If you missed my book party last night, well what the hell else were you doing? Oh right, people have lives. Well, I know some of you wanted to attend and couldn’t make it, so here’s the run down of everything that you missed.
1. 70! of my new BFF’s hanging on the interwebs, talking about PRETTY AMY and writing and publishing and what I was like in high school.
2. My editor and a few other brave souls, getting on their webcams to ask me questions in front of everyone.
3. People attending from Australia, where I don’t even know what time it was and people attending from the UK where it was 2am when it ended.
4. Show and tell with my high school yearbook. Complete with my senior photo.
5. Me swigging beer in between questions (hey it was a party).
6. Finally, me reading a reading chapter from an early, early draft of PRETTY AMY, which I will not share because it should not be in print anywhere 😉 and a chapter from the current book that has never been shared anywhere, which I will share with you below:
I looked up at the basement window. The sun was bright.
So bright, it made me blink. It was the kind of beautiful
summer day when, in my old life, Cassie, Lila, and I would
have made our way down to the rocky shores of Lake Erie.
It was a whole forty-five-minute drive away. There were
closer places to go, but we liked that no one knew us there.
That we could be whoever we wanted to be.
We lay next to one another in the sun, waiting for some
boys that Lila knew to meet us, the smell of dead fish and
suntan lotion and hot sand all around. Lila was in a black
bikini. I was wearing jean shorts and a blue tankini top, and
Cassie had a flannel over her one-piece bathing suit.
“Aren’t you hot?” Lila asked, leaning on her arm to look
at Cassie. Her skin was shiny with suntan oil.
“Aren’t you cold?” Cassie sneered. She drank from a
plastic canteen. Then she passed it to me.
“I feel just right,” I said, opening the cap and sniffing. It
was strong, like ammonia strong.
I’d gotten used to our routine. Cassie was brash. Lila was
beautiful. I was quiet and plain. Like human versions of the
porridge in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Being ordinary
was exactly what had made me feel out of place around other
people, but Cassie and Lila wanted me to be that way.
I braved it and took a sip. It tasted like spoiled apple juice.
I coughed. “Yuck, what is that?”
“Seagram’s, I think. My dad has had it hidden in his
underwear drawer since the day I was born,” Cassie said.
I passed it over to Lila. She took a drink, her mouth
puckering. “It tastes like crap.”
“You’re going to start being picky now?” Cassie said.
Lila shrugged and took another slug. “I had a cousin who
used to drink mouthwash to get drunk.”
“Are you serious?” I asked.
She nodded, her sunglasses pointy like cat eyes. “I caught
him on Thanksgiving one year. I never told anyone.”
“That’s so weird,” I said.
“I know, right?” She laughed. “I would have to be so hard
up to try that.”
I doubted Lila would ever be that hard up.
“Your family is so fucked up,” Cassie said, grabbing the
canteen back from Lila.
“All the best ones are,” Lila said, smiling devilishly.
“Right.” I laughed. “The Mansons.”
“Burn,” Cassie snapped.
“The Kardashians,” I added, bolstered by Cassie’s
“Ha!” Cassie laughed. “Double burn.”
“Funny,” Lila said, not laughing, which I knew meant she
didn’t think it was.
“Where are they?” Cassie asked, lighting a cigarette and
“They’ll be here,” Lila said. She could get away with
saying things like that. She put her sunglasses on her forehead.
“Maybe we should go,” I said. We had been waiting all
day. My skin was hot and pink. The SPF 45 suntan lotion I had
put on at my house had more than worn off. I hadn’t had the
nerve to bring it with me.
“We’re waiting,” Lila said.
“Whatever,” Cassie said.
I knew we were. There was nothing Cassie or I could say
to change Lila’s mind. She actually liked the boy who was
coming for her. I never knew what Cassie thought of her
partners, but mine always seemed like leftovers.
Maybe I seemed like leftovers to them.
“We should come here every day,” Lila said.
“Totally,” I said. Sunburned or not, boys on the way or not,
I would rather be there, far from Collinsville with Cassie and
Lila, than anywhere else.
“You got the gas money for that?” Cassie said, shoving her
spent cigarette in an empty soda can.
“They’re here,” Lila said, squinting and putting her
sunglasses back on.
It was Kyle, Chris, and Nick. The guys that seemed to wave
like cattails as they smoked cigarettes every morning before
school on Farber Lane—taunting the administrators, daring
them to do something about it. I’d never talked to any of
them. Of course, Lila had. Or more likely, they had talked to
I watched as they walked over. They looked like variations
on the same theme: clothes that hung on their scarecrow
bodies, hair that was too long to be accidental.
“Stop drooling, Amy. You want them to know we’ve
actually been waiting for them?” Lila asked.
“Sorry,” I said, looking away.
“Kyle’s mine,” Lila whispered as she stood up. He was the
cutest: dark brown hair and eyes, skin the color of caramel.
There was no doubt he was hers.
“Hey,” Kyle said, smoke leaking through the gaps in his
teeth as he smiled.
“Took you long enough,” Lila said, putting her arm
around his waist and walking away with him.
Chris kicked at the sand like a stubborn horse. Some of it
landed on Cassie. She stood up and pushed him. “What’s up,
slut?” he said. He was tall, gangly; he reminded me of a giraffe.
“Not much, fuckface,” she said, but it was obvious she was
smiling. “See you losers later,” she said as the two of them
walked in the other direction.
Nick stood there. His bathing suit hung so low that I could
see a sliver of his underwear. Who wore underwear under his
Someone who wasn’t going to the beach to swim.
“Hi,” he said, his cheeks blooming pink.
“Hi,” I said, trying to tell myself he was cute—cute
He sat down next to me and handed me a McDonald’s
cup, the straw as gnawed as a nervous child’s pencil. “Want
some?” he asked.
“What is it?”
“Vodka and orange Hi-C,” he said.
I gulped it down. Anything to help me get ready for
what was about to happen. It felt like an old woman’s hand
traveling to my stomach, her brick-colored nails and costume
rings clawing at my insides. “Yum,” I lied.
208 Lisa Burstein
He leaned over and started kissing me. At least he
didn’t waste any time, so we didn’t have to sit there feeling
uncomfortable. So we didn’t have to try to fill the dejected
We kept kissing. That was the whole point. Why Lila and
Cassie had walked in opposite directions. So they could have
privacy to do more than kiss.
I was used to it. Lila got the hot guy. Cassie got the mean
guy. I got the guy who blushed the minute he saw me, whether
we were in the sun or not. It was fine. What would I have done
with the hot guy? What would I have done with the mean
guy? What would the mean guy have done to me?
When it felt like Nick and I had kissed for long enough,
we watched the sunset, passing his McDonald’s cup back and
forth—the sun a bright orange circle, like a tea bag being
dunked into the water. After that, we stared off into space and
waited for our friends.
I dealt with the weird quiet, because I knew I could be
more interesting later. Lila and Cassie would tell me about
their boys on the ride home while we passed truckers and got
them to honk their horns for us.
“His tongue tasted like honey,” Lila would say.
“His body wasn’t the only thing about him that was tall,”
Cassie would sneer.
Then, they would tell me more in Lila’s backyard, as we
lay on her lawn under the skim-milk stars. They would tell me
about life through the feel of a kiss and a hand and a breath,
with the goose-bump tickle of grass at our necks and the hum
of mosquitoes in our ears.
They would fill me up with their secrets. They would make
me feel like my silence was a choice. Like being left over was
It was so much fun! Wish you could have been there. 🙂