Chapter no 13

If He Had Been with Me

The last day of school feels as if it is truly the last, as if I am being set free not for three months but thirty years. My scary finals are all over; all I have today are my English and health finals. I’m taking honors English in the fall, and the health final should be simple. Drugs and sex are bad; water- skiing is good.

There is hugging and squealing on The Steps to Nowhere. Sasha is the only one studying; the rest of us are more or less free. Jamie kisses me loudly and wraps his arm over my shoulders.

“Ugh, I cannot wait for today to be over,” he says. “Me neither,” Noah says.

“You still haven’t signed my yearbook yet, babe,” I say. This is the third day I’ve asked him. He keeps saying he will do it later.

“I know, I know. Give it to me,” he says. I hand it to him and he opens his book bag.

“Why don’t you just sign it now?” I say.

“I don’t feel like it right now. I’ll give it to you at lunch,” he says. He shoves my yearbook into his bag and zips it closed.

“Fine,” I say. I’ve found it’s just easier to let him have his way on all the little things that shouldn’t matter.

“Hey, Mom says she can drive for our girls’ day tomorrow,” Angie says. “Yay,” Sasha says between flash cards.

“Yeah, well, you know that we’re going to have a boys’ day tomorrow too,” Alex says.

“Okay,” I say.

“And we’re going to do boy stuff that you aren’t invited to,” Jamie says. “All right, whatever that means,” Brooke says. “But we’re just going to

the mall.”

“Hey, guys, let’s go to the mall,” Noah says.

“No,” Sasha says, “you cannot go to the mall. We are.” “We can get our nails done,” Alex says.

“And our hair. I need highlights,” Jamie says.

“Oh, shut up,” Brooke says. “You don’t even know what highlights are.” “Why is it you guys get weird every time we do something alone?”

Angie says.

“Yeah, do you think we’re plotting against you?” I ask.

“No,” Jamie says, but for once neither he nor any of the others have a comeback. The boys start talking about going to Noah’s tomorrow to play some video game.


I love you, Jamie’s note says. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. All I want from life is to marry you and have our family. Have a good summer. With me.

I close my yearbook and stuff it back in my book bag. Jamie didn’t give it to me at lunch; it’s now the end of the day. He asked me not to read it in front of the others, so I told everybody I had to go to the bathroom before we walked to Jamie’s house. I flush the toilet even though I didn’t use it, because Brooke came to the bathroom with me. When I come out of the stall, she is staring at herself in the mirror. I wash my hands and look over at her.

“Hey, are you okay?” I say. It takes her a moment to answer. “Yeah,” she says, “Sorry, I just zoned out for a second there.”

“It’s cool,” I say. “I can’t believe that we’re not freshmen anymore. Can you?”

“No, not really,” she says.


At Jamie’s pool, we play chicken-fight, climbing on the boys’ shoulders and knocking each other down. Jamie and I win, and he parades around with me on his shoulders, then suddenly drops me to make me scream. I pout; he kisses me and then dunks me. A dunking war breaks out that the boys win even though there are more of us. They high five and we roll our eyes.

We lean up against the wall in the shallow end and the boys wrap their arms around our bare waists. The sun is warm on our heads and the water. It is summer and we are free.

The pizzas arrive and we lay about eating by the pool until we think we’ll never have to eat again. We decide to ignore the one-hour rule and jump back in. The boys begin to wrestle and we stand to the side and watch them. After a while, I get bored, and I’m thinking I’ll try to get Jamie alone in his room, when I realize that Brooke and Angie have been gone for a long time. I go inside and pad barefoot across the kitchen. The bathroom door is closed. I lean my head against it. I can hear them talking on the other side. I knock.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I ask. There is a pause, and then I hear their voices again. Angie opens the door a crack.

“Are you alone?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I say. She opens the door enough for me to squeeze in.

Brooke is sitting on the bathtub. Her eyes are red and she is dressed in her shorts and shirt again.

“Oh my God, what’s wrong?” I ask. Brooke looks down at our feet on the tile floor.

“I cheated on Noah,” she says. Angie is leaning against the sink with her arms crossed. This is not new information for her. Brooke loses herself in her tears again. I sit down next to her.

“With who?” I ask. Brooke continues to cry.

“It was her lab partner, Aiden,” Angie says. “They’ve sort of been friends all semester.”

“Aiden Harris or Aiden Schumacker?” “Aiden Harris,” Angie says.

“We just had fun together in class,” Brooke says. “I didn’t think it meant anything.”

“What happened?” I say.

“He invited me over to study for the final,” Brooke says. “He kissed me, and for a moment, I let him.”

“That’s all?”

“I stopped him and left and I wasn’t going to ever tell Noah,” Brooke says, “but I hate keeping secrets from him.” She begins to cry again. Someone knocks on the bathroom door.

“Hey, guys,” Sasha says. “What’s going on?” We let her in and tell her the story.

“It was just one kiss?” Sasha asks. Brooke nods. There is a knock on the door.

“Hey,” Jamie’s voice says. “What are you guys doing in there?” “Are you plotting something?” Alex says.

Sasha opens the door and sticks her head out.

“Look, guys,” she says, “we have a really serious situation in here, so cut it out.”

“What do you mean?” Noah says. Next to me, Brooke’s cries turn into a wail. “Hey, what’s going on? Brooke?”

“Brooke, honey, do you want to talk to him?” I ask. Brooke wipes her nose and nods. Angie and I instantly stand at attention and crowd behind Sasha.

“She wants to talk to him,” I say. Sasha opens the door just enough so we can file out and Noah can slide in. We shut the door behind him and turn to face the boys.

“We should go outside,” Angie says. “Yeah,” I say.

“What’s going on? Is Brooke okay?” Jamie asks.

“We can’t tell you,” I say. The back door closes behind us and we walk to the edge of the pool.

“Why not?”

“Because you’re guys,” Sasha says. She, Angie, and I sit down and dangle our legs in the pool.

“Noah’s in there,” he says. “It involves Noah,” I say.

“How does it involve Noah?” Alex asks.

“We can’t tell you that,” Angie says. I nod.

“This is stupid. She’s my cousin,” Jamie says. “I know,” I say. “But we can’t tell you.”

“It isn’t our place,” Sasha says. All three of us nod to that. “Are they breaking up?” Alex asks.

“Maybe,” Sasha says.

“Oh my God, I hope not,” I say. “They won’t,” Angie says.

“Okay, this really is stupid,” Jamie says. He and Alex go and sit on the patio chairs. The girls and I begin to whisper. After a while, Noah comes out and asks for Angie. She comes out alone a few minutes later.

“Is she okay?” I ask. Angie nods.

“Yeah,” she says. “She told Noah. They’re gonna walk home and talk about it.”

We swing our legs in the water and make waves, but nobody really talks. We’ve said everything we have to say to each other, and we still won’t tell the boys. Finally, after half an hour, we gather our stuff to walk home. Alex stays behind with Jamie.

When I kiss Jamie good-bye, he does not hug me back, and he looks away afterward.

“Bye,” he says.

“Bye, love you,” I say. “I’ll call you.” “Okay.”


That night we fight on the phone. Even though I cry, he still does not forgive me until I tell him Brooke’s secret. He is instantly sweet again, and we don’t talk about the fight.

At the mall the next day, Brooke tells us about her conversation with Noah while we eat in the food court. She says that Noah has forgiven her, and that Noah said he knew she was sorry and that he hated seeing her cry.

“I can’t believe how much he loves me,” she says. She looks down at her plate of French fries and smiles.

I start to wonder what Jamie would have said if it had been us, and I push the thought away. Nothing like that would ever happen to us.

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