The past three weeks have been chal enging, but not in the usual way. I final y hit my stride this time, from speaking understandable Spanish to the locals to making concrete changes in the lives of the kids there. We persuaded a few parents to let their children attend school this fal instead of wasting their days soliciting change from tourists for shoe shines that blacken their hands with polish and offer them no hope for a future. And then there are the girls I tutored, who swore they’d email and keep me updated on their progress.

The biggest chal enge has been banishing Reid from my thoughts. There were times during that last week when I was so busy and focused that I didn’t think of him al day, but that changed the moment I fel into my bunk and burrowed under the blankets at night. There was nothing I could do to keep him out of my head when I shut my eyes. I know I’l get past missing him. His teasing and our tongue-in-cheek debates became a habit, that’s al —an exasperating, stimulating, and infuriatingly enjoyable habit. I don’t know what his motivation was for kissing me, beyond the fact that he seems to do the same with a lot of girls. I don’t think he meant to be cruel, though kissing him revived a long-buried hunger in me.

When we land, there’s an announcement, and I think I hear my name inside a flurry of instructions, but the words are inaudible because everyone is talking and unbuckling and there’s a baby crying in the row ahead of me. She’s teething, so she cried most of the trip. I’ve never been so ready to get off of a flight. I’l be home in—ugh—seven hours.

From my place in the next-to-last row, it takes forever to deplane. Before I exit, I stop to ask a flight attendant,

“Excuse me, I think I heard my name during the announcement? I’m not sure. I was near the baby.” She gives me a rueful smile. “I understand.” She asks another flight attendant about the announcement, and he turns to me.

“Ms. Cantrel ?”

I get a creeping sensation when it occurs to me that having a message delivered at the end of a flight probably isn’t a good thing. “Yes…?”

He smiles reassuringly. “As you exit the jet bridge, there wil be an agent waiting for you, wearing a plaid jacket.

Please speak with her.”

“Um, okay. Should I be worried?”

The helpful expression on his face never changes. “I’m afraid we aren’t privy to that information—you’l need to ask her.”


I’m the last passenger off of the plane. The agent is waiting for me as promised, her expression identical to the flight attendant’s. I don’t feel reassured. The creeping sensation has become a slow, stomach-churning fear.

“Dorcas Cantrel ?” she asks.

“Yes?” My breath’s gone shal ow.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Cantrel , I’m Lucia. Your family contacted the airline this morning while you were en route.

There’s been an emergency of some kind, and we need to reroute you to Indianapolis, instead of Los Angeles. I assume this is acceptable to you?”

I nod. The bottom has dropped out of my stomach.

“What emergency?” Indianapolis. Deb.

The agent takes the handle of my wheeled bag and motions for me to fol ow. “Let’s walk while we talk, because we need to get you through customs as quickly as possible.

First things first—there are no direct flights to Indianapolis from Miami this evening, but we can connect you through Dal as and get you there by 10:30. Is this acceptable, or would you prefer to wait until tomorrow morning, and fly direct?”

My feet are moving, fol owing the agent’s clip-clopping steps as she pul s my bag to the line at customs, but I can’t feel anything. My whole body has gone numb. What kind of emergency would require me to go to Indianapolis? “I… I can do the connection,” I answer, my mouth dry.

“Very good. Wait here, I’m going to see if I can get you moved up so we can get you through this line sooner. Your flight is boarding in five minutes.” She hurries away, and I stand where she left me, shuffling forward in the line no more than three feet while she’s gone. I pul my cel phone out and turn it on. I cal Dad’s number. It goes straight to voicemail and I hang up. Mom’s does as wel , and Deb’s.

My heart is pounding and I’m just concentrating on breathing and standing and not freaking out.

The agent returns, taking my bag, moving me from the back of one line to the front of another. I’m only vaguely aware of the other passengers’ stares and speculations.

I’m asked if I have anything to declare and I say no. My bags are examined, and I’m through customs in record time. “The emergency? What is it?” I ask as we board a motorized cart and she gives the gate number to the driver.

“I have very little information, but here’s what I was told: your sister has had an accident. She’s in the hospital, in critical condition. Your parents are en route to Indianapolis now, and someone wil meet you when you land at IND.”

“An accident? Like, a car accident? What kind of accident?”

She places her hand on my shoulder and looks in my eyes. “I’m not sure, honey. I’m afraid that’s al the information I got at this end. I wasn’t even given the name of the hospital. Your job right now is to stay calm. I’m going to give you your new flight numbers and such, but don’t worry, we’l give you a printout with everything on it…” She’s tel ing me gates and flights and times and I can’t absorb any of it. Deb wil be fine. She’s young and strong and healthy. She always wears her seatbelt and her car has airbags al over the place and that thing that cal s in an accident for you if you’re unconscious. Critical condition means she’s alive, and I’m focusing on that.

The agent and flight attendants essential y put me on the plane to Dal as and al but buckle me in. I have a boarding pass for my flight from Dal as to Indianapolis, with only an hour between flights. I feel like a zombie, and I’m sure I look like one to everyone around me, but it doesn’t matter.

My sister is alive, and she’s going to be fine. This wil be my mantra for the next six hours.

Chapter 33


Vancouver is exactly the change I need. Given the different atmosphere for this film, the older starring group (I’m the youngest cast member), the physical demands of the stunts I’m doing and the muscle I have to maintain, I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done since I was fourteen. Not that it was a choice then, just the typical restrictions of childhood.

While I’m on location, I’m going to abstain. From everything.

Alcohol, weed, pil s, sex.

While Olaf and I were adding that last five pounds, I only got high once, and I cut back on drinking solely to survive his torture sessions. (If he suspected me of drinking the night before a workout, he practical y kil ed me in the weight room.) As for sex, I haven’t been with a girl since I kissed Dori. In some twisted way, this fact is like purposeful y leaving a sweet taste in my mouth. Instead of my usual hookups, which are at best quick and dirty and done just sober enough to recal them, I have a graphical y clear memory of her soft lips opening under mine. That thought in mind, I may set a record over this time period for whacking off, from which I wil not be abstaining, for obvious reasons.

The film we’re doing is an action thril er plus love story, the script reading like a Guy Ritchie/Nicholas Sparks mash-up. My character’s romantic interest is being played by Chelsea Radin, who’s drop-dead hot and twenty-seven.

Both characters are “approximately twenty-three,” so while I’m playing up, she’s playing down. Hol ywood, yeah? We’re on our third day of filming, and the cast is grabbing lunch from craft services when she turns to me and says, “You know, you’re nothing like what I expected, from al the rumors.”

I’m picking through sandwiches, trying to avoid the tuna because we have our first kissing scene coming up after lunch. Turning to her, holding a turkey on whole wheat that would make Olaf proud, I say, “Oh? What were you expecting?”

She shrugs. “Not that I presumed you’d hit on me or anything, but you’re portrayed as this sort of evil, virtue-slaying playboy, and I haven’t seen any evidence of that.


I choke a little on the wedge of sandwich I’ve just bitten into, and she slams her palm on my back until I can breathe again. I give her a half-grin. “Chelsea, don’t you know you can’t trust everything you read on the Internet?” She shakes her head, her short dark hair flipping back and forth. “Photos, baby. Lots of photos. Lots of girls. My husband was actual y a little concerned when they gave you the role.”

I laugh. “Um, no offense, but you’re safe.” Damn, she’s I laugh. “Um, no offense, but you’re safe.” Damn, she’s pretty up close.

She frowns. “I’ve never been so relieved and so insulted al at one time.” Tilting her head, she peers at me like I’m a map and she’s looking for directions. “So who’s the girl?”


She takes a sip of her diet cola and begins picking through the sandwiches. “The girl responsible for this transformation from virgin-eradicator to choir boy.” This train of thought conjures Dori, images of her flashing through my mind rapidly like a slideshow on speed.

She should be back in LA tonight, and in a couple of weeks, she’l be at Berkeley, studying to advance from amateur to professional do-gooder.

“I’m no choir boy, and there’s no girl.”

“Hmm,” Chelsea smiles. “If you say so.” She bites into a sandwich—unbelievably, a tuna sandwich—and saunters over to another costar to ask about his new baby.

Virgin eradicator? Harsh.

The afternoon scenes went wel enough, though I’ve got a hel acious bruise forming on one shoulder from a choreography error. I’m not doing all of my own stunts because I’m not suicidal. (In one, my double wil be jumping from the roof of a semi to the roof of a BMW, while both are moving at 60 mph.) But the fight scenes, the climbing scenes—those I’m doing. The casualty today happened during a bar fight that should have—and would have—gone off without a hitch, except the guy who was supposed to smash a chair onto the bar top as I rol ed to the left screwed up and cracked the chair down right on top of me. The director cut the scene and cal ed a medic, but luckily nothing was broken. Muscle or no muscle, though, that shit hurts.

In comparison, the kiss went much better and was decidedly less painful. Chelsea and I have good chemistry, though not, perhaps, what I had with Emma last year. Stil , we nailed it in one take. I concentrated the entire time on not thinking of Dori. My level of success was questionable, at best. No matter what I’m doing to forget her, she pushes into my consciousness like a walking daydream.

John’s Words of Wisdom when I was trying to come to grips with Emma’s rejection: “The best way to get over a girl is to get under another one.” I listened to him then. For the record? That shit doesn’t work.

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