“Wel , Anna. It’s Matt or the minivan. I’m not making the choice for you.”

I choose my ex. We used to be good friends, so I’m sort of looking forward to seeing him again. And maybe Cherrie isn’t as bad as I remember. Except

she is. She totally is. After only five minutes in her company, I cannot fathom how Bridge stands sitting with her at lunch every day. She turns to look at me in the backseat, and her hair swishes in a vitamin-enriched, shampoo-commercial curtain. “So. How are the guys in Paris?”

I shrug. “Parisian.”

“Ha ha.You’re funny.”

Her lifeless laugh is one of her lesser attributes. What does Matt see in her?

“No one special?” Matt smiles and glances at me through the rearview mirror. I’m not sure why, but I forgot that he has brown eyes. Why do they make

some people look amazing and others completely average? It’s the same with brown hair. Statistical y speaking, St. Clair and Matt are quite similar.

Eyes: Brown. Hair: Brown. Race: Caucasian. There’s a significant difference in height, but stil . It’s like comparing a gourmet truffle to a Mr. Goodbar.

I think about the gourmet truffle. And his girlfriend. “Not exactly.”


Cherrie pul s Matt into a story about something that happened in chorus, a conversation she knows I can’t contribute to. Mr. Goodbar fil s me in on the

who-is-who details, but my mind drifts away. Bridgette and Toph. will Bridge look the same? will Toph and I jump in where we left off?

It’s real y hitting me now. I’m about to see Toph.

The last time we were together, we kissed. I can’t help but fantasize about our reunion. Toph picking me out of the crowd, being unable to pry his eyes from me, dedicating songs to me. Meeting him backstage. Kissing him in dark corners. I could be on the verge of an entire winter break spent making out with Toph. By the time we arrive at the club, my stomach is in knots, but in such a good way.

Except when Matt opens my door, I realize we aren’t at a club. More like . . . a bowling all ey. “Is this the right place?”

Cherrie nods. “Al of the best underage bands play here.”

“Oh.” Bridge hadn’t mentioned she was playing in a bowling all ey. But that’s okay, it’s stil a huge deal. And I’d forgotten about the whole underage

thing.Which is sil y, because it’s not like I’ve lived in France that long.

Inside, we’re told we have to buy a lane in order to stay for the show. This also means we have to rent bowling shoes. Um, no.There’s no way I’m

wearing bowling shoes. Hundreds of people use those things and, what, one spritz of Lysol is supposed to kil all of their nasty stinky feet germs? I don’t think so.

“That’s okay,” I say when the man drops them on the counter. “You can keep them.”

“Lady.You ain’t all owed to play without shoes.”

“I’m not playing.”

“Lady. Take the shoes.You’re holdin’ up the line.”

Matt grabs them. “Sorry.” He shakes his head. “I forgot how you are with stuff like this.” And then Cherrie huffs, so he carries her shoes, too. He hides them underneath some plastic orange shel chairs, and we strol over to the stage, which is pushed against the far wal . A smal crowd has gathered.

Bridge and Toph aren’t anywhere to be seen, and I don’t recognize anyone else.

“I think they’re going first,” Matt says.

“You mean they’re the opening act in an underage bowling all ey?” I ask.

He cuts his eyes at me, and I feel about two feet tal . Because he’s right.This is stil awesome! It’s their first show! But the sinking feeling returns as we mil around. Giveaway T-shirts stretched over monstrous beer bel ies. Puffy NFL jackets and porky jowls. Granted, I’m in a bowling all ey, but the

differences between Americans and Parisians are shocking. I’m ashamed to see my country the way the French must see us. Couldn’t these people have

at least brushed their hair before leaving their houses?

“I need a licorice rope,” Cherrie announces. She marches toward the snack stand, and all I can think is these people are your future.

The thought makes me a little happier.

When she comes back, I inform her that just one bite of her Red Dye #40-infused snack could kil my brother. “God, morbid,” she says.Which makes

me think of St. Clair again. Because when I told him the same thing three months ago, instead of accusing me of morbidity, he asked with genuine

curiosity, “Why?”

Which is the polite thing to do when someone offers you such an interesting piece of conversation.

I wonder if St. Clair has seen his mom yet. Hmm, he’s been in California for two hours. His father was going to pick him up and drive him straight to the hospital. He’s probably with her right now. I should send him a text, some well -wishes. I pul out my phone just as the tiny crowd erupts with cheers.

I forget about the text.

The Penny Dreadfuls emerge, pulsating with excitement and energy, from . . . the staff room. Okay. So it’s not as glamorous as emerging from a

backstage, but they do look GREAT. well , two of them do.

The bassist is the same as always. Reggie used to come into work, mooching free tickets off Toph for the latest comic book movies. He has these long

bangs that droop over half his face and cover his eyes, and I could never tell what he thought about anything. I’d be like, “How was the new Iron Man?”

And he’d say, “Fine,” in this bored voice. And because his eyes were hidden, I didn’t know if he meant a good fine, or a so-so fine, or a bad fine. It was irritating.

But Bridgette is radiant. She’s wearing a tank top that shows off her toned arms, and her blond hair is in Princess Leia buns with chopsticks through

them. I wonder if that was Seany’s idea. She finds me immediately, and her face lights up like a Christmas tree. I wave as she lifts the sticks above her head, counts off the song, and then she’s flying. Reggie drives out a matching bass line, and Toph—I save him for last, because I know that once my eyes lock on him, they aren’t moving.

Because Toph. Is stil . Total y. Hot.

He’s slashing at his guitar like he wants to use it for kindling, and he has that angry punk rock scream, and his forehead and sideburns are already

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