I thought you might enjoy seeing how much STEALING PARKER has changed from the first draft. The entire plot/character arc/voice has changed! That’s what revising will do for you. So here’s the first few pages of both versions.
The phone rings.
My alarm clock says it’s 11:26 a.m. Way too early for phone calls, but I roll over in my bed, wiping sweat-drenched hair off my forehead, and find my iPhone. I sit up straight when I see the caller ID.
What. The. Fuck.
I sit up straighter and answer. “Hello?” I dig sleep out of my eye with my middle finger.
“Hey, it’s Will.”
“Hey,” I say, trying to sound casual. Casual is hard when the baseball team captain/most popular senior boy EVER is calling.
“I was, uh, wondering if you want to come over? Go swimming with me? My parents are at some bird watching thing in Nashville.”
I touch my stomach. It’s the time of the month and I still have serious problems using tampons. They just don’t work for me. My ex-friend Ava even drew a picture, to give me tips on how to get them in, but I still can’t figure out the logistics. And sometimes trying to figure it out makes blood rush to my head and I feel like I might pass out and I can only imagine my dad finding me in the bathroom, unconscious next to the toilet, pants-less with a tampon in my hand.
I can’t even imagine what sex will be like.
As if sex would ever happen.
“Parker? You there?” Will asks.
“I’m here.” I snuggle back under the covers and pull my yellow duvet up to my chin.
“So will you come over?”
“I can’t today.”
He pauses. “You already have plans?”
“Umm… no.” I can’t tell him I’m on my period. Will’s 18 and I know he knows about periods and ovaries and Tampax and PMS and Midol and all of that stuff, but I don’t want him to associate it with me.
Besides, why is he calling me?
“Come on, it’ll be fun,” he says in a cute voice. Tempting.
I stare up at the ceiling where a crack runs across the white paint. Becca will die when she hears about this. She’s the one who started hitting on him in the first place. She’d hang over her seat on the bus and dangle a screw in front of his face – yes, an actual screw – and say, “Hey, Will. Wanna screw?”
And he’d blush and smile and look amused and that was that. Then he’d go back to playing Mario Kart on his Nintendo DS.
The only reason we ever talked to him is because we’re both managers for the baseball team. We have to talk to him when we collect baseballs from the outfield, and take stats, and clean the equipment, except for jockstraps (even Becca the horndog won’t touch those). It’s not like sophomores can talk to seniors whenever they want. At least not non-sexy, never-get-invited-to-cool-parties sophomores like me and Becca.
And now he’s calling me.
I consider Will a good friend and I love talking to him, but I’m sure he just wants to chat about Ava or to play cards or something.
I’m too sad for any of that today.
Even the goddamned time of the month gods agree that swimming with Will is a bad idea. Because what’s the point in getting my hopes up again?
“I can’t come over,” I tell Will. “Maybe some other time.”
In middle school, I never told anyone who I liked. No one. Not my dad. Not my older brother – Matt. Not Ava. Not Becca.
Even writing about guys in my journal freaked me out. What if I died after skiing into a tree or fell off a cliff or whatever, and then my brother and Dad went through my room and found my diary filled with details on my secret sex cravings?
Anyway, my first real crush started up in seventh grade and lasted from August to May. His name was Andy Rudd and we had homeroom and algebra together and I wanted him to be my first kiss. He wasn’t even that cute but he had smooth porcelain skin and a bowl cut and he wore University of Tennessee shirts and sweatpants all the time. Volunteer Orange was an integral part of his wardrobe.
The crush didn’t even stop when Andy dated my friend Susan from November to January of that year. They broke up because Susan discovered that she and Andy were second cousins and they never knew it.
I finally got over him and in eighth grade, I developed crushes on two more guys. Jesse and Tim. Jesse played saxophone and sat behind me in band class. Sometimes he’d clean his reeds and would flick his spit at me.
Nope, I didn’t mind.
Tim was a guy friend I’d known since kindergarten and one day I woke up and damn he was cute. He’d always been cute, but not in a way that made tingles rush down my thighs.
We slow danced together at a few dances, but it never went farther than that.
I was about to turn 14 years old and I’d be a freshman who’d Never Been Kissed. One day in the library, this total bitch, Lindsey Finchum, asked me if I’d ever kissed a boy. I said, “Yes, I have,” and held my chin high. She smirked and responded, “I don’t believe you.”
It wasn’t until I got home that day and was making salad with Dad that I realized Lindsey had probably never kissed a guy either. She wore these lame white tennis shoes and she had no right to make me feel bad and take her insecurities out on me, especially when I’d never been anything but nice to her.
The Day I Met Brian Hoffman
52 days until I turn 18
Bubblegum Pink is the nail polish of the day.
Matt Higgins will definitely like it—he’s into all things girly-girl, so I add another coat before blowing on my nails. Tonight we’re meeting at this field party, and I fully expect we’ll make out behind a hay bale or something.
Drew is lounging on my bed, reading Cosmo. “So I signed you up to be manager for my baseball team.”
“What?!” Careful not to mess up my polish, I mute the TV and sit up to face him. “Why?”
“I can’t stand the idea of you holed up in your room while I’m playing ball this spring. You should come to practice tomorrow morning.” He smells a perfume ad, cringes and sticks his tongue out.
My heart pounds faster than light speed. I hate baseball. I know, I know. That means I’m not a true American. It probably means I’m not human. But I gave up foam fingers, peanuts, and the Atlanta Braves when my mom announced she’s a lesbian and ran off with her friend who was more than just a friend. A year ago January, she divorced my dad, and I divorced her dreams of me playing softball for Hundred Oaks.
“No way,” I say, examining my nails.
“Come on, Parker!” He thumbs through the magazine. “Please?” he whines.
“What’s involved?” I try to act nonchalant, but Drew looks up with a knowing smile. He’s lived down the street from me my whole life—I’ll do anything for him.
“Taking stats and helping with equipment.”
Taking stats is way easy. I could do it in my sleep.
“It’ll be a cinch,” Drew says, reading my mind. He shows me a cartoon couple using a dining room table for Kama Sutra maximum effect. “Jesus Christ,” he says. “Is that move physically possible?”
“Try it out with Amy and let me know.”
He glances at me sideways, then turns the magazine vertical and studies it closely. “I’m flexible, but not that flexible.”
“Can you imagine needing a hip replacement at seventeen? You could get a cane with flames painted on it.”
“Or maybe one with skulls.”
“Don’t change the subject…So there’ll be plenty of guys for you on the team.” He snorggles. That’s our special word for snorting and giggling. It’ll be in Webster’s any day now.
I have to admit I love the way cute guys look in baseball uniforms. Plus, I’d get to spend more time with Drew. Lately, his idea of fun has been going to Jiffy Burger with Corndog and Sam Henry and acting like they’re the characters from Seinfeld, talking about nothing. Drew invites me along sometimes when they need an Elaine, because I’m really good at punching Corndog (George Costanza) and yelling “Get out!” and Drew says I dance worse than the real Elaine. But it’s been getting kinda old. How many times can those guys debate who has better fries: Sonic or Jiffy Burger?
And what else do I have to do this semester? It’s February, I’ve got a 4.0, and classes don’t matter at this point—the only way Vanderbilt could revoke my early admission would be if I went on the news and advocated for Tennessee to secede from the union.
On the other hand, this could be a lot of work. I’d probably end up doing hard stuff like lugging water coolers around and washing dirty jockstraps or something.
On the other hand, I don’t want to be lonely.
Jockstraps it is.
When I was five, Mom discovered a recipe for homemade edible Play-Doh. We loved cooking together, especially fancy stuff like foie gras grilled cheese. We sat at the kitchen table, which was covered by the previous week’s comics, and mixed flour and sugar and peanut butter together and rolled it into shapes. I had dinosaur cookie cutters, so I made a Play-Doh T-Rex. Mom made a triceratops. I bit its head off, and she joked, “My little praying mantis.” We giggled and giggled and gorged ourselves on that Play-Doh. The next day we went to church and Mom and I kneeled at the altar. As I prayed, I didn’t ask you for anything. I only thanked you for giving me Mom.
Written on February 12 before the party at Morton’s field. Burned using a candle.
On Saturday morning, Drew and I arrive at the baseball field behind Hundred Oaks High—aka the only place I dread more than Chuck E. Cheese (I worked there last summer and almost died because I had to wear a Crusty the Cat costume).
We step out of his red VW bug into the sun, and the crisp wind bites my face. I pull my arms up inside my fleece and begin the trek across the parking lot to meet the players, who are warming up by doing throwing exercises and sprints. I stare at the most popular guys at our school.
Popular-schmopular—any cute guy will do. Last Sunday after church? I hung out with this guy Aaron on the swings at the playground, listening to him talk about how much his school sucks (he goes to Woodbury High) and how Nirvana really is the best band ever. I disagree—I’m into modern stuff like Paramore and The All-American Rejects, but I couldn’t get a word in because he kept talking and talking and talking. Before he drove home with his parents, I let him kiss me beside the turtle sandbox thing, so people will know I like boys.
“Over here!” Coach Burns calls, beckoning us.
“Oh, dear me,” I croon to Drew. “Your coach is older than baseball itself.”
“I think he coached my grandpa.”
“And his grandpa.”
“Everyone’s been saying he’ll retire after this year. Would you rather retire or work your whole life?”
“I’d retire tomorrow if I could, and I haven’t even started working yet,” I reply. “When you retire, would you rather spend time playing golf or bingo?”
“Golf. I love the outfits. Golf or polo?” he asks.
“Do you mean water polo or horse polo?”
“Gross. I like animals much more than speedos.”
Drew introduces me to the coach, who starts explaining my responsibilities. How I’ll be the official statistician because I make straight As in calc. (Coach did his homework.) How I should always have the coolers filled with ice water before practices start, and how I should make sure the buckets by the pitching machines are loaded with balls. Drew snorggles at the mention of balls. Perv. I elbow him.
“You should always be thirty minutes early for practice.” The coach clears his throat, and his lined face goes a bit pink. He glances at Drew, then back to me. “And if you decide to date or mess around with anyone on the team, you can’t be a manager anymore, okay?”
What? Kissing players is reason numero uno I’m willing to sit around watching these guys belch and adjust their crotches and spit in the dugout.
“Why?” I ask, scrunching my eyebrows.
“The girl who managed the team last year, uh, well, we had some incidents on the bus and in the locker room.” He coughs. “I’m sure that won’t happen with you.”
Does he think I’m incapable of getting guys? I kissed Matt Higgins behind a barn last night. Trust me, I’m capable of getting a guy.
I smooth my curve-enhancing blue fleece. I’m wearing leather boots over skinny jeans. It’s not sporty attire, but I once read this book called The Rules that said guys like girls who always look ready to go on a date, so I even wear lip gloss when jogging. The only thing I never bother fixing is my tangled waist-length brown hair. It may sound gross, but my hair looks good tangly—guys love it.
“No worries, Coach,” I say.
Coach tells Drew to warm up, so he runs off, his cleats clacking on the asphalt. “You should meet my new assistant coach and our new captain. Don’t take orders from any guys except the captain, understand?”
I nod, and Coach Burns calls out, “Hoffman! Whitfield! Get over here!”
Corndog, aka Will Whitfield, swings at a pitch, drops his bat, then jogs over. He must truly love baseball to smile in 40-degree February weather. He tosses away his batting helmet and runs his fingers through the brown waves of his hair before pulling his cap from the back pocket of his baseball pants.
“Hey,” he says, giving me a bright grin, showing off the dimple in his right cheek.
Yeah, yeah. I know you’re hot, Corndog. I fight the urge to roll my eyes. Thanks to all the years he’s spent baling hay on his dad’s farm, Corndog has gone from not to hot, from scrawny to sinewy, from geek to god, and now has to beat girls off with a stick. Not that he ever dates. Not that I’d ever hook up with him. He nearly became valedictorian instead of me.
“So…” he whispers, putting his hat on. “You and Higgins, eh?”
I pull my knit cap down over my ears and tell myself to ignore the queasiness. I didn’t enjoy kissing Matt Higgins very much. He kept trying to go up my shirt. “It was a one-night thing.”
Corndog removes a batting glove. “Isn’t it always, for you?” He laughs, but it’s not a nice laugh, and gives me a hard stare. “You keep screwing with my friends.”
I rub my neck. What he’s saying isn’t a lie. I do kiss guys a lot.
And I’d be lying if I said I’m not interested in snuggling or talking on the phone late at night, falling asleep talking to a boy I’m in love with. I do want a boyfriend. But I haven’t met any guys worth the risk of being ditched.
“Just do me a favor,” Corndog whispers. “Don’t mess with Bates.”
I raise my eyebrows. I’ve never had that kind of spark with Drew. We had our diapers changed together. Besides, he’s been dating this sweet girl, Amy Countryman, for like half his life. She enjoys knitting and cooks him breakfast for dinner. But truth be told, I’m not entirely sure Drew likes only girls.
“You don’t have to worry about Drew,” I whisper.
“Thanks.” Corndog nods.
STEALING PARKER comes out October 1, 2012.