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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel
  

April 1: April Fool’s Day

On the plane ride back, I thought a lot about Nikki. I knew that if we were ever going to reconcile, drastic measures were needed. I had a few tricks left in my arsenal that might get us talking again. Conner and I had done a quick analysis of all our favorite eighties movies on our second walk on the beach and thinking about Say Anything—the one where adorable John Cusack does everything he can to win over Ione Sky—gave me an idea.

So last night, I threw on some clothes, grabbed my boom box and sped over to Nikki’s house. Walked around to the back of their house, bribing Duffy, their golden retriever, with some Snausages I’d brought for this express purpose. Pulled the cassette tape out of my pocket, popped it in the deck and pressed play. The music was so loud—such an egregious interruption to the neighborhood’s sedateness—that I had the urge to run away. But I didn’t. I stood my ground and even furthered my Cusack-ness by lifting the boom box over my head.

“Don’t cryyyy out louuuud! Just reach deep inside, and learn how to hide your feelings . . .”

Nikki and I used to do karaoke performances to this song, for an audience of stuffed animals. We wore Sunday School dresses and used spoons as microphones. Just as lights started flipping on at the next-door-neighbor’s, Nikki lifted her window.

“Turn that off!” she yelled. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Are you coming down to talk?” I asked.

“No!”

“Then I won’t turn it off . . . Don’t cryyyy out louuuud!”

“I should call the cops on you.”

“Double-dog dare you,” I said.

“Turn that off, Fran! My parents are gonna kill you.”

“Are you coming down?” I beckoned.

“All right, all right. Just turn that thing off.”

In a matter of minutes, Nikki was right out there in the yard with me. I wanted to run up and hug her, but I knew that wasn’t how the old foot-in-the-door technique worked. It would take some patience to seal the deal. Without saying a word, Nikki walked past me and sat down on the bench back by the shrubbery.

“Thanks for coming out,” I said. “How was Jamaica?”

“It was fine,” she said brusquely. “Start talking.”

“I’m so sorry, Nikki,” I said. “Sorrier than the sorriest sorry, really I am. Please forgive me.”

“For what?” Nikki crossed her arms and stared straight ahead.

“For, um, for making you so upset, when you didn’t understand what was—”

Nikki stood up and looked poised to walk away.

“Okay!” I said. “That’s not what I meant.”

She sat back down.

“I guess what I’m sorry for is that I wasn’t always totally honest with you about Luke.”

“You guess?”

“Basically, yeah. I mean, nothing really ever happened between us. We never did anything. But—but we almost did.”

Nikki cringed. “When?” she asked.

“After his aunt died. He started to cry, so I hugged him. And then there was this moment, and it did seem like he was going to kiss me, but he ended up just kissing me on the cheek instead.”

She looked away, then back. “Okay. You know what—I don’t want to hear this. Just tell me, do you like him?”

I let out a shaky breath. There it was, the million-dollar question. I hadn’t said it out loud, ever. I’ve barely even written it in here!

“I guess I kind of do.” I looked at her, my heart aching. “Do you hate me now?”

She was silent for just about the longest moment in the history of time. “No,” she finally said, so softly I could barely hear. “At least you can admit it now. That was the worst part, feeling like you were lying to me.”

I wanted so badly to give her a big hug. “I’ve missed you so much, Nikki. Over break, every time I thought about you I would get so despondent.

“Yeah, me, too.” She sighed. “So what are you going to do about Jeremy?”

I blinked, confused. Then I realized that for the first time in forever, Nikki was in the dark about a huge development in my life. “I forgot you didn’t know,” I said. “Jeremy and I broke up.”

“Really? For good?”

“Well, I think it was officially labeled a break. But we’ll see.”

“Why? Because of Luke?”

“No,” I said. “Because I wouldn’t have sex with him.”

“Oh. Well, I’m sorry then. That sucks.”

Her slight note of sympathy just made me hungry for more. “But you know what? If I lose Jeremy, I do. But you . . . that I couldn’t handle. And I couldn’t wait until tomorrow. Which is why I came over here to play our song and make up.”

“You’re crazy.” She let a little laugh escape, a faint glimmer of hope.

“Maybe so, but losing you would make me certifiably, stark raving mad.”

“I doubt that.”

“Please, please take me back, Nikki. You are everything to me, the one and only confidante I ever want and need.”

“Easy on the cheese,” she said.

“So, am I forgiven then?” I asked.

“You’re not only forgiven, but I’m officially dropping out of the Luke race. He’s yours.”

“No. You don’t have to do that. It would probably be best for me to be alone for—”

Nikki put her hand on my leg. “Trust me, Francesca. I don’t want him anymore. The truth is, I think I was over him a while ago. It was more like an ego thing, you know? It drove me crazy that he didn’t want me.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Since when are you so self-aware?” I asked.

She bit back a smile. “Well . . . . there’s something new on my end, too,” she admitted.

“What is it? Spill!” I demanded.

She giggled, then leaned in closer, lowering her voice. “Turns out, Dennis Dalelio’s family went to Jamaica for spring break, too,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “Same hotel as us and everything.”

“Oh my God—so, wait, are you guys together?”

She shrugged. “We’ll see,” she said. “There was definite kissage happening, I’ll say that much.”

I almost shrieked, then clapped my hand over my mouth as I remembered we were in Nikki’s garden in the middle of the night.

“So the point is, I think you should just go for Luke,” Nikki said. “Really.”

I frowned. “I’m happy for you and Dennis, Nik,” I said, “and it’s really nice of you to be okay about the me and Luke thing. But honestly, I don’t think it’s happening anyway. After we fought, before Jeremy broke up with me, I went to see Luke at Jitterz and kind of made a big stupid scene. I told him I couldn’t see him anymore, at all.”

Nikki winced. “Because of me?” she said.

I nodded. “Yeah, because of you, and Jeremy. I just thought it was the right thing to do. But I said everything all wrong, and I don’t even think it matters because it doesn’t seem like Luke’s into me either.”

“I’m sorry,” Nikki said, putting her arm around me. “I really am.”

I forced a smile, pushing Luke out of my mind. “It’s okay. You know why? Because as long as I have you back, I don’t need any of those guys.”

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