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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

September 20: Oktoberfest begins (Germany)

Nikki and I went to “study” tonight at the library. Columbus has the sickest library you’ve ever seen. It’s this big, cavernous lump of red bricks and glass, and the interior is straight off the Sci Fi Channel. It was designed by I. M. Pei. He’s a Chinese guy who is, as far as I know, The World’s Coolest Library Maker.

I put quotation marks around “study” because it’s impossible to be diligent with Nikki around. She’s too damn loquacious. I call her Miss Quack Quack when she gets like this.

“I mean, the problem is, now that this skateboarding magazine that features him is out there, he’s become a total celebrity. Luke Barton, pro skateboarder! I actually saw him get groped in the hallway today. I can already see him starring in some extreme-sports-themed version of a cheesy hip-hop video, with a bevy of smiling half-naked sophomores dousing his silk boxers with champagne. It’s just like me to fall for a rock star at the apex of his career, you know?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“I mean, the kid could run for mayor. It totally sucks. At this point, if a prominent senior hottie steps to Luke, I don’t have a snowball’s chance in you know where.” She looked down and shook her head, all distraught.

“Shhh,” a faceless voice from the other side of the garden said. Nikki made a “talk to the hand” motion in the direction it came from.

“But Nikki, you like challenges,” I said, giving her a maternal pat on the leg. “You like guys who are hard to get. That’s one of the things we love about you.”

“That’s true. And I know I can land him. I’m not worried. Hey, you wanna look at the magazine again?”

“Please no,” I begged. “Not again.”

But it was too late. From her backpack, Nikki pulled out a tattered copy of SK8R magazine. She turned to the dog-eared page. “Just look at him,” she said, tilting the magazine for me to scrutinize his photo, once again. I had to admit, he was more appealing—aesthetically at least—on paper than he was in reality.

“He’s like an angel on wheels,” she said, dreamily. “A flying cherub.

“Well if you’re so gaga over him, why don’t you just throw yourself at him?” I asked.

“No! Don’t you see? That’s exactly what I can’t do. I have to be subtle, so I stand out from all his groupies. I can’t just slink up to his locker, batting my eyelashes and showing off my cleavage like a skank. I need time and space for him to notice me. I mean, my problem is . . . what I’m missing is . . .”

“A chromosome?” I suggested.

“What? No. I’m missing that thing where you happen to end up at the same party with the right guy because you know the same people through six degrees of separation. You know what I mean?”

“You mean context,” I said authoritatively.

“Exactly! Context. I mean, I don’t have a single class with Luke. Even you, you have AP English. You play on the soccer team. You probably see him some out at the fields, in those short shorts.”

“Not really.” For some reason, I had been too abashed to tell Nikki about the “hey goalie, nice butt” incident with Luke. “The boys’ and girls’ teams don’t mix much.”

“Well, I need to get some Luke context somehow.”

“Force it,” I said.


“Force it,” I said. “Create the context.”

She ruminated on that for a second, then shot me a confused look. “What’s that supposed to mean? You saying I should start a skateboarding club or something?”

“You don’t skateboard,” I said. “That would make you a hardcore tool.”

“Ahem,” a voice interrupted.

We both looked up. It was Eric Crowther. He’s essentially a prep/hood hybrid. Too erudite and well-off to be a card-carrying hood, but too stoned and sartorially handicapped to be a prep. At the end of sophomore year, after I had a major growth spurt that led to an accretion of five inches, four guys decided at once that I was no longer “compact” but “hot.” Eric was one of those four suitors from the now-famous Francesca Bidding War, which boosted my social status at Columbus High. Eric lost the auction, of course, to Jeremy, for reasons no more substantive than Nikki’s claim that Jeremy was the “highest draft pick.” Now Eric stood above us, his pale blue eyes at half-mast, his expression stoic.

“Why is it . . .” he asked, stroking an imaginary goatee, “that some people go to the library to talk?”

It seemed like a rhetorical question. We didn’t answer. Eric shook his head and walked away.

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