Authors: Gemma Halliday
FOR MY MOM,
WHOSE TOFU RICE CASSEROLE
IS THE MOST COMFORTING FOOD
ON THE PLANET
THERE ARE THREE THINGS YOU NEVER WANT TO FIND
in your boyfriend’s locker: a sweaty jockstrap, a D minus on last week’s history test, and an empty condom wrapper.
Lucky me, I’d hit the trifecta.
I pushed past the near-failing grade and underwear, honing in on the ripped foil packet. I grasped it between my thumb and forefinger, actually feeling my jaw drop open like some cartoon character as I leaned against the locker for support.
“No way,” my best friend, Sam, said as she peered over my shoulder. “Hartley, is that . . . ?”
“I think so,” I croaked out.
“Holy effing crap, that sucks!”
I turned to her. “Effing?”
Sam shrugged. “What?”
“We’re censoring now?”
“Kyle says I have a mouth like a trucker.”
“You do have a mouth like a trucker. It’s one of the things I love best about you.”
“Kyle says it’s not very feminine.”
I rolled my eyes toward the ceiling. “Yeah, I’d be taking femininity tips from a guy who lives in his football jersey.”
Sam put her hands on her hips and threw me a pointed look. “Yeah? Well, at least
boyfriend’s not effing the president of the Chastity Club.”
I looked down at the Trojan wrapper in my hand. She had a point.
“God, this cannot be happening,” I moaned.
Which is exactly what I’d been saying ever since Ashley Stannic texted me during first period English that someone had seen my boyfriend, Josh DuPont, feeling up Courtney Cline after cross-country practice yesterday. At first, I’d dismissed it. Because (A) Courtney Cline was the staying-a-virgin queen, putting up Earn Your Right to Wear White! posters all over the cafeteria and even urging students to sign an abstinence pledge the first day of school, and (B) Josh and I had been dating for, like, ever. Our relationship had even survived going long distance for two whole months this summer—one while I went to Ohio to visit my grandma Mimi and another when Josh went to soccer camp in Sacramento. Each one had felt like an eternity, but once he got home again, we spent the entire week before school started glued to each other’s sides, only letting go when one of us had to sleep or pee. We were solid. I knew there was no way he would step out on me. Ashley
have been mistaken.
Only, by second period both Jessica Hanson and Chris Fret were mistaken, too, texting me to ask if the rumors of Josh hitting second base with Courtney were true. By lunch, half the school was mistaken, and I was the recipient of sidelong glances and barely concealed snickers over trays of pizza sticks and applesauce.
And I was questioning that solidity.
So, I did what any good girlfriend would do. I broke into Josh’s locker. Would the more mature thing have been to confront him directly with the rumors? Possibly. Would it have been as effective?
I looked at the shiny gold-foil square in my hand.
No matter how much I may love—scratch that,
, past tense—Josh, I was no dummy. Everyone knows the Y chromosome carries with it the instinctive urge to lie under pressure.
Which, incidentally, was what Josh was going to be under when I found him. Serious pressure.
On his larynx.
I balled the wrapper in my fist. “Where is he?” I demanded of the world at large. “Where is that cheating piece of—”
But I didn’t get any further. The bell sounded above me, echoing off the halls of Herbert Hoover High. Immediately conversations around us stopped, lockers slammed shut, and hundreds of shoes squeaked against the overwaxed floors as people scattered to fifth period.
“Look, maybe there’s a good reason for it being there,” Sam offered, shrugging her backpack onto her shoulder.
“Such as?” I shoved the wrapper into my plaid book bag, slammed Josh’s locker shut, and followed Sam down the hall.
“Well, maybe it’s for sex ed class?”
“I don’t know about you, but the last time I had sex ed was in eighth grade.”
“Good point. Okay, maybe it’s for some science project about, um, reproduction?”
“You’re totally grasping.”
“Fine. But maybe it’s just one he used with you, and the wrapper got stuck in his backpack or something. That could happen, right?”
I bit my lip. No, it couldn’t. Because my dirty little secret that I couldn’t even share with my best friend? Unlike the president of the Chastity Club, I was an actual virgin.
Okay, I hadn’t signed any pledge or made any promises to save myself for some hyped up Mr. Right to propose. It just . . . well . . . it hadn’t really happened for me yet. I’d tried. Once. During freshman year when it seemed like everyone was doing it, and I thought I was destined to be the only virgin left in the entire Silicon Valley. I’d been going out with Cole Perkins for a couple months at the time, so when he wanted me to come over to his place one Friday after water polo practice, I agreed.
His room had smelled like stale pizza, gym socks, and the Glade air freshener his mom used. He’d docked his iPod and played some horrible list of Christina Aguilera songs that I guess were supposed to put me in the mood but really just made me question what I was doing getting naked with a guy who downloaded Christina Aguilera songs. Cole swore he’d done this lots of times before, but I’d bet money that was his Y chromosome talking because it had been awkward, kinda painful, and in the end he’d squirted all over his bedsheets before we could even really do it.
After that one experience, I figured I probably wasn’t missing out on much after all and gave up on the idea.
Until Josh. I’d always assumed that I’d do it someday with Josh. You know, when the timing was right.
Apparently the timing had been right with Courtney Cline first.
“Look, we’ll track him down after school,” Sam promised, pausing outside her lit class. “Don’t worry, Hart. I’m sure this is all some big misunderstanding.”
She gave my arm a quick squeeze before disappearing into the classroom. I stared after her, vaguely hearing the tardy bell fill the hallway with its ugly warning.
Josh better pray that’s all this was. Otherwise, I was gonna
THE FIRST THING I DID WHEN I GOT TO CHEM (ONLY
two minutes late) was text Josh. If he had a good explanation, now would be an excellent time to hear it.
need 2 talk asap.
I set my cell to vibrate and shoved it in the pocket of my jeans. Then, reluctantly, I opened my chem book, trying to follow along with the class while my entire being was focused on waiting for that telltale vibration of Josh’s response.
One explanation of ionic versus covalent chemical bonding later, my phone still hadn’t buzzed. As Mrs. Perry turned her back to write our homework assignment on the whiteboard, I pulled it out and tried again.
911 call when u get this.
Then I tucked it away again, pretending to care about atoms swapping electrons.
But by the end of the class my phone was still conspicuously silent. I tried to catch a glimpse of Josh in the hallway as we scrambled for last period, but considering he had history in the east wing and I had trig in the west wing, it was a lost cause.
I sent three more texts during math, trying to concentrate on functions of acute angles, but completely distracted by the lack of activity coming from my pocket. With each second that ticked by, I could feel the possibility of this being just some stupid misunderstanding becoming slimmer and slimmer, until by the end of the period, it began to resemble an Olsen twin. On crack. After a colon cleanse.
So, as soon as the bell rang and the halls filled with people making their mad dash for freedom, I called Sam and told her to meet me on the field where the cross-country team practiced.
By the time I’d navigated the mass exodus, Sam was already there, watching the team stretch before their first run. I scanned the group of guys in orange and black HHH Wildcats jerseys for any sign of Josh’s blond hair. Usually he stood out in a crowd—tall and lean, a shaggy-chic haircut, and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. Think Zac Efron. But blond. And hotter. There was something about his smile—kinda lopsided with dimples—that drew both guys and girls into his circle like little mosquitoes buzzing toward a bright, shiny bug zapper. For better or worse, no one could resist Josh DuPont.
But, today, there was no sign of him.
Undeterred, I stalked up to a short guy with wiry black hair at the head of the track who was struggling to touch his toes. “Hey, Cody.”
Cody Banks looked up, sweat already collecting on his wide brow. “Hey, Hartley. ’Sup.” He nodded at Sam. “’Sup.”
Sam nodded back.
“Where’s Josh?” I asked.
Cody shrugged. “Dunno.”
“He’s not at practice?”
He shook his head. “Nope. He hung out for a few minutes, but then he said he wasn’t feelin’ well. Maybe he went home.”
Coward. If Josh thought he wasn’t feeling well now, just wait till I got my hands on him . . .
“So,” Cody said, leaning in closer, “is it true? About Josh and Courtney?”
I shot him a look that clearly said if he valued his life, he wouldn’t go there.
“She found a condom wrapper,” Sam supplied instead. “But we’re pretty sure it’s for a science project.”
Cody shook his head. “Dude. Sucks.”