Home > Kate in Waiting

Kate in Waiting
Author: Becky Albertalli

 

Overture


It really feels like an ending, in every way possible. With the curtains pulled closed, the stage might as well be another planet. A well-lit planet full of giant foam set pieces, inhabited only by Andy and me—and Matt.

Coke-Ad Matt.

“It’s now or never,” whispers Andy. He doesn’t move an inch.

Neither do I.

We just sort of stand there, in the shadow of a papier-mâché Audrey 2.

There’s nothing sadder than the end of a crush. And it’s not like this was one of those distant-stranger crushes. Andy and I have actually talked to this boy. Tons of words, on multiple glorious occasions. No small feat, since Matt’s the kind of gorgeous that usually renders us speechless. He’s got one of those old-timey faces, with blond hair and pink cheeks. Our friend Brandie collects Coca-Cola merch, and I swear the vintage ad in her bathroom looks exactly like Matt. Thus the nickname. The ad says, “Thirst stops here.” But in our case, the thirst doesn’t stop.

It’s basic Avril Lavigne math. We were the junior theater counselors. He was our cute townie vocal consultant. You truly could not make it any more obvious. And for a full six weeks, he’s been the sun in our solar system. But he lives up the road from camp, in Mentone, Alabama.

Which is just about a hundred miles away from Roswell, Georgia.

So Andy’s right. Now or never.

Deep breath. “Hey. Uh, Matt.”

I swear I can feel Anderson’s surprised approval. Damn, Garfield. Just going for it. Get yours.

I clear my throat. “So. We wanted to say goodbye. And. Um. Thank you.”

Matt slides a sheet of music into his tote bag and smiles. “Thank me?”

“For the vocal consultation,” I say. “And everything.”

Andy nods fervently, adjusting his glasses.

“Aww, Kate! You too. So cool meeting you guys.” Matt hoists his tote bag over his shoulder, shifting his weight toward the door, just barely. Exit posture. Crap. I’m just going to—

“Can we take a selfie?” I blurt. I’m already cringing. You know what would be cool? If my voice would stop shaking. Also, Anderson. My dude. Anytime you want to step up, be my guest.

“Oh, sure,” Matt says. “Let’s do it.”

Well then.

We squeeze into the frame, curtain tickling our backs, and I stretch my arm out at the up angle, just like Anderson trained me. And we smile. I mean, I’m trying to. But I’m so flustered, my lips are trembling.

It’s worth it. Even if I come out looking like a dazed fangirl, it’s worth it. Raina and Brandie have been begging for photographic evidence of Coke-Ad Matt’s cuteness, and God knows Instagram’s yielded nothing.

But this picture isn’t for the squad. Not really. Honestly, they’re both just going to make fun of us for having yet another communal crush. According to Raina, Anderson and I are enmeshed, which basically means we’re codependent. Apparently some people believe falling in love is a thing you’re supposed to do on your own.

And yeah, Raina aced AP Psych so hard, she’s practically a licensed psychologist already. But here’s the thing she doesn’t get. It’s not about Matt. Or Josh from last summer, who had very strong opinions about breakfast. Or Alexander from the summer before, who was really into being from Michigan. It has nothing to do with any of them.

It’s about Anderson and me. It’s about scheming in the prop closet and reading way too much into every flicker of eye contact. It’s about brushing our teeth six times a day, always prepared for the unexpected makeout scenario. And in the end, when the makeout scenarios never materialized, it hardly mattered. It didn’t matter. Because the makeouts weren’t the point.

The giddiness was the point.

And I feel like this all sounds like a Bit Much, but that’s just Andy and me. We bring it out in each other. And truthfully, summer crushes make for a surprisingly fun and robust team activity.

Less fun now that summer’s over. Now it’s just that sinking-boat feeling of a crush lost too soon. A crush cut down in its prime.

But that boat’s so much less lonely when your best friend’s on board.

 

 

Scene 1


Five minutes into junior year, and I’m done. No, seriously. Let’s burn this whole year to the ground.

For one thing, I can barely keep my eyes open. Which doesn’t bode well, seeing as I haven’t even entered the building yet. Or left the school parking lot. Or even unbuckled my seat belt.

And it’s Anderson’s fault.

Because Anderson Walker knows I need seven hours of sleep to not be a zombie demon on Xanax, and yet. And yet! This mess of a boy let himself into my house, into my room, and turned on my lights at five thirty a.m. Because he needed my input on his first-day-back cardigan choice. Navy blue with brown buttons, or navy with navy buttons. “Just give me your gut reaction,” he’d said.

My gut reaction was hurling a pillow at his face.

Now, almost three hours later—right on schedule—he’s spiraling again in the parking lot.

“You’re sure the navy’s okay?”

“Andy. It’s fine.”

“Just fine?”

“More than fine. You look perfect.”

And he does. He always does. Anderson’s honestly too cute for this earth. Smooth brown skin, dimples, and a short, tapered Afro, not to mention big brown eyes behind plastic-framed glasses. And he’s got that nautical schoolboy aesthetic down to a science: crisp button-downs and cardigans and rolled-up pants.

He rubs his cheeks. “I just don’t want to look like trash. It’s the first day of—”

But he’s drowned out by trap music blasting out of a Jeep. Make way for the fuckboys.

Unfortunately, Roswell Hill High School is fuckboy ground zero. Mostly the suburban athletic subtype. Fuckboius jockus. No joke. Just stand in the hallway and put your arm out for two seconds, and you’ll hit a fuckboy, right in his mesh athletic shorts. They’re everywhere, armies of them, all in RHHS team gear. So prolific we had to give them a not-so-secret code name. F-boys. Which doesn’t exactly obscure the meaning, but at least it keeps Brandie’s innocent ears from exploding.

I glare at the Jeep through Anderson’s passenger window. The driver keeps cupping his hands around his mouth, megaphone-style, to holler at groups of girls who walk by. The f-boy mating call. But his car door’s flung wide open and is therefore blocking my door.

The sheer audacity of f-boys.

“Kate.” Anderson pokes me with his keys, but I snatch them. I love his Funko Rapunzel keychain so much, it almost makes me want to learn to drive. Almost.

Our phones buzz simultaneously. Text from Raina or Brandie, no doubt.

Andy glances at his screen. “Come on, they’re already down there.”

Okay, that gets me moving. We’ve seen Raina a few times since camp ended, but Brandie left for Mexico the day before we got back. Which means it’s been over six weeks since the full squad’s been together.

Anderson grabs my hand to help me over the gear shift, and then we cut through the parking lot, bypassing the front entrance entirely. Instead, we head for the side door, which has direct access to the theater hall. Straight to Ms. Zhao’s room, where all the usual suspects have gathered.

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