Chapter 1 - Rosie

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She's gone, Sam. She's dead.

Those were the words I heard Chuck say over the phone that chilly Tuesday morning - words that refused to make sense at all, no matter how hard I tried to wrap my head around it. How could Rosie, my best friend, be dead? Just the night before, she was reminding me not to flake - again - on the dinner she'd planned the next day where she swore that this time, I'd meet Mr. Right. I hope you don't mind, Sam. I told him a few things about you, and he can't wait to meet you.

It was her usual matchmaking dinner where I'd have the not-so-anticipated pleasure of meeting another one of her prospective candidates for me. It was all in good fun, of course, for she only wanted me to meet the perfect man. It didn't hurt that Rosie was one hell of a cook, so whether or not the matchmaking part of the dinner was a success, the actual dinner always was.

But those things didn't matter anymore. Rosie was dead - dead from a wandering blood clot that took her without giving anyone a chance to say good-bye. Not even me.

At her memorial, the house was filled with mourners - some I already knew, and some I didn't. There were so many of them that they spilled out into their garden, telling their stories of Rosie, and just how shocked they were at her sudden passing. I heard stories about Rosie I'd never heard before, about her generosity, her ready smile, and just how well she listened to their problems. Just like she listened to each one of my problems - though there'd been a brief spell when she and I had stopped being friends for awhile.

I ran into Rosie inside the girls' bathroom at Beverly Hills High School. I was in the middle of tagging the bathroom wall with some crude illustration when she came out of the stalls, tears running down her face. I guess it was the sound of the aerosol can that interrupted her sobbing. She could have reported me, but she poured her heart out instead.

Bob, the high school quarterback, had dumped her for the head cheerleader named Bunny. He had first asked Rosie to go to the prom with him, only to change his mind because he was taking Bunny instead. And prom was two days away.

What kind of a guy would do that? I asked her. I'm sure it happened all the time, but she was clearly heartbroken over it. I guess it wasn't just about Bob. It had to do with her reputation. What would people think? Still, I asked her again. What kind of guy would do such a thing?

A dickhead, she replied. An asshole, she added, and the way she said it made me realize that she wasn't used to saying such things. It seemed to give her a thrill. But I said those words every day, though not in Beverly Hills. I wasn't even a student at her high school.

"Why don't we let him know exactly what he is?" I suggested as an idea came to me.

So two nights later, while everyone was dancing their hearts out at the gym, Rosie and I keyed the hell out of Bob's brand new Mustang, a gift from his father, some real estate mogul. She even wrote the names dickhead and asshole.

"I never knew you had it in you, girl," I said to her then.

"I don't," she said. "But it sure feels good. Thanks for the idea!"

We would have gotten away with it if someone hadn't seen us. Chuck Purnell was outside smoking a joint, and he saw the whole thing. He wouldn't tell anyone what we'd done if Rosie agreed to go out with him on a date. Turns out he'd been crushing on Rosie since junior year, and he wasn't about to let his chance pass. Rosie agreed, but only if I came along, too.

Rosie never saw anything in Chuck all through high school, but the first date changed all that. He worked two jobs to support his mother and two sisters after his father left the whole family for another woman. That must have been it, I always thought, that made Rosie see something in Chuck that she never saw before.

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