Home > Headstrong Like Us (Like Us #6)

Headstrong Like Us (Like Us #6)
Author: Krista Ritchie

Prologue

 

 

4 1/2 Years Ago

 

 

MAXIMOFF HALE

 

 

I think a ton.

I’ve overthought what I’m about to do about a billion-and-one times. I could just forget about it. Because that’s so damn easy for me.

Yeah, I wish…

But then again, I don’t want to just sit here. I don’t know…I don’t want to not go over to him. That feels worse, somehow.

I lounge pretty rigidly on a burnt-orange outdoor blanket. I’m doing a piss-poor job at trying to relax in a beautiful Philly park. Like seriously beautiful. The October air is crisp, a twinkling, star-blanketed sky overhead. Not far away, my sister Luna lies back and traces constellations with her finger, one eye shut.

Laughter carries across the grassy knoll as a talking black cat cracks a joke on a big screen. Hocus Pocus plays for tonight’s Movie on the Green. A public event.

Kinney had the option to do a “private” movie screening for her birthday, but she wanted to do the whole public park thing that the city hosts every October. I’m happy that I could fly home from college to celebrate my little sister turning ten.

It’s a huge milestone. Ten-years-old.

And it’s not like I’m having a fucking blast at Harvard.

I’m a major distraction to students. They film me during class. Some just stare open-mouthed and short breathed the whole hour. A professor told me, “I need to be able to do my job.” He sent me study packets and suggested I skip lectures. Another professor asked me to leave class and complete take-home tests. I’m impeding their ability to teach people who are paying for an education.

It still makes me feel like shit.

Just knowing my presence is hurting someone.

I keep thinking about how I dreamed of having the ultimate college experience: learning more, sitting in philosophy lectures, swimming for a team, meeting new people like they show on overly happy collegiate infomercials.

I know it’s not meant for me. In the past couple months, I’ve been slowly realizing that I can’t have something so painfully normal.

Maybe it’d be easier if Charlie were with me, but that hope died too. I’m alone in Cambridge.

Coming home to Philly, I’ve smiled ten thousand times more. Right now, the park is jam-packed with gawking strangers, camera-wielding fans and paparazzi, stoic bodyguards, and my famous family—it’s my usual mix.

My normal.

And God, I missed this. Strangely, I even missed you. The noise, the world. A constant in my unconventional life.

But you’re highly unaware that I’m not actually paying attention to the 90s movie, even though my eyes are super-glued to the jumbo screen.

I’m in a colossal-sized internal crisis.

It has nothing to do with college and everything to do with my mom’s new bodyguard: the twenty-four-year-old tattooed know-it-all who can’t know that I’m thinking about him.

Too damn much.

I shut my eyes in a slow blink. Forcing myself not to scan the park for Farrow Redford Keene. He’s blending into the scenery with the rest of Alpha, Omega, and Epsilon. Bodyguards lounge on blankets several feet away from my family.

I know because I looked already, once…or twice.

He didn’t notice me staring. Yeah, I fucking hope.

While the Sanderson witches grace the big screen, Jane tears open a yellow box of Raisinets beside me. I lean over to my best friend. “This is a bad idea, right?” I whisper. “The worst I’ve ever had?”

Janie pinches a chocolate between two fingers. “On the contrary, old chap. It’s far from terrible.” She starts to smile. She’s the only one who’s known about the humongous crush I had on Farrow.

I almost smile and groan, but my stomach overturns. “Maybe I should just stay here with you. We haven’t seen each other in a while.” We FaceTime and text a ton, but I’ve missed Janie while she’s been in Princeton. Homesickness has infected her too.

We’ve also been blanket-hopping most of the night. Spending time with our younger siblings and cousins who group off in different familial cliques.

She sips a fountain soda. “I’ll always be here. It’s not as though you’ll be gone forever.” She glances at her pastel blue wristwatch. “By my predictions, you should only take thirty minutes, tops.”

I scrunch my face. “If I spend thirty minutes with Farrow, I’m going to die of Chronic Agitation.”

She grins. “Twenty minutes, then.”

I shake my head and slip my backpack strap over a shoulder. “Cela va durer une solide minute.” This is lasting one solid minute. “Any longer and I’ll need a stretcher and CPR.”

I try not to remember that Farrow graduated from Yale medical school.

He’s a doctor.

He can perform CPR on me. Mouth-to-mouth—stop thinking.

She taps my arm. “You should go now.” Jane is looking to our left. At my mom, whose gangly frame is hidden in an oversized black cable-knit sweater. She’s heading to the pop-up concession tents.

And her bodyguard is leading the way.

Approaching Farrow will be easier if he’s separated from the security team. Quickly (but not too quickly) I stand up, adjusting the other backpack strap on my muscular shoulder.

Janie raises her drink to me in cheers and encouragement. “On se voit dans une solide minute.” See you in a solid minute.

I wave goodbye, and I weave through sprawled bodies on picnic blankets, the click-click of flash bulbs barely registering. I’m too used to the sound of cameras. Declan, my bodyguard, materializes out of thin air, already on his feet and in front of me.

“Moffy!” Tom catches my ankle before I pass, Luna and Eliot slouched beside him. “Can you get me peanut butter cups?”

“And more popcorn,” Luna adds, one eye still shut.

“Yeah.” I glance to the tents, where my mom waits in line at the cotton candy stand. Farrow is speaking to fans before they reach her. I focus back on my sister and cousins. “Anything else?”

They all want root beer floats.

Nothing too complicated, so I take mental notes.

As I walk past the blanket with the four youngest girls (Audrey, Kinney, Winona, and Vada), I place a loving hand on each of their heads.

“Stay here,” they all plead and talk to me at once.

“I’ll be right back.” But I linger a second longer. Crouching down next to Kinney. “Hey, birthday girl.”

“Hey.” She wears a blasé, unconcerned expression while watching Hocus Pocus. Pictures of her goth outfit—laced sleeves, black hat, combat boots, and choker necklace—are already all over the internet.

“You want anything to eat?”

“The souls of my enemies,” she deadpans.

I smile. “I’ll work on that.” I miss being home.

She shrugs, turning more towards me. “Then a candy apple. No nuts.”

“Got it.” I take more orders, the list piling.

Ben and Xander seem satisfied over on their blanket. They share a tub of kettle corn, and my younger brother might as well have dressed up as a mummy. To hide from paparazzi and you. Because right now he’s shrouded behind dark sunglasses, a baseball cap, and hoodie.

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