“I can’t believe in a couple more days we’ll be ninth graders.” The excitement was clear in Gavin’s voice, but I just shook my head. Gavin couldn’t believe lots of things. Ten minutes ago, he couldn’t believe summer was almost here, and five minutes ago, he couldn’t believe Sara Maddison might like him.
“I’m not sure it really counts until the end of the summer.” I knew it didn’t count because that’s what Jeremy had said this morning.
Jeremy thought it was stupid and that you couldn’t claim the next grade until summer was actually over. So no matter what Gavin said, I knew it didn’t count. Unlike most big brothers who were lame and obnoxious, Jeremy knew everything.
Well, almost everything. There were a few things I was hoping Jeremy didn’t know. At least, not yet. Not until I was ready to tell Mom and Dad….Or until I knew what to tell them. I was afraid he’d already guessed, but he wasn’t the kind of brother who would go running to our parents.
“Of course, it counts.” Jennifer glanced over and looked like she was expecting me to agree with her. She’d been weird like that lately. Every time we’d all gotten together, she’d acted oddly. Mad when I disagreed with her and stupid excited when I did agree with her. Gavin laughed the other day when I was complaining about her, but he wouldn’t tell me what was so funny.
I shrugged and kept going. The school was only a few blocks from home, but on days like today, the walk took forever. Only a few more minutes, then video games and no homework. The last week of school was great.
Jennifer stuck her nose up in the air and told the other girls who were walking home that they should go a different way because it would be faster. Then she mumbled something about boys being stupid under her breath. Everybody looked at me and then the girls nodded. What had I done?
“Okay, see you guys later.”
Jennifer looked like her eyes were going to bug out of her head, and her nose went even higher, but at the next corner, instead of going straight like we usually did, the girls turned right. Once they were down the next block, the guys all looked at me.
“Dude, she’s never going to forgive you.”
I looked at Mark. “For what?”
Now they were all laughing. I’d been walking home for years with the same four guys, but ever since the girls started coming with us, they’d been acting like dorks. Heading home by myself was beginning to look better and better. Maybe if I asked, Jeremy would take the long way home from the high school and go with me instead.
That would be cool. Jeremy wasn’t like the other guys’ brothers. Mark’s brother was mean, and Gavin’s was never around. Miles was an only child, but his older cousins pulled pranks on him all the time. Jeremy was completely different. He was always cool, and even though he was one of the popular kids at school, he never made me feel like I was stupid.
I ignored them the rest of the walk home. Jeremy would say it was childish, but I didn’t care. I was tired of the weird looks, and I wasn’t going to ask why they were staring at me like that because it just made them laugh harder.
Ignoring them, I thought about what I was going to do when I got home. I’d been stuck on level twelve of my newest game for weeks, and walking back, I finally figured it out. I’d been such an idiot—I should have seen it before. No, what I should have done was ask Jeremy. But I’d wanted to show him I could do it myself. Well, now I would.
Shaking my head distractedly at them as they went to their own houses, I replayed the level in my head, confident I’d figured it out. Video games made sense. Other stuff, not so much. It didn’t matter anyway.
I’d made it to the front of the house when my backpack jerked and dropped nearly all the way to the sidewalk. “Shit.”
I looked around to see if anyone had heard me cuss, noticing a van that had pulled up beside me. But the windows were up, so whoever was in it wouldn’t have heard me. The last time I cussed outside, one of the neighbors had ratted me out. Mom wasn’t mad; she just didn’t want to give the neighbors anything to gossip about.
Kneeling, I put the bag on the ground and tried to see if there was any way to fix the strap. I’d feel like such a dork if I had to carry it. I’d been trying to tell Mom for weeks that I needed a new backpack, but she’d said it was “ridiculous” to buy one at the end of the school year when they’d be on sale in just a few—
The wind was just about knocked out of me when someone grabbed me around the waist. “WHAT—”
A deep voice growled something that sounded like, “Shut the fuck up.”
I jerked and tried to pull away, but the arms got tighter.
Some events just change how you look at a person. One thing can make them go from someone who’s just always there to someone who matters…More than they should.
Kevin knows that no one would understand what he feels for Jeremy. Even Jeremy would be shocked if he found out. But what do you do when you fall in love with the one person you were never supposed to need?