Someone To Love
He looks at me funny.
I guess I sound a little overenthusiastic. I mean, it is the day of the boat party and all. I don’t know what to say to Jackson and I start to panic a little. This is my last chance to get on the same boat as LeFeber and Zach. I consider just asking him for an invite, but then realize that would either be too tacky or would seem completely desperate.
“You’re by yourself,” I say stupidly.
“Yeah. Weird, huh?” Jackson laughs. “I had to see Mr. Richie about a test. Dude’s holding back points again.”
He knows, I think. He really knows it’s weird that girls aren’t trailing him like a comet’s tail. I wish I could be that confident, but I never seem to be able to shake the names that are always underneath my other thoughts.
Fatso. Blimp. Heifer.
It sounds kind of crazy, but I call it my other voice. It used to sound like Ollie was stuck in my head—every bad thing I thought about myself was in his voice—but eventually it changed, and now the other voice’s words are all mine.
“What are your plans this weekend?” Jackson asks, inching closer to me. He’s so close that I can smell his cologne. He smells like a cool breeze, like a pool of sparkling water. He puts his hand up to my hair and twists a strand around his finger.
Hold on. What’s going on right now? The situation just got unpredictable. Is he flirting with me? This isn’t supposed to happen. It may turn out to be a total fantasy, but if it’s not, I’m interested in Zach. Not Jackson.
But I can’t brush him off. This is my last chance to land an invitation.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Nothing much. Just like...”
“Seriously,” he says. “I want to know what’s going on. You can’t be doing nothing. A girl like you doesn’t do nothing...”
What girl like me? Are there girls like me? I want to know them. I also want to know why Jackson’s flirting with me.
Before I can say anything, I sense disaster in the form of a car pulling up. Another ruined encounter. Mom has the worst timing.
Wait a minute. That’s not Mom’s car. It’s a yellow Land Rover pulling up in front of us with a certain Dominican girl at the wheel, pumping salsa music out her windows.
I immediately squeal, “Antonia!”
I try not to scare Jackson off, but I totally was not expecting her to show up at school on a Friday afternoon. She’s been visiting family in the Dominican Republic all summer and is arriving late for the school year. I didn’t think I was going to see her until the beginning of October. She’s almost a month early. And she didn’t tell me she was back.
She rolls down the window. Her long, curly hair is swept into a high, messy ponytail, showing off her milk-chocolate eyes accented by thick black liner. “Baby, look at you,” is all she says through pouty lips before letting out a wolf whistle.
I’m smiling ear to ear. She’s the most no-nonsense, fun-loving human being I’ve ever known. I might be a perfectionist about a lot of things, but Antonia and I complement each other perfectly. She’s all breezy and carefree while I can’t go to sleep at night without obsessing over every little thing I’ve said or done the day before.
“I wanted to surprise you,” she says. “I figured you would be here so I called your mom to tell her I was going to pick you up. Come to my house, we have tons to catch up on.”
I grab my bag and look at Jackson, trying to decide what to do. I want to go to the boat party so badly, but I also want to hang out with Antonia. I’ve missed her like crazy.
“I should go,” he says.
I don’t know what to say. I’ve probably already ruined my chances. Why can’t I just ask for what I want? Why can’t I spit it out? “Yeah, I guess so,” I say.
“Hold on,” Antonia says, probably picking up on my disappointment. “What’s going on, Jackson? What are you doing here after school on a Friday talking to my main girl? You’re not being a bad influence on Livvy, are you?”
I sigh. Antonia knows how people work. She’s so easy around them. She tries to coach me to not psych myself out, but I can’t help it. It’s just how I am.
Antonia starts sweet-talking him, grinning the way she does when she knows she’s being seen. “You’re the man of the moment, I hear. What’s happening this weekend? I’m just back to town, all grown up as you can tell, and I want to see everyone.”
“He’s got a boat party out in the marina tonight,” I say. “Well, I mean Zach does...”
“That’s right,” Jackson says, leaning in Antonia’s window like some famous sculptor carved him right there on the spot. It’s almost funny how full of himself he is.
Antonia smirks at him. “And?”
“And what?” Jackson asks.
Now he’s flirting with her too.
“Are we invited?”
Jackson shrugs. “I just assumed you’d be there.”
“Whatever!” Antonia slaps his muscular shoulder. It’s obvious Jackson is obsessed with working out. He’s pretty ripped. “You weren’t even going to tell me. And neither were you, Liv.”
I look at her. I can’t believe she’s taken about thirty seconds to get us invited, and I’ve been trying for three days. Even for her that must be some kind of personal record.
“You didn’t tell her?” Jackson asks me. “Were you gonna ditch us?”
“Ditch?” I hesitate. “I didn’t realize I was invited.”
“Uh...of course you were.”
“I was?” I ask, then attempt the clumsiest backtrack of all time, wishing I could appear at least slightly more confident. “I mean, yeah, I knew that.”
f i v e (#u1995046c-ced6-510f-bc7e-f1466276fb70)
“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.
I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
Antonia pulls up to her house and parks the Land Rover in her driveway. In the car, she told me that both of her parents are back at work after their long summer vacation so we don’t have to worry about being loud as we enter the house.
Going to Antonia’s house feels like traveling to another country. The colors of their drapery and furniture are vibrant and deep and the hallways are filled with Antonia’s mother’s framed vinyl album covers—she’s a famous singer from the Dominican Republic—and pictures of her with other famous singers and musicians. There’s one photograph of her mother hanging in the entryway that’s always been my favorite. She’s very young—just barely twenty, maybe—and wearing a tight, sparkly sequin dress that fits her like she was poured into it. Antonia looks almost exactly like her mother, but with a darker complexion.
It’s wild how much they look alike. Even though my mom is part Latina, no one ever guesses that I’m Mexican. It’s the last name, I suppose. Blakely. Not to mention my skin is ghostly white. I spent most of the summer running around conference rooms and fund-raisers, helping Mom with her campaign to increase childhood literacy. I’m basically her intern and help with everything from setting up events to data entry. Sometimes I get to read to little kids at her events, which is my favorite part, but mostly I have to hang out with adults who think I have everything together but don’t really know who I am.
Summers are hard for me. Without school to focus on, I’m always obsessing about my weight and how hungry I am. I binge more. This year, with Antonia visiting the Dominican Republic and Sam away working as a counselor at a surf camp, I got really lonely. I started eating a lot and feeling crappy about myself. I got to a point where I started vomiting after every meal. It was so bad that I couldn’t stop myself from purging after a fund-raising luncheon, even though I knew Mom was in the stall next to me.
I told her I was sick.
I’m hoping Antonia being back will make things better.