a novel by

Diana C. Caporaso

Part One

Allison Falls for the First Time

Chapter One

I was invisible before Jeremy saw me. More than invisible- I was nothing. Invisibility invokes the idea of something you can't see, but it's still something.

Trying to remember my life before Jeremy is like trying to recall a dream I had last week- it's just a vague blur, a series of indistinct images that don't add up to anything significant. The exact moment that nothingness ended, we were standing in front of Colebrook High School waiting for the late bus.

I was just staring at my sneakers, hands shoved deep into my coat pockets, probably slouching. Even when I was out in the open, I was still hiding.

Suddenly I felt this weird stir in my stomach and I looked up. My eyes wandered over to where I knew Jeremy was standing- and my eyes locked with his. Sometimes it really is as simple as that. He found me.

Jeremy had been in detention. I had been in After School Homework, which was this stupid thing they made you go to if you didn't do your homework. You had to do it there, right under the teacher's nose. They said it wasn't a punishment, but if you didn't go, then you were really in trouble. I knew Jeremy had been in detention because he always was, the days he actually showed up to school.

I had never gotten detention before.

Anyway, the late bus wasn't due for another five minutes and it was usually ten minutes late anyway, and Jeremy was staring at me. I was a little freaked out because I knew he was a "bad boy." I was neither bad nor good at this point. I hadn't done my homework not because I was trying to be bad. I just really didn't understand it. Mathematical equations gave me a headache.

He was fierce-looking with short black hair and pale, rough skin. He was toned and defined as if he had some kind of after school job lifting heavy boxes, which I doubted he did. I couldn't picture someone like him holding a job.

His arms were covered with tattoos, cuts, and scars. He had his eyebrow and lip pierced and a barbell across the top of his left ear. He had more piercings than I did.

"Got a light?" he asked me.

"I don't smoke," I told him.

"Not yet, at least."

"Smoking is bad for you."

"Not living is bad for you." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette and a lighter.

"Who says I'm not living?" I asked, shaking my head as he offered me the cigarette. I tried not to wonder why he had asked for a light when he already had one. Jeremy did a lot of things that didn't make sense to me, as I was destined to find out.

"I do," he said, answering a question I had already forgotten. His voice was firm, almost scary. And I was already hopelessly, deeply, hurtfully in love. If fifteen-year-old love counts for anything, which I like to think it does.

"Not supposed to smoke on school grounds," I tried.

"I didn't ask for a recitation from the rulebook," he replied, and took a stubbornly strong drag from his cigarette.

Then this girl came up behind us. Her hair was long, wavy, and greasy. Her sweatshirt had holes in it. Her face was beautiful. "Gimme that cig," she said to Jeremy.

"Nope. This cigarette is going to my good friend Allison here." Friend? I thought.

"Since when do you have friends?" the girl asked Jeremy.

"How'd you know my name?" I asked at the same time.

Jeremy pointed to the cover of my binder. Allison Moss was scribbled across the top right corner. Observant.

"This, unfortunately, is my sister Zoey," he told me. Zoey whacked his head. I looked closer to see that their faces were almost identical.

"Zoey can have the cigarette," I announced.

"Holy shit, is this your first time?" Zoey said. "Let's see it then. It won't kill you. Anytime soon."

Jeremy placed the cigarette into my hand. I wasn't sure how to hold it, even. He enveloped my hand with both of his, shaping it, making it right. His hands were cool and soft. I didn't want him to take them away.

Zoey was right. It really wouldn't hurt me.

I heard the clicking of the lighter as Jeremy lit it for me. The end of the stick glowed orange. I closed my eyes and brought it to my lips slowly. For the first time in my life, I smoked. I loved the feeling of the cigarette in between my lips, firm and fragile at the same time.

"That was good," Jeremy said, nodding in approval. "But next time, inhale."

So then, on the second drag, I sucked harder and kind of swallowed. I could feel a burn down my esophagus.

"Don't breathe out yet," Jeremy ordered and I obeyed. After a really long second he said it was okay, and a huge puff of smoke escaped from my mouth. It was a cool feeling, seeing all that smoke evaporate into thin air. I didn't even cough too much.

We heard the groan of the late bus on the next block. "Where do you live?" Jeremy asked me.

At first I wasn't sure if I should tell him. The cigarette was still burning in my hand.

"Clifton Street," I said.

"I feel like walking," he said. "Let's walk. We live on Denton."

"Fuck that," said Zoey. "I'm taking the bus."

I was still afraid but quickly learning that being in love can make you do crazy things. The heavy drag of the cigarette left me feeling a little lightheaded. "I'll walk with you," I said. My voice sounded like my first cigarette- ironically, simultaneously firm and fragile.

The bus came to a wheezing stop in front of us and the overweight, uniformed bus driver cranked open the door. Zoey started up the steps. "Lazy fat pig," Jeremy called after her. She was thinner than I was.

It wasn't until the bus was out of sight that I realized the walk we had ahead of us. I wouldn't be home until after dark. Alone, with Jeremy, after dark. I hoped I hadn't put myself in a very bad position.

There was nothing left to do, though, but start walking, so I did. I wasn't about to call my parents for a ride. Even my pre-Jeremy self wasn't that lame. "Are you gonna finish that cigarette?" he asked me as we walked.

So I took some more drags. "Feeling a little lightheaded?" he said, reading my mind. "Just enjoy it."

And I was, surprisingly. I was really enjoying it. I couldn't remember the last time I had actually enjoyed something like this. Already I was wondering if I would kiss him.

It was late October, and vivid leaves crunched beneath our feet as we walked. In the silence the crunching sounded louder than usual. I could feel the cool air on my face as the setting sun peeked through the trees. "I love fall," Jeremy stated. "Isn't it crazy how leaves are the most beautiful just before they die?"

"I like fall too," I said. The Hudson Valley has to be the best place for autumn-at least that's what my dad always says, and Colebrook is right in the heart of it. "It's my favorite season. Except for Daylight Saving Time. I hate when it gets dark early. It's depressing."

"Nah, I like the dark. I prefer the dark," Jeremy told me. "Maybe someday you will, too."

There was some more awkward silence while I seriously doubted this.

"So, you have Mr. Peterson for math, right?" Jeremy asked next. At this point we were passing by a playground. My eyes went over the slides and seesaws. I love playgrounds. I wanted so badly to jump on one of those swings, but I just kept walking. I'm too old for playgrounds anymore.

"Yeah, I have Mr. Peterson," I said, wondering where Jeremy was going with this conversation.

"I'm pretty sure he's gay."

What? "No way."

"Yes! Come on, it's so obvious."

"I guess I've never really thought about Mr. Peterson's sexual orientation before."

"Have you thought about your own?"

His question made me feel weird. I suddenly wondered if Jeremy was gay. I really, really hoped he wasn't. Not that I have anything against gay people. Hey, to each his own. But if Jeremy didn't like girls like that, then there was very little hope for me.

"I definitely like boys," I told him.

"Boys? And not men?"

"No, not men, not yet. How about you?"

"I like girls. I guess. I don't really like anybody now that I think about it."

I wanted him to like me; I so wanted him to like me. I wasn't even sure why, exactly. Before today I had hardly thought twice about him. He had just been that weird scary boy in my math class. But now… here I was, approaching Farber Street with him by my side.

"I fucking hate school," Jeremy said next. "What gives these people the right to tell us what to think?"

"I don't know," I replied. "I guess because… they went to school?" This suddenly sounded strange to me.

"So they went to school, and now we're going to school, and in the future everyone else will just go to school, and learn useless things like about parabolas and Bunsen burners and when to use a comma."

"Maybe it's not useless for everyone."

"Well, it's useless for me."

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Awesome. I want to be awesome. Besides, I never want to get old."

I finished the cigarette, slowly, finally. At first I wasn't really sure what to do with it. I was seriously that dumb. I let it fall from my fingers to the ground, feeling weird about littering. Then I stomped on it with my foot, like I've seen other people do a million times before, and wondered if the lighted end would leave a mark on the sole of my sneaker.

"So what's the final consensus on the cigarette smoking?" Jeremy asked me as we moved on from the carcass of my first-ever cigarette.

"It was a nice high, but it just left me feeling sick afterwards," I admitted.

"Well, someday I'll have to introduce you to a high that won't make you feel sick," Jeremy said. Is there such a thing? I wondered.

The temperature dropped as the sun dipped lower in the sky. Winter was coming too quickly for my liking.

When we turned onto Denton Street, I saw Zoey standing on an overgrown front lawn. She stood there, arms crossed, looking in our direction, waiting. The house behind her was dark, had all the shades drawn, and was in serious need of a paint job. When she saw us, she yelled, "Verge! Darren wants you. You're in trouble now, buddy." She whipped around and went into the house before we could even reply.

I didn't know who Darren was. But first things first. "Verge?" I inquired, raising my eyebrows at Jeremy.

"It's my name," Jeremy told me.

"I thought it was-"

"Jeremy's my middle name. It's what everyone calls me. My real first name is Virgil. My mother was a crack whore."

I wasn't sure if he was just joking or not. But still. "Virgil?" I repeated, disbelieving.

"Yeah, I know, it's weird. That's why nobody really knows about it except for Zoey, and she likes to call me Verge sometimes. And if you tell anyone, you're done."

Done? I thought. Does that mean I've started something?