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an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

Chapter Eight

Part 1

The very next day I received a yellow slip informing me that I had a package waiting for me at the student post office. I was so psyched I didn’t even give myself time to deliberate about what I was going to say. I grabbed my coat and ran for the post office, giddy over my impending success. The plan, I believed, was totally foolproof.

Of course, minutes later, I realized my folly. As soon as I was face-to-face with Jon, I was reminded once again of just how much he loathed me. He handed over my package with a sneer.

“Do I have to sign for it or anything?” I asked.

Jon merely grunted and rolled his eyes, then went about his business.

My self-assurance plummeted. Danielle must have been insane to think that he had anything other than hostile feelings toward me. What was I thinking? This was never going to work.

Still, I was there, so I figured I may as well give it the old college try.

“I’ve been waiting for this for days,” I said to the nearly empty post office.

Mr. Smoot glanced at me without much interest, and even Jon didn’t give me that much. I tore open the white FedEx box right there and made a big show of extracting my snowboard, pretending it was harder to free than it was. I made so much noise that it whetted Jon’s curiosity and he grudgingly turned around.

Perfect timing. I saw his eyes widen as the bubble wrap fell away and I produced one of my most prized possessions—my Burton snowboard, light blue with swirls of purple and dark blue along the edges.

“Wow,” Jon said, then blushed. He had clearly spoken inadvertently.

“Nice, isn’t it?” I said.

Jon hesitated before answering, then took a step closer to the window. “Is that a Custom?” he asked, eyeing my board in a covetous manner.

“Nope, it’s a Feelgood. I’ve taken this thing all over the place with me—Tahoe . . . Denver . . . Aspen . . . .”

I hadn’t actually boarded at all those slopes, but I had to fabricate an impressive boarding history. It was crucial to my plan that he know I wasn’t just some neophyte boarder—that I was the real deal.

“How nice for you,” Jon said, the sneer returning. Then he turned his back on me yet again. My confidence deflated slightly. That was it? That was all he was going to give me?

“I take it you board?” I asked, leaning my Burton against the counter.

“Some,” he replied.

God! Cut me some slack, would ya?

“Any good slopes around here?” I asked.

“Some,” he replied again.

Ugh! I was so totally going to knock this kid’s block off. I had two choices. I could throw myself at his mercy and implore him to show me where the slopes were, then hope that he would hang out with me long enough to make some inroads with him. Or, I could do what an actual normal person would do if they were being treated in such a repugnant way—walk out.

I mused on the matter for a moment, then decided that a guy like Jon, if he was going to respond at all, would respond to the latter course of action.

“Great. Thanks for all your help,” I said sarcastically. I gathered up my stuff and walked out as slowly as I could without arousing suspicion. I was just about to cut my losses and push through the door when Jon’s voice stopped me.

“Hold up,” he said.

I grinned. Maybe there was a gullible bone in his body. Before turning around, I made sure to rearrange my face into a bored, annoyed mask quite like the one he was sporting.

“What?” I asked.

Jon came around the counter and approached me, still eyeing my board in a semi-daze. It was almost as if he thought the very idea of my being a snowboarder was preposterous—he looked that surprised. As exultant as I had been on Christmas morning last year when my mother had given me the snowboard, I was even happier now. Thank God she had dipped into the savings and bought the high-end deck. It was clearly having a profound effect on Jon.

I also noticed that he was even cuter when he forgot to scowl.

He took a deep breath before jumping in. “Look, me and a couple of guys go up to this mountain on the weekends to get in a few hours,” he said, eyeing me as if he still were unsure about whether or not he should say what he was about to say. “You can come if you want. I mean, if you’re any good.”

I had a feeling that Jon inviting anyone to do anything was a totally unprecedented occurrence. If Danielle were with me, she would have been saying, “See? I told you so!”

Still, I had to perpetuate the persona I had assumed in the last couple of minutes—that I was impatient and as rude as he was, and that I found his behavior totally irritating. It wasn’t that difficult to pull off.

“Wow! I am totally blown away by your largesse,” I said, dropping my jaw for good measure, “Thank you so much for deeming me worthy enough to board with you and your pals!”

“Hey. I was just trying to be nice.”

“A little late, don’t you think?”

Then I turned and pushed the door open so hard it swung out and slammed back against the outside wall. I think I even knocked a couple of rocks free from the corroding fa_ade. Oops.

Storming away was risky, I know. He could easily have rescinded the invitation, but I had a feeling my new attitude would prove too intriguing to him. I was right.

“We meet in the parking lot Saturday morning at eight if you change your mind!” he called after me before the door slammed in his face.

I couldn’t help grinning as I trudged through the slush and snow back toward my dorm, gratified by my performance. If only my mother could see me now.

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