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Leah on the Offbeat

Leah on the Offbeat

Page 4

I smile at him. “You don’t have to wait with me.”

“Oh, I’m not. My dad’s in town, so he’s picking me up.”

Bram’s parents are divorced, which I find weirdly comforting. I don’t mean that in a bitchy way. I don’t want Bram to have a shitty home life or anything. It’s just that most of my friends have these storybook-perfect families. Sitcom families—married parents in giant houses, with framed family portraits lining the staircases. I guess it’s nice not being the only one missing that.

“Just for a visit?”

Bram nods. “He and my stepmom came up for the week with Caleb. We’re getting ice cream after this.”

“I can’t believe Caleb’s big enough for ice cream. Wasn’t he just born?”

“I know, right? He’ll be one in June.”

“Unreal.”

Bram smiles. “Want to see him? He’s my lock screen.”

He hands me his phone, and I tap the screen on. “Okay, this is too adorable.”

It’s a selfie of Bram and Caleb, smiling with their faces smooshed together, and it’s the cutest photo ever taken. Bram’s dad is white, and I guess his stepmom must be, too, because Caleb’s the palest little white baby I’ve ever seen. Somehow, it surprises me every time I see a picture of him. He’s totally bald, too, with giant brown eyes. But it’s funny, because Bram and Caleb look weirdly alike. Even though Bram’s skin is brown and he has hair and doesn’t drool. It’s kind of wild.

Bram sticks his phone in his pocket and leans back on his hands, and I feel this wave of unexpected shyness. It occurs to me, suddenly, that this may actually be the first time Bram and I have hung out one-on-one, even though he moved here after freshman year. He was always in the background for me until he started dating Simon. To be honest, I kind of lumped him together with Garrett.

I try to beat back the awkwardness. “Want to see something?” I ask.

“Sure.” He sits up.

“Okay. Brace yourself.” I tap into my photos and scroll back through my albums. Then, I pass Bram the phone.

His hand flies to his mouth.

“Amazing, right?”

Bram nods slowly. “Oh my God.”

“So, this is seventh grade.”

“I’m just.”

“I know. Simon was too cute, right?”

Bram stares at the photo, eyes crinkling around the edges, and something about his expression makes my heart twist.

I mean, he’s so far gone. This kid is in it with his whole entire heart.

The picture is actually of all three of us—Simon, Nick, and me. I think we were at Morgan’s bat mitzvah. I’m wearing this light blue dress, kind of an Eliza Hamilton vibe. I’m holding an inflatable saxophone, smiling, and Nick’s wearing oversized sunglasses. But the star of the picture is Simon. My God.

For one thing, there’s that glow-in-the-dark tie Simon used to wear to every bar mitzvah and dance. But this time, he’s wearing it around his head like Rambo, cheesing for the camera. Also, he’s fucking tiny. I don’t know how I forgot that. He grew a few inches in eighth grade, and that’s about when he started listening to good music and not wearing those giant wolf face T-shirts. Like, I’m pretty sure he stripped off that final wolf shirt one day, and then Bram moved to Shady Creek two hours later.

“You’ve never seen his baby pictures?” I ask.

“I’ve seen the little kid ones, but he’s got middle school locked down.”

“What you’re telling me is that Simon should never have left us alone together.”

“Exactly.” He grins, tapping into his text messages.

Moments later, our phones buzz simultaneously. You showed him the tie? LEAH, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

It was a dapper tie, Bram writes.

Well I was a dapper young man, BUT STILL

Should I tell Bram about the night-light? I type.

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