Undeclared burnham colle.., p.1
Undeclared (Burnham College #2), page 1
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by Julianna Keyes
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 by Julianna Keyes. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher at [email protected]
Visit our website at www.juliannakeyes.com.
Cover design by Khoi Le
First Edition February 2017
Table of Contents
about julianna keyes
Kellan McVey is Burnham College’s most prolific athlete, partier, and ladies’ man—and that’s just how he likes it. Returning to reign for his third year, he wants nothing to change. Then Andrea Walsh shows up.
It wasn’t too long ago that Andi and Kellan were lifelong friends, mortal enemies, and, for one hot summer, more. Then Kellan left and Andi stayed behind.
Kellan thought he’d moved past that last summer’s heartbreak, but with Andi sitting next to him in class, befriending his friends, and battling for the same once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, he’s starting to remember why he hated her...and why he loved her.
Kellan has a long list of reasons that falling for Andi again is a terrible idea, though every new moment together challenges that theory. But Andi’s all too familiar with Kellan’s love ’em and leave ’em approach—and she’s found someone else to get serious about.
Burnham’s campus king has never had to fight for a girl, but if he wants Andi to give him another chance, he’ll have to do the one thing he’s never had the nerve to do: admit it.
Undecided was my first (very nervous) foray into self-publishing, and I really had no idea what to expect. It was my fifth book and turned out to be my most successful, with overwhelmingly wonderful and encouraging response and feedback. Emails, tweets, reviews, messages... every little bit was inspiring and motivational, and something I’d never really experienced before.
When I started Undeclared I decided to do a #WednesdayWIPReport to update on my writing progress and also keep myself in line. If you’ve followed along (they were posted on Facebook and now they’re on my website), you’ll know that this book hasn’t been an easy one, but the act of confessing my writing sins and successes kept me plugging away. Whenever it started to feel like a wasted effort, your replies and support convinced me it was not. It kind of felt like every time I was particularly convinced that this book could never be finished, I would get a message that told me not only should I finish this book, but someone wanted to read it when it was done. And that is the kindest thing you can say to a writer.
How perfect then, that a book about the importance of declaring your feelings (once you’ve figured them out), would be nudged along by you guys sharing your feelings of love and support. This book is in so many ways my response to that, eight months worth of thank yous, to the readers, bloggers, friends and family, that make writing even more rewarding.
This book is dedicated to you. Thank you for your words.
I hate Andrea Walsh and I always will. FOREVER!!
I run the edge of my thumb over the letters etched into the door of the boys’ bathroom at the Avilla Community Pool. Years ago I’d carved them there in a fit of adolescent rage after Andi beat my Donkey Kong score at the arcade and titled her username AndiWRulezKellSux. I probably spent a hundred dollars in quarters trying to reclaim my throne and never came close.
I wash my hands then venture back into the blistering desert heat and approach the nearby canteen. Mid-August in southern California is sweltering and half of Avilla’s tiny population is squeezed into the confines of its lone public pool, desperate for relief. I wait in line and through my shades I see Andi pacing near the lifeguard station at the far end of the pool, a grim sentinel looking over the crowd of afternoon swimmers as though daring someone to drown on her watch.
I stop under the canteen awning and study the limited selection of soft drinks, bottled water and ice cream. Also on offer, if her earlier flirtation is anything to go by, is Madison, the cashier.
“Hey, Madison. Another water, please.”
She fishes a bottle out of the cooler and passes it over with an unnecessary napkin. She gave me a napkin earlier too, her name written in bubble letters just above her phone number. She’s cute, eighteen and bored. I’d been in exactly her position three years ago, and while last summer I’d have taken her up on her not-so-subtle invitation, today I just smile politely.
“Thanks.” I pay and add my change to the little plastic cup that holds tips.
I return to the pool to collect my things, pulling on a T-shirt and baseball hat before checking the time. Two minutes to five. According to the schedule posted on the fence, the lifeguards are due to change shifts now, so Andi should be wrapping up.
I watch her crouch to stick a bandage on a tearful kid’s finger, her eyes hidden behind dark shades, her long blond hair scooped up in the same sloppy bun she’s had since junior high. The pool’s standard uniform of red bathing suit, white shorts, and flip-flops shows she’s still as tall and lean as ever.
She patches up the kid and sends him on his way, and when she straightens she finally spots me in the crowd. I’ve been here for an half an hour, wondering if she’d acknowledge me or if she’s still pretending I’m invisible. Her mouth freezes in an O of surprise, her dark brows lifting. I slowly raise a hand in greeting. It’s been two years since we’ve exchanged a single word, but before I can learn whether today will change that, another kid approaches and she turns away.
I tell myself I’m not disappointed, that it doesn’t mean anything. Andi and I have been best friends and mortal enemies since we met in kindergarten, and though I’ve been telling myself for two years that I’m fine with the icy way we left things, the fact that I’ve been back in Avilla less than twenty-four hours and already I’m seeking her out suggests otherwise. At least, it suggests that two years of trying to convince myself I’m fine have been a wasted effort.
I collect my stuff and make my way to the parking lot, the pavement so hot I feel it through the soles of my shoes. I stop at the bike rack and drink my water, wondering if Andi still rides. She’d been the only girl in the gang of dirty, reckless boys that ruled our street on bicycles, and though we’d tried countless times to ditch her, she always kept pace. Eventually we gave up and she became one of the guys. We grew out of bikes and into sports and stupid dares and Andi was always there, stubborn and scrappy and relentless. My next door neighbor and my best friend. And then, for that last summer, more.<
The slap of flip-flops on concrete interrupts a memory I can’t afford to relive, and I turn to see Andi approaching. She’s pulled a blue tank top over her bathing suit and carries a canvas tote on one shoulder, eyes still obscured by the sunglasses. She doesn’t look thrilled, but she doesn’t look ready to punch me, either. I think this is progress.
She stops at a bike near the end, close enough I catch a whiff of sunscreen and chlorine.
“Hey,” I say.
“Hey,” she replies, fiddling with the lock. “I didn’t know you were home.”
“I got in last night.”
“For how long?”
”Just a few days.”
I graduated with a cross country scholarship to Burnham College, one of the country’s oldest Ivy League schools, and have been there for two years. Without a scholarship to cover the hefty tuition, Andi wasn’t able to tag along, no matter how badly she wanted to and how much she deserved it. Instead of accepting admission to a local college, she’d opted to work two jobs to save money for the school of her choosing later. She’s still saving.
“Well, welcome back,” she says eventually. She pats the black leather bike seat and winces at the burn, wordlessly agreeing to walk with me. Avilla’s a quiet desert town, the houses following a distinct white, blue, and yellow theme, with adobe-tiled roofs and xeriscape gardens. In this heat everyone who’s not at the pool is locked inside with the air conditioning on full blast.
“How’re things?” I ask after a block.
I watch her from the corner of my eye. Growing up Andi played any sport she could sign up for, excelling at everything she tried. She’s a consummate tomboy, no makeup, no dresses, no nonsense. A smattering of freckles splash her cheekbones, but otherwise her skin is clear of makeup or blemishes. Her thick brows make her look either contemplative or homicidal, depending on her mood.
“Stop staring,” she mutters, swiping at a stray strand of hair and tucking it behind her ear.
“I’m not,” I lie.
She’s about to speak when I spot something in the grass and scoop to pick it up. “Sweet. Twenty bucks.”
I don’t need to see Andi’s eyes to know she’s rolling them. She always accused me of never having to work for anything, and that’s not entirely incorrect. Though lately, it hasn’t been quite as true, either.
“Come on,” I say, taking the fact that she hasn’t run away as a good sign. “I’ll buy you dinner. You still like chili fries?”
There’s a moment’s hesitation as she contemplates turning me down, and I ignore how much that stings. We may not have parted on the best terms—not that I have any idea what I did wrong—but before that painful parting, we’d been summer sex friends. Not the coolest name, but Andi had refused to do it if I called us lovers, which, to be fair, I couldn’t say with a straight face anyway.
“I’ll get you a drink, too,” I add, when I see a bead of sweat making its way down her temple. “I’m feeling generous.”
Her mouth quirks and something like relief eases through me. “Fine,” she says. “If there’s a beverage involved.”
“A small glass of water,” I confirm.
Now she laughs, her smile wide enough to reveal the tooth she chipped when she was eleven. Avilla didn’t have enough players for a girls’ team, so Andi played baseball with the boys. She was a star centerfielder and that day she lost the ball in the sun and caught it right in the mouth. She hadn’t cared at all about the tooth, only the fact that she’d been charged with an error, her first and only one of the season.
We pass that baseball field now, the elementary school on the opposite side of the street, its playground gleaming in the sunlight. That’s where we met on the first day of kindergarten. I came down the slide and she was right at the bottom, wearing the same superhero shirt as me. When you’re five years old and your friends catch you wearing the same clothing as a girl, you remember. And you never wear the shirt again.
We turn onto Avilla’s main strip and approach what amounts to little more than a dented silver trailer with the wheels removed. Frank’s Fries is a popular hangout, half its parking lot dotted with picnic tables sheltered under old blue tarps and lit with Christmas lights year-round. Only a couple of people are currently braving the heat, so Andi finds a table in the corner while I place our order.
I take the seat across from her, the grit of the wooden bench pressing into the back of my legs. She hangs her bag from her handlebars and pushes her sunglasses on top of her head so I can finally see her face, the same solemn brown eyes, square jaw, and full lips I’ve been telling myself I didn’t care if I never saw again.
Because we lived next door to each other, I saw Andi every day and only thought of her as Andi. I never really considered whether or not she was pretty, not even when the guys in our group started to discuss it. Not even when I asked her to have sex with me so I didn’t go to college a virgin. Not even when she agreed.
Growing up I was always popular, but it wasn’t until tenth grade that I got serious about running. The last of the baby fat came off and the six-pack showed up and girls started to notice. I went on dates, but they were just fumbling, awkward affairs—messy kisses in the back row of Avilla’s lone theatre, a couple of gropes in the front seat of a borrowed car. It’s only thanks to that practice time with Andi that when I got to Burnham I was able to leave my old self behind and become the guy I thought I should be—popular, carefree, always ready for a good time. And I’ve had a lot of good times. Maybe too many.
As though she can read my mind, Andi asks, “How’s life in Oregon?”
“Good,” I answer immediately. Before that sex summer, I’d have told her the truth. But not now.
I lean back as Frank arrives with two trays of chili fries and icy cans of soda.
“Oh, sorry,” I say, picking up her can. “This is supposed to be a small water.”
Andi laughs and plucks it from my grip. “Ignore him,” she says, cracking it open. “That’s what I do.”
Frank doesn’t get it but leaves us some napkins and returns to the trailer. I think of Madison’s napkins tucked in my pocket and feel guilty. I put them there because I didn’t want her to see me throw them away, not because I intend to call, but now it feels wrong.
“You’re welcome,” I say as Andi drinks.
She smirks and wipes her mouth with her wrist. “Oh, thank you so much, Kellan.”
“Any time.” I eat a fry. “Actually, just this once. You don’t have very good manners.”
She burps, deadpan. “I don’t?”
I cannot think of a single girl at Burnham who has burped in front of me. “Excuse you.”
Her mouth quirks. “So where’ve you been all summer?”
“Washington. I went to help build houses with my friend and his girlfriend.”
I hesitate. “I sounded fun to me, too.”
“Wasn’t it?” She folds an extra long fry in half and puts it in her mouth.
“Well, obviously building houses is good. Helping others, being generous, blah blah blah.”
“You’re a real humanitarian.”
“I know. But honestly? Crosbie’s so hung up on his girlfriend that’s it like I wasn’t even there. Don’t get me wrong—I’m happy for him. But we’re too young to be so serious.”
Something flashes in Andi’s eyes but disappears just as quickly. I pretend not to see it, but I can’t kid myself. Everyone in town knows Andi’s been in love with me for as long as we can remember, and I’m the only one who pretends not to know. Like my three older brothers, I’ve always wanted to get out of this place, and falling for someone—falling for Andi—would make it hard. Impossible, maybe. When I got home from my first day of kindergarten with my shameful shirt stuffed in my backpack, my brothers joked that girls were already tearing off my clothes and my dad warned me not to fall in love, and I’ve taken that advice to heart. I’d like to get there eventua
“Speaking of love,” I say, plowing ahead with the inept segue way. “How’s your boyfriend?” I came back for a week last summer and saw her and some guy around town a couple of times. She, of course, pretended not to see me and I pretended not to be bothered by it.
“I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“I saw you with someone last year. He wore khakis. A lot.”
Her mouth twitches. “Oh. Todd. We broke up.”
“A month ago.”
“Because my heart told me you’d come back, Kellan. And here you are. My dreams have come true.” This is the only way we’ve ever acknowledged her feelings; like they’re a joke. It’s easier that way, even if it’s the only lie we’ve ever had between us.
She lifts a shoulder. “It wasn’t working out. He wore a lot of khaki and I—” She breaks off and peers at something over my shoulder. I make the mistake of turning just as Madison and a friend approach. They wear tiny bikinis under mesh tank tops, and denim shorts so short they’re barely even there. When I get back to Burnham I’ll be thrilled to see girls exactly like them, but today I just want to talk to Andi.
“Hey, Kellan,” Madison says, straddling the seat next to me as her friend perches on the end of the bench.
“Ah, hey,” I say, trying to think of a nice brush-off.
Across the table I see Andi eat her last fry, polish off the soda, and stand. “I have to get to work,” she says, slinging her bag over her shoulder and climbing on her bike. “See you around.”
“You don’t have to—”
“No,” she says. “I do. Have fun.”
I want to tell her I was having fun, but she’s already gone.
* * *
My parents’ home is one of the nicest on an already nice street, two stories with blue siding and adobe tiles, my mom’s struggling rose bushes clustered around the steps. I spot my dad sitting on the front porch when I come up the driveway, wilting from the heat and the effort of blowing off a very persistent Madison. A third napkin has joined the two in my pocket, but I have no plans to call her. Thanks to an unfortunate incident last fall, I’ve had a bit of a mental block when it comes to sex and as a result, I haven’t hooked up in eight months and four days.
by Julianna Keyes have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes