Authors: Amy Spalding
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #Family, #Alternative Family, #Parents, #Siblings, #teen fiction, #tattoos, #YA Romance, #first love, #tattoo parlor, #Best Friends, #family stories
Praise for Amy Spalding
Ink Is Thicker Than Water
“Amy Spalding has a knack for capturing the messiness of family in a way that feels as familiar and comforting as a pair of perfectly worn jeans or favorite pair of flip flops. With Ink Is Thicker Than Water, Spalding depicts a blended family with compassion, humor, love, and pitch-perfect authenticity.”
Trish Doller, author of
Where the Stars Still Shine
Something Like Normal
“A hilarious yet moving story about growing up and growing apart. You’ll finish reading this book with the characters tattooed on your heart.”
—Elizabeth Eulberg, author of
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
The Reece Malcolm List
The Reece Malcolm List
is moving and funny; a terrifically satisfying read.”
—Sara Zarr, author of
How to Save a Life
More praise for Amy Spalding
“Funny and poignant, this lively book totally charmed us.”
—Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, authors of
Spoiled and Messy
“Brilliant!…Unique, honest, and quite often flat-out hysterically funny. I laughed, I cried, it was way, WAY better than Cats!””
—Miriam Shor, star of
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
(Original Cast) and
Merrily We Roll Along
(Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Celebration)
“Amy Spalding deftly explores family and identity in this charming, heart-warming and thoughtful debut.”
—Courtney Summers, author of
Cracked up to Be and Some Girls Are
“Heartbreaking in the best way, this book is excellent YA contemporary.”
—Miranda Kenneally, author of
“This book has so much warmth and charm that you’ll find yourself wanting a second helping.”
—CK Kelly Martin, author of
I Know It’s Over
The Lighter Side of Life and Death
Other books by Amy Spalding
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Amy Spalding. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at
Edited by Stacy Abrams and Alycia Tornetta
Cover photograph and design by Jessie Weinberg
Cover tattoo design by Mike Erwin
Print ISBN 978-1-62266-040-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62266-041-4
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition December 2013
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
American Express, Macy’s, Post-It,
Crime and Punishment
, Facebook, Abercrombie and Fitch, Cottonelle, Superman, Spider-Man, Mokabe’s, Jetta,
The Fellowship of the Ring
, Starbucks, Tivoli,
, Racanelli’s, Cadillac,
America’s Next Top Model, The Riverfront Times
, PlayStation, HBO, Dumpster, GapKids, Candyland, Grammy, iPod, Audi, Cover Girl, TiVo, Barnes & Noble, “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” Old Navy, Coach, Kleenex, Muppet, Etch-a-Sketch, Fitz’s, Apop Records, Pop-Tart, Pin-Up Bowl, Blueberry Hill, Batgirl, Xbox,
Game of Thrones
, iPad Mini, King & I, Euclid Records, Converse, City Diner, “Baba O’Reilly,” Gap, Cliff’s Notes, Wikipedia, J.Crew, Weber’s, Dr. Jazz,
, Bravo, iPhone, Saran wrap, Vaseline, Diet Coke, “Bus Stop”
To my friend Meghan Deans
Where are you? I need you. (If you have time.)
I shove my phone into my pocket instead of responding to the very unlike-my-sister text Sara has just sent. My best friend is in emergency mode, and I am best-friending.
“But if what Chelsea heard was
, why would he be talking to
?” Kaitlyn stares at herself in the bathroom mirror and then spins away from her reflection. “We’re not even supposed to
, and if he’s just going to talk to
“No one cares that we’re here,” I say, even though I have no proof of that fact. I’m not letting Kaitlyn panic. “It’s a party. People go to parties. We can be people who go to parties now. Or at least bathrooms of parties.”
“Ha, ha.” She gets her phone out of her purse and checks it. For what, I don’t know, but whatever she’s hoping for isn’t there. “Seriously, Kellie, what am I supposed to do now?”
Here’s the thing: I don’t really know. But I will be The Friend with The Plan. “Probably we should get out of the bathroom. And you should just go walk in his sightline.”
“‘Walk in his sightline’?”
“Kaitlyn,” I say like this is all so obvious and I’m not just making things up as I go. “He supposedly told a bunch of people you were hot. Go be hot in front of him. He’ll stop talking to Brandy about whatever popular people bond over. He will make out with you.”
Kaitlyn peers even more intensely into the mirror. “You promise?”
If I’m honest, I’ll admit that lately I don’t exactly love gazing into mirrors where both Kaitlyn and I are reflected back. It’s been years since our bodies had first gotten the memo about grown-up things like boobs and hips, but now that we’re well into being sixteen, things seemed to have settled, and I guess we’re just going to look like this.
That memo circulating in Kaitlyn’s hormones must have used lots of references to the magazines she reads (and I don’t because Mom thinks they set bad examples and expectations for teenage girls). Kaitlyn emerged from puberty with a tiny waist and the perfect bra size: not flat-chested but not so developed people make up unfounded rumors about her experience level. Meanwhile, my hormones had taken that memo very literally. Boobs, check, hips, check, two of each and all in the right places.
A renaissance painting for Kaitlyn. Artless puberty for me.
Not that I’m Ugly McUggerstein or anything. Up until very recently, it balanced out, because Kaitlyn always had very normal brown hair that just sort of hung there, the way normal hair does. I’m pretty sure my hair’s texture had up until my birth only been seen on lions’ manes and expensive stuffed animals, but at least Mom dyes it for me. Currently, it’s flamey red and combed through with enough vanilla-scented styling product to behave. From enough of a distance, I absolutely look like I have beautiful, flowing, naturally vanilla-scented red hair.
Lately, though, Kaitlyn has been taking the Amex her parents gave her to make up for getting divorced or whatever to a fancy salon where she emerges with sleek caramel-colored hair that rests above her shoulders with a thoughtful little flip. The first time I saw the new style I told her it looked like angels had patted the ends into place with a flap of their wings. Yeah, that was a joke, but it really did look that flawless. No one prepares you for waking up to realize your best friend who grew up with you step by step and side by side is suddenly, okay, hot.
Also, I should clarify that I hate that I hate this. I am not the kind of person who’s ever cared about being the hottest or coolest or most congenial or whatever girls are supposed to get hung up over. So having up my hackles because Kaitlyn now ranks above me in these categories isn’t exactly a shining achievement for me.
“I promise,” I say, even though I know it’s dangerous making promises about another person’s actions. This one’s as safe a bet as you can get, though. Of course Garrett will want to make out with Kaitlyn! I start to open the bathroom door, but my phone buzzes again in my pocket.
It’s another text from Sara:
K? Are you there?
“Go!” I ignore the text, put my hands on Kaitlyn’s shoulders, and steer her toward the door. “Conquer!”
“Hang on.” She pulls the strap of her (black, lacy) bra out from her shirt (also black, lacy). “You saw this, right? It’s okay? Like, if we get that far?”
“Trust me. Boys will be happy to just see your underwear. I wear frigging boy shorts, and I’ve had no complaints.” I say it so easily by now that it’s basically no longer a lie. “Seriously, go do this.”
Kaitlyn gives me a hug before flinging open the door of the bathroom. I follow her out, but since I’m only at this party for moral support, I now have nothing to do. I find an open spot on the couch in the living room of whoever’s house this is and get my phone back out.
r u ok??
I finally text Sara.
kinda stuck at this party right now.
I don’t add that Sara’s never not okay because it’s probably not nice to make people justify their not-being-okay-ness.
Sara texts back fast:
Sorry about that. I sounded so dramatic! I’m fine.
This is a Cool Person party, and Kaitlyn and I are definitively not Cool People. I figured I’d be exerting a lot of energy trying to just blend in, but it doesn’t actually look any different than any other party I’ve been to. No one’s circling up to take a gulp from the golden chalice of popularity.
“Hey!” Jessie Weinberg, a girl I kind of know from my Literature of an Emerging America class, sits down next to me as I’m texting Sara to make sure she’s actually fine. Ticknor Day School isn’t big enough not to know everyone—if not by name, at least by face. “I just wanted to tell you that I read your piece and it was
“My English paper on Mark Twain?” It does not seem possible for a short biographical assignment to be
“Oh, no, your thing for the
. I know it’s not public yet, but Jennifer couldn’t shut up about how funny it was.”
“Thanks,” I say even though I hadn’t been trying to be funny. When I saw the flyers for our school newspaper’s op/ed column, it just felt
. I’ve been just fine not caring too much about anything for a long time, but that’s starting to feel like it’s a size too small for me now. I worked as hard as I could on my submission. But I guess if it’s funny, whatever works! “Wait, does that mean I’m going to be the new op/ed writer?”
Jessie makes a face like she’s thinking,
“I probably shouldn’t talk about it.”
I make the
face, too. This makes her laugh, so I guess whatever’s up with the paper isn’t too big of a deal. And it’s so weird I care. I was convinced not caring too much about stuff kept you sane, but lately this tiny voice in my head says it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
…Not a literal voice, of course. I’m trying out for an extracurricular, not developing a second personality.
“Kellie.” Kaitlyn runs into the room and yanks me to my feet. “We have to go.”
“Hey, Kaitlyn,” Jessie says.
“Hi, Jessie,” Kaitlyn says, then, “Bye, Jessie,” and I’m pulled out of the room and then the front door. “Let’s go. Tonight’s the worst. Tonight is a
“Okay.” I don’t ask anything, just get her to my car as she starts crying. We sit there for a while in the darkness, and when my phone buzzes again, I leave it and wait.
“He didn’t even say hi to me,” Kaitlyn says finally. “And then he started making out with Brandy. Like I wasn’t even there or didn’t even
“He’s an idiot, then,” I say. “Brandy’s pretty, but you’re…
. And that whole crowd is made up of idiots. You could do way better.”
Now that the silence is broken, I take the opportunity to check my phone.
Yes, I’m sure I’m fine. We’re at South City Diner if you want to meet us after your party.
“Want to meet up with Sara and her friends?” I ask even though I already know the answer and am already turning on the car.
“Help me fix my makeup,” she says.
“Your makeup’s unfixable! Just go with the badass smeary-eyed look. It works on you.”
Kaitlyn laughs and flicks me in the head—
—and hopefully that means stupid Garrett Miller is forgotten for now. And also hopefully the crowd Sara’s with at the diner includes her boyfriend and his friends, and Kaitlyn can find a new distraction to get her through the evening.
I drive east on Highway 44 all the way to South Grand, where it feels like I spend as much time as I do in Webster Groves, the suburb of St. Louis where we live. Parking can be crowded, especially on weekends, but I’m so used to the side streets that I zip around and slide into a spot on Hartford almost immediately. When we walk in, the diner’s so packed I can’t even spot Sara, but Kaitlyn does and pulls me over to the table crowded with, yes, Sara, Sara’s boyfriend Dexter, and a bunch of other guys.
“Good evening, ladies,” Dexter says, affecting an old-timey accent. “How is this beautiful Saturday treating you and yours?”
Sara and I tell each other almost everything, but we don’t really talk about guys—who knows why—and so that was only one of the reasons I was surprised when she started going out with Dexter. Wasn’t my perfect pre-prelaw sister way too serious for stuff like boys and dating when she was studying her butt off and worrying about college applications? And if I
been forced into describing the kind of guy Sara would end up with, I would not have said
redheaded hipster hottie
. But then all of a sudden, Dexter was a thing.
Dexter is a senior at the all-boys school Chaminade, where he wears his uniform tie slightly askew and heads up both the Young Democrats Club and the Poetry in Action Club, the latter of which he’d also founded. (No one really seems to know what Poetry in Action actually
. Poetry seems like a pretty passive activity. Sometimes Dexter recites Yeats really loud and in public. Is that it?)
Anyway, I guess it works because they
serious, about each other and about the stuff in their lives. They study together and talk nonstop about college and go to lectures and museums and foreign films. Even when Dexter’s doing goofy accents or shouting poetry at the stars, Sara looks at him like it all makes sense to her. The lesson I take from this is that love is finding someone who thinks everything about you that’s weird is actually hot.
“Make room for Kellie and Kaitlyn,” Sara says, and the guy on her other side jumps at her command by shoving in two chairs for us. Kaitlyn’s immediately eyeing the other prospects, but I stare Sara down until she notices.
“What’s up with you?” she asks like she didn’t send me two emergency-ish texts less than an hour ago.
“You’re sure you’re okay?”
“Don’t I look okay?” she asks with a smile. And
she does, because Sara is basically two steps shy of a supermodel. Tall and blond and the kind of cheekbones that people comment on. Four separate times people have asked Sara if they saw her in a Macy’s ad. (No, but that seems like a pretty good compliment.)
“We can talk later if you want,” I say even though that’s the kind of thing she says to me and never vice versa. Sara’s only a year older than me, but she’s got it
“Sure.” She turns her attention back to Dexter, who’s in the midst of some elaborate story about a fight he witnessed between two stray cats. Kaitlyn’s talking with the guy on her other side, so I finally glance all the way around our table.
Across from me, sitting just a few people down—like it’s
Oliver! Dexter’s brother. Who knows a lot about me. Who knows things I don’t want anyone else knowing. Who I hoped would have found a way to text me even though I’d never given him my number and even though the thought made me a little terrified.
He raises his eyebrows at me and grins. And I don’t know what I’m doing any more than I did back in May when everything happened—or, well, didn’t happen. But I can’t help it. I grin back.