All the houses on Molly’s block were worth insane amounts of money. They were mansions—really big mansions. Raine was a pretty middle-class town, except for when you walked the east side. It was where all the wealthy people who worked in Chicago, but wanted a semi-suburban lifestyle lived. Mom nannied for families on that side of the bridge, and she made a pretty great income. I swore even the air smelled like hundred-dollar bills. If it hadn’t been for Molly, there would have been no reason I’d ever be caught on that side of town.
“You’re Molly Lane’s babysitter!” a voice shouted as my sneaker landed on the first step of Molly’s porch. I quickly turned to see where it was coming from. Across the street, three houses to the left, stood a boy with a stupid great smile. Greyson waved.
I glanced over my shoulder to make sure he was waving at me, and for goodness’ sake, he was.
I brushed my hand across the back of my neck and said, “Oh, yeah.”
Those were the only words I could think to say. When he started down his porch toward me, my heart started doing cartwheels in my chest, and it beat faster and faster as he approached.
He did that slow-motion hand-through-his-hair move again, and my heart somehow both stopped and sped up at the same time.
“You’ve been watching her for a while?” he asked.
“Yeah, a few months.” My hands were clammy. Why are my hands clammy? Can he see the guilt all over me? Can he tell that I’ve been thinking about him? Does he smell my fear?! Oh, gosh, are my elbows sweating? I hadn’t even known elbows could sweat!
“I used to go to church with her when she was younger. She was the best part because everything was so structured, and when it was quiet, she’d just scream, ‘A clue, a clue!’, quoting Blue’s Clues, then she’d run to the front of the church and just dance.”
I snickered. Sounded like the Molly I knew and loved.
He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants, and rocked back and forth in his Nikes. “But that’s not where I know you from. I figured it out the other day.”
“Oh? And where’s that?”
“The Sherman Cancer Clinic.” His smile kind of evaporated while my heart kind of cried. “I’ve seen you there a few times, coming and going.”
Well, that was awkward.
I went to the Sherman Cancer Clinic with my parents whenever Mom was having chemotherapy appointments. For the longest time, Mom didn’t want me to go because she thought it would upset me, but honestly, I felt more upset not being there.
I didn’t say a word.
“Are you sick?” he asked.
“No. I’m not.”
He crinkled his nose. “Is someone you know sick?”
“Um, my mom. She has breast cancer,” I breathed out, and the moment the word cancer left my lips, I tried to suck it back in. Every time I said it, my eyes had a way of watering over.
“I’m so sorry, Eleanor,” he said, and I could tell he meant it because his eyes were so sincere.
“Thanks.” He kept staring at me as my stomach flipped over and over again. “Is someone you know sick?”
This time, he grew uncomfortable.
“He was. My grandpa. He passed away a few weeks ago.” His eyes did something I didn’t know Greyson East’s eyes could do: they grew sad.
“I’m so sorry, Greyson,” I said, and I hoped he could tell I meant it by looking at how sincere my eyes were.
“Yeah, thanks. Everyone keeps saying he’s not in pain anymore, but I don’t know. I just feel like he left some pain behind for me to take on.” He brushed his thumb against the base of his jaw, and I was stunned.
Greyson was sad.
Really sad. That was shocking to me because I never noticed his sadness when I looked at him before. To me, he just always seemed like the free-spirited popular kid who everyone loved.
Turned out popular kids could be sad, too.
Greyson shook off the grimaced look and smiled. “So, I’ve been thinking…we should hang out.”
He said it so casually, as if the idea of us hanging out wasn’t insanely absurd.
I laughed sarcastically to cover up my nerves. “Yeah, okay, Greyson.”
“No, I mean it. We should hang out.”
I glanced up and down the block, just to make sure he was speaking to me. “You don’t want to hang out with me.”
“Yes, I do.”
I tugged on the bottom of my purple cardigan. “No, you don’t.”
“I do,” he pressed.
“To get to Shay?”
He cocked an eyebrow and stepped closer to me. “Not everything is about your cousin. Some things are about you.”
“I mean, it just doesn’t make sense. Why would you want to hang out with me?”
“Why wouldn’t I? You were interesting at the party, and I’d like to get to know you better.”
“I was reading a book and wearing headphones at a high school party. That’s not interesting. That’s weird.”
“I like weird.”
I laughed. “No, you don’t. You like not weird.”
“How do you know what I like?”
I glanced around and shrugged. “I’m just assuming.”
“Well, you shouldn’t. If you want, you can hang out with me and really get to know me,” he offered.
“We don’t really come from the same kind of world, Greyson. You’re you, and I’m me. I mean, look at the size of your house, and your popularity, and—”
“Listen, if you don’t want to hang out, just say so. No need for excuses,” he cut in, making me stand up straighter.
“No, that’s not it. I’m just saying…we don’t have much in common, I don’t think.”
“Well, we can find out, and go from there.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Okay, well, once you discover something we have in common, I’ll hang out with you.”
He narrowed his eyes, almost as if he didn’t believe me. “Pinky promise?” he asked, holding out his pinky finger.
“Are you kidding?”
“No. I mean it. I need your word. If I find something we have in common, you’ll hang out with me. Pinky promise.”
“Fineee,” I groaned as I wrapped my pinky with his. I tried to ignore the feeling his touch brought me. “I promise. I gotta get to Molly now.”
He smiled, pleased. “Okay, I’ll talk to you later.” I smiled back before I could stop myself and he noticed it. “More of that, Eleanor.”
“Whatever. Bye, Greyson.” I turned away from him, and I felt my cheeks heating up as I hurried up the steps, still smiling from ear to ear. As I reached the porch, I paused and turned back toward him. “People call me Ellie. You can, too, if you want.”
“Okay, Ellie.” The way the name fell from his lips made me blush even more. “And you can call me Grey.”
“Yeah, just Grey.” He turned away and tossed a hand up in the air. “Bye, Ellie.”
The corners of my mouth turned up as I watched him walk away and I spoke to myself softly, unsure what exactly was happening in my life lately. “Bye, Grey.”
“Is that your boyfriend?” a small voice asked.
I looked up to see a sassy Molly standing in her doorway with her hands on her hips. Her curly red hair hung to her shoulders, and she was tapping her foot repeatedly.
“What? No. He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Then why did your face turn red?”
“My face isn’t red.”
“Uh-huh. You look like an apple.”
“Some apples are green,” I argued, walking over to her.
“But you’re the red apple, because of your boyfriend,” she mocked. Suddenly she started dancing around on the front porch and singing loudly. “Ellie has a boyfriend! Ellie has a boyfriend!”
“Molly, knock it off!” I whisper-shouted, looking over my shoulder and seeing Greyson staring at us. My God, I was horrified.
“Why don’t you go kiss him? Go kiss your boyfriend!” She kept pushing the boyfriend agenda, making me groan as I rubbed my hands against my face.
“He’s not my boyfriend!” I argued once more.
“If he’s not your boyfriend, who is he?” she asked, her hands still on her hips in that sassy pose.
“He’s Grey.” I sighed, tossing my hands up before walking over to her and lifting her nosey self into my arms. “He’s just Grey.”
“He doesn’t look gray,” Molly remarked. “He looks tan.”
I chuckled. “No, he’s not gray, but he’s Grey. Like…his name is Grey.”
“People’s names can be colors?”
“Well, yeah, I guess.”
“Can I be pink?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Okay, Pink.”
“And you’re Red! Like your face right now.”
Well, that felt fitting.
You know those first few minutes after you finished an amazing book?
Those moments when you aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself?
You simply sit there, staring at the last words, unsure how to move on with your life.
How can it be over?
How can those characters just fade to black?
For you, the characters are still imprinted on your soul. Their actions, their dialogue still alive and strong in your mind. Your tears haven’t even dried, and you crave another fix.
I loved that feeling—the bittersweet love story between a person and a novel coming to an end.
That’s what happened to me after I finished Harry Potter.
I didn’t really know what to do with myself. Mom was still recovering from her cold and Dad was off watching TV, so I did the only thing that felt natural: I thought about Greyson.
I was officially a teenage cliché.
Every time I headed over to watch Molly, I grew more and more nervous about the idea that Greyson could’ve been sitting on the porch across the street, three houses down. I knew it was stupid, but on those days, I might’ve started combing my hair a little more, and I might’ve asked Shay for makeup tips.