I’ve been getting more and more into writing YA romance. I started this novel two days ago and could use some opinions. Critiques are certainly welcome!
It wasn’t love at first sight. I’ve known Jean since middle school, or rather, I knew of him. It wasn’t until sophomore year that I started crushing on him, and after that, it was only a month before it blew up into a full-scale obsession. I’m not boy crazy- anyone who knows me could tell you that. In fact, I’ve only had about three crushes, and one was in kindergarten.
There’s just something different about Jean. The way he walks, like he’s so sure of himself. His laugh, which no one around him can help joining in on- even if they don’t know what’s funny. His smile, so charming without even trying. His hair, which looks so natural but also gorgeous, like he’s stepped right out of a men’s clothing magazine. Don’t get me started on his eyes.
The problem? Well, I suppose there are two.
- Jean is completely off-limits. Not only is he the guy that every boy wants to be and every girl wants to have, but his girlfriend- Veronica Hayes- is the queen of Redstone High. In other words, get near him and ‘off with your head!’
- I’m Beatrice Fisher, A.K.A. ‘that girl.’ I’m just here. People see me, but they don’t really see me.
I’m that girl who used to do other kid’s homework in middle school for five bucks, before I realized how uncool it was. I’m the plainly visible invisible girl that no one gets to know because they don’t even think to try. Because they don’t think I could be worth it. I suppose there are a lot of ‘that girl’ people here at Redstone, and anywhere else for that matter. I just happen to be one of them.
Obviously Jean wouldn’t give someone like me a passing glance, let alone go out with me. I’ve gotten used to it by now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve gotten over him. Even now, three weeks into junior year, my head is buzzing with curious ideas and unexplored daydreams as I rummage through my locker for a red pen.
“You can just borrow one of mine,” my best and only friend Trish insists, waving an extra pen in my face.
I shove a pile of folders out of my way and reach behind them, hoping my case of writing utensils fell back there and didn’t get lost. “I know it’s in here somewhere.”
“For someone so organized, you sure lose things easily,” Trish says with a grin.
“Organized?” I muse. “Look at my locker.”
Trish snorts. “You’ve spent the last ten minutes searching for that stupid pen. No wonder your locker’s a mess. I don’t see why you don’t just borrow one.”
“Because I like having my own things, in their own places. And if I borrow it from you, I’ll have to remember it’s yours and give it back to you and make sure I don’t lose it.” I slam the locker shut and put out a hand. Trish sets the pen in my palm, an amused smile on her lips.
I frown. “Why are you smiling?”
“I’m a naturally happy person,” Trish replies as we start down the hall. “Also, you may have the worst case of OCD I’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I mutter.
“You know I love ya,” Trish says, nudging me with her elbow playfully.
I barely dodge a freshman who’s sprinting at top speed down the hall. I decide against yelling at him to slow down, but I cast a glare in his direction.
“Freshman,” Trish says with a shake of her head. “Thinking they own the school. Am I right? Am I right?” When I don’t respond, she waves a hand in front of my face. “Uh, Bee. Hello?” She draws her hand back and laughs. “What are you looking at? You look like you saw a…” She trails off when she follows my gaze. “Like you saw a Jean.”
There he is. Standing there. By his locker. With his friends. Looking so… so… Jean.
“And we’re walking…” Trish reminds me, steering me around a small group of people so I don’t flatten them all to the ground. “And you’re breathing, and blinking,” she adds, so I do.
Once we’ve rounded the corner, my heart is at its normal pace and my breathing is even. Trish shakes her head, grinning in that knowing way of hers.
“Can you stop looking at me like that?”
She lets out an exasperated breath. “When are you gonna get over him?”
“You can’t just get over someone.”
Trish thinks for a moment. “I think you just need to switch targets. I mean, look around you. There are plenty of other guys at Redstone.”
I roll my eyes. “Jean isn’t any guy. He’s Jean.” I say it matter-of-factly even though I’m not sure what ‘he’s Jean’ means.
As usual, Trish looks amused. “Oh yeah? And what’s so special about Jean? He’s on the football team?”
“You know I don’t care about sports.”
“His looks?” Trish probes.
“Do you really think I’m that low?” I ask defensively, but it may be partially true.
I don’t supply her with an answer, because I don’t have one. The two of us sit down in Mr. Vandyke’s chemistry classroom at our lab table, Trish on my right and the window on my left. I look out at the schoolyard, where children are playing and chasing each other. Our school has three wings, one for each level. Elementary, middle school, and of course, high school. I don’t see why they don’t just have three separate buildings, but sometimes I like watching the kids playing. Free to do as they will, play imaginary games and make friends with whoever they want. There aren’t social barriers when you’re that young; anyone can hang out with anyone.
How I miss those years.
Mr. Vandyke calls the class to attention, and I turn away from the window. I pull my stack of college-ruled paper from my chemistry binder and set it neatly on the desk in front of me, my black pen and Trish’s red one at the ready.
“As promised, I graded all of the module one quizzes over the weekend and I’m about to hand them out. I asked you to bring the red pen to class today because we’ll be going over it together.” He points to a raised hand. “Yes, Tony.”
“Didn’t you say that we’d be switching lab partners this week?” Tony asks, and his lab partner- his girlfriend- elbows him in the ribs.
“Man, I hoped he’d forget about that,” I whisper to Trish.
Trish raises an eyebrow. “Perhaps your new lab partner will be Mr. King himself…”
I roll my eyes. “Oh, please. I’m not that lucky.”
I let my gaze fall to Jean anyway. He’s seated on the other side of the room, and of course his current lab partner is Veronica. It gives me a sense of evil satisfaction that they’re about to be split up. Not permanently, but what’s wrong with dreaming?
I’m not paired up with Jean. I knew I wouldn’t be, but I still feel a sliver of disappointment. My new lab partner is Jonathon Vessel, but everyone calls him J. He’s pretty much Jean’s best friend, and if he wasn’t such a jerk I might consider talking to him.
My lab partner isn’t nearly as bad as Trish’s. I know it’s cruel, but I have to hold back a smile at her expression of pure horror when she’s paired up with Queen Veronica Hayes.
Jean and one of Veronica’s friends (Casey Newman, I think?) are seated in the lab table in front of mine. It turns out that Jean’s hair looks just as good from the back as it does from the front.
My heart practically leaps out of my chest when he turns around, and for a moment I think he’s going to talk to me.
“Hey, did Coach Ashby tell you if practice is on for today?” The question is directed at J.
“Nah, he’s gotta go to his daughter’s soccer game. He said we can have the field if we wanna get some extra sprints in, though.”
Jean grins. “You gonna?”
“Probably. If I don’t got anywhere better to be,” J says coolly. He turns to me. “How ‘bout you?”
I feel my cheeks go red. “Huh?”
J lets out a loud laugh, and I realize he was messing with me. I fold my arms across my chest and turn to look back out the window, trying to hide my blush.
“J was just messing with you,” Jean says, and when I turn to look at him he’s smiling at me. “Just ignore him.”
“Girls can’t ignore me, King.” As if to prove a point, J taps Casey on the shoulder and winks when she turns around. “Lookin’ good today, Case.”
Casey rolls her eyes, and I do the same inwardly.
Jean smirks. “Like I said.”
– – –
“Why is it that both of us got jerky lab partners?”
Trish and I are walking to lunch, both carrying lunchboxes. We gave up on cafeteria food years ago. Mine is a plain blue fabric one, and Trish’s is decorated with signatures of her family and sketches her older sister Julia drew for her. I wish I had a big sister. Trish is about the closest I have, but she’s only two months older than me.
“Hey, at least you didn’t get Ms. ‘I rule the school and its inhabitants are my loyal subjects.’ And she was using her cell under the table, so she kept needing to ask me for answers. Like seriously, just put the phone away and try using some brain power. The girl could use a day in the real world.”
I laugh. “Agreed.”
We take a seat at our usual table, a circular one at the far side of the room. People tend to gravitate toward the center, so we’ve claimed the edge as our own.
Trish unzips her lunchbox. “Isn’t Mr. Dreamy eyes sitting at the table in front of yours?”
“If you mean Jean, yes,” I reply, unloading my own lunch. Turkey sandwich again?
“Did he talk to you?” Trish urges. “I mean, you are sitting next to his best friend. He’s bound to at some point.”
When my eyes drop to my food, Trish gasps. “He did? Details, girl! Why haven’t you already told me about this?”
“It’s not a big deal,” I insist. “He just apologized to me about J’s behavior. He was being a… jerk.”
Trish smirks. “I don’t see why you don’t just swear. I know you want to.”
“I don’t like to swear,” I say simply. “It shows lack of education. You shouldn’t need to use dirty language to express a point if you have a good vocabulary.”
“Hm. I still prefer to swear,” Trish says, and takes a bite of her salad. Through a mouthful of spinach and cucumbers she adds, “J’s a total bitch.”
I don’t bother pointing out that he’s a guy and a bitch is a female dog. Instead I say, “So has Alex asked you to homecoming?”
“Not yet. Anyway, I think I’m going to ask him instead. I’d rather not wait for the chicken to grow his wings,” she grins. “How about you? Are you gonna ask somebody to homecoming?”
My shoulders slump. “Like who? It’s not like…” I trail off, my mind wandering to Jean, who would never ask someone like me to homecoming.
“There are a bunch of guys you could ask. I bet J would take you. He’d take any girl with a pretty face.” When she sees my glare she adds, “Gosh, I’m kidding! Haven’t you learned not to take me seriously?”
I roll my eyes.
“No, but seriously. Yeah, yeah… I know I just told you not to take me seriously. Disregard that for the next few minutes, okay? Let’s go through some options. How about… Tony Nickson?”
“He’s dating Chloe now, remember?”
Trish blinks. “Oh, yeah. Well, he’s got bad acne anyway. Who else?”
“Thanks Trish, but its fine. I probably won’t go to homecoming,” I say.
“Not go to homecoming? You can’t not go,” Trish insists. “Hey. How about if neither of us gets dates, we just go together as friends? It’s better than being alone or not going at all.”
“Of course you’ll get a date,” I mumble. “You’re Patricia Lederman. You’re the girl who everybody admires just because you do whatever you want.”
“You know it,” Trish says with a grin. “And you’re Beatrice Fisher, the most adorable girl in eleventh grade, possibly at Redstone, and definitely the smartest. And the best writer, and the most organized…”
“But nobody knows those things,” I point out. “I mean, the last three things. I’m so not adorable.”
“But your eyes though,” Trish pleads. “They’re like… so big! You look like a little bunny with big brown eyes.”
“So I’m a bunny now?”
Trish winks. “A wicked cute one.”
I can’t help smiling. “Okay, but still… no one will ask me. And even if they do, what if I’m too nervous to say yes? I always lose control of my mouth when I’m talking to guys.”
“Some guys,” she says, giving me a pointed look.
I sigh. “Going to homecoming means I’ll have to see Jean and Veronica together. And they’re disgusting at dances. Veronica’s so clingy.” I wrinkle my nose. “I shouldn’t go.”
Trish moans. “If you don’t stop making excuses, I’m going to pay some guy to ask you.”
“I’ll just say no.”
“Then I guess I’d have to pay you to say yes.”
I frown. “What if I still say no?”
“Then I’ll pay the militia to bring you to the school and lock you in during the dance.”
Trish and I just stare at each other for a moment.
“Since when do you have so much money?” I finally ask, and that’s all it takes to bring the two of us into a laughing fit.
– – –
Homecoming comes up during dinner tonight, as well. I’m raising a forkful of spaghetti to my mouth when Mom says, “So, Beatrice, has anyone asked you to homecoming yet?”
My fork freezes mid-bite. I hate having these conversations with my family; it’s like they don’t understand that I’m not popular, and boys basically see through me.
“Not yet. I don’t know if I’m going to go.”
Mom’s smile falls. “What? Beatrice, you can’t skip homecoming.” She and my dad exchange a smile. “It was homecoming at junior year that your father and I met.”
I roll my eyes. “I know. You only tell me every time school dances come up. Anyway, I don’t plan on meeting my ‘soulmate’… at least, not for a while. Like, after college.” I don’t add that I don’t want to be with anyone if it isn’t Jean.
“Come on, honey,” Mom says. “You’ll have a good time! If you don’t go with a boy, you can at least hang out with Trish, right?”
“I guess, but she’ll probably be going with Alex Hoffman.”
Peter, my eight year old brother, perks up at the name. “Alex Hoffman? That’s Jack’s big brother. He’s super cool.”
“Yeah, Trish likes him a lot.” I say, cutting a meatball into fourths. “He’s a bit shy, though, so she’s going to ask him to the dance.”
Peter’s eyebrows furrow. “That’s weird. Shouldn’t the boy ask the girl?”
“It can be either way,” I explain. I can almost hear Trish’s reaction: ‘Sexist much?”
“You should really think about this, Bee,” Mom says. “School dances are important, even if they don’t seem like it at your age. Right, sweetie?”
Dad swallows his food. “Yep. You only get to go to high school once. Make some good memories. You’ll wish you could go back to those years later in life, trust me.”
“I hope you mean after you met me,” Mom teases.
“Of course,” Dad laughs, grabbing her hand and kissing it.
Peter and I exchange a disgusted look.
When I get up into my room, I flop down on my bed and sigh. Today was a long day, as most days are. Eleventh grade is so overrated. I remember wishing I could be a junior for years, and now that I am I want to renounce it.
But still, I need to do well in school if I hope to get into a good university- ivy league, preferably- and lead a successful life. If I’m going to be a top-level journalist in NYC, I need to have impressive credentials.
I consider getting up to write another article for my blog, The Hive, but before I can make myself move my phone beeps. I grab it off of the nightstand and type in my passcode. It used to be ‘Jean’, before my mom needed to get onto my phone for a recipe and I realized how problematic that password was. I’d probably hide under a blanket for the rest of my life if I had to reveal it to someone.
After adding one letter, however, I was able to keep it. Just an ‘S’ at the end, making my passcode ‘Jeans.’ Now I can just pretend I’m talking about blue pants. Pretty clever, eh?
I have a text from Trish.
Trish_da_Queen: Call me.
BeatriceRFisher: Is something wrong?
Trish doesn’t respond, so I dial her number and put the phone to my ear.
She answers on the first ring, her voice coming quickly and hurriedly. “Girl, you gotta get down here!”
My heart is racing. “Get down where? What’s going on?”
“Huge party at J’s place. Everyone’s going!” She lowers her voice, and I can hear the sound of people talking and laughing in the background. “Even Jean.”
I roll my eyes. “You know I don’t like parties. Plus, my parents would never let me go.”
“Have you ever asked them to go to a party?” Trish demands.
“Well, no, but-”
“And aren’t your parents all ‘make memories’ and ‘find your true love’ and ‘you only live once’?”
I roll my eyes. “Sorta, but I-”
“Good. I’ll text you the address. Bring your swimsuit.”
“Swimsuit? But it’s almost October.”
“Dude, J’s parents are rich. Haven’t you ever heard of indoor pools?” She sighs as if this is totally obvious. “See you when you get here.” Trish hangs up.
I set the phone down. Its six o’clock on a school night. No way will Mom and Dad let me go. Why is J having a party today, anyway?
I almost want them to say no, so I don’t bother asking carefully.
“Some guy at my school is throwing an indoor pool party at his house and Trish thinks I should go. She’s there now.” I say it right when I get into the kitchen, where Mom and Dad are baking. They have random ‘baking sprees’ where they make too many treats for us to ever eat.
“On a school night?” Dad asks, bewildered.
“Let her go, Roger,” Mom says calmly. “It’s good for her to get out of the house. And this is such a great opportunity for her to meet people! Maybe a boy will even ask her to that dance.”
“You know what? I change my-” I start, but Mom stops me.
“You aren’t backing out now, Beatrice. You’re going to this party. Do you want me to drive you?”
How the tables have turned.
“I can drive myself,” I mumble. “I need to get dressed first, anyway.”
“Be home by ten,” Dad says.
“Eleven-thirty,” Mom corrects. “Have fun!”
– – –
It takes a while to find Trish in the maze of people, and when I do I’m not sure I should interrupt her. She and Alex are sitting at the edge of the pool with their feet dangling in the water, talking quietly and laughing.
I stand a few feet away pathetically for a few moments before Trish spots me and waves me over. I set my purse on an empty chair a few feet behind them, before pulling my dress over my head and going to meet them.
“Cute bathing suit,” Trish says when I sit beside her. “I’ve never seen a one-piece I’ve liked as much as that one.” She adds. She always finds a way to slip some sarcasm into a conversation.
“I like yours too,” I reply. “I didn’t know such a small amount of fabric could be made into an article of clothing.”
Alex laughs and reaches past Trish to give me a high five. “Nice one.”
I grin and slap his hand.
The door on the opposite side of the room swings open, and Veronica storms in. She’s wearing a purple bikini that shows more skin than I’d like to see, but I can’t seem to make myself look away. The last time I saw her this angry was when J dumped her in sixth grade. I feel a sense of hope that I know I should be ashamed of but can’t suppress.
Jean enters the room a moment later, scanning the pool area and letting his gaze fall on Veronica. He crosses the room to meet her, and soon they’re engaged in a loud whisper conversation. Everyone else in the room seems to be focused on the couple as well, though they try to hide it by swimming or whispering among themselves. There’s just a heavy silence that hangs in the air.
After a minute, Veronica’s expression has softened and she laughs at something Jean says. Just like that, everything’s fine.
“Those two are like my parents,” Trish says quietly. “They argue and argue but they can’t seem to leave each other.” She gives me a said smile. “Sorry, Bee.”
“Sorry?” Alex repeats, amused.
I elbow Trish, but she says it anyway. “Bee has a thing for Jean.”
“I do not!” I exclaim, but my reddened cheeks give it away.
“Don’t sweat it,” Alex laughs. “My lips are sealed.”
Jean and Veronica are in the water now, following each other around and talking. If I didn’t know how rude Veronica was, I’d probably think she’s beautiful.
“Do you want to swim?” Trish asks, following my gaze.
I don’t respond, so she grabs my hand and pulls me to my feet.
“I’ll just watch,” Alex says, leaning back on his hands.
Trish smirks. “Have fun with that.”
We go to the deep end, which is eight feet deep and crystal clear. Trish jumps first, and I’m still hesitating by the time her head breaks the surface again.
“Come on!” She calls, and I look up at the watching eyes embarrassedly. Jean is looking up at me, and I suddenly feel exposed in my bathing suit- even though I’m wearing more than any other girl here.
The surface of the water breaks into an explosion of bubbles as I plunge through it, clutching my knees to my chest and squeezing my eyes shut. Once the foam fizzes out, I push off the bottom and swim up for air.
Trish is sitting on the ladder and gives me a thumbs up. Jean has gone back to talking with Veronica.
– – –
I decide to head home before someone brings out alcohol or something. I’ve never really been to high school parties, but I’ve heard that that’s something they usually entail. I get home at eight-thirty and head up to my room without stopping in the kitchen. Mom and Dad will see the car parked outside and know I’m home.
I change into pajamas and grab my laptop from my desk. I push my many pillows back against the headboard of my bed and lay against them, before setting my computer on my lap and opening it.
Five notifications are awaiting me on my blog, so I eagerly read them. Two new followers, two likes and a comment.
It reads: I’ve read three of your articles now, and I think they’d be better categorized as persuasive writing. You seem to have a lot of feeling in them, more so than actual facts and statistics. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. You just might want to figure out if you really know your genre.
I close my laptop. I’d never really thought of that. I could try to limit the bias in my writing and stick to truth rather than opinion, but then, I’m an emotional person. I have more feeling than I can handle, anyway.
I turn out the light and think of Jean until I fall asleep.