Pucked Page 93

“Good luck with that,” I mutter as Ms. Bullock follows him down the hall, still beating on him.

I wait about thirty seconds before I turn the lock and crack the door. Ms. Bullock is still in the hallway, wielding her broom like a sword. From down the hall, Melvin sticks his head out, death metal and rank body odor seeping into the hall with him.

“Is he gone?” I whisper.

She purses her lips and gives her head a quick, almost imperceptible shake. Her cigarette is perched precariously between her lips. Her bright orange lipstick has bled into the creases around her mouth, making it look like a messy starburst.

I hear the ding of the elevator from the other end of the hall. After a few protracted seconds, Ms. Bullock clamps her lips around her cigarette again and takes another haul. Blowing out the smoke in a long stream, she finally gives me the nod. My shoulders drop, and the tension leaves my body.

I unlatch the chain lock and open the door. “Thank you.”

“It seemed like you weren’t all that interested in talking to him. Too bad. That’s one nice looking boy.” Her cigarette bounces between her lips as she speaks. The ash is more than an inch long.

I can still smell a hint of his cologne, even with the pungent cigarette smoke and Melvin’s body odor. “Don’t be fooled by the pretty. He’s bad news.”

“Must be if you’re keeping him out in the hall instead of inviting him to jump in your bed.”

I choke back a laugh. Ms. Bullock is probably my favorite person in the building.

Melvin waves from his door. “Everything okay, Violet?”

I wave back. “Everything’s fine, Melvin. Thanks for asking.”

“You wanna play Guitar Hero?”

“Maybe another time.”

His face falls, but he nods. “If you change your mind you know where to find me.” The door to his apartment clicks softly, his stench lingering in the hall.

“Now that’s a nice boy.” The ash finally falls, landing on Ms. Bullock’s flower print slipper. “Too bad he only showers on full moons.”


She shrugs. “It certainly smells that way. That’s saying something because my sense of smell is almost nonexistent thanks to these.” She points to her cigarette. “Well, dearie, Wheel of Fortune is starting, and I don’t want to miss out on Pat Sajak.”

“Thanks again, Ms. Bullock.”


I turn away, considering a junk food binge to combat the emotional exhaustion this whole debacle has caused.

“I hope you give him a chance to tell you how he feels about you.”

I swallow hard, fighting back tears. “I already know how he feels about me.”

She nods solemnly. “Ah. So it’s a case of unrequited love, then.”

“Is it so obvious?” How pathetic am I that my ancient neighbor lady can tell I’m in love and brokenhearted.

“Poor boy. He’s like a lovesick puppy.”

She disappears inside her apartment before I have a chance to correct her. Alex doesn’t love me. I was a game he played until he got bored. Then he broke all my pieces and threw me in the trash.


The next morning I find an enormous bouquet of chocolate-dipped fruit in the shape of flowers.

The message on the card reads:

I want you back.


I’m tempted to throw the whole thing in the garbage, but it’s such a waste, and the fruit looks amazing. Plus, it’s covered in chocolate. I put it in the fridge instead. I’ll share it with Ms. Bullock later.

When I get to work, Charlene is already at my desk with a cinnamon roll and a coffee. I tell her about Alex stopping by and the fruit bouquet. I even manage not to cry, which is an improvement. Charlene decides we need a girl’s night out, and I agree. Partly because I’m scared Alex will show up at my apartment again and I won’t have the restraint necessary not to let him in this time.

The cab pulls up in front of my apartment building. Neither of us is driving since the plan is to get shitfaced. I climb into the back seat and she follows after me, giving the cabbie directions.

“I think you should talk to him.”

I respond with silence.

My mom has been hinting—not so subtly—that I should rethink my Alex Waters boycott. I don’t agree. I won’t survive if he breaks my heart again.

Okay, I’ll survive, but I’ll cry a lot, and I’ll end up gaining twenty pounds from excessive junk food consumption. Then I’ll rebound and have meaningless sex with some other dumb jerk. Like Randy Balls. Or maybe even Melvin. He’ll think it’s more than rebound-depression sex and want a relationship.

“Violet, come on. He’s been trying to see you for weeks. He came to your apartment. He was willing to talk to you through your door. He got an asskicking from an old lady. You can’t give him the silent treatment forever. Besides, Darren says all this has to do with his former agent.”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “Are you on his side now?”

“Of course not!” Charlene’s expression softens. “Honestly, Vi, I’ve never seen you so broken up about a guy. Maybe it’s worth it to talk to him. If nothing else, you can get some closure.”

This doesn’t make me feel better. He’s hurt me worse than Steve, the turdburger, ever did. Still, a huge part of me—which I hate, incidentally—doesn’t want closure. My stupid heart is still in love with him, even if my head knows I shouldn’t be.

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