16. The Plan
We walked to the cafeteria together. When we neared the entrance,
Sara said, “We have to come up with a plan.”
“What kind of plan?”
“You deserve to be happy. I’ve noticed how much more relaxed you’ve
been since Evan’s been a bad influence. So, let’s figure out a way for
you to get into colege, survive living with your aunt and uncle, and stil
“That sounds impossible,” I said, shaking my head.
“We’l be smart about it,” she winked.
“You did not just wink at me.”
“Shut up,” she said, playfuly shoving my arm. Thankfuly not the arm
with the fresh bruise.
When we were seated at the lunch table with our trays of food, Sara
continued with her thoughts. It was obvious that she’d given this some
attention before today.
“Okay, you and Evan have already started doing what I have in mind.
You know, with pushing your “at school time”, and going to the library.
I think we can try to expand it to a Friday or Saturday night so
you can stay over my house. It wil definitely work the nights you have
basketbal games, but the game wil take up most of the night and not
give us much time to do anything else. I have to figure out an excuse
that they’l buy to get you out of their house as much I can.”
She was right - I was already stretching the little freedom I had when I
claimed to be at school or the library. What was another night? Then I
remembered Carol’s suspicious interrogation, sending an icy chil
down my spine as the doubt settled in. How was I going to get away
“But Emma,” Sara stated seriously, “if you ever get caught, I wil not let
her hurt you. I wil tel my parents, or cal the police, before I alow you to
get hurt for my plan. Okay?” From the stern look upon her face, I
knew she meant it.
“Okay,” I whispered, knowing I’d never let it happen. “Sara, while
we’re talking about that – you have to trust me.” I could tel she didn’t
quite understand. “I know what I can handle. Even though it’s not
right, it’s the way things are until I can get out of their house. So you
have to trust me when I don’t tel you what happens sometimes, okay?”
Sara paused for a moment, absorbing my words. “Emma, always be
honest with me.” I connected with her penetrating eyes and nodded
slightly – again knowing I wouldn’t.
On our way back up to our lockers, Sara turned to me and asked
eagerly, “Are you and Evan officialy dating yet?”
I roled my eyes. “That stil wil not happen.”
“I don’t understand why not,” she teased.
Sara’s smile got bigger when we found Evan waiting at my locker. He
released a smile when he saw Sara walking with me.
“Hi Sara,” he said, stil smiling.
“Hi Evan,” she greeted, smiling back.
“Ready for Journalism?” he asked. “Oh, Em, do you think you’l be able
to finish with the paper during class and study period so that maybe
we can do something after practice?”
“That’s perfect,” Sara interjected, before I could answer.
“Let’s go back to my house and get pizzas and hang out.” She was
thriled to have an accomplice in Operation: Free-Em. She was almost
jumping up and down.
Evan took in her over joyous response with pause, having no idea what
Sara and I had been discussing during lunch.
“Sara’s trying to come up with a plan to expose me to the world outside
of school and my house, and you’re just feeding into it,” I
“That’s always been my plan,” Evan admitted. Sara beamed.
“I hope I know what I’m getting myself into,” I said with a sigh and a
rol of my eyes.
“The chance to live a little,” Sara offered, barely able to contain her
“So you say,” I grumbled. She laughed. I loved having her back.
After practice, Evan and Jason folowed us to Sara’s. While we were in
the car, I told Sara, “I’m so sorry you and Jason didn’t go to homecoming.
I can only assume it was my fault.”
Sara scoffed, “Don’t even worry about it. I realy didn’t want to go and
Jason is so shy, he would’ve been mortified to have to wear the crown
on stage.” I stil felt bad for being the reason she missed out on such a
“How was the ride home with Lauren yesterday?” she asked, changing
“Exhausting,” I sighed, which made Sara laugh. “I didn’t realize anyone
could talk so much or so fast.”
“She’s so nice, but yeah, she likes to go on and on about anything and
Sara’s house was dark when we puled up.
“My parents went out to dinner again,” she observed with a heavy
The next few hours epitomized everything Sara wanted for me. We ate
pizza, listened to music, played video games, and laughed. The
laughter filed up the holow hole, and my heart returned to its proper
place in my chest, putting me back together again. Not wanting to risk
it, I decided it was best to leave around nine o’clock. Evan volunteered
to drive me home. Sara hugged me good night and said she’d see me in
the morning. Evan looked up from putting on his jacket when she said
“I liked picking you up,” Evan admitted when we stepped outside. “Although
you were less talkative than usual, I actualy looked forward to
seeing you first thing in the morning.”
“Sorry. You’l have to be satisfied with seeing me in just about every
“It’s good that you and Sara are okay,” he said during the drive to my
house. “How’d it happen?”
“I made her listen.” He smiled at my response.
The next week continued like the time without Sara was just a hiccup.
Sara and I were inseparable again. Evan stil walked me to class, but
became absent during the second part of the day when I had lunch and
study with Sara. I noticed the first couple of days and couldn’t figure
out why I was bothered by it.
We did things together as the three of us, and occasionaly four when
Jason joined after school. Coach let us watch the second half of the
guys’ quarter final game on Thursday, which they lost. Evan was
crushed, but he recovered when I told him that I wasn’t expected
home until nine o’clock.
Weslyn won the soccer game that Friday with a score of four to three. I
contributed two of the scores, which was fortunate since three scouts
were in attendance. I was assured by Coach Peña that I played wel and
that I’d be hearing from them. I could only hope. Sara joined Evan and
me that Sunday for our library day. I think she was trying to make up
for lost time, which made me happy. But I noticed the surprise on
Evan’s face when Sara puled up behind his car. I don’t know what
Evan had initialy planned, but once he saw Sara was joining us, he
suggested we go back to his place to play pool.
Sara and I were a team and played against Evan. Of course, he stil beat
us. Despite his initial reaction, Evan didn’t show any signs that he
wasn’t happy to have Sara there. While we played, Sara instigated a
plan for the folowing weekend. She figured I’d be able to sleep over at
her house on Friday for the championship game, assuming we won the
semi-finals on Tuesday. I wasn’t convinced since it was a five o’clock
game and wouldn’t warrant me having to stay out past my curfew.
Sara wanted to think of a way for me to stay Saturday as wel, so we’d
have Saturday and then Sunday day together. Evan glanced at me
when she mentioned Sunday, but he didn’t openly object. I let Sara go
on with her pretend plans, because I knew it wasn’t going to happen.
The only day that had a chance was my usual library visit on Sunday.
Everything changed that night when George told me, “We’re taking the
kids sking next weekend. Janet said you could stay with her.”
My stomach dropped. Janet lived two towns away, and there was no
way I would be able to play in the game on Friday, forget about go to
the library on Sunday.
“The championship game is Friday night,” I said urgently. Carol glared
“Maybe you’l have to miss it,” Carol snipped. “My mother is kind
enough to let you stay with her; you should be more appreciative.”
My chest tightened as the fire of nerves twisted in my stomach. This
could not be happening.
“Can I ask Sara if I can stay with her instead?” I pleaded, looking directly
at George, ignoring Carol.
“That would be okay,” George agreed reluctantly. I could hear Carol
take in a breath.
“I’l ask her tomorrow,” I said, relieved.
“Why don’t you let me cal her parents tonight,” Carol interjected. “I
want to be sure this is realy okay with them. I don’t want them to feel
obligated to say yes if you ask.”
I stil wasn’t concerned since I knew Anna and Carl wouldn’t care if I
spent the weekend. They’ve made it more than clear every time I see
them that I am welcome to stay whenever I’d like. I tried to look worried,
and suppressed my smile – I had to appear miserable to stay under
After dinner, Carol caled and spoke with Anna. Of course Carol made a
case for what an inconvenience I’d be for two nights, but to her dismay,
Anna was pleased to have me. I knew Sara was going to be beyond
excited to hear that we didn’t have to come up with a lie for me to
stay the weekend.
I wasn’t wrong. When Sara puled up the next morning, she was a burst
of energy. I smiled at her enthusiastic greeting. She was already trying
to decide how we were going to spend the weekend. She mentioned a
party on Saturday night and dismissed it as soon as she saw the blood
rush from my face.
“I know,” Sara exclaimed while we walked down the hal.
“Want to have a sleep over on Friday night with some of the girls from
“I don’t mind that idea,” I agreed, to her surprise. Sara was satisfied
with Friday night’s plan, even though the details stil needed to be
worked out. That included making it to the championship game and
Sara was stil going on about the weekend when Evan met me outside
“Emma’s staying over my house this weekend,” Sara gloated, before
disappearing down the hal.
“Realy?” Evan mused as we walked to English.
“My aunt and uncle are taking the kids sking in Maine for the weekend,”
“Then what are we doing this weekend?”
“I think Friday night is going to be a girls’ night. But I’m not sure
about the rest of the weekend. You’l have to ask Sara. I think the planning’s
out of my hands.”
I was so afraid the week was going to drag now that I had the weekend
to look forward to, but thankfuly, it sailed by. Friday night’s plans
were sealed after we won the semi-final game on Tuesday. It was a
close game, and we only just won, scoring two points to their one.
Lauren tipped in the winning goal with less than a minute to play, perfecting
her senior year. Lauren decided to have the team over after the
game on Friday, regardless of the outcome. Sara discretely invited five
of the girls to sleep over at her place after. I was truly looking forward
to the estrogen overload. I knew the girls on the team and didn’t mind
the idea of spending the night hanging out.
We stil hadn’t figured out what we were doing on Saturday that was
until Wednesday afternoon, when the decision was made by… me. I
was standing at my locker getting my books for Chemistry when I was
approached by Jake Masters - the same Jake who was friends with
Evan, captain of the soccer team, and who winked at me at Scott Kirkland’s
“Hey Emma,” he said casualy, like we spoke every day. “How are you
doing?” He leaned against the locker next to mine, giving me his ful
“Good, Jake,” I answered looking around, making sure he was realy
talking to me. “How are you?”
Ignoring my question, he continued.
“Listen, I’m having a party on Saturday night. It’s not going to be big,
only about twenty or so people who I realy want to be there. And I
realy want you to be there. What do you think?”
Before I could process what he was asking, he added, “Oh, you can
bring Sara or whoever with you if you want.”
“Okay,” I said, without realizing I was answering him.
“Great! Then I’l see you on Saturday,” he winked and walked away,
leaving me stunned. I stood there for a moment, glancing around,
waiting for someone to tel me it was a joke. And, what was up with the
winking?! Seriously, it was weird!
As we walked to Trig, I told Evan, “I know what we’re doing Saturday
Evan sighed and asked, “Great, what has Sara planned now?”
“Actualy,” I corrected, “I told Jake Masters we’d go to his party.” I expected
to hear him laugh at the irony of me deciding to go to a party,
but he was silent. I examined his pensive expression.
“Jake asked you to go to his party?”
“Yeah, I was completely surprised and stil haven’t figured out why -
but he did. So I kinda agreed.”
Evan let out a short laugh. “You don’t know why Jake asked you to the
party? Does he know that you want to bring me with you?”
“He said I could bring whomever I wanted.” I wasn’t folowing along
and didn’t understand why Evan found this so intriguing.
“Okay, we’re going to Jake Masters’ party,” he finaly conceded. “Have
you heard about his parties?”
“No. Why?” By the tone of his question, I wasn’t sure I wanted to
“They tend to be pretty… exclusive,” he explained. “I’ve been to one of
“Was it horrible?” I asked, when he didn’t say more. I wanted to know
what I was about to walk into.
“No,” he said dismissively. Then he must have realized he was freaking
me out and added, “It’l be fine. Don’t worry.”
Sara had a much more excited reaction than Evan when I told her. She
had also heard about the handpicked guest list of Jake’s parties and
was thriled to finaly get to see what they were al about. I was surprised
to learn she’d never been to one before. I told her to bring Jason,
which I think she had already planned to. When Friday arrived, I was
a bundle of nerves. Al I could think about was the game that night. The
Weslyn girls’ soccer team had always been pretty competitive in the division,
but this was the first time in almost ten years that the team had
made it to the finals. My quiet anxiety was mirrored by Sara’s exuberant
anticipation. She was unable to contain her energy and kept fidgeting
during the car ride to school. Trying to keep our minds off the
game, Sara started to run through our plans for the weekend. I let her
talk the entire drive, unable to focus on what she said enough to
When we arrived at school, we were greeted with homemade banners
and flyers displayed along the hals, wishing the girls’
soccer team luck in the championship game. Our lockers were decorated
with streamers and glittery letters with a message of encouragement
along with our jersey numbers. Instead of groaning as I had at
the sight of the glittery mess, Sara shrieked with excitement.
“I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day,” Sara exclaimed.
“I can’t wait for tonight!” I was trying to figure out how I was going to
get through the day as wel. It was hard to focus knowing the game was
approaching, and the excited energy wasn’t helping - it felt overwhelming
and disorienting. I wanted to slip into an empty room, with
music blaring in my ears, to gather myself. Then it only got worse.
During morning announcements, we were informed we’d be getting
out of our last class early to assemble for a pep raly in the gymnasium
for the soccer team. My mouth dropped as I heard Sara holer with enthusiasm,
joined by the rest of the room.
“Looking forward to the game?” Evan asked while Ms. Abbott handed
back our latest writing assignment.
“I think I’m going to throw up,” I confessed and dropped my head onto
my folded arms. Evan chuckled.
“Don’t worry, you’l be great,” he assured me.
“I wish everyone would treat this like every other game and stop acting
so insane,” I said, facing him with my head stil resting on my arms.
“Not to add to your nausea, but I don’t know if I can go to Jake’s party
“What?!” My head shot up. The exclamation came out a little too loud,
turning a few heads. Ms. Abbott continued handing back papers, unfazed
by my disruption.
Evan looked around and waited until no one was looking before he
“My parents are making me go to dinner with them,” he explained, annoyed.
“It’s being hosted by one of the partners, and we have to put on
appearances. I don’t have a choice, I’m sorry.”
The thought of going to a party with just Jason and Sara did not appeal
to me. I didn’t want them to feel obligated to entertain me when I
knew they’d want alone time. That would mean I’d have alone time,
which terrified me.
That thought must have translated on my face because Evan said,
“Don’t worry. I’l see what I can do.”
“It’s okay,” I said, trying not to sound as disappointed as I was. “I
I had to survive History and Chemistry, not only with nausea from the
approaching game, but also the building anxiety of going to Jake’s
party without Evan. I decided I needed to shake off the distraction of
Jake’s party and stay focused on the first hurdle –
winning the game.
Evan met me outside of Chemistry with a mischievous grin on his face.
I approached him cautiously.
“I’m afraid to know.”
“I think I’ve figured out a way to help us both get through tomorrow
“How?” I asked, stil afraid to hear his plan.
“You can come with me to the dinner – “
Before he could continue, I took in an audible gasp of air. He pressed
his lips together at my reaction.
“It won’t be that bad,” he comforted. “It’l get you warmed up for the
party. You can be my excuse to get out of staying the whole time, and
then we can go to the party together.” I wasn’t sure what was more terrifying,
going to a party practicaly alone or meeting Evan’s parents and
being surrounded by adults who’d expect inteligent, coherent
“Maybe I’l beg Sara to stay home and watch movies instead,”
I whispered, trying to breathe evenly.
“I knew it was a long shot,” Evan said quietly, looking away. “I hate
these dinners - having to pretend to be the perfect son to the perfect
parents, while talking to pretentious people gloating about their accomplishments.
I thought it might not be so miserable if you were
I didn’t say anything as we found our seats for class. Evan sat quietly
next to me. I kept glancing over at him throughout class. He looked…
sad. I didn’t like seeing his drawn mouth and his slumped shoulders.
It was obvious that this dinner was Scott’s party for Evan. I didn’t
know how I would have gotten through that night if Evan hadn’t been
I took a deep breath and swalowed my stomach, digesting what I was
agreeing to do. I felt nauseous at the thought of meeting his parents,
but my chest warmed when I looked at Evan, knowing I was doing the
“I’l do it,” I said when the bel rang at the end of class.
“I think that it’s a good compromise.” I tried to sound confident. “I’l go
to dinner with you, and you go to the party with me.” He examined me
cautiously, making sure I was serious before he let the smile release on
“You know I’m making out in the deal, right?”
“Whatever,” I said dismissively. “I stil owe you for Scott’s party. But I
have to warn you, I’m not great with smal talk, so I may end up embarrassing
He laughed. “I don’t think that’s possible. Besides, you’l find you won’t
have to do too much talking. This crowd loves to talk about themselves,
so al you have to do is stand there and nod politely. Don’t
worry; I won’t leave you alone with any of them.”
Just before we entered the Art room, Evan stopped to face me.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
I pressed my mouth into the best fake smile I could and said,
“Of course I do.” When I saw the relief in his eyes, I found that I didn’t
need to fake it.
I told Sara the revised plan during lunch.
“No way,” she gasped. “You’re going to meet his parents?”
After thinking about it for a minute longer, she added, “You know I
don’t believe you when you say you’re just friends. You have a thing for
him, whether you’re ready to admit it or not.”
“Sara,” I exclaimed with fiery cheeks, “you don’t know what you’re
talking about!” I couldn’t cool my face for the rest of lunch. It didn’t
help that Sara kept a stupid grin on her face the entire time, fueling
“You have to promise me that you’l keep your thoughts to yourself
when we’re around him,” I begged.
“Em, I would never say anything about how you feel about him,” she
“How you think I feel about him,” I corrected. But I couldn’t argue my
point beyond that.
I was so overwhelmed I could barely sit through Journalism class.
With Sara’s provoking smile on one side and Evan’s heart stopping
grin on the other, my head was spinning. I couldn’t deny how I felt
every time I was around Evan. But I’d convinced myself that being
friends was what was best. I knew what was best, right?
I couldn’t think of him as any more than a friend. I had too much to
lose. Why did I let Sara get to me? I didn’t have any serious feelings for
him, right? There was no way…
I watched while Evan listened to Ms. Holt’s review of the current assignments.
I traced the profile of his straight nose with his distinct
cheekbones, down to his chiseled jaw. His perfect lips were separated
slightly as his steel blue eyes glanced from Ms. Holt down to his notebook,
where he would occasionaly jot down notes. I folowed the tight
muscles that extended down his neck, concealed under the blue sweater
that hinted at the contours of his chest. I was breathing slowly, unable
to redirect my eyes. My heart murmured softly in my chest, releasing
a tingling that sent goose bumps along my arms.
Evan glanced at me, and I quickly turned my head, my cheeks warming.
I knew he didn’t know what I was thinking – I didn’t know what I
was thinking – but I didn’t want him to catch me staring. Seriously,
what was I thinking? I could not have feelings for Evan! What was going
on?! My mind unraveled as images of our time together flashed
through my head. I finaly gave in to what I’d been trying to ignore for
the past month. I took a gulp of air as I finaly faced the truth – I was in
love with Evan Mathews.
“Are you okay?” Sara whispered. “You look freaked.”
“Ms. Holt,” I interrupted with an unsteady voice. The whole class
turned to look at me. “Uh, Sara and I have to leave now so we can get
ready for the pep raly.”
Before she could answer, I stood with my books in my arms, heading
out the door. I turned when I got into the halway, urging Sara to hurry
up as she slowly gathered her things.
“What is wrong with you?” she demanded when we walked into the
girls’ bathroom. I checked the stals before answering. Sara folowed my
actions with a worried stare.
“I am freaked,” I admitted in a loud whisper. “Sara, I can’t believe I
“I’m not folowing,” she replied with narrow eyes. “And why are you
“You’re right. I like Evan a lot more than a friend,” I sighed.
“You are just now realizing this?” she almost laughed.
“Shut up, Sara,” I snapped, stil whispering. “This is horrible. I can’t
feel this way. And you can’t tel me you don’t understand why I’m so
She absorbed my desperate words and took a long breath.
“I know why you think you can’t date him. But I think you’re only
hurting yourself more if you try to deny how you feel.”
“Besides, how do I know he feels the same? I can’t tell him. Then it
would be so weird, and we wouldn’t even be able to be friends.”
Sara shook her head and grinned, “You are such an idiot. Of course he
feels the same way. I can’t believe how blind you are. Are you worried
that if you dated him, she’d find out?”
“If she ever found out I was dating someone, I’d lose everything. She
would never let me out of the house. And he can never find out what
it’s like for me! I can’t do this.”
“No, you can’t do it,” she agreed firmly. “I’m already going against
everything my gut is teling me by keeping your secret. I’m not going to
let you risk it more by pissing Carol off if she found out about Evan.”
I wasn’t expecting Sara to say this. I knew she was right, but my heart
“I don’t want you to have to give him up, so we’l just have to figure out
a way for you to remain friends – nothing more. Maybe you shouldn’t
spend time alone together.”
“I have to this weekend,” I huffed, now even more tormented by the
thought of going to dinner with him. “But Sara, if I can’t be alone with
him, then I shouldn’t be friends with him. You can’t chaperone to
make sure he doesn’t stand too close. Just help me keep my head on
straight, that’l be enough. If I can’t handle it, then I can’t be around
him anymore. It’s that simple.”
“We can do this,” she assured me, unable to contain her grin.
“Although I’ve wished for forever that you guys would hook up.”
“Sara, that’s not helping,” I snapped, no longer whispering.
“You’re right, sorry,” she said, stil grinning.