So Jake Graydon and Ally Ryan are officially together? Bummer.
Oh, please. I bet he cheats on her before homeroom tomorrow.
It’s Jake Graydon! He puts the “play” in “player.”
Yeah, but he’s never had a serious girlfriend before. You have no precedent on which to base your hypothesis.
Since when did you start speaking Thesaurus?
She’s been studying for her AP exams.
Well, whatevs. I promise you. Jally or Ake or Gryan or whatever stupid name the sophomores come up with for them … they won’t last a week.
“Chloe’s pregnant?” Jake blurted, pushing himself up off the ground.
There was a grass stain on his cargo shorts from where he’d fallen on the edge of the lawn in front of Connor Shale’s house, and some gravel embedded in the skin of his calf. He touched the blood on his lip with his fingertips and flicked it away just as Hammond Ross grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled his monster-size fist back again. Jake’s arms flew up to protect his face, but I got between them and shoved Hammond as hard as I could with both hands. He stumbled back, surprised, and I took the two-second reprieve to whirl on my boyfriend.
My boyfriend, Jake. He was finally my boyfriend. We’d been officially together for five weeks and they’d pretty much been the most perfect five weeks of my life. So much for that.
“You had sex with Chloe?” I choked.
Jake’s incredible light-blue eyes said it all. He somehow looked scared and ashamed and apologetic at once. The sensation inside my chest was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was as if first the air in my lungs, then the blood in my veins, then the life in my heart, were each getting sucked down a thirsty drain one at a time. Slurp, slurp, slurp … gone.
Jake opened his mouth to speak. “I …”
It was the longest syllable ever uttered by man.
“When?” I said. I was shaking from head to toe.
“It was one time. Over the summer. We weren’t together, I swear.”
I should have been relieved by this. I knew I should have. It wasn’t like they were a couple. It wasn’t as if they’d been humping like bunnies all summer while I was hanging out down the shore, clueless and pining for him. It wasn’t like he was in love with her.
Thank God he wasn’t in love with her.
But still, my stomach clenched over and over again, telling me it didn’t matter. Telling me it sucked either way. Because I’d kind of thought he was pining for me. I thought we had both wanted to be together, and only circumstances and stubbornness had kept us apart. But now I find out he had sex with my popular, stunningly hot former best friend. Pining? Not so much.
“Unbelievable,” Hammond said. He was standing behind me now, and I could feel his hot breath on the back of my neck, could hear how ragged it was. His adrenaline was on high alert. “That’s all you’re gonna say? You … my best friend … you go behind my back and you fuck the girl I was with for two years, and that’s all you’re gonna say?”
I hugged my own arms, even though the late-summer-evening sun was warm on my skin. I might not have agreed with the vehemence or the language, but honestly, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Chloe had been with Jake in a way I never had. She’d seen things, done things, touched things … things I had never done or seen or touched. I felt like an iron fist was trying to push its way up from my stomach, through my throat, and into my mouth. Jake was mine. I had thought that he would one day be my first, and just thinking that was a huge, huge deal for me. But clearly, not so much for him. Didn’t sex matter to him at all? Didn’t I matter?
Jake clenched his jaw. “Where is she?”
I flinched. Right. This wasn’t about me. It wasn’t even about Jake, really. Or Hammond. It was about Chloe. Chloe was pregnant. Chloe Appleby, princess of perfection, queen bee of Orchard Hill High, she who had never stepped a pinkie toenail out of line in her life, was going to have an actual baby. This was what I like to call a holy-crap moment.
The sinking sun winked off the wall of windows at Connor’s house, not fifty yards away, where partiers danced in their skimpiest summer clothes, relishing our last night of freedom before school started tomorrow. I stared at them, choosing to be mesmerized by their carefree rhythm, instead of trying to breathe.
Images from 16 and Pregnant, which our sort-of friend Shannen Moore had spent half the summer watching, flitted through my mind. The nonstop crying and fighting and cursing and heartache. This wasn’t happening. It could not be happening. Not to me. Not to us. Not here. Not now. Not ever.
But it was.
“She’s at her house bawling her eyes out, thanks to you,” Hammond spat.
“I have to go,” Jake said.
He started past me, and my hand shot out to grab his arm. His tan skin was warm, as if holding on to the summer sun we had basked in that day in his backyard, jumping in the pool whenever we got too hot, slurping down fresh lemonade, cuddling in one lounge chair and kissing whenever his brother went inside. It seemed like a million years ago. Then the thought of us kissing brought up an image of him and Chloe doing much more, and I let go.
“You’re just gonna leave me here?” I said, tucking my fingers under my arms.
“I’m sorry.” He didn’t look at me. His head was so far bowed it must have been straining his neck. “I’ll call you later.”
Then he turned away and took off through the woods, headed back toward Vista View Lane, where he and Chloe both lived. Slowly I leaned back against my mother’s car. Hammond eyed me warily, like he was expecting me to burst into tears or shove him again or throw some kind of hissy fit. But I just stood there and stared.
For a long time, neither one of us said a word. A car screeched up a half block away, parking behind the others that lined the street, and a pack of loud, laughing people headed into the party, oblivious to our existence. Slowly, Hammond’s breathing began to normalize, and soon he leaned back next to me.
“Bet you’re wishing you’d kissed me now, huh?”
My head snapped around so fast my neck clicked. “What?”
“That morning when you turned me down cold?” Hammond said. His tone was joking but his blue eyes were angry. A few weeks back we had passed out on the couch at my old condo while watching a movie, and when we’d woken up, he’d tried to get physical. As daydream-worthy as he was, I’d managed to resist. At the time I’d been hoping to get back together with Jake, and knew hooking up with Hammond would be a bad idea. “You wouldn’t even kiss me, and meanwhile Jake and Chloe are going at it like dogs in heat.”
“Ugh. Stop it. Just …” My stomach turned as fresh images of Jake and Chloe assaulted my brain. Naked skin and sweat and tongues and fingertips. Why did I have to have such a vivid imagination? “I can’t deal with this.”
I started around the car, shaking the keys out of the pocket of my jeans.
“Join the club,” Hammond blurted. It was almost like he was mad at me. Like I’d done something wrong.
I paused with my hand on the door handle. Why was he so pissed off, anyway? He and Chloe had broken up at the beginning of the summer and he’d spent half our time down at the shore flirting with me and trying to kiss me. But then, Jake and I hadn’t been together all summer, and I’d spent half my time at the shore making out with Cooper Lane, even though I was in love with Jake. I guess nothing was that black-and-white.
“Wait a minute,” I said, looking at him over the roof of the Subaru. “You called her your girlfriend. When you first got here … you said Jake knocked up your girlfriend.” I tasted bile as I said the words “knocked up” and had to swallow a few times to clear my throat.
Hammond blinked. “So?”
“So are you guys getting back together?” I asked.
“I thought we were, but now …” He shook his head and scoffed.
“So … what? She’s pregnant and now you don’t love her anymore?” I demanded, suddenly and oddly defensive on Chloe’s behalf.
“No! It’s not that. It’s just …” He pushed his hands into the roof of the car and leaned forward, hiding his face on the other side. He let out this guttural growl of frustration that I felt in my toes. “She had sex with my best friend!” he said, lifting his head. His skin was mottled as he pushed his hands into his blond hair, freshly shorn for the first day of school. “I mean … are you still in love with him?”
And that, right there, was the worst moment of my night. Even with the punching and the shoving and the horrifying revelations. Because in that moment, I didn’t have an answer.
I stared up at the columns around the front door of Chloe’s house and couldn’t make myself move. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t actually be happening. Not to me. This was the kind of shit that happened on bad CW dramas, or on those Lifetime movies my mom was always watching, then denying she’d ever seen. Chloe couldn’t actually be pregnant. She’d just told Hammond that to piss him off, right? Yeah. That had to be it. She was still mad at him over what happened last year and she was just trying to mess with him. I was going to go in there and we’d have a big, fat laugh about it.
I took a step toward the door, then stopped. What if it was true? What if it was true and she’d told her dad? That guy was, like, a linebacker in college or something. Yeah, he was old and stuff, but that didn’t change the fact that his hands were the same size as those hugemongous hams his wife served up at every other Sunday dinner. I was pretty sure he could flatten me with one punch. I stepped back again and looked over my shoulder toward my house across the street. Maybe I should just go home. Pretend I didn’t know anything. I could ignore her at school tomorrow and let her make the first move.
But no. I was not a wuss. I wasn’t going to chicken out. And besides. There was no way I was ever going to chill until I knew for sure what was going on. I had to know.
I walked around the side of the house, cut through the rose garden, and climbed the trellis. Just like I did the night that we …
Yeah. I couldn’t even think about it.
My arms shook the whole way up, like I was climbing the rope in gym class with two other guys clinging to my back, when it should have been as easy as scaling a ladder. When I got to the top, I wiped my palms on my shorts and took a breath. My head was pounding but felt weightless. Like it was trying to float away from here. Like it wanted to avoid this moment.
I knocked on the glass door. The curtain was pushed aside. Chloe looked like shit. Her light brown hair was stringy around her face, hanging half out of a ponytail. Her nose looked double its usual size. I’d never seen anyone’s eyes so puffy. Not even my mom’s after my grandma died.
“What’re you doing here?” she said as she opened the door a crack.
The word “pregnant” was lodged at the back of my mouth. Pregnant, pregnant, pregnant. I cleared my throat. “I saw Hammond.”
She walked away, letting the door swing open. I followed her inside and closed it as quietly as possible. Chloe went to her queen-size bed—which was covered in crumpled tissues—and sat on the edge. She was wearing gray sweatpants and a white tank top. She didn’t look pregnant. In fact she looked skinnier than ever. Tiny even. I felt a surge of hope.
Maybe she had lied to Hammond for some reason. But then, why did she look like her dog had just died?
Chloe picked at her fingernails. I pushed my hands into my pockets. An hour could have passed like that; I had no idea. It definitely felt like one.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” she asked finally.
“Is it true?” I demanded.
Chloe nodded, looking down at the wood floor. “It’s true.”
My heart shriveled up and died. She sounded like she was drowning. Like there was water clogging her throat.
“How do you know it’s mine?” I asked.
Her head popped up. Her mouth was open in this sort of ugly, silent cry of pain. Part of me wanted to take it back, but it was a valid question, right? I mean, right?
“How could you ask me that?” she blurted, standing.
“Chloe, come on. I know you and Will Halloran were, like, a thing this summer. And—”
“Oh, so now I’m a slut or something?” she cried.
My mind reeled. This was not going well.
“No! It’s just … I don’t know what you did with him. And we used a condom! How could it possibly be mine?” I said, turning out my palms.
“Well, I guess it didn’t work,” Chloe replied, crossing her arms over her flat stomach and pacing away from me. “And Will and I, we never had sex.”
I scoffed. “Yeah, right.”
“Oh my God! What’s the matter with you?” she demanded, bending at the waist. “Did you just come over here to make me feel like shit?”
I was pretty sure I’d never heard Chloe curse before. And she was looking at me like she wanted to spit in my face. I took a step back and tried to think. Tried to figure out how to make sense of this without being even more of a jerk. But I had to know the truth. This was too important to just crawl away with my tail between my legs. She’d gone out with Will for at least a month. At least. And I knew he’d been over here in the middle of the night a couple of times. I’d seen him through my window, sneaking off. Was I really supposed to believe she didn’t give him any all that time, but all I had to do to get in her pants was show up on her doorstep once?
“You are unbelievable, Jake,” she said, pushing one hand into her hair as she walked back and forth from her flat-screen TV to the end of her four-poster bed. “I haven’t seen you or heard from you or gotten even a text from you since that night and now you come over here and accuse me of being a lying whore?”
My jaw hung so low I swear it scratched against the wool on her pink throw rug. “I didn’t … I just—”
“You’d better not tell anyone I was going out with Will,” she continued, her voice gaining strength. “Because if you do, I’m gonna look like a slut and you’re gonna look like an immature jerk who couldn’t take responsibility.”
I pressed my lips together. There were a million questions in my head. Desperate, awful questions. But I couldn’t ask a single one of them or I knew she’d take my head off again. But I couldn’t just stand there and say nothing, could I?
“So what are you … I mean … what are we … supposed to do?”
Chloe’s scrawny arms fell limp at her sides. She looked away. “I don’t know.”
And then she burst into tears.
“My parents are going to kill me,” she wailed. “Hammond hates me. You hate me. I can’t deal with this. I just can’t.”
I hated watching girls cry. My arms twitched to hug her, but I hesitated a second. Was hugging her a bad idea? Would she think I wanted to be her boyfriend or something?
Suddenly Ally popped into my brain and I wanted to run. Get the hell out of here and never look back. But that wasn’t an option, was it? I lived right across the street. We went to the same school. We had the same friends. It was either man up now, or commit to being the biggest asshole in Orchard Hill.
I took a step toward Chloe, and she basically fell against me. My arms wrapped around her small shoulders. She was so little I probably could have wrapped them around twice.
“It’s gonna be okay,” I said, my voice flat. “I don’t hate you.”
She sobbed into my shirt. “What are we going to do?”
My whole chest tightened. We. She’d said we. We were a we now, no matter what. And there was going to be a baby. She was going to be Mom and I was going to be … I was going to be …
Run, man. Run now.
I gritted my teeth and didn’t move. “I don’t know. But we’ll … we’ll figure it out.”
Chloe held on to my shirt and cried and cried and cried. I stood there and stared over her head at the double doors to the hall. The doors to freedom. I wished I’d never stepped foot in this room in my life.
As soon as I shoved open the door of the Dunkin’ Donuts, the air-conditioning blasted the hot humidity of the outside right off my skin. Annie Johnston looked up from her ever-present laptop and arched one eyebrow like she was sizing me up for the first time. I was so nervous, both from seeing her and from what I had to tell her, that I practically fell into the plastic chair across from hers. There was an open box of Munchkins on the table, and one glance told me she’d already eaten every last chocolate.
“Hey,” I said.
I couldn’t even believe she’d finally answered her phone, but I guess dialing her ten times in fifteen minutes was some kind of record. And then, when I’d told her I had serious news, she’d been, in her words, “mildly intrigued.” Of course now that I was here, I wasn’t sure I could tell her, or that I even should tell her. But I needed to talk to someone and even though we hadn’t spoken since our stupid, drunken—on my side, at least—fight the first week of August, Annie was still my best friend. I just wasn’t entirely sure if I was hers.
I chewed on the inside of my cheek. She picked at her black nail polish. Her look had gotten slightly Gothier since the last time I’d seen her. She’d cut her hair into a straight-banged bob and wore cat-eye eyeliner. Her shirt was black and baggy, but her skirt was baggier, and her legs were covered in holey fishnets. There were about a million colorful bracelets on each of her arms, the ones that had gotten supertrendy over the summer.
“Nice collection,” I said, nodding at her wrists.
“I’ve started stealing them from little kids,” she deadpanned. “I think it’s important to teach them, from a very young age, the evils of hoarding.”
I managed a laugh. “Ah.”
“So what’s your news?” Annie asked, leaning back in her chair.
I cleared my throat. “It’s about Jake.”
Annie blinked, as if surprised. “Trouble in paradise already?”
“Kind of,” I said, ignoring the twinge of annoyance I felt over her lack of sympathy. She almost sounded amused. I took a deep breath, grabbed a cinnamon Munchkin, and popped the whole thing in my mouth. “He got somebody pregnant.”
Doughnut clogged my dry throat and I coughed, showering the table with cinnamon. Annie sat up at full alert.
“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that in dough-free English?” she requested.
I chewed, then swallowed with a significant amount of discomfort. Kind of felt like a rock going down my throat and lodging itself in my esophagus.
“He got somebody pregnant,” I said.
“Holy shit. Is it Chloe?” she asked.
I felt my face flush with color and tried not to cough. “What? No! Why would you think it was Chloe?”
The look she gave me clearly said, Don’t insult my intelligence. She knew they’d hung out a lot this summer. She was the first one to tell me, actually. But she hadn’t been sure if they were hooking up. Well. Now we were sure.
I drew the back of my hand across my dry and cinnamony lips. My tongue was grossly gummy. “You can’t tell anyone.”
“Omigod, this is huge!” Annie said under her breath. She gripped the edge of the table with both hands. “Chloe Appleby is pregnant? This is the biggest scandal to hit the Cresties since Josh Schwartz’s dad ran off with Connor Shale’s housekeeper!”
“Shhhhh!” I whispered, glancing warily at the two other patrons and at the middle-aged dudes behind the counter. “Could you please take the glee-factor down a notch? This is my boyfriend we’re talking about, remember?”
Her face went slack and she released the table. I saw her glance once at her computer, and knew she was itching to log on to Twitter and spill the deets in 140 characters or less, but instead she laced her fingers together in her lap.
“You’re right. I’m sorry,” she said. Her eyes focused on mine and she did look sympathetic, like it was just sinking in. “Wow. God. Are you okay?”
“Not exactly,” I replied. The rock-hard Munchkin slid slowly from the base of my throat down through my chest, and I felt it the whole way.
“What did he say? I mean, were they, like, together for a while or—?” Annie asked.
“He says they only did it once,” I replied quietly.
Annie shook her head, staring off into space. “I can’t believe he cheated on you.”
My stomach turned. “Well, not really. We weren’t together, and I was with Cooper—”
“That’s such crap. You and Cooper didn’t have sex,” Annie interrupted.
“So what if we had? Would we be, like, even, then?” I shot back. Why was I defending him?
“Uh, totally,” Annie said, like the logic was so obvious. “The point is, you were with this hot guy for weeks and you guys were completely into each other, but you didn’t have sex. Why? Because you knew deep down you weren’t over Jake.”
I knew where she was going with this and I didn’t like it. “Well, that wasn’t the only reason …,” I said, fiddling with an empty and torn sugar packet.
“But it was the main one,” Annie said in a know-it-all voice. “Meanwhile he wasn’t even with Chloe and he didn’t think twice about hooking up with her. How could you not be more pissed?”
“I am pissed!” I snapped. The pair of old men nursing coffees on the other side of the shop looked over, making me feel about two inches tall. I stared at the pink tabletop, my cheeks on fire. “But I don’t know. Does it matter how I feel? This has nothing to do with me.”
“Dude. Of course it matters how you feel,” Annie said, her voice low. “And if you ever say it doesn’t, I’m gonna smack you upside the head.”
We sat there for a long time in silence. For some reason I couldn’t make myself look her in the eye. It was like I was afraid she was ashamed of me or something.
“Well, if you want my advice,” she said finally, breaking the silence, forcing me to lift my head. “And I’m assuming you want my advice or you wouldn’t have offered to pay me back for my coffee and Munchkins.”
I narrowed my eyes. “I don’t remember offering to pay you back for—”
She pushed the fresh receipt across the table. “It was implied. Anyway, what you need to do, like, yesterday, is figure out how much crap you want to deal with for this guy. ’Cause there’s gonna be a lot of crap. A lot a lot a lot of crap.”
She took another Munchkin and studied it for a moment before biting into it. Jelly oozed out onto her chin. She swiped it up with her fingertip.
“So the question is, do you really want to spend your senior year shoveling up this guy’s crap?” she asked matter-of-factly, pointing at me with the bright red finger. “That’s what you need to figure out.” She sucked the jelly off to punctuate her point.
“That is a disgusting image,” I said.
Annie tossed the second half of the doughnut hole in her mouth and smiled, raising her eyebrows merrily. “Isn’t it though?”
My body collapsed and my head hit the table. She and Hammond were basically asking me the same thing, and they were both right. Did I still love Jake, and if I did, did I love him enough to deal with the massive crap-storm that was about to engulf us?
Outside, the sky was finally black. In a few hours, school would start for the year. In a few hours, I’d either be walking through the front doors of Orchard Hill High alone, or holding hands with Jake. I needed to figure this out, and I needed to figure it out fast.
I tripped over a sprinkler and took a header into the wet grass in Dr. Nathanson’s side yard. Fuck. Just what I needed. I shoved myself up off the ground. The whole front of my shirt was soaked and I looked like I’d peed in my shorts.
Fucking great. Ally was gonna love me now. Why hadn’t I just gone to the front door? Ally’s mom didn’t know anything. What was the matter with me? I had to stop sneaking around girls’ houses like some kind of dumb-ass cat burglar. Clearly it got me nowhere good.
I made it to the backyard without breaking any bones and stood under Ally’s window. The light was on. I took out my phone and texted her.
SRY 4 BAILING. AM IN YARD. CAN I COME UP?
Her face appeared at the window. I lifted a hand. She held up one finger. Not the bad one, thank God. She was telling me to wait.
So I did. The crickets were so loud back here it was like they were assaulting my brain. I tried to wring some of the water out of my shorts, but all I managed to do was wrinkle them. When it was clear that I wasn’t making myself look better, I tipped my head back and stared up at the stars. There were thousands of them. Millions. I wondered if there were any other planets out there with alien people on them, looking up at me. If only I could be wherever they were instead of here.
I heard a door click and slide open, and I squinted. Ally stood at a side door I’d never noticed, waving me down. I jogged over and slipped past her, stepping inside a small room with dozens of shelves, a work desk, and boxes piled everywhere. Luckily it was pretty dark, so she didn’t notice my muddiness. Yet.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“It used to be Quinn’s mom’s gift-wrapping room or something,” she whispered. “We have to be quiet. My mom and Quinn are in the theater having a wedding-movie marathon. She’s trying to get ideas.”
Ally’s mom was getting remarried in the spring, to the guy they were living with, Gray Nathanson. Quinn was his hot, but kind of annoying, daughter. “You want me to go so you can hang with them?”
She shook her head. “I watched Sixteen Candles with them last night, so I did my daughterly duty,” she whispered.
“Yeah, but you love that movie,” I said.
Ally’s eyes flicked over me, surprised. She’d told me once that her mom made her watch it with her every year on her birthday and that she secretly looked forward to it.
“I can’t believe you remember that,” she said.
I remembered everything she ever told me. Because I was in love with her. I just hoped she was still in love with me. Finally she broke eye contact.
I followed her out the door. She held up a hand to stop me and listened for a second. I didn’t hear a thing. Then she turned, tiptoed through the kitchen, and raced up the back stairs. I followed her quickly, my heart pounding. She didn’t look at me again until we were finally inside her room.
“What happened to you?” she asked, her face scrunched.
I sounded like a caveman.
“Oh.” She sat down on the edge of her bed, almost exactly like Chloe had before. “So. What happened?”
“I went to Chloe’s,” I said, pressing my fist into my palm. “She’s a wreck.”
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Ally said. She hugged herself hard. “I can’t believe you had sex with her.”
“It was one time!” I whisper-shouted desperately.
“And I used a condom, I swear,” I pleaded.
She looked away.
“It was so, so, stupid, Al,” I said, walking over to her. I almost actually knelt at her feet to get into her line of vision, but stopped myself. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I was pissed off about you and Cooper and she was upset about …”
About Will, I’d almost said. But then I remembered what Chloe had told me. That no one could know about Will.
“About something else,” I said. “And it just happened. I couldn’t stop myself. I couldn’t—”
“Oh my God. Stop!” Ally said, holding her hands up in front of her face as if I was trying to pummel her. She got up, forcing me backward, and walked toward her desk. “I just can’t believe you actually did it with her. Why her?”
“But it was just one time,” I said, sounding whiny. “And it’s not like I cheated on you. We weren’t together.”
Ally let out this laugh that sounded more like a snarl. “Okay, fine. What if I told you I slept with Hammond?”
My face burned to a crisp. “What?”
She took a couple of steps toward me. “What if I told you that down the shore this summer, Hammond and I were hanging out a lot and one night it just sort of happened? He started kissing me and I just couldn’t stop myself. What if he—”
I closed my eyes and my fingers clenched into fists. “Stop.”
“But we weren’t together, Jake,” Ally said, mocking me. “It’s not like I cheated on you.”
“Stop!” I shouted, glaring at her.
She flinched. “See? Doesn’t feel so good, does it?”
I swallowed a few times and tried to blink away the mental image of Ally and Hammond doing it. Of him getting to see her naked.
“You didn’t actually …”
She sighed. “No.” She almost sounded disappointed.
Thank God. The images of her and Hammond started to fade. And then I realized, I could maybe forget about it, because it hadn’t happened. But Ally would never be able to. Because what happened between me and Chloe … it had happened.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “But what am I supposed to do? I mean, I can’t take it back. And it’s not like it was the first time I ever … I mean, it was the first time with her, but I’ve had sex with other—”
“Omigod, stop talking! You’re making it worse,” Ally snapped. “I don’t need the gory details of your sex life!”
She stormed across the room and started refolding a stack of clothes she had on the window seat, but she was just making them wrinklier. There was a huge lump in my throat and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do or say. This had to be the worst night of my life, hands down.
“It’s not like I thought you were a virgin or something,” she rambled, shaking her head as she basically balled up a T-shirt. “I mean, you’re Jake Graydon. You’ve hooked up with, like, every girl in school, right?”
Well, not every girl.
“So … what?” I said, frustrated. I mean, what was I being accused of? Having a life before I met her? “Like you’ve never …?”
“No, okay? I haven’t.”
Ally dropped the clothes in a messy pile and faced me across the bed.
“Feel better now? You get to walk around knowing that no guy has ever gotten past third base with your girlfriend, while I get to imagine you screwing every hot girl who struts by in the hall.”
I’d never seen her look so angry. So hurt and so small. There was something breaking inside of me.
“You’re going to break up with me now, aren’t you?” I asked quietly.
She didn’t move or blink. Part of me wanted to beg her not to leave me. How pathetic is that? But I couldn’t help it. I loved her. I’d never felt this way about anyone. And the idea that I could have messed it up so bad made me want to throw myself out the window.
And part of me needed her. Part of me realized that there was no way in hell I was going to get through this without her. How was I supposed to deal with Chloe? With Hammond? With Chloe’s parents? With mine? With a baby? I couldn’t figure this shit out on my own, and Ally was the smartest person I knew. And pretty much the only person who cared about me. Or she did. Before tonight.
Most of the summer I had been without her, and every day had sucked worse than the one before. I couldn’t live like that again. I just couldn’t.
“I don’t know,” she whispered.
I walked around the end of the bed and over to her. I almost died of relief when she let me touch her. I put my hand on her shoulder, and when she didn’t pull away, I moved it so that my thumb was just touching her cheek.
“Ally, I love you, okay?” I said. “I love you more than anything. I never loved her. It meant nothing.”
Ally took in a broken breath. “Apparently it meant a baby.”
I looked at the floor. At her feet in her favorite Converse. I really did want to die.
“I think you should go.”
Fear filled my chest.
“No. Come on. Please. Let’s just—”
“I want to be alone,” Ally said.
My hand dropped. I couldn’t just leave. I needed more. I needed to know this wasn’t it. So I leaned in to kiss her, but she turned her head. My lips bumped her cheek.
“Okay,” I said hopelessly. “Okay. I’ll go.”
I turned around and headed for the door. Then something Chloe had said suddenly hit me and, as much as it sucked, I had to turn back.
“Don’t tell anyone, okay? Chloe hasn’t even told Shannen or Faith or her parents. I mean, I told her you already know, but … she wants to wait until she figures out what she’s gonna do.”
I expected Ally to yell or throw something at me for asking her to do me a favor—do Chloe a favor—but instead she just nodded. “Okay.”
Then there was nothing else to do but turn around and walk out.
I lay on the floor of my room, knocking the back of my head against the carpet over and over again in the dark. On my desk, my computer was set to Ally’s website where Ally kept scoring the winning shot in the Chestnut Grove game over and over and over again. I kept hearing my own voice cheering for her in the background as the ball sunk through the hoop, and I wanted to climb up the bleachers and punch that guy—that guy I used to be. He was such a clueless idiot, living in his own clueless idiot bubble. I wanted to punch him in the face and maybe weld his zipper shut, too.
A baby. Chloe pregnant. I couldn’t even imagine it. I’d never even held a baby in my life. It couldn’t be real.
How was I supposed to be a father? What was I going to do, quit school and work at Jump, Java, and Wail! full-time? A wave of cold terror went through me at the thought. But wait. Stop. No. I might not even have to be a father. Chloe could have an abortion. Or she could put the baby up for adoption, right? I mean, she wasn’t going to want to, like, marry me or some shit, was she?
My eyes squeezed closed. Probably I should’ve asked her a few of these things when I was at her house. What was wrong with me?
More cheers from the computer. I pressed my lips together and stopped breathing. Ally and I had worked on the website over the past couple of weeks, uploading videos of her playing basketball so scouts and coaches could check her out. I’d had one since the middle of last year. My dad had gotten some guy at his office to throw it together for me with clips of soccer games, swim meets, and lacrosse matches. Anything to try to get me into a good school, because we knew my grades weren’t gonna do it. Most of the athletes at OHH had one, but Ally had no idea people did this until I told her, and now she’d had over a hundred hits. I’d been so proud of myself for helping her out, but now it seemed so stupid. So, like, trivial. Because now I’d ruined everything.
I’d killed my relationship with Ally. And now yeah, maybe she’d be going to a good school, but where the hell would I be going? Nowhere. If Chloe did want to keep the baby, I’d be going exactly nowhere. Not Fordham, where my parents wanted me to go, not Rutgers, where the lacrosse team was calling my name, not to any of the zillions of schools constantly sending e-mails and catalogs and letters. The dream of getting out of here, away from my family, being free to do whatever the hell I wanted? It would all be over. Just like that.
In his room next door, my brother, Jonah, laughed, talking on the phone with one of his friends. For the first time in my life I wished I was him. Nothing to worry about except whether or not he was gonna make the varsity team this year.
I slung my arm over my eyes in the dark, blocking out the colors from the video that reflected on the ceiling. Squeezing my eyes shut as hard as I could, I went back to that night. That night with Chloe. That night that going over there had seemed like such a bad idea, but I’d gone anyway.
Why had I gone? Why, why, why?
Because of Will. Because I’d seen Will leaving there and I was jealous. But why? I didn’t like Chloe. Not the way I liked Ally. Why did I give a crap that Will had been over there in the middle of the night?
I bit down on my tongue because I knew the answer and it sucked. I’d been jealous because I’d thought Chloe wanted me, and I’d liked it. Because when we’d driven home from the movies earlier, she’d looked so hot and seemed so willing that I’d actually thought about kissing her. And it pissed me off that I was wrong. That apparently she had a thing for Will and not me. So I’d gone over there…. I’d gone over there to prove that I was hotter than Will Halloran. To prove that she actually did want me.
I was going to be a fucking father because I couldn’t deal with the fact that a girl could like someone else more than she liked me.
I flung my arm out, punching the floor so hard I saw stars. My teeth ground into my lip as I bit back tears. There was no way I was going to cry. I was not going to cry over the fact that I was an ego-crazed asshole with no self-control. I would not I would not I would not.
I pushed the heels of my hands into my eyes and saw myself rushing down the stairs and out the front door that night.
“Don’t do it don’t do it don’t do it,” I whispered in the dark.
I saw myself cross the street and creep through the rose garden.
“Don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t.”
I saw my hands on the trellis, felt the thorns brush my arms, heard the new floorboards of Chloe’s deck creak under my feet.
“No no no no no.”
But as hard as I pressed, as tightly as I clenched, as long as I held my breath, I couldn’t stop what happened next. I couldn’t take it back. Within thirty seconds I was kissing her and within three minutes we were on the bed and within ten minutes it was over.
And now I was completely and utterly screwed. For life.
This Is So Not Happening
After their long summer apart, Ally and Jake were hoping for a drama-free senior year. Easier said than done.
Chloe is pregnant. And she says that Jake is the father. It was a one-time thing, and Ally and Jake can get through it, right? But Ally’s willingness to make it work is tested when Jake starts blowing her off to go to doctor’s appointments with Chloe, and Ally joins the school play—and meets a cute guy. After everything they’ve been through, can Ally and Jake get out of Orchard Hill with their relationship intact?
The gossip-fueled action of She’s So Dead to Us and He’s So Not Worth It comes full circle in this can’t-miss conclusion to a popular trilogy.
- Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers |
- 320 pages |
- ISBN 9781416999591 |
- May 2012 |
- Grades 7 and up
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