Breaking Up Is Really, Really Hard to DoNatalie Standiford
Copyright © 2005 by Parachute Publishing, L.L.C. All right reserved.
First Edition: June 2005
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
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The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover photos from top left, ©Tony Latham Photography Ltd./Photonica, © Ryuhei Shindo/Photonica, © Image Source/Corbis, © Photolibrary.com/Photonica, © Stephen Mallon/Photonica, ©Andersen Ross/Getty Images, © Louis Quall/Photonica, © Image Source/Corbis, © Elke Hesser/Photonica.
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First eBook Edition: December 2008
1: Phony Baloney
2: Deep vs. Dope
3: Larissa Comes to Life
4: Nuclear Autumn
5: Beauregard Writes Back
6: Portrait of the Artist as a Teenage Girl
7: A Match Made in Purgatory
8: Badminton Smackdown!
10: The Awful Truth
11: Lina Slips Up
12: All's Fair in Love and Art
13: Crisis on Rutgers Street
14: A Proposition
16: Showdown at the Swim Center
17: At Home with Ramona
18: Beauregard Meets Larissa
19: Karaoke Kritic
20: off to India
21: True Love vs. Artistic Integrity
22: The Art Fair
23: The Fabulous Party
Can True Love Survive High School?
Play The Dating Game with Your Friends!
Take The Quiz
For Nancy Williams
From: your daily horoscope
HERE IS TODAY'S HOROSCOPE: CAPRICORN: Everything you want is right under your nose—but yours is stuck up so high in the air you can't see it. Try coming down to earth a bit…a little lower…little lower…You're going to have to do better than that.
It started with a shirt—a neon orange t-shirt. The color on its own was bad enough, although Rob Safran, with his warm olive skin and brown eyes, pulled it off better than Holly Anderson had any right to expect. That wasn't the problem. The problem was what was printed on the shirt.
YOU SAY “PSYCHO” LIKE IT'S A BAD THING
“I'm sorry,” Holly said. “It's not funny.”
“It's just a t-shirt,” Rob said. “It's a joke.”
“Yeah, well…if you ever had a psychopath in your family, you'd be more sensitive about it,” Holly said.
Rob looked stricken. “I'm sorry—do you have a psychopath in your family?”
“Well, no, not that I know of,” Holly said. “But there are days when my mother comes close.”
Rob laughed, but Holly was serious. About the t-shirt, anyway. Rob's family gave each other tasteless t-shirts for every birthday and holiday in an ongoing contest to see who could out-cheese the others. Rob seemed to have one for every day of the year. I’M WITH STUPID, I’M SO POORI CAN'T PAY ATTENTION, VIRGINIA IS FOR LOVERS, ITHACA IS GORGES…
Sometimes I can't believe he's my boyfriend, Holly thought, and she meant it in both the good way and the bad way. There were days when she looked at his strong swimmer's build, high cheekbones and messy brown hair and thought, He's like a buff teddy bear. I'm the luckiest girl in Carlton Bay!
And there were other days when she could always find something annoying about him. When she wondered if she couldn't find someone better. When she thought, I can't look at one more corny t-shirt.
But the thing that bothered Holly the most about Rob was when he asked permission to kiss her. If I hear “Mind if I kiss you?” one more time, I'll scream, she thought.
Today was looking like one of those days. Holly stretched out on the sunroom couch, pressing her feet into Rob's side. Rob had stopped by her house just to hang out on a Saturday afternoon, no plans. Holly's parents had gone antiquing somewhere or other. They loved to look at antiques, which Holly found strange, since they rarely bought them. The Andersons’ house was spacious and contemporary, and most of the furniture was new.
Holly twisted her long, wavy blond hair and pinned it on top of her head. Rob took her feet in his lap and playfully pinched her toes.
“Let's do something,” he said. “Want to do something?”
“Sure,” Holly said. “What do you want to do?”
“I don't know,” Rob said. “Whatever you want to do.”
Holly tried to think of something fun to do. “We could go eat somewhere, I guess.”
Rob rubbed her feet. “Yeah. Let's get some lunch. If that's what you want.”
“Okay,” she said. “What do you want to eat?”
He shrugged. “I don't know. Whatever you want.”
She sat up, pulling her feet off his lap. He could be so wishy-washy sometimes! He never said what he wanted. He always waited for her to decide. Why couldn't he pick a place to eat just once?
“Anything I want?” she asked.
“Okay,” she said. “I know just the place.”
They got into her yellow VW Beetle—a sixteenth birthday present from her parents—and she drove him to a vegan café called Phony Baloney. Everything looked—and supposedly tasted—like meat but was really made of tofu, wheat gluten, tempeh, and other vegetable byproducts. Holly wasn't a vegetarian, and neither was Rob. But Rob always wanted her to decide where they should eat, so she thought she'd play a little joke on him.
Rob gulped when he saw the sign. “This is where you want to eat?”
“Yep. Unless you'd rather go somewhere else.” She waited, half-hoping he'd beg her to turn the car around and head for the nearest McDonald's.
“Me? No. It's cool,” he said.
They ordered Sham Ham Sandwiches and organic apple juice. The Sham Ham tasted more like cardboard than meat. “Enjoying your sandwich?” Holly asked after she struggled to swallow another bite.
Rob nodded. “Mmm-hmm. I'm loving it.”
Liar, she thought. But she was no better. “Isn't it great? I feel so healthy.”
“Me, too. I could eat this every day.”
Rob swallowed another bite of Sham Ham. Holly took a deep breath and tackled her sandwich again. She put the sandwich to her lips once more, then dropped it on her plate.
“I can't eat this crap anymore,” she said.
His eyes widened. “You don't like it? But you wanted to come here.”
“I know. It was a bad joke,” Holly said.
He dropped his sandwich, too. “A joke? I don't get it.”
“Let's get out of here.”
Rob grinned. “Good. I could go for a burger.”
They left some money on the table. Rob stood up and grabbed her.
“Mind” if I kiss you?”
“Check Rebecca,” Holly said. “She's actually eating carbs.”
Holly and her best friends, Madison Markowitz and Lina Ozu, sat at a picnic table outside the lunchroom Monday afternoon, watching Rebecca Hulse and David Kim feed each other spaghetti. Rebecca, a skinny blond alpha girl, was normally a b
it of an ice princess, but David seemed to have melted her. She cooed and slurped up a forkful of noodles, tomato sauce splattering her chin.
“David has turned Rebecca to mush,” Holly said.
“For a split second I thought she wasn't cool anymore,” Mads said. “But then I realized—all she did was change the definition of cool. I'm suddenly desperate to grab a boy and start slapping spaghetti all over him.”
Rebecca and David nibbled a long strand of pasta, each starting at one end until their lips met in the middle.
Holly had matched them up herself. She and Mads and Lina had started a Web site called The Dating Game for a school project. It was a survey of sexual attitudes among the students at their school, the Rosewood School for Alternative Gifted Education, or RSAGE. It included personal ads and a matchmaking questionnaire that was so popular the girls kept the site going even after they'd aced the project.
“David's cute,” Holly said. “Why didn't I ever notice it before?”
“Because you have Rob,” Mads said. “He blocked you from noticing other guys.”
“Well, it's not working anymore,” Holly said. She wondered if David had to ask permission every time he kissed a girl. And so far she'd never seen him wearing a t-shirt that said, GIVE BLOOD—PLAY HOCKEY.
“So Rob wears a dumb t-shirt once in a while, so what?” Lina said.
“I know,” Holly said. “Something must be wrong with me. But I can't help it. I keep wondering if Rob is the perfect guy for me. You know—is he IT?”
“How do you know if a guy is it?” Lina asked. “What's the definition?”
“You just feel it,” Mads said.
“But what do you feel?” Holly asked.
“I don't know,” Mads said. “You feel nervous around him.”
“Your heart beats faster when you think about him,” Lina said. “Your mouth goes dry when you try to talk to him.”
“You get this weird queasy-happy feeling in your stomach and your head,” Mads said.
“You mean you feel sick,” Holly said.
“Definitely,” Lina said.
“I don't feel any of those things around Rob,” Holly said. “Not now, anyway.”
Mads and Lina both had huge, unrequited crushes on guys who were almost impossible to get. Lina was in love with Dan Shulman, their Interpersonal Human Development teacher, and Mads had been crazy for Sean Benedetto, the hottest senior in school, since he first strutted across her field of vision. Holly knew they were thinking of Dan and Sean when they talked about “it.” But that wasn't what Holly wanted. She didn't want to long for the impossible. She wanted the perfect fit.
“This would be a good topic for a quiz,” Mads said. The Dating Game site also included quizzes on topics from “Are You a Geek?” to “Do You Know How to Decode the Personals?”
“Holly!” Autumn Nelson yelled from the lunchroom window. She ran outside, her glossy brunette braids flapping, and plopped herself beside Holly on the bench. “When are you guys going to fix me up with somebody? I filled out your Dating Game questionnaire weeks ago.”
“Soon, Autumn,” Holly said. “Sorry—we had kind of a backlog.”
“Well, hurry up!” Autumn said. “Move me to the front of the list or something. Now that Trent's gone mental, I need a new guy.”
“What do you mean, ‘Trent's gone mental’?” Lina asked.
“Who's Trent?” Mads asked.
“Oh, this dork I was seeing.” Autumn waved the question away. “He stopped calling me for some stupid reason. At first I thought maybe he was dead, but then I spotted him down at the marina. So I figured he was gay, but finally I realized he must have lost his mind. Because how could you turn away from someone like me?” She waved a hand over her body as if her fabulousness spoke for itself. “You'd have to be on glue or something, right? Anyway, forget about him. Find me a new boyfriend! I'm tired of waiting for you losers to get off your fat butts!” She turned and went inside.
Mads’ jaw dropped. “Just for that, I don't feel like helping her.”
“We have to,” Holly said. “If we don't, she'll trash us online and nobody will trust us to match them up. The Dating Game will die a slow, painful death.”
Autumn aired her every thought, feeling, and action on her blog, Nuclear Autumn. The whole school read it. It gave her a lot of power—no one could afford to cross Autumn, or they'd risk being trashed. And right now The Dating Game—and all the gossip, matches, and talk it created—was responsible for a good twenty percent rise in the popularity ratings of Holly, Lina, and Mads.
“What are we going to do?” Lina asked. “Nobody will want to date her. She's too self-centered.”
Is that my problem, too? Holly wondered. Or is Rob really not “it?” How can I tell?
Deep vs. Dope
From: your daily horoscope
HERE IS TODAY'S HOROSCOPE: VIRGO: You think you know what you want, Virgo, but you're wrong. Stop trying to think for yourself and listen to me for a change!
T here he goes,” Mads said. “My muse.” Her eyes trailed Sean Benedetto as he loped across the school courtyard. Mads sat with Holly and Lina on the grass during a free period on a warm Tuesday afternoon. Tall, athletic Sean, with his shaggy blond hair, was the love of Mads’ life. And now, the inspiration for her art.
The annual RSAGE Art Fair was coming up and Mads was planning a major project. She was going to draw pastel portraits of her friends, family, acquaintances, and maybe even pets, with a portrait of Sean as the centerpiece. He was so good-looking, how could she go wrong? Even a bad picture of him might win a prize.
“Am I going to be in your art project?” Lina asked.
“Definitely,” Mads said. “And Holly, too. And guess what? My parents are letting me throw a party after the fair. An after-show celebration. And I can invite as many people as I want.”
“Excellent,” Holly said.
“The only thing is, there might be teachers there,” Mads said. “My stupid parents thought it would be nice to invite some of them and make it like a school thing.”
“That's okay,” Holly said. “That way you know Lina will come for sure.”
“Hey!” Lina tossed a pen at Holly.
“When- can we see the ad?” Mads asked. Lina had found a personal ad Dan Shulman had posted on a dating Web site. Mads was dying to see it. Unlike Lina, she found it hard to picture Dan in a dating context.
“Come over tonight,” Lina said. “You can help me figure out what to write to him.”
“You're going to write him back?” Mads said.
“Under a fake name,” Lina said.
“Diabolical,” Holly said. “This should be good.”
“That sounds like something I would do.” Mads sighed. “Do you think Sean will come if I ask him?” Her mind was still on her party. If only Sean would come, she thought, everything would he perfect. For one thing, where Sean went, all the cool kids in school followed. For another thing, if he came to her party, it would mean he considered her worthy enough to show up at her house. And that was a step closer toward actually liking her.
Holly shrugged. “There's only one way to find out.”
Mads got to her feet. “I'd better get up to the art room. I'm working on a portrait of Captain Meow-Meow. I'm having trouble capturing his sense of humor on paper.” Captain Meow-Meow was her Siamese cat.
“Captain Meow-Meow has a sense of humor?” Lina said.
“Of course,” Mads said. “If he could talk, he'd be Conan O'Brien.”
“Funny, I never noticed that side of him,” Holly said.
“See you at my house tonight,” Lina said.
“See you.” Mads walked into the school building and up to the third floor. The art room was empty. Late afternoon sun poured in through the skylights. She sat at a table and took out a photo of Captain Meow-Meow she'd taken with her new digital camera. She'd caught him in her favorite cat pose—stretched flat out on her
bed, legs weirdly straight behind him. She picked up some pastels and started working.
She was concentrating so hard she forgot where she was. When someone came up behind her and said, “What's that, a monkey?” Mads jumped.
She turned around. A tall boy with straight brown hair and bangs looked down at her. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn't mean to startle you.” He wore a black t-shirt that he'd torn and put back together with safety pins. On the front, in DayGlo chartreuse, he'd painted a star with an X through it.
“It's not a monkey, it's a Siamese cat,” Mads said. “See?” She showed him the photo she was trying to copy.
“What's her name?” the boy asked.
“His,” Mads said. “He's a male. Captain Meow-Meow.”
The boy laughed. “And what's your name—Sergeant La-La?”
“That would be cool,” Mads said. “But no, it's Madison.”
“Madison Markowitz?” the boy said. “Of The Dating Game? I'm Stephen Costello. A big fan. Huge fan.”
“Thanks.” Mads felt her face heating up with happy embarrassment. She nodded at his t-shirt. “Do you have something against stars?”
He plucked the shirt away from his body to see the Xed-out star better. “No. I just thought it looked cool. Well, I'll let you work. Are you making an entry for the Art Fair?”
Mads nodded. “Portraits. In pastels. What about you?”
He crossed the room to a drafting table and returned with a handful of sketches. He laid them out in front of Mads. They looked like plans for a stage set. “I'm doing an installation piece. It's going to be a guy's bedroom. I'm going to put in replicas of everything a teenage guy might have—posters, books, videos, games, CDs, magazines, clothes, a computer…all that junk.”
“That's cool,” Mads said. “Looks like a lot of work.”
“It is, but it will be worth it. I'm hoping to make a statement about teen culture and pop culture in general.”
“What's the statement?” she asked.
“Well, it might change as I work on the project. But right now it's about clutter. How pop culture clutters our minds so that we can't think clearly or even recognize what's important to us.”
Wow, Mads thought. He's deep. So deep Mads was a little afraid to talk to him.