“I know you don’t like him, but you could at least try to be civil.” I refrain from pointing out we’ve already had a conversation about our own less-than-perfect chompers. The last few weeks have been terrible. St. Clair and I are stil friends—in theory—but now that thing is back, even larger and nastier than it was after Thanksgiving. It’s so huge it feels physical, an actual weight and body keeping us from getting close.

“Why?” His voice is suspicious. “Are you two going out now?”

“Yeah, we set up our first date right after he asked me to marry him. Please. We’re just friends.”

Mer grins. “Dave doesn’t want to be just friends.”

“Hey, did you catch what our assignment was in English?” I ask.

“Subject-changer, thy name is Anna,” Rashmi says. But in a friendly way. Since my postbirthday breakfast, things have been easier between us.

“I’m not changing the subject. I just didn’t hear what our homework was.”

“That’s odd,” St. Clair says. “Because I saw you write it down.”

“I did?”

“Yes,” he says. It’s a chal enge.


“Oh, come on, you guys,” Mer says. Our friends are sick of us fighting, even though they stil don’t know the details of our current situation. Which is how I prefer it. “Anna, it’s a comparative essay between the two stories in Kitchen. Remember?”

Of course I remember. I’m actual y looking forward to this assignment. We just finished reading a book by Banana Yoshimoto, a Japanese author, and

it’s my favorite so far. Both of her stories are about heartache and mourning, but they’re tinged with this . . . simplicity and romance. I can’t help but think of my father’s work.

He writes about love and death, too. But while his books are fil ed with sappy melodrama, Yoshimoto reflects on the healing process. Her characters

are also suffering, but they’re putting their lives back together. Learning to love again. Her stories are harder, but they’re also more rewarding.The

characters suffer in the beginning and the middle, but not the end. There’s positive resolution.

I should mail my dad a copy. Circle the happy endings in red.

“Er,” St. Clair says. “Shal we work on the paper together, then? Tonight?”

He’s making an effort to be friendly. It sounds painful. He keeps trying, and I keep shooting him down. “I don’t know,” I say. “I have to get measured for my wedding dress.”

St. Clair’s face flickers with frustration, but for some reason this doesn’t make me feel as satisfied as it should. Argh, fine. “Sure,” I say. “That’d be . . .


“Yeah, I need to borrow your calculus notes,” Mer says. “I must have missed something. It just wasn’t clicking for me today.”

“Oh,” St. Clair says. Like he just noticed she’s standing here. “Yeah.You can borrow them. When you join us.”

Rashmi smirks but doesn’t say anything.

He turns back to me. “So did you enjoy the book?”

“I did.” Discomfort lingers between us. “Did you?”

St. Clair considers it for a moment. “I like the author’s name the best,” he final y says. “Ba-nah-na.”

“You’re pronouncing it wrong,” I say.

He nudges me gently. “I stil like it best.”

“Oliphant, what’d you get for number nine?” Dave whispers.

We’re taking a pop quiz. I’m not doing so hot, because conjugating verbs isn’t my strong point. Nouns I can handle—boat, shoelace, rainbow. Le

bateau, le lacet, l’arc-en-ciel. But verbs? If only everything could be said in the present tense.

I go to store yesterday for milk!

Last night he ride bus for two hours!

A week ago, I sing to your cat at beach!

I make sure Professeur Gil et is distracted before replying to Dave. “No idea,” I whisper. Though I actual y do know the answer. I just hate cheating. He holds up six fingers, and I shake my head. And I don’t know the answer to that one.

“Number six?” he hisses, not sure if I’ve understood him.

“Monsieur Higgenbaum!”

Dave tenses as Madame Guil otine advances. She rips the quiz from his hands, and I don’t need to speak French to understand what she says. Busted.

“And you, Mademoisel e Oliphant.” She snatches my quiz as well .

That’s so unfair! “But—”

“I do not tolerate chee-ting.” And her frown is so severe I want to hide underneath my desk. She marches back toward the front of the classroom.

“What the hel ?” Dave whispers.

I shush him, but she jerks back around. “Monsieur! Mademoisel e! I zought I made eet clear—zere iz no talking during tests.”

“Sorry, professeur,” I say as Dave protests he wasn’t saying anything. Which is dumb, because everyone heard him.

And then . . . Professeur Gil et kicks us out.

I don’t believe it. I’ve never been kicked out of a class.We’re instructed to wait in the hal until the period is over, but Dave has other plans. He tiptoes away and motions for me to fol ow. “Come on. Let’s just go in the stairwel so we can talk.”

But I don’t want to go. We’re in enough trouble as it is.

“She’l never know. We’l be back before the hour is up,” he says. “I promise.”

Dave winks, and I shake my head but fol ow him anyway. Why can’t I say no to cute boys? I expect him to stop once we’re in the stairwel , but he

descends the entire way. We go outside and onto the street. “Better, right?” he asks. “Who wants to be stuck inside on a day like today?”

It’s freezing out, and I would rather be in school, but I hold my tongue. We sit on a chil y bench, and Dave is prattling about snowboarding or skiing or something. I’m distracted. I wonder if Professeur Gil et will let me make up the quiz points. I wonder if she’s checking the hal way. I wonder if I’m about to get in more trouble.

“You know, I’m kinda glad we got kicked out,” Dave says.

“Huh?” I turn my attention back to him. “Why?”

He smiles. “I never get to see you alone.”

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