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Chapter 1

I guess I kept hoping some kind of miracle would happen. It wasn’t even like I was asking for a big one. I mean, I didn’t want someone to come along and give me straight As or perfect hair or anything. I just didn’t want to take one lousy class. That’s not too much to ask for,  right?

A perfectly polished fingernail taps my schedule.

“Told you.” Katie and her worry voice. I look up from my schedule --- it still has the stupid class listed, damn it --- and grin to show I’m okay.

“Lauren,” she says, totally not buying it.

I shrug and fold my schedule up real small. I can still see the W in World History though. I sigh and jam the whole thing in my bag and then ask, “How many classes do you have with Marcus?”

“None. I thought we might have one, but then…” As she keeps talking, I glance over at her. She looks like she stepped out of a fashion magazine, as always. This is because she gets up at quarter to five every morning. I don’t know how she does it. Just thinking about trying to get up that early makes me sleepy.

“Mmm,” I say, because it’s all that’s required. A Marcus question guarantees at least five minutes where I don’t have to do anything but nod and make vague agreeing noises. Katie’s been going out with Marcus for six months now, and he is her entire world. When we first met we used to talk endlessly about how we’d get boyfriends and what we’d do when we had them, and it was only when we actually got boyfriends that I realized that without the acquiring of them to talk about, we had absolutely nothing in common.

And that sucks, because Katie’s my best friend.

I had a real honest-to-god best friend, Jane, until ninth grade, but then she moved away. At first we talked a lot, like everything was exactly the same even though it wasn’t, and then we talked less, and when we did she’d mention people I didn’t know and stuff she was doing that I wasn’t part of. I’d make up stuff in reply, and before I knew it we weren’t talking at all and the only thing I had going on was my volunteer job at the library. You have to do community service in order to graduate, and although most everyone does it at the very last minute, Jane and I had planned it all out before she left. A summer spent among books, but she left and there I was shelving books and showing people how to use the Internet terminals. Alone.

That’s how I met Katie. I’d seen her around but had never really spoken to her --- she was more popular than I was, not by a lot but enough so that me saying anything to her was out of the question --- but then she started working at the library and we were shelving books together every day, and one afternoon she just started talking to me. She said she hated the library, and I said I did too, but the truth is I loved it. I love books. I like that the moment you open one and sink into it you can escape from the world, into a story that’s way more interesting than yours will ever be. But I could tell Katie wasn’t the kind of person you said stuff like that to, so I just asked about her nail polish instead.

After that we talked a lot. She said she was sick of hooking up with guys at parties and wanted a real boyfriend. I hadn’t ever hooked up with anyone, much less been to the sort of parties Katie went to, but I wanted a boyfriend too. So we had that in common. Plus it turned out Katie’s best friend had decided she was a phony and had dumped her in favor of hanging out with the kids who sit around writing awful poetry and calling everyone else shallow. Katie told me that the first time she slept over at my house. I remember she blinked a lot, and I could tell she was trying not to cry and I knew exactly how she felt. That feeling of being left behind --- it sucks. I said those kids were all losers, and Katie grinned at me and asked if I wanted to skip out of work early the next day to go shopping. I didn’t really want to; the new books had just come in, and I was going to get to scan them into the system and maybe set aside a couple for myself, but I knew what would happen if I said that. So I said, “Sure, let’s go shopping,” and we’ve hung out ever since.

“So what do you think I should do about it?”

I look at Katie, who is biting her lip. “Well,” I say hesitantly, because I have no idea what she’s talking about, “maybe it’s not that big a deal.”

“Lauren, he has two classes with Clara. Two. What if she decides she wants him back? What if she --- ”

“He loves you,” I tell her. And it’s true. Marcus is totally crazy for her. Katie just worries because before he dated her, Marcus went out with Clara Wright, who is the goddess of Hamilton High and will never ever let anyone forget it. But Marcus and Clara weren’t together that long and besides, Clara is dating some college guy now. Everyone acts like this is a huge deal, but the way I figure it, what kind of college student dates a high school student besides the kind of college student who can’t get anyone his own age to actually look at him? Last time I told Katie this she laughed for about ten minutes, but I don’t think it would cheer her up this time.

“I know,” she says. “I just --- not one class! I bet you and Dave have a bunch of classes together, right?”

“I don’t know,” I say without thinking.

“You don’t know? Lauren! You mean you haven’t even seen him yet? Why didn’t you tell me?” She makes go-away motions, shooing me toward Dave’s locker. Toward Dave, who turns to smile at me as if he’s heard Katie say my name. For all I know, he probably has. I wouldn’t put it past him to have super hearing or something.

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Dave is --- well, if you saw him you’d understand. He’s perfect. And I don’t mean that in a he’s-my-boyfriend-so-I-have-to-say-that way. He really is perfect. For starters, he’s a football player, plus he plays baseball and soccer. His parents have a whole wall of shelves in their living room filled with trophies he’s won. He’s got colleges begging him to think about attending even though he’s only a junior and not just for all the sports stuff. His grades are insanely good too.

Also, he’s gorgeous: blond hair, blue eyes, tall but not too tall, built but not totally muscle bound. He’s so going to be homecoming king when we’re seniors. Everyone has a crush on him. Everyone. Until I started dating him, I was a total nobody. But because of him, I’m somebody.

Well, almost. I’m almost somebody, I’m almost popular. And here’s the thing about that. It sucks more than being unpopular because I don’t fit in anywhere. I thought, when Dave and I first started going out, that people like Clara and those she allows to be her followers would maybe, just maybe, be friends with me. But it didn’t work out that way. I could never think of anything to say to Clara that would get her to actually notice me long enough for one of her followers to decide I could be her follower, and then Katie started dating Marcus, which Clara took very personally because not only did Marcus not wither away and die after Clara broke up with him, he actually was, you know, happy. So I can sort of hang out with the popular kids if Dave is around, in the sense that I’m in the same place they are, and once in a while one of the girls will ask me where the beer is at a party or something but that’s it. And everyone else --- well, they talk about me as if I really am popular. I walked in on two girls doing that in the bathroom once. I could tell because they stopped talking and stared at me.

I said, “Go on, I don’t mind,” and smiled, and in a movie we would have all become best friends and started braiding each other’s hair or something, but instead they just looked at me like I had eight heads. Later I heard them talking about me during lunch. They said I was a bitch and stuff like, “And then she acted like we needed her permission to talk about her!” and so that ended my attempts to be friends with anyone other than Katie.

I was really sad about it for a while. The worst kind of sad too, the kind where you know, deep down, that there's nothing you can do even though you wish you could. I even bought a ton of books with covers that promised stories about girls who seemed to be just like me. I figured maybe there'd be something in them to make me feel better.  But they were all about so-called ugly losers who were actually really smart and funny (and quirky cute or even gorgeous to boot) and how the football star or mysterious new boy everyone wants or the best-friend-who-seems-kind-of-ugly-but-actually-really-isn't totally falls in love with them, and they go to the big dance or whatever and learn that it's what's on the inside that counts and crap like that.

I felt a lot worse after reading all those books because I’m not all that smart and I’m not funny and I’m not quirky cute or gorgeous. I’m average. Totally average. And worse, I got the football star and look where I am. Still not popular but yet somehow popular enough to be hated and there was nothing in the books about that, about what to do if your absolute dream came true and yet you stayed you. 

That’s my problem. I’m --- well, me. And yet I have a perfect boyfriend. Don’t believe me? Okay, take how we started dating. Dave came up to me in the hall right after school started last year and asked me out in front of everyone. Seriously. That’s what he did, and I just stood there staring at him. I finally managed a nod, and I only got that out because Katie kicked me. And then we actually went out, and he did stuff like open my car door and ask if he could kiss me good night and then e-mailed me when he got home to say he had a great time and when could he see me again? You can’t get more perfect than that.

Even his family is perfect. They eat dinner together every night and do stuff like play board games. Board games! Plus his mom and dad are --- I swear I’m not kidding --- high school sweethearts, and he even has the most adorable little brother in the world, John. For the first two months we went out I kept waiting for something to happen --- for Dave to turn out to be a drug addict or to actually have like eight other girlfriends or for him to realize he could do so much better than me --- but nothing did. Dave stayed sweet and charming, and at Christmas he gave me a gorgeous locket and told me he loved me as we stood outside while snow was falling gently all around.

See? Perfect. I know I’m totally lucky to have Dave, I do, and if I didn’t, the six zillion looks I get when we walk down the halls together would remind me. Take now, for instance. When I get to his locker I can practically hear everyone around us looking and listening as Dave says, “Hey, Lauren,” in a soft warm voice and pulls me close, pressing a gentle kiss to my lips.

Totally perfect. Except that, since we’ve been dating, the farthest we’ve ever gone happened two months after we started dating. We were at a party and I kept looking at him, wondering what he was doing with me because he could have anyone and how and when it was all going to end. He noticed I looked worried, of course, and took me to a bedroom to talk. I waited --- pretty breathlessly, in all honesty --- for him to make a move, but instead he took my hands in his and said he was crazy about me. I said, “Why?” and he said, “Because the first time I noticed you, you were sitting at lunch looking out a window and the look on your face --- I don’t know. I just wanted to hold you.” I kissed him then, feeling alive, really alive, for what felt like the first time ever. He kissed me back, and then we were touching and it was amazing.

And then we stopped. Or rather, he did. One minute he was unhooking my bra and the next he was pushing away from me. He said he was sorry, really sorry, and looked like he was going to throw up. I can’t tell you how sexy I felt after that. I remember I buttoned my shirt, my hands shaking, and asked a question I’d been thinking about for a while, the one I was pretty sure I knew what the answer was going to be.

“Are you gay?” I whispered.

I waited for him to say yes. I had this whole thing planned out where he would cry and I would be supportive and people at school would talk, but then they’d totally come around and Dave and his boyfriend would walk hand in hand down the hall and Clara would be all “Lauren!” when she saw me and invite me to all of her parties, and I’d end up dating this amazingly cute and sensitive artist who’d just come to town but would stay because he’d fallen madly in love with me. But instead of saying yes, Dave said, “What?” like he’d never even heard the word gay before, and then I learned the truth.

Dave’s religious. I mean, I already knew that he went to church --- it’s just about the only thing to do in Hamilton on Sunday --- but that’s not unusual or anything. But it’s more than that for Dave. He looked at me for a second after he’d said, “What?” just staring at me, and then he started talking. He told me that he really wanted to live right and that it was hard, but he thought it was worth it.

Of all the things I’d thought he’d say, that wasn’t one of them. I mean, it’s not like anyone at school goes around talking about this stuff, and you could just --- you could tell he was happy to talk about it. That he needed to talk about it. So I just sat there, stunned, and listened while he told me about his church and how he’d love it if I would come with him. I listened while he told me that he’d never really talked about what he believed with anyone he’d dated, but that he was so glad he’d told me, that he knew I was special, that he knew I would understand how important what he believed was to him.

I listened and nodded and thought that here I was, in a bedroom with an amazingly hot guy, and what were we doing? Talking about going to church.

If this were one of those novels I’d read that made me feel like crap, Dave would have been gay.

Excerpted from BLOOM © Copyright 2011 by Elizabeth Scott. Reprinted with permission by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. All rights reserved.

by by Elizabeth Scott

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • ISBN-10: 1416926836
  • ISBN-13: 9781416926832