P.S. I Like You(6)

By: Kasie West

Suddenly, I loved newspapers.

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“You ready to go?” Ashley asked, coming into the kitchen. She was yawning, but, as usual, she was perfectly put together, in skinny jeans, a pink scoop-neck T-shirt, and platform shoes, with her hair in a ponytail and her makeup flawless. Although we looked alike—same long, auburn hair, hazel eyes, and freckles—our style was totally opposite. Ashley would have fit in well with Lauren and Sasha at school.

“What?” I blinked at my sister, confused. “I mean, yes. I mean, Dad, can I have that?”

Dad looked at his plate, which had a half-eaten bagel on it, shrugged, and pushed it my way.

“Gross. No, the newspaper.”

“The paper? You want to read the paper?”


Ashley came over and snatched the bagel off his plate.

“Hey, that was for Lily.”

“No, it wasn’t,” I said. “I want the paper, not the bagel.”

He grunted. “Nope, it still didn’t sound believable the second time I heard it either.”

“Funny, Dad.”

“You can have the paper if you go vote.”

I rolled my eyes, pushed my chair away from the table, and went back to examine the necklaces. The one on the right had feathers. My mom was going through a feather phase. I was normally a fan of my mom’s jewelry but the feather thing was a little too hippie for my tastes. Other people seemed to like it though. I lifted the one on the left. “This is your winner.”

My dad pumped his fist. “She voted for mine, Emily!”

I held out my hand.

Dad gave me the newspaper, kissed my cheek, and went off to find my mom, I was sure.

“It’s funny how they think we don’t know whose is whose,” Ashley said. “Like the score would be so close every time.”

“I know. We should really make Mom win by a landslide every time and then maybe they’d stop the competition.”

“It’s good for Dad’s self-esteem. Now let’s get you to school, little one.”

I clutched the newspaper to my chest, hugging the words, and followed after my sister. Now I just had to write the perfect song and win this competition.

There was something about Chemistry that stimulated every thought in my mind to fire at once. Maybe it was the mixture of boring subject, monotone teacher, and cold seat. I wondered if there was a chemical equation for that. Those three factors, combined, created slush brain. No, that was the wrong term. My brain didn’t become lazy. It became full. Hyperactive brain. A brain that made it impossible to concentrate on the sluggish words exiting Mr. Ortega’s mouth. Were his words coming out slower than normal?

Today, amidst all the usual thoughts and words that I now couldn’t write down in a notebook, I had the song I had learned to play on my guitar the day before looping through my mind. It was a torturous song—one I loved and hated. I loved it because it was brilliant, the kind that made me want to write a song equally as good. I hated it because it was brilliant, the kind that let me know I’d never write a song anywhere close to as good.

And I kept thinking about that contest.

How was I going to win? How would I even enter it?

My pencil hovered over my paper—the single Mr. Ortega–approved page. If I could write the song down, it would get out of my head and let me focus on the lecture. This paper would go in front of Mr. Ortega in exactly forty-five minutes. Forty-five minutes? This class was never-ending. What was he even talking about? Iron. Something about the properties of iron. I wrote the word iron down on the page.

Then, as if my pencil had a mind of its own, it moved over to the fake wood desktop and jotted down the words playing in my head:

Stretch out your wilting petals and let the light in.

I added a drawing of a little sun, its rays touching some of the words. Now, just forty-three minutes left of class.

I was in the midst of writing in my notebook and walking down the hallway—something I hadn’t quite mastered, despite how many times I had done it—when I heard the laughter.

I thought it was directed at me, so I looked up. It wasn’t.

A blond kid—a freshman, maybe—stood in the middle of the hall, books gripped to his chest. Balanced precariously on top of his head was a baseball bat. Cade Jennings stood behind him, holding his hands out to his sides like he had just let go of that bat.

“Toss me the ball,” Cade said to his friend Mike, who was standing across from him and the poor freshman.

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