Read Every Girl's Guide to Boys Online

Authors: Marla Miniano

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Contemporary Fiction, #Teen & Young Adult

Every Girl's Guide to Boys (5 page)

BOOK: Every Girl's Guide to Boys
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Rule number 5:

Follow instructions.

The next morning
, while driving me to school, Nico tells me, “I
really like you, Chrissy.” He holds my hand before he says the next line: “But
let’s take things slow, okay?”

This confuses me a bit:
Wait,
weren’t you the one who pursued me by leaving all those secret admirer comments
online? Weren’t you the one who asked me out to dinner? Weren’t you the one who
climbed in through my window to kiss me goodnight? Weren’t you the one who made
the decision for me and for us? Weren’t you the one who started all of this? If
anything,
I
should be asking
you
to take things slow. I specifically remember
you writing, “I know someone who wants to be with you now, not later;” what
happened to that?
 
But it is too early to
be having an argument, and I am too caught up in the afterglow of last night’s
grand gesture to be paying much attention to anything else. So I stash away the
confusion, turn up the brightness of my smile, and tell him, “That sounds like
a great idea.”

I wonder whether taking
things slow involved not telling anyone about us. I was planning to give Anna
and Rickie a detailed account of the latest developments, to set the record
straight and make them understand that I am not the unappreciative, indecisive
girl who can’t seem to choose between two good options. I wanted my friends to
be happy for me, but more than that, I wanted them to reassure me that by not
actively making a decision, I was actually setting myself up for the better end
of the bargain—the boy who was willing to exert more effort, willing to
pull out more stops, willing to risk more just to be with me. I wanted to
include my best friends in whatever I was feeling, simply because when you’re
starting to fall in love, it’s nice to be able to share the giddy, hopeful joy
with somebody else. But I sneak a glance at Nico and realize that I am not yet
willing to put to the test how much he likes me, and if this means keeping it a
secret, then it will stay a secret until the right time comes. It occurs to me
that the right time will always be subjective, that it may arrive sooner for
one of us while the other person is left behind. It occurs to me that I should
manage my expectations now, while there are not yet too many of them, while
they are not yet spinning out of control and manifesting themselves in
everything I say and do. It occurs to me that Nico is not actually asking me to
take things slow as much as he is
warning
me to take a step back.

At the stoplight, I
think I see Nathan’s family’s van several meters ahead, and I wonder why he’s
behind schedule today—usually, he’d be in school thirty minutes before
the bell rings because he’d always be the first person among the brood of five
to be dropped off. I wonder if he’s still mad at me, and I understand why
people tend to force friendship immediately after things don’t work out between
them romantically—it’s to dilute the guilt and dissolve the weight of all
the things that were left unsolved, to prove that they don’t completely hate
each other, that they’re not completely cruel, that they’re not completely
shutting each other out. It’s actually a diversionary tactic:
Look, we can
totally be more than civil! We can talk to each other and hang out with each
other and move around in each other’s social circles and tell each other about
our new dating prospects. We have no problems with each other; we are not bad
people!
I
wonder whether it would be more decent to tell Nathan about Nico, or just let
him figure it out for himself. And if I do tell him, I wonder whether I should
highlight the fact that it was Nico’s decision, or downplay the fact that it
wasn’t my own.

We pull up in front of
my school’s main gate, and I realize Nico had let go of my hand while I was
deep in thought. I scold myself for not noticing, for not just enjoying the
moment. He gives me a peck on the cheek, tells me to text him when I get home
this afternoon, and unlocks the door. I smile at him and
step out of the car; after taking a few steps, I
turn back to wave goodbye, but he has already driven away.

 

Anna and I
are talking about our upcoming History project over lunch
when Rickie comes in and slams her tray down on the table, loud enough to be
heard by about half of the high school department of St. Andrew’s Academy. She
stands there with her hands on her hips, scowling down at us.

“Oh, come ON, Anna.”
I’ve never seen her this exasperated. “I told you to ask her. You’re not asking
her! Why are you not asking her?”

Anna calmly looks up at
her. “Here’s an idea,” she says. “Actually, two ideas. Number one, you sit
down. And number two,
you
ask her.”

Rickie sits down, takes
a few deep breaths, and starts fanning herself. Anna rolls her eyes. “Just get
it over with, Ric,” she barks. They glare at each other for a while before
Rickie finally spits it out: “Chris, are you aware that Nico will be coming
here?”

I squint at her. “Here?
Now? What, for lunch? Is he allowed to do that?”

Anna rolls her eyes
again, and they glare at each other again for a while before Rickie clarifies,
“No, I meant he’ll be coming here to do assistant coaching for the basketball
team. Like next week, I heard? Miss Vivian from the vice principal’s office
told me yesterday.”

“Oh,” I say. “I didn’t
know, we never really talked about what he’d be doing. I mean, he told me he
wanted to enroll in college next sem, and maybe look for a part-time job in the
meantime, but I didn’t know... I mean, we didn’t talk about...” I trail off.
There are so many things I don’t know. There are so many things we haven’t
talked about, and I’d like to believe it’s only because we haven’t had a chance
to yet.

Rickie lets out a
high-pitched laugh. “Well, at least you know now, right? And at least he’s
gonna be with the basketball team and not like, the Literary Society or some
other org Nathan’s a member of, ‘cause at least they don’t have to see each
other all the time.” Anna makes that face she makes when she’s kicking someone
under the table, and Rickie’s voice takes on that tone and speed it takes when
she’s panicking. She laughs again, and it sounds even faker this time. “Okay,
they’d have to
see
each other, of course, it’s not like you can blindfold them when
they bump into each other in the hallway or something, but like, at least they
don’t have to work with each other, you know? Oh, and aren’t you glad he’s not
your new Student Council mentor? ‘Cause you’d have to attend meetings with both
of them there and that can be like, really weird and just, you know, awkward.”
The last word bounces across the three of us, perfectly describing our current
scenario, and we just sit there in silence.

I don’t know what
they’re thinking about me right now. Are they tracing all the blame back to me?
Do they know how much I still care for Nathan, or do they think I’m trying to
destroy him on purpose? People are always telling other people not to judge
them before they get to know them. But it is neither strangers nor mere acquaintances
who actually judge us the most, but our closest friends—because they
think they know us so well, because they think they can step into our shoes and
see the world from our eyes at any given situation, because they think they
have access to all our intentions and motivations. Friends judge each other all
the time, and judgment doesn’t hurt any less when it comes from people who
actually have a right to pass it. When Anna started dating Miguel before she
was completely over her ex-boyfriend Jaime, I knew she was making a huge
mistake. And deep down, I believed she knew this too; I believed she was aware
of the consequences, but she just didn’t want to set things straight. When
Rickie complains about her perfect older sister Lexi, I know she’s secretly wishing
she can be more like her, because she’s smarter and prettier and more
sophisticated. When she tells us about another big purchase her mom and dad
made to distract her from their absence in her life, I can’t help thinking
she’s playing the role of poor little rich girl because it’s so convenient for
her to portray her parents as the villains. Judgment, when it comes from
friends, feels like a betrayal not just because friends aren’t supposed to
judge each other, but because it is often more accurate than we would want to
admit.

Another thing that
feels like a betrayal is this: friends tend to get attached to each other’s
romantic interests. It starts out slow—in the beginning, you are forced
to get along with your friend’s boyfriend because it is the polite, proper
thing to do. And then you get to know him, and you understand what your friend
sees in him. He makes you laugh, or he gives you a ride home after gimmicks, or
he sets you up with his cute brother. He becomes part of your group and part of
your world, and eventually, he becomes your friend, too. So when things don’t
work out between them, your loyalties are tested: how do you choose between two
friends? Or, more specifically, how do you choose the girl friend you’ve known
forever over the guy friend you only met through her when it is also a matter
of right and wrong—when he’s obviously right and she’s obviously wrong?

I don’t know what
they’re thinking about me right now, but I can guess whose side they’re on. I
break the silence. “You know what, guys? I don’t need this,” I tell them
bluntly. “I don’t deserve this. When you can finally be supportive of me, the
way you should be, let me know.” I have never said anything like this to them,
at least not out loud. It feels liberating, and for a moment, it makes me feel
good. The stunned expressions on their faces giving me an unfamiliar sense of
satisfaction, I get up and turn away. And crash right into Nathan.

My books and papers
scatter all over the canteen floor, and Nathan scrambles to pick them up,
muttering, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.” Which is precisely what I should be
saying to him, because it is the best explanation I could come up with:
I’m sorry, I
didn’t see you
. I see him now, and he looks exhausted and miserable, like he
hasn’t slept in days. He has lost weight (how do boys lose weight so easily?),
and his eyes are puffy and tired. He needs a haircut and has missed one button
on his polo, and I want to reach out and fix it. His hands are shaking when he
gives me back the books and papers I dropped. I see him now, but he seems like
he doesn’t even have enough energy left to look at me.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi,” he says.

I want to ask,
how are you
?, but it is a stupid,
insensitive question and I hate it when people ask me that while I’m obviously
having a bad day. When someone asks how you are, your response is almost always
automatic:
I’m fine, thanks
. Except you’re not fine, and you’re not
thankful, and the fact that you have to lie on top of everything else going
against you makes you even less fine and less thankful.

But he’s the one who
asks, “How are you?” and the way he says it makes it sound like a valid
question. His genuine concern for me is peeking out from underneath all the
layers of hurt, and I want to push it back down and tell it to stay put. I want
him to go from careful to cautious to cold to cruel. I want him to have enough
energy to really look at me so he can realize that from now on, especially when
the new assistant basketball coach comes in, he cannot afford to let his guard
down. His defenses are crucial, and I want him to start protecting himself,
because nobody else can do that for him.

I reply, “I’m fine,
thanks.” I do not ask him how he is in return. I see him now, but I also see
how far apart we have drifted over a span of several days. I convince myself
that this is a good thing, because the farther he is from me, the greater the
distance between him and Nico. And I need that—I need a
clear distinction between the two of them, I need
to draw the line between who I should and should not see.

“I’m glad you’re fine,”
he says. He is not being sarcastic; he is never sarcastic. He is being sweet
and sincere and Nathan, the way he is sweet and sincere and Nathan with
everyone.

I tell him, “I have to
go.”

 

I get home
that afternoon and head straight to my room to bury myself
in homework. Nathan’s face has been flashing through my mind the whole day, and
I need to forget about him and my little outburst in front of Anna and Rickie.
I am knee-deep in a torturous Trigonometry problem when the phone rings. I am
the only person in the house and I don’t answer it—if it’s really
important, the caller would probably try again later, when I’m in a better
mood. It stops ringing for about five seconds before it starts again, and I begrudgingly
pick it up.

“Hello?”


Hi, Chrissy,” Nico says. It is not an affectionate
hi,
but a perfunctory
hi
, and he sounds annoyed about something. I try
to remember if I said or did anything wrong during the car ride this morning,
but all I remember is him asking me to take things slow. Maybe it was a trick
question, maybe I was supposed to protest and tell him I was ready for a
relationship
right now
. Maybe I wasn’t
supposed to think it was a great idea, and maybe he was just testing me to see
how much I wanted to be with him. I’ve watched Rickie do this many times
before: After two weeks of dating, she’d ask a guy if he loved her, and when he
said yes, she’d tell him he was moving too fast and suggest they start seeing
other people. When he said no, she’d call him a jerk and tell him it was his
loss. Either way, the guy simply could not win. If that’s what Nico is trying
to do now, then I don’t get it and I definitely don’t like it. Why can’t people
just say what they mean and mean what they say?

BOOK: Every Girl's Guide to Boys
11.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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