Authors: Alex Flinn
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fairy Tales & Folklore, #General, #Fantasy & Magic, #Social Issues, #Adolescence
June 13—A Year Later
December 26, Later
December 26, Even Later
December 31 (Later)
January 1 (still )
January 1, Later
January 1, Even Later
January 1, Much Later
About the Author
About the Publisher
Having a crush on the hottest, richest, most popular guy in school = not too much of a cliché, right?
Well, um, yes. Yes, it is. Have I, Linda Owens, the same Lindy who reads Gabriel Garcia-Márquez and
Ayn Rand (even when they’re not required for school) and who skipped lunch every day in third grade in
order to donate a flock of chickens to a family in Guatemala, become as shallow as Sloane Hagen and her
posse, liking a guy just based on looks?
Well . . .
Not just looks . . .
The fact is, I like to think there’s something more to Kyle Kingsbury. The money is irrelevant. I like him despite his money and his looks. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Maybe I’m fooling myself.
Our school, Tuttle, is the kind of school where you find kids whose parents are Broadway producers,
minor rock stars, second-generation Kardashians, people whose grandfather invented Pop-Tarts. But Kyle
still gets more than his fair share of attention not only because his father is a network news anchor, but because of Kyle’s own is a network news anchor, but because of Kyle’s own gorgeousity. People get
used to it after a while—or they pretend to. But at the beginning of the year, when the new middle
schoolers start, it must be hard for him.
Once, in September, I saw this in action. He was trying to leave after school when these two girls
“Hey,” one said, “Is your dad Rob Kingsbury?” Kyle nodded and said yes, he was.
“We watch him on the news all the time,” she said (giggling).
I was thinking what did she want, a medal, but Kyle was super-polite and thanked her for watching.
“What’s he like?” the girl asked.
Before Kyle could get out his answer that Rob Kingsbury was just like everyone else, the other girl
started asking all these questions. Did his dad help him with his current events homework? Did he get to
go on trips with him?
Was his dad part of the Liberal News Media her father said was ruining this country? Did they have
anyone special to trim their nose hair? And Kyle, who’s usually super-confident, like handsome, popular
people are, was looking really uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that I violated my personal policy of not
speaking to the cool, rich people (which is pretty much everyone at this school) and walked up to him.
“Hey, Kyle,” I said, “did you forget?” He gaped at me. “Forget what?”
“You did forget! Chemistry tutoring? My place? 3:00?” I looked at my watch. “It’s almost that now. Come
on!” I didn’t want to touch him. I mean, I did, but I didn’t want him to think I was a stalker, so I just gestured to him to follow me.
“Okay, okay.” He turned to the two girls. “Sorry, gotta go.” And then, he actually took my arm and walked to the door with me, the two girls still following us with their eyes.
When we reached the street, he turned to me.
“Sorry I forgot our chem tutoring session and, um . . . your name?”
He stared at me, and his eyes were the same color as the Mediterranean Sea in pictures of Greece (eyes
are the windows to the soul, you know), and for a second, I didn’t quite understand what he’d said, so I
“Your name. If you’re tutoring me in chemistry, I should know it.”
“Oh . . . wh . . .” Those eyes! “Linda. Lindy.” Of course he didn’t know my name. Why would he? I
wouldn’t be on his radar. He only looked at hot girls.
“Pretty,” he said. When I looked at him, surprised, he said, “In Spanish, linda means ‘pretty.’ My dad
wanted me to take Mandarin to make me more marketable, but I took Spanish because it’s easier.”
He was still holding my arm, still talking too. Good thing, because after the big gesture of rescuing him, I had nothing. I choked out, “Any language is valuable.” I take French, the language of romance. Was he
saying I was pretty? Pretty doubtful.
“Funny how I forgot that chem tutoring session,” he said.
“Especially funny how I forgot to take chemistry. That’s a tenth-grade class.”
“I know.” I take chem, even though I’m only in ninth. But that’s because I’m a total drone. People who
look like Kyle Kingsbury don’t have to study, and people with his money don’t have to worry about
getting a scholarship. I added, “You seemed like you needed rescuing. Sorry if I was wrong.”
I raised my hand in what was supposed to be a friendly good-bye wave. Obviously, my work was done
here. But because he was still holding my arm, we ended up sort of moving closer together.
“You weren’t wrong,” he said. “Does it make me a spoiled brat if I say I hate all the questions about my
dad, all the idol worship? I mean, I’d say he puts his pants on one leg at a time, but he usually has some young girlfriend to do it for him . . . joke.” I shook my head, no, it didn’t make him a spoiled brat. I was going to say something then, like what’s the big deal. His dad read the news—he didn’t make it. He
probably didn’t even write it. But that was insulting, so what I said was, “It must be rough.” When, in fact, I didn’t think it was all that rough. What’s rough is being a scholarship student at a school like Tuttle Prep. I came here because I thought there’d be more people like me, aka studious nerds, people who
would relate to me. In fact, no one does. Being poor seems to be an insurmountable barrier around here.
It’s not like people totally shun me. It’s more subtle than that.
They’ll sit with me at lunch or study with me, but I have no close friends . . . well, other than teachers.
He nodded. “Rough-ish, I guess. The thing is, I barely know my father.”
He looked at me like he was expecting some big reaction. When I had none, he said, “Does that surprise
I shook my head. “I bet a lot of people could say that about their parents.”
“Could you?” he asked.
When I nodded, he said, “So your dad’s some captain of industry, leaving you to be raised by the nanny?”
I said, “Not exactly. There are all sorts of reasons people don’t really know their parents, or their dad, in my case.
My mother died when I was little.”
He nodded, like he understood, and started to say something. “So, Lindy-means-pretty, why do—” But I
never got to hear the end of the sentence because that was when Sloane Hagen, Kyle’s Pole-Dancer-
Barbie of a girlfriend, showed up and he had to leave.
But he winked at me and said, “See you around,” and for months after, when he saw me in the hall, he
would smile or at least nod, and I sort of convinced myself that we had some kind of connection. Or, at
least, that he knew who I was—even though the reason Kyle doesn’t know his dad is because his dad is a
$10-million-a-year news anchor.
And the reason I don’t know mine is because he’s a drug addict.
Even so, I try to engineer ways to see Kyle, to wave to him, like getting off at the 79th Street station, near where Kyle lives, instead of going all the way to the Lincoln Center station near the school, so I can grab coffee and watch him walk by before I, too, walk on to Tuttle, about fifty feet behind him.
Or maybe I just do it because I need the exercise. Ha!
The main flaw in my whole Kyle-and-Lindy-take-the-Long-Island-Railroad-into-the-sunset scenario is
I’m willing to consider the remote possibility that Kyle Kingsbury is unexpectedly deep. Sloane—not so
Describing her as a Barbie doll is actually sort of insulting to Barbie. Barbie, however plastic, has had many brilliant careers as veterinarian, Olympic athlete, and even paleontologist. And she’s traveled the
world. If Sloane travels, it’s only to shop.
Still, she’s the prettiest girl in school, and Kyle’s the hottest guy, so there’s some kind of law they have to be together.
And he’s taking her to the ninth-grade dance.
I know this because I passed her at school yesterday.
She was staying late for cheer practice (surprise, surprise). Me, I tutor after school. I heard her describe her dress on the phone to him (“It’s black and has very little material”) and demand an orchid corsage in exchange for whatever currency girls like Sloane use to get guys like Kyle. It’s amazing that, for some
people, this is their life. Sloane Hagen’s biggest problem is whether her hot boyfriend buys her the right kind of corsage. I sort of wish he’d screw up and buy the wrong one. Which is better than a lot of things I could wish.
At least, I’ll be at the dance too. I’m taking tickets as part of my work-study.
Tonight, when I got home, there was a man on our doorstep, lurking. I knew he was looking for my dad.
I’d seen him before, hunched over, with knifelike features, the wolf in his eyes. My dad’s pusher. If he
was waiting to make a delivery, it was bad. If he wanted to be paid, that was worse.
I used to feel like confronting those guys, asking them how they could do this, how they could sell drugs to a pathetic middle-aged man who’d lost everything and couldn’t deal with the world. My sisters told me
These guys didn’t see Dad as human. They weren’t human themselves. Now, my sisters are long gone, but
I know they were right.
So I walked around the block.
When I came back, the man was gone. I knew that meant Dad was inside.
Someday, something really bad is going to happen. I don’t know whether to hope I’m around for it or hope
My father had his back to me when I came in. We didn’t acknowledge each other. I couldn’t look at him.
So I started picking stuff up off the counter.
He said, “Do you have to do that? It’s really loud.” That was all he could say to me?
No, no, actually, it wasn’t. He followed up with, “We got any food?”
I was holding a loaf of day-old bread from the grocery store where I work part-time. For a second, I
really wanted to chuck it at his head, but I said, “There’s bread.” I set it down on the table on the other side of the room, figured I’d make him walk to get it at least. But he said,
“Make me a sandwich. Will you, sweetie?” And I gave in like I always do. “We only have peanut butter,”
I told him.
He grumbled a little but finally said, “Sure.” I restrained myself from saying that he could go out and work and earn money for something better than peanut butter. It didn’t help. I made the sandwich and thrust it into his shaking hand. I didn’t even wince at the network of railroad tracks on his arm.
I went to the library to do my homework, wondering why I’d even bothered to come home.
When I got back, the sandwich was untouched. I took it down to the Dumpster before the roaches (or rats)
Sometimes, you wonder when your handsome prince is going to show up and rescue you.
I know that’s not a popular sentiment, or a PC one. A modern woman is supposed to take care of herself.
But I’ve been taking care of myself since my mom died, when I was seven. That’s when Dad went off the
deep end. My sisters helped when they were there, but after a while, they bailed. I don’t really blame
them. For the past two years, if I wanted to eat, I found food. If I wanted a roof over my head, I made sure the rent was paid. I worked. I tutored. I begged the landlord for more time. If I wanted to go to school, I got myself there. No one does anything for me.
So I know when I meet the right guy, it’s not going to be someone like my dad. It’s not going to be