Page 31

    Now, though, she glanced over at me, her eyes widening slightly before she nudged Emily with her elbow. Then they were both staring at me, an...elt my face flush a...ooked down at my backpack at my feet.

    Owen, for his part, did not notice this as he put his player down, runnin...and through his hair. "So you didn't like any of the techno?" he asked. "Like, not even one aspect?"

    I shook my head. "No,"...aid. "Sorry."

    "Don't be sorry, it's your opinion. There's no right and wrong in music, you know? Just everything in between."

    Just then, the bell rang, surprising me...as so used to lunch being interminable, but this one had flown by...eached down, balling up what was left of my sandwich as Owen hopped off the wall, slipping his player in his pocket and grabbing his earphones.

    "Well,"...aid, "I guess I'll see you around."

    "Yeah." He started to put on his earphones a...rabbed my bag, sliding off the wall. "See you later."

    As he walked away...ook another look at the bench. Sure enough, Sophie and Emily were still staring...atched as Sophie said something, and Emily smiled, shaking her head...ould only imagine what they would say about us, what stories they would come up with. None of them could be weirder than the truth: that Owen Armstrong an...ust might be friends.

    Thinking this...lanced over, finding him in the crowd. He'd put on his earphones and was headed up to the arts build-ing, his bag over his shoulder. They'd been watching him, too, but he hadn't even noticed. If he did...as pretty sure he wouldn't care anyway. And for that, more than the honesty, the directness, and everything else...nvied him most of all.

    I didn't get the Mooshka job. This was neither upsetting nor surprising, at least to me, although my mother did seem disappointed. Personally...as just relieved the whole thing was over, and ready to move on. But the next day, a...ook out my lunch...ote fell out with it.

    Annabel,

    I just wanted to tell you that I'm so proud of you for all you've accomplished, and not to be discouraged about the Mooshka campaign. It was very competitive, Lindy said, and they did think highly of you. She an...ave arranged to talk today about some other things she's lining up, which sound very exciting. I'll fill you in tonight. Hav...reat day.

    "Bad news?"

    I jumped, startled, then glanced up to see Owen was standing in front of me. "What?"

    "You looked stressed," he said, nodding at the note in my hand. "Something wrong?"

    "No,"...aid, folding the note and putting it down beside me. "Everything's fine."

    He walked over to the wall, sitting down not right next to me, as he had the day before, but not as far away as he once had, either...atched him as he slid his iPod out of his pocket, then leaned his palms back on the grass beside us, surveying the courtyard.

    I was aware, during all of this, that with my last response...adn't exactly been honest with him. Of course, he never would have known this. Or cared, probably. Still, for some reason...elt the need to Rephrase and Redirect. As it were.

    "It's just this thing with my mom,"...aid.

    He turned his head, an...ondered if maybe he though...as crazy, or had no idea wha...as talking about. "Thing," he repeated. "Just so you know; that'...erious placeholder."

    Of course it is...hought. Still...larified. "It has to do with my modeling."

    "Modeling?" He looked confused. "Oh, right. Like Mallory was talking about. You were i...ommercial or something?"

    "I've been doing it sinc...a...id. Both my sisters did it, too. But lately, I've been wanting to quit."

    And there it was. The one thing I'd only said in my head, now finally out there, and to Owen Armstrong, of all people. This was so bi...tep for me tha...robably could have stopped right there. But for whatever reason...ontinued.

    "And anyway,"...aid, "it's complicated, because my mom's really into it, and i...uit, then she'll be upset."

    "But you don't want to do it anymore," he said. "Right?"

    "Yeah."

    


    "So you should tell her that."

    "You say that like it's easy,"...aid.

    "Isn't it?"

    "No."

    There wa...urst of laughter from the doors to our left a...roup of freshmen came out, talking too loudly. Owen looked over at them, then back at me. "Why not?" he asked.

    "Becaus...on't do confrontations."

    He glanced over at Sophie, who was sitting on her bench with Emily, then slowly slid his eyes back to me.

    "Well,"...dded, "I don't do confrontations well."

    "What happened between you two, anyway?"

    "Me and Sophie?"...sked, althoug...new what he meant. He nodded. "It was just... we ha...alling-out over the summer."

    He didn't say anything...new he was waiting for more details. "She think...lept with her boyfriend,"...dded.

    "Did you?"

    Of course he would ask, point-blank. But still...elt my face flush. "No,"...aid. "I didn't."

    "Maybe you should tell her that," he said.

    "It's not that simple."

    "Huh," he said. "Call me crazy, but I'm sensin...heme here."

    I looked down at my hands, thinking again tha...ad to be awfully simple for him to deduce so much about me in less tha...eek. "So if you were me,"...aid, "you would-"

    "-just be honest," he finished. "On both counts."

    "You say that like it's easy, too,"...old him.

    "It's not. But you can do it. It just takes practice."

    "Practice?"

    "In Anger Management," he said, "we had to do all this role-playing stuff. You know, to get used to handling things i...ess volatile way."

    "You role-played,"...aid, trying to picture this.

    "I had to. It was court-ordered." He sighed. "Bu...ave to say, it was kind of helpful. You know, so that when and if something similar did happen, you had some kind of road map for dealing with it."

    "Oh,"...aid. "Well...uess that makes sense."

    "All right, then." He sli...ittle closer to me. "So say I'm your mom."

    "What?"...aid.

    "I'm your mom," he repeated. "Now tell me you want to quit modeling."

    I could feel myself blushing. "I can't do that,"...aid.

    "Why not?" he asked. "Is it so hard to believe? You think I'm no...ood role-player?"

    ......
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