Release Date: May 17, 2016
For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall graduate.
The senior Economics project is supposed to teach us about real life. Budgeting. Social classes. Careers. I was supposed to plan it all out with my school husband. I didn’t plan on actually falling in love with him, too.
But sometimes real life doesn’t go according to plans. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions and sacrifices for the person you love. That’s what marriage is about, right?
I’ve always known things before they happen. Nothing major, like lottery numbers, but it’s been pretty useful for things like playing football and dodging clingy girls. I’ve never been able to see my future. I didn’t think much about it, to be honest.
Until second period, when she walked through the door.
Falling in love with her unlocked something inside me. Those little things I know? Now they’re big things. Life-saving things. So who do I save? And at what cost? I made a vow to her.
For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.
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“All right, class. Let’s get into our project. As I mentioned before the break, the senior Economics project is based on real life. You will each be assigned a partner and the two of you will become a couple. You’ll spend the next five months dealing with budgets, jobs, bills, pretend families, and so on. I will place you in different socio-economic classes and you’ll see how that affects the jobs you can find, the houses you can afford and the opportunities you have in life. I’ll throw in some twists here and there too. Now, let’s partner up and get hitched.”
She counts off pairs around the classroom and ends up on my row of desks. “Alicia and Scott. Cori and Mike. Rachel and James.”
Holy shit. I love this class. I love this desk. I love this assignment.
“Stand up and slide your desks back to make space in the middle of the room.” Mrs. Mason grabs a basket off her desk and passes a Ring Pop to each guy in the room. “Gentlemen, please unwrap your rings, stand before your brides and repeat after me:
“I, state your name, take thee, state your bride’s name, in pretend matrimony. I promise to be true to our grade for better or worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall graduate.”
I slide the Ring Pop on Rachel’s finger and make an effort to not jerk my hand back. Sparks didn’t actually fly, but I wasn’t expecting her skin to feel so soft. So good. I’ve never been pretend married before, but I already know I can never give another girl a ring again. I’m a senior in high school and I’m ruined for life. I want to get married for real and have her babies. I mean, make her have my babies. Shit, who am I kidding? I’d have her babies if she asked me to.
“Okay, let’s get the desks back in order and I’ll hand out your packets with all of your information. We’ll review them together and you can start looking for houses.”
I slide my desk back up, bringing it slightly closer to Rachel’s. She puts her hair in a ponytail but a few shorter tendrils fall around her face. Fuck, did I just say tendrils? This is not good. I’ve made it seventeen years without having a girlfriend, and now I have a pretend wife and I’m using sissy words.
What’s next? I clear my throat and take a deep breath.
“Let’s try this again. Hi, I’m James. It’s nice to meet you.”
Release Date: January 26, 2017
I finally made it. I graduated nursing school, and I found the perfect job. Things were great until a tornado blew through the emergency room, turning my life upside down. I don’t know if I can ever go back to the way things were before. Tornado survivors have a choice to rebuild, or pack up and move away. I’m twenty-two, and I know that one day I want the American dream: a husband, 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. But that’s the thing with rebuilding.
What happens when the next tornado hits? Will I be blown away again?
Adrenaline. It’s fueled me since I was thirteen. It’s what I discovered while I chased tornadoes across Oklahoma. It’s what I craved on combat missions in helicopters in Afghanistan. It’s what I lived for, until one day when everything changed. Now, adrenaline is my drug. It numbs me when the memories become too much to bear. It reminds me that I don’t deserve a wife, 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. I’ve seen what tornadoes do to white picket fences. It’s ugly.
I’m the tornado. I’ve already destroyed one family. Don’t chase me.
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DH flops on the left side of the bed and adjusts the pillow behind his head while I do the same on the right. “You know, this is a first for me,” he notes.
“Watching The Wizard of Oz?”
“Being turned down in a girl’s room.” We’re both lying down now, so I can’t see his face, but I can hear the smirk in his voice.
“Get used to it, Rhoads. Your sexual prowess is dead to me.” I hit play on the remote and toss it on my night stand.
“Keep telling yourself that… what the hell is your last name?”
“Keep telling yourself that, Landry. You might actually start believing it.”
“Shh! It’s starting!”
“You expect me to be quiet the entire time?”
“It’s only an hour and fifty-two minutes. You can make it, tough guy.” I’ve seen this movie so many times I can recite it in my sleep, but talking over movies bugs me.
DH makes it to the tornado scene before he starts laughing so hard he’s shaking the bed. “Clearly the filmmakers didn’t do any research in Oklahoma before they started,” he finally says.
“Cut them some slack! The movie was made in 1939. Those were state-of-the-art special effects back then!” I hurl a few pieces of popcorn over the pillow barricade.
“You need to see a real tornado. Then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t want to see a real tornado. They freak me out.”
His head pops over the pillows, and I let out a yelp, sending popcorn into the air. “DH, you scared the shit out of me!”
“Are you afraid of dying?” he asks, ignoring the fact that he almost gave me a heart attack. How ironic.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Just answer the question. Are you afraid of dying?”
I pick up the popcorn that I spilled while my heart settles. “No, not really.”
“And why not?”
I shrug my shoulders. “I guess because I’ve seen it?”
“Exactly. You understand the science behind it. It’s the same thing with tornadoes. Let me teach you so you won’t be afraid.” The light from the TV dances across the room, illuminating the hopeful expression on his face. It’s the grown-up equivalent of puppy dog eyes, and I can feel myself caving.
“How are tornadoes formed, anyway? I never understood that.”
“Well, when a mommy tornado and a daddy tornado love each other very much…”
“Oh my God, you never stop, do you?” I throw a handful of popcorn in his face. “Get back on your side!”
“Go chasing with me tomorrow, and I’ll tell you how tornadoes are formed.”
“You’ve lost your mind.”
“Got any plans?” he challenges.
“No,” I admit.
“Good. Now you do. Now shut up, I’m trying to watch a movie.”