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Kissing perfect, p.1
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       Kissing Perfect, p.1

           Lauren Barnholdt
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Kissing Perfect


  (At The Party #4)

  by Lauren Barnholdt

  Copyright 2011 Lauren Barnholdt, all rights reserved This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is coincidental


  I’m crouched outside of Emily Mulally’s house, trying to steal Aaron Randolph’s bike. There’s a party going on inside, but I have no interest in that. I came here for one reason, and one reason only. And that was to steal this stupid bike. (And when I say bike, I mean an actual bike. Not a motorcycle, or a scooter, or even something that’s only semi-cool but also kind of poserish like a Vespa. Aaron rides an actual bike. A ten-speed or twelve-speed racing bike that he takes everywhere. Aaron Randolph is very into the environment and being green, which is why he has this ridiculous bike, even though his parents are super rich and offered to buy him a car when he turned sixteen a couple of months ago.)

  I look around one last time to make sure no one’s looking, although it’s early enough that most people aren’t even at the party yet, so I don’t really have to worry.

  That’s the other thing that’s annoying about Aaron – he always has to get places early, even places where it doesn’t matter when you show up, or where you actually should be late, like a party at Emily Mulally’s house. I mean, what is he doing in there when no one’s even really here yet? Hanging out? Eating chips? Hitting on girls? Ugh.

  Anyway, I’m just about to pull out my big wire clippers and get on with it, when someone’s shadow falls over me. I look up and shield my eyes from the sun (which is starting to set but is still high enough to get in your eyes), and mentally rehearse the story I have all planned out just in case I got caught -- that this is my bike, that I forgot the combination, that I borrowed some wire clippers from Emily’s garage. People should totally believe me, since I saw this Dateline special about someone trying to steal a bike once, and passerbys were, like helping the person with that same story saw through the chain. Watching that show is what gave me the idea to do this in the first place.

  “Hello,” the person says. I can’t see his face, because of the sun, but it’s a boy. I paste a nonchalant, nothing-to-see here look on my face.

  “Oh, hello!” I go back to my wire clippers. Which are actually having a hard time gripping onto the chain. Hmm.

  “What are you doing?” the boy asks.

  “This is my bike,” I explain. “And I forgot the combination. So I borrowed some wire clippers from Emily’s garage.”

  “That sucks.” He kneels down next to me. Oh, God. It’s Josh Noth. Josh Noth is so not the person I want to be catching me stealing someone’s bike. Josh Noth hangs out with Ashton Wagner and Haven Montessori and the whole entire popular crew that can never mind their own business and thinks that everything has to do with them.

  “You’re trying to cut the chain with those?” Josh asks. He points at my wire clippers.

  See? He’s only been here two seconds and already he’s questioning my choices.

  “What’s wrong with these?” I ask. “They’re wire clippers.” I look at them. They look expensive. And they’re big. In fact, it took me a ridiculously long time to figure out how to hide them on the way to this party. Unlike Aaron Randolph, I don’t have a dad who works for Google and offered to buy me a car when I turned sixteen. So I had to ride over here with my dad, and he would have asked tons of questions if I had his wire clippers on the seat next to me. I mean, could you imagine?

  In the end I had to borrow this huge sparkly gold purse of my stepmom’s and stash the wire clippers in there. The bag looks completely and totally ridiculous with the hoodie, jeans and flip-flops I’m wearing. Luckily my stepmom wasn’t home when I took it, and my dad knows nothing about accessories and fashion, otherwise there definitely would have been questions.

  “Well, yeah,” Josh says, “But wire clippers aren’t going to cut a chain.”

  He says it matter-of-factly, like everyone should know that wire clippers can’t cut a chain. Which pisses me off. “Well, they’re going to have to,” I say, “Since they’re all I have.”

  “Maybe you should try and pick the lock.”

  “I told you, I forgot the combination.”

  “That’s why I said to pick it.” He rolls his eyes like he can’t believe how stupid I am, and so I stand up.

  “You know what?” I say, “I think I got it.” There’s no way I need Josh Noth telling me how to steal a bike. He’s very cute and very popular and I doubt someone who wears Hollister everyday has ever tried to steal anything. Or knows anything about tools.

  “I don’t think you do,” he says, sounding cheerful. His green eyes sparkle, and I feel an attraction stirring in my stomach. He has dimples. I’m a sucker for dimples.

  Aaron had dimples. Aaron was a complete and total asshole, but he had dimples. Has dimples. They’re just not mine anymore. Not that owned him when we were going out.

  Or his dimples.

  “I do,” I say, but my voice is kind of faltering, because I’m beginning to realize that this was a terrible idea. Why did I think that I could come here and steal a bike without getting caught? Obviously I don’t know the first thing about stealing bikes or chain cutters or not getting caught. I drop the wire cutters onto the street and then plop down on the sidewalk. And then I start to cry. “I’m a failure as a thief,” I sob.

  Josh Noth has the wherewithal to finally look nervous. Which he should. I mean, I’m obviously crazy. Who knows what I’ll do next? I’m brokenhearted and willing to break the law and he probably thinks I’m about one step away from picking up the wire cutters and using them on his face.

  “You’re not a failure as a thief,” he says, sitting down next to me on the curb. If he’s shocked that I’ve admitted to actually stealing the bike when a second ago I was claiming that I’d forgotten my combination, he doesn’t mention it. Which I appreciate.

  “Yes, I am.”

  “No, you’re not.” He reaches over and rubs my back tentatively, and another jolt of attraction zings through my whole body.

  “I am!” I say. “I can’t even steal a bike! It should be one of the easiest crimes ever, and I…I … I can’t even do it!” I’m really crying now.

  “Stealing a bike is not one of the easiest crimes ever,” Josh says. He’s still rubbing my back in slow, easy circles. His hands feel big and strong and just… good.

  “It isn’t?”

  “No. They’re way too big. What were you going to do with it? Just ride away?”

  “Yes,” I say, “I was going to ride around the corner and hide it behind the Safeway.”

  “So you weren’t really going to steal the bike, you were just going to hide it?”

  “I told you I was the worst thief ever!” I start to cry again.

  “Whose bike is it?”

  “Aaron Randolph’s.”

  “Who the fuck is Aaron Randolph?”

  “My ex-boyfriend.” I reach into my huge purse and pull out a mini package of Kleenex. I threw them in there because I needed something to fill the stupid thing. I figured if anyone asked to look in my purse, I could open it and show them all the stuff that was on top of the wire clippers. I had no idea I’d be sobbing on the curb of Emily Mulally’s street while Josh Noth tried to comfort me.

  “Is he a freshman?” Josh asks.

  “No. A junior.”

  “Then why the fuck is he riding a bike?”

  “He likes being green,” I say. Josh looks utterly baffled by this, so baffled that I can’t help but smile.

  “There you go,” Josh says, standing up. He puts his hands on my shoulders and leans the top of his body down so that he’s looking into my eyes. Wow. His eyes are really, really green. “See?
It’s not so bad.”

  “Yes,” I sniff, “It is. I just… I wanted to get him back. Like, not back together, but get revenge on him, you know? For breaking up with me? I thought it might make me feel better. That’s stupid, right?”

  “Nah,” he says, “Sometimes doing something stupid does make you feel better.

  At least in the moment.” And then he leans in close to me, so close that I can smell the mint on his breath and the gel in his hair. My heart stops in my chest, and for one amazing second, I think maybe he’s going to kiss me. Bu all he says is, “Do you want to go to Home Depot?”

  “Ummm….I don’t get it.”

  “We can buy real wire cutters,” he says, “Or a pocket chain saw. Something that will take care of that lock in a second.”

  I think about it. On one hand, I do want to steal the bike. On the other hand, I really don’t need to be going to Home Depot with Josh Noth. He’s obviously totally and completely crazy. What kind of guy just offers to take you to Home Depot so that you can steal your ex-boyfriend’s bike?

  “Do you even know my name?” I ask him.

  “Yes,” he says.

  “What is it?”


  I think about it for another second. “Fine,” I say, finally. “But we can’t spend more than fifty dollars.”


  Brynn is obviously off her rocker. Out of her tree. Batshit crazy. Whatever you want to call it. That happens to girls sometimes. They seem like they’re completely normal, and then the next thing you know, they’ve lost their minds and are doing something that’s completely fucked up. Like stealing Aaron whatever-his- name-is’s bike. Or hiding it behind the Safeway. That’s the lamest thing I’ve ever heard.

  “So,” I say once we’re seated in my car. “Why did you want to steal that dude’s bike?” I pull my GPS out of the glove compartment and type in Home Depot, then slide it into the holder that’s mounted on the windshield. ‘Drive to Golden Street’ the automated voice instructs.

  “Because he’s an asshole,” Brynn says. This probably means he did something she thinks is awful, like breaking up with her. But breaking up with someone doesn’t mean you’re an asshole. It just means that you wanted to break up. Of course, that doesn’t mean this Aaron guy isn’t an asshole. I’ve broken up with a lot of girls who think I’m an asshole because I broke up with them, and not because of millions of other, true reasons they could think I’m an asshole.

  “So wait,” I say, “He’s an asshole because he broke up with you?”

  Brynn looks at me incredulously and then narrows her eyes into two little slits.

  “Noo,” she says. I raise my eyebrows at her. “Well, yes, he did. But that’s not why he’s an ass.”

  “Then why is he an ass?”

  “He conducted an opinion poll about me.”

  “An opinion poll about you?” I think about this. “You mean he asked is friends if you were hot enough for him?” That’s a terrible idea. Inevitably your friends either tell you the girl in question is super hot, and you can’t trust them because they might be lying just to be polite, or they tell you she isn’t hot, and of course you can’t trust that either because they might just be jealous. It’s one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of things. Which is why I don’t do it. Anymore.

  “No,” she says, “And that fact that you said that just proves that you’re an asshole, too.”

  “Wow,” I say, then take one hand off the wheel and put it over my heart like she hurt my feelings. “Harsh. You shouldn’t be insulting the guy who’s saving your ass.”

  “You’re not saving my ass.”

  “You were outside a party stealing a bike,” I say, “You could have been arrested.”

  “By who?”

  “The police.”

  “The police were going to just come along and see me taking a bike and arrest me?”

  “No,” I say, “Probably not. But I could have called them.”

  “The police?”


  “You wouldn’t have.”

  “I might have.” It’s a lie, of course. I don’t give a shit that she was stealing a bike. Who the fuck rides a bike still anyway? I wonder if it’s because she’s a girl. That I don’t care that she was stealing a bike, I mean. I saw this Dateline special once where this bike was getting stolen in the middle of a park, and when a good-looking girl was stealing it, no one called the police. This one married dude even helped the girl steal the bike while his wife tried to stop them. Do I think that Brynn is good-looking? I glance at her out of the corner of my eye. Dark hair. Nice blue eyes. I run my eyes up and down her body, but she’s wearing a pair of jeans and a black hoodie, so I can’t really tell what she’s got going on.

  Not that it matters. Brynn’s not my type. She obviously gets attached easily, and I tend to seek out girls that don’t need attachment. Like Kaci March, the girl I’m currently hooking up with. Kaci doesn’t need commitment. Which works out perfect for me, because like I said, I’m a no-commitment kind of guy.

  Brynn catches me checking her out then, and so I quickly look away. “So what’s your story?” she asks, turning toward me in her seat.

  “My story?”

  “Yeah, why are you taking me to Home Depot? Assuming that you are, in fact, taking me to Home Depot and not to some alley or something to have your way with me.”

  “Please,” I say, as if the thought of having my way with her is completely ridiculous. Although…I glance at her again out of the corner of my eye. She has very nice lips. And she’s not wearing lipstick or anything, which I like. Girls are always messing up their faces with tons of lipstick and make-up, when they look a lot better without all that stuff. I’m always suspicious of girls who look good with makeup on.

  Usually they end up looking like a big mess as soon as they take it off. Not that it keeps me from hooking up with them when they’re all made up.

  “I’m not taking you anywhere scandalous,” I say, “And there’s no story. I just happen to like Home Depot.” The GPS tells me to take a left, and so I turn the wheel, guiding the car onto the highway.

  “You’re lying,” she says. Then she reaches over and picks up the bottle of water that’s sitting in my cup holder and takes a drink.

  “That’s mine,” I tell her.

  “I’m thirsty.”

  “You could have asked.”

  “Can I have a drink?”


  She grins and then takes another drink. When she’s done, a drop of water is still on her lip, and she licks it off. Something about the way she does it is very… hot. My stomach does this weird unfamiliar flip, and I find myself looking away quickly. Again.

  “So answer the question,” she says.

  “What question?”

  “About why you’re taking me to Home Depot, when you were obviously on your way into the party.”

  I shrug. “I guess I just didn’t really feel like going in.”

  “Why not? Girl trouble?”

  “Josh Noth doesn’t have girl trouble.”

  “Anyone who refers to themselves in the third person must have girl trouble.”

  She takes another sip of my drink.

  I grin. “Fair enough.”

  “So why didn’t you want to go in?”

  “I don’t know.” I think about it, because even though she’s crazy, at least she’s being honest with me. I can respect that. And so I figure I owe her the same. “I guess I’m just over that whole scene.”

  “The whole getting drunk and high and hooking up with random girls?”



  “Why is that weird?”

  “Because you don’t seem like the type that would be over all that.”

  “You don’t seem like the type that would be stealing a bike.”

  She grins. “Fair enough.”

  “And anyway, you never finished telling me about the op
inion poll.”

  “There’s nothing to tell,” she says, “It was an opinion poll to see if the student body thought I was a good fit.”

  “I don’t get it,” I say. “A good fit for what?”

  “Aaron’s student body president,” she says, “And he wanted to know if I was hurting or helping his cause.”

  “That was you?” I ask incredulously. I have a vague memory of someone walking up to me last week after lunch, shoving a piece of paper into my hands and asking me to rate Brynn DeLeo in a bunch of categories, like class, confidence, and sophistication. I had no idea it was to see if she was a good fit for her douche boyfriend.

  “You took the poll?” she asks.

  “Yeah,” I say. “Well, I mean, I saw the poll. I didn’t take it. But my friends and I talked about how much of a loser the person who took the time to do that was.”

  “Yeah, well…” she shrugs and looks out the window. “That’s Aaron for you.”

  The GPS says, “Arriving at Home Depot, on right” and so I swing the car into the shopping plaza. “So that’s why he dumped you?” I ask. “Because some poll said he should?” It’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but laugh. I pull the car into a spot near the door, and put it in park.

  “Yeah, well, I know it’s not as scandalous as the reasons the people in your crowd break up, i.e., STDs and unplanned pregnancies and someone not having the right clothes from Hollister.” She unbuckles her seatbelt and looks at me, her eyes challenging.

  “Did you just say ‘i.e.’ in a sentence?” I take the water bottle from her and take a sip.

  She takes the water back, and when she does, her hand brushes against mine. Her skin feels soft, and that same weird unfamiliar feeling slides through my stomach. She takes a drink, then puts the bottle back in the cup holder.

  “Come on,” she says. “We’re going in.” She gets out of the car, and after a second, I follow her.


  I am sharing a water bottle with Josh Noth. Josh Noth and I are sharing a water bottle. Something about this is very… disconcerting. Actually, what’s more disconcerting is the way my stomach is getting all weird and flippy at the thought of sharing the water bottle with him.

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