Written By: Jen Klein
Oliver lets out a tiny puff of laughter. “You and your mom moved five minutes from my house and I literally pass right by you”—I feel a stab of gratitude for his correct usage of the word “literally”—“so chill, Rafferty. It’s no big deal to swing by and pick you up.”
It’s a nice thing to say, which I do appreciate despite evidence to the contrary, but it doesn’t stop me from being…me. “It’s a little weird, don’t you think?”
“Not until you said that.” Again with the laughter as we cruise through a green light and merge onto the highway heading toward Ann Arbor. “Tell you what, let’s just do what people do.”
I have (literally) no idea what he’s talking about, so I wait.
“Okay, I’ll go first,” says Oliver. “Who do you have for homeroom?”
Ohhhh, now I get it. Conversation. Fine. I can make an attempt. “Vinton. Who’s yours?”
“Webb. I had her sophomore year. She’s pretty cool.”
I run through other topics in my head, finally coming back to the only thing Oliver and I have in common: school. “What electives are you taking?”
“Photography and family sciences.”
I’m amused in spite of myself. “By ‘family sciences,’ do you mean ‘home ec’?”
Oliver shrugs. “It’s a cooking class, but if you want to use an outdated term, sure.”
“I’m just surprised.” Meatheads like Oliver usually take electives like grunting. Or lifting heavy objects. Or freshmen-intimidation techniques.
“And I am equally surprised by your misogyny,” he says.
“Whereas I am now surprised that you know the word ‘misogyny.’?”
Oliver winks one of those brown bedroom eyes at me. “Isn’t life a series of grand eye-opening revelations?”
Huh. A jock with a vocabulary.
A jockabulary, if you will.
“To be honest, I’m only taking the class because of this dumb thing with Theo,” Oliver tells me. “We had a bet. I lost. Now I’m taking family sciences.”
“What kind of bet?”
“Just a stupid guy thing.”
I settle back in the leather seat. In all fairness, even though I’ve technically known Oliver from birth, it’s not like I really know him. We haven’t spent any time together since kindergarten, when we got married under the monkey bars in a ceremony officiated by Shaun Banerjee. Our relationship was consummated with a sticky kiss and then annulled a couple hours later when we got into an argument during art class. It culminated in our sitting in the principal’s office, dripping in blue paint, waiting for our moms to bring us clean clothes.
Who knew that since then, Oliver had graduated from one-syllable words?
“How’s Itch?” Oliver asks.
I’m a little thrown by the question. It didn’t occur to me that Oliver would even know about Itch. Also, I don’t know how to answer him.
“Fine,” I finally say, because it might be true.
Itch—otherwise known as Adam Markovich—is my boyfriend…maybe. Before heading to Florida for the summer, he said it would be crazy for us to sit around and wait for each other, and that we should be free to date other people. I agreed with him—because what else could I do?—and assumed it was the beginning of the end. Then Itch called or texted nearly every single day, so I guessed he probably wasn’t dating anyone else. Of course, I didn’t exactly broadcast it when I kissed Ethan Erickson on the Fourth of July, so it’s possible Itch cheated, too.
Since none of this is a matter of public record, I’m not sure why Oliver is asking. I angle my body toward him. “How do you even know who I date?”
“It’s not like I live under a rock.”
“Just under a helmet.”
“You and Itch hold hands at school.”
Double huh. I’m shocked that anyone outside my limited social circle has any idea what I do with my hands.
“It doesn’t seem like something you’d notice.”
Oliver shakes his head. “You know who my girlfriend is, right?”
“Ainsley Powell.” The smug face he pulls makes me want to defend myself. “But everyone knows that.”
“Dude, it’s our senior year. By now, everyone knows who everyone is.”
I shift in my seat again, trying to get comfortable. The car is so huge I can barely see out the windows. “Right, senior year.”
We take the exit and cruise onto Main Street, which has scattered gas stations and mattress warehouses and peeling billboards about mortgage rates at this end of it. I feel rather than see Oliver’s glance. “Aren’t you even a little bit excited?” he asks me.
“This is our last year. This is it.”
“Not to burst your bubble, but this is nothing,” I say. “It’s not real life.”
“It’s better than real life,” Oliver informs me. “High school sets the stage for real life.”
This time, I’m the one who laughs. “Please. Nothing we do right now matters.”
Oliver’s mouth drops open. “Are you kidding me?”