I blew the ends of my sweaty bangs out of my eyes and attempted yet another ponytail, but my chin-length hair was too short. Not even my hair wanted to complete this run. And now Dax was disappointed and hurt and... annoyed? I neatly shoved the nightmare to the back of my mind. Time to pull out SUPER! GIRLFRIEND! capable of averting all oncoming squabbles with the power of flirtatious diversion!
I abandoned my ponytail holder, instead ruffling my hair into what I hoped was mussed perfection. "Hey, Dax, do you know what would be great for your conditioning? Running with extra weight. Something like..." I looked at the sky thoughtfully, then landed my smile on him. "Something like me!"
He groaned again, but a smile slipped through, and he bent down so I could jump onto his back. We took off at a steady clip, me clinging happily to his shoulders. Dax's shoulders were actually the first thing I noticed about him, mostly because I'd sat directly behind him in homeroom, and that first day I was so busy trying to fake the same bored look everyone else was sporting that I could barely focus on anything else.
He says my style was the first thing he noticed, which, to be honest, is the first thing everyone notices and is entirely by design. When I'd transformed from Olive to Liv, I'd scoured hundreds of style videos before finally landing on the ones that I thought I might be able to pull off—French-girl style. I'd cut off twelve inches of hair, binge-watched makeup-application videos, then spent a solid month looking for clothes that were neutral and effortlessly stylish. In the sea of Patagonia wearers, Parisian chic had made quite the splash.
And yes, I'm Greek American, not French American. But who's keeping track? Not me.
He took off at a jog, and I sank my face into his neck. During the summer, Dax spends twenty to thirty hours a week in a pool, and he wears chlorine the way other guys wear cologne. Dax technically goes to a private school, but to be on our water polo team, he has to have dual enrollment, so he spends part of the day at my school. Or at least he used to. As of two weeks ago he is officially a high school graduate, a fact that tipped my world slightly off-balance though I've been working hard to conceal it. "I love the smell of hypochlorous acid in the morning," I said.
"You smell like sweat," he said, giving my right knee a squeeze. "I can't run three miles with you on my back. Let's go back to your house."
"If you say so." I pressed my cheek into his. "We can make chocolate chip pancakes. The breakfast of champions. Not even your new college coaches can argue with that."
College. The muscles in Dax's jaw tightened, and I held my breath, already regretting the conversation that was about to happen. Unless he magically decided not to bring it up?
My eye snagged on a red-cheeked garden gnome planted in the flower bed of a yard we were passing, and I found myself praying to it out of sheer desperation. Please, little garden gnome, please don't make me have to lie to my boyfriend today—
"Did you contact Stanford about their high school day yet?" Dax interrupted. "Amelia says that's really important to the admission process. They want to see that you've put in the effort before they consider your application."
Thanks for nothing, garden gnome.
"Of course," I said. "Hopefully I'll hear back soon."
My voice sounded like it belonged to a lark or a sparrow or something equally chirpy. Not only was Dax going to Stanford, but half his family had gone there too, and his older cousin Amelia worked in the admissions office. It complicated things, a lot. And by things, I mean the fact that every time I'd clicked on the link that Amelia had sent me, I'd immediately gotten that panicked-for-air feeling that I get in my drowning nightmares. So, no. I had not applied to Stanford's high school day. But I didn't want to tell him now. Not when it was such a gorgeous summer day. Not when we'd had that great date at the art exhibit. Not when we were galloping through my neighborhood, my arms tight around him.
Dax started to say something, but luckily, a blur of lululemon activewear suddenly appeared in the driveway next to us, stopping the oncoming inquisition I knew was about to happen.