Casey Acosta is my boyfriend.
He’s also my archenemy’s brother, and my mother’s boyfriend’s son.
Especially since my boyfriend’s mother hates me and my mother for “stealing her men.” Never mind that Candi and Warren Acosta had been divorced a long time before my mother came into the picture, or that Casey’s only fifteen and not exactly property --we’ve still “stolen her men.”
Now, if anyone’s got a legitimate complaint about my mother being with Candi’s ex, it’s me. I mean, there are a billion other men out there for my glamorous mother to choose from--why Casey’s dad?
But that’s the way Lady Lana is. Grams may hate that I call her that, but I think it sums her up perfectly. She acts like royalty and doesn’t care how what she does affects other people. For example, she doesn’t think, Whoa, if I marry Warren, his evil daughter, Heather, will become my daughter’s stepsister. Or, Hey, my daughter’s boyfriend will become her stepbrother! How awkward!
No, she does what she wants and justifies it by telling me that Casey and I can’t possibly last. That no relationship formed in junior high school does. That what she and Warren have is real and mature love . . . not just some silly “junior high crush.”
Even though Casey’s now a freshman in high school.
Anyway, since there seems to be no reasoning with wannabe royalty, I’ve just been hoping that her infatuation with Warren will blow over. Or that Warren will realize that he’s in way over his head. My mom can be very . . . snippy when things aren’t going her way, and since Warren was also on Lords and they’re now both out-of-work actors, well, let’s just say warning signs should be posted:
CAUTION: ENTERING SNIPPYVILLE
TURN BACK WHILE YOU CAN!
It’s not like I obsess over them being together. I’d short-circuit if I did. Plus the two of them are way off in Hollywood, and I’ve got enough worries right here in Santa Martina. Like sneaking in and out of Grams’ apartment every day, since it’s for seniors only and totally against the law for me to be living there. Or like surviving junior high school. That alone takes major concentration and endurance, but with Heather Acosta lurking around every corner, it’s like fancy-dancing through a minefield.
I’ve got Heather in half my classes--history, science, and drama--and then, of course, there’s before school, break, lunch, and after school. And on a typical day, Heather greets me with a sneer and “Hey, loser,” or “Outta my way, loser,” or “Nice shoes, loser”--that last one being about my torn-up high-tops, which I’m hoping can last to the end of the school year.
True to form, Thursday during third period Heather went toward her seat and said, “Loser,” as she passed by. She was texting, so I guess one word was all the multi-tasking she could handle. Plus she had a red paper clamped under her arm, so she was probably also distracted by her “Love Connection” results from the Valentine’s Day fund-raiser the school was doing.
Everyone at school had filled out a survey in homeroom. It had questions about what you like to do, your favorite band, your best subject . . . stuff like that. The surveys were put into a computer, and that morning the results had gone on sale. For five bucks you could get a list of the top five people of the opposite sex that the computer thought you were most compatible with.
Everyone was buying their list, but I hadn’t. It used to be that spending five bucks on five names would have been out of the question, because Grams is on a really tight fixed income and I don’t get an allowance, let alone lunch money.
But for once I was flush. To make a long story short, I’d gotten a share of a big reward for finding a stolen statue, so five bucks was totally doable. But I hadn’t bought mine because the whole computer match thing seemed kind of creepy.
Like I can’t figure out who I like on my own?
And besides, I’m not looking.
I’ve got Casey.
Sure, I was tempted out of curiosity--just to see who was on the list. But I got over that when I saw what happened to other people.
Things got . . . awkward.
Like a lot of people, my friends Marissa and Dot bought theirs before school, and when Marissa tore hers open, she whimpered, “Noooo.”
“What?” I asked, moving in to see her list.
“How can Jacob Hogan be number one?” There were tears in her eyes. “And Rudy Folksmeir is number two?”
Not that long ago Marissa would probably just have laughed this off, but she’s been an emotional wreck for months. In addition to boy problems, I think what’s really got her completely stressed out is her parents. They used to be rich-rich-rich, but then they lost a fortune in the stock market and Marissa’s father started gambling to try to make up for it.
I’m talking fly-to-Las-Vegas-and-get-rip-roaring-drunk gambling.
And even though he’s joined Gamblers Anonymous and has tried to straighten things out, things are definitely not straightened out. Because of his gambling, they’re “upside down” on their mansion of a house and may have to move. And last week Marissa’s mom caught Mr. McKenze playing blackjack online.
So much for Gamblers Anonymous.
Anyway, Marissa’s gone from rich-rich-rich to completely broke, and she’s gone from going out with Billy Pratt--one of the most popular guys at school--to having icky Jacob Hogan and Rudy Folksmeir in the top two slots of her Love Connection list.
“Hey,” Dot told her. “Maybe you just don’t know them very well. Maybe they’re actually interesting and nice.”
Marissa gave her a completely defeated look. “Rudy’s favorite topic of conversation is dirt.”
Which is true.
He’s way into dirt biking.
Marissa leans over to look at Dot’s printout. “So who did you get?” And even though Dot pulls back quick, Marissa sees enough to get upset. “You got Billy? There’s no way you and Billy are compatible! You’re quiet, he’s a ham. . . .” She flings her arms in the air and shouts, “We want our money back!”
Dot, though, doesn’t seem to want her money back. She just wants Marissa to pipe down. “Shh! It’s not even anybody’s business that we bought them, okay?”
“I have a question,” I throw in. “If somebody’s on your list, are you automatically on theirs?”
Marissa gasps. “I hope not!”
Our friend Holly has also just been standing quietly by, but since I’ve piped up, she does, too. “But it makes sense, doesn’t it?”
Marissa whimpers, “So right now Jacob and Rudy are thinking we’re compatible? What if one of them asks me to the Valentine’s dance? What am I going to do?”
Holly shrugs. “Say thanks but no thanks?”
Dot adds, “Or just tell him you’re going with your friends.” She looks around at the rest of us. “We’re still planning to do that, right?”
We all kind of nod, ’cause that’s what Marissa had talked us into. And even though it would be fun for me to go to a Valentine’s dance with Casey, his psycho mom has forbidden him to see me, so a school dance is not exactly someplace we can meet.
Especially since Heather was sure to be there.
Instead, Casey and I had agreed to meet on Saturday for a Valentine’s Day picnic at our secret spot--the graveyard.
Copyright © 2013 by Wendelin Van Draanen. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.