Today's Reading

Jessa went to the private school one town over, and Nick went to mine, but they met at the park's orientation last summer. I guess that means they've been together for about a year, if you count all the times they broke up and got back together—which I personally don't, even though they still talked and hung out during their "breaks." I think the whole thing is weird. I think it's even weirder that breaking up was always her idea. Why would she ever do that?

And if you don't count the breaks, they've only been together for like six months tops and they weren't even consecutive. That's not that serious. I mean, yeah, my last relationship barely lasted six weeks, but we're not talking about me. We're talking about them.

People even have a name for them, a ridiculous combination of both their first names: Nissa. God, people are so annoying. Even more annoying because I've been trying to get everyone to call me Elle instead of Elouise for the better part of a decade, and all these two have to do is kiss and they're blessed with a nickname. It makes me want to scream. Except I can't because they are literally walking five feet in front of me, and that would be weird.

Seeley waves as she and Marcus cut left to go meet with the other ride operators and water park people, while Seb and I follow Nissa down the path. I don't even know why Nick's over here, to be honest. Okay, yes, his dive pool is right around the corner from the little castle where Jessa and I have to meet the rest of the costume crew—not that Jessa even really counts, since she'll spend most of her day in a beautiful gown riding around a cool fountain while the rest of us are busy trying not to die of heatstroke—but still.

Nick stops short when we get to the castle, pulling Jessa into a kiss right in front of us. I watch with a frown, trying really hard not to think about last summer, when it was just me and him and a broken-down car in the pouring rain. Come on, if that's not the epitome of a teenage dream, I don't know what is.

I mean, there I was, furiously pedaling my trusty Schwinn through the nastiest pop-up shower ever, cursing my luck that the storm clouds couldn't wait the ten minutes it takes to bike from my house to Seeley's before unleashing their fury on the world. I took a sharp turn onto Route 50, and boom, there was a very rain-soaked Nick Mulholland looking under the hood of his car like it was about to bite him.

For a half second, I thought about just pedaling on by—the whiteness of his teeth and the clinginess of his T-shirt triggering some kind of instinctual fight-or-flight response in my brain. But no, I was not about to give in to that. I know a little something about cars thanks to Seeley's dad, and if Nick needed a knight in shining armor to come fix his, then d ammit, I was going to be that knight.

The more my bike slowed, though, the more my heart sped up, and just when I thought I was having an honest-to-god heart attack, Nick looked up and gave me that face—you know the one: Squinty-Eyed-Cute-Boy-Smirking-in-the-Rain(TM).

It was like the whole world went quiet right then, and he said, "Hey, Elouise, what's a pretty girl like you doing out in this mess?"

I didn't even know what to do with that. People don't really go around calling me pretty—I mean, I'm not a beast or anything, but when your best friend is Seeley Jendron it's kind of hard to compare—so anyway, I just sorta stared at him for a minute, and then I got off my bike and walked over to his car without saying a word. I am so smooth like that.

I started messing with the spark plug wires, just making sure everything was connected at first. Nick watched what I did, and then reached in and started doing it too. We worked shoulder to shoulder until we got it started again. Eventually I did talk to him—I'm not a total space cadet—and right before I left, he wiped a little grease off my face and gave me the biggest smile.

Now, if this were a movie, he totally would have kissed me right then, and it would have been AMAZING, and then we would have lived happily ever after and had lots of little floppy-haired, squinty-eyed babies or something. But that's not what happened because, hi, I'm Elouise. I'm the hot dog. So no. We didn't kiss. Instead he leaned forward a little and. . .

. . . started sneezing. Like uncontrollably. So no, no kiss, but still, total magic. He even offered me a ride home, but it had stopped raining by then and I didn't think my bike would fit in his car anyway.

I swear he looked disappointed when I said no, and right before I pedaled away, he said we should hang soon and to make sure I found him at orientation. I thought my head was gonna explode. I'd been swooning over him since he transferred to my school a few months earlier, and now he was asking me to hang? Unbelievable.

So, the next day, I marched right up to him at orientation, totally prepared to say that he was sure to be my favorite diving pirate ever and yes, let's hang out in a way that doesn't involve rain and loose spark plug wires. But right as I got to him, Jessa fell in his lap.

Literally.

She literally fell in his lap.


This excerpt ends on page 17 of the hardcover edition.
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