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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel
  

February 8 (Later)

Nikki showed up at Viewpoint Books tonight, in the middle of my first shift. I was glad to see her, because after a week of debating, I knew I had to tell her about the lesson I was having with Luke. Especially now that we had a real date and everything. I mean, not a date date—you know what I mean!

Keeping a secret from your BF is one thing, but you just don’t do that to your BFF. I just hoped I could make her understand that this had nothing to do with what had gone down between them. I mean, she was the one who had the idea in the first place that I could use some help with my SAT score, right?

But it turned out I didn’t even have to worry. Because before I could say anything, she came out with her big news—Luke had asked her out on a “real date,” with dinner and everything.

“Wow. I don’t know what to say.” I really didn’t. It was a total turnaround.

“Say you’re happy for me!” she said, her silly, goofy grin getting even sillier and goofier. “Fran, this is exactly what we wanted!”

We? Somehow I was having trouble mustering a silly, goofy grin of my own.

But it was okay, because she didn’t seem to care about my reaction. She was too busy raving about how this was her watershed moment and she needed my advice. I kept shushing her and admonishing her to pretend she was a customer, but she was too elated to calm down. Finally, I convinced the manager to let me take my break then because my friend here had a personal emergency.

“So, what night are you going out?” I asked as we walked toward the food court.

“Well, he originally said Thursday at lunch, but then something came up later so he called to ask if we could go on Wednes—”

“You mean, this Thursday?” I asked.

“No, I said we changed it until Wednesday.”

“But you originally had it planned for this Thursday?”

“Uh, yeaa-uuh. Fran, that is so not the crux of the story. Sometimes it amazes me that you can be so smart and yet so clueless. Anyway . . . .”

Nikki continued on a mile a minute, but my brain was stuck like a CD skipping. He said his Thursday night plans could be changed. So he rescheduled their date around . . . us? Why would he have done that? Didn’t a first official date with Nikki rate higher than a stupid vocabulary lesson with me?

“ . . . So what do you think, Fran? Should I do it?” she asked.

“Huh?” I asked, snapped from my reverie. “I’m sorry. What?”

“Okay, I’m going to say it slowly for the hard-of-hearing here. Should . . . I . . . ask . . . Luke . . . to . . . the . . . Valentine’s . . . Day . . . Dance?”

“Oh,” I said. “That. I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“Why not? You were supposed to say yes.”

“I think you know why,” I said. “Who was it again that told me that relationships are like a teeter-totter, and since guys are inherently heavier, girls need to do whatever it takes to maintain the balance and weigh down their side?”

“Did I say that?” Nikki scrunched up her face, confounded. “If so, I was just talking trash, because that analogy doesn’t even make sense. As a woman, you want to be the one in the air, up on a pedestal.”

I picked a straw wrapper off the table and crumpled it with my fingers. “Exactly. You want to be the exalted one, which is why you should not ask him and not mention the dance at all. Let him pursue you.”

“Yeah, that sounds great. But then who do I go to the dance with?”

“Who knows? Maybe Luke’s already planning to invite you.”

“But what if he’s not?”

“Who cares?” I posited. “At worst, you miss the stupid Valentine’s Day Dance. At best, you go with someone else. I’ll bet you’ve already turned some poor guy down anyway.”

“No . . . I mean, just one.”

“Who?”

“Brant Durgin.”

“What? But he’s so cute! You used to always flirt with him.”

“Yeah, but that was when he was going out with Vanessa. I just wanted to see if I could tempt him.”

“You’re awful.” I smiled and leaned against the booth. My fingers were ripping the straw wrapper into shreds. “Listen, the thing is, it’s a game. You’re the one who taught me that, Nikki. Sometimes it helps to show a guy you don’t need him.”

Nikki cocked her head to the side, staring at me like she was only just now seeing me there across from her. “You know, sometimes I feel like you only give me one type of advice with Luke. I don’t know whether to listen, because you’re always telling me to hold back. Is there something more—something you’re not saying?”

“What are you talking about?” I said, my heart skipping a beat. “What, like I have some kind of ulterior motive?” I met her gaze, then looked away, feeling suddenly awkward.

“You said it, not me,” Nikki said. “All I know is that you never seem like you really want us to get together. Even now, when he’s doing everything right.”

“That’s crazy,” I said, forcing out a laugh. “I have a boyfriend, and you’re my best friend. You asked my advice, and I gave it.” I shook my head at her for a second, letting it sink in. “You know what? Do whatever you want.” I glanced down at a watch that wasn’t there. “I have to get back to work.”

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