Love Me Never ONLY
a Lovely Vicious series novel by Sara Wolf
Don’t love your enemy. Declare war on him.
Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to Buttcrack-of-Nowhere, Ohio, to help her mom escape a bad relationship.
All the girls in her new school want one thing—Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.
Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.
The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.
The game board: East Summit High.
The reward: Something neither of them expected.
Watch for the second novel in the Lovely Vicious series coming in November!
Forget Me Always
Title: Love Me Never
Series: Lovely Vicious, #1
Author: Sara Wolf
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 304 pages
Release Date: April 2016
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
Praise for LOVE ME NEVER:
Love Me Never is a cleverly written story, with dialogue that makes you laugh out loud, and an ending that will leave your mouth hanging wide open and your fingers itching for more. It’s rare to find a unique writing voice in this world that is enjoyable and done well. Sara achieves all of that and so much more. Enjoy the ride!
– New York Times Bestselling Author, J. Sterling
“All is fair in love and war, and this is war in its most fun form. With unapologetic attitude, spunk, and spark that flies off the page, all intertwined with a raw emotion and depth that surprised the hell out of me. Reminded me of one of my favorite teen movies—*John Tucker Must Die*.”
—Stacey Trombley, author of Naked
Love Me Never by Sara Wolf
Readers’ Group Guide
Prepared by Nancy Cantor, media specialist, NSU University School
- The novel is ultimately about the secrets each character is guarding. Isis, Jack, Wren, Avery, and even the principal, Mr. Evans, are motivated by their secrets. Discuss how the characters’ secrets affect their behavior and the results of their choices.
- Isis considers herself to be fat and ugly, although, from the other characters’ points of view, she is not. Gradually, we discover why she feels this way. What was it that Nameless did to her? In what other ways was she affected by his cruelty?
- It is revealed that Isis has lost a great deal of weight. On page 24, she describes briefly how she accomplished it. Did you accept her explanation of how she shed pounds? Can it really be that simple?
- A poignant moment illuminating Isis’s low self-esteem occurs when her stepmother sends her a lovely blouse and her mother tells her it “doesn’t suit her.” She stuffs it in her closet, stating, “The number one rule is don’t try to be someone you’re not.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Isis puts her emotionally fragile mother’s needs ahead of her own, because she feels responsible for her mother’s past abuse. She plans to stay at a local college instead of applying to better schools that would take her too far from home. Is this the right thing for her to do? Have you known teens who “parent” a parent?
- Isis would prefer to forego college and spend a year in Europe, but instead plans on college because her parents expect it. Should young people go to college directly after high school just to please their parents?
- What are your thoughts about Jack’s job as an escort?
- Jack and Wren sensitively articulate their feelings and those of other characters’ (examples on pages 137, 162). How realistically are these teenage boys portrayed?
- When Kayla complains that Wren is a nerd and that is why she doesn’t have feelings for him, Isis discusses the “great dilemma of looks over personality.” Which is more important? Are we all shallow, as Isis claims?
- Isis believes that she can no longer feel love because of her deeply troubled past. She recognizes this ability in Kayla, however, and feels jealous (pages 210-211). Is there hope for Isis to ever allow herself to open up to someone? How do you see this happening?
- Isis believes that boys don’t have any willpower when it comes to relationships, except Wren, and he is “an outlier.” Should teenage boys commit to one girl? Is it possible?
- The author paints a less-than-pretty picture of high school parties. Do all teens party the way these characters did?
- Jack has legions of girls infatuated with him. Does your school have a Jack Hunter? What makes a boy a “heartthrob”?
- Jack also has a darker side, revealed dramatically when he protects Isis from Leo’s attack. How might this impact his budding relationship with Isis?
- What are your ideas about what might have happened to Sophia and each character’s role in the incident?
- In a cliffhanger ending, Isis meets Sophia. This book is the first in a trilogy. What are your predictions for Book Two?
An Excerpt from:
Love Me Never
by Sara Wolf
Copyright © 2015 by Sara Wolf. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
When I was six, Dad told me something really true: everyone has a to-do list.
It took me another eleven years to actually get around to making one, but thanks to a certain asshole in my life, it’s finished:
- Don’t talk about love.
- Don’t think about love.
- Thinking and talking about love leads to Love, which is the enemy. Do not consort with the enemy. Even if those hot-ass actors in the movies make it look cuddly and nice and tempting, don’t fall for it. It’s the biggest bad in the world, the worst villain ever created by hormone-pumped pubescent morons. It’s the Joker, Lex Luthor, that one overweight guy who’s always messing with the Scooby-Doo gang. It’s the final boss in the massive joke of a video game you call your life.
Everyone at Avery Brighton’s party right now has their own to-do list, and most of them look identical to the following:
- Get drunk.
- Get more drunk.
- Try not to vomit on anyone cute.
- Try to score with the cute person you tried your best not to vomit on.
It’s a foolproof list that’s easy for even idiots to follow. It ensures you’re drunk enough to think everyone is cute, so that you don’t throw up on anyone, and so you try to score with everyone. It’s basically a how-to for people who watch too much TV and think having fun is getting blind drunk and making out with someone they don’t remember. It makes everyone here intolerable. Especially the boys. One of them slings his arm around my shoulders, red in the face and murmuring suggestively about going somewhere quieter.
He has no idea who I am. He has no idea what I’ve been through.
He’s an idiot. But then again, most people are.
I wrinkle my lip and push him off before I hurry into the kitchen. People are too busy boozing up here to bother hitting on girls. Not that I get hit on a lot. Getting hit on is still a new thing, a weird thing, because boys don’t generally hit on fat girls and that’s what I used to be. The fat girl.
I pull my Florence and the Machine T-shirt lower to make sure it covers everything. Flaunting your stretch marks to the entire “cool” populace of East Summit High probably isn’t the best way to make influential friends. Or friends, period. I’d settle for either. Hell, I’d settle for an enemy at this rate. Without an anchor, the sea of high school is the shittiest ride in the world.
“Isis!” A drunk girl sloshes up to me, black hair plastered to her face with sweat. “Hiiiii! How are… What… You’re doing in here?”
“Uh, yes?” I try. She giggles.
“I’m Kayla. We met in history of the…planet.”
“World history,” I offer.
“Yeah!” She claps and points at me. “Wow. You are really smart.”
“I’ll be really wet if you don’t stop that.” I gently position her hand upright, her red cup of beer precariously dripping on the floor and my jeans.
“Oh, will you be wet?” She closes both her eyes really hard and smiles. When I don’t react, she does it again.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Where I come from, that’s called drunk.”
“Drunk?” She buzzes her lips in a laugh, spraying a bit of beer-spit over me. “Not little a even!”
“Look, you’re really”—I pause as Kayla burps—“great, and thanks for talking to the weird new girl, but I think you need to lie down. Or possibly go back in time. Before the invention of liquor.”
“You’re so funny! Who invited you?”
“Ohhh, she’s doing that thing again.” Kayla laughs. “Don’t drink the punch!”
“She invites alllll the new kids to a party. If they stay the entire night without crying or wetting themselves, they’re cool in our book.”
Great. Seven hours of binge drinking crappy beer bought by someone’s older brother is the proving ground for who’s cool and who’s not. I should’ve expected that from a boring, sterile little Ohio suburb like this one.
“What’s in the punch?” I ask, looking over my shoulder at the giant plastic bowl filled with ruby liquid.
“Powdered lax…laxa…pooping powder!” Kayla concludes. A few boys circle around her like sharks, just waiting for the moment she passes the threshold from drunk to too-drunk-to-protest. I glower at them over her shoulder, pull her by the hand upstairs, and go to the second landing, where it’s quiet and not full of horny vultures. We lean on the banister and watch the chaos below.
“So where are you from again?” Kayla asks. Now that she isn’t swaying crazily, I can get a good look at her. Her dark hair and eyes make her one of the few nonwhite people in the school. Her skin’s amber, the color of honeycomb. She’s really pretty. Better than most of the girls here, anyway, and definitely way better than me.
“I’m from Florida,” I say. “Good Falls. Tiny, boring place. Lots of mosquitoes and football jocks.”
“Sounds a lot like here.” She giggles, chugging the rest of her beer. Someone downstairs opens a can of cocktail wieners and starts throwing them around. Girls shriek and duck and pick them out of their hair and boys chuck them at each other and try to get them down girls’ shirts. A wiener flies up and gets stuck in the chandelier, and Kayla ooohs.
“Avery’s mom isn’t gonna like that,” she says.
“Her parents are probably loaded snobs.”
“How did you know? They’re VEOs or something.”
“Yeah! I guess it’s a really important job, but then I thought about it really hard and how can it be so important if it’s only three letters?”
“You may be onto something. Something very drunk, but definitely something.”
She beams at me, and then reaches over to touch a piece of my hair. “I like that color.”
“Violet Madness,” I say. “That’s what the box called it.”
“Oh, you dyed it yourself? Cool!”
It was part of my pact with myself: lose weight, dye my hair, get clothes that actually fit. Become a better person. Become the person a certain someone would wanna date. But I don’t tell Kayla that, because that was the old me—the one who thought love wasn’t stupid. The one who’d do anything for a boy, even lose eighty-five pounds dieting and sweating like a pig. The one who’d go to crappy little clubs to drink and smoke just to hang out with his friends. Not even him. His friends. I tried to get accepted by them, like it’d make him like me more.
But that’s not me anymore. I’m not in Good Falls, Florida. I’m in Northplains, Ohio. No one knows the old me, so I won’t drag her into the limelight just to embarrass the new me. I’m desperate for friends, not socially suicidal. There’s a fine, pathetic line between the two and I’m toeing it like a ballet dancer at her first recital.
“Oh shit,” Kayla hisses suddenly. “I didn’t know he’d be here.”
I look to where her eyes are riveted. It’s unmistakable who she’s talking about.
Amid the chaos of the wiener-throwing and drunk flail-dancing to Skrillex is a single island of still calm. He’s gotta be six feet at least. His shoulders are broad, and everything about him is lean—his waist, his long legs, his ridiculously sharp cheekbones. His messy hair isn’t quite blond but isn’t quite brown, either, more like a tumbleweed color. Next to me, Kayla is ogling him with all she’s got, and she isn’t the only one. Girls froze when he walked in, and guys are throwing him stink eye. Whoever he is, I can already tell he’s one of those people who are popular in all the wrong ways.
He walks farther into the party, keeping to himself. Normally you nod at people as you walk in or look for someone you know in the sea of the crowd. But not this guy. He just walks. He doesn’t have to push or shove his way through—people part naturally. It’s like he’s got an invisible shield around him. He wears a permanent bored expression, like everything around him is completely uninteresting.
“That’s Jack. Jack Hunter,” Kayla whispers. “He never comes to parties like this. They’re way beneath him.”
“Beneath him? He’s in high school, Kayla, not the royal goddamn court.”
“He’s got a nickname around here—Ice Prince. So he sort of is royalty.”
I laugh. When Kayla’s face remains serious, I stop.
“Wait, you’re not kidding? You guys actually call him that?”
She flushes. “Well, yeah! Just like we call Carlos the Mexican quarterback Hot Tortilla and the creepy guy with too many knives who likes to hang around the library Creeper McJeepers. Jack is Ice Prince because that’s what he is!”
I splutter another laugh, and this one must be too loud, because it makes Jack look up. Now that he’s closer, I can see his face well. The bored expression does nothing for him. Kayla’s whispering, “He’s cute,” to me, but that’s not it at all. He’s not baby-faced, boy-next-door cute in the way girls giggle about during sleepovers or between classes. He’s handsome; the kind of lion-eyed, sharp-nosed, broad-lipped handsome you see in Italian suit ads. I can see why they call him Ice Prince. Aside from the thick fog of pretentiousness that follows him, his eyes are the color of a lake frozen through—a blue so light it looks almost translucent.
And they’re looking right at me.
Kayla makes a noise disturbingly similar to a small monkey and hides behind my shoulder. “He’s looking at us!” she hisses.
“Why are you hiding?”
Kayla mumbles something into my shirt.
I roll my eyes. “You like him.”
“Not so loud!” She pinches my neck and pulls.
“Ow, ow! You can’t have my vertebrae, I need those!”
“Then don’t say dumb things like that so loud!”
“But you do like him!”
She twists, and I yelp. Our din is doing nothing to avert Jack’s eyes—or anyone else’s. I manage to pry her fingers off the part of my nervous system that keeps me breathing and duck into the bathroom to pee. In the semi-quiet only a bathroom surrounded by a raging party can offer, I realize Kayla’s the first person who’s bothered to talk to me since I’ve moved here. Everyone else stared, whispered, but never actually talked to me. I was beginning to think I was diseased, or awful, or possibly even dead. Either Kayla can talk to ghosts or she’s just a nice person. Too nice.
I was like that, once upon a time.
The toilet’s a mess, and I pat it in sympathy on my way out. Stay strong, buddy. One way or another, this will all be over soon. Either we’ll all drop dead of alcohol poisoning, or your bowl will erode from the acidity of the gallons of vomit you’ve been subjected to. Do they give you retirement benefits? No? They should. We should protest. Picket. Toilet Union United.
When I’m done talking to the toilet in a completely sane manner, I walk out to the exact thing I didn’t want to see—Kayla, downstairs again. The boys are leaving her alone, thank God. All except one. Or rather, it’s one boy she’s not leaving alone.
“I don’t u-usually see you at these kinds of parties,” Kayla stammers to none other than Jack Hunter himself.
“No. I don’t particularly enjoy rolling in mud. Tonight’s an exception.” He looks around the room, his lip curling. “But you do, I’m guessing.”
“W-What? No, I mean, I’m just Avery’s friend. She makes me come. I don’t even really like these parties—”
“Your speech is slurred and you’re stumbling. You can barely control your own body. If you have to get this drunk to stand the parties your friends make you go to, you’re an idiot who’s made the wrong friends.”
Kayla’s expression stiffens, like she’s been slapped, and then her eyes start watering. My blood boils. Who the hell does he think he is?
“That’s n-not what I meant—” Kayla starts.
“And you seem exactly like the type of girl to stay with friends she hates. They probably hate you, too. It must be easy, hiding it behind all that booze and all those name brands.”
Kayla’s tears overflow onto her cheeks. Jack sighs.
“You’re so spineless you collapse into tears the second anyone says the truth?”
My heart’s thumping in my chest. My fists squeeze so tight I can’t feel my fingers. His cruelty leaves a bitter taste in my mouth—it’s a lot like someone I used to know.
Someone who ruined my life forever.
I shove aside the red-faced boy who tries to hit on me again and launch myself through the crowd. Kayla isn’t my friend. No one here is. But she’s been four seconds of nice to me—true nice, not Avery’s sugary poison of inviting-me-to-this-weird-test-party nice. And four seconds is more than I ever thought I’d get. It’s the most I’ve had in a long time. Jack’s lip quirks up in a sneer. Say it. Say one more thing, pretty boy. I dare you to.
“You’re pathetic,” he says.
That’s the first time I punch Jack Hunter’s face.
And as my knuckles connect with his stupid high cheekbones and he staggers back with a furious blizzard brewing in his icy eyes, I somehow get the feeling it won’t be the last.
“Apologize to Kayla,” I demand, and the entire house goes quiet. It starts like a ripple, the people next to me and Kayla and Jack falling silent. And then it moves, jumping like a flea, like a disease, silent and ominous and spreading faster than a cat picture among aunts on Facebook. It’s like the entire party has stopped, slowed down just to see what Jack will do. They want a show. They’re a pack of ruthless little hyenas and I just bit the lion. Maybe Jack can sense that, because once he gets over his shock, he glances around carefully like he’s plotting his next move, and then fixes me with a glare so frigid it could probably freeze lava.
“Judging by your expression”—I cross my arms and glower—“getting punched for being an ass is something new.”
He dabs at his nose with his hand, a little blood trickling down to his mouth. He licks it leisurely off his thumb. Kayla’s white-faced and stuck in place like a mannequin. The music blares hollowly and the bass thumps, the only thing daring to interfere with the tense quiet the entire room is waiting on.
Jack doesn’t speak. So I do.
“Let me use really small words so you understand,” I say with exaggerated slowness. “Apologize to Kayla for what you said before I make you bleed harder.”
Someone in the crowd snickers. Whispers move into people’s ears and out their mouths. I don’t care what they think or whether or not I failed the stupid party test. I only care that he apologize to Kayla. He hurt her in more ways than he knows.
“Why are you defending a girl you don’t know?” Jack finally asks, his voice deep and with a sable deadly quality to it. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you new? That would explain the moronic ignorance. Do they have schools in Florida? Or do you learn from the crocodiles and the rednecks?”
Of course he knows where I’m from—word spreads fast in a town like this. A collective “ooooh” goes around the room. A flush creeps on my cheeks, but I don’t let it faze me. I’ve gotten worse insults. This is nothing. I scoff.
“I can’t stand by and watch while a stuck-up bastard steps on another girl’s heart. It’s not my style.”
This second “ooooh” is a lot louder. I feel pride blossom in my chest. My hands and face are hot, and I’m shaking, but I won’t show it. I won’t let him win. I won’t back down. I dealt with entitled mama’s boys like him by the dozens in my old school in Florida. They’re all the same; we’ll trade insults until I humiliate him in front of these people so badly he can’t fire back. That’s the best way this could happen. Kayla would get her justice.
But that’s not how it happens. He doesn’t fire back. He leans in for the kill, over my shoulder, his lips so close I feel hot air glancing my earlobe.
“Because that happened to you, didn’t it?”
My breath catches. I try to suppress it but I flinch, and when Jack sees that, he laughs. The sound is brittle and cool, like a frozen thing snapping in two. He laughs. Like it’s nothing. I feel like I’m the one who’s been punched. A second of tension passes between our eyes, and then he holds up a hand as if in farewell to the room and leaves through the door, the night lawn crowded with poorly parked cars swallowing him up.
The house starts talking again. People laugh and dance and drink again, making out against walls with renewed vigor. Heat and ice are sloshing through my veins all at once, back and forth. A heavy iron fist is squeezing my heart, and I can’t breathe.
Kayla puts a hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay, Isis?”
How did he know? Could he really read me that well? Yeah, the same thing happened to me. A boy broke my heart— No, more than that. He broke my soul, my heart, and who I used to be. After three years, nine weeks, and five days, I should be able to hide it better. I thought I was good at hiding it. So how the hell could Jack tell?
Everyone’s watching. I can’t run out the door, since that’s the way he went, or they’ll assume things. I can’t go upstairs to be alone, or they’ll assume he won. Won what? I’m not sure yet, but the antagonism that arced between us felt like a fever, uncomfortably warm and refusing to be ignored. I want nothing more than to crawl into someplace quiet and nurse the scab he ripped off my gaping wound, but I can’t. People might be going back to partying, but they’re also watching me for confirmation of what exactly happened, and what I do next will determine that.
He attacked me on my most personal level.
He opened the one injury I never wanted to think about again, the one I came here to escape.
The one that destroyed me.
But I can’t let anyone see that. I can’t let it show. I’m someone else here. I’m not the weak, broken girl I used to be.
It’s time to play my favorite game—pretend.
“He kissed me!” I announce loudly to Kayla. “It was disgusting! All tongue and no skill.”
Kayla’s eyes widen. My words echo back at me over the music in snippets of different people’s voices. Kiss. New girl. Jack Hunter. Ice Prince kissed New Girl. While it spreads, I pull Kayla by the hand and take her into the kitchen. She’s shaking. I put my hands on her shoulders and look her in the eyes.
“You— You and him—” she starts.
“Didn’t do anything,” I murmur. “I swear to you. I just said that to make him look bad.”
Her eyes brighten momentarily, then dim, and somehow that makes me sadder than it makes me angrier. She still likes him, even after he called her pathetic in front of a bunch of people. I feel so bad for her. I used to be her and that’s why I feel so damn bad for her.
“I can’t believe you actually punched him!” Kayla says. “You’re crazy!”
“You’re crazy for liking a guy like that.” I sigh. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you to stay away from feral dogs?”
“He’s not a dog!” she protests. “He’s never hit on me!”
“Because he’s gay.”
“He has mature college girlfriends! A new one, like, every week!”
“Because he’s ordering them from Russia. Or Saturn. Whichever has more girls depressingly desperate for money.”
Kayla wobbles, and I help her sit on the polished wood floor against the kitchen counter. There’s a large cupboard. She feels it against her back and drunkenly opens it and crawls inside, closing the doors behind her. I become extremely patient and understanding for an entire ten seconds. I knock. A mutter reverberates from inside.
“C’mon. I’m not sorry. He deserved it, okay?”
“I’ve liked him since fourth grade!” Kayla mourns. “That was the first time I’ve ever talked to him! And you…you came in and ruined it! It’s over! My life is over!”
“It was a life well spent.” I nod.
“I’m not actually going to die!” She flings the cupboard doors open to wail at me.
“Oh, but you are! In about seventy years. But for now you are very much alive and very much wasted, so I think I’ll drive you home.”
“No! I can drive myself!” She gets out of the cupboard and promptly slips on some Cheetos. I catch her and pull her up, and together we make it through the front door.
“You can drive yourself off a cliff, yes.”
“I might as well!” Kayla moans. “Jack hates me now!”
“Oh pishposh. I’m sure he’ll remember you fondly as the four hundred and thirty-sixth girl he made cry.”
Kayla bursts into tears, and I half drag, half pull her across the lawn and into my tiny VW Beetle. It’s light green and rusted, with a broken headlight and soda cans littering the floor, but it does its job of letting everyone know I’m poor and that’s really all I ask from a car.
“Isis!” a voice calls to me.
Kayla tries to bolt, but she’s so drunk she just wobbles in place a bit and burps. I help her onto the seat and shut the door, turning to face the voice. Avery Brighton makes her way over to me, red curls bouncing and green eyes bright. She’s a picturesque Irish doll with porcelain skin, slender proportions, and a perfect spate of freckles across her button nose. It’s like God airbrushed the crap out of her, ran out of paint for everyone else, looked down at all the babies he was chucking to Earth, and went, Ha-ha-ha whoops but check this one out it’s a masterpiece.
“Are you kidnapping Kayla?” Avery asks, smiling a china doll smile.
“Theoretically, I am totally not the sort of person to do that, but also theoretically if I knew how to kidnap people from looking it up on Google when I was really bored over Christmas break last year, then theoretically there’d be a lot more duct tape and chloroform involved. In theory.”
“Yes, well, that’s very interesting, but I’m going to ask you to give her back. I need her here. To do things for me.”
“She sort of seems out of it? And also she’s really bummed because of some things I don’t know if you saw or not that happened?”
“I saw. It was interesting. Probably the most interesting thing that’s happened all year besides Erika’s suicide attempt,” Avery muses. She looks me up and down, as if seeing me in a new light, and then points at me. “But that doesn’t excuse Kayla from certain duties she needs to perform tonight.”
“That’s sort of weird? Like, it’s a really vague and threatening thing to say about someone? Also I don’t think you own her and she needs to lie down and chill so I’m taking her home?”
I inch around the car to the driver’s side as Avery’s face grows darker and more perfectly deadly vampire-esque.
“Why are you talking in questions?” she asks.
“Why are you? Talking in questions?” I crane my neck over the hood and maintain eye contact. She’s like a bear. A really big, really rich bear. I can’t look away or she’ll charge and use my insides to line her Louis Vuitton purse.
“If you leave now, I’m not inviting you to another party again.”
“Okay? That’s kind of good because I don’t think I want to associate with people who say suicide attempts are interesting? And who make pooping juice and pretend it’s punch? That’s almost as bad as playing Skrillex on loop?”
I quickly jump in, start the car, and pull out. Avery watches with a detached yet irritated twitch in her brow. I roll down the window as I pull up close to her.
“You’re sort of popular so I guess I should thank you for inviting me? Also for threatening me? Like wow, that was a really bad party but a really good threatening? I give you two stars for effort? I’m babbling?” I pause. “Stay in school?”
“You go to my school, idiot.”
She did it. She called me the I-word. The most popular girl in school just called me the I-word. I either have to kill myself, go back to Florida, or drive away really fast and not give a damn. I jam on the gas and swerve around a lion statue as I tear down her driveway, except I don’t swerve fast enough and one of the lion’s testicles goes flying in a fine haze of concrete. I leave behind a bunch of new enemies and a one-balled lion and I’m taking home a maybe-friend who thinks I ruined her crush and even if that sucks, it’s still better than what I came in with, which was just three years, nine weeks, and five days of bad memories.