During the first week of classes after Christmas break, between fourth and fifth periods at Mooresville High School, Trisha Thompson went looking for Christina Eckloe. She found her best friend crying in the girls' bathroom. Her sobs were muffled and sounded almost like a kitten mewing, hardly the reflection of a breaking heart, but Trisha wasn't fooled. She'd heard Christina cry before. And it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why. Tucker Hanson.
Trisha slipped into the unlocked stall where Christina was hiding, her hands covering her face. Trisha unrolled a swath of toilet paper and handed it to her friend. "Here, use this. It's more absorbent than your palms."
Christina took the wad of paper without looking up. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose. "H-how did you find me?"
"When you didn't show up for lunch, I started checking the bathrooms. This was my third stop."
"Wh-where are the others? I don't want them to see me like this."
"Kim and Darby went on to class. Cody's waiting outside in the hall."
"Why couldn't I get a guy like Cody?" Christina asked.
"You mean instead of a jerk like Tucker? That's always been my question to you, hasn't it?" Trisha felt angry. "Tucker is the reason you're crying, isn't he? I mean, he usually is the reason you cry."
Trisha sighed. "What'd he do this time?"
"We had a fight."
"You don't have to talk to me like I'm a child," Christina said. She stood shakily and edged past Trisha out of the stall.
Trisha followed. "Sorry. But you've been fighting with Tucker off and on for years. It gets to me because he's not nice to you."
Christina bent over a sink and splashed cold water on her face. "You just don't understand."
"This time it really was my fault," Christina said. "I ran into Bill Lawler at the library last night. Tucker was supposed to pick me up at nine, but we'd had a fight that afternoon and he didn't show."
Trisha rolled her eyes.
"Anyway," Christina continued while drying her face on a paper towel, "Bill offered to drive me home and on the way we stopped off and had coffee. Someone must have seen us together and told Tucker, because when he picked me up for school this morning he was really upset. I tried to explain that there's nothing between me and Bill, but he won't believe me."
"So now he's mad because you had coffee with Bill? What's wrong with that?"
"I'm Tucker's girl. I shouldn't have gone out with another guy."
"Oh, please!" Trisha crossed her arms. "You didn't go out on a date, you had a coffee together. How can he be that insecure? You've been with him since eighth grade."
The entire class knew about Tucker and Christina's relationship. He had been voted Mr. Most Popular and this year's Homecoming King; she had been selected as Miss Best Personality and Homecoming Queen. Kids saw them as perfect for each other, beautiful people who had been going together forever and who were destined to always be a couple. Only Trisha and her boyfriend, Cody McGuire, knew about the tumultuous nature of the pairing. To Trisha's way of thinking, Tucker was often hateful to Christina, sarcastic and even rude. Trisha didn't understand why they stayed together. Christina could have any guy she wanted at Mooresville.
"Are you saying Cody wouldn't object if you were seen in public having coffee with some other guy by people who think you've got an exclusive relationship with him?" Christina sounded defensive.
"Frank Russo and I go out all the time and Cody doesn't feel threatened."
"You're coeditors of the yearbook. Of course you go out all the time. Plus Frank has Abby Harrison for a girlfriend."
Trisha ignored Christina's logic. "The point is, Cody trusts me. After all the years you've been with Tucker, he should trust you too."
Christina looked dejected. "That's what I told him, but he's still angry."
"Then that's his problem, not yours. He needs to get over it, cut you some slack."
"There are other things too." Christina fished in her purse for lip gloss. "I've been accepted at the University of Vermont--"
"But that's wonderful," Trisha interrupted.
Christina smiled for the first time. "Mom and Dad think so too, especially since it came with a ten-thousand-dollar scholarship."
Trisha was speechless. She'd always known Christina was smart, but this really proved it.
"It's Dad's alma mater, so he really wants me to go there," Christina added.
"So why wouldn't you?"
"Tucker hates the idea. He can't accept that I would go so far from Indiana, or him. He's really bummed out about it. He wants me to go someplace in-state, like IU."
Indiana University at Indianapolis was a good hundred and fifty miles from Mooresville, a midsized town in the middle of nowhere. Trisha had moved to Mooresville with her parents and kid brother five years before when her father, an insurance agent, had taken over the job of area manager for his company. To Trisha, after having lived in a sprawling suburb of Chicago all her life, Mooresville had seemed like the most boring place on earth. When Christina had befriended her in seventh grade, that had made all the difference. Then, when they'd both started at the high school, Trisha met Cody, and having him for a boyfriend for two years had turned Mooresville into the center of the universe.
"How can Tucker expect you to change your plans--your future--for him? Why doesn't he change his plans for you?" Trisha asked.
Excerpted from Telling Christina Goodbye by Lurlene McDaniel. Copyright © 2002 by Lurlene McDaniel. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.