemailed him, my inbox dinged. We can meet on campus, preferably in the library, todiscuss the project. Heller as to the level of assistance Ishould provide.
Basically, he wants to see what you can do, alone. My group tutoring sessions are MWTh from LMIclenched my jaw. Though perfectly polite, the tone of hisemail reeked of condescension… until his signature at thevery end: Was he being friendly, or casual, or ridiculingmy attempt to sound like a serious, mature student? Iread his email again and got even madder. So hethought Iwas too dumb to comprehend the course materialon my own?
JacquelineIpressed send and felt superior for all of about twentyseconds. So far,it looked less like comprehensible supply and demandcharts, and more like gibberish with dollar signs andconfusing shifts tossed in for fun.
When my email dinged again, Iswallowed beforeclicking over to it. A new message from Landon Maxfieldwas at the top of my inbox. LMPS What do you tutor? He was civil. Nice, even. Landon,Iteach private lessons to orchestra students—middle andhigh school—on the upright bass.
Ijust remembered I Are you free any evening? Or Saturday? Our orchestra teacher,Mrs. Peabody, had looked out over the vast sea of violinplayers and pleaded for someone to switch. When no one else volunteered, Iraisedmy hand.
Still petulant over my rejection oflearning piano—her instrument of choice—in favor of theviolin, she was immediately unsupportive of my newpreference. Jacqueline,Upright bass? Will that work foryou? Landon,Thank you, yes—that would be great. They dodge U-Haul rentals and deliveryfees, and Iget paid in beer. The barter system is just primitive economics at work, youknow. And are you old enough for beer? LMLandon,Far be it from me to knock an effective use of prehistoriceconomics.
LMIsmiled at his candid admission of being carless, myface falling when Icontrasted it with the sense of self-importance Kennedy got from his car.
Right before wegraduated, his parents gave his two-year-old Mustang to Ihad to stop linking every single thing thathappened to me with Kennedy. Realization dawned then,that he was still my default. Iwas still tethering him to my present, to my future. The truth was, he now belonged only to my past, and it wastime Ibegan to accept it, as much as it hurt to do so. He told me once he sort of liked that Iwasa GDIgirlfriend.
Minus myrelationship with Kennedy, Ihad no automatic invitation to Greek parties or events, though Chaz and Erin could inviteme to some stuff since Ifell under the heading ofacceptable things to bring to any party: Running into clusters of my former friends wasuncomfortable at best.
Just outside the main library, tablesof frat boys sold coffee, juice and pastries every morningfor a week to raise money for leadership training. Armedwith portable grills, Tri-Delts camped out in tents on theirlawn to showcase the plight of the homeless. My warning fellon deaf ears. Now their eyes shifted awaywhen Iwalked by, though some still smiled or waved beforepretending to be deep in conversation with someone else.
At first, Erin insisted that the snubs were in my head, butafter two weeks, she reluctantly concurred. He was one of them, after all.
He was theoutgoing, charming, future world leader. Iwas the quiet,cute but somewhat odd girlfriend… After the breakup, Ibecame just a non-Greek undergrad—to everyone but Erin. Erin had alreadyclaimed the bed nearest the window. Surrounding the giant gilded letterswere posters covered in photos of cheerleader events andhomecomings with hulking football players. You mustbe Jacqueline! There had to be some mistake. Ido like Jacqueline, though, Ihave toadmit. So classy. Good thing Ilike it, huh? Okay, Jackie,where should we hang this poster of—who is this?
Chapter 4Arriving a minute before econ began Wednesday morning,the last thing Iexpected to see was Kennedy, leaning onthe wall outside the classroom, exchanging phone numberswith a Zeta pledge. Giggling after snapping a picture ofherself, she handed his phone back. He did the same,grinning down at her. He would never smile at me like that again. Istraightened and lookedinto clear gray-blue eyes. That Her bright orange sweatpants said ZETA across the rear. Heller,the whiteboard he filled, and the notes Itook.
Dutifullycopying charts of short-run equilibrium and aggregatedemand, all of it seeming like so much nonsense, IrealizedIwould have to beg Landon Maxfield for help after all. Mypride would only cause me to slide further behind.
Minutes before the end of class, Iturned and reachedinto my backpack as an excuse to sneak a look at the guyon the back row. He was staring at me, a black pencil loosebetween his fingers, tapping the notebook in front of him. He slouched into his seat, one elbow over the back of it,one booted foot casually propped on the support under hisdesk.
As our eyes held, his expression changed subtly fromunreadable to the barest of smiles, though guarded. Isnapped forward, my face warming. Guys had shown interest in me over the past three years,but other than a couple of short-lived, certainly neverrevealed or acted-upon crushes—one on my own college-aged bass tutor, and another on my chemistry lab partner— Perhaps all three. When class ended, Ipacked my textbook into mybackpack and resisted the urge to look in his directionagain.
Ifiddled long enough for Kennedy and his fangirl toleave. As Istood to go, the persistently sleepy guy who satnext to me spoke. Imust have knocked off for a few seconds rightaround when he discussed those—my notes areindecipherable. A scattering of acne dotted his forehead. His hair was overgrown and curly—a skilled stylist couldtame it, but he was probably a fan of the eight-dollar placefeaturing flatscreens of nonstop ESPN.
Expressive hazel eyes and an engaging smile that crinkled This saves my ass—Ineed thoseextra credit points. See you Friday. Ireturned the smile as Imoved into the aisle. Iwas a littleshocked. Why had this never occurred to me before? Ifelt a stab of irrational disappointment. Maybe he was just bored. Or easily distracted.
But as Iexited the room, Ispotted him across thecrowded hallway, talking with a girl from class. Hisdemeanor was relaxed, from the navy shirt, open over aplain gray t-shirt, to the hand tucked into the front pocket ofhis jeans. His black pencil sat atop one ear, only the pink From one to two. Or for him. What are you doing after? Iwovethrough the rush of people in the packed hallway, duckingout the side exit. No way was Igoing to those tutoring sessions if Lucasattended them.
Besides, Iwasstill in a mourning period over my recently-shatteredrelationship. Not that he Iall but rolled my eyes at myown thought processes. From a purely observational perspective, he wasprobably used to girls like the blonde in the hallwaythrowing themselves at his feet. Just like my ex. Iwondered when Iwould stop feeling like such a cluelesstwit for that misplaced trust.
No offense. Thanks for decoding Dr. Jacqueline,Please, no leaping from towering structures. Do you haveany idea how much damage that would do to my tutoringreputation?? If nothing else, think of the effect on me. LMPS — How did the regional competitions go? And btw, yourex is obviously a moron.
Idownloaded the worksheets, turning over his laststatement in my mind. He was smart and funny, and after only three days, Ialready looked forward to his name in my inbox, our back-and-forth banter. All of a sudden, Iwondered what helooked like.
Or… Benji. Ineeded time to recover, even if Landonwas right. Even if Kennedy was a moron. Iclicked on the first worksheet and opened my econ text,and breathed a sigh of relief. Landon,The worksheets are definitely going to help. Ialready feelless scared of failing this class. Idid the first two - when youhave time, could you look them over?
Thank you again forwasting your time on me.
Ihad two freshmen from rival schools in competition witheach other at regionals. Both asked me, separately thankGod, who was my favorite. They were very smug with eachother when they came to get their basses from my truck,and Iprayed that neither would mention the favorite statusin front of the other. No wonder you seem so brainy.
JWJacqueline,The worksheets look great. Imarked a couple of minormistakes that could trip you up on an exam, so check those. Ah, sounds like your freshmen have crushes on you? A bass-playing college girl would have rendered Thistime, three of us were heading to the strip to hit some clubswith our fake IDs. God, Ilove this partof it—the hunt for a new guy, everything unknown, untried—the mass of hot prospects in front of you, waiting to bediscovered. The idea of finding a new guy soundedexhausting and depressing.
Neitherresponse was something Iwanted to contend with; Ijustwanted to forget. Ithought of Lucas, annoyed that his presence in econwas making that process impossible, because he wasirrevocably connected to the horror of that night. Every time Isnuck a look back at him, he appeared to be sketchingrather than taking notes, his black pencil held low betweenhis fingers, a concentrated expression on his face.
Whenclass ended, he stuck the pencil behind his ear, turned andwalked from the classroom without a backward glance, firstone out the door. Next up was a stretchy, low-cut purple top. Yanking it from the hanger, she tossed it to me. Erin knew me far too well. Erin,Maggie and Iclaimed a corner of the near-vacant floor.
The first guyto interrupt us approached Erin, but she shook her head asher lips mouthed the word boyfriend. She turned himtoward me and Ithought: Nomore relationship. No more Kennedy. Inodded, choking back the pointless, almost physical pain.
We moved to an open space a few feet from Erin andMaggie—who also had a boyfriend. Iwas their petproject for the night. Crowded around a talltable near the floor, we leaned hips on the barstoolssurrounding it, watching the surrounding hookup activity. AsMaggie returned from bopping and pirouetting her way tothe bathroom and back, Iasked if we could go yet, and Erinfixed me with a look she usually reserved for ill-manneredsteakhouse patrons.
Ismirked at her and sipped my drink. Iknew when the next guy walked up behind me, and thatErin and Maggie approved, because their eyes widenedsimultaneously, focusing over my shoulder. Fingers grazedthe back of my arm, and Itook a deep breath and exhaled itslowly before turning around. Good thing, too—because itwas Lucas who stood there, his eyes dropping to mycleavage for a split second. He crooked an eyebrow andgazed into my eyes with a faint smile, unapologetic forlooking.
Inodded, and he took my hand and made his way to thefloor, maneuvering through the crowd, which parted easilyfor him. Once we reached the worn oak floor, he turned andpulled me close, never letting go of my hand. As we foundthe rhythm of the slow-paced song, swaying together, hetook my other hand in his and moved both hands behind myback, gently holding me captive.
My breasts grazed againsthis chest and Istruggled not to gasp at the subtle contact. Dizzy from weak-but-plentiful margaritas, Iclosed my eyes and let him lead,telling myself that the difference was the alcohol in myblood, nothing more. A minute later, he released my fingersand spread his hands across my lower back, and my handsmoved to his biceps. Solid, as Iknew they would be. Tracking a path, my palms encountered equally hardshoulders.
Finally, Ihooked my fingers behind his neck andopened my eyes. His gaze was penetrating, not wavering for a moment,and my pulse hammered under his silent scrutiny.
Finally, Istretched up toward his ear, and he leaneddown to accommodate my question. From the corner of my eye, Iwatched his mouth twitch upon one side. Iblinked, one moment not understanding what his wordsimplied, and the next knowing unreservedly. Iwould feel nothing but hismouth on mine—and maybe that slim ring at the edge of hislip…The errant thought made my breath catch. When his lips touched just south of my earlobe, IthoughtImight pass out. Pulling backjust far enough to stare into my eyes, he drew my bodyagainst his, and my legs obeyed where his said to go.
Who was that hot guy? He had his straight-A grade pointaverage to maintain, and Ihad music lessons to give. A minute later, Maggie piped up from the back seat. Maggie laughed.
Imentally sorted through everything Iknew about him. Heworked at the Starbucks. Tonight had been something else altogether. And then he disappeared.
Bending, his lips next to myear, he thanked me for the dances, led me back to mytable, and vanished into the throng of people. Andhe draws stuff. What kind of stuff? Naked girls? Usually not even whole girls. Just boobs. He was just… sketching something in class Friday.
We know what that means for Jacqueline. Who knows what my type is? Maybe he was unmotivated in economics, butnothing about him seemed unintelligent. He was in remedialclasses, but let me tell you, he was gifted and talented atplenty of non-academic occupations.
Irecalled his penetrating gazeWednesday during class, and the breath in my lungs wentshallow. Oh, hell. He walked into the roomahead of me, and Iwatched his eyes flick over my recentlyassigned seat, and the vacant one next to Kennedy, whowas already seated, thank God.
Ihad about thirty secondsto reconsider the whole thing. Or who Iwas about to do. Since Erin had nothing to drink onSaturday but Diet Dr. Ipretended more of a hangover than Ihad, just to put heroff, but Erin with an idea was not readily put off. Iwanted to tug the covers over my head and plugmy ears, but it was far too late for that.
She plopped next to me. Seriously, they can smell fear. It totally putsthem off the scent. Look—guys are dogs. Women have known this since the beginning of time. Archaic, sexist, demeaning my braindeclared, filling in for aaauugh, too late. Ijust never considered those off-the-cuffremarks to be part of a creed. Ichugged half of the OJ before commenting. Itook a deep breath. Ihad three minutes until classstarted. Erin said Ineeded one minute, no more than two.
One is better. Hiseyes snapped to mine immediately, dark browsdisappearing into that messy hair falling over his forehead. His eyes were almost colorless. He was definitely startled by my appearance next to him. Good, according to Erin and Maggie.
According to Erin and Maggie, that impression was a vitalpart of the strategy. Before he obscured it, Icaught adetailed illustration of the venerated old oak tree in thecenter of campus and the ornamental wrought iron fencesurrounding it. Interested and indifferent. Too many margaritas, Iguess. Heller entered noisily near thepodium, catching his handled case in the door. Lucas and Ismiled at eachother as our fellow classmates tittered.
Keeping my attention on the lecture and defying the Like an out-of-reach itch, the sensation nettled me forfifty minutes straight, and it took herculean effort to refrainfrom turning around. Unknowingly, Benji helped by makingdistracting observations on Dr.
Instead of lingering at the end of class to see what Lucaswould do speak to me or ignore me? Emerging from the sidedoor into the crisp fall air, Isucked in a deep breath. Spanish class, lunch, Starbucks. Got him to tell me his name. Went back to my seat. Meet you after next class for morestrategizing before coffee. My physical reaction to him wasunnerving.
It was as though my insides all clenched up atthe sight of him, and when they unwound, everythingrestarted at once—my heart rate accelerating, lungspumping air, brainwaves running amok.
Tattooed designs wrapped around his wrists,contiguous symbols and script running up both arms anddisappearing into the sleeves of the gray knit shirt, whichwere shoved above his elbows. The notionof needles injecting ink under the skin and the confidenceof making permanent imprints of words and symbols wasforeign to me. Now, Iwondered how far the tattoos spread—just the sleeves of his arms? His back?
His chest? Erin tugged my arm as the line moved forward. Notthat Ican blame you. And Imean staring. That boy is undressing you with hiseyes. Can you feel it? Jackie and Kennedy? No one could be that shallow. I thought back to this morning at the end of class.
He could absolutely be that shallow. I touched a finger to her name. No open circle. No little heart. And there was the eye roll after his Hey, babe. What the hell was I even thinking? This girl was a student in the class I tutored. She was off-limits, at least for the remainder of the semester. They were both sophomores, according to the roll sheet.
Worst-case scenario, then: So I did what any normal stalker would do. I looked her up online and found a locked-down profile. But his was wide open. Kennedy Moore. In a relationship with Jackie Wallace.
No anniversary listed, but there were photos tagged of her — not just over the past year, but before that. I worked backwards, growing progressively pissed off for no good reason. The summer before college. High school graduation. Skiing over spring break. A surprise party on her eighteenth birthday. A distance shot of an orchestra with more performers than the population of my entire high school.
Thanksgiving with his family. The two of them horsing around with friends on a football field just outside a high school that reeked of moneyed suburb. Previous summer break. Junior prom. Yet another Christmas. The earliest photo of her with him was taken at a fall carnival nearly three years ago.
Three years. Like any good domesticated companion, I put my laptop aside and went to let him in. When I opened the door, he sat on the mat, licking a paw. It was late. She was also five years my junior — a kid, really. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt her.
I moved fully into the doorway. Thought you might want some. She shuffled one foot and stuck her hands in the back pockets of her shorts. No worries. No problem.
Good night, Lucas. When I left home for college three years ago, I wanted to change everything, starting with my name. My mother had given me her maiden name — Lucas — as my middle name. I supposed lots of people went by their middle names, and bonus — no legal proceeding was required to use it. My dad refused to call me Lucas, but what he chose to call me hardly mattered.
Old habits, blah, blah. From that point on, though, I was Lucas to anyone new. I wanted to make Landon disappear for good. We wore uniforms: Our favourite teachers turned a blind eye to unauthorized scarves and coloured shoelaces and ignored ditched cardigans and jackets.
The stricter instructors took up contraband items and rolled their eyes when we argued that hemp bracelets and glitter-coated headbands were expressions of individual freedom. Administration cracked down after that. We all looked the same on the surface, but during the two weeks I was out of school I had altered completely beneath the skin — where changes count. I was no longer one of them. They granted unearned passing grades on crappily written essays, extra time on incomplete lab assignments, automatic do-over offers on bombed exams.
All of them mumbled condolences, but they had no idea what to say after. No one asked for help on algebra homework or invited me over to play video games. Sex jokes cut off mid-sentence when I walked up. Everyone watched me — in class, in the hallway, during assemblies, at lunch. As though I was a wax figure of my former self — lifelike, but creepy.
No one looked me in the eye. Like maybe having a dead mother was contagious. I heard the telltale whispering, moving person to person, too late. Tugging the sleeves back down and re-buttoning the cuffs made no difference.
The words, unleashed, were an avalanche of tumbling boulders. The following day, I wore a watch with a thick band on my left wrist, even though it chafed my still-raw skin. I stacked silicone wristbands on my right, banned unconditionally by the principal the previous spring.
These became part of my daily uniform. No one made me take them off. No one mentioned them. But everybody stared, eager to catch a glimpse of what was underneath. Things I stopped doing: I started playing when I was six, shortly after attending my first Capitals game with Dad. Maybe because I loved playing so much.