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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

The Heartbreak Messenger

Alexander Vance

Square Fish


Chapter 1

I didn't choose to be the Heartbreak Messenger. Not really. I was just trying to make a few honest bucks and help a guy out. I definitely didn't choose the name. I don't know who did. It just started floating around and eventually stuck. Me? I would've gone for something more professional and less … girly.
Speaking of girls, I should probably tell you something about myself right off the bat—and it's embarrassing, so you can pretty much count on it being true. I'm not exactly what you would call a "ladies' man." Anyone who knows me can tell you I don't talk to girls if I can help it. I mean, besides my friend Abby and the occasional cashier at the grocery store. I'm only saying this so you'll believe me when I tell you that I didn't get involved in all this as a way to meet girls. And, for the record, I don't enjoy making people cry, either.
But, believe it or not, there are guys out there that have even more trouble with girls than I do. The crazy part is that some of those guys have girlfriends.
And that's where I come in.
It all started with Rob McFallen's older brother, who was a junior in high school. We were sitting in Rob's kitchen one afternoon eating ice cream. That was the great thing about Rob's house—both of his parents worked, and their freezer was always stocked with ice cream. As long as the rest of the house was in one piece when they came home, his parents didn't really care if half a carton of rocky road was missing.
Rob's brother, Marcus, came in and pulled out the mint fudge brownie. He had on his red delivery uniform, but he didn't seem to be in a hurry to get to work. He sat down and dug in with a serving spoon.
Rob looked up from making patterns in his ice cream with his fork prongs. "Dude, Marcus, use a bowl."
Rob had been my friend since the second grade when he'd dared me to kiss a particular girl on the playground. I didn't have the guts, so I started a fight with him instead. He finished it by throwing sand in my face. Sitting in the principal's office afterward, me blind and him busted, had bonded us for life in a prisoner-of-war kind of way. I guess you could say he was my best friend. One of two.
Marcus scowled at his brother. "Don't bug me. I'm thinking."
"First time for everything," Rob said.
Marcus didn't respond. He just sat there, staring at the spotted green ice cream on his spoon.
"Man … you really are thinking," Rob said.
I was kind of amazed, too.
Marcus dropped his spoon back into the carton without taking a bite. He pushed the ice cream away. "I've got problems."
I licked the dripping ice cream from my spoon. "What kind of problems?"
Rob answered for him. "Girl problems. With Marcus, it's always girl problems."
"But I thought you already have a girlfriend," I said.
"Sure, man. But that's when the real problems start." Marcus looked at me with troubled eyes.
Rob had already lost interest and was digging the marshmallows out of his ice cream. But I was curious. "Like what?"
"Like, on Monday when I picked her up for school. I wore my cross-trainers, but she made me go back home and change into my dress shoes. She said they went better with my shirt."
"Or Tuesday, I was gonna hang out with the guys, but she needed me to come decorate some preschool for their fall party. She wanted me to stay for the party, too! I barely escaped. Told her I wasn't feeling well."
Now I was losing interest.
"Or today, in English, when she saw me passing notes back and forth with Cammie Bollinger. It didn't mean nothing, but Melissa spends the rest of the day giving me the silent treatment."
"Man, I just don't feel free anymore. I can't do what I wanna do. I'm trapped. I think … I think I need to break up with her."
Rob suddenly surfaced from his bowl of ice cream. "Break up with Melissa? But I thought you liked her."
Marcus reached across the table and swatted Rob on the side of the head. "You're so dense.Haven't you been listening? I'm miserable. I want my freedom."
"So break up with her," I said between spoonfuls.
"I … I'm not sure how. I've never done it before."
"Yeah," Rob said. "Girls usually dump him." He ducked just in time to miss another swat from Marcus's hand.
"Why don't you just send her an e-mail?" I suggested. "Or a text."
"Not a chance," Marcus said. "Tony Seong sent this sappy text to break up with his girl last year, and you know what happened? She forwarded it to everyone on her contact list, and then posted it on her blog. You can Google Tony's name right now and his breakup text pops right to the top."
"Don't be a wuss," Rob said. "Just talk to her."
Marcus glared at him. "If it's so easy, then you do it." He paused for a moment, and I saw the wheels in his head start moving again. "Hey, that's it. Why don't you break up with her for me?"
Rob almost snorted an almond. "What? You're crazy. Besides, Mom and Dad grounded my cell phone after I downloaded all those games, remember?"
"No, no, I mean talk with her in person. I'm serious. Go and let her know that it just isn't working out between us. That I think we should go our separate ways."
"Not a chance," Rob said. "That's so totally not going to happen."
"Please?" begged Marcus. "I'll give you twenty bucks if you do it."
My ears perked up. Twenty dollars just for delivering a message?
Rob shook his head. "Not gonna happen."
I cleared my throat. "I'll do it."
I was kind of surprised to hear myself say that. This was probably a family thing, and I shouldn't have butted in. But I'm not one to turn down easy money. Like one year in elementary school we had a fundraiser where we had to get people to buy things from a Christmas catalog—picture frames and little angel statues and smelly decorations. The kid that sold the most would win fifty bucks. Most of the kids went door-to-door, hitting up the parents of the other kids that were selling. I figured out a better strategy. My mom knew a lady in charge of an old folk's home that let me bring my catalog there. Yeah, in one afternoon I easily claimed that fifty dollars and made a whole building full of grandmas happy at the same time.
Marcus looked at me with a hopeful half smile. "You serious?"
"Sure, if you want me to." I shrugged. "For the twenty, of course. In advance."
Marcus grabbed the ice cream carton and dug in. "Quentin, you're a lifesaver."

Copyright © 2013 by Alexander Vance