Game Over by Daisy Jordan - Read Online
Game Over
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Summary

The summer before senior year. Lazy afternoons in Jill’s pool, an all-out TP-ing war, wild parties at Landon’s. Hillary is more into Dirk than ever, and even though this summer is bittersweet for Hilton and Lorylyn because of Landon’s and Brady’s imminent departures, both girls agree their relationships are the best they’ve ever been. Not everything is perfect though...Todd’s parents’ divorce is turning nastier by the day, and Jill desperately clings to increasingly infrequent moments with him as his bond with Melanie grows more intense.

As hot sunny days roll into warm breezy nights, the date that’s been set for months draws closer and closer...the night of the goodbye party. The circle of friends has been coming to Landon’s for three years to dance, drink, skinny-dip, and play spin the bottle, and on August 18, it will happen for the last time. And it’s going to be the biggest and craziest and best party of all...

Or so they think. For at this party, the shattering secret that has been kept hidden for three years will be revealed, in an unforeseeable moment that will rock the lives of every person who’s been a regular at Landon’s over the years. It will destroy their beliefs, perceptions, and illusions, and it will break the circle of friends forever. And as the ex-seniors go off to college, Jill, Hilton, Lorylyn, Hillary, Todd, Dirk, and Bennett are left to pick up the pieces and try to salvage their senior year...

Published: Daisy Jordan on
ISBN: 9781465973825
List price: $2.99
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Game Over - Daisy Jordan

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everything

chapter 1) landon’s… the grad party after-party

Landon’s party was the Saturday after graduation, the same day as Hillary’s birthday. The baseball sectional championship was also that day, and Hilton was nervous that if BC lost, Landon’s party would be ruined a little. She thought it sucked how unless you won state, your last game of every sport your senior year would be a loss. At least Landon had won one state championship…he was way luckier than most people. And it had been in his favorite sport. But still, she wanted him to at least win sectional in baseball.

It was a close, high-scoring game from the beginning – 5-4 just at the end of the first inning. Hilton cheered loudly for all BC’s players, as did Jill and Lorylyn. Hillary cheered only for Dirk.

Did you realize, this could be the last time we ever sit here and watch them play? Lorylyn asked Hilton at the end of the fourth inning, when BC was down 8-7.

Don’t say it, Hilton said, not looking at her. Don’t say it. We’ll be here next weekend watching them win regional.

After five innings BC was still down one, and they brought Todd in to pitch in the top of the sixth. He’d been a closer all year, and Jill was hoping next year he’d be a starter, since Reed and two other starting pitchers were graduating. Hilton shared an anxious look with Jill, knowing how nervous Jill must be for him.

Todd struck out the first batter. The second and third both flied out, one to center and one to shallow left. Brady, the shortstop, made the catch in left to end the inning, and Lorylyn and Jill both jumped up, clapping and screaming.

Yeaaaahhh, Toooodd! Jill shouted, beaming as she jumped up and down.

Yay, Brady! Lorylyn squealed happily. Lorylyn held her hands out to Jill for a high five, and Jill smacked them.

In the bottom of the inning, Dirk walked, Landon bunted and made it to first when the third baseman bobbled the ball, and then Brady hit a three-run homer to make it 10-8.

The girls went crazy, even Hillary. Lorylyn was ecstatic, her glumness of this possibly being the last home game completely gone. She jumped up and down wildly, her short black ponytail bouncing and her voice going hoarse. All the girls laughed and hugged and giggled as they sat back down.

Come on, Todd, one, two, three, Jill begged anxiously as Todd walked back onto the field ten minutes later to begin the seventh. Her hands were folded as if in prayer.

Hilton looked down to where Melanie sat with her sister Jessica, who was home from college for the summer. It annoyed Hilton how Melanie never showed any emotion at Todd’s games; she just sat there, and she never even clapped or anything. It was like she was bored out of her mind and couldn’t care less and was only here because she had to be. Hilton was sure she probably did care, but it’d be nice if she showed it once in a while. When was Todd ever going to figure out how much better he could do and realize Jill was perfect for him? Hilton looked over at Jill, who was on the other side of Lorylyn and Hillary. Her eyes were glued to Todd as he threw his warm-up pitches, and her hands were still folded together, her face tight with nervous excitement. She cares so much about this, about him, Hilton thought. And that stupid bitch over there doesn’t even clap for him. Todd is so stupid. She felt a sudden flash of anger toward him, and almost wished he would do poorly this inning. But of course she didn’t really want that; she wanted BC to win. But still…why were some guys so completely clueless?

Todd did well; he struck out the first batter and walked the second but didn’t give up a hit; Landon, who was the second baseman, fielded the third batter’s blistering ground ball and tossed it quickly to Brady at second, and Brady threw it straight and fast and hard over to first for a double play to end the game.

All four girls jumped to their feet, screaming triumphantly and hugging each other.

Todd got the win! Todd got the win! Jill cried exuberantly. Since BC had been behind when Todd came in, the win would be attributed to him rather than to Reed, the starting pitcher.

Melanie probably wouldn’t even know that, Hilton thought to herself with a slight roll of her eyes.

The girls stood and watched as the players all piled on top of each other on the field, then a few minutes later, as the team started to come out of the dugout, the girls went down to meet the boys.

Hey, baby! Landon said, grinning as he wrapped Hilton in a bear hug.

Hey, good job! You did awesome! I’m so happy for you!

Thanks. He kissed the top of her head.

As Hilton stepped back, she saw Todd and Melanie embrace briefly as Mel’s sister looked on.

Okay, we’re headed out, Melanie said. When are you coming over?

I just have to finish up here, Todd said, taking his hat off and running his hand through his messy light brown hair. And then I’ll go home and shower and stuff, and then I’ll be over. He turned his hat around and put it on backwards.

All right, see ya then. Melanie stood on her tiptoes for a quick kiss, then turned to leave with Jessica.

Bye, Mel! Jill said brightly with a smile Hilton knew was fake, but it looked convincing. Hilton grinned.

Oh, bye! Melanie said in an overly sweet voice. See you tonight.

See ya!

***

Landon’s actual party was from three to seven; that’s what the invitations mailed and given out to all his teachers, coaches, relatives, and parents’ friends said. But the ones given out to his friends had an extra line on them: After-party, whenever the adults leave till Sunday morning.

Jill had felt special when he’d given her one, even though she knew that was probably stupid. But it would’ve been easy for him to just figure she’d know when it was from all the talking they’d been doing about it in SRT, so she had felt honored when he handed her the paper at lunch one day a couple weeks before school got out. She still sometimes found it hard to believe she was decently good friends with Landon Kessler. Of course, that was only because of Hilton, but still. She couldn’t believe where she was compared to three years ago, when she’d been just out of junior high. It sometimes seemed like mere months ago, but also a whole lifetime ago.

Jill went to Landon’s around 5:30 with Kelsey and Bennett, and she wondered if that pissed off Melanie. Kelsey and Bennett had originally been supposed to go with Mel and Todd, but Kelsey had told Bennett, I am not going with them; she has been driving me up the fucking wall. I’m going with Jill.

Fine with me, Bennett had said with a shrug; he wasn’t a huge fan of Melanie either because she was so jealous and controlling. He had originally helped set her up with Todd, but now he thought Todd was stupid for getting back together with her. He would never say that to Todd though; it was Todd’s own business to date whatever girl he wanted, and it didn’t really matter that much to Bennett either way.

Of course Melanie and Todd didn’t know that was why Kelsey and Bennett had changed their plans, but it still gave Jill a feeling of satisfaction. It was an empty satisfaction though, just a cover-up for the hurt and jealousy she felt regarding Todd and Melanie’s relationship, and she knew it.

Even though Landon’s party officially ended at seven, most of his relatives were still lingering at eight, and Jill was enormously bored. She just kept watching Melanie and Todd; she couldn’t make herself stop, and she wished the adults would leave so she could start drinking. She warned herself that might not be a good idea, but then she waved that thought away.

Most of the students had come earlier for half an hour or so and then left, planning to return around nine or ten. Lindy was still here, but that was because she and Landon had been best friends since they were like, five, so Lindy was hanging out with his extended family, whom she knew well. Jill, Kelsey, and Bennett had planned on staying for the long haul when they showed up at 5:30. Now Jill was feeling stupid for not realizing everyone would leave and irritated that most of her friends, including Hillary, had left. Lorylyn and Brady had just run to the gas station for more ice, and Jill hoped they’d hurry back. She was calculating in her mind how long they’d probably be gone…it was at least five minutes, maybe more, to the nearest gas station, then it’d take a few minutes there…she probably had at least fifteen more minutes of complete agony.

It wasn’t that she wasn’t having fun with Kelsey, but she felt like a total loser standing here with Kelsey and Bennett and no boyfriend of her own. When Lorylyn had been here, she hadn’t felt so stupid because Lorylyn had been talking to her most of the time while Brady socialized with Landon’s relatives and the Kesslers’ adult friends, many of whom he knew and who would also be at his graduation party tomorrow.

Hilton was here, of course, but for the last hour she’d been trapped at a table on the corner of the patio talking to Landon’s great-grandma. When Jill had crossed the patio on her way in to use the bathroom, Hilton had called, Jill! Come here a sec!

As Jill walked over, Hilton widened her eyes briefly to show she was going crazy, and Jill gave her a wry grin.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, Hilton said to the very tiny, hunched-forward old woman. But I wanted you to meet Jill. She’s my best friend. Jill, this is Landon’s great-grandma Darlene.

Jill smiled pleasantly. Hi, nice to meet you, she said.

Oh, so now will this be your maid of honor? Darlene asked Hilton.

Jill stared at Darlene. She appeared completely serious.

Yes, she would be my maid of honor, Hilton said, widening her eyes at Jill again as if to say, Get me out of here!

Jill widened her eyes back in amusement and grinned at Hilton. Okay, well I was on my way to the bathroom. Nice to meet you, she said again.

Now, as she was standing with Kelsey and Bennett and thinking she still had more than ten minutes before Brady and Lorylyn got back, Todd approached with Melanie trailing slightly behind.

Hey, we’re gonna go get something to eat. You guys wanna come?

Are you kidding me? Kelsey asked. I’m freaking stuffed. Didn’t you eat here?

Yeah, but I’m fucking bored out of my mind, Todd said. We didn’t know everyone was like, leaving.

Yeah, Melanie chimed in. This totally sucks.

She sounds so whiny, Jill thought, mimicking Melanie in her head and then hoping her face hadn’t actually scrunched up and made it obvious what she was doing.

Do you know what time they’re coming back? Bennett asked.

I think like nine or ten, Jill said, repeating what Hilton had told her.

Well, we’re going, if you guys wanna come, Todd said, starting off toward the side of the house.

Where you guys going? Bennett called after him.

Todd shrugged. I dunno, maybe like McDonald’s or something? We’re not really that hungry either.

You wanna go? Bennett asked Kelsey.

She shrugged and looked at Jill. I don’t care.

I’ll go, Jill said. If she had a chance to keep Mel and Todd from going off by themselves, she’d do it.

Yay, Jill! Melanie said with a smile Jill was sure was fake. Jill smiled back.

Bennett, Kelsey, and Jill went in Bennett’s Jimmy, and Mel and Todd went in Todd’s truck. Jill was irritated they didn’t just all go in Bennett’s car; it had enough room if three people squeezed into the backseat.

When they reached the Caldwell McDonald’s, Todd, who had been leading, turned recklessly into the parking lot and swerved out into a big one-eighty, sliding to a stop and leaning out the window toward Bennett. Jill could tell Melanie was looking their way too.

Dude, better idea! You wanna go TP-ing? Todd called. Jill saw Melanie grinning and felt a flutter of excitement in her own stomach. That could actually be fun…she’d never been TP-ing before! And she loved doing risky, daring things whenever Todd was involved. And TP-ing was kind of risky in their county, because if you got caught, you had to pay a hundred-dollar fine for every roll of toilet paper in your possession.

Are you serious? Bennett asked. It’s not even dark yet.

Almost! Todd gestured at the sky. By the time we go get some toilet paper.

Let’s do it! Jill called eagerly, feeling left out because she was in the backseat and it restricted her from being as much a part of the conversation as everyone else. Who’re we gonna get?

Todd shrugged the arm that was hanging outside his window. We didn’t get that far yet.

We can think of someone while we’re getting the toilet paper, Kelsey said.

Well, hey, I think we need to split up and get it, Bennett said. ‘Cause if we go into the grocery store and just buy a bunch, I think they have to call the cops.

Are you serious? Melanie asked incredulously, looking a little worried.

Well it’ll be fine, I just think we need to be discreet, Bennett said, grinning.

Okay, Todd said. Well, we’ll go to Kroger, and then Wal-Mart. You guys wanna go to Brinkley and hit up a couple different places? And then we’ll meet up.

Jill didn’t like that idea; she wanted to go with Todd, not with Bennett and Kelsey. But oh well…this was still going to be an adventure she shared with Todd.

That’s cool, Bennett said. Where you wanna meet?

Ummm, Todd said. Meet at my house. Half an hour? Think about who to get. And get as much TP as you can without looking suspicious.

All right, Bennett said, flashing Todd a casual thumbs-up, and Todd sped off.

Aaahhh, I’m so excited! Kelsey said, clapping her hands eagerly and turning around to share a giddy grin with Jill. This is gonna be so fun!

***

At the grocery store, Bennett, Kelsey, and Jill each bought a twenty-four pack of Charmin. They went through separate checkout lanes, thinking it’d seem less suspicious for one teenager to be buying toilet paper than three together. They also agreed it would look better to buy a more expensive kind, because most TP-ers would buy the cheapest kind they could.

Jill felt nervous as she went through the checkout, and she prayed it wasn’t noticeable and the checkout lady wouldn’t ask her why she was buying toilet paper. She had decided if the lady did ask, she would say her mom had sent her out to get it. But the lady merely asked her if she wanted a bag or not, then smiled kindly but in a disconnected fashion when Jill said no. She didn’t even wonder, Jill thought with a sigh of relief as she walked out to the parking lot, not looking at Bennett or Kelsey, who were both still at checkout counters.

They met up beside Bennett’s car, all grinning and slapping high fives, then went to Wal-Mart and did the same thing. Jill was having a blast, but she couldn’t wait to be with Todd again. She didn’t even care if they missed a lot of Landon’s party, as long as she was with him.

When they got to his house, he and Melanie were waiting and came right out. They had both changed clothes and were dressed head to toe in black, Todd wearing a black Nike sweatshirt and Adidas windpants and a black baseball cap, and Melanie wearing a huge black hooded sweatshirt and black basketball shorts that were obviously Todd’s. She too wore a black baseball cap. Hers was turned backwards.

Oh my gosh! Kelsey cried, laughing. You guys look hilarious.

Do you like it? Melanie asked, batting her eyelashes.

Jill’s stomach turned. She hated seeing Melanie in Todd’s clothes, hated the fact that they’d probably changed together in his room, and suddenly hated her own outfit of jean shorts, a tank top, and a swimsuit, because it wasn’t Todd’s. Now a little part of the whole outing was ruined, because on this adventure she was supposed to be having with Todd, Melanie and Todd would be dressed alike. She had thought once they were actually TP-ing, the two couples wouldn’t really be paired off and she wouldn’t feel like the fifth wheel or Todd’s second best girl, but now his and Mel’s matching clothes would be a constant reminder. She looked away and tried not to think about it.

So we were thinking we could get Dodson, Todd said with a wicked grin visible only because of a nearby streetlight. It was now completely dark outside.

Oh, nice. I like it, Bennett said, and he and Todd slapped a high five and laughed.

All right, let’s get this show on the road! Todd said. Do you wanna just all take one car, or stay with two?

Let’s just take two; our toilet paper’s already in there, so then we don’t have to move it, Melanie said. Jill glared at her in the dark.

I’d say one, Bennett said. Less weird-looking than two cars following each other around town.

Good call, Todd said.

Jill felt a smug sense of triumph as Todd and Mel grabbed their TP and they all piled into Bennett’s Jimmy, the boys in front and the girls in back. Ha! she said to Melanie silently.

***

They parked three houses down from Dirk’s. There were lights on in some of the houses, but the street was quiet. There were two lights on inside Dirk’s house, and they could tell from looking through the window that his parents were sitting in the living room watching TV. The side of the house where Todd and Bennett said the bedrooms were was dark, meaning Dirk’s younger twin sisters must be asleep or not home, and Hillary and Dirk must not be here.

They got that side of the house first, and since there were only two big trees, they covered the bushes as well. Then they got the swingset and the one tree in the backyard. Finally Todd and Bennett snuck up to the window again, and after watching for a few seconds, determined the Dodsons were engrossed enough in the TV not to notice if they got the tree right in front of that window. So while the boys, who were much better at throwing the toilet paper high into the branches, got the tree, Jill, Kelsey, and Melanie crept along near the window and got the rest of the bushes, giggling silently but giddily the whole time. Jill felt a sudden bond with Melanie; she was truly having fun with her.

When they were done they surveyed their work. Because of Dirk’s lack of trees, they had only used about a fourth of their toilet paper, but they’d covered about everything there was to cover.

We did awesome, Kelsey said.

Okay, get ready to run, Todd said, and then with no further warning, he dashed up the front steps and pounded on the door.

Todd! Melanie screamed.

"Go, go!" Todd yelled, laughing as he leaped off the porch, skipping all the steps, and ran toward them. He passed them all, jumping into the front seat of the Jimmy as they raced after him. They threw themselves in, and Bennett started the car and gunned off down the street.

That was AWESOME! Jill shouted.

I KNOW! Kelsey and Melanie cried, and they all burst out laughing.

Where now? Bennett asked. Doin’ it again?

Todd glanced at the clock. Nah, everybody should be back at Kessler’s by now. Let’s just save it for another night.

Jill grinned. That meant they would do this again…she just hoped she’d be invited.

***

Hey, where’d you go?! Lorylyn asked when Jill got back to Landon’s. All the adults were gone now, and most of the students were back; the party was going in full force.

We went TP-ing, Jill whispered gleefully. We got Dirk.

No way! Lorylyn’s eyes were wide with laughter. That’s so funny. Aww, I wanted to go! I’ve never been before.

Well, we have like, buttloads of toilet paper left over, so we’ll probably go again. Are him and Hill back yet?

No. Where’s Todd and Melanie?

They went too. They’re at Todd’s house changing, ‘cause they got all dressed up in black. They should be back pretty soon. Jill closed her eyes briefly, thinking they better be back soon…she couldn’t stand the thought of them alone in Todd’s room…

Lorylyn’s eyes widened again. Oh, how was that?

Jill shrugged. It was okay. She was fine.

Hey, Jilly! Hilton said, coming to join them. Where’d you go?

She went TP-ing! Lorylyn said with a giggle.

What?! Are you serious?

Jill explained how it had happened, and Hilton laughed in delight, especially when she found out they’d gotten Dirk and then Todd had rung the doorbell.

Oh, that’s great! Too bad him and Hill weren’t there!

I know! I wondered if they might be, but it was only his parents. They probably went somewhere to hook up. Hey, so what was that about me being your maid of honor?

Hilton rolled her caramel-colored eyes exaggeratedly. Oh my gosh, she was asking me why Landon and I aren’t engaged yet, since he graduated now, and she was saying how she was married as soon as she graduated high school, and she had just assumed Landon and I’d be getting married next summer. And then she was all saying how ‘young people these days wait way too long to get married; they’re so selfish about their careers, when that’s not the important thing.’ Hilton had scrunched up her face and taken on a nasal tone as she said the last part, making air quotes with her fingers. She giggled when she was done, and Lorylyn and Jill did too.

Oh my gosh, that’s crazy, Jill said. Does she not understand he’s going to college?

Who knows, Hilton said. I mean, I’m not saying I don’t ever wanna be engaged to him. She grinned. But maybe in like four years.

Aahhh, that would be so cute! Lorylyn squealed. Like if he proposed to you when he graduated college, and then you got married the next summer after you graduated?

I’d need more time than that to plan the wedding, Hilton said with another grin, and Jill and Lorylyn laughed. So he can propose then, if he wants, but we’d probably have to wait till a year after I was out of college to actually get married. It’d be hard to plan everything while I was still in school.

Wow, that’s so crazy to think about! Jill said. That four years from now you guys could be engaged! Do you think you will be?

Hilton shrugged, but her eyes were sparkling and her finger played absentmindedly with the heart-shaped ruby around her neck, her one-year-anniversary present from Landon. I wouldn’t mind.

Lorylyn sighed happily, looking up at the stars. Me neither, she said.

***

A couple hours later, during spin the bottle, Hilton, who was sitting between Jill and Landon, said, I’m so pumped for Cedar Point, you guys! We need to all ride the Raptor together again, us four. It’s become, like, our tradition.

You mean us three and Todd? Landon asked.

Yeah. Hilton looked at him in confusion.

Todd’s not going, Landon said.

Jill felt as if someone had slammed a fist into her stomach and knocked the wind out of her. She sat silently, trying not to look affected.

What?! Hilton asked, staring at Landon.

Well I dunno, maybe he is, but he told me he’s not.

When did he tell you that? Hilton asked. Jill couldn’t even speak.

Um, like a few days ago or something? I don’t really remember.

Well how come he’s not going?! Why didn’t you say anything? Now we have to find someone else!

Sorry, he told me, and I meant to ask you guys who else we should take, but then I forgot about it. And I just figured you knew. This was addressed to Jill. He said he can’t go ‘cause he promised Melanie he’d go out for her sister’s birthday or something.

Jill couldn’t breathe. She was furious and blindingly jealous and devastated all at the same time. She couldn’t even think. Her whole night had just been ruined. And Cedar Point too. How could he not be going?! It ruined everything…she didn’t even want to go if he wasn’t.

Her sister’s birthday? Hilton asked in disgust. That’s lame.

Landon shrugged. I don’t know. That’s just what he told me. Maybe he changed his mind if he didn’t say anything to you guys.

Jill was staring at Todd across the circle. He and Mel sat next to each other, and her hand was on his knee. Jill felt an overwhelming wave of nausea and had to swallow quickly.

***

Todd went in to use the bathroom when spin the bottle was over, and Jill stormed after him. Hey, thanks a lot for not telling us you weren’t going to Cedar Point, she snapped when she’d almost caught him on the patio.

Todd turned around in surprise. What? I told Landon.

Well, he forgot to tell us and now we don’t even have time to get anybody else. Jill’s tone was condescending and angry; she wanted to make him feel guilty. They were going to Cedar Point on Monday.

Well, sorry. I told Landon like awhile ago though. He sounded less than sorry, like he really didn’t think he’d done anything wrong, and Jill was more furious than ever.

Well this sucks, Todd! ‘Cause now we probably won’t even be able to get anybody else, and I’m gonna be all by myself, since it’s all couples, so now I pretty much can’t even go! They’d reached the bathroom, and Todd had one hand on the door, ready to go in. Jill folded her arms across her chest and glared at him.

Well, sorry! But I have to go to Mel’s sister’s birthday thing. I told her a long time ago I would. I didn’t realize it was the same day as Cedar Point.

Well can’t you get out of it?! I mean, they really don’t need you there, and Cedar Point’s gonna suck for me now! She made a pouty face.

Sorry, I can’t. You know Mel would be pissed. Look, Jilly, I’m really sorry, okay? But I told Landon a long time ago. So I didn’t know he hadn’t told anyone else. But I’m sure you can find somebody. I mean, there’s tons of people here. Find somebody tonight. I’m sure somebody will wanna go. I really have to piss. He went into the bathroom and shut the door.

Yeah, except that’s not the point, Jill thought miserably. It’ll still suck for me if anyone goes but you.

And now he was making her feel stupid for throwing such a big fit, and she was also getting the vibe that he didn’t even care that much he was going to miss it. She’d figured he must at least be irritated at having to go to Mel’s sister’s party instead of being able to go to Cedar Point, but it didn’t seem that way. This had rocked her whole world, and he hadn’t even cared he couldn’t go. To her, Cedar Point was her and Todd’s time, since they would end up paired together because of being with three couples, but Todd obviously didn’t see it that way at all…he hadn’t even thought to let her know he couldn’t go. It didn’t mean anything to him.

***

I can’t believe he’s not going. That’s such fucking bullshit, Jill said. She was sitting on the stone wall with Lorylyn and Brady, and she knew she had to quit complaining soon and start acting like she was over it, or else Brady was going to figure out she liked Todd. But she was so upset she wanted to be a pouty little baby about it. She didn’t want to act like she was over it.

That is so shitty, Lorylyn agreed. I mean that really fucks us all over. Who will we get now?

Jill was grateful to Lorylyn for agreeing, so her own complaints wouldn’t look so weird to Brady, but all of a sudden she felt like a burden. If they didn’t find anyone else to go, Hilton and Lorylyn and Hillary were probably going to be feeling sorry for her the whole two days they were there, and they’d all take turns riding the rides with her so she didn’t have to sit alone or something. How horrible. She felt tears welling up.

Hey! Hilton rushed up. I just had an idea! We should ask Detter!

Jill brightened a little, but she was still unwilling to completely let go of her downcast attitude. That could be fun. Detter would be all right, she supposed. If he went, she would be able to have a somewhat good time; she wouldn’t be depressed the whole trip. She wouldn’t mind riding all the rides with Detter. She really could have fun.

Yeah, you should ask him! Lorylyn agreed.

Okay. I’m gonna go try to find him. Jill hopped down from the stone wall with a sudden sense of determination. She walked through the crowd searching for Detter, and she finally saw him grabbing another beer from a cooler on the edge of the patio.

Hey, Detter! she said, slapping his butt lightly as she came up behind him.

Detter turned and grinned when he saw who it was. Hey there.

Jill smiled; his voice was so sexy. Hey, so are you doing anything on Monday and Tuesday?

Um, I’m goin’ to Chicago for a Cubs game.

Oh. Jill could feel her face fall, but she didn’t even try to hide her reaction. With who? She immediately braced herself for him to say Arden or some other girl…why had she even asked? Just to torment herself?

Detter shrugged. Like a bunch of the guys. Why? What’s up?

Oh. Jill looked at the ground, only half glad he hadn’t said a girl’s name. He still wasn’t going to be disappointed he couldn’t go to Cedar Point; of course he’d much rather hang out with his guy friends than with her and her friends. Why had she even come over here? Of course he wouldn’t be free just like that when she needed him to be. There’s just a bunch of us going to Cedar Point, and we’re looking for more people, she said, trying to sound casual now and like she couldn’t care less if he did or didn’t go. She wished she hadn’t let her disappointment show so obviously before.

Oh, well that sounds like fun, he said, taking a drink of beer. I’d go if I could.

Yeah, well it’s cool. Don’t worry about it, Jill said. Okay, well I have to go try to find some more people.

All right. Thanks for the invite.

Yeah, Jill mumbled as she walked away. She felt like crying again. She had cared so much about Todd going, and then she’d wanted so badly for Detter to go, and neither of them was at all disappointed to not be able to. She felt so stupid, like she didn’t really mean that much to either of them, but she’d let their presence on this trip mean so much to her. She realized that if she’d been the one to cancel, Todd probably wouldn’t have even cared at all. Maybe he would’ve even been glad, because then he could’ve invited Melanie.

***

So Jill’s pissed at me, Todd said as he approached Kelsey and Bennett. He twisted the top off a new bottle of beer and took a long drink, tossing the cap into a nearby trash barrel.

Why? Kelsey asked.

‘Cause I’m not going to Cedar Point. And I feel really bad, ‘cause now they have an uneven number of people, but I promised Mel I’d go to her sister’s birthday party.

Kelsey snorted. Wow, have fun with that.

Well, I don’t think it’ll be that bad, Todd said. I mean, yeah, I’d rather go to Cedar Point, but I didn’t realize they were on the same day. But it’s not that big a deal. I just don’t understand why Jill’s so pissed.

Probably ‘cause you’re sticking her by herself! Kelsey said. It’s like three couples and her now.

Todd wrinkled his nose. Yeah, that’s what she said. Damn it! I don’t wanna make her mad, or ruin her trip, but I don’t feel like I can cancel on Mel. And it’s not that I even wanna cancel on her. I just wish Jill wasn’t mad.

Find somebody else to go, Bennett said. Then she probably wouldn’t be mad.

Kelsey rolled her eyes to herself. Boys were so stupid. Todd was completely clueless. Maybe I’ll go, she said. Actually, it did sound like a lot of fun. I’m gonna go talk to Jill about it.

***

You have to have lots of parties this summer, Hilton said. She and Landon were in his room. She was lying on top of him, but they were both still clothed; they’d only been making out.

That’s the plan. Landon ran his hand through her hair.

Good. Hilton kissed him. So your great-grandma’s upset you haven’t proposed to me yet.

Oh shit, that totally reminds me! Landon rolled Hilton off of him and sat up. Where’d I put that ring?

Hilton laughed and hit him in the chest. Shut up.

He laughed as he lay back down and pulled her close again. Not funny?

I think if you proposed to me right now I’d be a little freaked out.

Why? Am I not good enough for you to marry? Landon asked in a miffed, arrogant tone.

Nope, Hilton said. I’m just having fun with you till I get to college where I can meet some real men. She giggled, then shrieked and squirmed as Landon tickled her sides. Aaahhh, Landon, stop it!

You’re serious though, Landon said. You wouldn’t marry me. He’d stopped tickling her, and now they were lying face-to-face, both their heads on one pillow.

Yes I would!

Whatever.

Landon! I mean, I don’t wanna get married right now, but you know I love you. She suddenly became serious. I’ve always thought you were ‘The One.’

Really? he asked, sounding completely surprised.

Yeah, even before we started dating. I was so in love with you already.

Are you serious?

I’m so serious.

Wow. I had no idea. That’s awesome. His voice was deep, and Hilton could tell her words had touched him. I really can’t believe that. I love you, he said, touching her face softly and kissing her. And I think you’re The One too.

chapter 2) like a promise

Lorylyn had sort of been dreading Brady’s graduation party, just because it was like the final sign he was actually leaving and wouldn’t be here with her next year. But she was actually having fun. She’d helped his mom put together his scrapbooks and pictures earlier this week, and now, watching other people look at them was almost making her cry. But the lump in her throat wasn’t one of sadness, it was one of pride. She was so happy to be here and share this with him, and she was so proud of him there was no way she’d have been able to express it in words. He was going to play baseball on basically a full ride, and he had the regional coming up this week, and he was so good-looking, and he had graduated, and all these adults were so happy for him and impressed by him, and he was hers. She even loved talking to all his relatives, because it made her feel like a part of his family. They were all extremely nice to her, even the ones she hadn’t met before. And she’d known his grandparents, brother, sister-in-law, and little niece and nephew for almost a year and a half now, ever since she’d first met them at his family Christmas sophomore year, so she especially enjoyed talking to them.

Hey, are you bored to death yet? Brady whispered in her ear from behind as she filled a plate of food for his four-year-old niece Alaina. His hands brushed over her sides, and his breath was hot in her ear. She grinned as her whole body tingled, then she handed the plate to Alaina.

No, I’m having a good time, she said honestly, turning to smile at him.

Brady grabbed her hand to pull her inside from the garage. I’m going crazy, he said dryly once they were inside. I don’t know how much longer I can keep smiling at all these people. My face hurts.

Lorylyn giggled and put both her hands on his cheeks, then ran them down to his jaw. She kissed him quickly and felt that lump in her throat again when she pulled back and looked into his eyes.

What? he asked, his dark eyes taking on a concerned look as his black curl fell in front of them.

Lorylyn smiled; she loved how he could never get that curl to stay in place. Don’t, she said as he started to push it away.

Don’t what?

Leave it there, she said, touching the curl as it fell back down. I like it. She felt an overwhelming urge to hug him and did so. I’m so proud of you, Brady, she whispered. I love you. She felt tears welling up behind her eyelids.

Aww, thanks, Lor. He hugged her back tightly. When she sniffled, he pulled back and looked at her face. Why are you crying?

She laughed and wiped at her eyes. I don’t know, just ‘cause I’m so happy to be here with you. I don’t know how to explain it.

Brady wiped at the tears under her eyes and then kissed her. Thank you, Lor. I’m so happy you’re here too. It means a lot to me. I love you so much.

They kissed again and then hugged each other tightly, standing there for a long moment in each other’s arms.

***

Hey, Jilly Bean.

Jill looked up and saw Todd grabbing a paper plate and getting in the food line behind her. She looked back at the chicken she was putting on her plate and didn’t respond.

Sorry again about Cedar Point. But Kelsey’s going now right, so it’s all good?

Yeah, it’s all good, Jill said coldly. She looked past Todd out into the driveway. Melanie was sitting there at a table with Todd’s mom. Jill’s stomach clenched. She quickly finished filling her plate, then, without another word to Todd, balanced her plate in one hand while grabbing a can of Coke, then marched out to the driveway and sat down with Melanie and Mrs. Blake. Hey, guys! she said brightly.

Hi, Jill! Mrs. Blake said warmly. Long time no see. I guess I missed you yesterday at Landon’s. She laughed, and Jill did too. They’d seen each other at the baseball game yesterday and talked for a little while.

Yeah, I didn’t go till like 5:30, Jill said, referring to Landon’s.

Oh, I was there around four.

Oh, yeah, I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever! Jill joked, and they both laughed again. Melanie laughed too, but it sounded forced to Jill.

You’ll have to come over sometime soon, Mrs. Blake said, just as Todd joined them.

Definitely, Jill agreed with a smile.

"Eww, Mom, I told you I didn’t want Jill to come over. What are you doing?!" Todd’s mischievous eyes grinned at Jill, and she glared at him, no hint of humor on her face. He didn’t seem to realize she was still pissed about Cedar Point.

So, Melanie, Mrs. Blake said. Your sister’s birthday is tomorrow? Which sister?

Destiny.

How old is she?

She’ll be fourteen.

Oh, so is she gonna be a freshman in the fall then?

Yes. Melanie rolled her eyes distastefully. I get along a lot better with Jess. Destiny’s a brat. She laughed, and so did Mrs. Blake.

Jill wanted to roll her eyes. Everything Melanie said irritated her so easily. You’re a brat, she thought.

So what are you doing for her party? Mrs. Blake asked.

Melanie shrugged. Well, not that much really. My dad wants to take her and a bunch of her friends out to eat, so what a blast, right? And then all her friends are staying the night, so I’ll probably be over at your house. I’m glad Todd’s coming for the dinner, or I’d probably shoot myself. She flashed an ironic smile at Todd, and he smiled back at her the same way.

Jill wasn’t sure she’d be able to eat the rest of her food. It made her feel sick to think of Todd hanging out with Melanie’s family and going to her sister’s birthday. They sounded like a married couple, the way she didn’t want to go to a family event and he was going just to make it a little better for her.

Melanie turned to Jill. Sorry he can’t go to Cedar Point, she said. I feel bad, but I need him! She laughed, and Jill wanted to stab her in the eye with her fork. But it was plastic; it probably wouldn’t do much harm. Stupid bitch!

Oh, it’s okay, Jill said airily, waving her hand in the air. We found someone else to go, so it doesn’t matter.

Oh, who’s going? Mel asked.

Kelsey. Jill wished she could say Detter or some other hot guy so Melanie wouldn’t think she was a loser who was hung up on Todd and had no other possibilities.

Oh, Melanie said, sounding totally surprised, and, Jill was almost sure, a little upset.

Maybe she’s jealous! Jill realized, surprised too. ‘Cause me and Kelsey are becoming better friends than her and Kelsey. Yeah, she said with a wide smile. It should be a lot of fun. I love Kelsey.

Yeah, Melanie said brightly, smiling back. Me too. Well that’s good you found someone else then.

Yeah!

***

Hey, assholes, Dirk said to Bennett and Kelsey as he approached them. They were looking at Brady’s pictures.

What? Kelsey asked, her pale blue eyes big with bewilderment.

You know exactly what I mean, Dirk said, and Bennett laughed.

How’d you know it was us?

My mom saw your truck after you knocked on the door, sucklick.

Kelsey giggled. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

I never knocked on any door, Bennett said.

"Well, you might not’ve been there, Dirk said to Kelsey, but I know it was you. He pointed his hotdog at Bennett with a gleam in his eye. You just wait, dude, payback’s a bitch. And I’ll find out who else was with you too."

***

Brady! Wake up, it’s 5:15, Lorylyn said the next morning. She walked over to the couch in her family room where he was sleeping. He had come over after his party to spend the night because everyone was meeting at her house to leave for Cedar Point, but her parents had made him sleep in the family room. In the past, the girls had lied about who was going to Cedar Point because they didn’t think their parents would let them go with the boys, but this year Lorylyn’s parents had actually suggested that Brady go. She knew they loved Brady and felt bad for her because he’d be leaving at the end of the summer. They had made a big point, however, of saying she better not sleep in a hotel room with him and they trusted her to make responsible decisions.

Uuuhhh, he moaned.

Brady, come on! Everybody’s gonna be here soon! She sat on the couch beside his legs.

Come here, he said sleepily, reaching for her and pulling her down. Get under the blanket with me. Just for a second.

Brady, we can’t! she giggled, even as she climbed underneath the blanket and snuggled up next to him. It felt so good to be in his arms. She wished they could go back to sleep for another couple hours like this…

I wanna give you your birthday present, he told her.

Where is it? she asked, her eyes closed and her head on the pillow.

Right here.

She felt him rustling around and opened her eyes. He had taken a small box out of his sweatshirt pocket and was holding it in front of her face.

Ooohh, what is it, jewelry? she asked jokingly, secretly hoping for a necklace like the one Landon had gotten Hilton for their anniversary last year.

Open it and see, Brady said with a grin.

She noticed the box was from a jewelry store in the mall, but that didn’t mean anything, right? She opened the lid and gasped. Oh my gosh…

She stared at the ring. It had three beautiful, sparkling diamonds on what she thought was a white gold band. She couldn’t believe it. Was he actually proposing to her? She and Hilton had been joking about this just the other night…

It’s a promise ring, he said, and Lorylyn let out a long breath. She would’ve been ecstatic if he’d been proposing, but she also would’ve felt it was way too soon. It means like, past, present, and future. He pointed at the three stones. One for each. That’s what the lady in the jewelry store said. Do you like it?

I love it! I love it so much! Thank you, Brady! She grinned and kissed him. Her insides were jumping crazily around.

He smiled back at her, then took it out of the box and slid it onto her right ring finger. Good, it fits, he said. I got it a long time ago. I went over to your house one day when you had an away gymnastics meet, ‘cause your mom said you always left my class ring on your dresser so you wouldn’t lose it at the meets, and she went with me to the jewelry store, and they sized it based off the class ring.

Oh my gosh, was that the meet where my mom said she was going to Ethan’s basketball game and my dad was coming to my gymnastics meet?! I thought that was weird; they usually do it the other way around!

Yeah, that was probably it. Brady grinned. So you really like it? I did okay? I mean, I picked it out, and your mom thought you would like it. But I picked out that actual one.

I love it. You did perfect. I love you. Thank you so much.

I love you too, Brady said, and they kissed again.

***

You look hot, Hill! Jill cried with a grin as she and Kelsey climbed out of her car in Lorylyn’s yard at 5:30. Kelsey had spent the night at Jill’s after Brady’s party.

Hillary was wearing the very short Abercrombie jean skirt Jill, Hilton, and Lorylyn had given her for her birthday. They’d also gotten her a couple of Nora Roberts paperbacks, the only author Hillary read and one she’d gotten the rest of them hooked on. Hillary was standing by Brady’s car in the driveway, hugging her arms to her chest. The early morning air was chilly.

I know, Hillary replied carelessly, tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder. She and Jill laughed.

She does, doesn’t she? Dirk asked with a grin, coming up behind Hillary and either grabbing her ass or sticking a finger up her skirt; Jill couldn’t tell, but Hillary jumped out of the way with a giggle.

Stop it, Dirk!

Dirk grinned again just as Hilton and Landon pulled up. They rolled sleepily out of Landon’s new Jeep, both of them yawning. Landon’s new Jeep wasn’t actually new, just new to him; it was the insurance-paid replacement for the one he’d totaled in his wreck in April. He was relieved it had been so snowy there was no way they could’ve guessed he was going twenty over the speed limit.

It is waaaay too early, Kelsey moaned, putting her hand to her mouth to cover a yawn.

The door to the house opened and Brady and Lorylyn stepped out, both wearing big sweatshirts. Brady wore gym shorts, and Lorylyn had on short jean shorts. Ooohh, nice skirt, Hill, she said. She was carrying a small cooler, and Brady took it from her and put it in his car.

Hey, what the hell is that?! Hilton cried, running forward and grabbing Lorylyn’s right hand. Jill caught a flash of sparkle and ran after Hilton. Hillary crowded in too.

Lorylyn grinned as she raised her hand. The diamonds sparkled again.

Holy shit! Hilton cried. Is that your birthday present?

Lorylyn grinned again, and her smile lit up her whole face. She nodded.

Oh my gosh, Hilton said again, then she hugged Lorylyn. That is gorgeous.

Is it like a promise ring? Hillary asked, taking Lorylyn’s hand in hers to get a closer look.

Lorylyn nodded and pointed at the three diamonds in turn. It stands for past, present, and future.

That is so awesome! Jill cried, hugging Lorylyn as well.

Yeah, I’m so jealous! Kelsey giggled.

"Dude, you are lame," Dirk laughed, hitting Brady in the chest. Brady grinned, and all the girls giggled.

Okay, so how are we riding? Brady asked, still grinning and looking a little embarrassed. Neither he nor Lorylyn could wipe the smiles off their faces.

We’ll go with Hilton and Landon, Jill said, motioning to herself and Kelsey.

All right, Brady said, yawning. We’ll follow you.

***

The ride to Cedar Point in Landon’s Jeep was okay for Jill, but it was depressing remembering how it had been two years ago when it had been her, Hilton, Landon, and Todd. And as much as Jill liked Kelsey, there was still no way having her along could compare to Todd being here. As they drove, Jill thought of him at home asleep, and how in a few hours he’d wake up and go over to Melanie’s and later they’d go out to dinner, probably driving separately from Mel’s dad and Destiny and her friends, and Todd wouldn’t even think about what the group at Cedar Point was doing or wish he were with them. And somehow the fact that this was a different Jeep from the one she’d ridden in with Todd to Cedar Point two years ago, to Homecoming sophomore year, and to his house the first time she’d ever gone there made her even more bummed and nostalgic.

She sighed dejectedly and lay her head against the window.

***

The rest of the trip was much the same. Jill had fun, especially on the new rollercoaster, the Millennium Force, on which the first hill went down 300 feet at an eighty degree angle at ninety-two miles an hour. It was by far the biggest and best rush she’d ever experienced.

Oh my gosh, that was the best freaking time I’ve ever had in my life! Hilton screamed jubilantly, turning around from her seat beside Landon to slap Jill an excited high five as their car came to a stop on the track outside the deboarding platform.

Oh my gosh, I know! Jill screamed back wildly, truly and exuberantly happy in that moment.

She laughed a lot throughout the first day, but always at the back of her mind, and a lot of the time at the front, was Todd’s absence. Later that night, as everyone sat waiting for the light show, as Jill, Lorylyn, and Hillary had always called the Summer Spectacular, she wondered if Melanie had really gone to Todd’s after Destiny’s dinner, and what they were doing right now. Were they sitting in his living room watching a movie with Mrs. Blake, or had Mrs. Blake already gone to bed, and were Todd and Mel on the couch or in his room doing…? She shut her eyes, willing the thoughts to go away. She just wished he were here right now, sitting beside her, or even better, behind her massaging her shoulders and whispering that they should do it again later with hot oil and without the clothes, as he had two years ago.

She suddenly realized it had been forever since he had made a jokingly suggestive comment like that to her. The last time she could remember was once when he’d been over watching Friends last fall and they’d wrestled and he’d made a joke about ravishing her. Had that really been the last time? She couldn’t believe it. They’d done all that water-wrestling in Florida, and he’d kissed her between the boobs in spin the bottle, but he hadn’t said anything at all flirty. She was suddenly desperate for him to make some comment like that again. What did it mean that he never did anymore? Had he liked her a little bit then, but not anymore? Had he thought she was hot then but that she wasn’t now? Or was his relationship with Melanie now more serious, so he didn’t want to joke around with her like that? She felt like she’d had something and then lost it without realizing it was slipping away, and she was desperate to get it back.

***

This has been such an awesome birthday, Lorylyn said that night as she and Brady lay in bed at the hotel. Thank you so much. So much better than last year. She laughed a little. Last year on her birthday, Brady and Brooke had been flying over the Atlantic on their way to Spain and then spending their first day there together.

Oh, hell yeah, Brady said, pushing her hair away from her face and kissing her forehead. I still wish I didn’t go to Spain. I hated missing your birthday, even though we weren’t together.

I hated it too. It was the worst birthday ever. I just kept thinking about you and her…

Sssshhh, Brady whispered, running his fingers through her fine, silky black hair. Don’t think about it. I am exactly where I wanna be right now, and where I wish I would’ve been last year. And hey, look at it this way, I only got a job ‘cause I was going to Spain, but now I was able to use the money from work to buy your ring! He grinned, then his tone became serious again. I love you, Lor. He kissed her softly.

I know. She smiled as she rubbed her middle and pinky fingers against her ring. She loved the feel of it there, and she was still completely stunned by the gesture. It really was like a promise; she felt more secure about her relationship with Brady than ever.

chapter 3) game on

The night after they got back from Cedar Point was the Spring Sports Awards. Jill went with Lorylyn and Hillary and Kelsey, and as they sat in the back of the auditorium, Jill saw Melanie walk in with Todd and his mom. Ugh, she thought, looking away. That should be me.

Hilton and Lindy won First Team All-Conference in tennis, and in baseball, Brady got First Team All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-State. Landon got Second Team All-Conference. Todd got nothing, but Jill hadn’t expected him to; he was only a junior. Maybe he would next year, especially if he got to be a starting pitcher. She’d been wondering a lot lately about where he would go to college. He had never mentioned wanting to play baseball in college, but she thought he probably had a chance. But she really hoped he decided not to, because maybe then he’d go to Dale. But more than anything, she just hoped he and Mel would break up when he went to college, if they didn’t before that.

Melanie, who luckily couldn’t sit with Todd because teams had to sit together, won Second Team All-Conference in the 3200, Honorable Mention in the 1600 and the four by four, and First Team in the four by eight. Her four by eight team also won Honorable Mention All-State. They had gotten second at regional and sixth at state. Blah, blah, fucking blah, Jill thought, sticking her tongue out a little.

After the part in the auditorium with all the teams together, each team went to its own classroom and had another, more informal ceremony. Jill wanted to go to the baseball awards in the cafeteria with Hillary and Lorylyn, but she would’ve felt kind of stupid and out of place, so she and Kelsey went to Hilton’s tennis awards in the coach’s classroom. The coach had student managers who kept stats, and from those stats he gave awards like Most Wins (Hilton and Lindy got that one), Most Improved, Rookie of the Year, Best Differential Average, and Most Aces, and he also gave tons of funny awards, including Most Double Faults, Weirdest Serve Motion, Highest Negative Differential in a Match, and Most Ball Tosses in a Match. Everyone on the team cracked up at those, and even though Jill didn’t fully get it because she hadn’t seen all the winners in action, she thought the whole thing was pretty funny too. She loved the idea of giving weird, silly awards. Hilton won Most Smashed Racquets; besides the one at regional, she’d apparently broken two others during the season. She stood up to accept her award, a tennis racquet keychain, with a wry grin. Jill and Kelsey giggled, and Hilton stuck her tongue out at them.

When the tennis awards were over, Hilton wanted to go by the baseball awards, which gave Jill the perfect excuse to go too. They weren’t over yet, and Jill, Hilton, and Kelsey slid into chairs at a table with Hillary and Lorylyn. Jill glanced around and was pleased to see Melanie wasn’t here. The track awards must not be over yet. Good.

Todd got Closer of the Year, Lorylyn whispered to Jill.

Oh, that’s awesome! Jill said, glancing quickly at Kelsey. She didn’t want Kelsey to know she liked him as anything more than a best friend. Did Brady and Dirk get anything?

Brady just got MVP, Lorylyn said proudly, smiling. And he got Best Batting Average and Most RBIs and Most Home Runs.

Dirk got Most Improved, Hillary added, but she didn’t appear thrilled. Jill knew how she felt; who wanted Most Improved? It implied you’d sucked last year.

And our last award is just as important as MVP, Coach Lever was saying. This is our Mental Attitude Award. This year it’s going to a player who no matter what the situation, is always encouraging everyone else; he never gets down, he never gets negative. So this year’s Mental Attitude Award winner is Landon Kessler.

All the girls broke into applause, and Hilton looked at them with a grin. That’s hilarious, she said.