A 2008 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list nominee!
How can Christy Marlowe―an impulsive, wise-cracking horoscope-junkie―be in love with Ben, a well-mannered college freshman who prefers astronomy over astrology?
Their fateful first meeting takes place at a plastic surgeon’s office, where both hope to erase painful memories along with unwanted tattoos. Is it a bad omen that Ben has the same name as Christy’s ex-boyfriend, a drug-pedaling punk in juvie for murder? It’s hard for Christy to care when Ben sends her heart "racing through galaxies of bliss." Just as Ben is worried about Christy’s obsessed ex who’s back on the streets, Christy is troubled by the sadness lurking in Ben’s ice-blue eyes.
Burying the past isn’t easy and this comedy of love turns upside down when Christy and Ben become ensnared in their own lies. Starcrossed or starmates, can they forgo Romeo and Juliet’s tragic fate and find their way back to truth and trust?
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Mark Schreiber is the author of several books, including the novel Princes in Exile. He lives and writes in Ohio.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Corpse Blue Tattoo
How did a sweet girl of destiny like myself, far along the road to recovery from youthful mistakes and misfortunes, in love-really-for the very first time, find herself one stormy, ominous night in a death embrace with her stricken Romeo, holding a nine iron defiantly on Life's eighteenth hole, while the dark clouds of our destruction rolled overhead?
It all started when I got Benjamin scraped off my chest. It was an expensive correction, since insurance companies don't pay for tattoo removal. But fair enough, I didn't want anyone to know anyway and I had some money stashed under my bed. But every office I called wanted my life history. I even thought of doing it myself with carbolic acid and a Q-tip. But then I called a plastic surgeon that gave me an appointment just like that-reason for visit, name, you'll have to pay at the time of service-she didn't even ask my age. Cool.
I'd never been to a doctor alone before. This unwelcome thought came to me as I entered the medical building and stood alone waiting for the shiny elevator doors to open. My mom always took me to the doctor, or Benjamin. Once I wanted him to take me to my gynecologist because my mom didn't know I was on the pill and I didn't want to go alone. He refused until I told him a lot of women have affairs with their ob-gyn. Mine was a woman but Benjamin never paid attention to details.
So I was feeling anxious standing there alone waiting eons for the damn elevator-there are only three floors, where could it be? The Sears Tower was faster! I wanted to be comforted at a time like this, distracted-I wanted someone to talk to, to take my mind off the fact that I was about to get ink-ink that's seeped into my breast scraped off with a needle or a razor or burned away with carbolic acid on a Q-tip. It's like waiting for a roller coaster but with only misery ahead and no thrill.
And what if someone I knew saw me? Someone who knew my parents? I looked at the building directory. I'd tell them I was seeing Stephen Wilde, M.D., allergist, also on the third floor, for my hay fever. But what would happen when I was actually in Dr. Dobrowski's office itself-the point of no return? What if my dad's secretary also happened to be there, waiting to get her eyelids lifted?
I crept past the allergist's door and paused casually in front of Dr. Dobrowski's office like I was looking for the drinking fountain. There was a sliver of glass next to the door through which I could see several people. Plastic surgeons shouldn't have waiting rooms. They should have doors with peepholes and buzzers like crack houses.
My throbbing heart told me to leave. But the line of blue ink with that cursed name an inch or two away from my heart said stay. Besides, it took three weeks to get this appointment and they'd probably bill me anyway.
Inside were a couple fat women, a couple old women, and a guy about my age. A guy! Maybe he was waiting for his mother or grandmother, back there becoming thirty again. The nurse behind the counter told me to sign in and pushed some forms on a clipboard my way. She had an expensive nose but could have used a smile.
I'd give them my name, rank, and serial number but I wasn't signing in or filling out forms. I put my purse on the counter on top of the clipboard to prove I was a serious patient-I was going to pay-in advance! But the nurse didn't care. She was put on earth to make sure people filled out forms and if a blank form should happen to slide through it could mean the end of the universe as we know it. I patiently explained-whispering of course-that whoever I talked to on the phone said everything was cool. Who did I talk to? How should I know, I'm not the one making the appointments! She went to consult with a woman in the back, her supervisor-the woman I talked to?-and when she returned said I didn't have to sign in or give them my insurance info but they needed my medical history for their records. I answered the medical questions truthfully but I put down a false address in case they decided to send me coupons, and where it said person to contact in case of emergency I wrote God with a question mark above phone number. If my plastic surgeon didn't have a sense of humor it was better to know before his sharp instruments descended on my naked flesh.
I took a seat beside a table piled with magazines and flipped through a tattooless Vogue. But who did these mags think they were kidding? These models had tattoos, they were just concealed or Clearasiled over. If I were in Vogue no one would be wiser. You'd have to see me in a Victoria's Secret catalog modeling one of their lace bras to catch a glimpse of my secret. And even then you'd only see the traces of blue ink; you wouldn't be able to read the name. Maybe I was overreacting. Who had to see my breasts anyway? By the time I was ready for a husband they might have stretched or sagged enough to make it just a blue blur.
"What are you here for?"
It was the guy, sitting on the other side of the table. I looked everywhere but at him, but I was alone. The fat women and old women who would surely have supported me against this rude offender were gone. I went to the ends of the earth to protect my privacy and a complete stranger-a guy-at the point of no return-asked me why I was here!
I couldn't ignore him since we were alone so I sneered back like his worst nightmare. "Excuse me?"
He was smiling but I could see he was nervous-this was his pick up line, maybe he'd hung out here preying on girls with crooked noses. "What are you in here for?" he repeated.
Now I looked at him full force-cringe and die, and he did shift back a little. "Don't you know that's a question you never ask in prison or a plastic surgeon's office!"
He became flustered, but to his credit persisted in annoying me. He was scared but courageous. "I just wanted to tell you if you were getting a breast augmentation it isn't necessary."
Now I was the one who was flustered and it wasn't so much because of what he'd said-although that was bad enough-as the fact that I couldn't help noticing he was sort of cute. He had a nose that didn't need fixing-I never looked at noses until I stepped into this office-perfect white teeth-long blond-streaked hair, and murderous ice-blue eyes. He was taller than I was, which was tall enough, and was wearing tight jeans, a Northwestern jersey, and a gold earring.
"If I want a tit job that's my business!" I told him loudly to show him he couldn't embarrass me. "Not that that's what I'm here for."
"I just couldn't think why someone like you . . ."
"It could be a thousand things." And I immediately regretted my big mouth as his eyes widened imagining those thousand things.
"What's wrong with a tit job anyway?" I asked to keep him from thinking about all the hideous flaws I could have been hiding. "It's because of men that the women in these magazines starve and inflate their bodies."
"But women buy these magazines," he said, trying to be too logical. And then he looked too serious for this conversation. "I don't think the same substance inside a PC should also be inside a woman."
"And I suppose you've had personal experience with silicone?"
"Well . . ."
I laughed. I went back to my Vogue.
"You want to know what I'm here for?" he said after a while.
"Some kind of augmentation?"
"I'm getting a tattoo removed."
I turned some pages. But it was a coincidence.
"What's your name?" he said when I still ignored him.
"I don't give out my name."
"I could look at the sign-in sheet," he said cleverly.
"I didn't sign in," I said, more clever.
"I only want your first name."
I thought about it. "What's your sign?"
"Why do you want to know my sign?"
"I'll tell you my name if you're the right sign. What's your birth date?"
"Is that good?"
"Could be better. Christy."
"Really! With a C or a K?"
"With a C."
"What's the matter?"
He rolled up his left sleeve and turned his shoulder toward me. There in dark blue letters on his upper arm was my name!
"Too bad I don't like you," I said. "You could have saved a hundred and fifty dollars!"
I thought this would devastate him, but the coincidence only made him bolder. He looked at me with his ice-blue eyes. "If you don't like me, why did you sit next to me?"
"I didn't sit next to you. I sat next to the magazines."
"There are magazines over there."
"It isn't considered sitting next to someone when there's a table between them!"
"You're the astrologer. You should know it was fate that made you pick this chair out of all the chairs in the room."
"You'd need a lot of stars in your corner to stand a chance with me. I'd blow you away."
"My name's Ben."
But I was the one who was blown away. "Is your real name Benjamin?"
"Yeah, but I never use it. It either sounds like a little boy or an old scholar. Why?"
"I hate that name," I said.
I sat on the exam table, my legs dangling above the floor. The nurse told me to take off my shirt and handed me an ugly green gown. Without examining the tattoo herself-thank God-she asked me a zillion questions and wrote my answers on her clipboard like I had just been convicted of murder and she was from the Sun-Times. Where did you get the tattoo? I don't know, I was wasted at the time. How long ago was it? Before the arrest. Was it a professional or amateur job? I didn't ask Michelangelo for his diploma. Describe the tattoo. Benjamin-do you know how to spell it? And which breast is it on? Over, not on. My left. What color is the ink? Corpse blue. Do you know the number of the ink? How many corpse blues are there? Were you ever bitten by a bat in the Amazon Rain Forest?
Tense minutes later Dr. Dobrowski smiled at me through a silver beard. His face had plenty of wrinkles, his eyelids were as heavy as an elephant's, and he had a virgin nose. Maybe plastic surgeons are like hair stylists, the worst advertisements for themselves because they can only work their magic on others. He asked me to pull down the strap of my gown. He smiled again when I hesitated. "Don't be embarrassed . . ."
"It's just that you're the first non-felon to see it," I confessed anxiously.
He looked at it for only a second.
"How long will it take?" I asked.
"Two sessions should do it."
"I mean today."
"The surgery itself will only take about three minutes."
"Surgery? Do you use a knife?"
"We use lasers," he said with another smile, but this smile said, Kids today know the latest dance tunes but when it comes to cosmetic surgery they're still listening to the Bee Gees! "It's modern and painless. You'll feel a sensation like the flick of a rubber band. That's all."
"Really?" I said with cowardly relief.
"First Roberta will apply a topical anaesthetic and then you'll have to wait a few minutes for it to take effect. You may want to get a magazine."
He was about to leave when I thought of a practical question. "Oh doctor, does the $150 cover both sessions?"
"No, that's just for today. But the follow-up will cost less."
"What kind of car do you drive?"
He smiled, a proud smile this time as if to say, Even though I have eyelids like an elephant's I can still impress high school girls! He had opened the door when I thought of a second question, a crazy romantic question, because the Northwestern guy had just flashed through my brain. "Would it be any cheaper if I just got the end of the name removed, the j-a-m-i-n?"
My heart sank. Not meant to be, I thought.
"But next time you might want to look for a boyfriend named Al," he joked as he left.
Everyone's a comedian. After Roberta rubbed some cream on my chest she asked if I wanted a magazine. I said I would get it myself-it would give me a chance to talk to Mr. Silicon some more. Anyway, I had time to pass and why should I be self-conscious wearing their puke-green gown in an office of flawed humanity?
But when I peeked out he was gone.
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