Vitamins had ruined my life.
Not that there was much left to ruin, but still.
I know blaming vitamins for my horrible life sounds strange. After all, vitamins are supposed to keep people healthy. Also, they're inanimate objects. But thanks to them I was stuck in the Jackson Center Mall watching my father run around in a bee costume.
I sank into the chair by our cash register as Dad walked up to two women. They looked around when he started talking, searching for a way out. They wouldn't find one. In our section of the mall, there wasn't much around, which was how we could afford our booth.
I watched the women smile and step away, an almost dance I'd seen plenty over the few days I'd worked here. After they left, Dad came over to me, grinning, and said, "Kate, I think I made a sale! Those two women I just talked to said they'd tell their husbands about the reformulated B Buzz! tablets. Isn't that great? Now I think I'll fly -- get it? -- down to the department store and see if I can give samples to people as they walk out."
I handed over the samples -- small plastic bags stamped with the Perfect You logo -- and watched him lurch down the hallway, off balance because of his costume. As soon as he was gone, I got out my history homework.
This was not how I'd pictured my sophomore year. Not that the first half had been wonderful so far, but this was definitely an all-time low.
Four hours and one history chapter later, the mall closed. Dad and I boxed up the extra vitamins he'd been so sure we'd sell, and then I waited while he ran the box back to the storage space we rented from the mall.
"Pretty good day, right?" he said when he got back. The antennae he was wearing bobbed up and down as he talked. "Todd and I sold one bottle of B Buzz! in the morning, and I bet those two women come back tomorrow. Don't you think they will?"
I shrugged, because it was much easier than telling Dad I was sure they wouldn't. It was also easier than mentioning that we owed eighty bucks for the rented bee costume, and that was far more than the amount we'd taken in from the one bottle of vitamins it supposedly sold.
When we got home, Mom was sitting at the kitchen table flipping through the checkbook and frowning. She'd been doing that a lot lately.
"How did it go?" she asked, putting the checkbook down.
I left before she could say anything else, heading back to my room. I took a second to stop in the living room and stand in front of the television though, watching as my brother, Todd, lifted himself up off the sofa long enough to say, "Kate, you freak, move. I'm watching something important."
Last week Todd decided he wanted to be an actor. So far all it meant was that he spent even more time than usual watching television. For a college graduate, he sure was on the fast track to nowhere.
"You can't learn to act watching basketball."
"You can't. I can. Now move."
I started singing and kept it up until he lunged at me.
I have a terrible singing voice, and not in the "I'm saying it's terrible to be modest" kind of way. Last week, when I quit the school choir, the director tried to keep the joy off his face but couldn't quite contain it.
I hadn't cared about that, though. I knew my voice sucked, and quitting was a relief. The only reason I'd stayed as long as I had was because of Anna. All fall I'd suffered through practices, hoping she'd come back. That she'd want to be in choir again. That she'd want to be my friend again.
That maybe she'd at least talk to me again.
In the fall, I thought there was no way life could get any worse.
I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
Almost a month ago, my father got up and went to work at Corpus Software like always, running late because he'd gotten caught up in his latest video game, forgetting about his job in favor of slaying dragons or driving cars or whatever it was that had him obsessed that week.
But then, when he got to work, his desk was broken. Really broken.
It had split right down the middle, and everything breakable -- picture frames with photos of all of us, his coffee mug, and the clay thing my brother made during the two weeks he wanted to be a potter -- was broken.
The one thing that hadn't broken was a small brown glass jar of vitamins. Perfect You vitamins. Dad had bought them from a secretary who was moving out of town and spent her last day at work selling them. He'd only bought them to be nice.
But, long story short, Dad decided that the whole desk-breaking thing was a sign he needed to change his life, and that the unbroken vitamin bottle meant something.
So he quit his job to sell Perfect You vitamins.
He cashed in his retirement fund, bought box after box of vitamins, and then rented a tiny freestanding booth in the mall. He even hired someone to work with him, but Gary quit last week, after Dad told him he couldn't pay him. That's when I had to quit choir and start working with Dad after school.
So now I had no best friend, and I had a job at the mall selling vitamins with my father.
Life had definitely gotten much worse.
I saw Anna as soon as I got to school the next morning. When Dad dropped me off, she was standing on the sidewalk holding hands with her boyfriend, Sam. She waved in my direction as I walked toward her, and for a second I hoped she was waving at me even though I knew she wasn't. I hated how easy it was for her to act like she'd never known me.
I hated how I still hoped she would notice me.
No one ever asked me why Anna and I weren't friends anymore. I guess everyone automatically understood that when Anna became popular, there was no way she had room in her life for me. Even the Jennifers, three girls I'd tried to be friends with in the fall until I realized they drove me crazy, never asked what happened.
Actually, one person had asked about Anna. Will Miller said, "So what's up with you and Anna?" about a week after school started, but I knew he was just being an ass. Will was like that, one of those guys who was cute and knew it. He'd hooked up with at least half the girls in school, and last year, I swear that every week he made out with a different girl before class. I hadn't liked him since the day I met him.
I tried to avoid him, in fact, but this year he was in my first-period class. It was bad enough I had to start every morning with biology, and Will just made things worse.
For instance, when class was over, we ended up walking into the hall at the same time, and he said, "Hey, what did your frog ever do to you? I saw you hack its legs off."
I sighed. Will always seemed to take some sort of perverse delight in talking to me, but lately he'd been even more annoying about it than usual. "I didn't hack its legs off. My scalpel slipped."
"Wow, promise me you aren't going into medicine."
I glared at him and he grinned, unleashing his dimples. I looked away and saw Anna coming down the hall, walking in the middle of a group of girls we used to make fun of. Two of them waved at Will, and one said, "Any chance we can get you to go shirtless for the next pep rally?"
He shrugged, still grinning, and Anna said, "Think about it, will you?" Her gaze moved over me like I wasn't even there.
I walked away, telling myself I didn't care and wishing I could forget her like she'd forgotten me.
Of course Will caught up to me. "What do you think? Should I do it? I know you've secretly been dying to check me out."
"Right, because if I see your scrawny chest I can die a happy woman." Will actually had a very nice chest. The thing was, he knew that too, because he was always willing to run around shirtless with JHS RULES! painted on him during stupid pep rallies.
"I like that a glimpse of my chest could provide you with the equivalent of a rich and full life."
"The key words in my sentence were 'see your chest' and 'die.' The 'happy' part was me trying to be nice."
"So you say." He unleashed the dimples again, smiling like he knew something, and I felt my face heat up because Will really was cute and I wasn't as immune to him as I wanted to be.
I didn't want him to guess that, though, so I forced myself to look at him. Or at least look at his forehead.
"All right, you caught me. I'm secretly obsessed with you and spend all my free time writing about you in my journal. 'Dear Diary, today Will was an ass for the 467th day in a row. He's so dreamy.'"
He laughed and then leaned in toward me, touching the tip of my nose with his index finger. For some reason, I felt a little breathless. "Are you okay?"
"Aside from you, yes."
Okay, here's the truth. I knew exactly why I felt breathless. I had, let's say, "thoughts" about Will, and not the kind of thoughts I wanted to have, where I was able to forget he existed and also meet an amazing guy who really liked me. No, I had thoughts like me and Will somehow getting trapped in a classroom and Will realizing he wanted me, and I...well, let's just say I had a vivid imagination and leave it at that.
The problem was, I had these thoughts a lot. A LOT.
Will put a hand on my arm. It was very warm, and I stared at his fingers resting against my skin, cursing my overactive brain and reminding myself to breathe.
"Seriously, I'm sorry about everything with Anna."
That snapped me out of any "thoughts" I might have been thinking, and I shoved his hand off and walked away. I hated the way I felt around him, the way I wanted him. I hated that he was the only person who'd ever asked me what happened when Anna and I stopped being friends.
I hated that he was the only person who'd acted like her forgetting me meant something.
- Genres: Fiction
- paperback: 282 pages
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- ISBN-10: 1416953558
- ISBN-13: 9781416953555