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Authors: Rachel Vail

You, Maybe

BOOK: You, Maybe
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RACHEL VAIL

You, Maybe

The Profound Asymmetry of Love in High School

Audrey and Nick
fell in love in high school. I was in eighth grade, Audrey’s little cousin with braces and a bad perm, and from behind my books I watched them. They were the most glamorous couple I could imagine: both gorgeous, tan, athletic, easy-going, popular, and deeply generous. They were best friends, madly in love. And so they always remained. This book is dedicated to their daughters Lucy and Sophie, to Audrey, the strongest, bravest person I know, and in memory of Nicholas Psaltis.

Contents

 

 

AS SOON AS
we rounded the corner I realized it was a mistake to crash, but by then it was too late to stop. A lot of the Beautiful People were at the party, even on the front lawn. Clearly not our crowd. Zandra, Tru, and I squeezed past the couple on the front porch, pretending not to notice who it was: Carson Gold, the hottest senior guy, shaking his head at a gorgeous girl who was trying not to cry. I rolled my eyes at Zandra after we were clear. “Another one down,” I whispered. She laughed and shoved me forward. I stumbled over the threshold, into the party.

We shouldered our way through the crowd, pretending we were looking for someone. As we were passing a couch in the living room, a couple who’d been making out on it stood up and rushed away, apparently in search of a room. Zandra, Tru, and I plopped down instantly in their space, next to another making-out pair. We were wedged in pretty tight, with Tru’s skinny thigh in its short skirt pressed against the hip of the oblivious girl beside her, but we smiled at one another triumphantly: We had scored seats. We sat back, pulled off our mittens, unzipped our jackets, and looked around.

Parties are our favorite spectator sport.

Not much was going on. We shifted positions and kept scoping.

“So,” Tru started. “What would you say is the single most important thing?”

“In life?” I asked. “No contest. Chocolate.”

“Books,” Tru countered.

“True love,” Zandra said. “Do you think Emelina is here?”

“No way,” Tru said. “She never goes to parties where Carson will be.”

“Ugh,” I groaned. “This is why I vote for chocolate. It’s yours, it’s wonderful, you gobble it up, it’s gone. Good-bye. Maybe you feel a little guilty, but at least chocolate doesn’t hang around at parties you want to go to. You know?” Their obsession with Carson Gold was beyond me. I mean, sure, he’s gorgeous, in a generic all-American way. And even I watched sometimes last year when he and Emelina Lee glided through the halls, holding hands. They whispered to each other in corners and kissed in the stairwells. But then Emelina got accepted to Princeton early and when she went to visit for the special weekend, she fell in love with a college boy. She dumped Carson that Monday morning in the school parking lot. Nobody could believe it, least of all Carson. The rumor shot around that he had almost punched her, but at the last second punched his new car instead. Zandra and Tru dragged me out to the parking lot during lunch later that week in search of his white Mazda, to check. Sure enough, there it was, a dent right on the roof near the passenger door: proof. My two best friends were practically electrified with the passion of that. What can I say? I’m a pacifist. Punching your own car seems pretty stupid to me.

“Think he was dumping that girl on the steps?” Tru asked.

“Clearly,” said Zandra. “He’s still in love with Emelina, everybody knows it.”

Tru nodded solemnly.

“Gag,” I said.

“You don’t understand romance, Josie,” Tru said. She’s been studying. She’s read forty-seven romance novels, as research. Tru skipped first grade so she’s a year younger than me and Zandra, and she looks about ten, especially with her braces and wire-rimmed glasses. She is trying to be less of a bookworm this winter, but I think her pursuit of romance is stressing her out way more than advanced calculus ever has. We like her just fine as she is, all serious and sincere and intense. But it’s hard to convince her to stop trying to be less herself; she’s on a mission.

“Neither does Carson Gold, apparently,” I pointed out.

“Just because he’s hooked up with half the senior girls doesn’t mean his heart has healed,” whispered Zandra. “Sometimes sluttiness is a sign of intense longing.”

“Yeah?” I asked her.

“Trying out a new rationalization. What do you think?”

“Pretty good,” I said.

Zandra is the opposite of Tru in a lot of ways—she’s curvy where Tru is tiny, outrageous where Tru is timid. Zandra’s hair has not been its natural color since elementary school, she’s more street smart than academic, she has seven piercings, and as for experience with guys, well, Zandra has made out with a lot of guys, but never has had a boyfriend. As tough as she looks, what she really wants is to fall in love.

“Think about the way he used to look at her,” Zandra whispered to Tru. “Have you ever seen anything so romantic?”

Tru leaned forward to talk around me. “I know—as if he wanted to swallow her down whole.”

“Ew,” I said, sitting up behind them. “Like an oyster?”

Tru and Zandra clutched my arms as Carson Gold himself stalked into the room and stopped right in front of us. Sunk into the couch, our heads came up to about his hip. The girl from the porch flung herself at him, her arms grabbing him from behind.

“But I love you, Carson!” she pleaded. “I thought you loved me!”

What a nightmare. We sunk deeper into the back cushions to watch.

“Don’t do this,” he murmured, gently disentangling himself from her tentacle-arms.

“Carson!”

“Shh.” He looked at her with soft pity, not like he wanted to swallow her whole.

Her hands went to her hair and she pulled, squeezing her eyes tight. A groan escaped from deep in her throat. I was so embarrassed for her I had to look away. I pulled my cell phone out of my bag, for something to look at, and text messaged my friend Michael:

BP’S SELF-DESTRUCTING HERE. YOU?

The girl plowed through the crowd like a guided missile toward the door, and I heard Carson Gold exhale above us. I kept my eyes on my phone, as my friends stiffened on either side of me. I was trying to work up some pity for the poor girl. I couldn’t. I mean, she knew who she was dealing with, right? So why make a jerk of yourself over him? Or over any boy? Was he supposed to act like he was married to her just because they’d fooled around once or twice? Please, we’re in high school. Hook up and move on.

Zandra and Tru both suddenly squeezed my arms tighter.

“What?”

“He looked at you,” Zandra whispered fiercely.

“Sure.”

Michael texted me back:

FRIENDS CRAPS TACOS HERE. COME.

“He totally did,” Tru whispered, nodding. “Right at you.”

“Lucky me,” I said. “You guys want to go to Michael’s instead?”

“Are they playing craps?” Tru asked. When I nodded, she grinned. Tru’s a champ at shooting craps, we recently discovered. She says it all boils down to figuring out what’s most likely to happen, and something about how many ways there are to make eight.

We hoisted ourselves off the couch. “I’ll call my dad,” Tru offered, rummaging through her bag for her cell as we headed toward the door. “He’ll be psyched. He got me a new book on probability this week.”

On the way to the door we passed this guy Andrew, a junior I had hooked up with a while ago. He and I checked each other out, considering a rematch.

“Josie,” Tru called from the door. “Come on!”

I shrugged at Andrew and spun around, right into Carson Gold.

“Ow,” he said.

“Right back at you,” I answered.

I went around him and caught up with my crazy friends, who spent the whole ride over to Michael’s deconstructing the multiple possible meanings of “Ow” and envying my encounter with the great Carson Gold. Luckily, once we got to Michael’s we started rolling dice, which moved us on to more interesting subjects like whether or not luck actually exists.

TUESDAY MORNING AS
I was spinning my combination lock, Carson Gold leaned against the locker next to mine.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” I answered.

“I’m Carson.”

“Oh,” I said. As if anybody didn’t know who he was. I knelt down to get out my books, thinking
Wow, I guess he is literally giving every girl her moment in the sun
. I wondered if he keeps track on the school directory, checking us off.

He leaned over me and looked at the schedule I had taped inside my locker, in my one moment of organization back in September. I could feel his leg nearly bumping my head so I stayed crouched while he looked. “Josephine Dondorff?”

“Josie,” I corrected him. I stuffed what I needed into my backpack.

“Hey, I have seventh period free, too.”

“Wow.” I zipped my backpack and stood up. “We must be meant for each other,” I said, and slammed my locker shut.

“Must be,” he said, then stopped smiling. “Do you believe in that?”

“In what?”

“Fate.” He looked so searchingly into my eyes, I had to take a step back.

“No,” I said, and started clomping off toward my homeroom.

“I do,” I could swear I heard him say, behind me.

At lunch, my friends were practically panting for details. “Did you really say that?” Zandra asked. “Meant for each other?”

“Yeah,” I said for the fourteenth time. “We were just kidding around.”

“‘We.’” Zandra shrugged. “Maybe Tru is right.”

Tru looked up from her book, surprised. “Right about what?”

“Tru thinks you’re in love with Michael.”

Tru clamped her lips together.

“Because I kissed him good night after the craps party?”

“No, just . . .” Tru took a deep breath. “You just seem, so, comfortable together.”

“We are,” I said. “Like I am with you guys. I’m not in love with you either, sorry to say.”

“You don’t kiss us like that,” Zandra pointed out.

I laughed, and so did she. “It doesn’t mean anything,” I explained. “We’re just friends.”

“You sure?” Zandra asked.

“Shouldn’t I know?” I chomped a big bite out of my sandwich.

Suddenly Zandra’s green eyes flicked to a point above my head, alarmed. I turned around, still chewing. There was Carson Gold, looming above me. Usually he and the other Beautiful People were tossing a ball at each other in the courtyard during lunch, or going out to the pizza place. Not hanging around inside the cafeteria with the alternative-type tenth graders.

“Josie,” Carson said.

“Carson,” I said, trying to swallow my overlarge mouth-ball of hummus with all the fixings.

“What are you doing seventh period, today?”

I shrugged, swallowed, and said, “You, maybe.”

Zandra’s mouth opened wide. Tru dropped her book.

Carson smiled. “Excellent.”

When he walked away, my friends shrieked and grabbed me. Honestly, I could hardly believe it myself.

BOOK: You, Maybe
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