Page 32

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, shaking his head. “There’s something about the guy that I don’t like. You shouldn’t hang out with him. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

I chuckled.

That’s funny.

“You can leave now, James. And congratulations on the free ride to Duke. You’re going to make a fantastic blue devil.”

* * *

On Monday, Levi and I spent the whole eighth period arguing over what our final project should be. It took everything in my power to not think about Sunday dinner and how James felt the need to tell me who I should and shouldn’t hang out with. But Levi made that easier. He made it easier not to care anything about James. At least for a few hours he helped me forget.

“You should really check out those books at the library that I told you about,” I said, walking out of the classroom at the final bell.

“Okay. Want to go now?”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “I’ve already seen the books, and I understand the importance of abstract art and how it’s life-changing. I need you to realize it so I can start plotting out what three pieces I want to create for the final. Then you can start creating some kind of music piece to go with it.”

“So, we’ll meet at the library in about an hour?” he asked.

“Levi,” I sighed. “You’re doing that thing where you annoy me again.” Not really. I like it. “But if you really need me there to walk you through it, I guess that’s fine.”

“Okay. So we’ll meet in an hour or so at the library. It’s a date.”

“It’s a meeting,” I corrected.

“It’s a date-meeting.”

“It’s a meeting,” I said once more.

“It’s a meeting of dates,” he echoed, walking off.

I bit my bottom lip and tried to slow down my quickening heartbeat. It’s a date.

* * *

On the bus ride home I sat next to Simon, who was still in a terrible mood. He had been for weeks now ever since he spilled the juice. I knew there was more to his story than he was telling me as he stared out of the window.

“You can talk to me, you know,” I said. He frowned, not saying anything. There were things in the world that really sucked, and watching your best friend be sad had to be one of the worst. “Simon.”

“It didn’t work,” he said, still staring out of the window. His fingers tapped against his jeans over and over again. “Mom said they were going to stop trying.”

I knew he was talking about his parents trying to get pregnant. They’d had trouble for the past years, and Simon always blamed himself due to a past accident he and his mom were in. My hands fell to my stomach, and I stared at Simon, unsure of what to say. “I’m so sorry, Si.”

He nodded. “Yeah. It’s just sucks, that’s all. They get one kid and he turns out to be a freak. They deserve better and it’s my fault that they can’t get another kid.”

“That’s not true. None of it is your fault.”

He didn’t say anything else, but I knew his mind was blaming himself more and more each day.

It wasn’t fair the way life picked and chose who received what they wanted and who didn’t.

* * *

After going home and falling asleep for almost two hours, I woke up startled and late. Tossing on flip-flops, I headed for the library. Levi was sitting at the top step of the library. His hands flew up when he saw me, and he gave me the biggest grin. “You know how lame it makes a guy feel to be sittin’ on the steps of a library waitin’ for a girl who might not show? And then she shows up forty-five minutes late?”

I gave him a tight smile. “Sorry.”

He lowered his brows. “Are you okay?”


I couldn’t stop thinking about Simon. And one thing I learned about being pregnant was sometimes you felt like crying because the sun was shining, or because the pizza delivery guy forgot the cheesy bread. Other times you felt like crying because Simba was so sad during The Lion King and you just wanted to hug the little lion cub. My emotions were all over the place, and I didn’t know how to find the off switch.

“Yeah, let’s dive into some books,” I said, giving him a small smile.

“Something’s wrong.”


“‘Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.’ Marcus Aurelius said that.”

“You Google searched Marcus Aurelius?” I asked, pulling on the bottom of my shirt.

“Yeah, on my cell phone while I waited for you. I figured if people during the Renaissance could play instruments and fight the black plague, I could perform a Google search.”

“I see. Anyway, let’s get inside and get this over with.”

“Aria, do you need a hug?”

“No, Levi. I don’t need a hug.” Mostly because a hug from him would’ve made me cry. He closed his eyes tight and placed his fingers on his temples. “What are you doing?”

“Can’t you feel it? I’m pulling you closer to me for a hug with my Jedi mind skills.”

“Well, it’s not working,” I said. I hadn’t been touched by a boy since James over the summer, and I liked it that way. After everything that happened, I’d learned that I liked my space. Of course, no one noticed that fact, because no guy ever tried to touch me. Until oxymoron Levi came to town. “No offense, but I don’t really like to be touched.”

“Oh,” he said, dropping his hands and frowning. “Sorry.”