Written by Ann Brashares
Fiction - Friendship | Delacorte Press | Hardcover | January 2007| $ 18.99 | 978-0-385-72936-9| BUY THE HARDCOVER
Fiction - Friendship | Delacorte Press | Trade Paperback | April 2008 | $9.99 | 978-0-385-73401-1 |BUY THE TRADE PAPERBACK
Fiction - Friendship | Delacorte Press | Paperback | December 2009| $7.99 |
978-0-440-23983-3 | BUY THE PAPERBACK
It was different being a girl with a boyfriend.
Bridget meditated upon this as she walked along Edgemere Street on the way from Lena’s house to her own. Her meditation had begun moments before, when a guy she knew vaguely from high school leaned out of his car and yelled, “Hey, gorgeous!” and blew her a kiss.
In the past she might have shouted something at him. She might have blown him back a kiss. She might have given him the finger, depending on her mood. But somehow, it all seemed different now that she was a girl with a boyfriend.
She had spent almost a year getting used to it. It was particularly complex when you only saw that boyfriend for a day or two every month—when he went to school in New York City and you went to school in Providence, Rhode Island. Your status was more theoretical. For every guy who shouted from his car window, for every guy you passed on the way to Freshman Psychology who sort of checked you out, you thought, What he doesn’t realize is that I have a boyfriend.
Each time she saw Eric’s remarkable face, each time he appeared at the door of her dorm room or came to meet her at Port Authority in New York, it all came back. The way he kissed her. The way he wore his pants, the way he stayed up all night getting her through her Spanish midterm.
But it became theoretical again after Eric told her about Mexico. He’d gotten a job as assistant director at their old camp in Baja.
“I’m leaving the day after classes end,” he’d told her on the phone in April.
There was no uncertainty in it, no question or lingering pause. There was nothing for her.
She clamped her hand harder around the phone, but she didn’t want to betray the chaotic feelings. She wasn’t good at being left. “When do you get back?” she asked.
“End of September. I’m going to stay for a month with my grandparents in Mulegé. My grandmother already started cooking.” His laugh was light and sweet. He acted as though she would be as pleased for him as he was. He didn’t fathom her darkness.
Sometimes you hung up the phone and felt the bruising of your heart. It hurt now and it would hurt more later. The conversation was too unsatisfying to continue and yet you couldn’t stand for it to end. Bridget wanted to throw the phone—and herself—against the wall.
She had somehow presumed her and Eric’s summer plans would unfold together in some way. She thought having a boyfriend meant you planned your future in harmony. Was it his certainty about her that made it so easy for him to leave, or was it indifference?
She went for a long run and talked herself down. It wasn’t like they were married or something. She shouldn’t feel hurt by it. She knew it wasn’t personal. The assistant director job was a windfall—it paid well and put him close to his faraway family.
She didn’t feel hurt, exactly, but in the days after her told her, she got that fitful forward-moving energy. She didn’t feel like hanging around missing him. If she hadn’t been caught by surprise, caught in a painful presumption, she probably wouldn’t have signed up for the dig in Turkey quite so fast.
Eric couldn’t expect her to sit around waiting for him. That was not something she could do. How long could she coast on having a boyfriend when that boyfriend planned to be away from May to late September? How long could they coast as a couple? She wasn’t a theoretical kind of person.
It was after the conversation about Mexico that she really started to wonder about these things. After that it seemed like for every guy she saw on her way to class, she had the feeling that her status as a girl with a boyfriend was something demanded of her rather than something she had very eagerly given.
Tibby glanced at the time on her register. There were four minutes
left in her shift and at least twelve people in line.
She scanned in a pile of six movies for a prepubescent girl wearing sparkly silver eye shadow and a too-tight-looking choker. Were the girl’s eyes bulging or was Tibby imagining it?
“You’re gonna watch all these?” Tibby asked absently. It was Friday. Late fees kicked in on Monday. The girl’s gum smelled strongly of synthesized watermelon. As the girl swallowed, Tibby thought of fishermen’s pelicans, with the rings around their necks so they couldn’t gulp down their catch.
“’Cause I’m having a sleepover. There’ll be, like, seven of us. I mean, if Callie can come. And if she can’t, I shouldn’t be getting that one, because everybody else hates it.”
Were we like that? Tibby wondered while the girl went on to describe each of her friends’ specific movie requirements.
Now her shift was over by two minutes. Tibby cursed herself for having begun the conversation in the first place. She always forgot that catch-22 of question-asking. People tended to answer.
She had eleven customers still to serve before she could reasonably close down her register, and she was no longer getting paid. “This one’s closing,” she called to incipient number twelve before he could invest any time in her line.
The next person up was a goateed young man with a Windbreaker over his doorman’s coat. When it flapped open, Tibby could see that his name was Carl. She wanted to tell him that his movie was all right, but the ending stank and the sequel was an insult to your brain, but she made herself think the comment and not say it. That would be her rule going forward. She might as well admit to herself that she liked talking more than listening.
She closed out, said her good-byes, and walked along Broadway before turning onto Bleecker Street and then into the entrance to her dorm. The bad thing about her job was that it paid barely over minimum wage. The good thing about her job was that it was three blocks away.
The lobby of her dorm was cool and empty but for the security guard at his desk. It was all different now that it was summer. No students jabbering, no cell-phonic symphony of ring tones. A month ago, the big bulletin board had been laden with notices twenty thick. Now it was clear right down to the cork.
During the school year, the elevator ride was socially taxing. Too much time to stare and appraise and judge. In the normally crowded space she’d felt a need to be something for each of her fellow passengers, even the ones whose names she didn’t know. Now, with it empty, she felt herself merging into the fake wood-grain wall.
Tonight the halls would be empty. The summer programs didn’t start until after July fourth. And even then there would just be new, temporary people, not her friends, and not the kind you worried about in the elevator. They’d be gone by the middle of August.
It was a strange thing about college. You felt like you were supposed to be finding your life there. Each person you saw, you thought, Will you mean something to me? Will we figure into each other’s lives? She’d made a few actual friends on her floor and in her film classes, but most people she saw she kind of knew off the bat wouldn’t mean anything. Like the swim team girls who decorated their faces with purple paint to demonstrate school spirit, or the guy with the fuzzy facial hair who wore the Warhammer T-shirt.
But then again, chimed in the voice she’d recently come to think of as Meta-Tibby (her do-right self, never hurried or snappish), who would have guessed that first day in the 7-Eleven that Brian would become important?
It had been four years since she’d first met Brian, but she still got that deep abdominal tingle when she thought of being near him. It had been nine months since they’d . . . what? She hated the term hooked up. Nine months since they’d swum in their underwear after hours in the public pool and kissed fiercely and pressed themselves together until their hands and toes were pruney and their lips tinged blue.
They hadn’t had sex yet. Not officially, in spite of Brian’s pleas. But since that night in August, she felt as though her body belonged to Brian, and his body to her. Ever since that night in the pool, the way they loved each other had changed. Before it they each took up their own space. After it they took up space together. Before that night if he touched his ankle to hers under the dinner table, she blushed and obsessed and sweated through her shirt. After that night they always had some part touching. They read together on a twin bed with every part of their bodies overlapping, still concentrating on their books. Well, concentrating a little on their books.
Tonight this place would be quiet. On some level she missed Bernie, who practiced her opera singing from nine to ten, and Deirdre, who cooked actual food in the communal floor kitchen. But it was restful being alone. She would write e-mails to her friends and shave her armpits and legs before Brian came tomorrow. Maybe she would order pad thai from the place around the corner. She would pick it up so she wouldn’t have to deal with the tip for delivery. She hated to be cheap, but she couldn’t afford to lay out another five dollars.
She fit her key into the loose lock. So imprecise was the lock she suspected it would turn for virtually any key in the dorm. Maybe any key in the world. It was a tarty little lock.
She swung open the door and felt once again the familiar appreciation for her single. Who cared if it was seven by nine feet? Who cared if it fit more like a suit of clothes than an actual room? It was hers. Unlike at home, her stuff stayed the way she left it.
Her gaze went first to the light pulsing under the power button on her computer. It went second to the steady green light of her camera’s battery, fully charged. It went third to the glimmer of shine in the eyeball of a large, brown-haired, nineteen-year-old boy sitting on her bed.
There was the lurch. Stomach, legs, ribs, brain. There was the pounding of the heart.
“Hey,” he said mutedly. She could tell he was trying not to scare her.
She dropped her bag and went to him, instantly folding up in his eager limbs.
“I thought you were coming tomorrow.”
“I can’t last five days,” he said, his face pressed into her ear.
It was so good to feel him all around her. She loved this feeling. She would never get used to it. It was too good. Unfairly good. She couldn’t dislodge her worldview that things balanced out. You paid for what you got. In happiness terms, this always felt like a spending spree.
Most guys said they’d call you tomorrow and they called you the next Saturday or not at all. Most guys said they’d be there at eight and showed up at nine-fifteen. They kept you comfortless, wanting and wishing, and annoyed at yourself for every moment youspent that way. That was not Brian. Brian promised to come on Saturday and he came on Friday instead.
“Now I’m happy,” he said from her neck.
She looked down at the side of his face, at his manly forearm. He was so handsome, and yet he wore it lightly. The way he looked was not what made her love him, but was it wrong to notice?
He rolled her over onto the bed. She pried off her running shoes with her toes. He pulled up her shirt and laid his head on her bare stomach, his arms around her hips, his knees bent at the wall. If this room was small for her, it barely contained Brian when he stretched out. He couldn’t help kicking the wall now and then. Tonight she was glad not to have to feel guilt toward the guy in 11-C.
It was something like a miracle, this was. Their own room. No hiding, no fibbing, no getting away with it. No parent to whom you must account for your time. No curfew to bump up against.
Time stretched on. They would eat what they felt like for dinner—or at least, what they could afford. Later, they would fall asleep together, his hand on her breast or the valley of her waist, and wake up together whenever they liked. It was so good. Too good. How could she ever afford this?
“I love you,” he murmured, his hands reaching up under her shirt. He didn’t hang around for that beat, that momentary vacuum where she was meant to respond in kind. His hands were already up under her shoulders, unbending himself over her for a real kiss. He didn’t need her to say it back.
She used to have the idea—an untested belief, really—that you loved someone in a kind of mirror dance. You loved in exact response to how much they were willing to love you.
Brian wasn’t like that. He did his loving openly and without call for reciprocation. It was something that awed her, but that set him apart, as though he spoke Mandarin or could dunk a basketball.
She plunged her hand under his T-shirt, feeling his warm back, his angel bones. “I love you,” she said. He didn’t ask for the words, but she gave them.
Excerpted from Forever in Blue byAnn Brashares Copyright © 2007 by Ann Brashares. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.