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       How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend, p.1

           Janette Rallison
 
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How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Teaser chapter

  I Want Him Back ...

  I put my hand to my forehead. My head suddenly hurt. “He told people about our date?”

  “Giovanna, you let the guy know you’d been arrested for stealing dead frogs and then crawled underneath a pool table. You didn’t think he’d tell people about it?”

  I gulped and felt my face flush. “If he was a gentleman, he wouldn’t have told—Jesse wouldn’t have.”

  “Well, you broke up with Jesse.”

  Her statement hit me hard. I’d broken up with Jesse, and yet I suddenly realized that despite everything, I wanted him back. Forget loyalty. Forget this stupid election. I just wanted my boyfriend back.

  Daphne reached over and momentarily put her hand over mine to get my attention. “It will all be fine. You just need some prep work for your next date. You know, a game plan of what to say and how to act.” She let out a sigh, but not one of resignation. This was the breath you let out before you tackled something huge. “I’ve gone about this matchmaker business all wrong. I’ve tried to set you up with guys I thought would be good for you. But I never found out what you’re looking for. So let’s start with that. We want to find someone who is absolutely compatible. So you tell me, what do you want in a guy?”

  “Jesse,” I said.

  “You want a guy like Jesse?”

  “No, I want him. I want Jesse back.”

  OTHER BOOKS YOU MAY ENJOY

  SPEAK

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

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  Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

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  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

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  Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published in the United States of America by G. P. Putnam’s Sons,

  a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2007

  Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009

  Copyright © Janette Rallison, 2007

  All rights reserved

  THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS EDITION AS FOLLOWS:

  Rallison, Janette, 1966-

  How to take the ex out of ex-boyfriend / Janette Rallison.

  p. cm.

  Summary: Giovanna rashly breaks up with her boyfriend Jesse when he refuses to help

  her twin brother with his campaign for Student Council president, but fixing her

  mistake may be more difficult for her than she realizes.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-01985-6

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  To James and Faith—my wonderful twins—

  and also to my other magnificent children,

  Arianna, Luke, and Asenath.

  To the real Dante and Giovanna Petrizzo,

  you all have such cool names.

  To my ever-patient and thorough editor, Tim.

  Okay, so while I was working on your revision comments I

  compared you to the Greek Furies and told several people you

  were possessed by evil demons. I still followed most of your

  suggestions. You’re great. Thanks for making the book better.

  Special thanks to Brandon Hart, Brian Lamb, and Angela Morales

  from the Austin, Texas, police youth service department for guiding me through the

  intricate legal world of frog theft.

  Thanks to all my writing friends who read and critiqued parts

  of the story. You guys are not only talented but helpful.

  Lastly, thanks to Asenath’s friend Westin, who came over

  on short notice so I could drag him around in a cowboy hat to pose

  as Jesse. Keep the hat handy, Westin, it works for you.

  Chapter 1

  I bet you Cinderella didn’t get along with Prince Charming’s friends. Oh sure, the knights and barons probably put up with her on account that she was pretty and had such dainty feet and all, but you know every duchess and countess in the kingdom hated her guts. That’s how women are when someone encroaches on their turf.

  And that’s why all the girls at Jesse’s birthday party ignored me. While he mingled with the guests to make sure everyone had enough food, I sat next to a group of cheerleaders who talked around me like I was a piece of furniture.

  I don’t know why I expected any different. They’d acted this way since I started dating Jesse two months ago, giving me subtle and not so subtle messages that just because I was going out with a guy from the popular clique didn’t mean I fit in with them.

  It wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d been sitting with Dante, and then I’d at least be able to talk with him, but he stood across the room, his black leather jacket barely visible in the crowd of letterman jackets. He and a bunch of guys from the basketball team were no doubt talking sports, and other male languages I didn’t understand. Besides, I ought to be able to make it through a party without depending on my twin brother as a conversational crutch.

  Next to me on the couch, Bridget and Stacey—the current reigning rodeo princess and her peroxide blond sidekick—discussed their prom dresses. They hadn’t said a word to me all night except for when I sat down and Stacey said, “Oh, hi, Giovanna.” She said my name like it had about seven syllables. No matter how many times I’ve told her it’s pronounced “Geo-vonna,” she always finds a way to butcher it. If I correct her, she laughs and says, “Sorry, I don’t speak Italian.”

  Yeah, neither do I, but somehow I manage to pronounce my name without making it sound like it rhymes with “banana.” I won’t even mention how people say my last name, Petrizzo, except to point out it has stumped many a substitute teacher during roll call.

  Dante says I should take advantage of my Italian heritage and pretend to be a non-English speaking immigrant whenever we have a sub, but that’s just Dante. He’s never taken school seriously.

  Bridget took a sip of her drink and leaned toward Stacey. “I brought home this gorgeous blue silk dress with a sequin bodice. It totally matched the color of my eyes, but my mom freaked out because it was so low cut. She insisted on taking it back and going with me to pick out another one. I chose the most expensive one in the store to make her mad.”

  Stacey let out a sigh. “I wish I’d thought of that. I had to beg my mom before she let me spen
d over three hundred. And I still haven’t found a pair of shoes.”

  I shrugged. “I haven’t even looked at prom dresses yet.”

  Bridget’s gaze turned to me for the first time. Her eyebrow lifted. “Why not? Hasn’t Jesse asked you?” She gave me a self-satisfied smile. “Maybe he’s going to ask someone else then.”

  I gripped the drink in my hand harder than I needed to. “I’m sure he just hasn’t gotten around to it.”

  Bridget let off a giggle as she rolled her eyes. “You don’t need to be so touchy. I was just kidding.”

  Stacey fingered the straw in her glass. “Of course he’ll ask you—that is, unless he finds something better along the side of the road.” And then they both laughed, so if I got mad they could claim they were just joking around again.

  You see, Jesse and I did sort of meet by the side of the road. Oh, I’d known who he was. It’s hard to overlook tall, gorgeous guys, but I’d never talked to him. Bickham High isn’t a big school, but it’s well divided. Jesse is captain of the basketball team, and thus firmly part of the in crowd.

  I might have never spoken to him if Dante’s motorcycle hadn’t broken down. Dante had just bought the bike a few weeks before, a secondhand Yamaha that probably should have been compacted into paperweights instead of sold. Dante thought he could fix it up, and assured me the engine would not explode on our rides to or from school. And it didn’t. It wheezed to a stop one afternoon after school, fifty feet outside of the Bickham High parking lot.

  He tinkered with his bike—tinkered in this case meaning smacked things while swearing—and I stood around watching people’s facial expressions as they drove by.

  The popular kids got a real kick out of seeing us stranded on the side of the road. A few of them honked in passing. Then Jesse pulled up to us and stopped. Jesse rides a motorcycle too, although his is a new, sporty-looking one, unlike Dante’s, which may have been fished out of a lake at some point. Between the two of them, Jesse and Dante got the bike working again, and have been friends ever since.

  This, by the way, is the only benefit I’ve so far seen to having a twin brother. They bring home hot friends to work on their bikes in your garage.

  “Where is Jesse?” Bridget asked, craning her neck to look around the room. “He certainly hasn’t spent much time with you tonight. Guys can be so bad that way. You know, paying attention to other girls when you’re not around.”

  Whatever. I smiled even though I wanted to throw my drink at Bridget. “Maybe I should go find him.”

  I got up without saying another word to either of them and walked into the kitchen. It was empty. Which was probably a good thing, because if Jesse had been there, I would have unloaded on him about how his friends were all jerks. And I told myself from the very beginning I wasn’t going to do that. I wouldn’t make him choose sides.

  Instead, I picked up some chips and chomped a few angrily while I tried to convince myself, again, that Stacey, Bridget, and the rest of the popularity brigade just needed more time to get used to me. Eventually they’d accept me, if not for my sake, then for Jesse’s.

  I also tried to convince myself that his friends weren’t completely evil. Jesse liked them, so they must have some redeeming qualities.

  Then again, they never openly snubbed me when Jesse was around—maybe he just didn’t realize that Stacey and Bridget couldn’t assemble a redeeming quality between the two of them.

  While I dumped more potato chips onto a plate, Dante strolled into the kitchen. “Hey Giovanna, when do you want to leave?”

  “I can’t leave Jesse’s party. I’m his girlfriend.”

  “Then you’ll have to find another ride home, because I’m going.”

  I held one hand out to him, pleading. “Don’t leave me here by myself. Jesse is your friend too.”

  “Which is why I showed up. I came. I ate. I’m leaving. If you hang too long with this crowd, you can actually feel your brain cells dying off.”

  “Well, at least people are talking to you.”

  Dante grabbed a handful of M&Ms and tossed a couple into his mouth. “Oh sure, and I can never hear enough stories about Wilson’s last skiing trip to Vail, or how difficult it is to be in the student council.”

  For a moment I worried on Jesse’s behalf. “You didn’t insult Wilson, did you?”

  “Insult him? I couldn’t even get a word in edgewise. Every time he shut his mouth long enough, some girl or another jumped in to ask him a stupid question that made him start talking again.” Dante tossed another M&M into his mouth. “Why do girls like listening to that crap, anyway?”

  Because Wilson is six foot three inches of good looks with shoulders like a linebacker, which I’m sure come in handy when he plays football as—let me think—a linebacker.

  But Wilson isn’t simply another jock. The boy gets straight A’s. I know because he’s in some of my honors classes. And did I mention his father, Wilson Montgomery Senior, is the mayor?

  I’m not sure how much mayors make a year, but if it isn’t a whole lot, then someone should audit the town’s books, because Wilson drives a BMW to school.

  So why do girls hang on Wilson’s every word? I believe the scientific explanation would involve a discussion on hormones, chiseled jawlines, and an analysis of the typical teenage girl brain.

  “I don’t know,” I told Dante.

  Jesse walked into the kitchen. “There you are, Gi. I’ve been looking all over for you.”

  Dante grabbed some more M&Ms and headed to the door. “Hey Jesse, great party. Thanks for inviting me, but right now I’ve got to . . .” Dante waved his hand in an upward spiral. “You know, do some stuff . . . so see you on Monday.”

  “Thanks for coming,” Jesse said, but he didn’t take his eyes off of me.

  Jesse is exactly what I pictured cowboys would look like when I moved to Texas three years ago. Mussed brown hair, broad shoulders, and biceps that could be used to wrestle steers to the ground. Plus he wears cowboy boots half the time. Seriously. He has a casual and a formal pair. He also has aqua blue eyes, which are capable of stopping time when he looks at you.

  The clock paused for several minutes while he walked toward me, smiling. “Are you having fun?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Then how come you’re hiding out in the kitchen?”

  For a moment I considered telling him about my conversation with Stacey and Bridget, but even as the thought ran through my mind, I dismissed it. I wouldn’t criticize his friends at his birthday party. “No reason. I’m just going through the chips to see if I can find one that looks like Jay Leno.”

  Jesse stood close to me. “I know why you’re really in here, and I’m sorry.”

  “Are you?” Had he heard what Bridget and Stacey had said to me? I brightened up at the thought. I mean, that would make things so much easier if he saw for himself what they were like.

  Jesse took the plate from my hands, laid it on the kitchen counter, and took my hands in his. “Sorry I’ve ignored you. I’ve been so busy running around trying to make everyone feel welcome I’ve barely talked to you, but I’ll make it up to you.”

  “Really?”

  “Yep, I promise not to have another birthday party for an entire year.”

  I squeezed his hand. “It’s sweet how you sacrifice for me.”

  He pulled me toward him, then bent down to kiss me. I held my breath, waiting to melt like I did whenever we were close, but just then a couple of Jesse’s basketball buddies walked into the kitchen.

  One of them cleared his throat in an exaggerated manner, and the other said, “It looks like Jesse’s birthday wish already came true.”

  I pulled away from Jesse and laughed in what I hoped was a casual and perhaps slightly sophisticated manner, but I felt myself blushing bright red.

  Jesse grinned. “Don’t mind us. We’re on our way out.” Then he pulled me out the kitchen door and back into his family room. We plopped down on the love seat, and I noticed Dante hadn’
t left after all, but stood a few feet away talking to Wilson, Bridget, Stacey, and Wilson’s best friend, Luke Talbot.

  “Everyone thinks student council is just about planning dances,” Wilson said, “but it’s more than that. People don’t see all the work that goes into it, or the decisions we have to make.”

  Dante let out a grunt. I could tell from his posture he was in one of his the-popular-kids-are-idiots moods. “When was the last time student council decided anything important?”

  Wilson took a sip of Coke. “Today. Our budget was lower than expected, so we had to cut some things in order to have funds for next year’s homecoming float. It wasn’t easy. I hate to break it to everyone, but instead of serving soda at prom, you all get punch.” He laughed as he looked over the group. “Probably the watered-down kind.”

  “Yeah, that’s important stuff.” Dante snapped his fingers as though remembering. “Whatever happened to the memorial the student council was doing for Norman Pike?”

  “That was one of the areas we cut.”

  “You cut the memorial for Norman?”

  Wilson took another sip of his drink and shrugged. “I told you it wasn’t easy.”

  Norman had been killed in a car accident last month. I hadn’t known him that well, but Dante and he had done a social studies project together sophomore year.

  Dante’s eyes took on a stubborn glint as he looked at Wilson. “Homecoming float? You want to spend money for a trailer that someone shoves pieces of crepe paper onto, but not for a memorial for one of the students?”

  Bridget, who is also in the student council, shook her head at Dante like he just didn’t get it. “We sent a plant to his funeral. It’s not like we did nothing.”

  “Oh. A plant. Well, it’s nice to know that if I die tonight, the students of Bickham High will comfort my family with a fern.”

  Jesse forced a laugh and called over to them, “Hey Dante, if you die, I’ll personally see to it that Giovanna’s comforted with more than a fern.”

 
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