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Before he can say another word, I grab my phone out of my jacket pocket and say, “That’s Peter calling me right now, so I guess he does like homely girls.”

“I didn’t say homely! I said you like to be at home!”

“Later, Josh.” I speed walk away, dragging Sadie with me. Into my phone I say, “Oh hey, Peter.”

24

IN CHEM, PETER SITS A row in front of me.

I write him a note. Why would you tell Josh that we’re— I hesitate and then finish with a thing?

I kick the back of his chair, and he turns around and I hand him the note. He slouches in his seat to read it; then I watch as he scribbles something. He tips back in his chair and drops the note on my desk without looking at me.

A thing? Haha.

I press down so hard my pencil tip chips off. Please answer the question.

We’ll talk later.

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I let out a frustrated sigh and Matt, my lab partner, gives me a funny look.

After class Peter is swept away with all his friends; they leave in a big group. I’m packing up my backpack when he returns, alone. He hops up on the table. “So let’s talk,” he says, super casual.

I clear my throat and try to gather my bearings. “Why did you tell Josh we were—” I almost say “a thing” again, but then change it to “together?”

“I don’t get what you’re so upset about. I did you a favor. I could have just as easily blown up your spot.”

I pause. He’s right. He could have. “So why didn’t you?”

“You’ve sure got a funny way of saying thank you. You’re welcome, by the way.”

Automatically I say, “Thank you.” Wait. Why am I thanking him? “I appreciate you letting me kiss you, but—”

“You’re welcome,” he says again.

Ugh! He’s so insufferable. Just for that I’m going to toss a little dig his way. “That was . . . really generous of you. To let me do that. But I’ve already explained to Josh that it’s not going to work out with us because Genevieve has you whipped, so it’s all good. You can stop pretending now.”

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Peter glares at me. “I’m not whipped.”

“But aren’t you, though? I mean, you guys have been together since the seventh grade. You’re basically her property.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Peter scoffs.

“There was a rumor last year that she made you get a tattoo of her initials on your butt for her birthday.” I pause. “So did you?” I reach around him and fake try to lift up the back of his shirt. He yelps and jumps away from me, and I collapse in a fit of giggles. “So you do have a tattoo!”

“I don’t have a tattoo!” he yells. “And we’re not even together anymore, so can you stop with this shit? We broke up. We’re over. I’m done with her.”

“Wait, didn’t she break up with you?” I ask.

Peter shoots me a dirty look. “It was mutual.”

Hastily I say, “Well, I’m sure you’ll get back together soon. You’ve broken up before, right? Only to get back together again, like immediately. It’s probably because you were each other’s firsts. That’s why you can’t let each other go. I’ve heard that’s how it is with firsts, especially with guys.”

Peter’s mouth drops. “How do you know—”

“Oh, everybody knows. You guys did it freshman year in her parents’ basement, right?”

He gives a grudging nod.

“See? Even I know, and I’m a nobody. Even if you do stay broken up for real this time, which I doubt, it’s not like any other girl can date you.” Meaningfully I say, “Let’s not forget what happened to Jamila Singh.”

Peter and Genevieve broke up for a month last year, so Peter started dating Jamila Singh. Jamila might even be prettier than Genevieve—a different kind of pretty, anyway. More like hot. She has long wavy black hair and a little waist and a big butt. Let’s just say it didn’t end well for her. Not only did Genevieve cut her out of the group, but she told everyone that Jamila’s family had an Indonesian slave living with them, when really it was just her cousin. And I’m pretty sure it was Genevieve who started a rumor online that Jamila washed her hair only once a month. The final straw was when Jamila’s parents got an anonymous e-mail saying that she was having sex with Peter. Her parents transferred her right out and put her in private school. Genevieve and Peter were back together by spring formal.

“Gen says she didn’t have anything to do with that.”

I give him a get real look. “Please, Peter. I know her well and so do you. Well, I did know her well. But I don’t think people change at the core. They are who they are.”

Slowly Peter says, “That’s right. You two were BFFs back in the day.”

“We were friends,” I agree. “I wouldn’t call us BFFs, but . . .” Wait a minute, why are we talking about me again? “Everybody knows it was Genevieve who told Jamila’s parents. You don’t have to be a detective to figure out that Genevieve was jealous of her. Jamila was the prettiest girl in our grade, next to Genevieve. Gen was always a very jealous person. I remember this one time my dad bought me a . . .”

Peter’s staring at me in a thoughtful way, and it’s all of a sudden making me nervous.

“What?”

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“Let’s just do this for a little while.”

“Do what?”

“Let’s let people think we’re a couple.”

Wait . . . what?

“It’s driving Gen crazy not knowing what’s up with you and me. Why don’t we let her sit with it a little longer? It’s actually kind of perfect. You date me first, and then Gen will get it that we’re over. You’ll be breaking the seal.” He raises an eyebrow at me. “Do you even know what breaking the seal means?”

“Yes, of course I know what that means.” I have no idea what that means. I make a mental note to ask Chris the next time I see her.

Peter comes up close to me, and I scoot backward. He laughs and cocks his head to the side and puts his hands on my shoulders. “So then break my seal.”

I let out a nervous laugh. “Ha-ha, sorry, Peter, but I’m not interested. In you.”

“Well, yeah. That’s the whole point. I’m not interested in you, either. Like, at all.” Peter shudders. “So what do you say?”

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