Nineteen Percent

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Romance


Hi! Thanks for checking out this book! This is my first time posting on here so I hope it goes alright!

Chapter 1 (v.1) - a hollywood ending

Submitted: August 24, 2018

Reads: 263

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Submitted: August 24, 2018

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In twenty-four hours, Jeff will be Matched.

 

It’s odd to look around the crowded library and know that tomorrow night he’ll be paired up with one of these students, beginning the first romantic relationship of his life. Tomorrow he’ll meet the person he might spend the rest of his life with. Tomorrow night he’ll be assigned to a new dorm room, a room with someone else, a room with one bed and one closet and one partner.

 

It could be any of his classmates, really, except the ones who are already dating. It could be a stranger, but it could also—it could also not be a stranger. He just has to ask. All he has to do is ask.

 

“I wonder who they’ll Match with Chelle,” muses Ally, leaning her cheek on her hand and looking across the table. She’s tapping a pink pen against their list, which is written in her big bubbly handwriting. It’s a list of who they think will be Matched with who, and they’ve been working on it for the last half hour. Jeff knows that the students around them are making lists, too, narrowing down their own options.

 

Ally is pretty tonight, with her blonde hair brushing the table as she tilts her head. From his angle next to her, Jeff can see the clumps of dark makeup on her eyelashes, the barely-there dimples on the edges of her mouth. He swallows, glancing down at the list. Lots of people get Matched with their best friends. Being friends means they’re compatible with each other, maybe compatible enough to be Matches.

 

But they could also choose to be Matched—it’s an option that’s becoming more popular, nowadays. Most people still prefer to trust the compatibility formulas, caught up in the dream of a perfect Match, but some people choose a more old-fashioned route. It’s simple. Lots of couples in their Year are going to stay together.

 

It’s mostly an option for people who are already dating, but sometimes new couples choose it, sometimes best friends do, and Ally looks especially pretty in the warm light of the library, surrounded by the smell of books, and lately Jeff’s been seriously considering spending the rest of his life with her.

 

All he has to do is ask.

 

Ally hasn’t added herself to the list yet. She’s just speculating about couples she thinks will be Matched, like Caroline Byrd and Radford Li, who have been best friends since Year 8. It’s hopeful that she thinks they’ll be together, Jeff thinks. If those best friends are a potential Match in Ally’s eyes, then maybe she and Jeff are.

 

Ally is talking again, and Jeff forces himself to focus. It’s loud in here—preparation for Matching night has disrupted their whole Station. “If you were in charge, who would you Match yourself with?”

 

This is it. This is his chance. Jeff swallows through a dry throat, scratching at the thick dark hair on his forearm. Ally asks this question all the time—lots of kids do, especially now that they’re so close—but he’s always deflected it. “Actually,” he says, and his voice sounds too loud, the opposite of casual.

 

Ally looks at him for the first time in a while, her chin still propped on the heel of her hand. She arches her eyes, the dimples beginning to show. Jeff’s arms feel numb, like putty. He can only look her in the eyes for a second before focusing on the list instead. His mouth is moving but his head feels underwater.

 

“Actually, I was wondering if, you know.” She doesn’t know—of course she doesn’t know. Jeff already regrets speaking. His mouth feels like it’s full of cotton. “I mean, aren’t you nervous about getting a stranger? We could still...if you wanted…” He forces himself to look at Ally.

 

Ally is furrowing her eyebrows, a line appearing between them. Her dimples are gone and Jeff’s stomach drops sickeningly.

 

“I—I mean—” he stammers. “If you don’t want to—”

 

“Oh, Jeff,” says Ally. “I’m sorry.”

 

Jeff can barely hear himself say “It’s alright” through the pounding in his head—she said no, she said no, she said no. You asked her if she’d be your Match and she said no. She said no. He picks up his pencil with a surprisingly steady hand and pulls the list toward himself. The notebook wobbles in front of his eyes, but he pushes his thick, clunky glasses up and tries to read what Ally’s written.

 

There’s an uncomfortable pause.

 

Ally clears her throat, setting down her pen. Jeff’s eyes focus on the names of guys who are taller and more handsome than him, girls who are nicer and don’t get weirdly formal when they’re nervous. She said no, she said no. He feels strongly like he might start crying.

 

“Perhaps we should consider who we might be Matched with,” he says, and it sounds desperate and awkward, a plea for her to forget that he ever asked. He’s not going to spend the rest of his life with Ally. He suddenly can’t imagine tomorrow happening at all—it’s like there’s a wall up, and he can’t think of anything beyond this moment. Everyone is too loud around them. Someone laughs at the next table over.

 

“What?” says Ally. Jeff never initiates this conversation, has never voiced a desire to be with anybody in particular. He’s always been too shy. He doesn’t know how people can casually talk about crushes.

 

“Realistically,” he says. “Of everyone left.” He pushes the notebook back towards her. Ally looks down at it, tucking a curl behind her ear.

 

“Oh,” she says. “Well, I’m not sure.” She glances at him, tugging at her hair. He knows she doesn’t want to say anybody’s name, not now that she knows about the crush he’s been nursing for a few months. Ally is nice. She’s too nice. Jeff can’t look at her face, at those soft wrinkles in her forehead, the sorry eyes.

 

Instead, they both look at the list. At the top are the established couples, starting with Marcotte Carsonetti and Torek Lucresi, who are famous (infamous?) for shooting porn of themselves in Year 16 and selling it illegally to their classmates. Jeff has never seen the porn, even though Ally bought a bootleg of it last year and offered to let him watch it. Jeff had declined as politely as possible. He has no interest in seeing either Marcotte or Torek naked.

 

There are other long-term couples, too. There are lots of new couples, formed in the past few months in anticipation of the Matching. Jeff imagines picking up the pink gel pen and adding Jeff Alan and Ally Starr to the bottom.

 

“Liam will probably go with Valentine,” he says, and Ally nods as he writes their names on the list. His spiky handwriting looks out of place under her neat pink words.

 

She said no. You finally got up the courage to ask her, on the last possible night, and she said no. She said no. She said no.

 


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