It Was Meant To Be

Molly dreams of two things: getting into her first-choice university and finding true love. Music-loving slacker Zayn also dreams of two things:winning the battle of the bands- and winning Molly.He is determined to make her fall in love with him.


19. Better for Her

Better for Her

 7 October, 12.40 p.m.


Zayn's POV

 “Man,” Mike says, “I have never seen you this hooked on a girl.”

 We’re having lunch at the diner. Josh decided to stay in the cafeteria to scam on some sophomore.

 Mike is trying to get the ketchup to come out of the bottle. He shakes the bottle over his cheeseburger like he’s trying to strangle it.

 “Tell me about it,” I say. “We finally talked yesterday, but it’s not enough. She’s still going out with that asshole.”

Mike sticks a knife into the ketchup bottle . “Dude,” he says. He shakes the bottle over his plate. The ketchup spurts out everywhere. But Mike doesn’t see this because he’s looking at me and saying, “Maybe you’re making it—”

“Watch it!” I point at his plate, most of which is now covered with ketchup.

 “Shit!” He starts scraping ketchup off his cheese-burger. “Do I want some fries with my ketchup or what?” “The knife technique apparently works.”


“Maybe I’m making it what?”

“Huh? Oh. Well . . . maybe if you’re making it too easy for her, she won’t feel forced to do anything.”

“Yeah. . .” This is way too complicated. I can’t figure out how to get her to see that I’m better for her than he is.

“I have this vague recollection of you in your prime,” Mike says. “Back when you had balls.”

I throw an onion ring at Mike’s face. It hits his left ear. Then I take another onion ring and dip it in mustard.

“Never attack your master planner,” he says. He takes a huge bite of his cheeseburger.

 “Yeah, but your first plan sucked,” I tell him.

 “You’re just pissed because you fucked it up. You must have looked really good falling up those stairs.” Mike laughs. “Man, I wish I’d been there!”

 “Hey! She talked to me, didn’t she?”

 “I hate to be the one to tell you, but that was out of pity.”

 “I don’t know. . . Talking’s not enough. I have to do something drastic.” I dip another onion ring in mustard. “Suggestions?”

“You need me to wipe your ass for you, too?”

“How much am I paying you for this advice again?”

“What about gym?”

 “You know gym doesn’t count. All we do is run together.”

“You just need strategy.” Mike thinks for a minute. “Does Molly ever see you with other girls?”

 “Like who?”

 “Like anyone. It doesn’t matter. If she sees you with another girl, she’ll think there’s competition. Girls always like guys more when they’re less available.”

Suddenly, I have my own plan. “You’re a genius,” I say.

“What?” Mike says. “You just realized this now?”

 Our plans have been known to suck. But this one is pure brilliance.

That night, I don’t speak during dinner. I’m still in planning mode.

After dinner, Dad and I do the dishes. It’s my turn to dry. Mum’s upstairs. She has a headache. So at least we don’t have to listen to Simon & Garfunkel or Cat Stevens or any of her other hippie jams. James Taylor’s cool, though.

 Dad washes the last dish. “Have you given college any more thought?” he says.

All anyone’s been talking about at school is college applications. Mike is so frantic he’s scaring me. Even Josh is buying into the hype. We have to work on application essays, like, every day in English, which is seriously cutting into my lyric-writing time. And Ms Everman cornered me in the hall the other day. She apparently thought it was possible to convince me to apply between third and fourth periods. Even Mr Hornby wants me to apply to Manhattan Music Academy, where he went. And Molly’s in the top ten of our class. If I ever convince her to be with me, why would she want to get serious about someone who’s not even applying to college?

“Your future depends on your education, Zayn.”

“Dad. I know.” I bang a glass down in the drainer too hard. But it doesn’t break.

“No,” Dad says. “You don’t know. If you knew, you wouldn’t be sitting around.”

“I’m not sitting around.”

“I don’t know what to do with you any more.”

"Well, it’s your lucky day, because in only eight short months I’ll be in New York. And then you won’t have to be embarrassed about your loser son any more.”

 “Zayn. It’s not like that.” Dad sits down at the table. “I’ve been trying to get you to understand for. . . You weren’t like this when you were younger.”

 “That was before I got a life.” I wipe my hands and throw the towel on the counter.

 “Yeah, it’s important for you to be your own person. But part of achieving balance in life also involves being a responsible person. You’re responsible for your future.”

“I know that. Don’t you think I know that?”

 “You don’t—” “OK. Dad? This has nothing to do with you.”

 “It has everything to do with me!” he yells. He rubs his hands over his face. I can’t remember the last time I heard him yell. When he looks up at me, it’s like he’s going to cry or something.

I sit down across from him. “Why do you keep trying to change me?” I say.

 “This isn’t about change. It’s about who you are. Who your mother and I raised you to be.” Dad leans forward in his chair. “You’re brilliant, Zayn. But that intelligence doesn’t mean squat unless you use it to create the best possible life for yourself. Being smart and not using that gift is a waste of your life.”

 “Wait. Are you saying that I’m wasting my life because I’m more interested in my music than conforming to a corrupt system’s rules? I’ve been working on my music, Dad!”

 “I know you have. But why can’t you do both?”

 “Not everyone is Ivy League material like you guys.”

 Dad sighs. “Have you thought about going to college and doing something with music?”

“I don’t need college to do what I want to do.”

He gets up. “I’m not telling you to give up on your dreams. Just think about college. It can help you achieve them.” He shuffles towards the stairs.

I sit there for a long time. Thinking.

 In my room, I pick up my acoustic guitar . I start to play this Bach concerto that always clears my head when I feel conflicted. It’s one of the first things I learned to play. It kind of transports me back to this time in my life when everything seemed simple. When there weren’t all these problems. And when I did have a problem, the solution was always simple: follow your heart.

 I go over to my desk and take out some paper and a pen. I make coffee. I sit back down. Then I do something I never thought I would do in a million years. I write Life Plan at the top of the page.

And then I begin.

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