"Was that - Ed Slaterton?" Lauren asked, with a bag in her hand.
"When?" I said.
"Before. Don't say when. It was. Who invited him? That's crazy, him here."
"I know," I said. "Right? Nobody."
"And was he getting your number?"
I closed my hand on the bottle caps so nobody could see them. "Um."
"Ed Slaterton is asking you out? Ed Slaterton asked you out?"
"He didn't ask me out," I said, technically. "He just asked me if he could - "
"If he could what?"
The bag rustled in the wind. "If he could ask me out," I admitted.
"Dear God in heaven," Lauren said, and then, quickly, "as my mother would say."
"Lauren - "
"Min just got asked out by Ed Slaterton," she called into the house.
"What?" Jordan stepped out. Al peered startled and suddenly through the kitchen window, frowning over the sink like I was a raccoon.
"Min just got asked out - "
Jordan looked around the yard for him. "Really?"
"No," I said, "not really. He just asked for my number."
"Sure, that could mean anything," Lauren snorted, tossing wet napkins into the bag. "Maybe he works for the phone company."
"Maybe he's just obsessed with area codes."
"Lauren - "
"He asked you out. Ed Slaterton."
"He's not going to call," I said. "It was just a party."
"Don't put yourself down," Jordan said. "You have all the qualities Ed Slaterton looks for in his millions of girlfriends, come to think of it. You have two legs."
"And you're a carbon-based life-form," Lauren said.
"Stop," I said. "He's not - he's just a guy."
"Listen to her, just a guy." Lauren picked up another piece of trash. "Ed Slaterton asked you out. It's crazy. That's, like, Eyes on the Roof crazy."
"It's not as crazy as what is, by the way, a great movie, and it's Eyes on the Ceiling. And, he's not really going to call."
"I just can't believe it," Jordan said.
"There's nothing to believe," I said to everybody in the yard, including me. "It was a party and Ed Slaterton was there and it's over and now we're cleaning up."
"Then come help me," Al said finally, and held up the dripping punch bowl. I hurried to the kitchen and looked for a towel.
"Throw those out?"
He pointed at the bottle caps in my hand.
"Right, yeah," I said, but with my back turned they went into my pocket. Al handed me everything, the bowl, the towel to dry it, and looked me over.
"Yeah," I said, trying to yawn. I was thumping inside.
"Is he really going to call you?"
"I don't know," I said.
"But you - hope so?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"He's not going to call me. He's Ed Slaterton."
"I know who he is, Min. But you - what are you - ?"
"I don't know."
"You know. How can you not know?"
I'm good at changing the subject. "Happy birthday, Al."
Al just shook his head, probably because I was smiling, I guess. I guess I was smiling, the party over and these bottle caps burning in my pocket. Take them back, Ed. Here they are. Take back the smile and the night, take it all back, I wish I could.
Excerpted from Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman. Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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