Authors: Kelly McClymer
How Not to Spend Your Senior Year
BY CAMERON DOKEY
BY NIKI BURNHAM
Ripped at the Seams
BY NANCY KRULIK
BY NIKI BURNHAM
BY CAROLINE GOODE
South Beach Sizzle
BY SUZANNE WEYN AND DIANA GONZALEZ
She's Got the Beat
BY NANCY KRULIK
30 Guys in 30 Days
BY MICOL OSTOW
BY JAMIE PONTI
A Novel Idea
BY AIMEE FRIEDMAN
BY NIKI BURNHAM
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Copyright Â© 2006 by Kelly McClymer
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
SIMON PULSE and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Library of Congress Control Number 2005936047
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To Kristen, Andrew, and Brendan,
the three people who keep me young. Thank you.
This book wouldn't be the same book if it weren't for my excellent agent and advocate, Nadia Cornier, or the insights of my phenomenal editor, Michelle Nagler. I also want to thank my children for their patient answers to their mother's endless questions about growing up in the twenty-first century. Any inaccuracies are my own.
Dear Mother Hubbard,
I think my bf has lost my cell number. We hung out every single second of last weekend and he said he'd call. I've skipped class all week (my professors make us turn our cell phones off in class), and he hasn't called yet. I'm thinking of slipping my number under his door. Do you think he would be embarrassed knowing I knew he lost my number?
Trying to Be Considerate
Slip your number under his door? Ummmmâ¦not if you value yourself. Don't you get it? You've been dumped. Here's what you do: Go to the campus bookstore and slip a copy of
He's Just Not That Into You into
your backpack. There should be several copies, as I always have them restock when they run out. Read it. Twice if you need to. Then block his number on your cell and go back to class.
I stepped closer to read what was scrawled over my column this week.
Mother Hubbard, Go Back to Your Cupboard.
In drippy red acrylic paint, someoneâobviously a creatively and romantically tortured student from the Arts and Theater Departmentâhas taken exception to my sensible advice, and this was her artistic way of telling me, or more precisely, Mother Hubbard, to take early retirement. Nice.
College. I thought it would be so different from high school. Silly me. The Mother Hubbard advice column nailed to the campus paper's office door and the big red slashed circle, universal sign of disdain, that covered it told me two things.
One, dating in college is just like dating in high school, with the exception that there are no parents to lie to or evade after an unfortunate curfew lapse.
Two, don't open the door to the
. I knew I should have turned around, fished my cell out of my pocket, and called Tyler, the paper's editor in chief, to claim a migraine. Or typhoid. Maybe Ebola. But I didn't.
For one thing, in the month I'd been writing the column Tyler had insisted I stay away from the paper's tiny basement officeâhe preferred to keep me very “Deep Throat.” No one was supposed to know who Mother Hubbard was, and Tyler was determined not to be the first editor of the campus paper to let the secret slip. Not so easy in this age of teddy cams, picture phones, and instant messenger.
Maybe Tyler's overboard Secret Service/FBI clandestine meeting type of secrecy wasn't as overboard as I'd first thought when he'd asked (read “begged”âliterally down on both knees) me to write the column.
What can I say? It was my first week on campus. I probably looked like easy prey. I was still under the naive impression that college was totally different from high schoolâafter all, there was not a mom or dad in sight as I sat on my bed and he knelt on the floor in front of me, his head against my knee, begging me to take the column off his hands. How could I refuse? He pretended he was joking, but there was real desperation in his eyes. I'm a sucker for desperate.
Apparently the person who'd agreed to write it had switched both her major and her college over the summer, without giving him so much as a nanosecond's heads-up. He needed a columnist, and he needed her in time for the next day's paper. “The one everyone on campus reads,” he boasted. As if that would make the job appealing.
He'd almost made the column sound coolâmy advice read by millionsâ¦well, really twenty-five thousand; stepping into the shoes of those anonymous souls before me who had kept the secret of Mother Hubbard's identity without fail for a century.
But, if I have to be honest, it was the way his eyes turned from gold-brown to green-brown as he begged that got to me. I wanted some more time to study changeable eyes like that. Even David's had only been one colorâa vibrant blue. Okay, let's not go there. David is history.
In my defense, I hadn't realized I was starting another one of those hopeless crushes that made my stomach hurt and my ears buzz as if my dad's electric razor were strapped on top of my head.
Not that Tyler was perfect. Nope.
For example, when I opened the door, offensive column in hand, it only took about two seconds for Tyler to look up and start gobbling. Yes. I do mean as in “Gobble-gobble-gobble.” With appropriate elbow flapping to simulate a big bird. That's another thing I like about him. He's serious, with a sense of humor. Sometimes, however, that humor is seriously sick.
I wanted to laugh, but that would only encourage him and I was looking for a cure for the crushâand was determined not to let on that I was interested. I waved the torn-out column over my head. “That would be Mother Goose, not Mother Hubbard. Brush up on your nursery rhymes.”
Clearly, he didn't care about his gross inaccuracy, because he continued to gobble. What else can you expect from someone who is seriously ambitious, but twisted enough to think he can make his mark on the campus paper by aiming more toward the audience of the
New York Times
? Like I said, college is really not as different from high school as it should be.
My parents had both told me that college would be hard, and that there would be adjustments to make. Foolish me, I'd been picturing adjustments like learning to say no to one guy when I already had a date scheduled with another. Juggling a social life and study sessions, keeping up with both. But no. I'd slipped right back into the high school role of best friend to my massive crush, who was too busy making goo-goo eyes at someone else to notice. Comedy Central would pay for a stand-up routine of my first month in college.
So far, the only adjustments I'd had to make were finding an alarm clock loud enough to wake me now that my dad wasn't around to give his “third and final warning” bellow, and buying a pair of emergency jeans with a slightly larger waist for the days when I hit the dining hall ice cream cart a little too hard. Well, and learning to deal with being the most hated anonymous figure on campus, courtesy of the advice column I hadn't really wanted to write in the first place.
At least Tyler's teasing signaled it was okay to shed my deep coverâfor the moment. The only two people in the office were Tyler and Sookie, his assistant editor and the one who refused to write the column at the last minute, even when he begged. Which meant that she was smarter than I was.
I slid over to Sookie's desk and slipped her lighter from her cigarettes. She already has a pack-a-day habit and a smoky voice that suggests throat cancer in the next thirty years. Whenever I see her, I can't help thinking of Lois Lane, the no-nonsense, hardcore reporter whose only fault is that she can't tell that Clark Kent is really Superman.
Holding up the clipping of my (artistically vandalized) column, I put the lighter to it so the flame touched one torn corner. The paper began to char and smoke. Very satisfying.
Tyler stopped gobbling and leaped up. “You're going to set off the sprinklers.” He grabbed the paper from my hand before it could burst into flame. Probably a good thing, considering the building (and its retrofitted sprinklers) were older than God. “You have to learn to take the criticism that comes with the job.”
Sookie looked up from her laptop and nodded. “You should see what comes through campus mail for me.” Sookie had the honor of putting together the campus police blotter for every other edition. No advice column for her; she's after the dirt on campusâwhich football player was found with an open beer, who pulled the fire alarm at midnight at the dorm. The police might not care, but Sookie did. Yep. A real Lois Lane in the making. Well, with one difference. She didn't think she needed a man, never mind a Superman.
“Seen it.” Courtesy of Tyler, who was probably one of the few people on earth who considered stalk-mail a compliment to his editorial acumen. The police blotter (not to mention the follow-up investigative report Sookie does) tends to bring out the worst in its subjects. She shrugged, not glancing up from her work. “At least you know it isn't personalâno one but you, Tyler, and I even know you're Mother Hubbard.”
Tyler frowned and looked over his shoulder as if we were under surveillance. “I'd rather you didn't say that aloud.”
Sookie slipped a cigarette between her lips as she considered his request. She didn't light it, because of the aforementioned overly sensitive sprinkler system, but she knew how much he hated her to have a cigarette, even if she didn't light it. “You'd
a lot of things, Mr. Editor Man. But you can't have everything.”
I could smell it in the airâthe scent of an imminent fight. A common occurrence when two strong editorial egos collide. It was almost a tradition. Just like homecoming, graduation, and the one-hundred-year-old Mother Hubbard column, dispensing advice through the current unfortunate student minion. Like me.
I thought about saying something to diffuse the situation, but then I remembered how mad I was at Tyler for talking me into the stupid job in the first place.
“I thought you liked controversy, Tyler. Good for the bottom line.” Bottom line: The more papers that were read, the more revenue the paper brought in from ad sales.
“I'd love the Mother Hubbard controversy, Katelynâif it made people read the paper instead of burning it in front of the student union.”
Sookie leaned forward. “Maybe I could do an investigation piece.” Her eyes lit up, and I knew how some of her investigative targets must have felt. “That paper-burning stunt was cool! The firemen came, and the police. The local TV station loved it. They were interviewing students about whether or not the advice is horrible. Maybe I could spin this in our favor. Freedom of speech is always good for some noise.”
“It is media attention.” Tyler perked up for just a minute. Then he slumped in his chair. “Of course, the TV anchors were laughing during the footage, right before they called the controversy âstudent immaturity at work.' They didn't even get the name of the column rightâthey kept calling it Mommy Dearest. They were just interested in seeing a mob of girls in shorts and tank tops clapping and shouting âRetire, Old Biddy!' as the paper burned.”
Sookie, of course, taunted Tyler further, egged on by his desperation. “Maybe I could call my piece âRetirement Time for Old Mother Hubbard?'”
Tyler barely reacted. He was prone to giving frantic, pompous “nose to the grindstone” speechesânot slumping in his chair like he was contemplating the end of his career before it even got started. But then, he was a juniorâthe first junior to be editor in chief since World War II.
I was so focused on enjoying his torment that it took a minute for me to digest what Sookie had just suggested. Retiring Mother Hubbard. Oh, right. That's what I wanted!
Exceptâ¦then what excuse would I have to talk to Tyler? We had one class together, so I could ask for notes, but since we both already knew I was the better note taker, it would make my interest in him pretty obvious. Hiding my feelings for guys who weren't feeling me was something I'd learned how to do flawlessly in high school. There probably wasn't a single person there who knew that I spent four years wishing David Morse would stop calling me his best friend. I hid it well. Unless you counted every best-friend-turned-lover song I had stored on my iPod.
I wanted to keep my flawless record intact.
Fortunately, Tyler didn't like the idea of retiring the oldest campus tradition (next to blowout parties, on Tuesdays, of all nights) any more than I did. “Forget it. We're not breaking tradition on my watch.”
Not for the first time, I was glad Tyler had a teensy streak of pompous patriarchal idiot (I learned in high school a girl can't help whom she crushes on; it just happens, like tornados or zits). Until he continued, “Katelyn, you're going to have to give the people what they want. And fast.”
“You mean instead of giving good advice, I should just tell them to go at it like mindless rabbits? No way.”
I didn't like his solution, although I'd heard it before. Too many times. Readers thought I was too old-fashioned. That my dating rules were strict, and my tell-it-like-it-is tone way too harsh for a mother figure from a nursery rhyme.
But I disagree. The one benefit of writing the column was that I could use the common sense I'd learned watching all the high school drama around me. Love is blind, deaf, and dumb, and if I had to write about it, the least I could do was try to help some of the hapless victims of pheromone overload see their way to avoiding a few Mr. or Miss No-Nos. For example, it's one thing to have a crush, but entirely another to make a fool of yourself in front of said crushâwhether he notices or not.
I think Tyler and I were both surprised that I'd actually said no to his suggestion âokay, really it was a demand. “Why is it so hard for you to be reasonable?” He spun aimlessly in his beat-up chair, a sign he was taking this whole thing a lot more seriously than I'd realized. “College is for learning about relationships and stuff like that.”
For a second I thought about caving and letting him off the hook. But there's a reason why my parents tell me I'd make a good lawyer. I'm stubborn when I think I'm right. I smiled at Tyler and said smugly, “Key word: âlearning.' Not âwallowing.'”
“People already feel bad enough getting dumped, they don't need you to rub it in.” Tyler got so mad his little tic started showing. I liked that tic, usually.
It was a blue vein that swelled and pulsed right at the left curve of his temple. Reminded me of the heroes in some of the romance novels I used to sneak out of my mother's room when I was twelve. They had a tic when they got mad too.
I liked knowing that I could make Tyler really mad. After all, the best defense is a good offense, my high school swimming coach used to say. But this time I worried a little that the tic was going to blow.
I thought I'd lighten the mood. A little. “Why can't people party without breaking hearts?”