© 2023 Lex Martin
On a list of dumb things I’ve done, this is the most idiotic.
I crawl deeper behind the couch. There! Behind Luke’s chemistry book I spot my sweatshirt, the one that used to belong to my dad. The one Luke swore he didn’t have. The jerk probably didn’t even bother looking for it when he dumped me last week.
The retro lettering that spells out Van Halen, my dad’s favorite band, is faded, like my memories of him, and as my current predicament indicates, I’ll do anything to get it back. Even set aside my pride to sneak into my ex-boyfriend’s man cave and crawl on my hands and knees over greasy hamburger wrappers.
I’m over Luke, though. I let myself be mopey for a few days before I resorted to baking an assortment of holiday cookies that my family gobbled down without bothering to ask why I was trying to eat my feelings one gingerbread man at a time. I’m blessed with the Morales genes, so even though I’ve consumed my weight in junk food this week, I’m still as skinny as the half-melted peppermint stick I flick off my precious sweatshirt.
Jesus, Luke’s a slob. I don’t know what I saw in that boy.
After I dust myself off, I stare up at the window I wiggled through a few minutes ago. I’m wondering how the hell I’m going to hoist myself up to the ledge when the basement door bangs open and a stampede of high school boys storm down the stairs.
Panicked, I dive back behind the couch, where I nearly crack a rib on a forgotten can of soda.
“Holy shit. I still can’t believe we’re in the playoffs!” my brother Sebastian crows.
“You’re the man!” Luke bellows.
I roll my eyes. Luke’s an idiot. But he’s not wrong. My brother is the captain of the basketball team, and he did make that buzzer-beater.
I’m the opposite of Sebastian, my tall, handsome older brother. While he’s athletic, I’m athletically challenged. While he’s tall and muscular, I’m short and twiggy. While he can fix almost anything, I’m most likely to have broken it in the first place.
Three enormous bodies toss themselves onto the old couch that groans under their weight. I barely keep from squeaking because the back of the couch now presses into me, and it’s hard to breathe back here among the dust motes and moldy leftovers.
Someone coughs. “Statistically speaking, I figure we have a thirty-five percent chance of winning this year.”
I chuckle inwardly. Michael Oliver, or Olly to his friends, is the biggest nerd, and that’s saying something because I usually head up that team.
Olly is stupidly attractive. Like Luke Skywalker in that old Star Wars movie poster he has hanging in his bedroom, but with muscles. Blond hair. Big dimples. Giant blue eyes fringed with long lashes. And while he plays sports, most notably football, he’s not a total jock. He doesn’t party like those other idiots. He takes school seriously. He’s a little socially awkward, but I love that about him. He’s just himself.
I had a crush on Olly for years before I realized he probably sees me as a kid sister. But that’s when Luke moved here, and I vowed to get over Olly.
Except my brother made a stupid declaration to his friends this fall that his “baby sister” was off limits. Like I’m some infant instead of a junior in high school and only one year younger.
Which is why Luke and I had to sneak around. I’ll admit the sneaking was half the fun. I’d thought things were going well when, out of the blue, he declared “it’s not you, it’s me” and broke things off. I might’ve bought that if he hadn’t been the one to pursue me. Who does that and then suddenly has a change of heart?
“Boys!” Luke’s mom calls out. “Pizza’s here. Somebody needs to come pay!”
“I’ll get it,” Sebastian offers before his clodhopper feet go stomping up those stairs again.
“Olly, man.” Luke clears his throat. “Before Bash gets back, I want to thank you for the heads-up about Magnolia last week.”
I freeze when I hear my name and pray they don’t say anything horrible. In the movies, things never go well when the heroine eavesdrops.
My prayers go unanswered.
“No problemo. I don’t usually pass along gossip, but I heard it with my own two ears, and I didn’t feel right keeping it from you.” Keep what from him? “’Sides, there’s nothing I hate more than a cheater. Even though, well… I hate to think of her like that.”
What. The. Hell. Is Olly talking about me? Am I the cheater in this scenario? Because I was nothing but faithful to Luke. I even stopped hugging my guy friends because I didn’t want to make him feel weird.
“I still can’t believe Maggie would do something like that. I had no idea. And it’s not like I can ask her brother. You know how protective he is with her.” Luke cracks his knuckles, which, for the record, is one of his more annoying traits.
“I don’t blame you. Frankly, I wouldn’t believe it either if I hadn’t been there.” What is he talking about? Been where? “But she said it herself. She’s been hooking up with some guy from St. Gregory’s.”
My eyes squeeze shut as realization hits me. That’s the cover story I told my brother. Minus the hooking-up part, of course, but I couldn’t tell Bash I was heading out to lock lips with his buddy. And Olly must’ve overheard me and made some dumbass assumptions.
Luke clears his throat. “Not gonna lie. I was really into her.” Aww, Luke!
At least now that I know what’s going on, I can explain and clear the air. Luke and I can get back together, or at least part as friends.
I just read that men mature fully a whopping eleven years after women, but that’s no excuse for Olly. He’s supposed to be the smart one out of Bash’s buddies. How could he think I’d have it in me to betray my boyfriend, or anyone for that matter?
“Nah. You can do better, man. Maggie’s pretty, I guess, but any chick who would lie to your face like that is not worth the time.”
He “guesses” I’m pretty. We all know what that means.
My eyes fill, and I try to blink away the tears. Hearing how Olly really sees me is somehow worse than Luke’s grunt of agreement.
It’s not like I think I’m some beauty queen or anything. My mom says I’m a late bloomer, which is code for not having any boobs. And my butt is pretty small too. Would it be wrong to say a rosary and ask Jesus for better endowments?
I clench my jaw and barely resist leaping out from behind the couch to smash this crusty chemistry book on Olly’s smug mug when Luke says, “I’m over it. Fucked Virginia ten ways to Sunday last night. Maggie had decent tits and all, but Virginia’s…” He growls like an animal. “Virginia has two giant handfuls of beauty. Why I was wasting my time dating a virgin is beyond me. Senior year is the time to get laid, am I right?”
Virginia. His best friend. The one he swore was “just a friend.”
Before the other dumbass can respond, my brother returns with dinner.
The guys stuff their faces while I cry quietly behind the couch and vow to get back at Michael Oliver.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold.
And I plan to serve it.
* * *
The Baby Blitz picks up four years later and features a college football player and the feisty girl next door, the one he swore he’d never make a move on. One-click if you enjoy steamy enemies to lovers romances with lots of angst and humor. This is a companion standalone to The Varsity Dad Dilemma and Tight Ends & Tiaras.
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