“I KNOW WE’VE BEEN FRIENDS for such a long time, Roxana. I only have about five years’ worth of memories without you in them. But . . .”
Here’s where the next panel would come. And in an ideal world, I’d ask Roxy herself to help me figure it out. She would sketch something, sometimes just a ghost of a line, and on the best of days, a dying ember would ignite and suddenly I’d know exactly what came next. I need her. I need her to help me figure out how to tell her I love her.
I know what it has to feel like: epic. But also sweet. Like the romantic subplot of a superhero movie. Like that rainy, upside-down kiss in Spider-Man. But knowing what something is supposed to convey and actually getting it to do that is incredibly hard. Ask any writer.
My phone buzzes from my nightstand, a longer buzz than I’m used to. A phone call instead of a text? I see Roxana’s hastily sketched self-portrait flash across my screen and feel an inexplicable panic flit across my stomach, blaring a run-on sentence like an LED display: Oh god something must be wrong if she’s calling me is she dead she’s dead or worse oh god she has a boyfriend now and they’re getting married . . .
I try not to let this spigot of crazy flow out into my voice, but as it turns out, I don’t get the chance to say anything.
“GrahamGrahamGraham, guess what? He’s coming!” Her voice is completely out of breath, like my stepsister sounds after a track meet, and I have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. But I smile anyway. Probably one of the stars of the endless British TV shows she’s always binge-watching is going to be in a Broadway play. I should check my bank account to see if I can afford a ticket anytime soon. I grab my iPad and hit the banking app.
“Who—” I start, but she doesn’t let me finish.
I stop typing mid-password, stunned. “Coming?” Coming where? Surely not to Long Island. Or even anywhere in the eastern United States. Or anywhere at all that could be pinpointed on a map. Zinc hasn’t been seen, interviewed, or photographed since November 3, 1995. Not even five years ago when the reboot of The Chronicles of Althena happened. Not even six months ago when the film adaptation was finally announced, cast, and actually shooting.
“To Comic Con. New York Comic Con. Go check the boards. Go check the boards now.”
I zip over to my laptop and type in: z-men.net. First message of the forum, in capital letters, is exactly what Roxy has just told me.
I can’t believe it. Robert Zinc, creator of my favorite series ever and the J. D. Salinger of the comic book world, is coming out of hiding. Has agreed to an exclusive forty-five-minute, in-person Q&A. And it’s open to the public at New York Comic Con, taking place three weeks from now only an hourlong train ride away. Roxy and I already have passes for the weekend, only . . .
“It’s on Friday,” Roxana says, with an incredulous finality. “At three p.m.” Her voice is flat.
“Don’t you think your parents would let you skip school for this?” I urge. “This is once in a lifetime . . . not even once in a regular lifetime. Once in a Time Lord lifetime.”
“Obviously. I know that. And you know that. But explaining it to Maman and Baba . . .” She takes in a deep breath. “But I will try. Oh, how I will try.”
In the meantime, I’ve frantically clicked over to the NYCC website, even though I’m positive Friday passes have already sold out (they have). Fine, I’ll take care of that later. Right now, I need to figure out how getting into the Q&A is going to work.
It’s just three sentences: “Robert Zinc, creator of the once-cult The Chronicles of Althena, will be sitting down for an incredibly rare Q&A with Solomon Pierce-Johnson, the director of the upcoming The Chronicles of Althena movie. This event will need exclusive wristbands that can be obtained Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. at the Javits Center. One wristband per attendee.”
“Right,” I say, my brain going into organizational overdrive. Once hologrammed thought projections become a reality, this will be the point at which a large spreadsheet will beam out of my forehead. “Nine a.m. tickets means we have to line up on Thursday night. Probably starting at nine p.m.” I have personally never done this before, but I know, generally, how tickets to hot panels work. If they’re handing them out first thing in the morning, the die-hard fans will line up as soon as the previous night’s convention closes. And really, who is Comic Con made of if not boatloads of die-hard fans?
Roxy sighs, then laughs a little bitterly. “No problem, right? Not only can I cut school on Friday to go, but I’ll definitely be allowed to spend Thursday hanging out on a street. In New York City. Overnight. This is the start to an amazing fantasy series.” Roxy’s parents are incredibly strict. She often chalks it up to them being, as she calls it, “maximum Persian.”
“We’ll figure it out, Roxy. I promise,” I say fiercely, my brain spreadsheet starting a whole new tab for how to get Roxy to NYCC on Friday.
I hear her breathing relax a tiny bit and she laughs again, this time a little more freely. “All right, Graham,” she says. “I don’t know why, but I believe you.”
I feel a jolt in my heart at her implicit trust in me, and then, suddenly, my virtual spreadsheet is a siren, flashing blue and red.
Comic Con? Robert Zinc? A weekend immersed in practically everything we love as individuals and together? This is it: the perfect opportunity to profess my unrequited love.
The spreadsheet explodes into confetti. Because maybe if the gesture is grand enough, and perfect enough, it won’t be unrequited at all and I, Graham William Posner—lanky, pale, glasses, and with a penchant for fantasy worlds—will actually get the girl.
The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love
Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy...
Archie and Veronica...
Althena and Noth...
...Graham and Roxy?
Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.
But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.
When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be...even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.
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