I look down at his head on my shoulder in the dark. He looks up at me.
I can’t help it. I’m staring at his lips, because I want to kiss him so badly.
“You know what they say?” he whispers. “You know that a girl wants to kiss you when she stares at your lips.”
I make a mental note to look only at his eyes for the rest of the time we’re together.
“What’s wrong?” Carmine says as we leave the theater, and I push his hand away from mine and get in the car.
“Shit, Siwan. Are you ashamed to be with me?”
He sounds hurt.
“Look, Carmine. I can’t do this.”
Now he looks hurt. “You, too?”
“See, we agree,” I say. But I feel kind of bummed about the fact that he does.
“No. I mean, I always thought you were different than everyone else at school,” he says.
“You think I could go to a party and chitchat with you and Gabby Gabby Hey? You think you could come to a LAN party and play World of Warcraft with Geraldo and Ginny and Mia?”
“Why not?” he says.
Slam. Slam. Into the car. Into the silence. Into reality.
“Shit, Siwan,” he says again. “I like you.”
“Well, I like you, too,” I say.
I pull into the driveway of my house. We don’t say anything. We’re just quiet for a while. He takes my hand again. I let him hold it.
“So what are we going to do?” Carmine asks.
“Break up,” I say.
“Already? We haven’t even kissed,” he says. “We can’t break up until we’ve kissed.”
So I do what needs to be done. I lean over to him and I kiss him like the apocalypse is upon us. And he kisses me back like it’s his last day on earth. Moist lips, hot breath, delighted sighs, small hopeful murmurs. This kiss is arms that have been embracing for 1,000 years. It is hearts racing and slowing at the same time.
We pull apart, and I know it’s the best, most perfect kiss I’ll ever have in my life.
“See you,” I say.
I get out of the car and I walk away. Doesn’t matter, I remind myself. Could never have worked out.
Later, at Mia’s party, I go and get a beer from the cooler. Everyone is giving me a look.
“Where were you today?” Mia asks.
Are my eyes still red from crying? I didn’t think I was going to cry. But I did. I cried about having the best and worst day ever.
“I stayed home,” I say. “I had cramps.”
“I thought you got your period on the 25th,” she says.
“I know, weird, right?” I shrug.
I go into the living room. I sway to the music. I notice Carmine and his friends arriving. I want to wave. I don’t. He sees me. He nods. I nod back. He’s with Gabby Gabby Hey, who is rolling her eyes and looking at everyone like they are the losers she thinks they are.
I want to go over there. I want to say hello. I want to, but I don’t.
We’re not even going to say hello.
Mia comes up to me and I can feel her breathing. “Look who’s here,” I say to her.
I’m relieved that at least she’ll be excited that Carmine showed up. She’s always wanted him to come to a party. Normally, she would be excited. She would be climbing the walls. She would be freaking out. She would be over-the-moon happy.
But instead she’s calm and cold. “Look who’s leaving,” she says to me. She points to the spot and I notice that Carmine doesn’t even look at me as Gabby Gabby Hey ushers him out the front door. I bet he’s glad to have gotten out of here. I know I’m glad he’s gone. I couldn’t even say hello.
I feel deflated.
Mia stamps her foot and goes over to our friends in the corner, all standing in a huddle. Leaving me out. Leaving me to stand alone by the fish tank.
Are they whispering?
They are. My friends are whispering and pointing over at me. I pretend I don’t notice. Pretend it’s no big deal that I’m over here and they’re over there.
I take a sip of my beer.
Might need a refill.
Go get a refill.
I’ll come back and dance in the center of the living room and it’ll be all right.
Letting it all go.
Mia and the others confront me in mid-move. “I saw you kissing him, you know,” Mia yells. “I went to your house to see if you were OK. Imagine my surprise when I saw his car in your driveway. I saw you making out with him. How could you?”
“Slut,” someone says under their breath. They mean me.
“How could you be so cold that you forced him to leave? You could have kept him here. This was my one chance to hang out with him and now he’s gone. You’ve ruined my party! You’ve ruined my life!”
The other girls all nod in agreement. They start to hem me in so I can’t get away. I’m left speechless by how fast they turn from friend to foe. They hurl insults at me. Accusing me of bullshit. Of thinking I’m too cool for them. Calling me a liar. Not listening to my explanation. I’m not welcome here, because I spent the day with Carmine Dejena.
Total. Character. Assassination.
When they are done, I walk home. Feeling bloody. Feeling killed.
If this were a teen movie, my friends would understand. And I would get the guy.
But this is real life. This is me. I don’t get the guy.
I’m an outcast.
I’m socially dead.
What a waste of a perfect day. ♦
Cecil Castellucci is the YA editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books and author of Boy Proof, The Plain Janes, First Day on Earth, and The Year of the Beasts. She lives in Los Angeles.