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Authors: Tom Ryan

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Tag Along

BOOK: Tag Along
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Copyright ©
Tom Ryan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known
or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Ryan, Tom,
Tag along [electronic resource] / Tom Ryan.

Electronic monograph.
Issued also in print format.
978-1-4598-0298-8 (
978-1-4598-0299-5 (

I. Title.
8635.Y359T35 2013       

First published in the United States,
Library of Congress Control Number

: Friendships are forged on prom night, when four teens help each other
through disappointment, near-arrest, parental interference and panic attacks.

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing
programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through
the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British
Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Design by Teresa Bubela
Background cover image by Andrew Wooldridge; photo strip images by (top to bottom):
Masterfile, Getty (Peter Augustin), Getty (Enamul Hoque), and Masterfile
Author photo by Andrew Sargeant

Box 5626, Stn. B     
Box 468
V8R 6S4     

16   15   14   13   •   4   3   2   1

For my parents, who taught me to live a creative life.





























Newton's third law of motion says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

For instance, when I drop six feet from the roof of my garage, the third law tells me that my butt will hit the ground with as much force as the ground will hit my butt. When I land, it feels as if the ground has come out the winner, but you can't argue with science. Equal and opposite. Thanks, Newton.

I groan and roll over to lie flat on my back. I stay there for a minute, staring up through the soft leafy canopy of the maple tree that marks the edge of our yard. Then I struggle to my feet, brush off the back of my shorts and stand for a moment, trying to figure out what to do. There's not much
do other than get out of here, so I hurry down the street before one of my parents happens to look out the window.

If you'd told me a month ago that I would go to these lengths to get out of the house, all for the sake of prom, I wouldn't have believed you. Sure, I was planning to go to prom, but only because that's what you're supposed to do. I'm not into clothes the way my best friend Bethanne is, and I think dancing is weird. I'll never understand what compels people to lose control and shake around like a bunch of maniacs.

Then the Justin Sanchez thing happened.

Justin's been in most of my advanced-level classes since ninth grade, and I guess you could say I have a bit of a crush on him. He's quiet and a bit geeky, but he's really smart and definitely cute, and until a few weeks ago, I didn't think he knew I existed, let alone knew my name.

It's not like he's some ladies' man or whatever—as far as I know, he's never even gone out with a girl—it's just that we've never really spoken to each other. Then a few weeks ago I had a dentist appointment and missed my afternoon classes. That night Bethanne called me, practically hyperventilating.

“Guess what?” she said. “Justin was asking about you today!” She's the only person who knows I'm into him.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “What did he say?”

“He said,
Where's Andrea?
and I told him you were at the dentist. Isn't that awesome?”

“Is that it?” I asked her.

“It's a start!” she said. It didn't really sound like much, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to see that she had a point. He'd gone from not acknowledging my existence to noticing my absence. That had to count for something.

“You've got to make a move,” she continued. “The ball's in your court.”

“What ball?” I asked her.

“Andrea,” she said. “He came up to me out of nowhere and asked where you were. That's the ball.”

“Well, shouldn't I wait for him to talk to me or something?”

“No,” she said. “Justin Sanchez has no game. If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen.”

Tonight is the prom, which is obviously as good a place as any to make my move. When I woke up this morning, I was genuinely excited. Bethanne had helped me find a great dress, red with black trim and a flared skirt that ends just below the knee. I had an appointment to get my hair done and a plan to go to Bethanne's house so we could get ready together. Most of all, I had a good feeling about me and Justin. I'm not talking about fate or destiny, just a positive reading of the facts as I knew them.

Of course, the facts as I knew them this morning have changed. As of right now: I'm not going to be talking to Justin tonight; I'm not going to be dancing with Justin tonight; I'm definitely not going to be making out with Justin tonight. As a matter of fact, I won't even see Justin tonight, because I'm not going to be at the prom.

Everything might have worked out just fine if Bethanne hadn't convinced me that we should get some alcohol for the dance. I feel the same way about drinking as I do about dancing—why do it?—but Bethanne wouldn't let up, so I asked my brother Brad if he'd buy some for us.

Brad doesn't live with us anymore. He's taking a graphic-design program at the community college in the city, and he has an apartment with his girlfriend, Janelle, who is awesome. She's very loud and funny, and she's studying theater at university.

“Yeah, no sweat,” he said when I asked him about the booze. “Just promise that you'll keep an eye on Bethanne. I don't want to be hauled off to jail because she gets wasted and streaks the prom.”

About a week ago, he picked up the sugary wine cooler that Bethanne requested, and I hid it in my closet. Probably not the best idea.

This afternoon, I borrowed Mom's car for my hair appointment. When I got home, she was sitting in the living room waiting for me, the bottle of Raspberry Comet Cooler in front of her on the coffee table. I could tell right away that this wouldn't end well.

“Where did you get this, Andrea?” she asked.

“What were you doing in my closet?”

“Answer my question,” she said.

“I stood in the parking lot outside the liquor store until some old man agreed to buy it for me,” I told her.

“I have a hard time believing that,” she said. No kidding.

“Well, that's what happened.” I wasn't going to rat out Brad. I wouldn't put it past her to call the cops on him.

“You can lose the attitude, young lady,” she said.

I swear, seventeen years on earth and I'd never done anything to piss her off. It was like she'd been waiting all this time for something to happen, as if she just needed to prove to herself that I'm going to end up like Brad, who barely made it through high school. Never mind that I've got six years of straight-A report cards under my belt.

I tried reasoning with her, although I knew it wouldn't work. “Mom, please just pour it down the sink and forget about it. I won't drink—I promise.”

“Oh, I know you won't drink,” she said, in her patented
I know what's best for the world
voice. “You're grounded for a month, Andrea. You can forget about the prom.”

So that's how I ended up sitting in my room this afternoon, staring at my dress drooping on a hanger in my closet like a sad, headless puppet. After a while, Mom knocked on the door and, without waiting for me to answer, stuck her head in.

“Honey?” When I didn't answer, she pushed open the door and just stood there, staring at me. I didn't look at her.

“Pouting isn't going to help you,” she said. Her voice softened a bit. “You sure you don't want something to eat? You feeling okay?”

“Are you kidding?” I said. “Of course I'm not okay. I'm grounded.”

“Andrea, choices come with consequences. I don't want you to end up doing something stupid. I'm not going to do this all over again.”

“You mean like with Brad?” I asked her. “Mom, you know that's not fair. Brad almost flunked out of school.”

“Exactly,” she said.

“Exactly what?” I asked. “I'm on the honor roll. How perfect do you want me to be?”

“I don't want you to be perfect,” she said. “I want you to be safe.”

“Safe,” I repeated. “I'm locked up in my room for my own personal safety. Got it. Can you at least leave me alone, so I can be safe in private?”

“What are you going to do?” she asked. “Just sit in here and brood?”

“Mom. Please leave me alone.”

“Okay, fine, but please come out and eat something if you get hungry. I'll put a plate of supper in the fridge for you.”

When she closed the door, I gave her the finger.

I got off my bed and pulled my dress out of the closet. I stood in front of the mirror and held the dress in front of me, staring at myself, noticing how different I looked with my hair up off my neck, admiring the color of the fabric against my skin, imagining what I would have looked like if I'd actually had the chance to dress up.

Not to be vain or anything, but I thought I would have looked awesome, and I was pretty sure Justin would have thought so too.

I shoved the dress back into the closet and slammed the door, then pulled the bobby pins out of my hair and shook it out so that it hung down to my shoulders again.

It's not like I planned it, but once the idea hit me, my mind was already made up. I threw on a hoodie and grabbed my wallet and cell phone.

Then, before I had time to talk myself out of it, I jumped out the window.


When Lannie Freston and I first started going out last summer, I felt like I'd won the lottery.

I'm still not sure how it happened. I was just minding my own business at the beach with my buddies Jerry and Ahmed when all of a sudden Lannie and her girls showed up and spread their towels a few feet away from us. In no time at all, she was asking me to put lotion on her back. I sure as hell didn't put up a fight.

It was as easy and as quick as that. Suddenly I was her boyfriend. She told me later that she'd been eyeing me up for a while and that sitting near me at the beach was no accident. It was like she'd just flipped through the yearbook and decided that I was the one she wanted to go out with.
And on the seventh day, Lannie looked at Paul and
said, ‘Let him be mine,' and it was so.

Obviously, I wasn't going to complain. Lannie's one of the hottest girls in Granite Ridge. She's smart, athletic, popular and even has her own car. We spent the rest of the summer going to the beach, driving into the city and hanging out with her friends. Every long summer night ended with us parked somewhere secluded, doing what you do when you're sixteen and Lannie Freston is your girlfriend.

Then the summer ended. We went back to school, and just like that, because I was going out with Lannie, I was at the top of the heap. I know it sounds arrogant, but it's true. I'm not going to lie—it felt good to walk down the hallway and know that people were turning to look at us. Wishing they
us. For someone who had spent most of his life trying to fly under the radar, I was surprised at how much I liked the attention.

BOOK: Tag Along
9.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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