FROM WORST CASE

Worst Case

SUMMARY:

Will she risk the fall and take a leap of faith?

Vivi Lewis just wants to stay in one place for more than a minute. It’s April of her senior year, for crying out loud, and here she is again, packed into a beat-up white Toyota with her anxiety-ridden single mom, fleeing the Washington coast. She hopes that this move—the one that’s taken them inland to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho—will finally be their true fresh start.

There’s little to indicate this time will be much different from all the others…until Vivi meets Win Kemper at the city bus stop before her first day of school. Win and Vivi are a perfect match—both self-defined weirdos. Vivi trusts Win, and their time together is a whirlwind of cliff-jumping and paddleboarding, a life immersed in nature that would have given her, and especially her mom, a panic attack in the past. Their instant spark becomes a rock-solid friendship, and might be even more, if Vivi can stick around long enough to experience it.

But having a reason to stay also raises the stakes. Running from their fears has never made Vivi and her mom safe enough before, and now everything she has to lose appears in sharp relief. Can she find the strength to separate herself from her mother? Will the burgeoning bond she and Win share be enough to get them beyond the last twenty-six days of senior year—even when the worst-case scenario comes to pass?

 

EXCERPT:

We move through the cafeteria to a round table, and I sit right next to him. Listen, there’s no playing it cool with me. It’s a miracle I’m keeping it together the way I am, and if I have one friend? I will cling to him with every shred of my being.

“Are you eating?” He’s pulled out a brown bag. It has his name on it in Sharpie.

“I brought a protein bar and a water. Trying to keep from vomiting on my surroundings today.”

He looks at me for a minute. “You get nervous. No big deal.”

I look at him. “Big deal. It cripples me sometimes.”

He shrugs. “I get it. What I’m saying is, I’m cool with it. My cousin Nate has anxiety to the point that he’s homeschooling right now.”

I nod. “I could see that. But I need to get away from my mom.”

“Is she not nice?”

“Super nice. Also super anxious. But it seems like with good reason, so…” I can’t finish that sentence.

He digs out a banana and waves off the lost end of the sentence. “Enough. I want to know about you.”

“I’m a girl, sitting next to a boy, trying not to puke on him. That about sums it up.”

“I’m a boy who writes his own name on his lunch bag. Explain that.”

“You’re thorough?”

“Or odd.”

A big guy, really tall with wide shoulders and no neck, comes and sits across from us, thumps down a gigantic cooler. He points at Win. “He’s odd. Don’t let him tell you any different.”

“Orion.”

“Win.”

They stare at each other for a second.

“How’d it go?”

“I did not ask her, actually. Thanks for bringing it up.”

I sit quiet. I want to ask who Orion neglected to ask and what the question was, but I feel odd interjecting myself into the conversation.

Orion eats a bologna sandwich with pickles and too much mustard, which leaks out of the sides and lands in big plops on the cafeteria table. It makes me look around for a napkin.

“Who’s this?” He nods at me.

“I’m Vivi.”

“Like Vivienne Leigh? I like that actress. Man, she was perfect as Scarlett O’Hara.”

Orion the man-mountain likes Gone with the Wind.

Win interrupts. “It’s short for…what’s it short for?”

I look at him before I answer. “Genevieve. You thought you knew what it was short for?”

“I don’t know. I guess yes.”

“Maybe you are very thorough.”

“Or psychic. I’m psychic.”

Orion breaks in. “If you’re psychic, then tell me what Lulu’ll say when I ask her to prom. Spare me the agony.”

“Just ask her. You’re wearing me out.”

A long, lanky girl walks up to the table. She has white-blond-dyed hair with big blue streaks in it and black eyes, as dark as the winged eyeliner she sports. “Gentlemen. Who’s the new girl?”

“Lulu, this is Vivi.”

Orion looks at me and narrows his eyes to slits. I’m pretty sure he’s threatening my life in a nonverbal but still quite threatening way.

“Hi.” I wave at Lulu.

Orion stands up. “Joining us?”

“I don’t eat. You know that.”

Win points at her. “The undead have no appetite. You could sit with us. Chat with Vivi. She’s a girl, you’re a girl, you can tell her if there are any nice girls she can be friends with in this school.”

“I can tell her no without even sitting down.” Lulu turns to face Orion straight on. “Are you going to prom?”

Orion spits out bologna. “What?”

Lulu sneers at him. “That’s a no. Do you want to go?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. I’ll give you the details later.”

I look around, pull out my water, and take a sip. This place is not what I expected. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but a girl with white and blue hair just asked a human locomotive out on a date, I have a friend already (and I’m not even done with day one), and I feel fine.

I feel fine.

Orion stuffs what’s left of his sandwich into a grocery bag. “You two are going to have to figure all this out. I’m going to make up my Government quiz.” He strides off.

Win laughs. “You’ve met my two friends. What do you think?”

“They like each other?”

“They tolerate each other more than they tolerate most people. I wouldn’t go any further than that.”

“When’s prom?”

“The 12th. About a month.”

“You going?” I instantly regret this. Why, why did I ask?

“No.” Win looks into his lunch sack and pulls out a coconut water. “Long story.”

“No worries. You have a lot of long stories. You don’t have to share them all right now.”

He smiles. “I like you. You’re going to be hard to not get to know well enough. We need more time to hang out.”

“Twenty-six school days isn’t even long enough to wear another hole in those socks of your dad’s.”

“Exactly.”

Then I stand up, and it hits. Inexplicably. My palms go sweaty, and the whole cafeteria spins. I think it might be because I can suddenly see over everyone, or because everything’s gone so well, and heck, why not have an anxiety attack right now in front of the whole school? That’s the best and most embarrassing way for it to happen.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve met the perfect person, and he’s going to slip through my fingers in less time than it takes to use up a tube of toothpaste.