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Speed Dating

Natalie Standiford


  Copyright © 2006 by Parachute Publishing, L.L.C.

  All right reserved.

  First Edition: June 2006

  Little, Brown and Company

  Hachette Book Group

  237 Park Avenue

  New York, NY 10017

  Visit our website at

  First eBook Edition: October 2009

  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.

  ISBN: 978-0-316-08901-2

  For Julie Roth Jolson, Emily Uhry,

  and Gail Herman



  1. Chocolate Brainwash

  2. Current Mood: Swingy

  3. The New Girl’s Got It Going On

  4. At the Tone, the time Will Be…

  5. Busted

  6. After Dreck

  7. A Message from Speed Racer

  8. Midnight Rendezvous with Squeaky

  9. N-n-n-naked

  10. Absorbing the Moonbeams

  11. Dissection

  12. By the Light of the Neon Milk Shake

  13. The News from Lake Hobegone

  14. Never Fear, Ramona’s Here

  15. Los Días del Corazón

  16. The God of Sexy Moments Has a Laugh Mads’ Expense

  17. Tess’s Tresses

  18. Notes on Kissing

  19. Sebastiano’s Crystal Ball

  20. Ramona’s Expertise Goes to Waste

  21. The Tongue Rule

  22. Betrayal

  23. Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel

  24. Otavio, How Could You?

  25. A Diary with a Lock on It

  26. Eli vs.Otavio

  Here’s a sneak peek at The Dating Game #6

  Kiss and Tell


  Chocolate Brainwash

  * * *

  To: hollygolitely

  From: your daily horoscope

  HERE IS TODAY’S HOROSCOPE: CAPRICORN: Cheer up! Your suffering will end soon. Then it will come back. Then it will go away again… and come back again….

  * * *

  Holly Anderson pressed an icy wash cloth over her eyes—her mother’s never-fail de-puffing trick. When the doorbell rang she quickly stashed the cloth in the freezer. Lina and Mads had arrived to cheer her up. Even though they were her best friends, Holly didn’t like to look as if she’d been crying.

  Madison Markowitz and Lina Ozu trooped in with grocery bags full of post-breakup supplies.

  “That dirty little punk,” Mads said.

  “He’s not exactly little,” Holly said. They were talking about Rob Safran, Holly’s boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—who was tall and swim-team-muscular. Heart-meltingly so.

  “Okay,” Mads said. “That big, weird-haired dork. With Frankenstein feet. I always thought his hair looked like it was sewn onto his scalp.”

  “Now you tell me,” Holly said. Rob’s hair was so thick, it looked like teddy bear fur. Unlike Mads (news to Holly), Holly had always loved his hair. Uh-oh… tears coming on. Holly pinched her forearm to suppress them. Once they started coming, they were hard to stop.

  “We’re sympathy-trashing him,” Lina said. “For your sake. Doesn’t it make you feel better?”

  “Not really,” Holly said.

  “You should go online and X-Rate him right now,” Mads said. “Really give it to him, so no girl will want to come within five miles of him. He won’t get another girlfriend until college!”

  “That’s abusing the system,” Holly said. Not that she hadn’t been tempted. X-Rating was a feature on the girls’ Web blog, the Dating Game, where kids from their school rated their ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends. “And, anyway, Rob doesn’t deserve it. I don’t think. I haven’t quite sorted out my feelings yet.”

  She caught a glimpse of herself in the shiny aluminum lid of a pot. The lid distorted her features, but even correcting for that, she looked terrible. Her big blue eyes were still red and puffy, in spite of her mother’s trick, and her long blond hair was matted and tangled. Mads and Lina had to have noticed she was upset. She pushed the lid away.

  Mads reached into a shopping bag and pulled out three pints of ice cream. “Let’s get down to business. We’ve got Strawberry-Banana Happiness-in-a-Tub, Mint-Chocolate Love-Substitute, and Intense Chocolate Brainwash, to chocolatize your troubles away.”

  “These ice-cream names are really getting out of hand,” Holly said. “I mean, we all know what ice cream is for. Do they have to spell it out?”

  Lina plopped her grocery bag on Holly’s kitchen island. “I’ve got cheese popcorn, Cheez Doodles, and Wheat Thins, in case you get a salt jones,” she said.

  “I’ll start with the hard stuff,” Holly said, reaching for the Chocolate Brainwash. “Thanks for coming over, you guys. I was almost on the verge of tears there, for a minute.”

  “The verge of tears?” Mads picked up a soggy pile of used Kleenex and tossed it in the trash.

  “You heard me.” Holly was playing the tough guy, though she knew Mads and Lina saw through it.

  “I still can’t believe he dumped you,” Lina said. “After all you went through with him! After he begged you to be in his sister’s wedding—”

  “—and she made you wear that heinous bridesmaid’s dress—” Mads said.

  “—and you practically planned the whole thing for her,” Lina said.

  “Not to mention all the swim meets you went to,” Mads said. “We all went to. Screaming for him like a bunch of cheer-bots.”

  “Rob should be shunned for this,” Lina said. “Ostracized from the community. Like the Amish do when somebody breaks the rules.”

  “It’s not that bad,” Holly said. “He has his reasons.”

  “Like what?” Lina asked.

  “Well, he said he was so busy with swimming—”


  “—and school—”


  “—and studying for the SATs—”

  “Totally lame.”

  “—and dealing with his parents’ divorce—”


  “—that he doesn’t have time to be in a relationship right now,” Holly finished.

  “Yeah? Well, who doesn’t have to deal with school and activities and parental insanity?” Mads said. “We’re all busy.”

  “You have to make time for love,” Lina said.

  “Well, that’s what he told me,” Holly said. “He said, ‘You’re a cool girl, I’m really into you, we’ve had fun, but I don’t think I can spend as much time with you as you’d like, so maybe we should be friends.’ Then he played this old Bob Dylan song I used to hear at his father’s house. You know, the one that goes, ‘No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe,/it ain’t me you’re looking for, babe’?”

  “Ugh,” Lina said.

  “Like father, like son,” Mads said.

  “It was a total shock.” Holly’s tough-guy act was breaking down. She was getting teary again. She didn’t have the strength to stop it. “I never saw it coming. I thought everything was fine. I thought we were in love!”

  She started full-on crying. It was the surprise that bothered her the most. She’d thought she had everything under control. Then Rob pulled the rug out from under her. That scared her. If it could happen once, it could happen again. And again and again. How could she protect herself?

  Mads and Lina hugged her. Mads passed her a handful of Kleenex. “You’ll be okay,” Lina said.

  “You’re better off without him,” Mads said.

  “You’re too good for him,” Lina said. “You can do way better.” />
  “I know that,” Holly said. “But it still hurts.”

  “We should write a quiz about this,” Mads said. “You know, like, ‘What are the signs you’re about to get dumped?”’

  “Mads,” Lina said.

  “No, she’s right,” Holly said. “It happens all the time. We should warn others.”

  Holly, Lina, and Mads’ school blog, the Dating Game, featured love quizzes, matchmaking questionnaires, advice columns, and anything else they felt like putting on it. By now it was practically an institution at their school, the Rosewood School for Alternative Gifted Education, otherwise known as RSAGE.

  “You know what you need?” Mads said. “New blood. Nothing helps you forget a guy like another guy.”

  “I don’t know,” Holly said. “I’m kind of sick of guys.”

  “You’re just sick of Rob,“ Mads said. “He represents all guys to you. But he’s just a lower form of guy. There are higher forms to be found.”

  “Please,” Holly said. “What percentage of the total male population could be a higher life-form? It must be tiny, like two percent.”

  “Maybe five percent,” Lina said.

  “All right, if you want to be optimistic,” Holly said. “Five percent. So out of all the guys at RSAGE, there are maybe—maybe—twenty good ones. And at least two of them are taken—by you.” Lina and Mads were both enjoying happy times with their new boyfriends, Walker Moore and Stephen Costello. “What are the chances that I’m going to bond with one of the few higher life-forms left?”

  “You could date outside of school,” Mads said. “That gives you much better chances.”

  “But how will I meet a guy who doesn’t go to our school?” Holly asked. “And even if I meet someone, it takes time to figure out if I like him and he likes me and if he’s a decent person or if he’s got bodies buried in his backyard… .” She dropped her head on the kitchen counter and moaned. “I’m doomed. I’ll never have another boyfriend as long as I live! The odds are just too low!”

  “That’s ridiculous,” Lina said. “It feels that way now, but you’ll find a new guy before you know it.”

  “What if we speed things up?” Mads said. “Like, what if you could meet twenty guys at once? Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to a party and every guy there was available? And you could spend the whole party flirting and talking and by the time it was over, all you had to do was choose one?”

  “Sure it would,” Holly said. “I’d also like to be Prince William’s girlfriend, but it’s not going to happen.”

  “Don’t say that!” Mads cried. “I need my illusions. I’m still clinging to that one.”

  “Mads is onto something,” Lina said. “We could hold our own party, singles only. They can casually see how they like each other without having to go on a million blind dates. And they won’t have to worry that they’re wasting time flirting with people who are already taken.”

  “Speed Dating!” Mads said. “We’ll give you a certain amount of time—five or six minutes—to talk to each guy, and by the end of the party you’ll get matched with the one you like best.”

  “Who also likes you,” Lina said.

  “No muss, no fuss,” Mads said.

  “I guess it could be fun,” Holly said.

  “We’ll open it up to kids from other schools,” Mads said. “You’re bound to meet a new guy that way.”

  “And if you don’t, we’ll just keep having parties until you find The One,” Lina said. “It’s perfect for busy students. It will only take an hour or two a week.”

  “Let’s do it.” Holly straightened up, some of her old moxie returning. The memory of Rob’s teddy-bear head, which had been making her cry all morning, was fading already. “Even if I don’t meet a guy right away, it would be fun to make some friends at other schools. The RSAGE social scene could use some new life. New parties! New people! All right!”

  “Yay!” Mads clapped. “Speed Dating!”

  “I was getting kind of sick of Rob anyway,” Holly said. “I just didn’t realize it.”

  “You’re a quick healer. I guess we won’t be needing this anymore.” Lina started putting the ice cream in the freezer.

  “Hey, where are you going with that?” Holly said. “I may be on the mend, but the doctor says I need to keep taking my medicine until I’m one hundred percent cured. Right, Doctor?” She looked at Mads, the Bringer of Ice Cream.

  “Absolutely,” Mads said. “Keep that Chocolate Brainwash coming.”


  Is the end near? Do you know the signs?

  Take this quiz and see which direction your relationship is headed.

  When you call him, you get his voicemail more than half the time. True: Go to #2. False: Go to #3.

  He has recently stood you up without a good explanation. True: Go to #4. False: Go to #5.

  His pet name for you is something sweet, like Sugar or Honey. True: Go to #6. False: Go to #5.

  He named his dog after you. True: Go to #7. False: Go to #8.

  He keeps saying you’re too good for him. True: Go to #7. False: Go to #9.

  He calls you several times a day just to say hi. True: Go to #9. False: Go to #8.

  He never calls unless you call him first. True: Go to Yes. False: Go to Maybe.

  He remembers your birthday without a reminder. True: Go to No. False: Go to #7.

  When he picks you up for a date, he enjoys bantering with your parents. True: Go to No. False: Go to Maybe.


  NO: No, he’s probably not planning on breaking up with you. Your relationship is on solid ground. You’ve got yourself a sweetie!

  MAYBE: There are a few signs of trouble, but it won’t necessarily lead to a breakup if you address them before things careen out of control.

  YES: Yes, I’m afraid it doesn’t look good for you and your honey. He shows all the classic signs of squirming, restlessness, and attempting to weasel out. You might want to consider a preemptive strike to cut your losses and salvage your dignity. Try Speed Dating (see below), and better luck next time.

  “The funny thing is, Rob didn’t send me any of these signals,” Holly said. “And he still broke up with me.”

  “Maybe he’s extra sneaky,” Mads said.

  “No system is foolproof,” Lina said.

  Looking for love? In a hurry? Who isn’t? Try Speed Dating! Meet fifteen guys or girls in one afternoon. Talk to each one for six minutes, decide if you like him or her, and we’ll take it from there. High school students from all over the Carlton Bay area are eligible. First Speed Dating party: This Saturday, 3 to 5 P.M., in the back garden at Vineland Café. Sign up today! Space is limited, so hurry!


  Current Mood: Swingy

  * * *

  To: linaonme

  From: your daily horoscope

  HERE IS TODAY’S HOROSCOPE: CANCER: There’s a difference between expressing yourself and airing your dirty laundry… as you are about to find out.

  * * *

  Mood Swing

  By Lina Ozu

  Current Mood: Perplexed

  Spring is here! Bringing the pitter-patter of gossiping tongues. Why so much griping, girls? You say the boys are lazy? They’re not asking anyone out? There’s even been a rash of breakups! What’s the matter with you, boys? Don’t you know that this is thebest time of year for roaming through flea markets, afternoon strolls, and kisses under the dogwood trees? (Typical boy: “Dub, what?” Just step around that puddle of drool at his feet.)

  Well, girls and boys, it doesn’t have to be that way. At least one RSAGE dude—let’s call him Peter—knows how to celebrate spring right. After overcoming many obstacles—such as other girlfriends, hopeless crushes, and silly arguments— Peter and his new girlfriend, Tess, have finally settled into a groove. I was sitting at Vineland the other day when Tess told me all about it.

  Last weekend Peter’s mother had a date, so to help her out, Pete and Tess
took Pete’s little brothers to the county fair. They marched right past all the farmhouse cheeses and artisanal lemonade to the honky-tonk—the games, the rides, the junk food. Which is, as everyone knows, the best part of any fair.

  They rode the roller coaster with Pete’s brothers, and played Squirt the Clown and Shoot the Ducks. Pete’s a good shot: He won each boy a cap gun, and a pink elephant for Tess. They ate hot dogs and ice cream. Pete and Tess rode through the haunted house together and Pete held her hand, even though it wasn’t the least bit scary. Even the boys said it was lame. Then they said they wanted to go again. It was a balmy, starry spring night. Tess hadn’t felt so happy in a long time.

  Pete and Tess rode the Ferris wheel together. Their ride was almost over. It had stopped to let passengers off, and Pete andTess’s car was stalled at the top. They could see the whole town laid out before them. Pete touched Tess’s neck and felt something sticky and pink. Somehow she’d gotten cotton candy on her neck. “Hold still,” he said. And he licked the cotton candy off her neck. He licked her neck clean. When there was no more cotton candy left, they kissed until the carny who ran the ride had to tap them on the shoulder and tell them to get the heck off. (Yes, he actually said “heck.” Guess it’s a carny thing.)

  I’m telling this story to help out my sisters in misery. Boys, let Pete be an example for you. He’s sweet, he’s romantic, he can lick a girl’s neck clean. Don’t you feel a sudden urge to find a nice girl and hold her hand under the stars? Don’t be shy. Do it! NOW!

  “Do you like my new column?” Lina asked Walker. She’d posted Mood Swing on the Dating Game mostly because she was in the mood to celebrate her newfound happiness with Walker.

  “I guess it’s okay,” Walker said. “As long as nobody figures out it’s really you and me. I mean, when I licked that cotton candy off your neck, I didn’t expect the whole school to find out.”