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  “Anne, wait up,” Rob calls out, but Anne keeps hurrying through the parking lot. She stops at the side of the Shark and waits for him to get there. Then she says, “We have to talk.”

  They get in the car and sit in silence, staring out the windshield. Rob is starting to panic. “What’s going on? You’re scaring me.”

  “Did you see how they just took Sherri away?”

  “Yeah, so?”

  “She’s about to have a baby!”

  “Anne, we’ve known that since last summer.”

  “I can’t do this anymore,” she says, an edge of hysteria in her voice. “Do what?” Rob’s heart starts beating faster. He swears he can feel it in his temple.

  “This,” she gestures around the car. “This, us, sex, the whole thing.” “Fine, done, no more sex. We only did it once anyway.”

  “It’s not just that,” she says. “I’m not ready for a serious relationship. I thought I was, but when I saw Sherri today, something just snapped. I’m sorry, Rob, I’m really sorry.”

  “We can slow down,” he says, reaching for her hand. “That’s not what I care about.”

  For a second her expression softens, and he feels a rise of hope. But then it passes and she slips her hand out of his grasp. “I’m sorry, Rob. You’re a great guy, really.” She reaches for the door handle.

  He feels like a deflated balloon as he watches her get out of the car, possibly for the last time ever. “If I’m so great, why are you doing this?”

  She leans in the window. “I hope we can be friends.”

  Rob watches her walk away. Her and her strawberry lip balm and her kindness and her laughter. He feels a pain in the center of his chest and presses against it. Now he knows why they call it heartache. His heart actually physically aches. The lunch bell rings, and he slowly opens the door into an empty parking lot.

  Megan leaves Josie and darts into the last stall of the bathroom. She taps her foot as she waits until some girl finishes washing her hands and leaves. Then she dives into her backpack and pulls out half of a salami sandwich and a Hostess cupcake wrapped in tin foil. She would have rather had one of Josie’s mom’s homemade muffins, but this will have to do. She wolfs the sandwich in six bites. Josie is so dedicated to being an actress, and Megan doesn’t want her to think she’s any less dedicated. Actresses are supposed to watch their weight. Everyone knows that. For about one second she debates saving the cupcake for later. Four bites later it’s gone. Mmm mmm. A little slice of heaven.

  1:25 P.M.– 2:15 P.M.

  Chapter 6A: Josie

  I watch as Ms. Connors tacks another quote onto the big bulletin board. Every Monday there’s a new one. Today’s is: “In life there are no make-up exams. Choose wisely.” I glance hard at Megan. Last week’s quote was “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” That one was kind of a joke, though, because Ms. Connors turned thirty last week.

  Ms. Connors takes her seat and slowly scans around the circle, meeting everyone’s eyes. That’s her way of taking attendance. She says the eyes are the windows of the soul, and she can tell if we’re truly here or if we’re zoned out somewhere. At first it was weird having this teacher look at you so deeply, but now I don’t mind. Ms. Connors is so cool that you almost feel like she really cares about you. And since she kind of looks like Gwyneth Paltrow, I bet more than one boy has a crush on her. I always thought she’d make a much better match with Mr. Simon than that uptight Ms. Robinson. I mean, if he had to choose someone other than me.

  Ms. Connors passes around a pile of brochures and announces, “The guidance office asked all sixth period teachers to distribute this to our classes. They’ll be starting a series of voluntary discussion groups. Take a minute now to look this over, and if you’re interested in any of them, drop the form off at the guidance office before your next class.”

  The front of the brochure has a picture of a group of kids sitting around in a circle, like we are now. I don’t recognize any of them, though. They all have big 80s hair. In fact, they’re wearing sweaters, something we’d never wear down here. The brochure explains that the groups will be held once a week during regular class periods and are completely confidential. So I’d get out of class for this? I scan the list of groups, almost hoping I’ll find something. Family Issues, Drugs and Alcohol, Grief and Loss, Eating Disorders (again, I glance at Megan, who actually looks happy, not like she just threw up, which I take as a good sign, unless she’s happy with herself for throwing up, in which case it’s a bad sign), Abusive Situations, Depression, Relationships, Stress, Sexual Identity, Moving, Pregnancy, Divorce, Academic Problems, Peer Issues, Self-Esteem, Anger Management, and Attention Deficit Disorder. I can’t believe how many problems I could have right now!

  “Did everyone complete the homework assignment?” Ms. Connors asks.

  Most people nod, a few look down at their desks. That’s one thing about sitting in the circle; no one can hide.

  “Any volunteers?”

  As usual, my hand shoots up. Ms. Connors looks around the circle hoping someone else will volunteer. Greg Adler starts to raise his arm and then lets it sink back down. I think he feels a little self-conscious being the only Jewish person in the class. When we started the chapter on Judaism, Ms. Connors asked him to talk about his upcoming bar mitzvah. He had to explain that he had mono at thirteen, which is why he’s just having his bar mitzvah now. One kid asked, “Isn’t mono the kissing disease?” Greg’s face turned bright red and stayed that way for eleven minutes. I counted.

  “How about you, Sara?”

  Good luck with that one. Sara Beron has barely said anything in class for the last few months. She’s always been quiet, but lately even more so. Sara shifts in her seat and slightly shakes her head.

  My hand is still up.

  “Okay, Josie. What Yiddish expression did you find?”

  I hold my notebook close to my face to make sure I’m reading it correctly. “Mit dyna kiskas feldor zholen mestin. May they measure fields with your intestines.”

  The class laughs. Even Sara cracks a small smile. The quote was the first one I’d come across in my Internet search. I hadn’t really thought about how gross it was until just now. It’s also not very nice.

  Just then a loud ringing comes through the loudspeaker, and we all jump a little in our seats. It’s the fire alarm.

  “Okay, everyone,” Ms. Connors says, standing up. “Leave your stuff here. Let’s go, and quietly.”

  I love fire drills. They’re an unexpected bonus. Like finding a crumpled dollar bill in your jeans pocket or one last McDonald’s french fry in the bottom of the bag. We file into the hallway and join the rest of the throng. We’re supposed to be totally silent, and the bell is just so darn loud that it’s not hard to comply. Each class is supposed to stick together, but once we’re outside everyone gravitates toward their friends. Megan goes off to find Zoey and I wander around in search of Katy. I can’t help it if I keep my eyes open for Grant too. He must have gone home sick or something; I just don’t see him anywhere. Megan and Zoey have found each other and laid claim to one of the benches in the shade. God help Zoey if she came home with even a slight tinge of pink on her skin. When I approach they immediately jerk their heads apart.

  “Oh, it’s you,” Zoey says.

  “Nice greeting,” I reply, positioning myself between them. “We were plotting an ice cream run and didn’t want anyone to hear,” Zoey explains in a loud whisper.

  “We can’t leave school during a fire drill!”

  “We won’t have to,” Megan says. “We could get it from the freezer in the cafeteria since everyone is outside right now. It’s not like I even want to eat it, I just want to see if we can do it.”

  “But the fire drill’s almost over,” I point out. “We’ll get caught.” “I don’t think so,” Zoey says. “Listen.”

  In the background we can hear the fire engines approaching from a few blocks away. That means the fire department was called to check everything out and