CHAPTER 5

REASONS WHY IF THE APOCALYPSE WERE TO HAPPEN TOMORROW IT WOULDN'T BE SO BAD:

1. Michael Moscovitz, my one true love, apparently cannot stand the sight of me anymore and is willing to go all the way to Japan just to prove his point, perhaps to engage in scandalous activity with a geisha (or many).

2. I DON'T WANT TO SOUND DRAMATIC OR ANYTHING, BUT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT HIM.

3. I would no longer have to be conscious of the fact that Lilly isn't my best friend anymore (or that I miss her as much as I do).

4. People would stop writing mean things about other people on bathroom doors with Sharpies, because there would no longer be bathroom doors. Or Sharpies.

5. Rocky wouldn't have to grow up to experience such heartache as this.

6. I wouldn't have to pay that forty dollar fine at the school library for losing my English book (which, in actuality, Lilly burned for one of her segments to prove her dissidence to the sexist English department, on account of how we only ever read so few books by women during the school year, and thus they are reinforcing the stereotype that women are only made to be good wives and housekeepers).

7. This stupid pimple on my nose would go away.

Friday, September 18, 6 pm, the loft.

Thank God it's Friday!!!! I have never felt so relieved to see this day come, even though the weekend always passes by too quickly and next thing I know it, it's Monday again. Whose bright idea was it to make the weekend two measly days, anyway? Why not three, or four? I'd seriously like to know. Assuming the person was still alive (they probably aren't), I'd sic Lars on 'em, and maybe even Wahim too, if Tina let me.

Anyway, I got assigned a ton of homework, but Tina invited me and the rest of the girls to go see that movie with James McAvoy and Christina Ricci, the one where she has a pig nose and he looks kind of scruffy, but still cute. Tina says it's her treat for me, so that I'll forget all about Michael and just have fun. It sounded like a good idea, and it really doesn't do much to be hanging around the apartment all day, waiting for the phone to ring. Did I say waiting for the phone to ring? I meant. . . sulking and waiting for the phone to ring. Yep.

I've just got to finish packing, and then Lars is going to drive me over to Tina's. I'm actually pretty excited. I remember wanting to actually watch that movie when it first came out, not to mention Tina always makes me feel a lot better about things when I feel like crap, especially about Michael. I like to think that Tina understands better than anybody else, not because she's read all of those paperback romance books, but because she'd known right from the beginning and had even helped me writing all of those secret love notes to Michael and everything.

Wait – Mom just came to tell me that JP stopped by and said he wanted to talk to me. I'm not so sure about this, but it's got to be harmless, right?

6:15 pm, the loft.

So it turns out JP had heard about Tina's little girls' night in and wanted to wish me luck. He also managed to tell me that he'd heard Michael was still in town, and when I asked how he knew, he only smiled and shrugged his shoulders, saying, "Oh, I have my sources."

HOW CREEPY IS IT WHEN PEOPLE DO THAT, BTW? It totally gives me the wiggins when people try to play it shady when they really have no reason to. Like child predators. Only child predators are naturally shady, I think, on account of all the underage child scouting.

Then he asked me if I'd tried talking to Michael yet, and that's when I hesitated in whether I should tell him the truth or not, and whether it would matter. Why did it matter, anyway? I know why it mattered to me, and why it mattered to Tina – but why did it matter to JP?

So I told him, trying to conceal my heart breaking by clearing my throat first, "Not really. I thought if he wanted to see me, he would call, but he hasn't, so."

Which is partially true about my current situation. For all I knew, Michael was repulsed just at the sight of me (which hurts to write down more than you know). But it still confused me why I felt like I had to lie to JP, seeing as how we were friends and everything. But it also confused me why he had to stop by just to ask me if I'd talked to Michael yet.

"Listen, what time are you heading over to Tina's?" he asked. "I could give you a ride there."

"Thanks for the offer, but Lars is already driving me. I still have to pack, so. . ."

"Pack?"

"Yeah, just in case it turns into some wild sleepover."

He laughed at that. I think he suddenly got this crazy notion that 'wild sleepover' meant 'taking our clothes off and having a pillow fight.' Lilly says that's engrained in every man's brain, along with the disability to put the toilet seat down whenever they pee. "Really?"

I shrugged. "It happens. Anyway, was there anything else you wanted to talk about?"

"Um, yeah," he said, scratching the back of his neck. "I'd been going to ask you whether you still wanted to come to dinner with me and my parents tonight."

OH. MY. GOD. I HAD TOTALLY FORGOTTEN THAT I'D MADE PLANS WITH JP AND HIS PARENTS FOR TONIGHT. SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS MY PROBLEM????????!!

AND WHY DIDN'T I WRITE IT DOWN??????

Oh wait. I did.

CRAP.

"God, I am so sorry," I said, wanting to smack myself on the forehead. NO WONDER MICHAEL HATES ME. HE'S SEEN RIGHT THROUGH ME. HE'S SEEN THAT DEEP, DEEP INSIDE, I AM A HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE, FORGETFUL PERSON. "I totally forgot, JP, I'm so sorry, with everything that happened—"

"Don't even worry about it, Mia," he said, smiling. I hated that he was always so NICE. It didn't exactly boost up my self-esteem by comparison. "It's really no problem. My parents won't mind. Rain check, maybe?"

"No, listen," I said, "I really could just throw on something fancy, and tell Tina – I mean, I'm sure she'd understand—"

He was shaking his head, laughing. "Please, don't do that. I know you're looking forward to Tina's thing, so really, Mia, it's no problem. Just promise me we'll reschedule, okay? My parents really do want to meet you."

So I did. Promise to reschedule, I mean. And I made sure to give him an extra firm hug just because I was such a forgetful idiot, but he really was right, I mean, I was really looking forward to watching a movie in my pajamas at Tina's house, more so than getting dressed up and going to some fancy five star restaurant on the upper eastside.

So he told me to have a good time, and I went back to my room to finish packing. Tina said that it would start around 6:30, I should give her a call to tell her that I might just be a tiny bit late. Not that I think she'd mind.

Hold on, I hear something – wait, is there somebody out on my fire escape? OH MY GOD, DID I LEAVE MY WINDOW OPEN AGAIN? WHAT IF IT'S FAT LOUIE AND HE'S BEEN OUT THERE ALL DAY – THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I KEEP ASKING MOM TO FIX OUR AIR CONDITIONING –

Saturday, September 19, 4 pm, the car.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHH!!!!

I'm on the way to the airport now, and my hands are still shaking! But I made sure to leave extra early, because there's always extra bad traffic on Saturdays – it's when all the cab drivers make their money, after all, BUT OH MY GOD, I AM SO UNBELIEVABLY, INCOMPREHENSIBLY, TOTALLY HAPPY.

HERE'S WHY:

Turns out, it wasn't Fat Louie out on my fire escape. It wasn't Fat Louie at all. Fat Louie, in fact, had been napping underneath my table this entire time, which I didn't find out until later on, when I accidentally kicked him and he scratched me.

So when I went to go see what – or who – it was on my fire escape, I seriously thought my heart had stopped long enough for me to be considered dead. I jumped, too, and yelped, because it isn't every day you see somebody on your fire escape – which is almost inaccessible since the one below it practically collapsed about a year ago – let alone MICHAEL MOSCOVITZ.

Wait. I'm making sure I wrote that down right. YES. MICHAEL. MICHAEL, MY ONE TRUE LOVE, THE ONE WHO HAD MADE ME CRY UNTIL I WAS ALL CRIED OUT, AND THE ONE THAT I HAD BEEN SECRETLY HOPING WAS STILL MADLY IN LOVE WITH ME – like Tina foretold – ALL THIS TIME. There he was, wearing nothing but his DIY Skinner Box t-shirt that I'd made him for his birthday last year and jeans (which, looking back on it, SHOULD have been a clear sign that he still loved me), scrambling up my fire escape and making so much noise that even my across-the-way neighbor, Ronnie, had come out to watch.

I opened my window, sticking my head out. "Oh my god! Michael, what are you doing here?" AND SCARING ME TO DEATH???

"I needed to see you, Mia," he said, all huskily, and I swear my heart cartwheeled, because he said it in exactly the same way Tina's bare-chested, handsome heroes in her romance novels always seemed to say it. I almost forgot that he'd broken my heart just last weekend because my head got a little light, seeing him climbing up my fire escape like that, with his biceps all tensed up in his arms.

"We have a door. You could've just asked to be buzzed in – I wouldn't have left you out there, you know." HELLO! BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, REMEMBER???

"I know," he said, before I invited him into my room and he ducked through my window, all the while Ronnie yelled, from across the way, "Get it, girl!"

He was still breathing hard, and I sat on my bed, waiting for him to explain. My parts felt like jelly again, but my heart still hurt from what had happened the last time we'd seen each other. I wondered whether he was just here to add to it, to explain why we couldn't be together, and then to ask me if we could still be friends. Just thinking that – hurt. Because I didn't want to be his friend. I was done playing the part of his little sister's geeky best friend. I wanted to be more than that. Always.

"I didn't go through the door because I saw him," he said, looking me in the eye. "JP. I was right behind him when he got buzzed in, and I couldn't. . . well, you know."

OH GOD. That's when I went into panic mode again. I swear, even my EYEBALLS started sweating. THIS SAME MISUNDERSTANDING COULDN'T BE HAPPENING AGAIN, TWICE. What was it with these two boys and their UNCANNY, UNFORTUNATE SENSE OF TIMING???

"He wasn't," I started to sputter, "he wasn't here for anything, Michael. I mean, he was – but it isn't like that. He just wanted to ask me whether I'd gone and talked to you yet, and I was supposed to have dinner with him and his parents—"

One of his eyebrows leapt up his forehead. "You were supposed to have dinner with him and his parents?"

OH MY GOD, MIA, SHUT UP!! SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!! STOP SAYING STUPID THINGS!!!!

"No!" I blurted. "I mean, yes, but it isn't like that. We're just friends, Michael. It was just a. . . friend thing." I looked at him, my mouth feeling dry and like I had just tried to eat sand. "You believe me, don't you?"

"Of course I believe you, Mia," he said. He sighed, silent for a minute, just looking at me. "But I've seen the way he looks at you. I know what he's up to, Mia – God, I didn't see it then, but I see it now. I've been where he's been. Just 'the friend' trying to cinch his way into something more. Don't you get it, Mia? He's trying to do exactly what I'd been trying to do, a few years ago."

"But he isn't you," I said, suddenly feeling very, very small and surprised that I hadn't seen that before. "And that's all that matters."

He walked towards me, then, sitting down beside me on my bed. "I'm sorry I hurt you, Mia. I should've called, but. . . what can I say? I got hurt, too. My pride got the best of me."

"You broke up with me."

"You broke up with me first."

Right. I actually had!

"Fair enough. I did," I sighed. "But it was only because I was mad that I wasn't your first, you know? And that it was Judith Gershner, the fly-cloner with the body of a goddess. I know it's silly, and stupid, but it means a lot to us girls. Or, at least, to me."

Lilly says the matters of virginity are like nail polish, or the different brands of make-up. Meaning: it only mattered to girls. Boys, on the other hand, never think twice about MAYBE SAVING THEIR PRECIOUS GIFT for the person they actually LOVE. That is why they are said to think with the lower parts of their anatomy, and not their brains. (Though I had always hoped Michael was different, I guess there's no hiding the fact that he IS still a boy and STILL HAS BOY PARTS.)

"Mia, believe me, if I had known that this was ever going to happen," he said, grabbing my hand, "I would have waited for you. That's gotta count for something, right?"

I couldn't believe the butterflies I still felt when he held my hand. Tina called it being Butterflied, and sometimes she called it the Tingles, but I honestly didn't have a name for it, only that I only got it when he was around. I'd always liked his hands. They were scrawny but they were well proportioned, and way bigger than mine, but that was even better – that way he could hold my hand completely. And the first time we held hands, there wasn't any of that fumbling and confusion of where the fingers go or anything, like what Tina had told me when her first boyfriend had tried holding her hand. It was like – we just FIT, you know?

But, I mean, you're SUPPOSED to fit with your one true love, so really, that's nothing new.

"Sure," I said, grinning this ridiculous grin. "I mean, yeah, it counts as something."

When I turned my head a little, I could see that he was smiling, too. You know what totally mystifies me? I seriously don't get why the whole world doesn't fall in love with him every time he smiles. I seriously, seriously don't. But, I mean, I don't have a BIG problem with that – more for me, after all.

"But – you were serious, right?" he said lowly. "About. . . well, what you said, that night?"

I blinked. "You mean about giving you my precious gift?"

He laughed. "Yeah. That. I mean, just because of what happened with Judith a million years ago, that doesn't mean that I won't still get to be your first, right?"

My heart fluttered. Literally. It FLUTTERED. And my face started to get really, really warm. "If you still want it," I said slowly, "it's yours."

The look on his face then was PRICELESS. I couldn't even describe it if I tried, and I don't know if you know this, but I'm pretty good at describing things. Let me just say that right after I said what I did, he wrapped one of his arms around my waist and just kissed me the way those heroines in Tina's novels are always kissed before SOMETHING BIG happens. Except that SOMETHING BIG didn't happen – I mean, it could have almost, if I'd let it go on, but that was when my mom knocked on my door to tell me Lars was here.

"Right. That thing with Tina," he said, when we'd both come up for air.

"Yeah. Wait – how'd you know?"

"Let's just say I have my sources," he smirked.

Okay. CORRECTION: IT IS ONLY CUTE WHEN MICHAEL DOES IT. WITH ANYBODY ELSE, IT STILL GIVES ME THE WIGGINS. JUST NOT MICHAEL, WHO, REALLY, CAN MAKE ANYTHING CUTE.

"I don't have to go," I said, starting to ramble. "I mean, if I called Tina right now and told her what just happened, I'm pretty sure she would KILL me if I went. . ."

He kissed me. "Go. I want you to go. Just promise me you'll be at the airport tomorrow morning."

I tried to plaster a fake smile on my face, even though on the inside, I'd totally forgotten that he was still going away. It felt. . . not so good, this sudden plunge from that indescribable, happy high.

"Okay," I said, even though I couldn't hide my halfhearted tone.

"Oh. But wait," he said, sticking his hand in his back pocket. "I wanted to give you this."

That's when I saw it. A small silver ring with a tiny heart inscribed on the front. He held it out to me, looking nervous, but still smiling. "I've had this for a while – since a couple of months ago, actually, and I'd been going to give it to you that night when we. . . well, I couldn't, obviously. But my dad gave this to my mom before they went off to college as a sort of promise ring, to wait for each other."

MEANWHILE ALL I KEPT THINKING WAS: OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!! A RING. LIKE WE WERE MARRIED. EXCEPT NOT.

BUT STILL!!

There really were no other coherent thoughts running through my mind. Really.

"So would you wait for me, Mia Thermopolis? I promise I'll do the same."

WHAT ELSE DO YOU SAY TO THAT, OTHER THAN A VERY SHRILL "YES!!!"? After which I then jumped him, wrapping my arms around his neck, kissing his face.

And you know what the best part was? Apart from the fact that we both promised to finally DO IT the day he got back from Japan? Apart from the fact that I've already made a plan to persuade Grandmere to set up another meeting with Princess Hikoko just so I could visit him? Apart from the part where the ring fit me perfectly because he'd secretly gotten my ring measurements from my jewelry box when he'd come over one day? Apart from the part when he told me that he had never felt anything like this for anyone before, and that he'd really considered not going to Japan but ended up deciding to go anyway, because he wanted to prove to Grandmere that he was good enough for me (which is really, really SILLY, seeing as how I felt like I wasn't the one good enough)?

No, the best part was when he slipped it on and said, "Make sure JP sees this the next time you see him. Make sure he gets the idea that you're my girl. Okay?"

When I told Tina about that, she freaked and spilled her coke everywhere. About everything, really, but especially about that. She'd screamed so loud that even Wahim had come running in, his gun cocked and everything, like he was going to shoot somebody, and that was when Tina had to explain what had just happened and why she screamed, and Wahim just gave me that curt nod before he tucked his gun away and walked out of the room. (I have to say, I'm just really glad Lars always leaves when I get home and doesn't hang around.)

OH! We're here! And really, as sad as I am that he's leaving, I can't help but feel. . . happy. Hopeful. Like the best I'd ever felt in a long, long time.

Remind me to never doubt Tina ever again.

END.