Falling for Shakespeare by Erin Butler
Published by: Swoon Romance
Publication date: September 8th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Katie thought she knew where her life was going. She was dating the captain of the football team, had a BFF for life, and everyone at school wanted to be her. But then her pregnant teen sister’s pregnancy changes all that. Everyone dumps her, including her friends and boyfriend.
Hey, Katie, welcome to life at the bottom of the high school food chain. This is how the other half lives.
Then there’s Nick. He’s a straight-A student and self-professed geek who’s had a thing for her since middle school. He needs a date for the winter formal, and Katie needs something to keep her busy. Nick’s plight becomes her personal pet project. She will help him get over his insecurities and get a date. Besides, she was popular once. She knows how to get dates.
But Nick has other plans. He’s going to use these “dating” lessons as a way to win Katie’s heart.
Peek inside the book:
The hallway was thinning out, which meant I had very little time to make it to Mr. Henkel’s class. Only my favorite class of the entire day. Mr. Henkel was one of those weird teachers that actually made school fun, so I booked it down the hallway. The bell rang just as I stepped over the threshold. Mr. Henkel looked up from his desk, smiled, and winked at me.
I took a seat in the front row opposite a life-sized cutout of our literary hero for October. The cutout had one of those quote bubbles floating from his mouth that said, “To be or not to be …”
We’d started Shakespeare last week. Mr. Henkel was a big believer in learning about the person behind the stories. He’d said, “Authors put so much of their personal lives into their prose, and to truly understand their work, readers must first understand them.” Last week, we’d taken a Google Earth visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon and watched a 1980’s made-for-TV video about the life of the Bard. Today, we’d get instructions on the main project due at the end of the month. I knew that because Nic already gave me a heads up at lunch. Like clockwork, Mr. Henkel walked out from behind his desk and started handing out a packet of paper to each student.
“As you can see, the project will be due—”
The door to the classroom creaked open like an insufferable groan and my eyes immediately darted to the side of the room and fell on him. Jer Davis. If I hadn’t loved this class so much, I would’ve asked to transfer out of it the first day of school. My heart simultaneously sped up and lurched, making for this weird stuttering thing going on in my chest. I hated the way he still made me react. It was half disgust, half … memories.
Mr. Henkel leaned back on his desk and crossed his arms, the packets in his hand brushing his shoulder. “Mr. Davis. How nice of you to make it.”
I looked down and tried to rub out a stray pen mark on my desk.
“Sorry, Mr. Henkel. I got caught up.” No doubt his face matched the cockiness in his voice. He didn’t always sound like that.
A boy in the back snickered. “Yeah, caught up in Reese.”
I tried to act as if a shot of venom didn’t just rocket through my body, but when I saw him sit next to me out of the corner of my eye, I sighed. It was a heavy sigh filled with revulsion and disgust because I was completely filled with revulsion and disgust.
“Sorry, Princess,” he whispered. “Only available seat.”
I tapped my middle finger against my cheek, showing Jer what I really thought of him being late so he had to take the only available seat next to me.
Jeez. Three flip-offs in one day. That wasn’t a good sign. I’d go as far as to say this day was unrecoverable. Except, I had found out this morning during my trip to the computer lab that I was using the word juxtaposition correctly. Bring it on SAT’s. I was so ready.
Jer chuckled at my hand gesture and leaned back in his chair with all the indifference of … well, all the indifference of someone who knew I didn’t matter anymore.
Freshman year, the kid worshipped me. He’d just transferred in and was so cute in this adorably dorky way. No, he didn’t dress like Nic or anything like that, but he was so unbelievably shy. If that kid from two years ago was sitting right next to him now, they would look nothing alike. They probably wouldn’t even recognize each other in themselves. Reese had made sure of that. And me, too. I’d helped. As unbelievable as it was to me now, I’d helped him be this aloof asshole of a guy.
Mr. Henkel continued handing out packets. “As I was saying class, your projects are due at the end of the month. The rest of the class time is for you to get with your partner, which I’ve arranged for you all at the back of the packet, and settle on a topic.”
I turned the packet over already not liking the idea of assigned partners. One of Jer’s friends was in this class and if Mr. Henkel had any humanity, he’d pair me with him. My mouth dropped at the name scribbled on the back.
I looked over at Jerome Davis who was still reading the first page and then over to Mr. Henkel.
As if sensing what I was about to ask, Mr. Henkel said, “No, you cannot switch partners.”
I waited for Jer to look, to acknowledge me, to read faster than at a fourth grade level.
Finally, he flipped his packet over. The pencil he’d been bouncing off the desk ceased moving. He shut his eyes and shook his head slowly from side-to-side. When he finally looked over, he grinned. “Katie.”
I briefly snuck a glance at Mr. Henkel and contemplated asking if he’d reconsider his whole not-switching-partner ruling, but Jer was already moving his desk closer to mine.
I read through the instructions again, keeping my head down in an attempt to put off talking to him for as long as possible. The directions stated we were to pick one of Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets and research why Shakespeare might have wrote it, how it related to our lives, along with an analysis of the actual piece of literature. We knew the drill. This was the same as it had been when we did Ernest Hemingway in September.
Jer broke the silence. “So, what are you thinking? Plays or sonnets? Sonnets?”
Sonnets would be tough. They were so personal. Seeing as how my ex-boyfriend, who was currently dating my ex-best friend, was now my partner, I really didn’t feel like relating a sonnet to my personal life. “I think we should do a play.”
“Okay …” Exasperation laced his voice.
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried not to imagine stabbing him with my pen. “Are you sure that’s okay. We can do sonnets—”
“No. Play’s fine.” He rolled his eyes. “Which one?”
I scanned down the list Mr. Henkel had typed out for us. “I’m thinking Macbeth. I do love a good ‘ol revenge plot.”
His eyes leveled on me. “You do know Macbeth gets it in the end, right?”
I sneered his way. “Oh, and which play do you want to do? Romeo and Juliet because you’re so in love?” I batted my eyes for good measure.
Red blotches crept up Jer’s neck. “Actually, how about Taming of the Shrew? You know a thing or two about being a grumpy, sarcastic bitch.”
This was the most we’d spoken in two years. It wasn’t going well at all. “Not sure grumpy, sarcastic bitch would be Webster’s definition of the word shrew but hmm, Taming of the Shrew?” I pretended to think about it. Jer Davis was not about to get the best of me again. No way. “Fantastic idea. Let’s do it.”
He sighed, almost as if he’d regretted what he’d said. “We don’t have to.”
I ignored him and brought out a fresh piece of paper. “We’re obviously going to have to work on this outside of school. You’re still in football, right?”
Admittedly, this was petty of me. Jer had been playing football since Peewee and I’d have to be a complete idiot, blind, and deaf to not know Jer was still in football. The Monday morning announcements were a highlight reel in his honor.
He just stared, so I shrugged. “What time do you get out?”
He stared me down harder.
“Listen, I don’t keep up with your schedule anymore. Are you going to help me out a little bit or do I have to ask Coach when you’ll be free?”
His grip tightened around his pen and I wondered if he was having the same stabby thoughts I had. Not that he’d have a reason to. I was being as nice as could be expected. “About six every night. Unless we have a game Friday.”
I pulled out my agenda and flipped to the calendar page.
He peered over my shoulder. “You’re in Volleyball again, right?”
I pointed out the places on the calendar where, in big block letters, it said, Home 4:30. Or Away 6:00.
“You can use your words, you know.”
“Yes, I am in volleyball again. It looks like the best time for us to get together is Mondays and Wednesdays after six. Sound good to you?”
He nodded and fake smiled. “Looking forward to it.”
Wonderful. Sarcasm. Pretty sure I taught him and his boy band perfect teeth that, too.
I’d just written Marrow Deep on the top of a blank, inconspicuous, white piece of unlined paper when Jackson sat next to me. My whole body sighed. I’d been working on the poem all day in my head and that fresh piece of paper begged me to fill it with the perfect words. Instead, I pretended I’d been taking notes and stuffed the paper inside my spiral notebook before Jackson noticed. “Yeah?”
The corners of his lips tipped up in that casual way he always did things. Jackson was a total live-in-the-moment type of person. He was the guy that would run into the mayhem of war in Call of Duty and yell something cheesy like, “YOLO.”
“Dude, you’ve been avoiding me all day.”
I shuffled papers haphazardly around the small library table where we sat. It was best not to look him directly in the eyes. He didn’t get that I wasn’t like him. Half the time I didn’t think he truly understood that we were the outsiders, not everybody else. “That’s because you’ve been looking at me like that all day,” I said.
“It’s not just me. Everyone can see it. It’s practically blasting off you all the time. Just ask Katie out already. At least then you’ll know where you stand.”
Totally not like me. He was from Mars, I was from Saturn.
I wished he didn’t know anything about my feelings for Katie. One of these days, he’d probably walk into the lunchroom, get on top of a table, and yell it at the top of his lungs. Besides, I was quite content to never know what Katie thought of me. If that friend word were to show up, I’d be wishing I had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, mustering as much nonchalance as I could.
The lie filled me with an ugly, prickly sensation. Jackson and his group had pretty much kept me afloat in middle school after Katie and Reese dropped me for telling on them for shoplifting. It was Jackson’s group that made sure I didn’t turn into a creepy loner kid. They’d asked me to sit at their lunch table when no one had wanted anything to do with the “narc”. Then, lunch table friends had turned into hanging out after school. I was thrilled they befriended me. Jackson turned out to be a great friend. He was my best friend so lying to him didn’t feel right.
But this feeling for Katie was bigger than that. I could barely even admit my feelings to myself without turning right around and trying to squash any hope. I didn’t need Jackson filling my head with ideas. And possibilities. It was good to have dreams, but they also meant you would never be normal.
Me? I was practically pegged as average at birth. I came when I was supposed to, was a normal weight, a normal height, nothing extraordinary about me.
I scanned the library and noticed no less than three girls. The three girls were cute and they were at a library so their intelligence levels were most likely higher than most. Why couldn’t I like them? Someone attainable, someone who might look past the “dork” part of me?
I shook my head. By liking Katie, I’d doomed myself to knowing the hurt that came when you could never accomplish what you wanted deep down inside—marrow deep.
That was why I didn’t want to talk about Katie with Jackson. That was why I never really wanted to talk to myself about Katie. It would only suck more when the eventual heart sickness began. She’d reject me and she’d probably even do it nicely, which would make it suck all that much more. Then I couldn’t even be pissed off at her for it. I’d probably feel bad that she felt bad for letting me down.
Jackson peeked down at my notebook and then back up at me. His eyes lost the earlier teasing. “You keep saying you don’t know what I’m talking about and that’s fine. Warning, though. If you keep saying it long enough, someone else will figure out what I’m talking about and will actually act on it.”
Cringing, I shuffled my papers together again. I tried to cover it up, but his words were like a blow to my stomach. Could I stand to see Katie with anyone else? I’d seen her with Jer of course, but that was a little different. We weren’t friends then.
Jackson clapped me on the back. “Think about it, Nic. I’m only trying to look out for you.”
When Jer and Katie were together, it was as if I were watching a movie. They were just some actors acting out the typical jock gets the cheerleader romantic comedy flick. He’d make the winning touchdown, she’d throw her pom-pom’d arms around him, and I watched from the bleachers. As one of Katie’s only friends, I’d be in the movie now. I’d be the third wheel and the third wheel wasn’t a position I wanted at all.
I wanted the lead.
Jackson left and I was finally left with paper and my own thoughts. Slipping the poem I’d been working on out of my notebook, I switched around the last two lines to two new perfect lines, signed it Romeo—totally corny, I know—and enclosed it in an envelope.
This time, on my way out of the library, I dropped it in the book return slot and walked away casually.
Erin Butler is lucky enough to have two jobs she truly loves. As a librarian, she gets to work with books all day long, and as an author, Erin uses her active imagination to write the kinds of books she loves to read. Young Adult and New Adult books are her favorites, but she especially fangirls over a sigh-worthy romance.
She lives in Central New York with her very understanding husband, a stepson, and doggie BFF, Maxie. Preferring to spend her time indoors reading or writing, she’ll only willingly go outside for chocolate and sunshine–in that order.
Erin is the author of BLOOD HEX, a YA paranormal novel, HOW WE LIVED, a contemporary NA novel, and the forthcoming YA contemporary romance title, FINDING MR. DARCY: HIGH SCHOOL EDITION. Find out more about her at www.erinbutlerbooks.com or @ErinButler on Twitter!
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