A princess on Another Planet


НазваниеA princess on Another Planet
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Дата публикации28.06.2013
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^ CHAPTER SIX

Bad Chemistry
I've had boyfriends before, and frankly, each one was a disappointment.

There was nothing horribly wrong with these boys. It was my fault. I'm kind of a snob when it comes to guys.

So far, the biggest problem with the boys I've dated is that they weren't too smart. And eventually I ended up hating myself for being with them. It scared me, trying to pretend I was something I wasn't. I could see how easily it could be done, and it made me realize that was what most of the other girls were doing as well--pretending. If you were a girl, you could start pretending in high school and go on pretending your whole life, until, I suppose, you imploded and had a nervous breakdown, which is something that's happened to a few of the mothers around here. All of a sudden, one day something snaps and they don't get out of bed for three years.

But I digress. Boyfriends. I've had two major ones: Sam, who was a stoner, and Doug, who was on the basketball team. Of the two I liked Sam better. I might have even loved him, but I knew it couldn't last. Sam was beautiful but dumb. He took woodworking classes, which I had no idea existed until he gave me a wooden box he'd made for Valentine's Day. Despite his lack of intelligence--or perhaps, more disturbingly, because of it--when I was around him I found him so attractive I thought my head would explode. I'd go by his house after school and we'd hang in the basement with his older brothers, listening to Dark Side of the Moon while they passed around a bong. Then Sam and I would go up to his room and make out for hours. Half the time, I worried I shouldn't be there, that I was wasting precious time engaging in an activity that wouldn't lead to anything (in other words, I wasn't using my time "constructively," as my father would say). But on the other hand, it felt so good I couldn't leave. My mind would be telling me to get up, go home, study, write stories, advance my life, but my body was like a boneless sea creature incapable of movement on land. I can't remember ever having a conversation with Sam. It was only endless kissing and touching in a bubble of time that seemed to have no connection with real life.

Then my father took me and my sisters away for two weeks on an educational cruise to Alaska and I met Ryan, who was tall and smooth like polished wood and was going to Duke, and I fell in love with him. When I got back to Castlebury, I could barely look at Sam. He kept asking if I'd met someone else. I was a coward and said no, which was partly true because Ryan lived in Colorado and I knew I'd never see him again. Still, the Sam bubble had been punctured by Ryan, and then Sam was like a little smear of wet soap. That's all bubbles are anyway--a bit of air and soap. So much for the wonders of good chemistry.

With bad chemistry, though, you don't even get a bubble. Me and Doug? Bad chemistry.

Doug was a year older, a senior when I was a junior. He was one of the jocks, a basketball player, friends with Tommy Brewster and Donna LaDonna and the rest of the Pod crowd. Doug wasn't too bright, either. On the other hand, he wasn't so good-looking that a lot of other girls wanted him, but he was good-looking enough. The only thing that was really bad about him was the zits. He didn't have a lot of them, just one or two that always seemed to be in the middle of their life cycle. But I knew I wasn't perfect either. If I wanted a boyfriend, I figured I would have to overlook a blemish or two.

Jen P introduced us. And sure enough, at the end of the week, he came shuffling around my locker and asked if I wanted to go to the dance.

That was all right. Doug picked me up in a small white car that belonged to his mother. I could picture his mother from the car: a nervous woman with pale skin and tight curls who was an embarrassment to her son. It made me kind of depressed, but I told myself I had to complete this experiment. At the dance, I hung around with the Jens and Donna LaDonna and some older girls, who all stood with one leg out to the side, and I stood the same way and pretended I wasn't intimidated.

"There's a great view at the top of Mott Street," Doug said, after the dance.

"Isn't that the place next to the haunted house?"

"You believe in ghosts?"

"Sure. Don't you?"

"Naw," he said. "I don't even believe in God. That's girl stuff."

I vowed to be less like a girl.

It was a good view at the top of Mott Street. You could see clear across the apple orchards to the lights of Hartford. Doug kept the radio on; then he put his hand under my chin, turned my head, and kissed me.

It wasn't horrible, but there was no passion behind it. When he said, "You're a good kisser," I was surprised. "I guess you do this a lot," he said.

"No. I hardly do it at all."

"Really?" he said.

"Really," I said.

"Because I don't want to go out with a girl who every other guy has been with."

"I haven't been with anyone." I thought he must be crazy. Didn't he know a thing about me?

More cars pulled in around us, and we kept making out. The evening began to depress me. This was it, huh? This was dating, Pod-style. Sitting in a car surrounded by a bunch of other cars where everyone was making out, seeing how far they could go, like it was some kind of requirement. I started wondering if anyone else was enjoying it as little as I was.

Still, I went to Doug's basketball games and I went by his house after school, even though there were other things I wanted to do more, like read romance novels. His house was as dreary as I'd imagined--a tiny house on a tiny street (Maple Lane) that could have been in Any Town, U.S.A. I guess if I were in love with Doug it wouldn't have mattered. But if I had been in love with Doug it would have been worse, because I would have looked around and realized that this would be my life, and that would have been the end of my dream.

But instead of saying, "Doug, I don't want to see you anymore," I rebelled.

It happened after another dance. I'd barely let Doug get to third base, so maybe he figured it was time to straighten me out. The plan was to go parking with another couple: Donna LaDonna and a guy named Roy, who was the captain of the basketball team. They were in the front seat. We were in the back. We were going someplace we'd never get caught, a place where no one would find us: a cemetery.

"Hope you don't still believe in ghosts," Doug said, squeezing my leg. "If you do, you know they'll be watching."

I didn't answer. I was studying Donna LaDonna's profile. Her hair was a swirl of white cotton candy. I thought she looked like Marilyn Monroe. I wished I looked like Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe, I figured, would know what to do.

When Doug unzipped his pants and tried to push my head down, I'd had enough. I got out of the car. "Charade" was the word I was thinking over and over again. It was all a charade. It summed up everything that was wrong between the sexes.

Then I was too angry to be frightened. I started walking along the little road that wound through the headstones. I might have believed in ghosts, but I wasn't scared of them per se. It was people who were troubling. Why couldn't I just be like every other girl and give Doug what he wanted? I pictured myself as a Play-Doh figure; then a hand came down, squeezing and squeezing until the Play-Doh oozed through the fingers into ragged clumps.

To distract myself, I started looking at the headstones. The graves were pretty old, some more than a hundred years. I started looking for one type in particular. It was macabre but that's the kind of mood I was in. Sure enough, I found one: Jebediah Wilton. 4 mos. 1888. I started thinking about Jebediah's mother and the pain she would have felt putting that little baby into the ground. I bet it felt worse than childbirth. I got down on my knees and screamed into my hands.

I guess Doug figured I would come right back, because he didn't bother looking for me for a while. Then the car pulled up and a door opened. "Get in," Doug said.

"No."

"Bitch," Roy said.

"Get in the car," Donna LaDonna ordered. "Stop making a scene. Do you want the cops to come?"

I got into the car.

"See?" Donna LaDonna said to Doug. "I told you it was useless."

"I'm not going to have sex with some guy just to impress you," I said.

"Whoa," Roy said. "She really is a bitch."

"Not a bitch," I said. "Just a woman who knows her own mind."

"You're a woman now?" Doug said, sneering. "That's a laugh."

I knew I should have been embarrassed, but I was so relieved it was over, I couldn't be bothered. Surely, Doug wouldn't dare ask me out again.

He did though. First thing Monday morning, I found him standing by my locker. "I need to talk to you," he said.

"So talk."

"Not now. Later."

"I'm busy."

"You're a prude," he hissed. "You're frigid." When I didn't reply, he added, "It's okay," in a creepy tone. "I know what's wrong with you. I understand."

"Good," I said.

"I'm coming by your house after school."

"Don't."

"You don't need to tell me what to do," he said, spinning an imaginary basketball on his finger. "You're not my mother." He shot the imaginary basketball into an imaginary hoop and walked away.

Doug did come by my house that afternoon. I looked up from my typewriter and saw the pathetic white car pull hesitantly into the driveway, like a mouse cautiously approaching a piece of cheese.

A discordant phrase of Stravinsky came from the piano followed by the soft taps of Missy running down the stairs. "Carrie," Missy called from below. "Someone's here."

"Tell him I'm not."

"It's Doug."

"Let's go for a drive," Doug said.

"I can't," I begged. "I'm busy."

"Listen," he said. "You can't do this to me." He was pleading, and I started to feel sorry for him. "You owe me," he whispered. "It's only a drive in the car."

"Okay," I relented. I figured maybe I did owe him for embarrassing him in front of his friends.

"Look," I said when we were in the car and driving toward his house. "I'm sorry about the other night. It's just that--"

"Oh, I know. You're not ready," Doug said. "I understand. With everything you've been through."

"No. It isn't that." I knew it had nothing to do with my mother's death. But I couldn't bring myself to tell Doug the truth--that my reluctance was due to the fact that I didn't find him the least bit attractive.

"It's okay," he said. "I forgive you. I'm going to give you a chance to make it up to me."

"Ha," I said, hoping he was making a joke.

Doug drove past his house and kept going, down the dirt track that led to the river. Between his sad little street and the river were miles and miles of mud-flat farmland, deserted in November. I began to get scared.

"Doug, stop."

"Why?" he asked. "We have to talk."

I knew then why boys hated that phrase, "We have to talk." It gave me a tired, sick feeling. "Where are we going? There's nothing out here."

"There's the Gun Tree," he said.

The Gun Tree was all the way down by the river, so named because a lightning strike had split the branches into the shape of a pistol. I began calculating my chances for escape. If we got all the way to the river, I could jump out of the car and run along the narrow path that led through the trees. Doug couldn't follow in his car, but he could certainly outrun me. And then what would he do? Rape me? He might rape me and kill me afterward. I didn't want to lose my virginity to Doug Haskell, for Christ's sake, and definitely not like that. I decided he'd have to kill me first.

But maybe he did only want to talk.

"Listen, Doug, I'm sorry about the other night."

"You are?"

"Of course. I just didn't want to have sex in a car with other people. It's kind of gross."

We were about half a mile from civilization.

"Yeah. Well, I guess I can understand that. But Roy is the captain of the basketball team and--"

"Roy is disgusting. Really, Doug. You're much better than he is. He's an asshole."

"He's one of my best buds."

"You should be captain of the basketball team. I mean, you're taller and better looking. And smarter. If you ask me, Roy's taking advantage of you."

"You think?" He took his eyes off the road and looked at me. The road was becoming increasingly bumpy, made for tractors not cars, and Doug had to slow down.

"Well, of course," I said smoothly. "Everyone knows that. Everyone says you're a better player than Roy--"

"I am."

"And--" I took a quick peek at the speedometer. Twenty miles an hour. The car was bucking like an old bull. If I was going to make a break for it, I had to do it now. "And, Doug, I need to go home." I rolled down the window. A cold blast of air hit my face like a slap. "The car's covered with mud. Your mother's going to kill you."

"My mother won't care."

"Come on, Doug. Stop the car."

"We'll go to the Gun Tree. Then I'll take you home." But he didn't sound so sure.

"I'm getting out." I grabbed the door handle.

Doug tried to pull my hand away as the car veered off the track and slid into a pile of dried cornstalks.

"Christ, Carrie. Why the hell d'you do that?"

We got out of the car to inspect the damage. It wasn't too bad. Mostly straw caught in the bumper. "If you hadn't..." I said, relief and anger burning the back of my throat. "Because you wanted to prove to your stupid friends that you aren't a loser--"

He stared at me, his breath steaming the air around him like a mysterious dry ice.

Then he smacked his hand on the hood of the car. "I wouldn't fuck you if you paid me," he shouted, pausing for breath. "You're lucky...lucky I even considered having sex with you. Lucky I even took you out in the first place. I only did it because I felt sorry for you."

What else could he say?

"Good. Then you should be happy."

"Oh, I'm happy all right." He gave the front tire a good kick. "I'm happy as hell."

I turned and started walking up the road. My back was a firestorm of nerves. When I got about fifty feet away, I started whistling. When I was a hundred feet away, I heard the puttering sound of the car engine, but I kept going. Eventually, he passed me, looking straight ahead as if I didn't exist. I picked up a strand of dried grass and tore it with my fingers, watching the pieces blow away.

I did tell this story to The Mouse and Maggie. I even told it to Walt. I told it again and again, but I made it funny. I made it so funny, The Mouse couldn't stop laughing. Funny always makes the bad things go away.
^ CHAPTER SEVEN

Paint the Town Red
"Carrie, you're not going to be able to joke your way out of this," Mrs. Givens says, pointing to the can of paint.

"I wasn't planning to make a joke," I insist, as if I'm completely innocent. I have a problem with authority. I really do. It turns me into mush. I'm a real jellyfish when it comes to facing adults.

"What were you planning to do with the paint, then?" Mrs. Givens is one of those middle-aged ladies who you look at and think, If I ever end up like her, shoot me. Her hair is teased into a dried bush that looks like it could self-ignite at any moment. I suddenly picture Mrs. Givens with a conflagration on her head, running through the halls of Castlebury High, and I nearly crack up.

"Carrie?" she demands.

"The paint is for my father--for one of his projects."

"This is not like you, Carrie. You've never been in trouble before."

"I swear, Mrs. Givens. It's nothing."

"Very well. You can leave the paint with me and pick it up after school."

"Givens confiscated my paint can," I whisper to The Mouse as we enter calculus.

"How did she find it?"

"She saw me trying to shove it into my locker."

"Damn," The Mouse says.

"I know. We're going to have to go to plan B."

"What is plan B?"

"Action must be taken," I say. "I'll think of something."

I sit down and look out the window. It's October now. Time to find a perfect red leaf and iron it between two pieces of waxed paper. Or stick cloves into a crisp apple, the juice running all over your fingers. Or scoop the slimy guts out of a pumpkin and roast the seeds until they nearly explode. But mostly, it's time to paint the year of our high school graduation on the roof of the dairy barn.

It's a grand tradition around here. Every fall, a few members of the graduating class scrawl their year on the roof of the barn behind the school. It's always some boys who do it. But this year, The Mouse and I decided we should do it. Why should the boys have all the fun? Then we got Lali involved. Lali was going to bring the ladder, and The Mouse and I would get the paint. Then Maggie wanted to come. Maggie is fairly useless in these kinds of situations, but I figured she'd be good for booze and cigarettes. Then Maggie spilled the beans to Peter. I told her to un-tell Peter, but she said she couldn't do that, and now Peter's all excited about it even though he says he won't actually be participating. Instead, he plans to stand there and direct.

After calculus, I head out to the barn, where I take a good look at the structure. It's at least a hundred years old, and though it looks sturdy enough, the roof is higher and steeper than I'd imagined. But if we chicken out, next week the boys will probably do it, and I don't want that to happen. No more missed opportunities. I want to leave some mark on Castlebury High, so when I'm old, I can say, "I did it. I painted the year of our graduation on the old barn out back." Lately, high school hasn't been bugging me as much as usual and I've been in a pretty good mood. Today, I'm wearing overalls, Converse sneakers, and a red and white checked shirt that I got at a vintage store in honor of the occasion. I also have my hair in braids, and I'm wearing a strip of rawhide around my head.

I'm standing there, staring up at the roof, when I'm suddenly overcome by a mysterious happiness and I have to start doing my best John Belushi Animal House imitation. I run all the way around the barn and when I get back to where I started, Sebastian Kydd is there, looking at me curiously while he shakes a cigarette out of a pack of Marlboro Reds.

"Having fun?" he asks.

"Sure," I say. I should be embarrassed, but I'm not. I hate the way girls are supposed to be embarrassed all the time and I decided a long time ago that I just wouldn't do it. "What about you? Are you having fun?"

"Relatively."

I'm sure he is having fun, but not with me. After that night at The Emerald--nothing. He never called, never came by my house--all I get are bemused looks from him when he sees me in calculus or in the halls or occasionally hanging out here at the barn. I tell myself it's just as well; I don't need a boyfriend anyway--but it doesn't prevent my mind from veering out of control every time I sense he's in the vicinity. It's almost as bad as being twelve--worse, I remind myself, because I ought to know better by now.

I glance at Sebastian, thinking it's a good thing he can't read my mind, but he's no longer paying attention. He's looking over my shoulder at the two Jens, who are carefully picking their way up the hill in high heels, like they've never walked on grass before. Their appearance is not surprising. The two Jens have taken to following Sebastian everywhere, like two small, cheery tugboats. "Ah," I say. "Your fan club is here."

He looks at me quizzically but says nothing. In my fantasy, Sebastian is a person of great and perceptive thought. But in reality, I don't know a thing about him.

Lali picks me up in the truck at nine o'clock that evening. We're dressed in black turtlenecks, black jeans, and sneakers. There's an enormous harvest moon. Lali hands me a beer and I crank up the radio and we scream over the music. I'm pretty sure this is going to be the best thing we've ever done. I'm pretty sure this is going to be a real Senior Moment--A Moment to Remember. "Fuck Cynthia Viande," I scream, for no good reason.

"Fuck Castlebury High," Lali says. "Fuck the Pods."

We pull into the driveway of the high school going about eighty miles an hour and drive right over the grass. We try to drive straight up the hill, but the truck gets stuck, so we decide to park it in a dark corner of the parking lot. While we're struggling to get the ladder out of the back, I hear the telltale sputter of a fully loaded V-eight engine, and sure enough, Sebastian Kydd pulls up beside us.

What the hell is he doing here?

He rolls down the window. "You girls need some help?"

"No."

"Yes," Lali says. She gives me the shut-up look. I give her the shut-up look right back.

Sebastian gets out of the car. He's like a panther getting up from a nap. He even yawns. "Slow night?"

"You could say that," Lali says.

"Or you could get off your keister and help us. Since you don't appear to be leaving," I add.

"Can we trust you?" Lali asks.

"Depends on what you want to trust me with," he says.

Eventually, we get the ladder up against the barn, and then The Mouse shows up with the paint and a large brush. Two enormous cone-shaped lights play over the parking lot, indicating Maggie's arrival in the Cadillac. Maggie insists she can't keep track of her high and low beams and usually blinds her fellow motorists. She parks the car and meanders up the hill with Walt and Peter in tow. Peter busies himself by examining the paint. "Red?" he says, and then, as if we didn't hear him the first time, "Red?"

"What's wrong with red?"

"It's not the traditional Castlebury color for this exercise. It should be blue."

"We wanted red," I counter. "Whoever does the painting gets to pick the color."

"But it's not right," Peter insists. "For the rest of the year, I'm going to be looking out the window seeing the year of our graduation painted in red instead of blue."

"Does it really matter?" Sebastian asks.

"Red is a statement. It's a fuck-you to tradition," Walt says. "I mean, isn't that the point?"

"Right on, brother." Sebastian nods.

Maggie hugs her arms around her chest. "I'm scared."

"Have a cigarette," Walt remarks. "That will calm your nerves."

"Who's got the booze?" Lali asks. Someone hands her a bottle of whiskey, and she takes a swig, wiping her mouth on her shirt sleeve.

"Okay, Bradley. Get on up there," The Mouse commands.

In unison, we tip our heads back and look skyward. The orange moon has come up behind the roof, casting a boxlike black shadow below. In the spooky light, the peak appears as high as Mount Everest.

"You're going up?" Sebastian asks, astonished.

"Bradley used to be very good in gymnastics," The Mouse says. "Very good. Until she was about twelve, anyway. Remember when you did that jump onto the balance beam and landed right on your--"

"I'd rather not," I say, sneaking a glance at Sebastian.

"I'd do it, but I'm scared of heights," Lali explains. Heights, indeed, are the only thing she admits to being scared of, probably because she thinks it makes her more interesting. "Every time I cross the bridge to Hartford, I have to get down on the floor so I don't get dizzy."

"What if you're the one who's driving?" asks The Mouse.

"Then she has to stop in the middle of traffic and sit there shaking until the police come and tow her car," I say, finding this vision hysterical.

Lali gives me a dirty look. "That is so not true. If I'm driving, it's different."

"Uh-huh," Walt says.

Maggie takes a gulp of whiskey. "Maybe we should go to The Emerald. I'm getting cold."

Oh no. Not after we've made all this effort. "You go to The Emerald, Magwitch. I'm going to do this," I say, with what I hope sounds like gutsy determination.

Peter rubs Maggie's shoulders, a gesture not lost on Walt. "Let's stay. We can go to The Emerald later."

"All right," The Mouse says pointedly. "Anyone who doesn't want to be here should go now. Anyone who wants to stay should just shut up."

"I'm staying," Walt says, lighting up a cigarette. "And I'm not shutting up."

The plan is simple: Lali and Peter will hold the ladder while I go up. Once I'm at the top, Sebastian will climb up after me with the can of paint. I place my hand on a rung. The metal is cold and grooved. Look up, I remind myself. The future is ahead of you. Don't look down. Never look back. Never let 'em see you sweat.

"Go on, Carrie."

"You can do it."

"She's at the top. Ohmigod. She's on the roof!" That's Maggie.

"Carrie?" Sebastian says. "I'm right behind you."

The harvest moon has transformed into a bright white orb surrounded by a million stars. "It's beautiful up here," I shout. "You should all have a look."

I slowly rise, testing my balance, and take a few steps to get my footing. It's not so hard. I remind myself of all the kids who have done this in the past. Sebastian's at the top of the ladder with the paint. With the can in one hand and the brush in the other, I make my way to the side of the roof.

I begin painting, as the group takes up a chant below. "One...Nine...Eight..."

"NINETEEN. EIGHTY--" And just as I'm about to paint the last number, my foot slips.

The can flies out of my hand, bounces once, and rolls off the roof, leaving a huge splotch of paint behind. Maggie screams. I drop down to my knees, scrambling to get a handhold on the wooden shingles. I hear a soft thud as the can hits the grass. Then...nothing.

"Carrie?" The Mouse says tentatively. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine."

"Don't move," Peter shouts.

"I'm not."

And it's true. I'm not moving. But then, with excruciating slowness, I begin to slide. I try to jam my toe into the shingles to stop, but my sneaker glides right over the slick spill of red paint. I reassure myself that I will not die. It's not my time. If I were going to die, I'd know it, right? Some part of my brain is aware of the scraping of skin, but I have yet to feel the pain. I'm picturing myself in a body cast, when suddenly a firm hand grabs my wrist and drags me up to the peak. Behind me I see the tips of the ladder fall away from the edge, followed by a whomp as it clatters into the bushes.

Everyone is screaming.

"We're okay. We're fine. No injuries," Sebastian shouts as the wail of a police siren rips the air.

"There goes Harvard," Peter says.

"Hide the ladder in the barn," Lali commands. "If the cops ask we're just up here smoking cigarettes."

"Maggie, give me the booze," Walt says. There's a crash as he throws the bottle into the barn.

Sebastian tugs on my arm. "We need to get to the other side."

"Why?"

"Don't ask questions. Just do it," he orders as we scramble over the peak. "Lie flat on your back with your knees bent."

"But now I can't see what's happening," I protest.

"I've got a record. Don't move and don't say a word, and pray the cops don't find us."

My breath is as loud as the pounding of a drum.

"Hello, Officers," Walt says when the police arrive.

"What are you kids up to?"

"Nothing. Just smoking some cigarettes," Peter says.

"Have you been drinking?"

"Nope." A group answer.

Silence, followed by the sound of feet squelching around in the wet grass. "What the hell's this?" demands one of the cops. The beam from his flashlight slides up the roof and into the sky. "You kids painting the barn? That's a misdemeanor. Violation of private property."

"Yo, Marone," Lali says to one of the cops. "It's me."

"Whoa," Marone says. "Lali Kandesie. Hey, Jack. It's Lali, Ed's girl."

"You want to take a look around?" Jack asks cautiously, now that he's being confronted by the boss's daughter.

"Nah. Looks okay to me," says Marone.

Jack snorts. "Okay, kids. Party's over. We're going to make sure you get to your cars and get home safely."

And they all leave.

Sebastian and I lie frozen on the roof. I stare up at the stars, intensely aware of his body a few inches from mine. If this isn't romance, I don't know what is.

Sebastian peers over the side. "I think they're gone."

Suddenly, we look at each other and laugh. Sebastian's laugh--I've never heard anything like it--is deep and throaty and slightly sweet, like ripe fruit. I imagine the taste of his mouth as being slightly fruity too, but also sharp, with a tang of nicotine. Boys' mouths are never what you think they're going to be anyway. Sometimes they're stiff and sharp with teeth, or like soft little caves filled with down pillows.

"Well, Carrie Bradshaw," he says. "What's your big plan now?"

I hug my knees to my chest. "Don't have one."

"You? Without a plan? That must be a first."

Really? Is that how he thinks of me? As some nerdly, uptight, efficient planner? I've always thought of myself as the spontaneous type. "I don't always have a plan."

"But you always seem to know where you're going."

"I do?"

"Sure. I can barely keep up with you."

What does that mean? Is this a dream? Am I actually having this conversation with Sebastian Kydd?

"You could always try calling--"

"I did. But your phone's perennially busy. So tonight I was going to stop by your house, but then I saw you getting in Lali's truck and followed you. I figured you were up to something interesting."

Is he saying he likes me?

"You're definitely a character," he adds.

A character? Is that good or bad? I mean, what kind of guy falls in love with a character?

"I guess I can be...sort of funny sometimes."

"You're funny a lot. You're very entertaining. It's good. Most girls are boring."

"They are?"

"Come on, Carrie. You're a girl. You must know that."

"I think most girls are pretty interesting. I mean, they're a lot more interesting than boys. Boys are the ones who are boring."

"Am I boring?"

"You? You're not boring at all. I just meant--"

"I know." He moves a little closer. "Are you cold?"

"I'm okay."

He takes off his jacket. As I put it on, he notices my hands. "Christ," he says. "That must hurt."

"It does--a little." The palms of my hands are stinging like hell where I've scraped the skin. "It's not the worst thing that's happened to me though. One time, I fell off the back of the Kandesies' truck and broke my collarbone. I didn't know it was broken until the next day. Lali made me go to the doctor."

"Lali's your best friend, huh?"

"Pretty much. I mean, she's been my best friend since we were ten. Hey," I ask. "Who's your best friend?"

"Don't have one," he says, staring out at the trees.

"I guess that's the way guys are," I say musingly. I check my hands. "Do you think we're ever going to get off this roof?"

"Do you want to get off this roof?"

"No."

"So don't think about it. Someone will come and get us eventually. Maybe Lali, or your friend The Mouse. She's cool."

"Yeah." I nod. "She's got her life all figured out. She's applying early admission to Yale. And she'll definitely get in."

"That must be nice," he says with a hint of bitterness.

"Are you worried about your future?"

"Isn't everyone?"

"I guess.... But I thought...I don't know. I thought you were going to Harvard or something. Weren't you in private school?"

"I was. But I realized I didn't necessarily want to go to Harvard."

"How could anyone not want to go to Harvard?"

"Because it's a crock. Once I go to Harvard, that's it. Then I'll have to go to law school. Or business school. Then I'll be a suit, working for a big corporation. Taking the commuter train to New York City every day. And then some girl will get me to marry her, and before you know it, I'll have kids and a mortgage. Game over."

"Hmph." It's not exactly what a girl wants to hear from a guy, but on the other hand, I have to give him points for being honest. "I know what you mean. I always say I'm never getting married. Too predictable."

"You'll change your mind. All women do."

"I won't. I'm going to be a writer."

"You look like a writer," he says.

"I do?"

"Yeah. You look like you've always got something going on in your head."

"Am I that transparent?"

"Kind of." He leans over and kisses me. And suddenly, my life splits in two: before and after.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   21

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