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Read an excerpt of this novel about one young woman’s quest
to understand her own heart:
She turned to see her date, Michael, approach with two plates of food in his hands when a realization about the scent of that air hit her. “Michael, are they smoking pot in there?” she blurted.
He faltered, and his smile turned down into a frown. “It’s a college party, Macy,” he finally said, his voice harsh.
She felt foolish and afraid. “Of course it is,” she laughed nervously. “What was I expecting?”
She took a plate from him and nibbled on a bite of food, which tasted like shoe leather in her mouth. She forced herself to swallow. “It’s such a pretty night out,” she mumbled, trying to buy time while she figured out what to do. The beer had been bad enough, even though most of the people there were of legal age. Illegal drugs was going too far.
Michael suddenly solved the problem for her. “You don’t want to be here,” he blurted.
“Oh, your friends seem very nice, Michael,” she rushed to deny it, wondering at the same time why she was trying to deny it, stopping herself. “I just can’t see myself at a party where people are doing drugs. You don’t really want anything to do with that, do you?”
She smiled wanly, hoping he wouldn’t be totally disappointed. He still hadn’t answered her.
“I can wait for you in the car,” Macy offered, then thought, how stupid, and longed to retract that idea.
Michael’s green eyes were suddenly flaming and directed at her. He tossed her the keys and snatched the plate from her hand. “I’ll be down in a minute,” he said, then turned from her and rushed back into the apartment.
Macy walked down the stairs and made her way to the BMW through a wall of tears that threatened to start falling at any moment. She fanned her face with her hands and willed herself to stop. She would just never go out on a date again, that was all. She obviously wasn’t ready for it, especially not with anyone who thought drugs were okay.
When Michael came to the car a few minutes later, she didn’t look at him, just held out her hands with the keys perched in her palm. She didn’t say a word to him the whole, long drive back to her house, staring out the window into the night sky like her life depended on it. All she could hear was Michael’s short, quick breaths and then the loud blaring of the rock station Michael quickly tuned into and pumped the volume up on as they hit the highway.
When Michael finally pulled into her drive, Macy already had her hand on the door handle. She popped open the door and leapt from the vehicle. She’d wanted to say she was sorry as she left, but her throat was so dry, no words would come.
She heard Michael’s car squeal out of her drive and down the road as she fumbled for her house keys. She couldn’t find them. A tear slid down her cheek. Not yet, she told herself. Not until you’re up in your room and alone. She knocked on the door, and when no one answered, rang the bell. Finally, she walked to the edge of the porch and glanced in the driveway. The Chevy was gone. She glanced at her watch–only 8:15. Mom and and her stepfather, Bill, would still be on the date they had decided to have tonight since Macy was going out. They might not be home for hours.
Macy thought about trying the other doors to the house, but she knew everything would be locked up tight, one of Bill’s obsessions. She felt a cool breeze stir and hugged herself. It was going to be a cool night, and all she had on were short sleeves.
The tears were coming now in a steady stream she was trying to ignore. She took a deep breath and glanced around the porch. Nothing but the swing, which was swaying in the increasing wind, and a bunch of potted plants. Macy hugged herself and felt goose pimples forming on her flesh. She should go next door to the Ramson’s until her parents got home, her intelligent voice said. Her emotional voice, which was speaking volumes at the moment, told her she would rather die of exposure than risk seeingClarkright now. He would gloat with that winning grin, and she’d have to kill him.
So, Macy flung upon a desperate idea. She grabbed the pin-striped cushion off the porch swing, sat cross-legged in a corner of the porch and placed the cushion as a wind shield in front of her. Then, she let loose the full extent of the evening’s agony. Her sobs shook her. She damned herself for every perceived flaw. She knew she would die an Old Maid. She planned what noble, self-sacrificing careers she could pursue now that she knew she would never have a family of her own. She slept.
She didn’t know how long it was before she heard footsteps on the porch. She scrunched down in her corner and hoped her parents wouldn’t see her. Please, she prayed, let them pass on into the house so I can come up to the door in a few minutes once I straighten myself out. She held her breath.
There was a knocking on the door, then a pause. The footsteps seemed to fade away, then stop, then start again, coming closer. Macy gasped as her cushioned protection suddenly flew from her and the cool night air slapped her in the face. She looked up to see her next door neighbor, Clark, the high school football captain, towering above her, a scowl on his face.
“Macy, what are you doing out here this late and without a sweater?” he accused. He immediately shrugged out of his own jacket and placed it over Macy’s shoulders. She felt the warmth of him clinging to the material and felt strangely comforted. Then, she kicked herself.
“Well, I’m obviously conducting a scientific experiment,Clark,” she retorted. “Isn’t that what all loser, nerdy girls do on a Saturday night? I wanted to see if I could attract any attention huddled in the corner of my own front porch,” she rose, dusting off the bottom of her skirt, “since a pitiful ploy for rescue is my last hope to catch a man.” She placed her hand on the side of the house, suddenly feeling dizzy. “I guess you’re the lucky winner, or loser, depending on which way you look at it.” She grinned stupidly, the lack of food, exposure to the night, and emotional roller coaster of the evening catching up with her.
Clark grabbed her by the arms and pulled her close to him, searching her face. “Are you drunk?” he accused, the fierce look in his eyes enough to make anyone else cower, but Macy had never been afraid of him.
She pushed against his chest. “You actually think I would be drunk?” she practically screamed at him. Then, another thought struck her, and she chuckled. “I go from being the party pooper to the life of the party in one night,” she muttered.
Clark grabbed her wrist and held on, even when she tried to pull away. “What? OK, not drinking, but you’ve been crying. What’s up, Macy?”
She glanced at the watch on her free arm. 9:00. “Shouldn’t you be on a date with Melanie?” she asked him and winced when his grip tightened on her wrist. “That hurts. What are you doing here?”
He relaxed his grip. “Mom sent me over to pick up a book your mom’s loaning her. You aren’t going to tell me what the problem is, are you?”
Macy looked into Clark’s dark, round eyes and wanted desperately to tell him what the problem was. She wanted to ask him how she could be a better girl, more like the Melanies of the world and less like herself. She wanted to be the kind of girl he liked to hang out with again, even if they were just friends. That’s all she wanted right now.
Instead, she asked him. “Could you give me a ride to Sherrie’s house, please? I need a place to wait until Mom and Bill get home.”
Clark let his hands fall back to his sides. “If that’s the way you want it,” he said, stepping aside to let Macy lead the way to his truck.
When they reached Sherrie’s house, Clark placed his hand on Macy’s shoulder before she could exit the truck. “Something pretty major obviously happened to you tonight, Macy,” he said. “If you’re not going to talk to me about it, at least talk to somebody. Do you promise me you will?”
She felt something in her break at the comforting sound of his voice as he asked the question. “There was a time I could have told you all about it,” she whispered, then held her breath.
Clark shook her gently. “Was that a promise?”
Macy pulled herself together before she said something else stupid he could actually hear. “Yeah,” she mumbled. “That’s what best friends like Sherrie are for. Thanks for the ride.”
She didn’t look at him as she opened the truck door and slid out of his loose grasp. She slipped out of the jacket and laid it on the seat before closing the door behind her. Clark’s hand grabbed hers as she started to remove it from the truck. “You have a friend in me, too, Macy. Don’t forget that.”
Macy thought about the encounters she’d had with Clark over the past several weeks as she made her way to Sherrie’s door. He’s got a funny way of defining friendship, she thought as she climbed the stairs. . . .