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“I want to take a friend somewhere.”

“What friend?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“They don’t have a name, actually.”

“Mhmm. Is it a girl friend?”

“No gender, either.”

“This is about that one girl, isn’t it?”

“What girl?”

“Art. The girl who played the drums like complete shit, and is the reason for that stupid grin on your face whenever I bring her up.”

“Oh, her?”

“Yes, her.”

“Yes,” I replied. “It’s about her.”

“Once again slipping into the uncool uncle role: do you think that’s a good idea with the whole walking dead thing forming in her gut?”

“You think she’s having a zombie baby?” The weekend before Lance had forced me to binge watch The Walking Dead with him. I couldn’t sleep for days after watching it, but shit, it was addicting.

“Hell, maybe it is a zombie baby. I’ve been on LSD before, so I’ve seen some pretty weird shit. But seriously, Levi. Human hearts are like this.” He held up a plate of Daisy’s newest vegan cookies. “They are perfect when looking at them from a distance but then, when you pick them up,” he lifted a cookie and it began to crumble, “they have a way of breaking. You two are young. She already has a lot going on. You have a lot going on. So you both should protect your hearts.”

I nodded, slowly. “So…about that eighty dollars…”

He rolled his eyes. “Take out the trash, sweep the floors, and then we’ll talk.”

That pretty much meant yes.

21 Levi

On Friday, Connor was annoying me once again during gym class. “We have to go to this party tomorrow night. You don’t understand the utmost importance of this,” Connor barked, bouncing a basketball around. “Tori Eisenhower parties are like taking a trip to the Playboy mansion. So many boobs.”

“You’ve been to one of Tori’s parties?” I asked.

“No, but I’ve heard. And she invited you?!” He shook his head in disbelief. “Only the top of the top get invited to her parties. We need to go.”

“Sorry, man. Not interested.”

Connor sighed and flipped me off as he walked away.

Simon walked over to me with a basketball in his hands. “You were invited to Tori’s party this weekend? Tori Eisenhower?”

“Yeah, but I’m not going.”

“No way. You have to go. And you have to take me with you,” he said, his eyes filled with hope.

“What? What happened to O.G.A.A.?”

“I asked her out, she declined, and I felt like a complete loser. Therefore, I need this party to happen.”

“She said no?” That was shocking. I could’ve sworn Abigail was into Simon. “Why? What was her reason?”

He cringed. “Let’s not keep talking about the way I was rejected. She wasn’t into it, so she said no. So instead, let’s go to this party.”

“I didn’t take you as the party going type.”

“That’s just because I haven’t been invited. Come on, it could be fun. Us men bonding over manly things,” he joked, shooting the basketball toward the hoop and missing by a mile. His finger pushed up his glasses. He cleared his throat, pointing toward his fantastically failed attempt at basketball. “I think the wind interfered with that one.”

* * *

When Saturday night came, Simon was at his highest level of excitement. “Don’t tell Aria about this,” he said, walking up to Tori’s house. He told me that he’d taken a bottle of wine from his parents. “They won’t notice it’s missing. We have more wine in that house than needed.”

“Simon, are you sure you want to do this?” I asked, knowing that this party wasn’t a good idea.

He turned to me, wine bottle in his hand and started begging. “This is my one chance to swoosh in on Tori, Levi. Don’t back out on me now. Please. I need this.”

The way he stared at me so pathetically showed me that this was the last thing we should’ve been doing, but I rang the doorbell anyway.

Tori opened the door wearing a bikini top and shorts. “Alabama!” she squeaked, swaying back and forth. I had a feeling she wouldn’t need Simon’s wine. “I’m so happy you’re here!”

“We’re,” I corrected her as I nudged a wide-toothed Simon. “We’re happy that we’re here, too.”

“Who invited Four?” she said, staring at Simon. I was certain he was going to pass out from the excitement of being a few inches from her.

“I thought we could bring friends?” I flashed a smile.

She giggled. “Whatever. Come in! Let’s take a shot!”

Tori led us through the house where everyone popular from our school was partying, drinking, or making out. Simon leaned in toward me. “Did you hear what she said? She nicknamed me.”


“She called me Four!”

“And…that’s a compliment?”

“I know it’s probably easy for people like you to get a nickname the first day they arrive, Alabama, but for people like me—we dream of making it this far! We are pretty much waiting in a corner begging for our classmates to nickname us.” He patted me on the back. “Now, excuse me as I proceed to get ridiculously drunk.” Simon wandered off with his bottle of wine, muttering, “Holy shit. I’m in Tori Eisenhower’s house.”