Did he feel it? My heat? My want? My need?

As I began to write, he smiled, studying the curve of my hand as it ran across the paper. When I finished, I pushed the notebook toward him.

“Crooks,” he said out loud, holding the notebook in his hand.

“Crooks?” Rudolph bellowed, bewildered.

“Crooks?” Oliver echoed, a pitch higher than Owen.

“C is for Calvin, O is for Owen, the other O is Oliver, and then well, Brooks is the rest,” he explained. “Right, Maggie?”

I nodded.

Yes. Yes.

The fact that he understood the meaning of the name without me explaining it made my heart want to explode. How could he understand the thoughts in my head that I never voiced? How could he read me so effortlessly?

“Crooks!” Calvin shouted, slamming his hand against the table. “I love it. I fucking love it,” my brother cheered. “Just think about being on stage: ‘Hi, we’re The Crooks, and we are here to steal your ears tonight.’”

I giggled to myself as they kept chatting.

“We’re The Crooks, and we’re here to steal your money tonight!” Oliver joked.

“We’re The Crooks, and we’re here to steal your hearts tonight!” Brooks laughed.

“Yeah! Yeah! Or how about: We’re The Crooks, and…and…and…” Rudolph frowned. “Well, hell, you all took the best one-liners.”

“You snooze, you lose, kid brother. Maybe if you added more protein to your diet, your brain wouldn’t be so slow.” Oliver chuckled.

“Yes, Oli, because you eating Bambi is what makes you smart. That’s it. That’s probably why you got an A in calculus, right?” Rudolph replied sarcastically. “Oh wait, you got a D minus.”

The twins started arguing, and I knew there was nothing that was going to stop them until she showed up. Cheryl. She seemed completely over her earlier interaction with her ex-boyfriend and back to her flirty self.

“Hey, boys,” Cheryl sang, swaying her hips and twisting her hair around her finger.

I taught you that move when we were kids!

“I didn’t know you were all going to be over here tonight.” Cheryl always did this weird voice drop thing whenever she talked to guys. She tried to sound seductive, but to me, she sounded like someone who smoked fifteen packs of cigarettes a day. Ridiculous. And of course she knew they’d be there practicing—they were always at our house.

“Oh, hey, Cheryl!” The twins perked up, and their eyes fell to her personal set of twins.

“You look good,” Rudolph barked.

“No, you look great!” Oliver shouted.



“Sexy!” the twins yelled in unison.

Cheryl batted her eyes and completely ignored them, zooming her stare in on Brooks, who wasn’t giving her the time of day. Calvin’s and Brooks’ heads were back in their notebook, looking at their future plans. Brooks never seemed too interested in my sister, probably because he’d known her since she was wearing diapers. I could tell that bothered Cheryl, though—every girl wanted Brooks to notice her…including me.

“Hey, Brooks,” she said. “How are you?”

She kept twirling her hair, and I kept rolling my eyes. Brooks glanced toward her and smiled before turning back to his notebook. “Good, Cheryl. How are you?”

She hopped up on the dining room table then pushed her boobs together, pressing her elbows against them.

“I’m doing okay. Jordan broke up with me today.”

Really? He broke up with you? That’s not what I heard…

“Oh yeah?” he replied politely, hardly interested. “Sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah. Rumor has it, you broke up with Lacey.” She frowned, dramatically of course. “Or, well, she broke up with you. That sucks.”

Brooks shrugged. “It happens, I guess.”

“Yeah, it’s just sucky because I was supposed to go to prom with him, seeing as how he’s a senior. I already bought my dress.”

“I don’t have a date!” Rudolph shouted.

“Me neither!” Oliver jumped in.

“But you two don’t already have tuxedos. I know Calvin went with Brooks to buy theirs… Oh! I have an idea!” Cheryl shouted, clapping her hands together.

Oh no.

“How about you and me go together, Brooks? We could go as friends, ya know? It doesn’t make sense for us to both miss the event, right?”

Brooks hesitated, because he was kind. He didn’t want to embarrass Cheryl in front of everyone, and Cheryl knew that, too. That was probably why she’d asked him in front of the group.

“Don’t you think that’s a great idea, Maggie?” Cheryl said, shooting a warning glare at me before turning back to Brooks with a sugary sweet voice. “Maggie was the one who was there for me after the breakup today. She knew how big of a deal prom was to me, too. We’ve been talking about it for weeks.”

No, we hadn’t. I hadn’t even known my sister was going to prom until moments before her ex-boyfriend hit her.

I shut my eyes for a beat.


“Well…” Brooks’ voice cracked and I opened my eyes. He rubbed the back of his neck and glanced my way, his eyes begging for help, but what could I say?


“I guess that could be cool, just going as friends.”

It amazed me how a heart could shatter in a crowded room and the sound couldn’t be heard by a single person.

I hated everything about prom—the dresses, the slow dancing, the flowers. I hated how artificial and cliché it all appeared, how fake it seemed, but mostly I hated the fact that I’d never be able to attend a prom because I was homeschooled. I also hated the fact that Cheryl was only a junior this year and was attending her second senior prom.

“I mean, it’s not like you could go with him anyway, and it doesn’t make sense for him to go by himself, ya know?” Cheryl snapped her gum over and over again as she stood in front of my vanity, applying her fifteenth layer of candy apple red lipstick. I sat on my bed with a book against my chest, listening to my sister talk my ear off.

She wiped off the red lipstick and then applied a deep purple shade. When she finished, she smiled at herself, as if she was so proud of her beauty—as if it was her own doing and not just genetics. Her long gold dress sparkled every time she swung her hips, which she did often. “Plus”—she smirked wickedly—“I think he has a crush on me.”