Three weeks ago, Henry held Zoë's face between his hands and kissed her for the 199th time. Zoë had been keeping track. She couldn't help it. Each kiss was like a tiny revelation, an aha moment. Each kiss sent electricity down her body, snaking its way around her legs until it reached her feet. Aha. This kiss, though, this kiss was different. This was the kiss Henry gave her after she told him she loved him. It had begun to rain, but they stayed outside her house near the laurel bushes after one of the open-mike gigs Henry and his band played every other week. She had watched him play his guitar, his mouth moving involuntarily, his eyes closed, and she'd known it was true. She had fallen in love. This kiss was about love. She wrapped her arms around his neck and stood on her tiptoes, meeting the softness of his lips. He put his hands around her waist and lifted her off the ground, just like in the movies, just like Zoë always figured love would be. And here it was, big, soft, rainy, and all hers.
But now Zoë knows it's all over. She knows because when she called Henry at their normal time of 9 p.m., his voice mail answered. Zoë hung up, a thick feeling in her throat that hasn't gone away. She's got ten hours. Ten long hours to live through before she can leave for school and find out what's really going on.
She calls Julia and explains the situation.
"Maybe he's sick," Julia says. Zoë's aware that her right leg is bouncing a hundred miles a minute. She presses a hand against it to stop it.
"He's not sick." She doesn't know why she called Julia first. She opens her computer and checks for e-mails or IMs, but the screen is eerily empty. She opens Henry's MySpace page, and his picture, the one where he's playing guitar, pops up. She hates this picture because his head is down and his hair is in his eyes. You can barely see him. But there's no activity. She clicks the page closed.
"Maybe he was taking a shower."
"He wasn't taking a shower either, Jules."
"I don't know what you want me to say," Julia says, obviously annoyed that Zoë's annoyed. "I'm trying to come up with explanations."
"I know," Zoë tells her. "I'm sorry." She stands and starts pacing her room, seeing the usual stuff: shoes arranged neatly by her made bed, and books stacked on her desk, waiting to be cracked for homework. "I'm freaked out."
"I can tell."
"Maybe I should call Shannon."
"You haven't called the Guru yet?" This is what they call Shannon, the Wise One concerning all matters of the heart. "Hang up this phone, fool. You called the wrong friend."
Zoë laughs. At least Julia has made her laugh. "Thanks, Jules."
She dials Shannon.
"Listen to me, Z," Shannon says once Zoë fills her in, "I want you to sit down and take a few deep breaths."
"Okay, okay," Zoë says.
"Are you doing it?"
Zoë rolls her eyes and sits heavily on the bed. She takes the breaths.
"I know you," Shannon continues. "You've already turned this into Something Meaningful. Nothing's happened. He didn't answer his phone, that's it."
"But in six months?" Zoë can hear the whine in her voice. "In six months we haven't missed a nine p.m. phone call."
"Zoë." Shannon only uses Zoë's full name when she means business. "I'm not saying things look good, but you have no proof that things are bad either."
"Maybe I can get proof," Zoë says in a measured voice.
"I could go over there, just happen to be walking by."
"Or I could quickly peek in the windows. I'd only have to see Henry to know what he's feeling."
Zoë hears Shannon sigh.
"Shannon." That whine is back in her voice. She tries to tame it. "That's how well I know him. I love him. As of three weeks ago I'm officially in love."
Shannon is silent. Then she says softly, "I'm going to tell you this only once, so you need to listen." When Zoë doesn't respond, she says, "Are you listening to me?"
"Do not leave your house. Do not call him. Do not call anyone else. Your mission for this evening is to do your homework and go to bed like any other night. Understand?"
"I can't call him again?"
"Z, if you call him again you're going to be very sorry."
"Even to remind him I love him?"
"Especially for that."
"So I have to just sit here?"
"And do your homework."
Panic rises into Zoë's chest. "I can't stop thinking about this. I need to know if he still wants to be with me."
"No," Shannon says. "You don't. You need to continue as though it never happened."
Zoë slumps forward. "I don't know how."
"You'll figure it out," Shannon says. "Focus on homework."
Zoë groans and looks up at her books. "I don't know how to block it out," she says again.
"I have faith."
Zoë stares at the books a moment longer, clutching the phone to her ear.
"This will be good for you, Z. You need to learn how to let go. Letting go is not one of your strengths."
"I'm well aware of that."
"I love you," Shannon says. "If you have to, call me again."
When they hang up, Zoë doesn't move. She can hear her heart thudding in her chest, along with the faint buzz of her computer's fan. Her books loom malevolently on the desk. In the silence she hears her mom and dad in the kitchen. She gets up and steps out into the hallway. Their voices are gentle; she can't make out the words. It's always the same thing, though, always love and kisses.
Excerpted from It's Not You, It's Me by Kerry Cohen Hoffmann. Copyright © 2011 by Kerry Cohen Hoffmann. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 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.