Authors: Kim Holden
Do Epic, LLC
ALL OF IT
Copyright © 2013 by Kim Holden
Do Epic, LLC
Cover image photography by Andi Hando
Cover design by Brandon Hando
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owners and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
B., P., Mom and Dad
I love you
1: Invariably my story begins as it ends
2: Long ago yesterday revisited
3: Unannounced and so very welcome
4: Fairy tales are even better when they’re real
5: There should always be another kiss and another after that
6: Life’s most important questions should always be written in ALL CAPS
7: Sexy is up for interpretation
8: It’s me, not you, killing me
9: Denial can be beautiful, but only when you’re a fantastic liar
10: Bruises that are ugly and painful and more than skin deep
11: Disturbing touch unsolicited kiss
12: What else can I say? I eff’ed up
13: A heart full of words and an uncooperative mouth make an unfortunate pairing
14: Falling in love … again
15: Hearts can physically shatter. Ask me. I’ll tell you.
16: Occasionally I think better at night
17: Old guys are cool and so is Billie Holiday
18: Hiding and waiting for the worst or the end
19: Misery loves company. Tragically
20: It feels like it feels, nothing more, nothing less
21: Pain endured, light ahead
22: Shedding fear, fault, and failure, because love’s a lighter load to bear
23: I love you more and even more than that
24: Marriage is a beautiful arrangement to which weddings are mandatory
25: L’attente est terminée
26: Forget not, regret not, live
27: Biology is simple. Babies are not
“Hi, my name’s Veronica.”
“Hi, I’m Dimitri.” His voice is quiet, but confident.
There’s something vaguely familiar about this moment. Almost like déjà vu, like I’ve dreamt it, or seen a similar scene in a movie once. Classic boy-meets-girl I suppose, only slightly watered down to merely perplexing familiarity. Strangely, it bothers me, but I try to let it go.
Shaking my head slightly, I push through, gathering my thoughts and my books. “So Dimitri, did you just move here?”
He’s early. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about teenage boys, it’s that they’re never early. For anything.
. I’m already suspicious.
He waits politely for me to grab my notebook, books, and cell phone before he answers. “Yes,” is all he says with a small smile that at first glance appears shy. Upon a return glance—that’s right I take a second, confirmatory peek—I realize he looks cocky.
“Where are you from?” I ask, suddenly distracted by the amount of stuff I’m trying to put in my bag. Why do I have so much stuff?
He answers, “Texas,” but I’m not looking at him. I’m still trying to retrieve my brain that I’ve apparently dropped in my messenger bag—somewhere near the abyss at the bottom.
Abandoning the brain retrieval mission I return for another glance and aim for eye contact this time. “Quite a change. Do you like it here, Dimitri from Texas?” I’m doing my best to show some interest now.
Eye contact is a success.
“I don’t know yet,” is all he says. His expression hard to read.
Eye contact just took an uncomfortable turn. He’s staring at me.
staring at me.
And a touch unsettling.
And is now officially a staring contest …
… that I promptly and voluntarily lose. My eyebrows rise as I look away and toward the door. “Okay then …” I need an escape. This is going to be excruciatingly awkward. He’s barely speaking and now he’s staring. And I’m paired up with this guy for the next two days? Wonderful.
I’m a member of National Honor Society. Not that I think of it as much of an honor, at least not the way others do. To me it’s more like an obligation. You see I’m the type of person that puts a lot of pressure on herself. I have high expectations and expect a lot of myself. I follow the rules and try to do everything the “right” way. If I want to get into a good university, being in Honor Society is one of many “rights” on a long list. It’s a thorn in my side. Sometimes—by which I really mean unfortunately all-too-often—when something turns into an obligation, it loses its appeal. This is the case with Honor Society. I’ll do it, but it doesn’t mean I’ll like it.
As part of the Obligation Society gig, members are required to volunteer 20 hours each semester. Don’t get me wrong—volunteering is awesome. I do it often and I enjoy it. But enjoyment is somewhat tainted when it’s born out of requirement. Even more so when our options are so thoroughly limited: churches (I’m not atheist or anything, I just don’t attend), school (I’m already here enough), animal shelters (this is the redeemer on the list), and two local businesses (that I suspect are somehow in bed with school administration). I mean, come on? What about homeless shelters, blood drives, nursing homes? Would it kill them to be a bit more civic minded? Clearly Honor Society needs an enema; a new sponsor wouldn’t hurt either.
Anyway … I’ll climb down off my soapbox now. Back to Dimitri.
Pairing up with a new kid for the first two days of school fit the volunteer criteria and hypothetically seemed easy enough, but this is showing all the signs of becoming a painful experience. I should’ve gone to the animal shelter like I did last semester.
So, for the next two days I’ll dutifully act as Dimitri’s seeing-eye dog. I’m required to give him a tour of the school and escort him to each class. Basically to make sure he doesn’t get lost. It would be a stretch to call our school big and it’s definitely not overwhelming. A half-day and I’m sure he’ll want to be free of me. The old ball and chain doesn’t have pleasant connotations even in the best of times. And so far this is not the best of times. It seems either I’m not making a very good first impression or he just isn’t that friendly. For the sake of my sanity, and partially my ego, I’m leaning toward the latter. It’s strange; usually I get along with people very well, especially guys.
He’s already walking toward the door of the school office that leads out into the main hallway, so I quickly follow. Wait, I’m supposed to be the one leading, right?
He holds the door for me. “After you.” He’s looking down at his shoes. Though I’m thankful the staring has ceased, I note that this intentional avoidance does not appear to be out of shyness, but arrogance.
On the other hand, holding the door open for me is impressive, and hints that this boy may have some manners. Another thing I’ve learned about teenage boys is that most of them do not possess manners, let alone any actual working knowledge of them.
I decide to reserve judgment. For now, the jury remains out on Dimitri from Texas.
We enter the hallway and he walks slowly beside me. Beside me may not be entirely accurate. The hallway is wide, but he’s so close his arm brushes mine several times.
Have they not heard about personal space in Texas? Maybe I should clue him in? After all, the halls are almost empty due to the fact that he’s arrived almost 45 minutes early. Fifteen would have been acceptable, but 45? Forty-five is a tad excessive. And by a tad, I mean
The grand tour is likewise a tad (see above) extensive, given the amount of time we have to work with … through … around … yes we manage to cover every angle. I point out all the essentials: the gym, art building, lunchroom, math, science and English wings, as well as the restrooms. He says nothing, just listens, though he seems preoccupied or distracted.
As we finish up the tour, the normal congestion and hum of the school is ramping up. I’ve always enjoyed school and the excitement that has thus far been absent from my much-anticipated first day of senior year emerges as I see familiar faces. I smile.
“We should find your locker,” I tell him. I’m expecting another short answer and he doesn’t disappoint. He just nods ever so slightly.
My smile vanishes as quickly as it appeared. Am I boring him? Because at this point, he’s kind of pissing me off. I look at him, widening my eyes as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
The corner of his mouth twitches toward a smile. Is he mocking me? I’m officially pissed off.
His locker turns out to be three down from mine. Isn’t that convenient? Not that he’ll probably ever speak to me again after tomorrow. Hell, he technically isn’t speaking to me now so what am I worried about?
I peel off my jacket and put some of the stuff from my over-burdened messenger bag in my locker. I planned to have time to decorate the inside of my locker door with some photos and decals before he arrived this morning, but I’m certainly not going to do it with him watching. Oddly, he makes me feel self-conscious. And that bothers me more than anything because I usually don’t care what other people think about me. I like who I am. I always try to do the “right” thing, but that’s more about not letting myself down than meeting someone else’s expectations. I don’t look for confirmation or validation from anyone—except maybe my parents.
“Ready?” I ask as I shut the door of my locker.
“Ready,” he answers quietly.
“Let me see your schedule again. I really should’ve made a copy of it before we left the office this morning. I guess I can just write it down.” I’m irritated with myself for overlooking the obvious and for letting him fluster me. I’m usually very organized.
“Keep it,” he says as he hands it over.
His nonchalance is irritating. “You’ll need this later, newbie.” I hate the word newbie. It’s condescending. But he’s been making me feel anxious all morning and I suddenly don’t mind coming off as rude.
“No, I’ll remember,” he says, tapping his finger to his temple. There’s that odd, small smile again.
I reach out and take it. “Okay, I guess I can give it back to you tomorrow afternoon when you’re on your own.”
“I won’t need it.
have a very good memory.” He’s still smiling.
God, he’s smug. “We’ll see. Let’s go, Mr. Memory. I don’t want to be held responsible for your first tardy.” An authoritative tone has managed to weave its way through the sarcasm.
Again, before I realize it, he’s walking ahead of me. To my surprise, we’re actually heading in the right direction.
“Where do you think you’re going?” I demand. I’m surprised at his willingness to take off on his own. Most people are completely overwhelmed by their first day at a new school, but he seems to be in complete control; relaxed, even.
“To Chemistry, of course,” he says with a wink.
Did he really just wink at me? It stops me in my tracks. Is he teasing? Is he flirting? Whatever he’s doing my heart just skipped a beat. And I’m not sure I like it. It feels like betrayal of my better judgment.
“Come on,” he says, motioning over his shoulder for me to catch up. “I don’t want to be held responsible for
first tardy.” He’s ahead of me, but I swear I hear him smiling, taunting me, as he throws my own words back at me.
The science wing is just down the hall from our lockers, so it takes all of twenty seconds to get there. Confident I’m following, Dimitri never looks back to see if I’m even behind him. I intentionally trail at a distance.
“I’ll be back when class is over,” I call out. “I have math this period and it’s just in the next wing. It will only take me a minute to get here after the bell.” I’m almost daring him to wait for me. Why am I being so bossy? And what’s with the extensive explanation?
“In a bit then, Veronica,” he says just loud enough that I can hear, as he reaches for the door handle. He never turns around.
Math is a nice surprise, and a good distraction from the strange morning I’ve had. Mr. White is teaching calculus this year. I had him for Trigonometry last year and I liked him a lot. He’s older, maybe 55, and has thinning gray hair. His demeanor’s quiet and calm, but he really seems to care about us. He has kind eyes and wears a perpetual smile. He takes time to explain anything we don’t understand and is obviously excited about math. Students lucky enough to take his class often become his fans for life.