The Rules of RebellionBy: Amity Hope
For my parents, whose support over the years means more to me than they’ll ever know.
“Oh my gosh, Kylie, just ask him out already.”
I fumbled with the garbage can I’d just walked into, struggling to keep it upright while my gaze darted around Common Grounds. Though my little sister’s voice had been a low whisper, I was sure it had echoed through the crowd.
“Allie,” I growled.
She innocently blinked her pale-green eyes at me. “What?”
“You know what.”
The line moved forward a few steps. Luckily, James Takata—the object of my unrequited affection—had grabbed his mocha frappe and left the building.
“This is the thanks I get for letting you come with me?” I asked.
She huffed and rolled her eyes. “Please. You’re not ‘letting’ me. We both know that Mom and Dad expect you to drive me home from school. If you want to stop here, you need to let me come with.”
The line moved again, landing us at the counter. Placing our orders was an ordeal. Apparently the new hire wasn’t particularly familiar with the menu or how to use the cash register. I didn’t mind the delay. I hoped it would provide enough of a distraction to throw Allie off course.
The girl had a one-track mind. As soon as we stepped to the side, she zoomed the conversation right back around.
“Ask him out,” she ordered. “You’re a senior and you live like a hermit.”
“I do not,” I said. “I go out.”
“Do you?” Allie cocked her head to the side as she plastered on a comically contemplative look. “Because I could’ve sworn that was you, locked away in your room, reading sappy romance novels the past few weekends. And by ‘the past few weekends,’ you know I mean the past few months.”
“I like to read,” I argued.
“Probably because your own life is so boring,” Allie said.
I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but now that she pointed it out, it was clear that my sister was not exactly wrong. I had a deep and abiding love for fantasy novels, the more forbidden the romance, the better. I loved getting lost in intricate worlds laden with magic. And if the hero and heroine faced insurmountable odds to be together, it always made my heart pitter-patter.
“What did you do on Valentine’s Day?” she demanded. “I’ll tell you what you did. Your friends went out with their boyfriends. But you? You ate pizza with your family, then you locked yourself in your room all night and listened to depressing music.”
“Thanks for the reminder.” I glanced around. Speaking of my two best friends—Francesca Rossini and Meg Matthews—they had gotten here early and grabbed the big corner booth. Meg’s boyfriend, Luke, was squeezed in tight next to her, presumably to save room for the rest of us, but more likely simply because he wanted to be.
Though the place was crowded, no one was particularly interested in the Jenkins siblings bickering by the containers of flavored coffee creamers and stir sticks.
Still, when Allie started in again, I bristled.
She patted my shoulder reassuringly. “There’s hope. You just need to get out more. If you don’t have the guts to ask James, ask someone else.”
“Allie,” I said through clenched teeth, “drop it. This isn’t the time or the place.”
She hurled a bratty sigh my way.
To my horror, I realized Leo Zimmerman had been behind us in line. Now, as Allie and I squabbled, he stood at the cash register, struggling to place an order of his own as the college girl behind the counter squinted at the amount on the digital screen.
I had to wonder how much Leo had heard.
Over the last several months, I’d started getting to know Leo pretty well. He was good friends with Luke, so because our best friends were dating, we spent time together by default. Days like today, when we all hung out after school. I could say we had crossed the line from acquaintances to friends. With his order finally placed and a fistful of change in his hand, Leo cast a wary glance our way. I gave him a tentative smile, suddenly convinced he’d heard every word.
“Hey,” he said as he sidled over to wait for his order, too. “How’s it going?”
His question was directed toward me, but my sister cut me off.
“Good,” Allie said with a big grin. To my absolute dismay, she continued to spew her verbal vomit. “So, Leo, you’d date Kylie, wouldn’t you? I mean, you two hang out, right?”
An explosion of crimson slammed across Leo’s cheeks.
“Uh…” His eyebrows shot up as he slid a confused glance my way.
I elbowed Allie. Hard.