My Unscripted Life(10)

By: Lauren Morrill

When I look down at the sketchbook, now wedged beneath my feet, I don’t feel blank. I feel great.

I don’t know what comes over me, but suddenly I’m all about destroying it. I kick it and stomp it with such force that my hair starts to come loose from the messy bun I’d tied it up in. I can feel pricks of sweat forming on the back of my neck as I dance around on the cover, leaving footprints and scuffs.

“What did that thing ever do to you?”

He’s made a joke, but the look on Milo’s face is completely devoid of mirth. In fact, it’s completely devoid of anything, like he’s working overtime not to betray a single emotion. He’s doing a damn good job, too. I have no idea how to respond. Despite his dour appearance, he’s still totally smoking hot, with the blue in his T-shirt perfectly picking out the blue flecks from his otherwise stormy eyes. My cheeks go red and I feel twisty and nervous, like I should be cool and flirty but not flirt with him so he won’t think I’m uncool. My mind is going in a thousand directions, and unfortunately it’s just causing me to shift uncomfortably in my boots and toss my hair, which doesn’t move because it’s still mostly tied up in a bun.

In short, I look like a lunatic.

“I’m, uh—my job?” I say finally. So much for acting cool, or speaking in complete sentences.

“Mmmm,” he says, nodding, and suddenly his appearance matters less to me than the fact that he’s being sort of annoying. He’s not giving me anything here. If he doesn’t want a conversation, why did he walk over here? If he’s going to stand there staring at me, he could at least participate. Be civil. He’s acting as if someone is charging him by the word, and the price is steep.

I’m at a loss. “You want to try?” I hold out the book, which now has several scuffs and dirt-stained edges but still isn’t nearly worn enough.

“No,” he says, just like that. Just no, short and snappish in a way that makes me want to snarl at him, or at least roll my eyes. But I stop myself and drop the journal back into the dust. He stands there, staring first at me, then at the journal wedged under my foot. “Yeah, okay.”

I blink at him, surprised. I take my foot off the journal, and he stoops down to pick it up. Without a word, he starts walking away with my assignment, over which Ruth may or may not kill me.

“Uh, hey, so—” I say, walking after him. I have to double my steps to keep up with his long stride. I follow him over to the grass off the side of the parking lot. As soon as he steps on it, he drops into a squat and grinds the edge of the journal into the ground until the edges of the pages are stained green, a few streaks of brown soil mixed in. He plants one foot on the edge for leverage and grabs hold of the other and yanks. The cover bends, forming a deep crease. Then he stands, strides over to a tree, a puny little newly planted one that’s still being held up by stakes, and starts beating the journal into the narrow trunk. The branches of the tree tremble, and green leaves start raining down.

“Um, I think you’re doing more damage to the tree than to the sketchbook,” I say, and with his stony, sour mood I half expect him to whirl around and whap me upside the head out of sheer momentum.

He stops and glances down at the book. It definitely looks used, and very abused. His face a mask, he blinks at the cover, then thrusts it into my hand.

“Thanks?” I say, but I’m talking to his back. He’s already halfway across the parking lot, headed back to the studio door.

The camera focuses on DEE as she squats in front of the fireplace in her house and ceremonially burns all remaining evidence of her Milo Ritter fandom.

It’s only a mile and a half from the studio downtown to Naz’s house up on College Hill, but between the heat and my fury, I manage to work up a serious sweat. My shirt is practically glued to my back, and my bra feels like I wore it in the shower. The whole way there my mind is going over my run-in with Milo and coming up with awesome retorts to his totally jerkish behavior. If only I’d had the thought—and the wherewithal—to actually say them back then. Instead I stood there drowning in my awe of him while he treated me like something he stepped in. I feel embarrassed and pissed, a combination that’s giving me a case of rage nausea.

When I arrive, I lean my bike against the whitewashed lattice of the Parad family front porch and climb the steps to the heavy stained-glass front door. I let myself into their sprawling Victorian, slip off my boots, and head straight up the curved staircase to Naz’s room. She’s got the bedroom in the turret, which, if I didn’t already like her, would make me want to be friends with her immediately. I walk in and take a moment, as I usually do, to appreciate the vaulted ceiling leading up to the point of the turret. The round room, windows taking up almost 75 percent of the wall space, is small, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in character. We’ve played many games of pretend over the years where we took turns being badass princesses rescuing each other and fighting dragons (otherwise known as Luther and Watson, the Parads’ ancient basset hounds).