your time has come.

I’ve taken a month off to recuperate from college and am ready to jump headfirst into this whole writer life thing.  That means scheduling time to write my next novel (check), starting to send of query letters for The Art (check – legit the scariest thing I’ve ever done but I’m so ready to keep doing it), and asking for beta readers for the aforementioned (basically finished) novel.

SO!  If you’ve ever wanted to read the novel I’ve been working on for literally the last three years (The Art of Letting Go, if you forgot) now’s your chance.  I need feedback on it so that it can be the best it can be.  Anything and everything will help – inconsistencies, plot holes, places that don’t make sense, basically anything that I didn’t fix in the last three drafts.

The only thing I ask of you is that you’re serious – that you’ll read it and get back to me with your critiques by, say, June 1st.  That’s an entire month.  You can do this.  I believe in you.

Sooooo if you’d like to beta read my novel, comment with a reason why you should and how many (if any) novels you’ve beta read in the past.  (If you haven’t done any, that’s totally fine.)  In a separate comment (which I won’t publish), leave your email address.  I just got a new Gmail specifically for my writing and I’m going to start using that one for blog stuff.

I think I’m going to limit the number of beta readers to five, but I don’t think there will be more than five, so that’ll work out.  (In the event that more than five people want to read it, well, first I’ll keel over in astonishment, then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Maybe I’ll take beta readers in waves.  {My life is crazy rn.  We’re moving.  I’m trying to get a job.  Etc, etc, etc.})

THANK YOU SO MUCH IN ADVANCE & I LOVE YOU ALL.

love week | excerpt from that book i’m writing.

Hello all!  Welcome to the week of Valentine’s Day, which usually finds me and my single friends eating chocolate and watching sappy movies.  (The same can probably be said of you, too, if you’re single – don’t even try to lie to me.)  This week, I’m going to be indulging in all things romantic, because even if I’m not in a relationship, I can at least enjoy the fictional people who are, right?

You guys seem to like that book I’ve been working on.  Have another excerpt.


“You always smell good,” I tell him.

David grins, outshining the sun.  “Why do you think that?”

“I dunno…”  I grin back, twisting my hair around my finger.  “Do you wear much cologne?  When you’re not around me, I mean.”

“Not really.  Special occasions… church… whenever I’m gonna see you.”

“That make it, like, every day,” I say, gently ramming my shoulder into his.

He copies my action.  “I guess so.”

“But you even smell good after a game,” I tell him, a little bewildered.  I look up at him.  “All guys sweat a ton during lacrosse games, so how come you always smell amazing?”

David laughs a little.  He holds his hand out and I tightly intertwine my fingers with his, never wanting to let go.  He swings our hands in front of and behind us, back and forth and back and forth.  Then, he stops abruptly, pointing to a painting in front of us.

“What do you think about this one?” he asks.

I stand still, staring at the painting.  It had been “our thing” to go to art galleries for about three months now – six months into our official relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend – and we both enjoyed stopping in front of random paintings and talking about them for a while, going off on tangents and eventually trying to tie it all back to the painting.

“I don’t know,” I say, staring at the random lines splashed on the canvas.  “Isn’t this kind of art, I dunno, kind of meaningless to you?”

“Not really.  There’s an art to that kind of art.”

 

I shoot him a look as I shove my free hand into my pocket.  “And you would know that because…?”

“Because, believe it or not, I used to take art lessons.”

I look up at him, slightly surprised.  “Really.”

“Really.”  He smiles and squeezes my hand.  “Now tell me something about you that you’ve never told me before.”

I stare at the painting, trying to think.  It feels like I’ve told David everything about me.  He knows me better than anyone in the entire world – even better than I thought I knew myself.  I can’t count the number of times he’s helped me come to a conclusion after I ask him a question, always adding to the end of his suggestion, “But you were already going to do that, weren’t you?”  And it always made so much sense that I didn’t understand why I didn’t think of it before.

Eventually, after studying a certain congregation of yellow splatters for a few moments, I decide to delve into the one area I hadn’t talked to him about very much.  I take a deep breath, then look at a line in the wall beside the painting as I say, “I don’t care about my mom.  I mean, I don’t care that she’s… gone.”

David doesn’t say anything for a minute.  I don’t know how the information struck him.  Maybe in a bad way?  He’s always had a good relationship with his mom and dad.  The idea that someone couldn’t care about the whereabouts of their mom is probably really foreign to him.

For a few moments in the awkward silence that falls, my heart starts to pound as my mind starts coming up with all the reasons why he’s going to hate me now.  There’s a reason I’ve never told him this before, I think, my breathing starting to go haywire.  Now he thinks I’m an awful person for not caring about my mom and he’s going to break up with me and-

Then David smiles at me, squeezes my hand, and looks around, then points towards the other end of the room and says, “Let’s go sit on that bench.  There’s a painting over there that I want to look at.”

Splattered lines on canvas again, I note as we sit down.  We stare at the painting, my heart pounding and our hands still clasped together, his thumb caressing mine.

After a while, he quietly asks, “Why don’t you care that your mom left?”

I stare down at our hands, my heart rate finally starting to relax.  I swallow.  “Well, I just never liked her that much, so it was easy to not care when she left.”

“Why not?  I thought you never really got to know her.”

“She was here for twelve years,” I say, finally making eye contact.  “She was there for me ’til I turned twelve.  And then she was just gone.  Left my dad for another man.  I had no idea.  Either I was a totally oblivious twelve-year-old, or she hid it really well.  Dad and I have never been the same.  My dad drowns himself in work and women and I drown myself in school.”  I smile a little.  “And you.”

David doesn’t smile back.  He just looks confused, and more than a little pained.  Again, I understand why.  “But… didn’t you love her for those twelve years she gave you?  I mean, it doesn’t excuse what she did, but…”

I shrug and turn my gaze towards the painting again.  “‘At least she was there for twelve years.’  That’s what I told myself.”  Furrowing my brow, I stare at a cluster of red dots on the painting, remembering those days of self-blame and self-hatred.  “For a while.  Then, I got to thinking about how much she really wasn’t there, even when she was living with us.  She was detached and disinterested.  And, after a while, I realized that she must’ve been lying to me the entire time.”

It hurts to tell him this much, but I feel like I can.  Even though I’m here in the middle of one of Atlanta’s most popular art galleries, I feel like we’re more alone than if we were in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

I exhale slowly.  “She must’ve been lying to me, right?  All those things she said about how much she loved me… they weren’t true, were they?  Because if she really loved me, she wouldn’t have left.  She wouldn’t have left my dad and she wouldn’t have left me.  And I was really sad about it for a long time and blamed myself so much.”  I swallow and frown, avoiding David’s probing, sympathetic gaze.  “But then when I remembered all of the lies she told me, I didn’t feel anything but hate for her.”  My chin quivers a little and I rub my nose with my free hand.  “I don’t want her back.  At all.  Not if she’s going to lie to me like that again.  I’m better off without her.”

Sighing, I let out a short laugh.  “I’ve never told anybody any of this – not even my dad – so don’t go blabbering off to your parents or Kyle or any of your other friends or anyone, okay, or I’ll dump you.”  I sniff and swipe at my cheek, turning my head a little so David can’t see the tears welling in my eyes.  “And that’ll be the end of that.”

A silent moment goes by.  I bite my lower lip and try not to cry as I think about what David must think of me now.

What does he think now that he knows how I really feel about my mom?  There must be verses in the Bible that talk about loving your parents even when they mistreat you…

But I really don’t care that much.  My mom took me to church when I was little.  Some good it did her.

I’m about to just ask David what he thinks when I feel him reach across my back, lightly grab my shoulder, and pull me towards him.

“I’ll never leave you,” he quietly tells me.

I look up at him and he smiles down at me.

excerpt | the art of letting go.

You guys are amazing and so sweet and I love you all dearly and because I love you, I’m going to give you an excerpt of The Art – the opening scenes.  *Jeremy Jordan voice* But first a story…

I worked on my novel for three or four hours at Starbucks last Friday and – y’all.  Y’allllll.  It was actually so much better than I remembered it.  The little things I loved about it, the general idea of it in my head – all of it was still there.  Obviously, there was a little to work on.  Wording that I rolled my eyes over, phrases that just needed to be cut because my readers aren’t stupid (and I hate it when authors write down to their readers and don’t want to become one), etc etc.  I got through the first two chapters, reworking the beginning to include a scene I wrote for a course last semester.  And it turned out pretty dang good!  I’m really excited about continuing to work on it over this semester – and not nearly as nervous.

So, I was going to write an update post on Sunday (because I was busy watching La La Land, meeting Veronica Roth and getting her to sign her newest book, Carve the Mark, for me, then talking to the owner of a bookstore about working there – as you do on a Saturday).  But then I got my first grade back from one of the last college courses I’m doing (the TESU Capstone, which is kind of a big deal)… and it was pretty bad.  Not only that, the professor said he was “personally disappointed” in me.  To say the least, I was pretty low for a few days.  That night, I ate ice cream and watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower (which was amazing), then, the next day, got back to my school again.  I had to focus really hard on the next paper – a ten-page literature review *rolls eyes* – but I got it done and the immediate pressure is over so I’m back to write this super late update.  (Also, a friend of mine read The Art and loved it, so that makes me feel a whole lot better.  {pleasedon’thatemeforgivingittoher.})

AAAAAAANYWAY.  It’s been a rough week but it’s almost over, and in celebration of that (and, again, as thanks for being such amazing followers), here are the opening scenes from The Art of Letting Go.  Enjoy.  🙂


The Art of Letting Go | Chapter One – April 12th, 2012.

My eyes flutter open at six-thirty, and I lie there, watching the sunrise slowly light up my room, waiting. Five minutes later, right on cue, my phone buzzes. I smile, roll over slowly, and pick up my phone.

‘Morning, Peach! <3’

My smile widens a little and I yawn before replying, ‘Good morning! Get your workout in?’

The reply comes seconds later. ‘Yep. So ready for Friday!’

‘You’ll crush them, babe.’

‘No duh! Now go get ready!!!’

I drop my phone on the bed beside me, sit up, and stretch. Good morning, world! I toss the decorative pillows back on my partially-made bed and head downstairs, cautiously looking around for Dad. He’s not around – probably already at work – so I check my social media while my single cup of coffee brews. When it’s done, I bring it upstairs and start on my makeup, thinking about my outfit and the day ahead as I brush and blend.

I put my earbuds in, even though I’m the only one in the house – what can I say; it’s a habit – and start up an episode of Thyme Traveler on my phone. I’ve already seen all of the available seasons, so I’m rewatching the whole thing before the next season starts in the fall. I make sure to pick a more lighthearted episode. The last time I did this while putting on my makeup, I watched a season finale and cried. Mascara went everywhere. What a mess, I remember, grinning.

Twenty minutes later, I glance at the clock beside my bed and stop the episode before I get sucked in any more. I finish up and quickly pull on my favorite pair of jeans, then switch them out for shorts, remembering how warm it’ll probably be. Yanking a tank top over my head, I slip into some sandals and pull my messenger bag over my shoulder. I barely have time to transfer my coffee to a to-go cup before running out the door.

I drive to school with the radio up and the window down so the wind can blow in my hair. I’ve done this nearly every day of my junior year and I know it’s made a vast improvement on my perspective on the day. With a little over a year of school left, I can’t imagine not doing this every day. How hard is it to just leave the building you’ve spent most of your waking hours in for the last four years? More than that, to leave and head off into the unknown? True, I’ll spend the next four years after that in another series of buildings… but it seems so different. So much more adult.

My grip on the steering wheel tightens, but I force myself to take deep breaths to try to relax.

I stop at a red light and close my eyes. I’ve got David. We’re going to college together. Everything’s going to be okay. It’s not that big of a deal. Time to grow up.

I open my eyes and mouth this over and over again as I drive the remaining mile. It’s become my mantra over the past few weeks. David helped me with it. Every time I feel the anxiety start to rise, I just repeat it a few times. It usually helps. As David’s graduation date approaches – and mine still remains a year away – it’s getting a little harder. But David is always there to calm me down.

He really is the best boyfriend a girl could ask for, I muse, finally starting to calm down as I pull into the parking lot. I make a mental note to buy him something special on our date tonight.

I enter the building, a smile on my face. The halls are overrun with teenagers, all laughing and teasing and kissing and shouting and running, standing in poorly-formed circles or small groups. All are enjoying a few final moments of freedom before the bell rings.

“Daniella!”

I feel a hand on my arm and turn with a smile. “Hey, babe.”

“Morning, Peach,” David says, wrapping his arms around me. I bury my head in his chest, inhaling the sweet, spicy smell of his cologne. “Sleep well?”

“Mm-hmm.” I close my eyes, soaking in the moment. I could stay here forever.

The moment ends a few seconds later when I finally pull myself away from the security of David’s arms. The cheerful, warm-and-fuzzy feeling stays with me, however. It always does.

We walk down the hall towards our lockers, side by side. This is how we first met. Daniella James and David Jamison. Our lockers have been next to each other ever since I changed schools two years ago. David was the first person to greet me, the first to help me find my class, and the first to make me feel welcome. We’ve been friends ever since. Last year, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I’ve been in a constant state of bliss ever since.

“Are we still on for tonight?” he asks, taking my hand, his fingers entwining with mine.

“Of course,” I answer, swinging his hand back and forth and feeling myself get hypnotized by his Jolly Rancher green eyes.

“Good.” He flashes that billion-dollar grin of his that lights up his entire face and, in turn, the rest of the world. I smile back, once again realizing how lucky I am.

“Think you’ll win the game on Friday night?” I ask, letting go of his hand to get my geometry book out of my locker.

“Absolutely.” He folds his arms across his muscular chest and leans against his locker, facing me. “Peachtree City High has been an easy win for the past four years. I wouldn’t count on anything changing.”

“Me, neither.”
“And you’ll be cheering me on from the sidelines, right?” he asks with a wink.

“Absolutely,” I reply, shutting my locker door. I spin the lock and turn to face him, tilting my head a little. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

David’s smile softens and he leans forward to rest his forehead on mine. Then, he whispers, “That’s why I love you.”

In an instant, I melt. “I love you, too.”

David quickly kisses my forehead before straightening up. “See you at practice?”

“See you,” I reply.

He waves and vanishes into the crowd. I smile and watch him over my shoulder as I walk away. Suddenly, I feel my books being knocked out of my hands. “Hey!” I exclaim, staring at the books.

“I’m so sorry,” the guy replies, kneeling down to pick up my books.

I recognize the head of hair below me and roll my eyes. “Kyle, you’re such a klutz.”

Kyle looks up, relief plainly written on his face. “Oh, it’s just you.” He grins sheepishly. “Sorry, Danni.”

I put a hand on my hip and raise my eyebrows. “Just me? Excuse you.”

“I was worried that it was, like, some new kid or – even worse – a hot girl.”

Excuse me?!”

Kyle stands and puts the books back into my hands. “You know what I mean.”

I squint and lean into his face. “I hate you.”

Kyle smiles with that lopsided grin that is uniquely his just as the first bell rings. “Same to you. Hey, are you gonna be able to come to the photography showcase tonight?”

I frown slightly and start walking towards class. Kyle keeps my pace beside me and waits expectantly for an answer. “Why would I come, Ky? Besides seeing your beautiful photographs, that is.”

“Well, that, obviously, and because you’re a cheerleader and that’s what they do – come to photography showcases and cheer for their favorites. Right?” I laugh and he elbows me. “Right?”

“Right,” I say, checking my phone. A second later, I put my phone back in my pocket and elbow him back. “If I can get off work early, I’ll come. Eight, at the library?”

“Yup,” Kyle says, stopping in front of a classroom. He waves to someone inside, turns to me, points his index finger at my face, says, “Be there!” and saunters into the classroom.

I roll my eyes and head off to class.


Thoughts???

coffee session | i’m gonna start working on my novel again and i’m super nervous.

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(for le blog aesthetic / not mine)

You know how sometimes when you’re writing, the thing you’re writing is, like, so beautiful and perfect in your mind and you’re just like, “Yes, this will win all the awards and have a film adaptation and will make me super famous and people will come from miles to get writing advice from me, the author”? (#whyyesimhumble)

Well.  It’s happened to me.

In my mind, The Art of Letting Go (read more about it here) is pretty dang good.  I know it’s got it’s flaws, but – thanks to like three drafts and a ton of mind-plotting – they’re few and far between.

Thing is, I have no idea if this is true.  Why, you ask?

Because I haven’t touched my novel since July.

*cue freak out mode*

Before you get on me for being a bad writer, here’s the reason: I’m a full-time college student.  In order to focus on school last semester (including the four [+/-] writing courses I’d be doing), I put it down.  I just couldn’t justify spending my entire day doing school and then working on my novel whenever I had free time.  Daniella and David and Kyle and Matt and all of my characters deserved more than that.

So I made the really hard decision to put it aside.  Believe me, it was torture.  On one hand, I was relieved to not have it constantly pestering me, poking at me in the back of my mind whenever I finished school for the day.  But on the other hand, it felt so good to just take a break and not have to wonder if I had enough time to work on it.  I didn’t want to take away from my school or my characters, so I focused on the more pressing one – school.

Anyway, I always told myself I’d pick it back up when I graduate in March.  Turns out, I’ve got a big creative project to do for my last course (in addition to a fifteen-page paper and a slideshow) and guess what I picked to submit.

That’s right, my little novel.

All that to say, I’m going to Starbucks tomorrow to work on it, and every Friday after that until it’s finished.  (I’m finally one of those writers who works on their novels at Starbucks.  YAY.)

I’m so. incredibly. excited. to be getting back to that world – that oh, so emotional world that made me cry the last time I tried to edit it at a coffee shop. (#yay)  I’ve had that world teasing at the back of my mind ever since I started writing it (wayyyy back in 2014), and I’m always adding to its Pinterest board. (Click the linky.  I’m such a proud mama of that board and this novel.)

But I’m also nervous.  I’m so scared that I’ll open it, read the first few pages, and go, “What is this absolute garbage?!”  I’m scared that it’ll be clunky, unreadable, and, worst of all, a total waste of time.

I want to find an agent for this project.  I want to get a book deal for this project.

But what if it’s not good enough?  What if my characters are flat?  What if my story doesn’t make sense? What if it needs so much more work than I have time for?

What if it doesn’t sound as good on paper as it does in my head?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the scariest part about writing.

I can stare at a blank document all day long and not get worried because I know I’ll eventually get something on it.  I can give my writing to people and get criticism.  I can even publish a mediocre novel and then not talk about it for the rest of my life.  (*cough* Becoming Nikki *cough*)

But not knowing that what I write is actually good?  That’s mind-numbingly horrifying.

{I’d appreciate any feedback, but I’m not asking for compliments or anything, lol.  This was honestly just my way of getting my thoughts out while updating you guys on where I am with my writing right now.Thanks for listening.}

story snippet | the flatmates.

*emerges out of studying and weeping hole*

School is hard.  College is harder.  Blogging while trying to do college (on my ownnnn) is hard.  (And if anyone says CollegePlus students have it easier, well then *flips a table* FIGHT ME.)

The worst thing about blogging more often is pressure to post more (mostly from myself, though).  But the best parts about blogging (all of my lovely followers, writing about random things, tossing my opinions out into The Void That Is The Internet) far outweigh the bad things.

I’m brainstorming several posts for you guys, I swear.  I have like four really long ones that I have planned out but haven’t gotten the time to write yet.  And I’ll write them when I figure out how to give myself study breaks.  (Which may be never, lol *weeps silently*)

BUT MEANWHILE, have this new story snippet I wrote yesterday.  It’s based off a Pinterest story starter I saw a few months ago that has been stewing in my brain.  (BECAUSE OF THIS WRITING COURSE I’M FINALLY ABLE TO WORK ON ALL OF THESE PLOT BUNNIES THAT HAVE BEEN HOPPING AROUND MY BRAIN FOR AGES.  YAYYYYYYY.)  And I love it because it allows me to experiment with characters and situations that I don’t usually work with – especially the not-necessarily-PG ones that I used to write all the time.  (Except The Art of Letting Go is pretty PG-13, so yay for graduating from feeling like I can only write homeschool-children-friendly stories.  *party emoji*)

Again, it’s a first draft, unedited, freewrite, blah blah blah.


The Flatmates

Jaden stumbled into the apartment, flicking the lightswitch as he did so.

“Oi!” he heard Laurie called out in objection from the other room.

“Sorry,” he muttered, turning the light off again. He felt the pain in his side flare up again and he pressed his hand to his side, moaning softly. Reaching out with his other hand in the darkness, he felt for the sofa.

The light flicked on again and he looked up. Laurie had turned on the other lightswitch and was now standing in the doorway, her arms folded across her chest.

“It’s three in the morning,” she told him.

“I know,” he replied, stumbling the last few steps towards the couch and using what felt like his last ounce of strength to collapse into it.

“Well, I told you to be back by midnight last time.”

He glared at her. “Sorry, Mum.”

She let out an exasperated huff and turned to go back into her room.

“Hey, wait,” Jaden said.

She stopped, then turned around, raising her eyebrows and looking fed-up.

“Can you get me some water?” he asked, wincing in pain.

“Get it yourself, you lazy pillock,” she replied.

He frowned, pressing his hand to his side. “Fine.” He stood, swayed a little, then fell back on the couch.

Seeing this, Laurie started forward, then froze in order to maintain her facade of carelessness. “Are you alrigh’?” she asked, the facade failing.

“No,” he replied brusquely. He pulled his hand away from his side and held it up, showing her the blood on it.

She calmly sprung into action, bringing a wet towel and bandages and starting to clean the wound before asking any questions.

“What happened this time?” she asked, frowning at the wound.

Jaden’s fist clenched. “Got mixed up in some sort of gang fight,” he lied.

Laurie looked up at him, obviously not believing him. “You’ve gotta stop, Jay. Whatever this is – whatever you do at night – it’s got to stop. You won’t last another fight like this, and I don’t want to have to tell your mum that you got yourself killed.”

“I know, Laur,” he told her, rolling his eyes, then wincing in pain as she poured antiseptic on the cut.

“Looks like a knife wound,” she observed a moment later, glancing up at him. He continued to stare at the wall and didn’t reply, so she kept working.

A few minutes later, she tightened the bandage one last time and her work was done. She stood up, wiped her hands on a towel, then slapped Jaden across the face.

He grabbed the side of his face and stared up at her in angry horror. “OI!

“Stop it,” she told him, jabbing her finger towards his face.

“You don’t understand, Laurie; I-”

“I don’t care, Jay! I’m not going to sit by and watch you let yourself get killed!”

“I’m not!”

“Well then don’t!” She stared down at him for a moment, then touched the side of his face. “I care about you too much for that to happen, Jay.”

“I know.”

Laurie sighed, hesitated a moment, then kissed him. He kissed her back – hard.

She pulled away a moment later, looked into his eyes for a second longer. Then she walked away, saying as she did, “And turn off the light when you go to bed.”

hello from the other side.

HELLO, MY CHILDREN.

(Wow, that was weird.  I’m in a weird mood.  We drove home all day and I used my “extra day” for finishing off the second draft of The Art of Letting Go {WAHOO} and my sister and I are gonna watch Leap Year in a minute {yes, starting it at 11pm, because #yolo}, so I’m super hyper right now.  My apologies.)

Anyway, DID YOU MISS ME?!  I certainly missed you guys!

I have so very VERY much to tell you about my trip – so many pictures to spam you all with and so many exciting things to tell you!  Bottom line, we had a PHENOMENAL time and so many great things happened and I took so many pictures (honestly, almost fifteen hundred!), and my feet and legs are so sore from all of the walking we did, but it was TOTALLY worth it.

First, though, I did promise to share my post-Harry Potter post, and it’s scheduled for tomorrow morning.  You’ll probably see it before you see this one.  Enjoy it, talk to me about it, start a comment war, whatever, and then I’ll spam you all with Disney pictures.  Sound good?  Good.

If you read this, what did you use your “extra day” to do?

*waltzes off to watch Leap Year*

daniella&david {a scene from the art of letting go}

In keeping with the subject matter of the week (love, duh) and because people keep asking me to share more of my writing, I’ve decided to release another excerpt from my new novel, The Art of Letting Go.  This scene takes place about two-thirds of the way through the book, right when Daniella is learning how to let go, and it’s in the middle of a few vignettes showing what Daniella and David’s relationship looked like before he died.  It’s a pretty cute scene that I’m Rather Proud Of, and basically spoiler-free, so here it is!  Enjoy!  (And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments!)

Another memory resurfaces. This time, it’s of David and I, alone at his house, making dinner together. As I splash a few drops of wine over some chicken, I realize something. It reminds me of a scene from one of Mal’s favorite romantic comedies where an unlikely couple is making dinner together. Cliché, yes, but it was an adorable scene. I glance across the countertop, where David is chopping celery, onions, and carrots, then turn back to the chicken and smile.

We’re a pretty unlikely couple, but also kind of a stereotypical couple: the football player with the cheerleader. It’s the couple in every teen angsty drama. But… David and I have something different. He asked me if we could hang out before he knew I was a cheerleader, and I didn’t know he was on the football team until a week or so later. Also, he’s in regular classes and looking at a full-ride football scholarship for college next year. I’m in mostly honors classes, but I don’t have any colleges picked out – yet – so my college-related future is a little fuzzier. I know the first place I’m going to apply, though, and it’s going to be wherever David’s going.

“Almost ready for this mess?” he asks, looking up at me.

“I’ve been ready, kid,” I tell him, grinding some pepper over the chicken. “Isn’t that supposed to go in here first? After, like, sauteing it?”

“Ehh, it’s okay.” He glances up at me, grinning, then sticks his tongue out and bites it between his teeth as he starts chopping again.

I swear, the guy could be one of those professional chefs on a cooking show. He’s got the look, too, which I think matters more than the skills. He’s amazing when it comes to cooking. I’ve only had two meals that he’s made, but I already know it for a fact – the guy can cook like nobody’s business. I fold my arms and lean on the counter, watching him with a smile on my face. My mind wanders to ten years from now, where I can totally see us doing this in our kitchen, with one or two little kids running around at our feet. The thought makes me grin like the idiot I am.

“Ready!” He dumps the celery, onions, and carrots into the pan with the chicken. Then, he feigns a scared face. “Boy, I hope we’re doing this right.”

“I don’t think there’s a wrong way to cook,” I say, opening the oven door and sticking the pan in.

“Of course there’s a wrong way to cook. Are you mental?”

I roll my eyes. “It’s food, so, I mean, as long as it’s still edible when we’re done with it, I think we’ll be good.”

David laughs. I frown slightly as I close the oven door. “What?”

“You.”

I turn to him and peer at him slightly. “What about me?”

“You’re so funny.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yeah, you are.”

I try to keep myself from grinning and roll my eyes again. “Whatever.”

“Whatever,” he says, copying my tone exactly as he rolls his eyes. Almost immediately after, he presses his fingers to his eyes. “Gah, my eyes are burning. Stupid onions.”

I giggle, watching him fan his eyes with a towel. “I hate cutting onions because of that right there. You start crying and then it ruins your makeup.”

Instantly, he smothers his face in the towel and starts fake-sobbing. Then, he looks up at me with puppy-dog eyes, sniffing a little. “Is my mascara running?”

I laugh and slap the towel out of his hand. He grins and picks it up off the floor in one fluid motion. I watch him fold it in thirds and put it on the counter, right beside the oven. Pride swells up inside of me for no reason whatsoever. I love this man.

Embarrassed at myself, I shake my head to clear my mind. “So what’s for dessert?”

“I was thinking of something with peaches,” he says, filling our glasses with water. “We’ve got, like, a million in the pantry. My mom’s got this thing for peaches and it’s kinda rubbed off on me and my dad, so we always go pick some at least twice when they’re in season. You like peaches, right?”

“I love peaches.”

David laughs a little, clearly surprised. “Really? No kidding?”

“No kidding!” I grin and shake my head slightly. “Peaches are so common around here, it feels like everybody I meet is tired of them.”

“Same here!” he says, still incredulous.

“It’s my favorite fruit.”

“Mine, too!” He furrows his brow, but the smile is still on his lips. “That’s kinda crazy.”

“Only kinda,” I reply, smiling a little and fingering the chain of my necklace. “What’s your least favorite fruit?”

He pulls a disgusted face. “Plums.” He shivers and sticks his tongue out, as if he can taste it. “They’re purple and slimy and yucky and I do not like them.”

“You sound like a three-year-old,” I tell him, laughing. “’Yucky.’ HA.”

“What’s your least-favorite fruit?” he counters, as if it’s an argument.

“Bananas,” I say, my face making nearly the exact same expression. “Because they’re mushy and just nasty.”

“Now you sound like a three-year-old,” David tells me, a twinkle in his eye. Then, it’s as if an idea hits him. “I’m gonna call you Peach.”

I laugh. “Why?”

“Because it’s awesome. And because, a while ago, you asked me to come up with a better nickname for you, because Danny-ella isn’t good enough.”

I smile. “Okay.”

“Peach it is.”

“Then I’ll call you Plum.”

David’s face contorts again. “Why?”

“Because it’s awesome.”

David grins that billion-dollar grin again and the twinkle returns to his eye. “Okay.”