Here is chapter 1 of Just One of the Royals! Thanks for reading 🙂
It doesn’t matter how many times I take Madison on my motorcycle, she always squeezes me tight enough to bruise. I swear, I get more roughed up from one motorcycle ride with her than I do in a Junior League hockey game.
Not that I mind. I mean, I’ll take bruises in exchange for having her arms around me any day. Too bad she doesn’t realize that.
I shake my head and take a few deep breaths of the warm Chicago air as I speed down the side roads to her house.
“Drop me off on the corner!” Madison calls over the wind.
“I know.” I’ve only dropped Madison off at her house a million times before. And trust me, I’d rather run fifty wind sprints with Coach Zabinski screaming in my ear than face Dr. Myong when he sees his daughter on the back of my bike.
I slow down in front of one of the many perfectly manicured yards in the North Shore. I always feel like a trespasser here, as if every CEO and lawyer in town are poking their heads out their windows, wondering what I’m doing in their pristine neighborhood. I mean, I guess it’s fair enough. Other than dropping Madison off, the only time I’m ever in the North Shore is when I’m kicking it at a party…or when I’m sneaking out a window after spending the night with one of these rich guy’s daughters.
They were never the North Shore girl I wanted though.
I can’t even see Madison’s house from here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, actually. We might hang out at every hockey practice, meet up after school, and spend most weekends together, but she’d never let herself get mixed up with a guy like me. I can only imagine what her parents would say if she brought me home, the Falcons’ own wild child. With Madison being the assistant trainer for our team, there’s no way they don’t know my reputation.
I take a deep breath as I pull over and shut off the engine. I know what I’m doing. I’m thinking about all the reasons why I’m wrong for Madison, why a philandering goon like me would never deserve a straight-A, beautiful, funny girl like her. That maybe being friends with her is the best I can get.
My brain is trying to scare me away from what I need to do.
Madison swings her leg off the back of my motorcycle and jumps off. Immediately, I miss her touch, bruises and all. “Thanks for the ride,” she says.
Slowly, I turn to look at her. I’m good at this stuff. I’m good at asking girls out. Hell, I do it every weekend. There are always girls hanging around outside the hockey rink. Now that Tremblay’s gotten serious with that figure-skating girl, Alice, my best wingman isn’t around, but still, I haven’t had any problems.
So why am I having trouble now?
Madison gives me that sweet smile, the one that makes her brown eyes close, and her cheeks lift, and her long black hair swish back and forth. She gives out smiles for free, to everyone—to the ticket taker at the matinee we went to, to the homeless dude on East Illinois street, even to the rude lady who budged ahead of us at the concession stand. And she gives them to me all the time. But all I can manage is a dumb stare. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was drool down my chin.
“You okay?” she asks as she unbuckles her helmet and hands it back to me.
Damn it. I was making a dumb expression. Okay, now’s my chance. I practiced it in the mirror. I practiced it in front of Ma. I quickly say it one more time in my head: Madison, you’ve been my best friend for two years now. The first time Coach Zabinski introduced you as the assistant trainer to the Falcons, I was totally blown away. And I know you laughed in my face when I asked you out last time, but that was two years ago. I’ve grown up a lot since then. And I think I’m ready to tell you. I like you as more than a friend. I like you, like you. And I want to be yours. I want you to be mine.
I swing my leg over the cycle so I’m standing only a foot away from her. The sun grows hotter and I can feel beads of sweat forming under my helmet. “M-Mad—”
“Let me guess,” she interrupts, stroking her chin. “You’re thinking about the playoffs again, aren’t you? I know it sucks, but you guys will rally next season.”
“Actually, I wasn’t thinking about the playoffs, but thank you for pouring salt on that wound.” My teammates Tremblay and Bell are a lot more butt-hurt about getting eliminated in the third round of the playoffs in our Junior hockey league. Sure, it sucked, but I’m proud. I think we did awesome, considering the Chicago Falcons haven’t been to the playoffs in five years. And there’s always next season.
“Sooo,” she drawls, bouncing on her toes, “what was that wistful look for then?”
Ma always says I’m an open book. Maybe it will actually help this time. I just wish my heart wasn’t beating so hard. I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans.
“I-It’s just, I wanted to say, I thought I should tell you, uh, M-Mads, it’s j-just—”
Her face gets stricken and a sickening gush of adrenaline flows through my veins.
“Oh no,” she squeaks. “Do I have popcorn in my teeth?
Daniel, you should have told me sooner!”
I sigh. “Uhh—”
Madison shoots a look at her cellphone. “Jeez, Daniel, you should get going. Practice starts in half an hour.”
I grumble under my breath. “What is wrong with Coach Z? I swear, we’re the only team that has to practice AFTER playoffs are over.”
She twirls a shining black strand of hair. “You know Coach Z. He’s got to get his fill of torture in before he goes a whole summer without it.”
I sit back on the motorcycle and give her a smirk. “Maybe I should just skip practice tonight. We could go to Ms. Sue’s and get a burger instead.”
“No!” She scowls the same way she does whenever I’m late for practice Sunday mornings because I’m sleeping off a hangover. “You have to go to this practice. It’s the last one of the season. And trust me, you won’t want to miss it.” Her expression twists into a knowing smile. “Al’s going to make an announcement you’ll want to hear.”
A shred of jealousy twists inside me. Al Bell, best player on the Falcons and Madison’s ex. Well, kind-of. I’m not sure they ever dated, but Tremblay swears he caught them making out on the team bus once. Bell’s a nice kid, but he’s way too short and socially awkward. I never understood why Madison would fool around with him.
No one on our team is good enough for her. Especially not me.
Whatever. It obviously never materialized into anything with Bell, even if she does spend a lot of time talking about him.
I take a deep breath. The air is warm and summer feels so close. This could be the best summer ever, if I can just man up for the next five minutes. “Madison—”
“I’m SO sad I can’t be there.” Madison interrupts again—one of her favorite things to do. “Trust me, it’s going to be juicy.”
I give an annoyed grunt. “If you want to see Bell so bad, why aren’t you coming? As trainer, you’re supposed to be there anyway.”
Madison looks down and digs her pink shoe into the pavement. “With my parents’ crazy schedule at the hospital, they’re never together. This was the only time both of them would be home, so I thought it would be a good chance to bring up you-know-what.”
“Seriously?” I gape at her. “You’re going to do it?”
“Yup.” Her cheeks flush deliciously. “I was up all night making a PowerPoint presentation too. ‘Madison Myong’s 27 Reasons For Going To Juilliard School in NYC’.”
I raise my eyebrows. “You’re braver than me. I wouldn’t want to stand up to the Drs. Myong.”
A breeze blows the edges of Madison’s flowy top up, so a sliver of skin is exposed. I wipe my palms on my jeans again.
“Can you imagine their horror? ‘Appa, Eomma, I have decided I will not study medicine after graduation. I’m going to New York City to become an actress.’” She laughs, and the sound makes me laugh, too. “If you don’t hear from me tonight, I’ve probably been murdered, or I’m still being lectured about how they didn’t move all the way from South Korea for their daughter to star in ‘crappy American TV’. I mean, they’re the ones who watch that crappy TV every single night.”
I laugh again. Her smile gives me confidence. “Hey, maybe I’ll get drafted to an NYC NHL team. We could be roomies.”
She doesn’t even flinch. “Well, you better get to practice now, or you won’t ever get drafted.”
My throat gets tight but I won’t lose my nerve. Not like I have every other time. “Wait. Madison, I have to tell you something—”
But her expression stops me. Her face, usually so bright, is downcast. And her brown eyes shimmer. She gnaws on her bottom lip.
“Hey, what’s up?” I say.
“It’s just,” she says, her voice breathy, “I’m…I’m so nervous. I want to study acting so badly. You know what hockey’s like for you? That’s acting for me. And my parents don’t get that. I’ve done everything I could the last few years to make them happy. To be a model daughter. All the aftergame hang-outs I haven’t gone to, the parties I skipped… I mean, I haven’t even dated, just to keep my parents happy.” Her face tightens. “I’ve worked so hard to earn their trust. And now, it’s finally time to see if they have enough faith in me to make the right decision.”
I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Madison has worked her ass off—to be the best trainer to the Falcons, to get straight A’s, to be the perfect daughter.
The last thing she needs is to bring a screw-up party boy like me to meet her parents.
“That’s why I’m so glad you could make a movie today,” Madison says, brightening. “It was the perfect distraction.”
I may have been punched in the gut before, but now I’ve been stabbed. There it is, what I’ve always been to Madison. A distraction from her real life.
I don’t even need to give my speech now, to know the answer to my question. Someone like me will never be good enough for someone like her.
“Wait, did you have something you wanted to say to me?” Madison cocks her head.
“Uh, yeah.” I swing my leg back over my motorcycle and rev the engine. “Good luck with your parents today.”
I don’t even wait to hear her response before I speed away.
I stay rooted to the sidewalk, until I can’t see Daniel or his rusty old motorcycle anymore. My chest feels heavy and my feet are full of lead as I walk down the street. I pull out my cell phone and type a text to Alice:
Hockey boys are the worst 🙁 (No offense)
My finger lingers on the “Send” button. It’s a big day for Alice and the Falcons, and the last thing I want is to distract her with yet another Daniel problem. I hit “Delete” instead.
Today was such a good day. Daniel let me pick the movie (although, I know he secretly loves Meryl Streep), he paid for popcorn, and we shared a drink…even the same straw. He picked me up and dropped me off. We laughed. I told him about my problem and he listened. It was just as amazing as every other time we’d hung out.
Except that’s just it. We hang out. We don’t date. And I don’t get to keep him when our time together is over.
I feel my whole body tense and grow heated as I storm down the pavement. I don’t know why I keep torturing myself. Every time we say goodbye, I always imagine Daniel will, like, proclaim his hidden love for me and carry me off into the sunset.
Who am I kidding?
Daniel isn’t some white knight who’s going to sweep me off my feet. He’s too busy spending every weekend with whatever floozy decides to blink her fake eyelashes at him. Sure, Daniel’s great at commitment. He commits to the Falcons every game. He commits to cooking his mom dinner every night she works late.
He just doesn’t commit when it comes to girls.
I shake my head and take a deep breath to ground myself. I’ll have time to mope over my relationship problems—or rather, lack thereof—with Daniel Sacachelli later. Right now, I have to focus on just one thing.
I walk through the white gate of our yard and up to the front steps. I dig my keys out of the bag but can’t make myself put them in the lock.
Both my parents’ cars are in the driveway. With Appa working nights and Eomma working days, they’re seldom in the same place at the same time. Now, I finally have a chance to sit down with both of them and explain.
I don’t want to be a doctor. I want to go to Juilliard and perform in plays and get an agent and go to auditions and stand with the red curtain at my back and an applauding audience at my front.
I spend hours at hockey games every week working as the assistant trainer (Appa said it would look great on my resume for med school. I don’t think he realized I’d spend most of my time bandaging up sexy shirtless boys, but I’m not complaining). I see the way Daniel’s eyes light up when he steps onto the ice. The Falcons get to live their dream, and I spend all my time helping them. Isn’t it my turn?
I take a deep breath and turn the lock. Immediately, I’m welcomed by the warm tangy smell of galbi. The only time Eomma actually cooks is when we’re all home together.
“Hi, baby!” Eomma calls, her soft voice drifting out of the kitchen. “Hungry?”
No, but that would be suspicious. “Yeah, thanks.”
Appa’s setting out plates at the table. “Hi, sweetie. How was the final practice?”
A slight twinge of guilt shoots through me. Okay, so I might have told my parents that practice was earlier today, but I had good reason. First, me skipping a commitment would TOTALLY not fly with them.
But there’s a bigger reason I had to lie. If my parents saw me with Daniel Sacachelli…ooh, I’d be in BIG trouble. My parents don’t like boys in general, let alone ones like Daniel. Chicago may be a big city, but Daniel’s reputation is even bigger. Appa has already warned me to stay away from boys like Daniel.
I really should have taken his advice.
“It was good,” I say. “I’m going to miss being there over the summer.” At least that’s not a lie. I do love working with the Falcons.
“There’s still time to find an interning position,” Appa says, not looking up from the table. “I’m sure I could find you something at the hospital to keep you busy.”
I take a deep breath. It’s now or never. “Actually, there’s something I want to talk to you both about.”