Someone To Love
“Liv? Could you put your phone down, please?” Mom asks. She places her napkin on the table like she’s about to make a serious announcement.
“Yeah. One sec,” I say, rapidly texting Sam back.
LIV: Gotta go. Txt later :-)
I was supposed to hang out with him after taking yearbook photos yesterday, but I just felt like locking myself in my bedroom after the disaster with Jackson, so I gave him an excuse about not feeling well. I’m a terrible friend. I need to make it up to him.
Mr. Barrios has waded his way back to the bar. I really wish I could join him. Maybe he could buy me one of those famous Musso martinis. I could use one.
The buzz would help deaden the anxiety whirling in my stomach. I think about my conversation with Jackson—rehashing every tiny word and action over and over in my mind—until I convince myself that Jackson and all his friends, especially Zach, think I’m a freak who just wants to party with the popular people.
I’m feeling more nauseous by the second.
I’m just getting up to go to the bathroom when I realize Dad’s been trying to get my attention.
“Honeybee,” he says. He’s been calling me that since I stepped on a bee at my friend’s birthday at Griffith Park nearly ten years ago. “Don’t go just yet. I have something to tell the both of you.”
“Ugh,” I say and sit back down. “I have to pee. What is it?”
Mom puts a hand on his arm. The news is something she’s been anticipating. I’ve always been able to read her. And Dad? He’s an open book. He’ll tell anyone whatever he’s thinking at any given moment. No secrets there. I guess that’s something people admire about him, but I don’t understand. Everyone needs a secret to call their own.
“There’s a reason we went out on a school night,” he says.
“What is it?” I ask absentmindedly, thinking about how much homework I have to get done tonight. I have at least two hours’ worth. It’s going to be a late night.
Dad jolts me back into reality.
“I’m running for governor of California,” he says.
My stomach drops.
“We’ve been waiting to tell you,” Mom says, her face full of joy. I’m pretty sure the expression on my face is communicating the otherworldliness of this announcement.
“Really?” I ask. “Are you serious?”
“Couldn’t be more serious,” he says.
I should be happy for him, happy for his achievements, but this is terrible news. This means even more attention on the family and more stress during my junior year, which everyone knows is the hardest school year ever, especially since I have to start studying for the SAT, working on my portfolio and thinking about art school—or at least how I’m going to convince my parents to let me go there instead of a regular university.
All eyes are going to be on us. That means I have to be more perfect than ever. Stronger. Nothing should be able to take me down. Not food. Not school. Not this election.
I push the lettuce around on my plate and crush the croutons with my fork while Mom and Dad talk like old high school lovers, excited about this new opportunity.
“This is exactly what we need. Imagine not having to fly to Washington all the time.” I can tell that, in her mind, Mom is already decorating and ordering furniture for a new house. “We’ll live in the governor’s mansion. Sacramento is so lovely, and I miss having seasons.”
The timing couldn’t be worse.
My entire junior year is going to be taken up by this campaign. Probably part of my senior year too. Everything will be about him. Like always. Not to mention I may have to live in Sacramento for half of my senior year.
Sacramento? I mean, seriously, what’s in Sacramento? A river?
Let me say it again: There’s. No. Way.
Might as well join the Mars Colony. They’re taking hip young up-and-coming artists ostracized from their power-hungry families, aren’t they? Sign me up.
A campaign for governor changes everything. Forget making any friends, let alone hooking up with Zach Park. Dad winning the governorship would ruin all that. And Dad’s scarily good at winning elections.
Fine. I’m just going to say it. Not out loud, but I’m going to say it in my head because it’s all I can think. I hope he loses. I hope his campaign completely tanks. There. Said it. I just need to get on the ball and focus on getting invited to Zach’s boat party.
That’s my only chance to get on his radar and to ask for LeFeber’s advice. I have to start living my best life. Stop constantly overthinking things and doubting myself.
No more being a wallflower.
No more being known only as the congressman’s daughter.
Or Mason and Royce’s little sister.
I have to make a name for myself. For my art.
Everyone needs to know who Liv Blakely really is.
f o u r (#u1995046c-ced6-510f-bc7e-f1466276fb70)
“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”
It’s Friday afternoon and I still haven’t been invited to the party.
Do I have loser stamped on my forehead?
I’ve tried talking to Jackson three times. Three times!
This is what I’m thinking about as I walk to the front of campus by myself.
I cut across the parking lot from Ms. Day’s room, where I was working late to put together an inspiration board for my portfolio. I’m starting with Frida Kahlo’s work. She’s always been inspiring to me. I even have a print of one of her paintings hanging above my bed called What the Water Gave Me. It’s this strange picture of her feet peeking out of a tub of bathwater, except floating in the water are all these surreal images from her consciousness: a sailboat, a wrinkled dress, a conch shell, native plants from her homeland, a skyscraper rising from a volcano, a miniature figure of herself drowning in the middle of the scene.
I head to the front of the school, waiting for Mom to pick me up like the total nerd I am. Great Friday, right?
At least I have plans to go to the movies with Sam. We haven’t had much time to get together since school started, and his text asking me to hang out tonight made me smile and helped take my mind off my complete failure to get invited to the boat party. Sam doesn’t notice—or maybe he doesn’t care—what a loser I am. He doesn’t even mind picking me up again.
This is what happens when you’re already sixteen and you can’t drive. It’s a movie called Mommy and Daddy Are Always Too Busy to Teach Me How to Drive. Starring me. I play the depressed Goth-girl artist. I don’t even really wear that much black—I just consider sarcasm a never-leave-home-without kind of accessory. In the movie version of my life, I’m on the brink of insanity and draw images of sad carless girls on every wall I can get away with scribbling on. At the end of the film, I finally get to drive around the block. Big deal.
Mason and Royce could do pretty much anything they wanted in high school, which was partly because they each had a car to go along with their driver’s licenses. Dad keeps promising me a car. Not that I even have my license yet. Before the end of the school year, that’s what he told me. So I’m sitting on a low brick wall, waiting for Mom to show up, kissing away any hope of meeting LeFeber, when guess who walks up to the strikeout queen?
“Liv, Liv... Look at you sitting out here.”