they seem to be having problems again. Like an obsessed stalker, I tal y the evenings he spends with me versus the evenings he spends with her. I’m


So why won’t he give her up? Why why why?

It torments me until I cave, until the pressure inside is so unbearable that I have to talk to someone or risk explosion. I choose Meredith. The way I see it, she’s probably obsessing over the situation as much as I am. We’re in her bedroom, and she’s helping me write an essay about my guinea pig for French

class. She’s wearing soccer shorts with a cashmere sweater, and even though it’s sil y-looking, it’s endearingly Meredith-appropriate. She’s also doing

crunches. For fun.

“Good, but that’s present tense,” she says. “You aren’t feeding Captain Jack carrot sticks right now.”

“Oh. Right.” I jot something down, but I’m not thinking about verbs. I’m trying to figure out how to casual y bring up Étienne.

“Read it to me again. Ooo, and do your funny voice! That faux-French one you ordered café crème in the other day, at that new place with St. Clair.”

My bad French accent wasn’t on purpose, but I jump on the opening.“You know, there’s something, um, I’ve been wondering.” I’m conscious of the


il uminated sign above my head, flashing the obvious—I! LOVE! ÉTIENNE!—but push ahead anyway. “Why are he and El ie are stil together? I mean they

hardly see each other anymore. Right?”

Mer pauses, mid-crunch, and . . . I’m caught. She knows I’m in love with him, too.

But then I see her struggling to reply, and I realize she’s as trapped in the drama as I am. She didn’t even notice my odd tone of voice. “Yeah.” She

lowers herself slowly back to the floor. “But it’s not that simple. They’ve been together forever. They’re practical y an old married couple. And besides, they’re both real y . . . cautious.”


“Yeah.You know. St. Clair doesn’t rock the boat. And El ie’s the same way. It took her ages to choose a university, and then she stil picked one that’s

only a few neighborhoods away. I mean, Parsons is a prestigious school and everything, but she chose it because it was familiar. And now with St. Clair’s mom, I think he’s afraid to lose anyone else. Meanwhile, she’s not gonna break up with him, not while his mom has cancer. Even if it isn’t a healthy

relationship anymore.”

I click the clicky-button on top of my pen. Clickclickclickclick. “So you think they’re unhappy?”

She sighs. “Not unhappy, but . . . not happy either. Happy enough, I guess. Does that make sense?”

And it does. Which I hate. Clickclickclickclick.

It means I can’t say anything to him, because I’d be risking our friendship. I have to keep acting like nothing has changed, that I don’t feel anything more for him than I feel for Josh.Who, the next day, is ignoring our history lecture for the bil ionth class in a row. He has a graphic novel, Craig Thompson’s Goodbye, Chunky Rice, hidden on his lap. Josh scrawls something into the sketchbook beneath it. He’s taking notes, but not about the storming of the Bastil e.

Josh and Rashmi had another blowup at lunch. No one is worried about Étienne dropping out anymore, but Josh is ditching with an alarming frequency.

He’s stopped doing homework altogether. And the more Rashmi pushes him, the more he pul s away.

Professeur Hansen paces the front of the classroom. He’s a short man with thick glasses and wispy hair that flies out whenever he bangs our desks for

emphasis. He teaches the dirty parts of history and never makes us memorize dates. I can see why Étienne is interested in the subject when he’s had a

teacher like this for four years.

I wish I could stop bringing everything back to Étienne.

I look at the juniors surrounding me, and discover I’m not the only one ravaged by hormones. Emily Middlestone bends over to pick up a dropped

eraser, and Mike Reynard leers at her br**sts. Gross.Too bad for him she’s interested in his best friend, Dave. The eraser drop was deliberate, but Dave

is oblivious. His eyes glaze over as they fol ow Professeur Hansen’s pacing.

Dave notices me staring and sits up. I quickly turn away. Emily glares at me, and I smile blandly back. She returned to school with a stripe in her hair. It’s pink and the rest is blond, so it’s not quite like mine. Stil .

Professeur Hansen relays the details of Marie Antoinette’s execution. I can’t concentrate. Étienne and I are going to the movies after school. And, okay, Josh and Rashmi are also coming—Mer can’t because she has soccer practice—but that stil makes this week’s score: Anna 4, El ie 1. The teacher

bangs another desk, and the redhead to my left jumps and drops her papers.

I lean over to help her pick them up, and I’m startled to discover an entire page of doodles of a familiar skul tattoo. I look up in surprise, and her face burns as red as her hair. I glance toward Josh and then raise my eyebrows at her. Her eyes widen in horror, but I shake my head and smile. I won’t tell .

What’s her name? Isla. Isla Martin. She lives on my floor, but she’s so quiet I often forget about her. She’l have to be louder if she likes Josh. They’re both shy. It’s a shame, because they’d look cute together. Probably fight less than he and Rashmi, too. Why is it that the right people never wind up

together? Why are people so afraid to leave a relationship, even if they know it’s a bad one?

I’m stil contemplating this later, while Étienne and I wait outside Josh’s room on the first floor, ready for the movies. Étienne presses his ear against Josh’s door but then shoots back like it’s on fire.

“What is it?”

He grimaces. “They’ve made up again.”

I fol ow him outside. “Rashmi’s in there?”

“They’re having it off,” he says bluntly. “I’d rather not interrupt.”

I’m glad he’s ahead of me, so he can’t see my face. It’s not like I’m ready to sleep with anyone—I’m not—but it’s stil this stupid wal between us. I’m

always aware of it. And now I’m thinking about Étienne and El ie again. His fingertips stroking her bare shoulder. Her lips parted against his na**d throat.

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