Falling into Us Read online

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Even my private thoughts sounded like calculus equations.

  The only thing that I kept private from my parents was my poetry, and I hid those notebooks in a shoebox buried in the depths of my closet. The notebook currently in use was never out of my sight, either in my purse or my backpack, disguised between textbooks and notebooks filled with school notes. I would rather burn my notebooks than let anyone read them; they expressed my every thought, my every emotion, all my deepest, darkest demons. To read my notebooks would be to read the very substance of my soul.

  I answered my phone without looking at it, since only Jill and Nell had my number. “Hello?”

  “Uh…hey. Becca, it’s Jason…uh…Jason Dorsey. ”

  Jason Dorsey was the very last person on the planet I’d ever expect to call me at seven-thirty on a Friday night, especially when I knew for a fact he had a date with Nell tonight.

  “Jason? How did you get my number, and why are you calling me?” I couldn’t help sounding a little bitchy; I’d been in love with Jason Dorsey since we were in fourth grade and he punched Danny Morelli in the nose for making fun of my stutter. I’d been in love with Jason Dorsey since forever, but he didn’t even know I existed, except as Nell’s awkward friend.

  I might have been a little angry at Jason, just in general.

  “Well, I…you see…” He sounded unlike himself, meaning he sounded hesitant and not at all his cocky, arrogant self. “Um, god, I’m making a mess of this. ”

  “I do not even know what it is you are making a mess of, Jason. Just say what you called me to say. ” I was nervous and trying not to be a bitch, so I sounded formal and stilted from my effort to not stutter.

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  “Okay, it’s like this. You know how I asked Nell out today?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Well, the thing is, the date never happened. ”

  “So I surmised from the fact that you are speaking to me instead of Nell. ” I just couldn’t figure out what he wanted. Why was he calling me?

  “Well, she’s with Kyle. I think they’re, like, together. ”

  I couldn’t have been more shocked if I tried. “But she agreed to a date with you. I don’t understand. ”

  “Yeah, me, either. I showed up at her house to pick her up, and she wasn’t there. She called me from Kyle’s phone and cancelled the date. ”

  “You mean she wanted to do it another time. ” Why would Nell agree to a date with Jason if she was with Kyle? And since when was she with Kyle? Nothing made sense. And I still didn’t know why Jason was calling me about this, of all people. We were hardly friends.

  “No,” Jason said, sounding obviously frustrated. “I mean, she told me it wouldn’t work out, meaning ever. ”

  “I’m sorry to hear that. I know you liked her a lot. ” I didn’t know what else to say. All through elementary school, junior high, and high school, I’d wanted Jason to see me, to pay attention to me, but all he could see was Nell.

  “God, does everyone know? I didn’t realize it was that obvious. ” He sounded irritated.

  I couldn’t help laughing. “It is kind of obvious, Jason, yes. You’ve had a crush on her for a very long time. Anyone who knows you and her both can see it. ”

  “Except her. ”

  “Yes, except her,” I agreed. “Again, what does this have to do with me?”

  A long silence from the other end of the conversation announced to me that Jason was clearly uncomfortable or nervous about whatever he’d called me to say.

  “I—well, I have reservations at Bravo,” he said, “and I was wondering if you wanted to go with me. ”

  The penny dropped, finally. “Y-you what? Oh, hell n-no, Jason! You did not just-just ask me out as Nell’s sloppy se-seconds! Ugh!” I groaned in anger, at Jason for both insulting me like he just had, and for making me so angry I had reverted to incoherent stuttering.

  “No, Becca, it’s not like that, I promise!”

  I took several deep breaths and focused on forming my words clearly. “Please explain your reasoning to me, Jason. I am afraid I do not see how you arrived at your conclusion that this was a good idea. ”

  Jason moaned, a distant, muffled sound as if he’d buried his face in his hand with the phone held away from his face. “Listen, Becca. This wasn’t even my idea. None of it. ”

  “Well, that absolutely helps me feel better about this. Do continue. ”

  Jason laughed. “God, Becca. You’re funny when you’re pissed. ”

  “I’m funny all the time. You just never knew until now. ”

  He laughed again, which wasn’t helping my attempts to stay mad. “See? Funny. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you are funny all the time, and I just never knew. Give me a chance to find out. ”

  “Why? Do you even understand how insulting this is?” I spoke in a mocking deep voice. “‘Oh, hi, I got dumped and you’re my consolation prize. ’ Wow, Jason. I’d be so honored. Or not. ”

  “I thought you were going to give me a chance to explain?” Jason asked.

  “Okay, fine. Go. ”

  “I’m in your subdivision already, so how about you tell me which house is yours, and I’ll pick you up. I’ll explain the whole sordid affair over dinner. ”

  “Wow, you used a big word, Jason. Good job. ”

  He sounded a little hurt, actually, and I felt a twinge of guilt. “Damn, Becca. That wasn’t cool. Not all jocks are dumb, you know. ” He paused and then continued. “Besides, sordid isn’t that big of a word. Anyway, come on. I know how this seems, but it’s not like you’re thinking, really. Give me a shot. Please?”

  I laughed despite myself. “Fine. Give me a few minutes to check with my parents. And stay where you are. ”

  He sounded confused but agreed. “Sure, okay. See you in a minute. I’m sitting in the entrance to the Harris Lake Estates. ”

  “I’m not sure I want to know how you know where I live. ”

  He chuckled. “I gave Jill a ride home after school one day, and she mentioned that you live in the same neighborhood. Nothing…disreputable going on. ”

  I laughed again. “I’m hanging up. ”

  “Fine. I was done talking to you anyway. ” He laughed and hung up before I could.

  Now came the tricky part: lying to my parents. They’d never in a million years let me go to dinner with a boy, any boy, much less one neither they nor I knew. Jason and I had grown up together, gone to the same schools, been in a lot of the same classes together, but I didn’t really know him.

  I stuffed my journal in my purse along with my cell phone and skipped down the stairs. My parents were sitting at the dining room table, arguing in a complicated mixture of English, Arabic, and Italian. “I’m going out with Nell. ”

  My father looked up, a lifted eyebrow stopping me in my tracks. “You have finished all of your homework?”

  I nodded. “Yes, Father. ”

  He dipped his chin in a shallow, regal nod. “Very well. Check in at ten. ”

  “I will. Grazie. ”

  I slipped out the front door, checking my purse for my keys before I left. If I dared come home past curfew, he’d lock the doors whether I had a key or not. I had my driver’s license, but Father wouldn’t allow me a car until my junior year, provided I kept a 4. 0 GPA through the rest of this year, at which point he would buy me a car. I’d honestly rather buy my own, but that wasn’t allowed, either. I couldn’t get a job, because it would distract me from my studies.

  I hated being dependent on my parents, but I had no choice.

  Nell and I often met at the intersection, since if there were boys in the car and they picked me up from my house, my father would have an aneurism. Even if it was harmless, just friends all hanging out, he would lose his mind. I’d gotten good at deceiving him when it came to hanging out with Nell and Jill—which meant Kyle and Jill’s boyfriend Nick—and often Jason as well. We’d go to the mall and hang o