This hardcover edition of Lauren Barnholdt’s bestselling Two-way Street is a road trip reminder: There are two sides to every breakup.
This is Jordan and Courtney, totally in love. Sure, they were an unlikely high school couple. But they clicked; it worked. They’re even going to the same college, and driving cross-country together for orientation.
Then Jordan dumps Courtney—for a girl he met on the Internet. It’s too late to change plans, so the road trip is on. Courtney’s heartbroken, but figures she can tough it out for a few days.
La la la—this is Courtney pretending not to care. But in a strange twist, Jordan cares. A lot.
Turns out, he’s got a secret or two that he’s not telling Courtney. And his secrets have everything to do with why they broke up, why they can’t get back together, and how, in spite of it all, this couple is destined for each other.
I’m a traitor to my generation. Seriously. All we hear about these days is being strong women and standing up for ourselves, and now look what I’ve done. I should totally be one of those true life stories in Seventeen. “I Built My Life Around a Boy! And Now I Regret It!” Of course, it doesn’t pack the emotional punch as some of their previous stories, i.e., “I Got An STD Without Having Sex” but it’s important nonetheless.
“You’re going to be fine,” my mom says, stirring her coffee at the sink. “In fact, you’re acting a little bit ridiculous.”
“I’m ridiculous? I’m ridiculous?” How can she say that? Has she lost her mind? It’s so completely not ridiculous to be upset about going on a trip with your ex-boyfriend, when said ex-boyfriend broke your heart and left you stranded for some Internet slut. Although I really can’t say I know for a fact that she’s a slut. But I’m pretty sure she is. I mean, scamming on guys on the Internet? I thought that was only for forty-year-old divorcées who Photoshop their pictures in an effort to appear younger and thinner. Not to mention what was HE thinking? An eighteen-year-old guy who could have any girl he wanted, having to resort to Internet dating? But maybe that’s the problem with guys who can have any girl they want. One is never enough.
“I didn’t say you were ridiculous,” my mom says. “I said you’re acting ridiculous.”
“There’s really no difference,” I tell her. “It’s like if someone says ‘You’re acting like a cheater,’ it’s because you’re cheating. Which means you’re a cheater.” Like Jordan. Although I suppose technically he isn’t a cheater, because he broke up with me before he started dating the Internet girl. In my mind, I still think of him as being a cheater. Otherwise, he just met some girl he liked better, and it’s not as dramatic.
“Courtney, you begged and begged to go on this trip,” my mom says.
“So?” That’s her big justification for calling me ridiculous? Is she kidding? Teenagers beg and beg for stuff all the time—nose rings, tattoos that say “Badass.” Never a good idea. My parents are supposed to be the voices of reason, steering me on the right path at all times. They’re obviously insane to have agreed to this plan in the first place. I mean, what was I thinking? Making plans to drive over a thousand miles to college with a boy months before we were supposed to go? Everyone knows the average high school relationship is shorter than an episode of TRL. “You’re the mother,” I say. “You should have known this was a horrible idea.” I’m hoping to lay a guilt trip on her, but she’s not having it.
“Oh, please,” she says, rolling her eyes. “How was I supposed to know he was going to break up with you? I’m not psychic. Nor do I know the habits of Internet chat rooms.”
“It wasn’t a CHAT ROOM,” I say. “It was MySpace.” No one hangs out in chat rooms anymore. Although why some girl would want to date Jordan based on his MySpace page is beyond me. The song he chose for his profile is “Let’s All Get Drunk Tonight” by Afroman.
“Right,” my mom says, taking a sip of her coffee. My parents are trying to teach me some kind of lesson. They don’t think it’s right that they would have to pay more than five hundred dollars for a last-minute plane ticket from Florida to Massachusetts, when I’m the one who convinced them to let me go on this trip. Plus, my mom thinks this whole thing is typical teen angst, one of those situations portrayed on a teen sitcom that’s resolved in a half hour of laughs and mishaps. You know, where the girl gets dumped, but then realizes by the end of the show that she’s better off without him, and then hooks up with some other hottie who’s much better for her, while the guy who broke her heart ends up all alone, wishing he had her back. That is definitely not happening. In fact, it’s kind of the other way around. Jordan is having tons of fun with his MySpace girl, while I’m the one sitting around, wishing I had him back.
I sigh and stare out the kitchen window, looking for Jordan’s TrailBlazer. It’s 8:07, and he was supposed to be here at eight, which makes me think that:
a) he’s late
b) he’s acting like an asshole and blowing me off
c) he’s gotten into a horrible car crash that’s left him dead.
The most likely answer is A. (We went to the prom together, and the limo had to wait in his driveway for half an hour. At the end of the night, we got charged for an extra hour. He—read: his parents—paid for it, but still.) Although I’m all about option C. Okay, maybe not the dead part. Just, like, a broken leg or something. I mean, his parents have always been really nice to me and I would feel horrible if they lost their youngest child. Even if he is a liar and a cheat.
“Do you want some coffee?” my mom asks, which is ridiculous because she knows I don’t drink coffee. Coffee stunts your growth. I’m only five-foot-two, and I’m still holding out hope that I’ll grow another few inches. Plus I’m tense enough. Getting me all hyped up on caffeine is definitely not a good idea.
“No thanks,” I say, looking out the window again. I feel a lump rising in my throat, and I ignore it. He wouldn’t blow me off, would he? I mean, that’s so screwed up. Although if he did, that means I wouldn’t have to go with him. Which would be great. If he stood me up, my parents would have no choice but to let me book a flight and take it to Boston. Which is what they should have let me do in the first place.
I take a deep breath. It’s only three days. I can get through that, right? Three days is nothing. Three days is…I wrack my brain, trying to think of something that only lasts three days. Christmas vacation! Christmas vacation lasts ten days and it always seems to go by so fast. Three days is only a third of that.
Plus, I have the whole thing planned out in minute detail. The trip, I mean. So that every single second, we’ll be doing something.
Of course, Christmas vacation is fun. And this is going to be excruciating.
My dad walks into the kitchen, wearing a gray suit and drinking a protein shake. He’s humming a Shakira song. My dad loves pop music. Which is weird. Because he’s almost fifty. Although I think my dad may be having a bit of a midlife crisis, since lately he’s taken to buying weird clothes. And I suspect he’s been using self-tanner, because he definitely looks a little orange.
“Good morning,” he says, heading over to where my mom is sitting at the kitchen table and planting a kiss on her head. He opens the cupboard and pulls down a box of cereal.
“Morning,” I mumble, not sure what’s so good about it.
“All set for school?” he asks, smiling.
“Yeah, I guess,” I say, trying not to sound like too much of a brat. My dad has been way cooler about this whole breakup thing than my mom. He’s spent hours trying to cheer me up by telling me I’d meet someone better, there’s more fish in the sea, he never liked Jordan, etc. Plus he bought me a new iPod and tons of new clothes for school. He also slipped me a copy of He’s Just Not That Into You, which I guess he thought was empowering. It actually kind of is empowering, because it talks about how you shouldn’t settle for a guy who doesn’t want to be with you. On the other hand, realizing the guy you like “just isn’t that into you” is not very good for one’s self-esteem. Plus I was reading parts of it to my friend Jocelyn one time, and she interrupted me to say, “Actually, if you need a book like that to tell you he’s just not that into you, you’re probably not the type that’s going to actually be able to let go.” She wasn’t trying to say it about me, exactly, but still.
“Jordan here yet?” my dad asks, pouring milk over his cereal.
“Of course not,” I say. “Hey, if he doesn’t show up, then what?”
“You think he won’t show up?” my dad asks, glancing up. “Why wouldn’t he?”
“I don’t know.” I say. “But what if he doesn’t?” Hope starts to rise up inside me. There’s no way either one of my parents can or want to drive me. I won’t even feel bad about the money they’ll have to spend on a last-minute plane ticket, since they’re the psychos who are making me go on this trip in the first place. “Then what?” I persist.
But no one has to answer that, because the sound of gravel crunching on the driveway outside comes through the window. I look out, and the light shines off the windshield of Jordan’s TrailBlazer and hits my eyes.
Some kind of ridiculous rap music is blasting from the car, which makes me even more annoyed than I already am. I hate rap music. He doesn’t even listen to normal rap, like Jay-Z or Nelly. He listens to “hardcore” rap. (His word, not mine. I’ve never used the word “hardcore” in my life. Well, until right now, and then only to quote Jordan.)
I ignore the weird feeling in my stomach and run outside so I can yell at him for being late. “Where have you been?” I demand as he gets out of the car.
“Nice to see you, too.” He smiles. He’s wearing baggie tan shorts and a navy blue Abercrombie T-shirt. His dark hair is wet, which means he probably just got out of the shower, which means he probably just woke up. “I’m sorry, I was packing my stuff, and then I was trying to find my parents so I could say good-bye to them.”
Packing his stuff? Who waits until the day they’re leaving for college to start packing their stuff? My stuff’s been packed for a week, neatly stacked outside my bedroom door until I moved it into the kitchen this morning. I mean, the housing office sent us a packing list. Of stuff to bring. I’ll bet Jordan doesn’t have any of it. Not like I care. If he wants to sleep on an empty, disgusting, stained mattress because he forgot to purchase extra-long sheets, that’s fine with me. I’m so over him. This is me, being over him. La, la, la.
“Didn’t you get my email?” I ask him. Three days ago I emailed him a copy of our trip itinerary. It was really short, with a subject line that simply said “Schedule” and read, “Jordan, Attached, please find a copy of the schedule for our trip. Best, Courtney.” I was really proud of it. The email, I mean. Because it was so short and cold. Of course, it took me and my friend Jocelyn about two hours to come up with the perfect wording, but Jordan doesn’t know that. He just must think I’m too important to compose long email messages with him, or get ensconsed in a back-and-forth email exchange. Not that he ever emailed me back. But it was obviously because I was so cold.
“The one about the trip?” He frowns. “Yeah, I think so.”
“You think so?” I ask.
“Court, you can’t plan everything to the minute,” he says. “There are going to be setbacks.” He takes the sunglasses that are on his head and slides them down over his eyes.
“Well, whatever,” I say. Luckily I have three copies of the trip itinerary, along with specific MapQuest instructions all printed out and paper-clipped together. I’ll give him one to reference. I start to walk into the house, and Jordan hesitates.
“Are you going to help me with my stuff or not?” I ask.
“Oh, yeah, sure.” I raise my eyebrows. “Of course,” he repeats more forcefully.
He follows me into the house, and I can tell he’s staring at my ass. Pervert.
“Jordan,” my dad says, nodding. Jordan nods back but doesn’t say anything. I hope he’s scared of my dad. If he isn’t, he should be. My dad’s kind of a big guy. Not that Jordan’s scrawny or anything. In fact, just the opposite. He has these really amazing arms that—Ugh. I will not think about any part of Jordan’s lying, cheating, never-on-time body, arms or otherwise.
“Excited to be going to school?” my mom asks politely. Her tone is guarded, which makes me happy. When Jordan and I were together, she was always supernice to him. She might be making me go on this trip, but it’s obvious where her loyalties lie. I hope Jordan is uncomfortable. I hope he’s squirming. I hope he’s—
“Yes, ma’am,” he says. Which is total bullshit. He could care less, obviously. I mean, he didn’t even follow the packing list.
“Whatever,” I say, putting my hands on my temples like I can’t take it anymore. “Can you start loading up the car? I don’t want to be any later than we already are.” I give Jordan a pointed look, which he ignores, and then point him in the direction of my stuff, which is packed neatly and piled on the kitchen floor.
“Jesus, Court,” he says, looking at the mound. “You know you’re only going for four years, right?” I ignore him and pull a copy of the schedule out of my pocket.
“We are way behind,” I say, frowning. We were supposed to have left twenty minutes ago. Although maybe if we don’t stop for lunch and just drive straight through, we can make up the time that way. Still, it’s not good to be starting off late. I’ve budgeted for traffic and unforeseen circumstances of course, but still. This should not count as an unforeseen circumstance. An unforeseen circumstance is something that you can’t avoid. And this could definitely have been avoided.
Jordan reaches down and picks up one of the bags that’s on the ground near my feet, and it brushes against my toe.
“Ow!” I say, jumping back. “Watch it. I’m wearing sandals.”
He smiles. “Sorry, honey.” He turns and heads out to the car before I can reply. I take a deep breath. I will not start fighting with him. There’s no way. If I start fighting with him, he’s going to know that he’s getting to me, and I can’t let that happen. The last thing I need is for him to think I’m upset about him breaking up with me. I’ve spent the past two weeks determined to show him I don’t care, and I’m not going to screw it all up now. Of course, it’s much easier to pretend you don’t care about someone when they’re not around you, but I can do it. I just have to gather all my self-control. Disengage and detach is my new motto.
I realize my heart is beating at a ridiculously abnormal rate, and I take another deep breath. I can do this, I tell myself. I start thinking of all the hot guys I’m going to meet in college. Guys who read philosophy books and drink coffee. Guys who listen to real music, like Mozart and Andrea Bocelli and maybe even Gavin DeGraw. Anything but rap music. It makes me feel better, but only for a second. Because, let’s face it—no matter how much you tell yourself you’re over someone, your heart knows the truth.
Lauren Barnholdt is the author of the teen novels The Thing About the Truth, Sometimes It Happens, One Night That Changes Everything, Two-way Street, Right of Way, and Watch Me. She is also the author of the middle grade novels The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney, Devon Delaney Should Totally Know Better, Four Truths and a Lie, Rules for Secret-Keeping, Fake Me a Match, and the Girl Meets Ghost series. She lives in Waltham, Massachusetts. Visit her at LaurenBarnholdt.com.