Authors: Elana Johnson
Tags: #young adult contemporary romance, #young adult, #Contemporary, #poetry, #Romance, #young adult contemporary, #novel-in-verse, #young adult romance, #contemporary romance
“I AM IN LOVE WITH YOU,”
Are words I do not understand.
How can a person be
With someone who doesn’t love them back?
Is there a magical space
Where people meet?
“I am at Wal-mart with you.”
Now if Harris Jacobsen would’ve said,
“I love being at Wal-mart with you,”
I would’ve understood.
But he hadn’t.
“I am in love with you.”
I shake my head,
Try to make the words align,
All while wondering where this
Cloud-floaty place called love is, and
If I will ever wake up, and
Find myself there.
A boy says,
Pulls me from my memory
Of Harris’s confusing statement.
Harris had said it at lunch,
After leading me to his car
Like he usually did.
This time, instead of
Ham and cheese,
Capri-sun and laughter,
He’d kissed me (not new)
And said, “Livvy, I am in love with you.”
I shake the words away,
Focus on the boy in front of me now.
“Don’t call me Wings,” I say to Trevor Youngblood.
He wears his hair too long—
Longer than mine,
But that’s not hard.
Ninety-seven percent of Copper Hills High
Has hair longer than mine.
I move to step past Trevor,
The old flame in my stomach
As if he’d cupped his hand around it and blew.
“Come on, Olivia,” he says,
His voice low,
His fingers closing on my forearm.
His touch burns,
The way I thought it would
When I was in ninth grade.
I am not in ninth grade now, and
Trevor has muscled into a man
More so than he was as a freshman,
When I first felt the fires of lust.
“What do you want?” I ask,
Staring at his hand on my arm.
He releases me at the same time
No longer his prisoners.
“You infuriate me, Olivia Winging,” he says,
Rifling one hand through his bag.
He wears his over his shoulder,
A look I’ve always found feminine—
Unless you’re Trevor Youngblood.
“Because I’m not swooning at your mere presence?”
If only he could x-ray my stomach.
Then he’d see
I’ve simply learned to school my feelings,
Stuff them tight,
Ribbon them like Christmas presents
That I won’t give away.
“That’s only part of the reason.”
His mouth kicks up, and
I hate that I’ll lay awake tonight re-envisioning it.
“But really, it’s because of this.”
He thrusts a newspaper at me
Forcefully enough that I have no choice
But to take it.
I feel the other seniors watch us
As they jostle by,
Text their significant others,
Head for their cars.
The last bell rang four minutes ago,
Signaling freedom for the day.
The paper feels dirty,
In my hand.
I smooth it against his chest,
Notice his muscles,
The amused set of his lips,
The teasing sparkle in his eye.
I find myself looking at
“Crap,” I whisper.
“THAT’S YOUR EXPLANATION?”
Trevor cocks his hip out,
His left eyebrow up.
“Does your mother know you talk like that?”
“Shut up,” I say,
My only comeback.
Trevor knows my mother, and
Though he’s not interested,
She likes attractive males of all ages.
Except, apparently, nearly-fifty-year-olds,
As she left Dad last year
In search of a better house,
A better car,
A better husband,
A better life.
I visit her on weekends.
Which is why,
“I’m not entering.”
I shove the paper back at Trevor,
Succeed in maneuvering around him to my locker.
The paper protests as he fists it.
I silently protest as he follows me.
“You have to go, Win—Liv.
You’re the only one good enough to win.”
So Copper Hills will only have ninety-four trophies
Instead of ninety-five?”
I spin my locker open,
Drown out his exasperated sighs
And muttered complaints
By dropping my books
Against the metal.
Finished, I lean my forehead against my closed locker.
I draw a deep breath, and
Clear my head.
Going home requires such things.
Find Trevor standing there, watching.
“Leave me alone,” I say.
“You’re really not going to enter.”
Trevor shakes his head,
Sends that shaggy hair swinging.
His eyes harbor anger now,
His shoulders tension.
“You are something…unbelievable.”
“You enter,” I snap. “If you’re so worried about the trophy count.”
I stride away from him before
I abandon all reason.
“That’s not it at all.”
He matches my gait,
That newspaper crackling with every movement.
It sends annoyance through my bloodstream.
“You’re good, Liv.”
Trevor’s voice has a whine in it.
“No one can capture the soul through a lens like you can.”
He shakes the paper as if strangling it.
I stop suddenly in the abandoned hall,
Shove him away from me
Into the lockers.
I get real close to his face,
Only a finger’s width between us.
“Listen,” I start, before I notice
Green-gray like murky water,
Make me want to see what treasures,
Are hidden underneath.
For a pinch of a moment,
A mere wisp of time,
They reveal what he doesn’t
Want me to see.
But I’m trained
To see what’s hidden in those pinches,
To release the shutter on my camera
To capture those secrets
I have no camera, but I see
Into the depths of his dangerous waters.
I find heat.
Trevor has his own fire burning.
How have I never seen it before?
“HERE’S THE DEAL,”
Step back real fast.
I have a boyfriend I have a boyfriend
Runs through my mind.
“Deal?” Trevor straightens his shirt,
Like he has a lot secrets he
Doesn’t want anyone to know.
But I know at least one of them.
I saw it.
“You let me photograph you for the contest.
My whole exhibit gets to be you,
The ever popular,
Most lusted after boy
At Copper Hills High.”
I’ve been dying to shoot him for years,
Find out what really lives,
Behind those eyes.
“Are you saying you think I’m hot?”
Trevor pushes the newspaper into his man-purse.
thinks you’re hot,” I respond.
“And every photo will be of
He hears what I’m saying.
“As long as you enter the contest,” he says,
Making my stomach clench.
I really thought he’d say no, and
My pride won’t let me back out now.
“Great,” I say in my sweetest voice as I
Hover close to him again.
“Can’t wait to see what your soul says to my lens.”
“I THINK YOU’RE HOT TOO,”
Circles in my head
In time to the beat of the song on the radio.
Trevor’s last words to me before he left me
Standing in the hallway.
“Stupid Trevor Youngblood,” I mutter.
He couldn’t even let me have the last word.
He never could.
My cell phone blares:
He says when I answer.
I find I don’t have anything else to say.
I know he was disappointed about
What happened at lunch.
I’d have been disappointed if my boyfriend
Ran from the car
Like it was on fire
After I told him,
“I am in love with you.”
“Listen—” he begins.
“I just don’t get it,” I blurt out.
“Okay? I mean, what does that even mean, you know?
How can people be ‘in love’?
It’s not a place, like where you get bacon sandwiches
“Do you want a bacon sandwich, Liv?
Because I’ll get you one.”
Because Harris said that just to elicit such a response.
I guess that
exactly what to say to get me to laugh.
“I knew you’d freak out,” he says.
“I just wanted to say it when I was feeling it.”
“Feeling what? Like we’re in love together?
Or that you were just fond of me in that moment
Because I told you how funny you are, and
That I like being with you, and
That your car smells nice?”
“Come on,” he says,
“You know this is more than me having a clean vehicle.”
“But is it?” I ask, not trying to be difficult
But trying to figure out what it means to
Be in love with someone.
“I love my cat,” I say,
I love watching the rain when I’m inside,
And I love the thought of traveling the world one day.
But I’m not
with those things.”
I shake my head,
Turn left onto Washington Boulevard.
“I just don’t get it.
Why don’t we just say,
‘I love you, Harris.
I love you too, Olivia.’
What does ‘in love with you’
Harris sighs in a way that means he’s annoyed,
Yet contemplating what I said.
“So you think I simply should’ve said,
‘I love you, Olivia.’”
“At least I would know what that means!”
I pull into my driveway,
Put the car in park, and
Lean my head against the window.
Silence drapes between me and Harris.
I think of my parents,
Who, years ago,
Used to be “in love with each other.”
Then Mom decided she liked a
More than Dad.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper.
“I just don’t get that particular phrasing of one’s affections.”
“It’s okay,” Harris says.
“I still love you, Olivia.”
I don’t echo it back.
Instead, I get out of the car,
Phone pressed to my ear, and
“Wanna come over?
Rose doesn’t get home until four.”
My nine-year-old sister announces
This every afternoon,
As if her homecoming is something monumental,
Something worth celebrating.
Harris shifts on the couch,
Where we are half-watching-TV,
I sit up,
Meet my sister’s bright smile,
Follow her into the kitchen.
“Wanna snack?” I ask,
Already reaching for the raisins.
“How was school?”
“Good,” Rose says, before
Launching into how awesome her teacher is, and