Authors: J. S. Cooper
J. S. Cooper
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2012 by J. S. Cooper
They say that you never know the exact minute your life has changed; that circumstances and situations happen and one day you wake up and you just feel differently. It’s meant to be gradual—a shift in your life is like the rotation of the sun, it happens so slowly that you barely know it’s happening. That’s not how it happened for me. I know the exact time and day that my life changed.
I’m just a small town girl with an average life, though I always dreamed of more. I wanted to be a famous Hollywood actress, the darling of America, with men lining up to date me. Only I’d never acted, not even in school plays. In fact, I didn’t even like acting—or actors. I thought they were pretentious. I just wanted the admiration and the love that came with the profession. I suppose it has to do with my childhood. At least, that’s what the psychology books tell me.
I’m a bit of a psychology buff. Not from choice really, but from fate. You see I work in a library and we recently got a huge donation of psychology books from some old guy who became a famous psychologist and was from our town. He was ‘giving back’. Nelly, the librarian, acted like she was happy but I know she would have preferred a cash donation. Now that would have been really giving back.
It was the day that the thousands of psychology books arrived that my life changed. I was in charge of stacking all of the books in our new self-help section, when Mary Macalister walked up to me and asked me the time. It was 1.37pm. She thanked me and walked back to her group of friends, a group of girls I’d gone to High School with—none of them were my friends though. They stood there, laughing and gossiping about college stuff. They were all juniors at the University of Iowa, back home in our small town of Jonesville on Christmas vacation.
I watched them curiously, looking to see how’d they changed. These were the popular girls from school—you know them, all blonde, all cute, all skinny and all of them had a brain about the size of a pea. Well, some of them had larger brains, but you know what I mean. They were all younger than me, by a year or two, but I still knew them—in a town as small as ours, you knew everyone who was within a few years of you.
“Did you hear that Bryce Evans was back in town?” one of the girls giggled to Mary, the de facto leader of the group. I looked at my watch to pretend I wasn’t eavesdropping. It was 1.40pm. I look back at that time as the moment my heart stopped beating for ten seconds.
“No; does Suzannah know?” Mary asked giggly blond #1.
“I don’t know.”
Giggle, giggle. I wanted to ask her what was so funny. “Shall we call and ask her?”
“No.” Mary smiled, slyly. “She had her chance. Now it’s my turn.” She turned to the gaggle of geese, I mean the other girls around her, and drew them in close to her. “Let’s go shopping. I need to get a new outfit to wow Bryce in.”
“Okay, Mary,” they all chimed together and waddled out of the library. I stood there, watching them leave, and smiled slowly.
Bryce Evans was back. I felt excited and disappointed all at the same time. It didn’t really matter if he was back. We weren’t friends. He had no reason to call me and I had no reason to call him—unless I wanted to come clean about the letters. I didn’t. Well, part of me wanted to, but I didn’t really know what that would accomplish.
But, wow, Bryce was back. Jonesville High School Quarterback extraordinaire. The pride and joy of our town. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a town party that weekend; his dad was the mayor after all. I sighed and went back to stacking books. Even if I wanted to go I knew that I couldn’t, even if some miracle happened and I was actually invited. But I knew that there was no way that my mom would be alright with that. No way at all.
I drove to the dog pound when I got off of work. That’s where my best friend Anna works. We’ve been best friends since Kindergarten and we’ve never left Jonesville. After High School, we both went to the local community college and got jobs doing things we loved. I went to work at the library and she worked at Jonesville Animal Services.
We lived at home with our parents, watched ‘The Bachelor’ and split large pizzas. Our lives were simple and uneventful and they always had been. We were the invisible girls.
sThe ones who never got noticed. We just sort of blended in. But we never spoke about it. It was just the way things were. We accepted our lot in life. I mean, we were really happy with how life had turned out for us.
Well, I wasn’t really happy. Really happy would be a hot guy noticing me and, just once, giving me that look that screamed, “Wow, you are hot and I want you right now.” That’s never happened to me though.
I waited in my car until Anna came out and she jumped into my 1998 Ford Escort with a huge smile. “Bongo got adopted today,” she grinned.
“Finally, I thought you were going to add a 4
dog to your crew.” I smiled, happy that Bongo wasn’t going to be joining Anna’s circus of animals.
“I don’t think my dad would have approved.” She laughed and I joined in. Anna’s dad, Dr. Ross, had told her that she couldn’t bring any more animals into the home, which I think was perfectly understandable. She did have three dogs, two cats, two rabbits, a canary and a hamster. Her house was like a zoo and smelled like one too, though I tried not to say anything when we hung out.
“So who adopted Bongo?” I asked, wondering who had been crazy enough to adopt the crazy mutt who chased everything at 50 mph, while barking up a storm. The only reason why people weren’t scared of him was because he was small, a terrier mix of some sort. But he was crazy. Literally crazy. I think he should have been prescribed doggy Xanax, but who am I to say anything?
“Luke.” She grinned at me.
“Oh no. You talked Luke into adopting him?” I sighed. “That means I am likely going to be the one who has to take care of him.”
“Well he was the only one I could convince,” she grinned. “And you know Bongo needed a forever home.”
“Argh, Anna, I could kill you,” I groaned and started the car. “Did he pick him up already?”
“Yes.” Anna pulled out her phone. “Shall I tell him we’re coming over?”
“Let’s go for a shake first.” I looked at my friend and smiled. “I have something to tell you before we go to Luke’s.”
“Wait, what?” Anna frowned at me and leaned towards me. I knew she was curious as to what I had to tell her that I didn’t want Luke to hear. Luke was our other best friend. Well, that’s not exactly true. He was
other best friend. Luke and I had been friends since Sixth Grade. He and I shared a love of books and he had wormed his way into our little circle. Anna and Luke had never grown as close as he and I had, but they weren’t enemies or anything. I had a feeling that Anna had a crush on Luke, but she had never actually admitted that to me.
“Bryce Evans is back in town.” I kept my face looking forward as I said the words. I wasn’t sure whether my beating heart or Anna’s gasp was louder.
“No way.” Anna’s voice was shocked and breathless and I grinned to myself.
“Yes. Mary Macalister and her posse came into the library today and I heard them talking about it.”
“So he’s back for good?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did he leave the army?”
“How would I know?” I sighed, exasperated.
“Is he going to go to college?”
” I shouted. “How would I know any of that?”
“Sorry.” Her voice was small. “What are you going to do?”
“There isn’t really much I can do.” I bit my lip. “But we need to create a plan anyways.”
paused. “Are you going to tell him about the letters?”
“Anna.” I shushed her. “You know we can’t talk about the letters.”
“Luke’s not here,” she sighed.
“There are listening ears everywhere
, Anna.” I pulled into Steak N Shake. “We only talk about the letters in my room, in my house.” I paused. “With the windows and the doors shut tightly.”
, you would think you were in the CIA or FBI, Lexi. No one cares.”
“You know it can’t get out
“Why not?” She frowned. “It’s not really a big deal.”
“Anna.” I frowned at her saddened. She knew how important the letters had been to me. How I kept them in a locked box under my bed. I think they were my most prized possession.
“Fine.” She pulled out her phone. “I need to text Luke and tell him that we won’t be over for a while.”
“What? Why?” I looked at her, confused.
“I kind of told him we’d come over to play with him and Bongo when you picked me up from work.”
“Of course you did,” I laughed. “Don’t tell me Luke thinks I’m going to bring food over as well?”
“No.” Her voice was low.
“That’s a yes.” I rolled my eyes and sighed. “Anna, you do know that I now own a dog thanks to you.”
“Maybe Luke will look after him?”
“Yeah, right.” I tried to pretend I was angry, but I was too happy to do a good job. I told you my acting skills weren’t that great.
“You know you and Luke spend every day together anyways.” Anna smiled at me and looked at me with wistful eyes.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I laughed. Luke and his parents had moved next door to my mother and I when we were in 9
Grade and we did see each other almost every day. Honestly, I had seen him every day since he moved in, except for one summer when he had gone camping without me. We had bedrooms that faced each other and sometimes we spent nights talking on our walkie-talkies to each other. Luke was the male version of me—only he was taller, smarter and more sensible.
“Did he make a decision about moving to Boston yet?”
“No,” I frowned. “I told him he should go.”
“You’ll miss him though?” Ana opened the door for me and we sat down in a booth.
“Of course I will. But MIT. That’s an awesome, awesome opportunity.”
“Yeah.” She studied the menu. “And he can afford it now.”
“Yeah.” I felt a sudden dullness in my heart. Luke had gotten into MIT when we graduated from high school, but he hadn’t been able to afford the tuition. His dad had been laid off from his job at the post office and his mother was a CNA so there wasn’t much they could do to help.
So he had enrolled at the community college with Anna and I and started his own computer software company. He had graduated with his AA after one year and
had made oodles of money creating educational software and selling them to some fancy internet company in San Francisco. He had paid off his parents’ mortgage and was now working on some new software for an online dating agency.
And now MIT was interested in him again, in fact, they had come wooing him. I was proud of my friend
, but was scared to think about what my life would be like if he left Jonesville.
“Are you ever going to tell Luke about your letters to Bryce?”
“Maybe,” I sighed. “I just don’t think he’ll understand. He’ll think I’m sappy.”
“I think he would be happy to hear you were interested in a new guy.”
“Not really. Not after what happened in high school. He doesn’t really like Bryce. And he would not understand why some fake letters were important to me.”
“The letters weren’t fake!”
“Well, you know, my persona was. Who knows if Bryce would have responded if he had known it was me—Lexi Lord?”
“You think he would have ignored you?” Anna looked perplexed.
“No,” I laughed. “I doubt he even knows who Lexi Lord is.” I was being honest. Bryce Evans. Star Quarterback. Golden boy of Jonesville. Son of the mayor. Gorgeous stud. Bryce, the guy I had daydreamed about every day in high school, likely had no idea who I was. I doubt he would recognize my name or my face. And why would he? We didn’t hang out in the same circles. We’d never had the same friends. We had only ever had one real conversation, and that was on a night I hated to think about. It was the worst and best night of my life.