Authors: Carolyn Mackler
Tags: #David_James, #Mobilism.org
It all started with the puck.
In March of my senior year, I went to a Brockport High School hockey game. I’m not a big sports girl, but I’d been hooking up with Amos Harrington since the past weekend and he played center and kept saying I should come cheer on the team.
I also went to the game because I didn’t have work or rehearsal that afternoon. And my grandparents’ annoying friends were visiting for the weekend, so I was steering clear of the house as much as possible. But most of all, Amos was my only current prospect. And more than anything, I hated being without a prospect.
Amos and I had fooled around three times in the past week. Once at a party, once at his house, and once in the auditorium after school. I’d never had a guy last longer than two weeks, and most of them didn’t make it beyond a night. So with Amos’s expiration date rapidly approaching, I needed to milk this for all it was worth or get out and scout new prospects.
I got to the rink late because my grandparents’ friends cornered me in the kitchen. I had my headphones on, so I was hoping they’d get the hint. But Chuck hugged me, and Gwen, whose eyebrows were plucked into a permanent state of shock, gestured at my jeans and sleeveless red top and said, “You’re leaving the house in
I considered pretending I couldn’t hear her, but my grandparents were hovering nearby, so I switched off my music. “It’s not that cold out,” I said. “Anyway, I’ll be indoors the whole time.”
“Won’t you be at the ice rink?” my grandpa asked. “V, you just got over a sore throat, and you really should —”
I said, gritting my teeth. “I’ll take a sweater.”
By the time I arrived at the game, the bleachers were jammed. I stood at the top, scanning the stands. Finally, I recognized some kids from
the play in which I’d just been cast as a lead. They were sitting down in the front row. I stripped off my sweater, stuffed it in my bag, and squeezed through the crowd until I reached Chastity and Trinity Morgenstern. They were identical twins and the biggest partiers I’d ever met, which was ironic given their names and those delicate crosses around their necks. The only way I could tell them apart was that Chastity’s necklace was silver and Trinity’s was gold. Also, at parties Chastity tended to make out in public places while Trinity consumed massive amounts of alcohol and then conked out for the remainder of the night.
“Hey, V!” Trinity said. “I love your shirt.”
“Where’d you get those boobs?” Chastity asked.
“Victoria’s Secret,” I said. “My latest addiction.”
“Among others,” Trinity said, laughing.
“You’re one to talk,” I murmured.
As Chastity cracked up, I scanned the ice for Amos or, more notably, his butt. But before I compose a novel about the hotness of Amos’s hindquarters, I have to interject a quick word about my boobs. I’m the first to admit that I’m not endowed in the mammary department and had recently begun siphoning my Pizza Hut paychecks into expensive padded bras. But guys love cleavage and, well, I love guys.
The hockey game charged forward. I was partially chatting with the twins, partially watching Amos, and mostly exchanging glances with a guy to my left and a few rows up. As I was maneuvering down the bleachers, I saw him check me out. He was wearing a canary-yellow jacket with a ski-lift tag hanging off the zipper. He had a coating of stubble and he looked older, like he went to college.
I shook out my hair and looked back at Ski Lift Boy. He was saying something to his buddy, and then he glanced at me with that lusty gaze that guys save for video games, red meat, and cute girls.
I’m not saying I’m this gorgeous prom queen, but my skin is clear and my nose is okay and my honey-colored hair is long and everyone tells me I have a good body, though it doesn’t help that I’m taller than most human beings, at least the ones in high school. I think the biggest thing going for me, though, is that if there’s an attractive guy in my radius, I can work it hard and generally get him interested.
Ski Lift Boy raised his eyebrows as if to say,
Do I know you?
I smiled back, already envisioning how we could meet near the concession stand and exchange numbers and I’d go to his dorm tonight and he’d have a single room so we could —
I whipped my head around in time to see the hockey puck hurtling toward me, but not in time enough to dodge it.
I heard the impact as it splintered my forehead. I felt intense pain. I sat still for a second, totally stunned, before wilting backward.
Someone shrieked, “Oh, my God! She’s been hit!”
Someone else screamed, “Call 911!”
Someone else shouted, “Does anyone get cell-phone reception in here?”
My head landed in a lap. My eyes were closed, and there was blood leaking onto my hair. And the pain.
Oh, my God.
The person with the lap pressed a sweatshirt against my forehead.
“I’m sure it looks worse than it is,” he said.
I wondered how bad it looked.
“Is she dead?” I heard someone ask.
“The ambulance is here!” someone else announced.
“Should they bring in the stretcher, or can she walk out?”
I recognized the voice. It was that genius who’d just wondered whether I was dead.
“Real genius,” the guy with the lap muttered.
If I weren’t dealing with a major head injury, I would have cracked up. But it’s hard to laugh when you’re drenched with blood and possibly dead.
The guy with the lap kept pressing the sweatshirt to my head.
I remember smelling basil and garlic.
I remember thinking it smelled good.
I got eighteen stitches in my forehead. My grandparents made me wait in the emergency room until they located the best plastic surgeon west of Rochester. As my grandma called around, my grandpa held a leaky bag of ice on my head.
Once I was stitched together and scanned for internal bleeding, we drove home. I had a massive headache and an even more massive bandage on my forehead. That night my grandpa came into my room every hour and made me tell him how it was March sixth and my name is Vivienne Vail Valentine but everyone calls me V. By the fifth visit, I was so fed up I considered telling him I was Marie Antoinette, but I didn’t feel like being rushed back to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Then again, I wouldn’t have minded another ambulance ride with that hot paramedic who kept calling me Princess.
I stayed home from school on Monday. That afternoon Amos stopped by. Any other day I would have led him directly upstairs, but my throbbing forehead wasn’t getting me in the mood. Not to mention I was wearing dingy sweats and couldn’t take a shower until the stitches came out. I’d attempted to scrub the blood out of my hair, but I still felt completely gross.
“How’re you feeling?” Amos asked as we sat on the couch.
“I guess I’ll be okay.”
“Are you going to have a scar?”
“The plastic surgeon said I’ll have a thin line down my forehead. Nothing huge. She thinks it’ll fade over time.”
“When can you come back to school?”
“Probably by Wednesday.”
Neither of us said anything. I was getting the sense that when Amos and I weren’t groping each other, we didn’t have much in common. As Amos listed the injuries he’d sustained from a decade of ice hockey, my forehead hurt worse and worse until finally I told him I’d better go lie down.
Amos stood up to leave.
“Oh, hey,” he said, hoisting his athletic bag onto his shoulder. “I brought you something.”
He reached into the side pocket of his bag and handed me a hockey puck.
“Are you serious?” I turned it over in my hands. “Is this it?”
“Some kids tossed it onto the ice after you left in the ambulance. I grabbed it for you.”
“Uh . . . thanks?”
A few hours later, the doorbell rang. I was stretched on my bed, waiting for a phone call from my mom, Aimee. She was living in San Antonio, Texas, managing a restaurant and shacking up with this guy she called the Cowboy. My grandpa had left her a message the night before and told her about the accident. She’d e-mailed me in the morning and said she’d try me at five, New York time. It was currently six twenty, but I still hadn’t heard from her.
The doorbell rang again.
That’s when I remembered that my grandparents, after making me promise I’d take it easy, had gone out to dinner with their friends.
I twisted my hair into a ponytail and headed downstairs.
Sam was at the front door.
No one uses the front door in our house, but he didn’t know that yet. And I didn’t know his name was Sam yet.
When I opened the door and saw this tall guy with blond hair that flopped over puppy-brown eyes, I said, “Thanks, but I didn’t order pizza. Hold on. You don’t have a pizza. Are you doing a fundraiser?”
He stared at the doorbell as if he were surprised he’d actually pushed it and it had actually rung and I’d actually appeared.
“Are you selling those coupon booklets?” I asked.
He was squinting, even though the sun had long since abandoned western New York.
“Don’t tell me you’re a Jehovah’s Witness,” I said.
He scuffed his sneakers against the bricks.
“Or maybe you’re registering voters? I don’t turn eighteen until September, so you’ll have to check back then. Except I might be away at college, but I doubt I’ll get in anywhere, so we can meet here in the fall if you want.”
He continued studying the doorbell. I knew I was coming on strong, but I have a serious thing for puppy eyes. Plus, this guy was taller than me and built without being steroidal, lanky without being a beanpole.
“Final guess,” I said, glancing at the checkered gift bag in his hand. “You’ve come to ask me out.”
I detected a hint of a grin. Great lips, by the way.
“That’s it, isn’t it?” I asked. “You have a thing for girls with greasy hair and bandages taped across their foreheads.”
Now I got a full smile. Dimples, too.
“Do you have a name?” I asked.
“Sam,” he said. “Sam Almond.”
Did he have the world’s best name or
“I’m V,” I said.