"It must be hard," says Gracie, pulling at the curls on her afro wig.
"What?" I ask.
We're sitting on the back porch. Her leg touches mine.
"Thinking things that you can't say out loud," she says. "Because of your... you know."
"Stutter," I say, and finish my cup of Kool-Aid... or whatever that was. "You know how people always say they'd like to be a fly on the wall?"
"Yeah," she says, and looks out into the pitch black yard.
"Well, that's what my whole life is like. It's like watching a movie that I sometimes forget I'm in."
Gracie looks at me. I feel myself blush.
"But your not stuttering now," she says.
I look at my empty cup. Gracie's right. I have no idea if its former contents have anything to with it. Or with the ache in my stomach.
"Can I tell you something?" I blurt.
"Please do," she says, and smiles.
"I write... a secret advice column. And nobody else knows about it. That's how I deal with my stutter. That's when I feel alive."
Saying it out loud feels almost as good as winning the student council election.
"You're Dear Albert?!"
"You know Dear Albert?"
"Of course I do. Everyone at South Catholic reads it. Our administration won't let us have a newspaper, so we read yours. But I thought..."
"—I shouldn't have said anything," I say. I thought talking to a girl from another school meant it wasn't possible to blow my cover.
Apparently the world is smaller than I thought.
"I thought it was some guy Brandon?"
"Braden," I say. "A lot of people think that. Don't tell, okay?"
She slaps her hand to her knee.
"How can I know you're telling the truth, and it's not just the Kool-Aid talking?"
This is my out, my chance to make sure the truth doesn't spread—and ruin Braden's story. But before I can stop myself, I've taken my phone out of my pocket and pulled up an email.
"Want to read next week's column?"
She looks at me and raises an eyebrow. I love it when people can do that.
"In a minute," she says, and grabs my cup.
I look out into the yard. What am I doing? Why am I letting her refill my cup? I shouldn't be here, at this football party, in this yard with a stranger.
But at the same time, it feels so nice to be honest with someone.
And Gracie seems like a pretty cool someone.
Gracie returns with two full cups. She sips from hers, so I do the same. My stomach growls as the red stuff makes its way down. Gracie grabs my phone and reads aloud.
Three weeks ago, my boyfriend of over a year broke up with me. I was the one who screwed up the relationship, but I still took it hard. I was, and still am, completely in love with him.
But there is this guy, NOT THE REASON FOR THE BREAK UP!!!, who likes me. And I really like him too. We've been friends for a while, but I can't ignore my attraction to him anymore.
Is it too early to start dating again? Would it be a bad idea to date this new guy?
Dearest Two Love,
Well HEY GIRL. You're in luck. I've been thinking about this very problem a lot lately—because of The Amazing Spider-Man. Is it possible to give oneself completely when one is still emotionally connected to the original franchise? Err, boyfriend?
It's a tough call—like whether a guy is allowed to wear neon pants. But I can't help but feel that it's too soon.
For Spider-Man, I mean.
But I'm still so excited! How can you NOT be? Just because I loved Spider-Man, it doesn't mean I can't love The Amazing Spider-Man, right?! It's human nature! We were practically born to love comic book movies. I mean, um, other people.
But if I had the chance to text a Columbia Pictures exec, I would beg him to wait. I would picture text him (or her! whoops!) sad faces until he understood that I can't commit to The Amazing Spider-Man while I am still invested in Sam Raimi. Until Tobey and the gang is just a fond memory, the Spider-Man franchises will share a spot in my consciousness.
And that just feels like trouble.
In your case, you can actually reason with the studio exec, who, of course, is a teen guy. You can ask him to wait a while—maybe give you a month or two to see if you can get over Tobey McGuire. If he really likes you for YOU, and not just for your lady pants parts, he should realize that this plan will be better for everyone—much healthier for your future together.
And if he doesn't want to wait, it's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong, in less you call self-respect and maturity "wrong." Which, come to think of it, a lot of teen humans do. (But not me!!)
Whatever you choose, have confidence in your decision. Be honest. Acknowledge your gut, even if you don't want to. Go full-force.
Because nothing's worse than a half-hearted hero.
"A half-hearted hero. I never thought of that," Gracie says, taking a swig from my cup. "So tragic. I like it."
"So it's really you?"
I look down, trying to hide my proud smile.
"I think that's really cool," she says.
We both look out into the yard, hear crickets.
She turns to me.
"What are you thinking?" she asks.
I take a sip.
For someone who's always thinking, I don't know what I'm thinking right now. I feel confused—like this night is significant somehow. Like meeting Gracie is a big step for me. Maybe it is.
I place my cup behind me, and I kiss her.
She. Gracie. Kisses back.
I move my lips, like I know I'm supposed to, and she moves hers. I purse mine together, expecting hers to intertwine, but instead I am puckering at the air inside her mouth. I've only been kissing for three seconds of my life, and already I'm terrible at it.
Gracie lightly pulls my face—guiding it toward hers. This creates a rhythm, sort of. And in a moment, my tongue is in her mouth. She flicks it with hers. I start to pull away, but she holds me there, then finally, slowly pulls away, leaving a tiny wet kiss on my lips.
"Now what are you thinking?" she asks.
I can't tell her. Not because of the stutter. Because the answer would surely hurt her feelings.
I'm thinking nothing. I'm feeling nothing. I like Gracie, and I've thought about my first kiss for literally years. But I never anticipated that the moment would feel so empty.
No, I can't tell her that. I can't, so I kiss her again.
I hold her goofy wig with my left hand for balance, and we French kiss again. I will myself to feel something solid. Something real. And finally, when the patio door swings open, I do.
"WOAHHHH, LET'S DO A THREESOME! MENDARD A TWA!" shouts Paul Atkins, as he bounds toward us.
I quickly pull away. Gracie wipes her lips.
"Paul, get-get-get outta here!" I shout.
Magically, he does. He turns around, slides the patio door closed, and screams to the crowd inside.
"SAM IS MAKING OUT WITH SOME CHICK!"
I put my head in my hands. Gracie laughs and shouts back.
"I have a NAME!"
I feel her look at me.
"It's okay," she says.
I look up. Maybe it is. It is. It is.
She strokes my knee, and gestures for me to stand up with her.
"Come on, Sam. It's no big deal."
It is. No big deal.
We head back toward the patio door.
No big deal.
But that's the problem.
Special thanks to DaianeralLynn for this week's question!
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