GIRL CODE #1:
Never date a friend’s ex or a guy your friend is really into.
“What ever happened to girl code?” Jenna asked, sitting cross-legged in the center of my bed, nodding grimly as her teeth savagely tore at a Twizzler.
“Yeah, well, Ava isn’t a believer,” Flor muttered as she crouched in front of my window, peering between the open blinds like this was some kind of stakeout.
Sadly, it was not an unfamiliar scenario. Girls had been looking out my blinds to the house next door for years.
I lived next door to my best friend’s infatuation. In fact, he was most girls’ infatuation, but at the moment I only had Flor to contend with. Trust me, she was more than enough.
For ten plus years, I’d had a bird’s-eye view into Zach Tucker’s life—?a fact that made me the envy of every girl at Madison High. It also made me the supreme authority on all things Zach Tucker. It wasn’t a designation I wanted, but it was mine nonetheless. Perhaps the thing I was best known for. Yeah. Not something to be proud of.
Complete strangers—?girls, naturally—?would approach me in the halls just to ask if I really lived next door to Zach Tucker.
I needed to move.
“Remember when Ava moved here in seventh grade and I invited her to sit with us at lunch? Our fathers golf together.” Flor looked back at me, outrage brimming in her eyes. “I gave her a ride all last year so she didn’t have to take the bus.”
“No loyalty,” Jenna agreed, not helping. I sent her a look. She shrugged and took another vicious bite from the long rope of red.
I was all about not fanning the flames of Flor’s indignation, but Jenna didn’t seem to get that.
Flor looked back out the blinds with a frustrated sigh, bending at the waist and propping her hands on shapely hips. Hours of soccer per week gave her a body I could only dream about. In fact, that was what most guys did—?dream about Flor Hidalgo’s body. Except Zach Tucker.
Unfathomable as it seemed, he had held that dream in the palm of his hand and he didn’t want it anymore. But then he was Zach Tucker. A dream in his own right. He could have any girl he wanted.
I opened my mouth to defend Ava, but then I didn’t know if I should . . . or could. I didn’t exactly know what was right here. I only knew that I would never make a play for Zach.
Even if I thought I had a chance.
Even if I hadn’t been friend-zoned since we were eight and riding our bikes around the neighborhood.
Flor had had him first. Always and forever. He was her ex-boyfriend. Bottom line. I knew that. Ava should have known it too.
Flor faced me again. “Have you seen him today?” Her dark eyes searched mine. “Is he even home?” Hair in a ponytail, makeup long sweated off from running up and down a soccer field, she was still prettier than any girl had a right to be.
Jenna stared at me too, waiting and sucking on her Twizzler until it resembled a disgusting red antenna.
Spinning around in my swivel chair, I looked at Zach’s window directly across from mine and felt the familiar ache in my chest.
Ivy draped the entire side of his house. Only his window was spared the tangle of green. The devouring mass of vines and leaves had mesmerized me over the years, growing and expanding before my very gaze—?just like my infatuation with Zach Tucker.
Once a year, Mrs. Tucker hired someone to trim back the ivy and keep it from swallowing his window. As a little kid, I would always breathe a little easier then. As though Zach were saved from being consumed.
Motioning in the general direction of Zach’s driveway, I pointed out, “His car’s here.”
Flor looked back at me, sinking her perfect white teeth deep into her bottom lip. “But he could have gone somewhere with his mom or a friend or something. Did you see someone pick him up?”
“No, but I haven’t been watching his house all afternoon.”
“You know, you could just text him,” Jenna suggested, dropping flat on her back on my bed, her hair fanning out around her head in a golden pool.
I glanced back at my laptop. Mr. Martinez had posted practice questions for tomorrow’s test. We were supposed to be studying, but I should have known we weren’t going to get any work done. An hour in and we hadn’t even made it through two problems. And I still needed to practice my cello. Ms. Rivela had assigned a new arrangement, and I was really struggling with it.
Flor shot Jenna a quick glare. “I have texted him. He hasn’t replied yet.”
“Maybe he’s too busy with Ava.”
I shot Jenna a death look. Did she really have to go there? Speculation was already ripe at school ever since Ava had sat with Zach at lunch this afternoon and not us like she did every day. It was a bold move. The kind of move someone only made when they had a sudden change in relationship status. Everyone gawked as she plopped herself down beside him. Laughing, flirting. Touching his arm every chance she got.
Jenna shrugged back at me.
“You think he’s with her now?” Flor demanded, her velvety eyes wide with alarm. And that was strange. Flor Hidalgo was many things, but never insecure. If this was what happened when a guy dumped you, no thanks. Single sounded just right to me.
Zach had broken up with her nine days ago. Nine endless days ago. They had been together for three months. The longest three months of my life. A month ago I’d sensed that Zach wanted out.
There were all the little signs. Easy to catch if you knew him. His eyes strayed from Flor’s face when she was talking. When they touched or kissed, he pulled away first. He missed a couple of her soccer games even when I knew he didn’t have anywhere else to be. And then there was the night when Flor got stupid drunk. Something went down between them that night, because he broke it off the next day.
It was like watching a car crash about to happen. Everything dragged to slow motion. I knew it was coming, but I wasn’t able to do anything except brace for the impact.