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Like, "This Cuban-Chinese restaurant is half-Latino, just like the late Emilio Estevez." Or, "I just put a dollar’s worth of O-Town songs in the jukebox.

Who knew this bar would have a dollar’s worth of O-Town songs?

Because of this, I was drawn to people like my best friend, who was dynamic and bold.

She was the one who things happened to, the starting point of every story. He, in turn, went to find my friend and her boyfriend, who were none too pleased at having to leave so soon after we got there. Hearing that he wanted more felt like wading into the deep end. had feelings for me, I felt strange every time I saw him.

In tenth grade, we made friends with a group of older guys who hung out on the main street of town, which ran parallel to the local university — guys who'd once gone to our same high school and had never left the social scene. I remember how quiet it was, birds soaring overhead, no other sound. I grew to dread the moments we were alone, especially when I needed a ride home at the end of the night to make my curfew. In the initial years following, I never really talked about this with anyone other than my high school girlfriends and various therapists.

When they weren't doing BMX and skateboard tricks in front of the post office, they were spending what money they had at the nearby arcade, or spinning on stools and shooting straw wrappers in their favorite burger joint, just across the street. We had gotten in the habit of him driving me home, and my suddenly wanting to make different arrangements seemed to inconvenience everyone. As I got older, however, the more I realized that my experience was not an uncommon one.

We were still at an age where our parents insisted on treating us like children. Once again, she was treating me like a child, someone unable to make her own decisions. It didn't seem like such a big deal, as my best friend was doing nothing sneaking around to be with her boyfriend. Suddenly, I wasn't that scared, invisible girl anymore, watching from the sidelines. I remember it was a gorgeous fall day, crisp and cool, and the first time I'd had Brie cheese and red wine. All I had was my instinct and discomfort — a bad gut feeling. When I write novels, there is always a clear trajectory: the beginning, middle, climax, and end. "We'll go somewhere."And that's when I said it."."My own voice — big, firm, filling the space — was a surprise to both of us. When I turned 21, I remember making a point, regularly, to look at teens and ask myself whether I'd want to hang out with them, much less date one. As a teen wishing to be an adult, it is easy to get in over your head. How wonderful it felt to have an "adult" who valued our opinion; thought we were not just cute but interesting. I was wearing a Bundeswehr tank top I'd gotten at an Army supply store and faded jeans, a thrift shop crucifix around my neck. But as we sat there together in the sunshine, the wine buzzing my head, I suddenly felt … With real life, however, and memory especially, it is harder to keep things so neat and organized. In the first, I snuck out of the house with a guy friend who lived down the street. My friend came back, we went home and I slid back into my bed. The second incident I remember happened when he was giving me a ride home. I'd been quiet for so long, worried about hurting his feelings and the ripple effects of whatever actions I took. You don't need to offer an explanation, even if someone asks you for one. You can't just hang out with a guy and not expect him to get ideas, I told myself. Especially for girls, who are often taught that being polite and sweet should override all other instincts. That if something feels wrong, that's all the reason you need to get out of there. My best friend was 14 when she fell in love with a 21 year old. My friend's older boyfriend was close with a guy I'll call T. My mother, spying him from the front window, asked me how old he was."I don't know," I said. After awhile, my friend and her boyfriend disappeared, leaving T. Many memories remain fuzzy, but incidents such as that day in the forest remain in crisp detail. It was late and my parents were asleep as we drove over to the house where T. At some point, my friend left to go somewhere, and for whatever reason I didn't go with him. Maybe he only stepped out to go to the store down the block. This was after the night at his house, though how much later I cannot say. "That's your mom talking."I told him that this wasn't true: it was my choice. He stopped the car with a jerk, right past the top of my driveway, and I grabbed the door handle and got out. For many years afterward, I took total blame for everything that happened between me and T. It was with this in mind that I began my narrator Sydney's story in I'm 44 now, married with a daughter of my own. The teen years loom ahead and I've experienced too much to rest easily. Don't worry about being nice, or hurting someone's feelings: they'll get over it. You don't have to wait, I want to tell her, until you have no choice. I know many smoking-hot middle-aged people who are emotional teenagers.I know many brilliant, mature people who aren’t old enough to rent a car.

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