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Author: Gina Ciocca


   Scaling the back of a house Spider-Man style hadn’t been part of my Saturday-night plans.

   Yet there I was, clinging to the ivy-swathed lattice above the garage of a house I’d never been to, peering through the window of a rec room dominated by an oversized leather couch, which was occupied by a boy whose name I couldn’t remember as he made out with a girl I’d never met. Two pints of abandoned vanilla ice cream sat on the end table next to them.

   The vanilla ice cream that had started it all.

   Two pints of Fudgie’s ice cream were slowly turning to soup in the front seat of my car because of these two. If I hadn’t been in line behind—what the hell was his name? Greg? George?—my double order of Sexual Chocolate (yes, really) and I would be on our way to Charlie’s house for a Saturday movie, gossip, and anti-nutrition night like so many Saturdays before. Except, as I stood there waiting to pay, wondering, Where do I know this kid from and why don’t I like him? it clicked. I’d met the tall, lanky blond boy once, albeit briefly, at a football game I’d gone to at Charlie’s school to watch her cheer. He’d been draped over the fence, flirting with her between routines. When he saw me approaching, he’d given me a lazy once-over and sent a halfhearted nod in my direction before taking off.

   It was him all right. Longish nose, small mole on his left cheek—check, check. But between the way I’d kept my face warm by burying it inside the collar of my winter jacket that night and his disinterested lack of eye contact, he must not have remembered me at all. Because when his eyes darted over to me as he stuffed his wallet into his back pocket after paying for his pints, they didn’t show a trace of recognition.

   This was Charlie’s boyfriend. The guy she went out of her way to not talk about, because she insisted their relationship was no big deal. Yet we’d been dress shopping that very afternoon for a dance he’d asked her to. And she’d tried to hide the dejected look on her face as she’d held a half-zipped, sparkly blue dress around her torso and scanned his last-minute text message canceling their date tonight. I wondered if he planned to drop by with ice cream to make it up to her. Until I watched his two pints of ice cream—Vanilla Bean Dream—disappear into a brown paper bag. I whipped out my phone and sent Charlie a text: Did you change your mind about vanilla ice cream?

   Her response came seconds later: I would not waste energy swallowing ice cream w/o chocolate and you know this.

   That’s what I thought.

   Curiosity mixed with a bit of admittedly premature disgust and indignation welled inside me.

   And just like that, I knew I had to follow him.

   Ten minutes later, I’d wound up parked in front of a white colonial with carefully tended flower beds lining the walkway and pillars flanking the front door. It could’ve been his house for all I knew, but I’d had to circle the block while he parked, and my little detour hadn’t allowed me to see how he got in. I’d hoped he lived there and that the vanilla ice creams were for him and his mother.

   And maybe tomorrow, I’d wake up a monkey—or a spider, as it stood.

   The diamond-shaped wood lattice serving as my foothold groaned softly as I maneuvered my cell phone out of my back pocket. There were probably bugs galore in that ivy, and I didn’t even want to think about bigger, hairier creatures that might also be present. My biggest concern was whether the chipped, splintering strips could hold 116 pounds of prying teenage girl long enough for me to get what I came for.

   All I could see of Greggie-George and Mystery Blond were their heads on the armrest of the couch, eyes closed, mouths sealed together, oblivious to the television and me, their captive audience. My lips tightened and the desire to punch him, or bang on the window and give him the finger, flared up inside me. I didn’t do either of those things, of course. Instead, I angled my phone toward the two of them kissing like they were going for the gold in the make-out Olympics and snapped a picture.

   And realized too late that I hadn’t turned off the flash.

   Greggie-George’s dumbfounded face shot up over the back of the couch. It was the last thing I saw before I gasped and ducked to the side of the window—and before my cell phone slipped out of my hand, landing below with a rustle and a smack.

   “Shit!” I hissed.

   “What was that?” Mystery Blond’s muffled voice came from inside the house.

   “Probably nothing,” he replied. “Maybe it’s your stupid cat.”

   “Go check. What if there’s a raccoon in the yard and Mozart ends up with rabies?”

   Shit! Shit! Shit!

   My fingers curled around the wood diamonds until they ached and I pressed myself as flat against the house as I could, face buried in the ivy like a child in time-out, fervently hoping that if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see me.

   The light shifted as his frame filled part of the window. I refused to look, but I felt his presence, like he was standing right beside me, ready to drop a bag over my head.

   A second later: “There’s nothing out there. If Mozart’s foaming at the mouth next time you see him, just shoot him.”

   I went limp with relief as the window brightened with his retreat. Mystery Blond’s responding giggles died down, and I could only imagine they’d picked up where they’d left off, because I sure as hell wasn’t sticking around to find out. I climbed down the lattice as fast as I could, reminding myself to find secure footholds for my black flats so my breaking bones wouldn’t become the next sound to pierce the night. My whole body shook with nerves and adrenaline by the time I stood on the ground, level with the garage windows. I frantically scanned the patio for remnants of my phone until a glint in one of the cement planters beneath the windows caught my eye. I made a mental note to never let Charlie make fun of my jeweled phone case ever again as I plucked my perfectly intact phone from its cushion of mums.

   A smug smile crept across my face as the screen lit up with my photo. I might’ve done something rash and stupid, but already, it felt totally worth it. I didn’t know who this guy thought he was, but he sure as hell didn’t get to screw with my best friend’s life.

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