Page 32

    "No,"...aid. "It's just-"

    "Becaus...m. Everyone wanted me to be their mother in group."

    I just looked at him. "I just... It's weird."

    "No, it's hard. But not impossible. Just try it."

    A week earlier...adn't even known what color his eyes were. Now, we were family. At least temporarily...ook i...reath.

    "Okay,"...aid. "So-"

    "Mom," he said.

    "What?"

    "The more accurate the exercise, the more effective it is," he explained. "Go all out, or don't go at all."

    "Okay,"...aid again. "Mom."

    "Yes?"

    This is so weird...hought. Out loud...aid, "The thing is...now that the modeling thing is really important to-"

    He held u...and in the stop position. "R and R. Rephrase and Redirect that."

    "Why?"

    "Thing. Lik...aid, major placeholder, super vague. In confrontations, you have to be as specific as possible, to avoid misunderstandings." He leane...ittle closer to me. "Look...now it's weird," he said. "But it works...romise."

    This was little comfort, though, a...roceeded to cross over from simply uncomfortable to borderline humiliated. "I know my modeling is very important to you,"...aid, "and that you really enjoy it."

    Owen nodded, gesturing for me to go on.

    "But to be honest..."...eached up, tuckin...iece of hair behind my ear. "It's just that lately, I've been thinking about i...ot, an...eel like..."

    The thing was...new this was jus...ame. Practice, not real. But even so...elt something seizing up in me, like an engine sputtering t...top...ad too much at stake here- failing would not only reveal my weakness about confrontation, but embarrass me in front of him, as well.

    He was still waiting.

    "I can't do it,"...aid, and looked away.

    "You so had it, though!" he said, slapping the wall with the palm of his hand. "You were right there."

    "I'm sorry,"...aid, picking up my sandwich again. My voice sounded tight a...aid, "I just&hellip...an't."

    


    He looked at me fo...oment. Then he shrugged. "All right," he said. "No big deal."

    We sat there, both of us silent fo...econd...ad no idea what had just happened, but it did feel lik...ig deal, suddenly. The...eard Owen take i...reath.

    "Look," he said, "I'm just going to say this: It's got to suck, you know? Keeping something like that in. Walking around every day having so much you want to say, but not doing it. It's gotta make you really mad. Right?"

    I knew he was talking about modeling. But hearing this...hought of something else, the thin...ould never admit, the biggest secret of all. The on...ould never tell, because if the tiniest bit of light was shed upon it, I'd never be able to shut it away again.

    "I should go,"...aid, stuffing my sandwich back into the bag. "I&hellip...ave to talk to my English teacher about this project I'm supposed to be doing."

    "Oh," he said...ould feel him watching me, and mad...onscious effort not to look back. "Sure."

    I stood up, grabbing my bag. "I'll, um, see you later."

    "Right." He picked up his iPod. "See you around."

    I nodded, and then, somehow...as walking away, leaving him behind...aited unti...as at the main doors to look back.

    He was just sitting there, head ducked down, listening to his music like nothing had happened at all...a...lash of my first impression of him-that he was dangerous...hreat...new now he wasn't, at least not in the ways I'd thought then. But there was something frightening about Owen Armstrong: he was honest and expected the same from everyone else. And that scared me to death.

    Whe...irst walked away from Owen...elt relieved. But it didn't last.

    The real truth...ealized as the day wore on, was that even thoug...ardly knew Owen, I'd actually been more honest with him than anyone else i...ong time. He knew about what had happened between me and Sophie, about Whitney's illness, and tha...ated modeling. This seemed like an awful lot to reveal to someone who, in the end...ouldn't even risk being friends with. Bu...idn't know it for sure unti...aw Clarke.

    It was after seventh period, in the hallway, and she was opening her locker. Her hair was in two spriggy pigtails, and she had on jeans...lack shirt, and shiny Mary Janes. A...atched...ir...idn't know passed behind her, saying her name, and Clarke turned, smiling, and said hello back to her. It was all totally normal, just another moment in another day, but something in it struck me, an...ound myself going back, back, all the way to that night down by the pool. Another time I'd been afraid of conflict, afraid to be honest, afraid even to speak. I'd los...riend then, too. The best friend, really, I'd ever had.

    It was too late to try and alter what had happened between me and Clarke, but there might still be time to change something else. Maybe even me. S...ent to look for Owen.

    I...chool of over two thousand students, it was easy to lose yourself, not to mention someone else. But Owen definitely stood out i...rowd, so whe...ouldn't find him or the

    Land Cruiser...igured I'd missed him. Whe...ot into my car and pulled out onto the main road, though...potted him. He was on foot, walking down the center of the median, his backpack over one shoulder, earphones on.

    It wasn't unti...as right up to him that it occurred to me this might b...istake. But you get only so many do-overs in this life, so many chances to, if not change your past, alter your future. S...lowed down and lowered my window.

    "Hey,"...alled out, but he didn't hear me. "Owen!" Still no response...oved my hand to the center of my steering wheel and pushed down, hard, on the horn. Finally, he turned his head.

    "Hey," he said as someone behind me beeped angrily before whizzing past. "What's up?"

    "What happened to your car?"...sked him.

    He stopped walking, then reached up, pulling the earphone out of his left ear. "Transportation issues," he said.

    This is it...old myself. Say something. Anything. Just spit it out.

    "Story of my life,"...old him, then reached over, pushing open my passenger door. "Get in."

    Chapter Eight

    The first thing that Owen did when he got in my car was bump his head on wha...adn't realized-until that particular moment anyway-wa...retty low ceiling. "Oof," he said, reaching up to rub his forehead just as one of his knees whacked the dashboard. "Man. This i...mall car."

    ......
Previous Index Next