- Pages: 336 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
- ISBN: 9780593109441
An Excerpt From
“All right, everyone, we’re going to go ahead and break out into tour groups. Outside the auditorium are student ambassadors in blue and red shirts—please line up next to one. No more than ten people per group, please!” Principal Saulk shouted before shimmying offstage.
“Finally,” I groaned.
Ruth whined, clutching her binder. “I didn’t get to ask any of my questions!”
“Come on, Parvin,” Fabián said, holding out a hand adorned with rings in the shape of snakes and skulls.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Wesley. His sandy-colored hair had been chopped off in favor of a buzz cut, but he still looked cute, despite his white polo and khakis. That was strange, since he usually wore a T-shirt and jeans. But at least I could finally introduce him to my friends.
“Wesley!” I waved. “Hey!”
Wesley turned around, and I almost swooned then and there. His braces were off (gasp!), and he looked like a completely new person. He gave me a small wave from where he was sitting next to some students I’d never seen before, and I dragged Ruth and Fabián over.
“Hey, Parvin,” he stuttered, getting up quickly. He herded me away from the people he’d been hanging with, clearly wanting to have me all to himself.
Gosh, it had only been a couple days since we’d last seen each other, but I’d missed the shy, nervous way Wesley talked. I couldn’t stop staring at his braces-free teeth. Just smelling his brand of soap again made my lips tingle from that night at the beach.
“Wesley, these are my friends,” I exclaimed proudly. Hah! Now I had proof that Wesley wasn’t made up! “Meet the Fabián Castor,” I began.
“Charmed,” Fabián purred, sticking his hand out, palm down, like he was a duke or something. Fabián had high standards for boys, and he didn’t hold his hand out to be kissed by just anyone. I could tell he thought Wesley was handsome, too.
Instead of taking Fabián’s hand, though, Wesley just stared at the black nail polish and rings Fabián wore. I watched as his eyes tracked up Fabián’s frame, noting the motorcycle boots, the frayed black jeans, and the smoky eyeliner. I thought Fabián looked amazing today, but from the way Wesley cringed, maybe I’d been wrong.
“Hi,” Wesley squeaked, keeping his hands in his pockets.
“And I’m Ruth Song.” She gave a quick wave, trying to gloss over that awkward moment, but Wesley took a step back. Ruth dropped her hand, self-conscious.
What was going on? Why was Wesley acting so weird?
“Wes? Are you feeling okay?”
“These are your friends?” he asked. Then he glanced back to the group he’d been sitting with. They all wore the same kind of Polite Youths outfit Wesley had on and were just as pale as his white polo. I followed his gaze and was met with a wall of frosty looks.
“Do you know her?” one of them called, gesturing to me. He wore a button-down shirt and something my dad called “slacks.” He looked like he was preparing to run for senate—or at least student-body president—both of which could be possible here in Northern Virginia. His name tag said HUDSON.
“A little bit,” Wesley replied. A little bit? Hello! You just asked me to be your girlfriend! For some reason this Hudson guy thought Wesley’s response was hilarious, because he started laughing coldly at me as he walked over.
“What kind of name is Parvin, anyway?” Hudson read my name tag, pronouncing it Par-vin, and not PAR-veen, like Ruth and Fabián did. What was going on? Why wasn’t Wesley sticking up for me? I felt my friends bristle beside me, ready to step in.
Too late. “Don’t you have some used cars to sell?” Fabián sneered, gesturing to Hudson’s outfit.
“Yeah!” Ruth added, a bit unhelpfully.
But in that moment, I could have kissed them both. Fabián and Ruth were my ride-or-die BFFs. They weren’t going to let just anyone make fun of me. After all, making fun of me was their job.
Wesley stared uneasily at the floor. Why was he friends with this jerk? And why wasn’t he saying anything? I was starting to get annoyed now.
“Let’s go over here,” he said finally, leading me alone to an empty hallway away from Hudson and his crew. Gone was the happy twinkle in Wesley’s eye from whenever he saw me. Now he looked as nervous about high school as I felt, and he kept running his tongue over his braces-free teeth.
“How do you know those guys?” I asked. And why won’t you look at me? It felt like the second I’d introduced my friends, Wesley had clammed up. Was he intimidated by how awesome they were? Being BFFs with an influencer could be nerve-racking, sure, but Fabián had been on his best behavior just now.
“They go to my church, actually. I didn’t know they’d be here until yesterday.”
I nodded. I was glad he was starting school with some friends, even if they seemed dumb.
He still wouldn’t meet my eye.
“Wes?” I took a step closer, reaching for his hand. But he shoved them both into his pockets.
Fabián and Ruth gave me a sympathetic look from where they waited over by Wesley’s church friends. They were probably wondering where the hysterical boyfriend I’d bragged so much about had gone. I’d told them how funny Wesley was, but he was completely different from the boy in front of me.
For someone who had asked me to be his girlfriend a couple days ago, Wesley sure wasn’t acting like my boyfriend.
“Listen, Parvin,” Wesley started, finally making eye contact. “I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think it’s better if we just stay friends. You’re just . . . a little . . .”
My heart stopped. I held my breath, waiting for Wesley to explain the punch line. This had to be a joke, right? Who dumped someone two days after asking them to be their girlfriend?
“Loud,” he said finally. He gestured to all of me, as if I could read his mind and understand what that meant.
I gasped. Loud? Moi? This had to be another one of Wesley’s jokes, like the time we covered the lifeguard chair in body glitter.
“Shiver me timbers, Wes,” I snorted, remembering how much he liked my pirate-speak earlier this week. “Good one, Captain!”
But Wesley just shook his head. “It was fine at the beach and all. But things are different now. You’re just really . . . um . . .”
He looked at the ceiling tiles, as if he’d find the right word up there. “Too much.”
This couldn’t be happening. This had to be a prank.
“What does that even mean?” I chuckled, but it was a strained, shaky sound.
He remained silent. I reached for his hand again, but he kept it in his pocket. “We’re still on for hanging out after orientation, right?” I pressed. I had already scoped out the school’s parking lot, and if I moved each assigned parking space over by one, Principal Saulk wouldn’t have a spot to slide his Prius into tomorrow. It was the perfect trick, and I needed Wesley’s help since Fabián and Ruth refused to help with my little schemes anymore.
“Ummm,” he said uncomfortably.
The laugh I’d been holding back for when he yelled “Just kidding!” died in my throat. Was this really happening? Wesley had never mentioned before that I was “too loud” or “too much” all summer. He had seemed happy enough listening to me explain why mint chocolate chip was the best ice cream flavor, or why I still wore bronzer even though my skin was already pretty bronze.
Wesley just shook his head. “Sorry, Parvin. I don’t think you should be my girlfriend anymore.”
He walked away, back to his church friends.
And then I died.
Five Seconds Later
Oh, look, a comfortable patch of linoleum.
I think I will lie down for a bit.
10 minutes later
Fabián had emptied a bag of Hot Cheetos, and Ruth was using it to resuscitate me.