This Game Is Getting All Too Real
He said: I like to keep under the radar and mostly hang out with my friends from the rez. But when I saved Riley Berenger from falling off a mountain, that rich suburban princess decided to try to save me.
She said: If I can help Sam Tracy win the heart of the girl he can't get over, I'll pay him back for helping me. I promised him I would, no matter what it takes.
Rain trickled down my back as I worked. Drip drip drip. It was going to be a long hour, a long night, a long weekend— I had no way of knowing. If we were lucky, the storm would blow across the valley before sunset and we could try to hike back to the campsite. I started thinking through several scenarios, one of them including carrying Riley on my back.
She was tall but thin. I could probably manage it. Satisfied with our makeshift bed, I leaned back on my heels to give it a final once-over. “Well,” I said, turning to Riley.
“It’ll have to do,” she said, her teeth chattering again.
I sighed and then moved closer to her on one knee and then the other. Without another word, I put my arm around her and pulled her toward me before she could object, which, knowing what I knew about Riley, she would. But she surprised me. Again. Instead of complaining, she exhaled against me, curling into my shoulder. I sat with my back against the tree trunk, Riley’s body pressed against my chest. My arms wrapped around her, tighter, as she shivered. Her warm breath heated my neck, the closeness of our bodies heating us both. I tried to ignore that she smelled all girl, her hair like flowers mixed with fresh pine. It kind of became hard for me to speak, but after an excruciatingly long silence, I forced out a word.
“Warmer?” It came out like a squeak. I rubbed the side of her arm.
She nodded, her hair brushing up against my chin. “Should we start a fire or something?”
“It’s kind of raining, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
She turned her face to mine. “You mean, you don’t know how to start a fire?”
My back stiffened.
“I thought you would know… .” Her voice trailed off.
“You mean, I should know because I’m Native?”
“No,” she said, her whole body rising in place. “Because you’re a boy. Weren’t you a Boy Scout or anything?”
I pulled back and stared at her, speechless. A second ago, we were sharing a moment. Now I wanted to get far away from her all over again, which was pretty much impossible given our current living quarters. We both seemed to be counting back our outrage. One second. Two seconds. Three…
We glared at each other. It became a staring contest. And then, when we both absolutely had to blink, we both burst out laughing. In that moment it was as if a balloon had popped between us as we sat tangled together on our mostly dry makeshift bed of pine needles and branches.
“Believe it or not, Boy Scouts wasn’t exactly a big thing
on the Rez.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean—” she began, still laughing.
But I stopped her. “Forget it. No offense taken.”
“Yeah.” I’d certainly heard crazier than that. During my freshman year, a guy had actually asked me if I lived in a teepee. And he’d been serious. To which I’d replied, “Dude, you need to get out more.” It hadn’t exactly made us friends, and he’d looked at me strangely for the rest of the semester.
“In case you were wondering, I wasn’t a Girl Scout.”
“No?” I said. “I thought all girls north of Pecos Road were Girl Scouts at some point. You know, with the lure of the thin mints and all.” So much for stereotypes.
“No.” Riley lifted her chin. “I was a Bluebird.”
“What the heck is a Bluebird?”
“Someone who didn’t want to be a Girl Scout.”
“Did they happen to teach survival techniques to Bluebirds?”
“No.” She looked up at me, totally serious. A raindrop clung to her eyelash and I thought about reaching down to wipe it away with my finger. “But I did get a cooking patch for making macaroni and cheese from scratch.”
“Totally useless right now.”
“Agreed,” she said, grimacing.
We laughed again and Riley blinked, the lone raindrop trickling down her cheek. I leaned back against the tree trunk again with Riley pressed against my chest.
"The book stands out in its nicely realistic portraits of the teens." (Kirkus)
"The plot is the perfect mix of real-life scenarios and swoon-worthy romance, while the issues of race and class that Fichera interweaves into the story add substance. In an alternating first-person narration style similar to Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park, readers are given insight into the characters' thoughts and feelings. The tale sticks to the formula but the captivating ways in which the sequence of events plays out keep this take fresh and exciting." (School Library Journal)
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Born and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, after college, never expecting to live more than one year among cactus and people who’d never seen snow. I was wrong. It certainly didn't hurt that I met my future husband in Phoenix too.
Most of my stories are set in the American Southwest because I think the desert is a cool place. Living in Phoenix, I'm surrounded by Native American culture and influences, not to mention intriguing Hohokam petroglyphs and centuries-old canals. There are over 20 tribes in Arizona and I'm lucky to be neighbors to the Gila River and the Salt River Indian Communities.
When I'm not busy writing my next novel, I like to travel, visit museums, support local theater productions, hike, and pretend that I'm training for a triathlon. I post a lot of photos from my desert and mountain hikes on my Facebook and Twitter pages. In no particular order, I've been chased by javalinas, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and even one curious black bear.
Do you prefer lighter or more serious contemporaries? I feel like Hooked and Played do a great job at balancing both the lighter aspects and the heavier ones :)
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