Category/genre: YA Contemporary
Author: Sandra Budiansky
Chosen by editor Julia A. Weber
Skyler Montgomery wants to be in love. Well she wants to be in love with someone besides her best friend's boyfriend. So when she meets a cute skateboarder, who seems to like her, "curves" and all, she will do anything to hold onto him. But when his affection turns obsessive, she has to figure out how to fit his love in her life and if he is even worth it.
Jenna and Cole are fighting.
The three of us are sitting at our usual table outside Christian’s Pizza. Jenna keeps playing on her phone, and Cole is muttering under his breath. Their slices remain untouched. Mine are already gone.
Here’s to another summer of being their third wheel.
The Downtown Mall is crowded for a Wednesday afternoon. Moms navigate their strollers over the bumpy brick road, past the bankers on their lunch breaks, and far from the skateboarders loitering in their semi-permanent place near the movie theater. The sun is hiding behind a cloud, giving us all temporary relief from its heat.
They’re fighting because Jenna wants to go to Nate’s party tonight and Cole doesn’t. I know we’ll end up going, that’s pretty much all we did last summer: hang out at Nate’s pool, and I sit by while Jenna and Cole fight/breakup/get back together, wishing for something to change; knowing nothing ever will. Cole’s putting on a good show, acting as if he thinks everything will be different.
I tune them out and watch the guys on skateboards. He keeps trying to do the same trick over and over. I’ve noticed him before. He’s cute in a non-obvious way and it seems like the rest of the skaters move around him, like he’s their center. He’s the loudest his laughter at his own mistakes carries across the mall. He’s thin, not skinny, and wears a black baseball cap. After every trick, he takes it off and wipes the sweat off his brow, and his long hair falls forward on his face. Then he whips his hair back and puts the cap back on.
“Right, Skye?” Jenna says, breaking me out of my trance.
“Nate expects us to go. What are you looking— oh, of course. You’re obsession,” she says, waving her arm dismissively at me.
“What obsession?” Cole asks, looking around.
“That skater kid who’s always here. Does he ever go home?”
I shrug. I neglect to point out that she’s always here as well.
“Which one?” Cole adds, almost standing to look over me and at the group.
“No one. Stop!” I pull his arm to force him down.
“What are you jealous?” Jenna asks, as if it’s the most ridiculous idea in the world.
“No. Just curious.”
“What time is it?” I say. I grab Jenna’s phone from her hand. “My mom will kill me if I’m not home before Jack.”
“Plenty of time, Skye. Stop stressing,” Jenna grabs the phone back before I can look.
“Stressing is what she does best,” Cole smiles, his stupid dimple appearing out of nowhere. Back when we dated for that week in seventh grade, I made the mistake of telling him I thought it was cute. Now, I swear, he uses it as a weapon against me.
“It’s why we love her,” Jenna says.
“Absolutely,” Cole says and both Jenna and I roll our eyes, but I suspect its for different reasons.
I scoop up my empty paper place and cup. “Text me later to tell me what’s happening. The trolley’s coming.”
“I’ll give you a ride,” Cole says, crumbling his own plate and standing.
“I thought we were going to go to the movies,” Jenna says to him.
Cole turns to her but keeps his eyes on me. “Right, I forgot.”
Jenna sighs and shakes her head. Her eyes darken a bit. “What time are you done with Weight Watch—” She stops when she notices me glaring at her. “That thing tonight?”
“What thing?” Cole asks.
“I’ll be home by six.” I wave, grabbing my bag and squeezing my way between my chair and the one behind me, and start running toward the trolley. I feel my face warm, annoyed with Jenna. She knows I don’t want to tell Cole or anyone about going to Weight Watchers. It’s embarrassing and I like to pretend no one notices I’m fat.
I pick up my pace a bit, the last person boarding the trolley is getting on, and I’m still a ways a way. Panting, I race ahead. I really need to get into better shape. Suddenly, something rolls in front of me and my foot trips and I fall forward, catching myself with my hands, but not before my chin hits the ground.
“Oh shit! Are you okay?”
I look around, everyone is staring at me. I scramble up, wiping my hands on my pants and then checking if there’s any blood.
“Hey, are you all right?” The cute skater appears next to me, grabbing his board, which is apparently what I tripped over.
“Yeah, I think so,” I say, touching my chin. Thankfully, there’s no blood.
I close my eyes and blink, allowing a few tears to betray me and escape. I watch the trolley pull away and wish the ground would open and swallow me. Some UVA kids walk by laughing staring at their phones. Did they take a picture of me on the ground. I can imagine the tweet - Miss Piggy goes splat at Downtown Mall.
“Sorry! I screwed up that trick and my board got away from me. Oh God, you’re crying. You’re not okay,” he says, squatting down next to me.
“No, I’m fine. It’s my fault. I wasn’t paying attention. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize to me.” He looks me up and down and then smiles. My heart beats faster, which is stupid because he’s not checking me out, he’s checking to make sure I’m okay.
“Skye, you all right?” Cole runs over to us.
“She’s fine, no blood,” the skater says.
Cole ignores him. “You sure?”
“Yeah, except I missed my ride.” I point to where the trolley is now turning right at the end of the road.
“Come back and wait with us. Or I can take you home now,” Cole says.
Skater guy stands to the side awkwardly. I turn to him and repeat I’m fine and he waves and skates over back to his friends. Well, I guess falling on my face is one way to get him to notice me.
“I’ll wait for the next one. I don’t feel like dealing with Jenna’s mood, plus you’re going to the movies.” I say.
“Right.” We both turn to glance at her and she’s staring at her phone as usual.
“Well, she’s your girlfriend”
“And your best friend.”
Cole’s my actual best friend, but its not something we admit out loud.
“I’ll see you later.”
I walk away and sit on the bench near the trolley stop is. I need to find new friends. Particularly one that I’m not-so-secretly in love with.
I watch the skater’s again, trying not to stare at mine. Mine. Someone like him would never look twice at me. I reach into my bag to grab my book, but then stop myself. Reading Sky Thunder in public is a risky move, most people think they’re trash. Skater boy most definitely would. My gaze drifts to him again and his eyes catch mine. He does this slight nod/smile thing and mouths “you okay?” I nod, and then before I talk myself out of it, stand and walk over to him, and to my surprise, he meets me half way.
“Sorry you missed your ride,” he says.
“Whatever, it’s fine. What are you trying to do?” I motion to his board.
“This trick that my friend Sven made up. He calls it the Locoflip, watch.” He climbs on the board, skates around a few times and then kicks it up in the air, making it twist, while he spins. The board lands, this time with its wheels up.
“Cool!” I say, not really understanding the point.
He laughs. “Yeah, that sucked. You sure you’re okay?” He points to his own chin. His pants are ripped in the knee, showing off a large scrap.
“Yeah, totally fine. See nothing there,” I say, jutting out my chin and hoping he won’t comment on the fact that it’s more of a double chin than single. My heart starts beating fast. I glance over at Cole and Jenna and they are watching us.
“Somethin’ up with your friends?” he asks, following my gaze.
“Not that I know of,” I say. “Thanks for—”
“For knocking you on your ass?”