Written By: Jen Klein
“Prom is the worst,” I tell him. “It’s the epitome of everything that is wrong with high school. An expensive dance with bad music that puts girls in the subservient position of hoping a boy will ask them to go.”
“How do you really feel?”
“I hate it!” I explode, and Oliver laughs.
“Yeah, I got that. Okay, so traditions are stupid. Fine, I’ll buy that your opinion has merit even though I disagree. But what about your boyfriend? He matters, right?”
“Itch? Yeah, but it’s not like I’m going to freaking marry him.”
“What if you are?” Oliver swings us past the front of the school and toward the parking lot.
“But what if?” Oliver’s getting a little worked up. “What if it’s meant to be and you can’t even look beyond your version of what matters! It’s sad!”
An underclassman with a trombone case steps off the curb in front of us and Oliver slams on the brakes, a little too hard. “Watch it,” I tell him.
“I’m watching it.” He waits for the underclassman to cross. “I’m watching everything. I care about every single minute, because I know that everything here does matter. It has to, because otherwise what’s the point, June?”
There we go. My first name again.
Oliver steps on the gas and we pull through the lot and into a spot. I turn to him. “You know what’s sad? Pretending is sad.” I hop out and slam the door.
Final word. Suck it, Oliver.
Except Oliver is an athlete with lightning-fast reflexes, which means he’s by my side before I’m ten feet away. “I’m not done—”
I groan out loud. “What do I have to say to end this conversation?”
He catches me by the arm and swings me around to face him. Those overly hyped brown eyes peer earnestly into my own. “Say you know that something, anything, about this year will matter!”
I stare up at him and notice that the outer rings of his irises are dark. They’re gray—close to black, even. They almost match his pupils. I am once again acutely aware of all the girls who would want to stand in the grip of Oliver Flagg’s strong fingers, to gaze up into his remarkably gorgeous face. I’m about to throw him a bone, give him just an ounce of agreement, when we are interrupted by the voice I enjoy least in the world.
“Does Ainsley know you’re getting a little Rafferty in the mornings?” Of course it’s Theo, and of course he’s hulking right up on us with his sneery smile.
“Ainsley knows I drive June to school.” Oliver says it evenly.
“Yeah, but why?”
“Because she needs a ride.”
“I’m right here,” I remind them both, and then speed up even more. I really don’t want to go down this particular road with either of these particular guys. They don’t try to keep up, but I hear Theo’s question before I’m out of range.
“Why can’t she drive herself?”
? ? ?
Other than homeroom, Itch and I don’t have any classes together. However, we’re in the same building for third period, so it’s easy to meet during break. We barely have any time between all our other periods, but they give us ten glorious minutes between second and third. We’re supposed to go to the bathroom or eat a healthy snack—most of us use that time to socialize. Just like last year, Itch and I spend it huddled together in a stairwell, kissing.
“When can I come over?” he asks.
“You could have come over yesterday, but you opted out.”
He slides the tip of his finger under the hem of my screen-printed T-shirt and I push it away. “This is an institution of education. Hanky-panky is not permitted within these hallowed halls.”
“Education is overrated,” he says, and dives in for another kiss.
I briefly allow it and then pull back, unable to shake my morning conversation with Oliver. “Do you think any of this matters?”
Itch squints at me. “What do you mean?”
“This.” I make a wide, sweeping gesture. “School. Traditions. Us.”
Itch’s lips curve upward and I notice there’s a sliver of dark dots along the left side of his mouth that he missed when shaving. “Tell you what. I’ll come over this weekend and show you what matters.”
This time when he kisses me, it’s with tongue.
? ? ?
I’m heading into my third-period class—physics—when I feel a nudge from behind. It’s Oliver. “Looking forward to all the nonessential information we’ll learn today?”
“I’m just here to collect my A.”
“Only an A?” He grins down at me, so I nudge him back, since apparently he’s not still mad about our argument.
“Make that an A-plus.”
Oliver looks like he’s about to say something in return, but Ainsley Powell squeezes between us and our conversation is over. She rises on her toes to kiss him before gifting me with a brilliant smile. “Hi, June.”
Ainsley smells like summer peaches, and her hair, thick and curly and wild, is the color of beach sand. Her wide emerald eyes gaze into mine, and even though I’m painfully straight, I almost want to kiss her myself because she’s so damn gorgeous. Instead, I manage a smile and a “Hey” before heading to a lab table in the front row.