“Phone plans.”

“But you’ve been out this week?” St. Clair asks. “You’ve actual y left campus?”

“Sure.” Because I have. To get to other parts of campus.

St. Clair raises his eyebrows. “You are such a liar.”

“Let me get this straight.” Josh places his hands in prayer position. His fingers are slender, like the rest of his body, and he has a black ink splotch on one index finger. “You’ve been in Paris for an entire week and have yet to see the city? Any part of it?”

“I went out with my parents last weekend. I saw the Eiffel Tower.” From a distance.

“With your parents, bril iant. And your plans for tonight?” St. Clair asks. “Washing some laundry, perhaps? Scrubbing the shower?”

“Hey. Scrubbing is underrated.”

Rashmi furrows her brow. “What are you gonna eat? The cafeteria will be closed.” Her concern is touching, but I notice she’s not inviting me to join her

and Josh. Not that I’d want to go out with them anyway. As for dinner, I’d planned on cruising the dorm’s vending machine. It’s not well stocked, but I can make it work.


“That’s what I thought,” St. Clair says when I don’t respond. He shakes his head. His dark messy hair has a few curls in it today. It’s quite breathtaking, real y. If there were an Olympics competition in hair, St. Clair would total y win, hands down. Ten-point-oh. Gold medal.

I shrug. “It’s only been a week. It’s not a big deal.”

“Let’s go over the facts one more time,” Josh says. “This is your first weekend away from home?”


“Your first weekend without parental supervision?”


“Your first weekend without parental supervision in Paris? And you want to spend it in your bedroom? Alone?” He and Rashmi exchange pitying

glances. I look at St. Clair for help, but find him staring at me with his head tilted to the side.

“What?” I ask, irritated. “Soup on my chin? Green bean between my teeth?”

St. Clair smiles to himself. “I like your stripe,” he final y says. He reaches out and touches it lightly. “You have perfect hair.”

Chapter seven

The party people have left the dorm. I munch on vending machine snacks and update my website. So far I’ve tried: a Bounty bar, which turned out to be the same thing as a Mounds, and a package of madeleines, shel -shaped cakes that were stale and made me thirsty. Together they’ve raised my blood

sugar to a sufficient working level.

Since I have no new movies to review for Femme Film Freak (as I’m severed from everything good and pure and wonderful about America—the

cinema), I fiddle with the layout. Create a new banner. Edit an old review. In the evening, Bridge emails me:

Went with Matt and Cherrie M (for meretricious) to the movies last night. And guess what? Toph asked about you!! I told him you’re great BUT

you’re REALLY looking forward to your December visit. I think he got the hint. We talked about his band for a minute (stil no shows, of course)

but Matt was making faces the whole time, so we had to go. You know how he feels about Toph. OH! And Cherrie tried to talk us into seeing

your dad’s latest tearjerker. I KNOW.

You suck. Come home.


Meretricious. Showily attractive but cheap or insincere. Yes! That is so Cherrie. I just hope Bridge didn’t make me sound too desperate, despite my longing for Toph to email me. And I can’t believe Matt is stil weird around him, even though we’re not dating anymore. Everyone likes Toph. well ,

sometimes he annoys the managers, but that’s because he tends to forget his work schedule. And cal in sick.

I read her email again, hoping for the words Toph says he’s madly in love with you, and he’ll wait for all eternity to appear. No such luck. So I browse my favorite message board to see what they’re saying about Dad’s new film. The reviews for The Decision aren’t great, despite what it’s raking in at the box office. One regular, clockworkorange88, said this: It sucked balls. Dirty balls. Like I-ran-a-mile-in-July-while-wearing-leather-pants balls.

Sounds about right.

After a while I get bored and do a search for Like Water for Chocolate. I want to make sure I haven’t missed any themes before writing my essay. It’s not due for two weeks, but I have a lot of time on my hands right now. Like, all night.

Blah blah blah. Nothing interesting. And I’m just about to recheck my email when this passage leaps from the screen: Throughout the novel, heat is a

symbol for sexual desire. Tita can control the heat inside her kitchen, but the fire inside of her own body is a force of both strength and destruction.

“Anna?” Someone knocks on my door, and it startles me out of my seat.

No. Not s omeone. St. Clair.

I’m wearing an old Mayfield Dairy T-shirt, complete with yel ow-and-brown cow logo, and hot pink flannel pajama bottoms covered in giant strawberries.

I am not even wearing a bra.

“Anna, I know you’re in there. I can see your light.”

“Hold on a sec!” I blurt. “I’l be right there.” I grab my black hoodie and zip it up over the cow’s face before wrenching open the door. “Hisorryaboutthat.

Come in.”

I open the door wide but he stands there for a moment, just staring at me. I can’t read the expression on his face. Then he breaks into a mischievous

smile and brushes past me.

“Nice strawberries.”

“Shut up.”

“No, I mean it. Cute.”

And even though he doesn’t mean it like I-want-to-leave-my-girlfriend-and-start-dating-you cute, something flickers inside of me. The “force of strength

and destruction” Tita de la Garza knew so well . St. Clair stands in the center of my room. He scratches his head, and his T-shirt lifts up on one side,

exposing a slice of bare stomach.

Foomp! My inner fire ignites.

“It’s real y . . . er . . . clean,” he says.

Fizz. Flames extinguished.

“Is it?” I know my room is tidy, but I haven’t even bought a proper window cleaner yet. Whoever cleaned my windows last had no idea how to use a

bottle of Windex. The key is to only spray a little at a time. Most people spray too much and then it gets in the corners, which are hard to dry without

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