that was nice.

It was also nice when Dad left. He kept gril ing me about French monuments and making these irritating cal s to his publicist.We were all relieved to see him go.The only consistent bright spot has been St. Clair. We talk every day—cal s, emails, texts. It doesn’t escape my attention that when Toph and I

were separated, our communications fizzled out, but now that I’m not seeing St. Clair every day, we talk even more.

Which makes me feel worse about Toph. If we’d been better friends, we would have kept in contact. It was dumb to think there was a chance we might make it. I can’t believe Matt, of all people, was the one to point out how poorly I handled it. And, honestly, now that I’ve had time to reflect on it, Toph isn’t even that huge of a loss. It only hurts so much to think about him because of Bridgette. How could she keep this a secret from me? Her betrayal is infinitely more painful.

I didn’t have anywhere to go this New Year’s, so Seany and I are staying in. Mom went out with some work friends. I order a cheese pizza, and we

watch The Phantom Menace. This is how much I want to prove to my brother I love him—I’l sit through Jar Jar-freaking-Binks. Afterward, he drags out the action figures while we watch the Times Square countdown on television. “Pkschoo! Pkschoo!” Han Solo fires at my Storm Trooper before ducking

behind a sofa cushion for cover.

“It’s a good thing I wore my laser-proof jacket,” I say, marching forward.

“There’s no such thing as a laser-proof jacket!You’re DEAD!” Han goes running across the back of the couch. “YEHH-AHHHH!”

I pick up Queen Amidala. “Han, you’re in danger! Go the other way! The Storm Trooper is wearing his laser-proof jacket.”


“An-nuhhhh, stop! Pkschoo pkschoo! ”

“Fine,” Amidala says. “Leave it to a woman to do a man’s work.” She bashes the Storm Trooper’s head with her own. “GHHNNOOOO!” He fal s off the


Han jumps down to the carpet and begins shooting again.

I pick up young Obi-Wan. “Ooo, Amidala. You look radiant. Kiss kiss kiss.”

“No!” Seany snatches Obi-Wan from my hand. “No kissing.”

I pul another figure from Seany’s toy box. It’s a Sand Person, the one Bridgette must have bought him. Oh, well . “Ooo, Amidala. Kiss kiss kiss.”

“Sand People don’t kiss! They ATTACK! RARRRRR!” He steals this one, too, but then pauses to examine its bumpy little head. “Why aren’t you talking

to Bridge?” he asks suddenly. “Did she hurt your feelings?”

I’m startled. “Yes, Sean. She did something that wasn’t very nice.”

“Does that mean she’s not going to babysit me anymore?”

“No, I’m sure she will . She likes you.”

“I don’t like her.”


“She made you cry.You cry all the time now.” He throws the Sand Person in the bottom of his box. “Do you stil have the one you bought me?”

I smile. I get my backpack and start to hand the toy over, but something nags at me. Sigh. “You can have this on one condition. You have to be nice to her. It’s either Bridgette or Granddad, those are Mom’s only babysitting options. And Granddad’s getting too old for this.” I gesture toward the pile of

discarded action figures.

“Okay,” he says shyly. I give him the package, and he cradles it. “Thank you.”

The kitchen phone rings. Mom checking up on us, no doubt. Seany gets up to answer it while I look for a suitable new boyfriend for Amidala. “I don’t

understand you,” he says. “Please speak English.”

“Sean? Who is it? Just hang up.” Aha! Luke Skywalker! The one missing a hand, but oh well . Amidala and Luke kiss. Wait. Isn’t she his mom? I toss

Luke aside, as if he’s personal y offended me, and dig through the box again.

“Your voice is weird.Yeah, she’s here.”


“Is this her BOYFRIEND?” My brother laughs maniacal y.

I lunge into the kitchen and grab the phone. “Hel o? St. Clair?” There’s laughter on the other end of the line. Seany sticks out his tongue, and I push him away by his head. “GO. AWAY.”

“Sorry?” the voice on the phone says.

“I was talking to Sean. Is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“How’d you get this number?”

“Wel , you see, there’s this book. It has white pages. And it has all of these phone numbers listed inside it. It’s also online.”

“Is that your booooy-friend?” Seany asks directly over the receiver.

I push him away again. “He’s a boy who’s a friend. Go watch the countdown.”

“What happened to your mobile?” St. Clair asks. “Did you forget to charge it?”

“I can’t believe it! That’s so unlike me.”

“I know, I was shocked to be sent to voice mail. But I’m glad to have your real number now. Just in case.”

The extra effort it took for him to cal me makes me happy. “What are you up to? Shouldn’t you be out celebrating?”

“Eh. Mum wasn’t feeling well , so I’m staying in tonight. She’s sleeping, so I suppose I’l be watching the countdown alone.” His mom came home from

the hospital a few days ago.The situation has been up and down.

“What about El ie?” The words fal out before I can stop them.

“I, er . . . talked to her earlier. It’s the New Year in Paris, after all. She went back the day after Christmas,” he adds.

I picture them making Amidala kissing noises over the phone. My heart sinks.

“She’s out partying.” His voice is sort of glum.

“Sorry to be your second choice.”

“Don’t be stupid. Third choice. Mum’s asleep, remember?” He laughs again.

“Thanks.Wel , maybe I should hang up before my first choice fal s asleep.” I glance at Seany, who has become quiet in the other room.

“Nonsense, I’ve only just cal ed. But how is your man? He sounded good, even if he didn’t understand a word I said.”

“You do talk funny.” I smile. I love his voice.

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