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Pen Your Pride

Chapter 55: Wow, Mickey Chin.

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"Goddess, I wish I could've been there," my mom says, spooning a clump of vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce, chopped nuts and whipped cream into her mouth. (I've long since claimed her bananas) "That misogynist con artist deserves whatever he gets!"

Not quite sure where the misogynist part comes in, but I think it has something to do with Dr. Berger having dismissed my mom's midwifery at some chemistry department to-do years ago. Whatever the case, I wish she'd been at my hearing, too. I would have loved to get her colorful take on all the goings on – especially to have her describe the expressions on the faces of my inquisitors.

My dad's phone rings, and he's changed his ringtone again. It's playing "She Blinded Me with Science," and I wonder for a second there if he's going to ruin everything by bringing up the Junior Masters.

"Well, will you look at what we have here?" he says, holding up the very latest version of the iPhone. "Honey, it's the Chin boy again. Don't you want to answer your phone?"

No. Freaking. Way.

"Oh, my God!" I squeal. "You guys didn't!"

"We did," my mom says, although she doesn't exactly sound thrilled.

"Finally! I should get expelled more often!"

With all the revelry about my NEW PHONE, I miss Mickey's call, but to tell the truth, today has just been so overwhelming that I wanted to collect my thoughts before talking to Mickey again anyway. Strange things have been brewing between us and it's time we clarified our relationship – one way or the other.

"Sweetie, it's like the fifth time," my dad says. "You really should give the guy a break."

And I know he's right. Mickey was there for me. He was practically a hero today and he deserves better than this. So, unlike him after Snow Ball, I go up to my room to call him back.

"Hey," I say when he answers.

"Did you know your caller ID reads Twihard?"

"What? You're kidding me!"

"Yeah, I am kidding you. It just says Twila."

He almost had me going there.

"Can I come over?" he asks.

To be honest, I'm not sure I want him to. We've been spending a lot of time together and I'm starting to get way too invested again. It's not like we've been making out or anything like that – just palling around, sort of. I mean, if you can call trying to keep me from total ruin palling around. There has definitely been tension of the romantic variety, but I don't know. Not all the time. I mean, when Mickey and I are together I feel like we have this bond – like he could be my best friend and so much more. Ugh! I just don't know! That's another part of the new, unimproved me. I find myself thinking "I don't know" quite a lot.

"We could listen to some tunes?" Mickey offers.


"We could go over some of the labs Dr. Fronk gave me."

"I don't think so," I tell him. To be truthful, I want to be with Mickey more than anyone in the world this evening. Even more than my dad. But I'm afraid of what would happen between us. The one thing I do know is that I would kiss him again, and I'm not ready.

"I think I have to go," I say.

Mickey is totally quiet, but I hear what I swear sounds like a kiss.

"Good night, Twila," he whispers. And it's like that kiss has come through over the satellite and burned my cheek. Setting down my phone, I put my hand to my cheek – which almost feels wet from his lips. I stretch out on my bed, hand on cheek, and lay down – just holding my cheek and breathing deeply and with purpose– the way my mom does when she's meditating. I'm tired. Tired of all of it. Of being so self-absorbed and self-pitying. And I'm really tired of not letting Mickey Chin hold me.

I can't have been lying here for more than a few minutes when my new phone pings that I have a text. I tip its face towards me. Mickey. It reads – "I was nervous."

"About Alise?" I type back. "U were right. U said she'd call when she thought she was in the free n clear."

He doesn't respond right away. I tap my Pandora app and wait through about two songs – classic country station, pure comfort food. Willie Nelson sings "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," then Loretta Lynn twangs "These Boots Are Made For Walkin.'" And that's just what I do. I walk downstairs – albeit bootless, my feet dressed only in my cuddly caterpillar socks – and scoop myself some fro-yo topped with some gummy bears (yes, after banana splits – don't judge me). It's almost as good as Mickey. Yeah, right.

By the time I make my way back upstairs, I have a new text from None Other Than.

"After Snow Ball. I was 2 nervous to call u – K?"


"Texting is a coward's medium," I text back.

Seconds later, Mickey Skypes me.

"Hey," he says.

"Hey," I say back. "Was that so hard?"

He laughs – an all-out laugh, with none of his usual 'tude, so I drop it this time. I'm not going to make him crawl through a play-by-play explanation of his teen angst. I'm just happy he has some. And even happier that he's told me. Hmm. He was nervous. Wow. Mickey Chin. Nervous to call me. That would have seemed more surprising to me a few weeks ago. Mickey Chin of the cool hair and bravura. Mickey, who looks older on Skype – more handsome than cute. The way he might look a few years from now. His hair is tamer – like it's a style rather than merely outrageously wonderful Asian bedhead. His eyes are softer, his jawline firmer. His voice even sounds deeper.

I bounce a little on the edge of my bed, and as I think about the ramifications of his admission – really think about it - my stomach starts to flutter. I can hardly suppress my smile. Mickey can see that, but I don't care. He's finally thrown me an unequivocal bone and I've thrown one back.

Yes, Mickey Chin, I like you. I like you so much I could double over.

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