Never date your best friend
Always be original
Sometimes rules are meant to be broken
Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kidsthe ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they’d never, ever do in high school.
Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he’s broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It’s either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.
Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they’ve actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.
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An Excerpt from Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid
DAVE DROPPED HIS backpack by his feet and slid onto the bench that overlooked the harbor at Morro Bay. He loved the view here: the ocean sprawling out like the future itself, interrupted only by the white tips of docked sailboats and the rusted railing people held on to to watch the sunset. He loved how far away it felt from San Luis Obispo, even though it was only fifteen minutes away. Most of all, he loved when Julia would appear in his periphery mock-frowning, how she would keep her eyes on him, trying not to smile as she walked up, then she would slide in right next to him like there was nowhere else she belonged.
“Hey, you goof. Sorry I’m late.”
Dave looked up just as Julia was sitting down. She was wearing her usual: shorts, a plaid blue shirt over a tank top, the pair of flip-flops she loved so much that they were now made up of more duct tape than the original rubbery material. Her light brown hair was in a loose ponytail, two perfect strands looped around her ears. If the lights ever went out in her presence, Dave was pretty sure the brightness of her eyes would be more useful than a flashlight.
“S’okay. How was hanging out with your mom this weekend?”
“Greatest thing ever. Don’t get me wrong, the dads are awesome. But my mom is the coolest person alive.”
“Hyperbole foul,” Dave said.
Julia crossed her legs at the ankles and looked around the harbor. “Did I miss anything interesting?”
“There was a couple breaking up by the ice cream shop. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the girl was such a sad crier. I wanted to go give her a hug, but that might have been a little weird.”
Julia gave him a smile and stole a sip from the bubble tea he’d been holding.
“Tell me more about your mom. What makes her so cool?”
“Everything,” Julia said. “She lives the kind of life that I didn’t even understand was an option. She once biked from Canada to Chile. On a bicycle. For, like, months. Other adults work from nine to five and then go home to watch TV. She bikes a whole continent.”
“Huh,” Dave said, impressed. “That is pretty cool. How come she’s never come by before?”
“She’s too busy being awesome,” Julia said. She glanced around for a little while, swirling the drink in her hand. Dave followed her gaze to a little boy riding his tricycle down the harbor, his parents walking calmly behind, beaming with pride. “So. High school tomorrow. Big day.”
“Yup,” Dave said with a shrug, reaching for his tea back.
He imagined what other kids might be doing in anticipation of starting high school. Picking out outfits, getting haircuts, quarreling with parents and siblings, texting each other messages that made more use of emoticons than proper punctuation.
“Any thoughts? Concerns? Schemes?”
“Oh, you know. Nothing specific to high school. Take over the world.”
She scrunched her mouth to one side of her face, then looked straight at him, which always made Dave feel like he was either lucky or about to turn into a puddle. A lucky puddle, that’s what he’d felt like ever since he’d met Julia. “We’re still gonna be us?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean…we’re kind of different from most people, right? We don’t do what everyone else does. We’re more likely to bike a continent than watch TV all afternoon.”
“I guess so.”
Julia drank from his bubble tea, aiming the fat straw at the dark spots of tapioca that settled on the bottom of the cup. When she’d sucked up a few and chewed on them thoughtfully, she looked down at the ground. “As long as we don’t get turned into something that looks more like high school, more like everybody else and less like us, I’ll be okay.”
She glanced at him, then looked across the harbor at the bay, where the water was starting to take on the color of the sun.
“So I’m not allowed to become the high school quarterback that dates the cheerleading captain?”
“I’m going to throw up this bubble tea right in your face.”
He bumped her lightly with his shoulder, thrilled as always at the weight of her next to him, the warmth of her skin beneath the plaid shirt. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about. You couldn’t be a cliché if you tried.”
Julia smiled at that, tucking a strand of hair back behind her ear. She grabbed the bottom of the bench with her hands and leaned forward a little, stretching, and the brown tress slipped back in front of her face. She kicked at the backpack by his feet. “You have any paper in there? I have an idea.”