The ABC's of Kissing Boys

BOOK: The ABC's of Kissing Boys
13.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
also by Tina Ferraro
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Special thanks to
my incomparable editor, Krista Marino;
my agent, Nadia Cornier, who wouldn't let me quit this book;
author Kelly Parra, for her “cyber fairy dust”;
the Buzz Girls, at
my daughter, Sarah, for her assurances;
my soccer professionals, Bjorn, Stefan and Ashley;
and friends and family who continue to light my way, including Stacy Gustafson, Paddy Lock, Patricia Mills, Tom, Heather, Billie, Joe, Russ, Mary and Annie, and the guys who keep our home fires burning.

For Terri,

'cause she's cool like that

Senses become
engaged when kissing takes place—feeling,
seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting. Adrenaline
intensifies it all.

ou're late.”

Luke was right, and I knew I should apologize. But the reason for this meeting was so embarrassing that the only way I could keep what remained of my pride was to look my brother's friend in the eye and give him attitude right back.

“Yeah, well,
try riding in DeGroot traffic on that old thing,” I said, and pointed through the music store's front window at my ten- speed bike on the sidewalk. The tires were low and the seat was mostly duct tape, but Luke lived and worked by the university now, and I'd had to get here somehow.

on that?”
he said, and frowned. “Not a chance.”

“Yeah, yeah, Mr. Cool,” I said, but added a smile to soften my words. I was, after all, here to get him to do me a favor.

Luke Anderson, last spring's prom king and still the object of most every girl's desire at DeGroot High School, leaned a hip against a display case and shrugged. I'd practically grown up around him, was used to his shrugs and this brother- sister- type bantering. I was also used to him being fairly obsessed with himself and everything Luke-related, so was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to this meeting today. I was starting to get why Clayton had stayed so tight with him all these years.

“Look, Parker,” he said, then glanced at the store's wall clock, “I don't have much time, so let's get down to business.”

I plunked my scratched- up bike helmet on the counter and ran a hand through my bangs to get them out of my eyes. My hair was so blond that any sweat whatsoever made it look what some called carelessly tousled and what I called an absolute mess. I dug into the pockets of my shorts, came up with a bunch of bills and coins and dumped them unceremoniously into Luke's cupped hands. “Two hundred eighty- six and fourteen cents. It's every penny I have in the world.”

He stared down at the cold, hard cash. “That's a really random number.”

I saw his point. “Okay, keep two hundred and fifty and give me back the rest.”

He frowned, and little lines fanned out from his brown eyes. “I owe your bro some bucks. I'll throw that in and make it an even three hundred. Hartley can't refuse
can she?”

Hartley was Coach Wanda Hartley, or
to me, since she'd posted the soccer rosters two weeks ago and moved up every eleventh- grade player—except two. Hard to believe (and even harder to swallow), but my name, Parker Stanhope, had appeared for the third consecutive year on the JV roster. Alongside those of dull-as- dirt junior Lyric Wolensky, freshmen and other soccer newbies.

After remembering how to breathe, I'd tried to talk to Hartley, to reason with her about her obvious slip in judgment. I mean, how could she expect me to wave goodbye to my friends, to my
Or what was
to be my life. But she hadn't budged, had just talked about player limits and told me to report to JV practice following the first day of school.

So for now, I was in limbo—a junior on a JV team. Which horrified and humiliated me. And did strange things to my best friends and former teammates Chrissandra Hickey, Elaine Chu and Mandy Kline, too. While full of hugs and
at first, suddenly they seemed busy now when I called or IM'd. Like I was an illegal alien in their world and they were reconsidering my visa.

All I could think was they were waiting things out, trusting that I'd triumph over this injustice, that I'd make this awkwardness of what to say to me and what not to say go away. But in the still of the night, I couldn't help worrying that they were waiting for
to go away. That they were all varsity cool now—and I was not. Which dug like a stake in my heart.

Making things right between my friends and me was the driving force behind this crazy scheme that I had concocted with my brother and that Clayton had gotten Luke to agree to.

School started on a Monday, and the following Tuesday, classes let out at noon for the customary campus sports fair. There was your basic DJ and yummy food booths, and a raffle to give away T-shirts and homework passes and the chance to be principal for a day (like being a student at DHS wasn't lame enough). But the big draw was that each sports team hosted a booth, and the coach of the booth that raised the most money got to park in a very coveted reserved teacher parking space for the whole school year.

JV soccer always did a milk- bottle ring toss, and varsity soccer went with a kissing booth. This year's kissing booth would go down in history, if Clayton, Luke and I had anything to do with it.

The plan was for Luke and Clayton to be back from the university, presumably to see old friends and teachers. After some schmoozing, Luke would strut up to the three- dollar kissing booth and announce that he was willing to make a very large donation.

For a kiss from me.

When he was told he'd have to choose another girl because I hadn't made varsity, he would get loud and get demanding—in a charming way. And when you look like a rock star, and the girls at the school are still in love with you, and the guys still want to
you, well, you get noticed. And, usually, what you want.

At that point, he'd call on Coach Hartley and tell her if she'd put me on varsity for a few minutes, he'd plunk down what we had now decided would be three hundred dollars. Which we hoped she'd eagerly interpret as a
on that reserved parking spot, the one the teachers called the “sleep in and slip in,” because the driver could arrive as late as first bell, park, and still be in class on time.

Clayton, who was just starting his second year at the university and had an eye toward law school, swore that those few minutes I spent on varsity would be enough to substantiate a claim to make Heartless keep me on permanently. Sort of like squatter's rights, he'd said. And having to kick someone off varsity to create the opening (like senior Rachael Washington, whose interest in soccer flip- flopped, anyway, and whose return to the game this year was basically the reason my life seriously sucked) was not too high a price to pay to keep my claim from going to court.

We'd have Heartless by the throat. And I'd have my old life back. Friends and all.

“Thanks,” I told Luke, to the offer of padding my money out to three hundred and, well, doing this whole thing for me. “I won't forget this.”

“Clayton's saved my butt more times than I can count. I'm glad to help. But one thing,” he said, and tilted his head down toward me. “When I go to kiss you, it's gotta look like the real deal. Like I'm enjoying it and getting my money's worth.”

Oh, God, there was no denying the majorly masculine look to his eyes.

Heat rose to my face. Not because I was excited about kissing Luke—or repulsed. The truth was, when I looked at him objectively, I saw his hottieness. (A whole town of girls could not be wrong.) But if it weren't for this kissing booth, I would go my entire life without locking lips with him, and that would be just fine, too.

What was making my freckled face blush was his underlying meaning—my inexperience with kissing. Which, in my own defense, was not totally my fault, since I'd had a boyfriend most of my sophomore year. But he'd lived in another part of Minnesota—in my grandmother's town—and had only given me quick, closed- mouth kisses when we'd been alone.

So it's not like I was some prude who was afraid to smear her lip gloss or something. Still, I was as new at kissing as most of the JV soccer team was at high school sports.

“I'm going to give it my all,” he went on, taking a step away from the display case and closer to me. “And you're going to have to give it back just as good.”

I swallowed. Hard. I couldn't tell if he was joking or strangely serious.

“In fact, when we're done, I expect applause and whistles. Otherwise, Coach Hartley could catch on that this was all a setup. Then, even if Clayton could somehow get a lawsuit going, she'd fight it every step of the way and make your life frigging miserable.

“And, worse? I'll look stupid.” He narrowed his brown eyes at my blue ones. “And Parker, I don't

I winced, wanting to assure him that I wouldn't botch the kiss. But with nothing in my background to back it up, the words sort of clogged in my throat.

“So do us both a favor,” he said, pulling a ten back out from his pocket and handing it to me. “Stop by the supermarket on your way home and pick up some bing cherries and Starburst. I had this girlfriend once who swore she owed her technique to looping cherry stems and unwrapping Starbursts with her tongue.”

I'm pretty sure I grimaced.

“Try it. And anything else you can think to help get you up to par.” He glanced at the clock. “Look, I gotta get back. You do those exercises, and hang in there. I'll see you at the fair, okay?”

“Thanks, Luke,” I said, and blew out a sigh, relieved to have this mortifying conversation behind me. So much for retaining shreds of my dignity, huh?

Slipping out the door, I was suddenly grateful for the familiar sight of my old ten- speed. I rolled my neck to try to release some of the tension, then strapped my helmet back on. I was eager to pedal away, to try to feel normal again. Whatever normal was.

But what was most important, I told myself, was that I was no longer taking Heartless's heartlessness lying down. I had a real and viable plan in place now to turn things around.

And in the meantime, I had twelve days until the sports fair. Studying up on kissing had to be easier than geometry and biology, right? And a lot more fun. Besides, the bottom line was that this had far greater consequences than just getting a decent report card.

I had to keep my name from turning from Parker Elizabeth Stanhope into … well, Mud.

BOOK: The ABC's of Kissing Boys
13.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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