GENRE: YA Contemporary
Easy-going Jared and awkward, superstar swimmer Melanie have lived next door to each other since they were kids. Last week, an earthquake hit their home town, throwing their lives back together.
“What’s on your mind when you’re quiet like that?” Jared asks.
“What do you mean? You’re quiet too.”
“Yeah, but you go a million miles away. And not just now. A lot. At school, actually, most of the time.”
It’s weird to think that he’s looked at me at school. “I know, everyone thinks I’m a freak. I’ve heard girls from my team talking about me. I don’t know, usually I’m thinking about swimming, you know?”
“Is that what you were thinking about now?” he asks.
“No,” I answer, but I don’t want explain, not yet anyway.
Jared laughs. “You weren’t like that when we were little kids. You were so obnoxious. You always wanted to play princess.”
“Whatever. You always wanted to play superhero,” I remember. “Before you got cool.”
Jared snorts. “Oh yeah, I’m really cool,” he says.
I raise my eyebrows. “No? You don’t think you’re cool hanging out with your cool boy posse in front of the locker room everyday?”
“I didn’t think you cared about that stuff.”
“I don’t care. I’m a hundred miles from cool. When I have to talk to people, I always say dumb things.”
“Like what dumb things have you said today?” Jared says.
“You just don’t notice, because you’ve known me so long,” I say. “I don’t have time to be cool and to swim fast too, you know? So being faster is always going to be more important to me.”
“That is cool, Melanie. I wish the guys on our team were focused like you.”
“Well, swim is all that matters to me. It’s different for the guys you hang out with,” I say, thinking about the gossip that I float through in the locker room.
“Different how?” he asks.
“Like life beyond football. Angie and the other girls talk about your friends and all the girls you’re with. Lots of girls.” As soon as I say it, I wish I could take it back.
“You can’t believe everything you hear in the locker room, Mel,” he says, sounding strange.
“I know, but I don’t get it. Everything about boys confuses me.” Jared looks at me for a long time. “What? I already told you I’m a freak. I just don’t get boys and dating and stuff like that.”
“Well, I’m not like those guys. I have a girlfriend.” And he adds, under his breath, “I guess.”