Chapter no 13

Better Than the Movies

“Nice boys don’t kiss like that.” “Oh, yes, they fucking do.”

Bridget Jones’s Diary

“Oh, bless you.” Jocelyn took the coPee from my hand and raised it to her mouth. “And why are you wearing that?”

I looked down at my adorable owl dress before unlocking my locker. “Why wouldn’t I? I love it.”

She made a face as she sipped from her cup and leaned against the locker beside mine. “I was hoping you were going to stick with the new look.”

You look best when you’re you. My face got hot as I remembered Wes and the rain and his hands in my hair. I’d been on high alert since arriving at school that morning, looking for him around every corner and in every hallway, my stomach wild at the thought of laying eyes on him.

Of him laying eyes on me right back. Lord.

He hadn’t texted since the kiss, but it’d been late when he’d dropped me oP, and he’d still had to go back for his car. I grabbed my history book from the top shelf and said, “I still like my dresses. Sue me.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said, swirling the coPee around in her cup. “You’re adorable no matter what you wear, but you were just ultra-adorable in modern casual.”

“Thanks, although that out1t is totally ruined now from my bloody nose.”

Jocelyn’s mouth twitched as she stared into the hole in her lid. “I still cannot believe that happened.”

“Right?” I slammed my locker, and Jocelyn and I went to 1rst block. I was so disappointed not to run into Wes, especially since his radio silence led me to

obsess all morning and become paranoid that the kiss was nothing to him and absolutely nothing had changed between us.

I nearly squealed when my phone buzzed at lunch. I’d just sat down with my strawberry salad and lemonade when I saw it was a text from Wes.

Wes: I like your bird dress.

I looked around but didn’t see him at any of the busy cafeteria tables. Me: They’re owls. Where are you?

Wes: In the library—saw you walk by a few minutes ago. Owls are birds, btw. Me: Yep.

Wes: Stop yelling at me about birds, Buxbaum. I just said you look cute in your dress—that’s all.

I smiled and then immediately looked around to make sure he wasn’t lurking nearby, watching my pathetic reaction.

Me: You didn’t actually say that. Wes: Sure I did.

Me: Um…

Wes: Gotta run. Talk later?

I set my phone on the table like it was burning my hands. Talk later? That was never good, right? What kind of ominous sentiment was that? I opened the packet of vinaigrette on my tray and drizzled it over the salad before picking the phone back up and texting:

Me: Yup.

If I’d been obsessing in the morning, I was ridiculous in the afternoon. Because I needed to know more, more than the fact that we’d shared a good kiss. Did he like me? Did he want to hold hands and maybe kiss more? Was he maybe going to be my boyfriend in the near future, or was the kiss just part of our fun hangouts and didn’t really mean anything to him at all?

And it occurred to me, as I walked down the hall with Joss after school, that I hadn’t had a chance to tell Wes that I was no longer interested in Michael. He knew that, right? I mean, the kiss had to have expressed that sentiment.

“Do you think Wes is going to ask you on a date-date?”

My stomach Aipped over as a Aash of the kiss hit me. “I hope so.”

“Who would’ve thought?” Joss pushed the exit door, and I followed her out into the sunshine as she said, “The boy who tortured you in grade school is now your romantic dreamboat. Weird.”

“What’s happening over there?” I said, distracted. There was kind of a crowd over by the main driveway. “I bet it’s a 1ght.”

Joss said, “Probably Matt Bond and Jake Headley.”

Matt and Jake were two of those guys at our school. When word got out that they had beef with each other, the entire student body lost their shit over the possibility of something going down.

We weaved through the crowd, mostly because my car was in the lot that they were all blocking. I said, “I did hear that they were going to throw hands.”

“You did not just say that, Owl Dress.”

“Well, that’s literally what I heard. Word for word.” I moved past a couple people and said, “Excuse me.”

“Oh. My. God.”

My head whipped around to look at Jocelyn. “What?”

She was staring over my shoulder. Without looking at me, she covered her mouth with one hand and pointed with the other.

I turned my head and followed her 1nger to a car that was parked in the center of the concourse. It was a black Grand Cherokee, and the fact that it was parked there was unusual, but that wasn’t what made it a focal point.

No, what made it unusual was that the entire driver’s side of the car was covered with white boxes, boxes that each had a black letter on them, and there was a big, orange square framing them all.

The side of the car was a huge Boggle board.

A Boggle board that had diagonal letters in red spelling out the question “Prom?”

“Holy crap, Liz—get up there!” Bailey Wetzel was standing in the crowd, and she grinned at me and held out an arm. “Go!”

I was slow to absorb what was happening until I saw Michael. He was standing next to the car, smiling at me and holding a poster that said WANNA


It was a promposal.

Michael was asking me to prom.

I felt confused and disjointed as I smiled and everyone standing around started clapping. Michael was asking me to prom—in a romantic, thoughtful way—but I was in shock. It was totally what I’d wanted a week ago, but not anymore.

I slowly walked toward him, my legs rubbery as I approached. I heard Joss say, “Let him down easy, Liz.”

I looked at Michael’s smiling face. What the hell? I couldn’t think of any way to make this make sense. Every single encounter I’d had with Michael had basically ended in disaster—vomit, bloody nose, Laney talk—so why was this even happening?

The irony, right?

Having so many people watching me made me feel hot and itchy. Uncomfortable. When I reached his side, I had no idea what to say. He looked handsome and warm and like everything I’d daydreamed about since kindergarten.

And nothing like Wes.

I could 1nally see him—us—clearly, and now that I could, I didn’t want “the one” to be Michael anymore.

“This is incredible,” I said, looking at the Boggle car. He’d covered shoeboxes with white paper and affixed them to the side to make the board, which was a task that would’ve taken a ton of time. “I can’t believe you did this.”

“I’ve known you long enough, Liz, to know that you’d need a big gesture pr


“What about Laney?” I interrupted. I was whispering so no one else could hear me, hoping I could save both of us some public humiliation.

He did a little shrug thing and said around a smile, “I really took to heart what you said in the music room. Just like you, I want the possibility of something more. So… why not you? Why not us?”

I felt my mouth drop open, and I quickly slammed it shut. But come on— seriously? Someone actually listened to my terrible ideas for once? I could just kick myself for rambling about Wes without actually naming a name.

It’s like I’d never seen a rom-com before or something. Talk about your comedy of errors.

I glanced into the crowd and—oh no—there was Wes. We locked eyes as he stood next to the building, watching me with an unreadable expression. I swallowed and stared intently at his face, the face that had been kissing mine the last time I’d seen him.

I silently begged those brown eyes to give me an answer. Or for him to give me a smile.

Give me something, Bennett. Please.

But he turned his head and looked away from me.

Before that punch to the gut could even register, I watched Alex sidle up beside him. She smiled and grabbed his arm, pulling him down closer so she could talk into his ear.

I could barely breathe as I stared at them while everyone in the courtyard looked at me. My silence was getting awkward, and I was very aware of it. Slowly people began cheering and clapping, but I could only hear my heart beating in my ears. Amidst everything, I kept my eyes on Wes. He lifted his hands, put two 1ngers in his mouth, and whistled loudly. And then he dropped his right arm across Alex’s shoulders and gave me a thumbs-up.

Rejection, bitter and hot, washed over me. The other night—the kiss, everything—was a blip. Wes didn’t feel about me the way I felt about him. This was how it was supposed to end.

“This is getting embarrassing, and I have to take oP in, like, two minutes. Do you maybe want to answer?” Michael looked uncomfortable as he waited.

I took a deep breath and simply accepted the Aowers he was holding—I couldn’t manage words when Wes was snuggling with Alex and whistling for me to say yes. Then Michael Aipped the poster over, revealing a back side that said SHE SAID YES in the same Boggle format.

The people standing around clapped and—thank God—started dispersing, while I stood there feeling shell-shocked. Michael squeezed my hand and said, “I really do have to go now, but this felt right after our talk in my dad’s room last night. We can work out the details tomorrow, okay?”

“Um, sounds good.”

“Your ‘talk’ last night?” Jocelyn stepped in front of me as soon as Michael turned away, her eyes narrowed. “You were with Michael Young?”

I felt the blood drain from my face as my lies caught up to me. I fumbled for words and said, “I told you we were watching movies—”

“You said you were hanging out with Wes.” She shook her head as she said in a low voice, “What is wrong with you? You’re so screwed up about romantic bullshit that you lie to your best friend—and for what? To go out with a guy who’s already talking to someone else?”

I swallowed, feeling the urge to defend myself, even though I knew I was in the wrong. “Maybe if you weren’t so judgmental, I could’ve been honest with you. But you make it so hard sometimes.”

Joss looked at me like I was disgusting. And she was right. “Are you saying it’s my fault you’re a liar?”

“Of course not. God, I’m so sorry. I just—”

Her eyebrows went down as she squinted at me and said, “So what’s the deal with Wes, then? Do you even like him?”

I sighed. Was there any reason not to spill it all to Joss now? “Well, that part is true—I like him a lot.”

She folded her arms over her chest. “So what were you doing at Michael’s house if you like Wes?”

I adjusted my messenger bag and glanced at Kate and Cassidy, who I hadn’t even noticed were behind her until then. “I went there with Wes, actually.”

“You went there with Wes and ended up with Michael in his dad’s bedroom?

You’re kidding, right?”

“Um, it was actually a music room.”

She opened her mouth, but before she could speak I said, “But I know that’s not the point. Wes was 1ne with the whole thing—he wanted me to go talk to Michael.”

“He did.” She gave me a stare that made her look like her mother, like a lawyer who had a lying criminal on the stand and she was about to make him cry. “Yes.” I cleared my throat and decided to come clean. I said, “See, he’d been

helping me—”

“Oh my God, you schemed with him to get Michael, didn’t you?” Her eyes squinted in revulsion. “I knew you’d lose your shit when he showed up again. What is wrong with you?”

“Nothing.” I blinked and tried to justify it. “He and Laney weren’t official so


“That explains the clothes and the straightened hair, doesn’t it? Were you lying to me when you guys were shopping too?”

I just looked at her. I mean, what could I even say? “And you liking him was total bullshit too?” “Only at 1rst—”

“Screw you, Liz.” She pulled her bag higher on her shoulder and turned away from me. Kate gave me a closed-mouth half smile, like she felt bad for me, but she was still going to go with Joss, and Cassidy looked at me like I was kind of awful.

There was a time when those two wouldn’t have taken sides, but since I’d blown them oP one too many times on senior events, they were Team Joss all the way.

“Wait.” My throat was pinched and my vision blurred as I watched her walk back toward the school. “Joss, wait! I’m sorry, okay? Don’t you need a ride home?”

“Not from you.” She just threw an arm up in the air and yelled, “I’d rather walk.”



“Hey, you.” Helena was sitting on a stool in the kitchen when I got home, working on her laptop in paint-splattered pajama pants and a hoodie. “How was your day?”

“Meh.” I dropped my backpack on the Aoor, drained from crying all the way home, and went to the fridge to scope for something good.

“Oh my God, I forgot—did you see Wes?” She looked up from her screen, nearly squealing those words, and I had to remember not to roll my eyes. It wasn’t her fault that the story line had changed.

“Um, yeah.” We were out of chocolate pudding, and that made me want to cry. Again.

“What is that face?”

I shrugged and shut the door. “Michael asked me to prom.”

“What?” Helena’s mouth dropped wide open. “You are kidding me.” “Nope.” I went to the pantry and looked for cookies, wondering if the feeling

in my stomach that wouldn’t go away was an ulcer.

I didn’t even really know what an ulcer was. “Did you turn him down?”

“No.” I gritted my teeth. “Actually, I said yes.”

“You said yes?” She said it like I’d just said yes to selling my organs on the black market or something. “Why would you do that? Oh my God, does Wes know? Oh, poor Wes.”

I slammed the pantry door and grabbed my backpack. Poor Wes? Poor Wes had no real interest in Little Liz, but I didn’t have the energy to tell her that. Or to think about it for another second. Because in addition to how soul-crushingly rejected I felt by his apparent lack of feelings for me, I felt duped.

Betrayed by my own heart.

Because I had known better than to get drawn in by him; I’d always known better. Yet it had happened. I’d fallen for basketball shorts and gross cigars and rain-soaked kisses. How could this have happened?

Beyond that, I’d schemed and lied and screwed up my very best friendship in the world. And—oh, yeah—I’d also gotten in the way of Laney and Michael, two people who actually seemed to be made for each other.

I said, “Yes, he knows, and trust me, he’s 1ne. I need to go study.” “Liz?”

I stood still but didn’t turn her way. “What?”

“I know you thought you wanted Michael, but do you really want to stick with over-romanticized ideas when you can have an awesome real thing?”

Over-romanticized ideas. As close as she got sometimes, Helena didn’t get it. My mother would’ve understood. My mother would’ve been cheering the entire time for me to go for the mark.

I’d ignored her golden rule and was suPering the consequences.


“I have to go study.” “Wait—are you mad at me?”

I hoisted my backpack and let out my breath. “Nope. Not at all.” “Do you want—”

“No. God.” I said it through gritted teeth and it came out way harsher than I’d intended, but I couldn’t do this. Not with her. “I just want to be left alone, okay?”

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