YOU GUYS! Crushed comes out tomorrow and I’m so excited to finally have this book out in the world!!! Hope you enjoy this final peek in Fletch’s world.
It’s not uncommon to find a friend or two hanging out in your room when you come back from class.
What I don’t expect is to find Reid and Brady standing on my balcony shooting a Super Soaker at unsuspecting passers-by. But seriously, why am I surprised?
“You have the best room in the school.” Reid pumps up the water gun and drenches some poor freshman. “Hot chicks on The Beach and the ability to terrorize underclassmen. This is awesome.”
I toss my bag on the extra bed near the door. “What the hell you guys? You’re going to have…” I pause, searching my memory for the right name, but come up with nothing. “My RA on my case.”
“Not expellable, Fletch.” Reid lets another stream of water fly. That’s Reid’s governing law: as long as it’s not expellable, it’s okay.
“I don’t care if it’s not expellable. If he’s watching me, because of you two dicks, how am I going to have any fun?”
A blast of ice cold water soaks through my sweater and sprays all over my bed.
“What you get for being such a pisser.” Reid chuckles as he turns his attention back toward The Beach.
I strip off my drenched shirt, throw it into the corner and grab a new one from my drawer. “Thanks for reminding me why I didn’t want to room with either of you.”
“You’re not exactly Mr. Ideal Roommate, either. Ever hear yourself snore?” Reid props the Super Soaker by the door and flops on the bed. “It’s like a fucking freight train.”
“Whatever. At least I don’t keep lotion and Kleenex next to my bed,” I retort. Reid and I roomed together last year. It wasn’t bad. He spent most of his time at Paige’s.
Brady snorts. “Yeah, Reid. Why do you keep that so close to the bed? Paige not servicing you enough?” he says and makes an obscene motion with his fist.
A long groan rumbles out of Reid. “You guys are jealous because I always have a source. You two never know if you’re going to feast or starve.”
“Speaking of starving, you got anything to eat?” Without waiting for my answer, Brady walks back into the room and opens the mini-fridge. “Some Coke, some fruit – why do you have fruit? What’s wrong with you?”
I shove him out of the way. “There’s chips in the closet.”
Brady flings a bag of chips at Reid and takes one for himself.
“Dude! Those are full-sized bags. Share.” I pluck Brady’s from his hand and toss it back into my closet. “I’m not your personal grocery store.”
Brady sits on the floor, below Reid on the bed, and the two of them tear into the chips like they haven’t eaten in years. Crumbs spray out of his mouth. “So whastsgoinonwifcal?”
“What?” I locate my vintage 80’s playlist, the one Brady hates, and click on it. The music pulses out. Hmmm. Maybe I need some new speakers. The bass is too weak.
“Not this crap again. Jesus, Fletch. You need better taste in music.”
I shrug, and for about thirty seconds, relief washes over me because I’ve successfully distracted Brady.
He reaches around me and pauses the music. “You didn’t answer me. What ya do to Calista?”
My stomach drops to my feet. I spent the day successfully avoiding Cal by skipping lunch and eating in my room instead. “She was upset about Hannah.”
“Liar.” Reid throws a fistful of chips at me. “Paige said she was bawling in first period because you did something. So what did you do?”
I spin around in my chair. A lump sits in my throat. “She was?”
Brady swallows and gives me an incredulous look. “Told you.”
I unpause the music and pretend I’m not listening.
“What did you tell him?” Reid asks. He’s picked up the guitar he always carries with him and plucks out a few notes, like he’s testing the strings, before playing along to the music blasting over the speakers. I watch in envy as his fingers move up and down the neck.
Brady tosses the bag of chips at me and I dart my hand out to catch them before they spill all over the floor. “That Calista looooves him.”
I wince and my cheeks growing hot. “No, she doesn’t. Trust me.”
Reid stops playing and shifts forward, like he’s waiting for more details. I pretend not to notice and step onto the balcony. The crisp autumn air cools my face. Beneath me, a few dozen girls hang out in small groups while the guys mostly goof around.
With the water gun in hand, Brady leans over the railing and surveys the girls. Reid, however, keeps his back toward them and his focus on me. “She likes you. Like likes you likes you.”
I shuffle my feet. “She’s just my friend. Ask her.”
Reid rolls his eyes. “You aren’t friends with girls.”
“I can be friends with a girl. Look at Paige and me. I’ve never messed around with her.” I cross my arms. “And she’s my friend.”
Brady pulls himself way from ogling the girls below us. “Doesn’t count. Paige is your friend because of Reid. He acts like your cock block.” He aims another stream of water toward a group of girls on The Beach and narrowly misses them. He waves as they shriek and giggle.
I think back through the past three years, picturing all the girls I’ve been with, spoken to, hooked-up with. I can’t think of one who’s only been my friend. Not one.
Yet, I insist. “I can be friends with a girl.”
Without looking at me, Reid says, “Prove it.”
“Prove you can be friends with a girl.”
I snort. “And how do I do that? Just walk up to a girl and say, ‘Hey, wanna be friends?’”
Wisps of fog drift over the dorm roof and around the corner of the building, but the kids on the Beach don’t seem to mind. Living here, tucked away in the redwoods nine months of the year, you get used to it. A sunny day for us is when the sun makes an appearance between 1:30 and 1:45 on the third Friday of every other month.
Brady sets the water gun against the railing. “What you need is a girl who is completely available. And hot. Someone who tempts you.”
He points across The Beach. Sarah Diaz, and her two friends, Ellie Jacobs and Libby Hausman, float across the lawn. At least it appears that way with the fog rushing in around them. “You have Physics with Sarah.”
At lunch, Brady and I compared our prospects and agreed getting Sarah’s number was the win of the day.
“Yeah.” I draw the word out. I know where he’s going with this. Sarah and I hooked up freshman year. Libby isn’t my type, so I’d have no problem not touching her. But Ellie…
She’s hot. Nice fit body, long brown hair. Cute face. I run my hand through my hair, willing her to look up, but she doesn’t. Instead, she tosses her head back, not overly dramatic or anything, and laughs.
“Ellie Jacobs. You’ve never hooked up with her. And she totally gets you hard. If you can be friends with her, you can be friends with any girl.”
On the sad, little grass oval of The Beach, Sarah and Ellie spread a blanket. The three girls arrange themselves in a lopsided triangle. Sarah and Libby touch knees while Ellie stretches out along the edge. Unlike the clueless freshmen, Ellie wears tight jeans and a sweater that hangs off her shoulder, exposing the soft skin of her neck. Her bare shoulder indicates a lack of bra, and my mind fixates on that small fact for a moment.
“What’s the bet?” I ask.
Brady rubs his chin, like he’s thinking, but I can tell he already knows what he wants. “Your car. You have to last until we get back from spring break. If not, I get your car.”
“And if I do?”
Reid pipes up. “If Fletch can do it, you give up girls until after graduation.”
Brady begins protesting, saying his punishment is way harsher than me giving him my car.
“But you don’t think I can do it, so why worry?” I say.
He scowls. I’ve totally got him, and he knows it. “Fine. Deal.”
As we shake on it, Reid grabs the Super Soaker and points it at me. “Okay. Here’s the thing: I’m going to soak your ass if you don’t go talk to Ellie Jacobs right now.”
“Are you fucking serious?”
His finger twitches on the trigger as he aims at my crotch. “Totally.”
I stare at Brady. “You too?”
“Don’t look at me. I want you to fail miserably.”
“Fine.” I push past Reid into the hallway. He presses the water gun into my back, and trying to be a good sport about how shitty this is going down, I throw my hands over my head and march, like a hostage, to the stairs.
As we walk across the grass, I try to figure out what to say that won’t sound too much like I’m hitting on her. We stop next to their blanket, and the girls look up at us. Reid lowers the gun and leans on it.
Brady, however, sinks down next to Sarah and helps himself to some of the crackers the girls are eating.
“Hey, guys,” I say. How lame.
Sarah smiles at me. “Hey, Fletch.” Confusion seeps into her voice. “What are you guys doing?”
Brady, who isn’t trying to be friends with girls, answers, “Just wanted to see what you were doing.” He pops another cracker into his mouth and drapes his arm around Sarah, who doesn’t seem bothered by it. “How were your summers?”
The girls share glances and all babble about their vacations. In the meantime, Reid sits down with them too, and I’m left looming over the group. What should I do? Sit? Is that what a friend would do?
“Where did you guys get water guns?” Ellie asks. There’s a certain force to her voice – it’s a little husky, like she’s been smoking her whole life. Gravely, maybe? Whatever, it sounds sexy.
Brady plays with the Super Soaker and points it at me. “Town.”
Town is a twenty-minute drive from Harker. And neither of these guys have cars, which means…
“You took my car?”
Reid shrugs. “Don’t leave your keys laying around if you don’t want us to use it.”
“Or how about you guys stay out of my fucking room?”
A stream of water shoots past me and splatters all over Reid’s sweater and face. He eyes Brady lazily, flicks the water off his chin and says, “I’ve been hit.”
The girls giggle. I turn to leave. I don’t need this. Why do I have to prove myself to them? Because of Calista? Ridiculous.
“Fletch?” Sarah says.
I pivot. “Yeah?”
“Do you want to study on Friday? For Physics?”
Brady leans his head toward her, his arm still around her shoulder. I know that look. It means, he’s staking his claim.
“Brady might be a better study partner,” I say.
He nods. “Yeah. Science is my thing. Fletch is more of an English guy.” He laughs. “If you ever need a book read, ask him. He loves that crap.”
“I thought Fletch was the best at everything,” little inconspicuous Libby says.
Brady presses his lips into a thin line and catches my eye “Not everything.”
There’s an edge to Brady’s normally laid-back voice. I lie. “Yeah. I suck at Government.”
Sarah kicks Ellie. “Ellie could help you. Couldn’t you?” She’s talking fast, tripping over her words.
That’s when I realize what’s happening. Sarah likes Brady. And she’s looking for ways to keep him around, even if that means sending her friend off with me. Maybe getting to know Ellie won’t be so hard after all.
I pounce on the opportunity, but try to look disinterested – like I’m not at all still thinking about the fact she’s braless. “That would be great. I could use all the help I can get.”
Ellie pushes Sarah’s foot away from her knee. “I’m busy with my own classes. Lots of AP this year.”
The tiny bit of hope shatters. She’s turning me down. What’s with this girl? My mind races. There is no way I’m walking away from here without having plans with Ellie. Brady and Reid would never let me forget it.
“I could pay you.”
“I’m not a prostitute,” she snaps. A hush falls over the group.
One of my idiot friends coughs, and I study my shoe for a moment. Way to go, Fletch. You can’t be friends with a girl if you insult her. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yeah, but hey, don’t worry about it. If you don’t want to, that’s fine.” Time to back peddle or abort mission.
Another long pause. Finally, she says, “No. Of course I’ll tutor you. And you don’t need to pay me.”
“Cool. So Thursday after dinner? Can you come to my room?”
She hesitates. “Not during visiting hours?”
“Naw. Come around seven-thirty.”
As I recite my room number, I notice Brady whispering to Sarah. She grins.
He reluctantly tears himself away from the girls, but only after Reid threatens him with the water gun. I turn around, to say good-bye, and am greeted by a blast of cold water to the face.
“You fucker. You’re dead.” I launch myself at Brady, who has wrenched control of the gun from Reid. He runs across The Beach, laughing like a hyena on crack.
CRUSHED COMES OUT TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2012 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. iBooks and Kobo coming soon.