"I'm not a jerk!"
She shoveled ice cream into her mouth. "Uh-huh."
"That'll make me believe you."
You know those Win a Date with a Rockstar! contests teen girl magazines always have? I'm usually the rock star. Girls show up, faint, and I take them to Smoothie King for a couple of hours while they rapidly photograph my beauty--it's routine.
But the first thing Joanna said when she saw me was, "You're a jerk, my sister put me up to this, and I want coffee ice cream."
Sigh. Now that she had her ice cream, we were back in my lounge. I rested my feet on the coffee table. "What makes you think I'm a jerk?"
"Your sunglasses cost more than my car."
I took off my sunglasses and examined my reflection in studded lenses. "They're rhinestones. Very Calvin Harris. He's a British techno artist."
Joanna wiped her mouth. "Lovely."
"Why'd you even come?"
"My sister's a huge fan, and she entered my name." She checked her watch. "Only three more hours of being stuck with you."
I shouldn't have cared so much. She was just another girl, so so what? But come on. A jerk. Me? Last month I was photographed kissing Canadian orphan babies; it made Fox news.
"Well, Joanna." I smiled. "What do you like to do? Besides eat ice cream."
I nodded. "I like your jersey. Go England?"
She eyed me warily. "I suppose."
"Do you like any bands?"
"What's your least favorite?"
I thought. "Green Day?"
"Yeah, I love Green Day. It's my fave. I'm a total Green Geek." She ran her hands through her hair and sighed. "For the record, I know I'm being a total jerk too right now. My life is exploding, so I'm not in the mood for a spazz date with a popstar."
Did she just call me a spazz?
Beside the point. I put on my Worried face. "What's been happening?"
"Is that your famous 'Worried' face?"
I touched my heart. "It shows that I care."
"It shows you want to look good for the cameras."
I moved to the couch and sat down right beside her. Our legs touched. "I do care, really. The Worried face is completely legit."
"I don't believe you."
Joanna rolled her eyes, then set down the ice cream bowl and turned to face me. "Here's the deal. So a few days ago, I came home, thinking it was just another day, and that everything was totally okay."
I nodded. "But it wasn't."
"I was so happy, I was skipping and singing and prancing through fields of flowers! The sun was sparkling and the bees were singing and the birds were buzzing, or whatever. It was such an amazing day."
"Then what happened?"
She bit her lip.
"You can tell me." I rested my hand on her knee. "You might think I'm a jerk, but I promise, I have a heart. And two ears that work."
"And a brain that doesn't."
"Come on?" I asked. "Please?"
"Fine." She looked at me blankly. "My dad died."
I pulled back my hand. "Oh."
"And my sister got deported to Switzerland, and my puppy ran away. And my mom married the mailman and I'm betrothed. Plus, my best friend jumped in front of a moving bicycle."
I blinked. "All in the same day?"
"I was kidding, Jerk."
"Oh. Then what really happened?"
Now I was getting seriously worried. What could be worse than all that?
"My sister told me she'd entered my name in a stupid Win a Date contest--and I'd won."
Hey! I pushed her. "That was the bad news?"
A smirk broke out across Joanna's face. "Told you it was awful."
I stuck out my tongue. "Oh, you're funny."
"But, as long as I'm stuck here..." She reached over, grabbed the front of my shirt, and planted a huge kiss on my mouth. I froze, stunned. Her eyebrows went up. "What's the matter, Jerk?"
"A really awful thing just happened to me. This girl reached over, and kissed me, and she was such a bad kisser!"
Joanna lobbed a pillow at my head. I caught it, flung it aside, and kissed her back.
"You're such a jerk," she breathed, when we pulled away.
I put on an enormous grin. "I know."