Home > Broken Beautiful Hearts

Broken Beautiful Hearts
Author: Kami Garcia

Dear Miss Rios,

After careful consideration, the women’s soccer staff at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believes that you have the qualities we are looking for in a student-athlete. As the head women’s soccer coach at this university, I want to formally offer you early acceptance and an opportunity to play soccer for the team that has won 21 out of 35 NCAA national championships.

Please understand that this acceptance is contingent upon you:

• maintaining the recommendation of your high school coach

• remaining in good academic standing

• continuing to demonstrate strong leadership and soccer skills

• playing in your current position, center forward, next fall.

I’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember, but now that it’s actually happening, it doesn’t feel real.

“Peyton?” Mom calls from downstairs.

“Coming.” I fold the letter and tuck it in my bag.

I gather my dark, wavy hair into a ponytail, pull it through an elastic, and take a quick look in the mirror. My wardrobe consists of a steady rotation of skinny jeans and cargos that show off my long legs, layered tanks and fitted henleys, and ankle boots. Today is no exception.

I do my standard two-minute make-up application—concealer under my eyes and berry-tinted lip balm that doubles as blush.

Now I just have to find my black boots.

“You’re going to be late,” Mom yells.

“Coming!” I bend down and check under the bed—a pair of balled-up soccer socks; my elementary school yearbooks; a bottle of nail polish; old issues of Soccer 360; a Luna Bar that’s hard enough to use as a hammer; and … my boots. I drag them out by the laces and put them on.

Dad’s dog tags slide back and forth on the silver chain hanging around my neck. I never take them off. When I insisted on wearing them to the Spring Fling with my strapless dress, Mom figured out how to pin the tags inside the dress so they wouldn’t be as noticeable. I would’ve worn them either way.

On the way out, I grab the black leather jacket draped over the chair next to my door, under a poster of my soccer idol, Alex Morgan. The jacket belonged to my dad. I slip it on. The sleeves hang past my fingertips and the leather is cracked, but I love it anyway.

I jog down the steps and walk into the kitchen.

Mom holds up a brown muffin. “Do you want one to take with you?”

“Not if it has oats, nuts, dried fruit, or seeds in it.”

She breaks the muffin in half, which takes some effort because it’s as dense as a hunk of fruitcake. Dad used to do all the cooking. He was Cuban and every morning started with café con leché—strong Cuban coffee with steamed milk—and thick toast with butter. After he died I took over the cooking, but I couldn’t bring myself to keep eating the same breakfast Dad used to make me. Now Mom is determined to learn to cook, too. Muffins are her latest experiment.

I rummage through the pantry. “Do we have any doughnuts?”

“Doughnuts are pure sugar. They don’t qualify as breakfast.” She pours a cup of coffee and hands it to me.

I add milk and sugar. “Then why do doughnut shops open at five o’clock in the morning?”

“It’s one of life’s great mysteries.” Mom takes a bite of the muffin and scrunches up her nose when she thinks I’m not looking. “Have you told Tess yet?”


“I’m surprised you held out this long.”

“I want to see the look on her face when I tell her.”

“What about Reed?” she asks.

I haven’t heard from my boyfriend yet this morning. “He worked late. He’s probably still asleep. And it will be more fun to tell people in person.”

I down the rest of my coffee and put the cup in the sink. “I’m taking off.”

“Drive carefully,” Mom says as I walk out the door.

I toss my bag in the back seat of my red Honda HR-V and slide behind the wheel. The road is carpeted with colorful fall leaves from the oaks and maples on my street. My neighborhood is only twenty minutes from downtown Washington, DC, and ten minutes from the outdated mid-rise apartment buildings in Tess’ complex. But you’d never know it.

My street looks like it belongs in a small town—the huge trees arching over the road, the Cape Cod–style homes, and the “tiny library” on the corner that reminds me of a pink dollhouse.

On the drive to Tess’, I try to come up with a cool way to tell her about UNC. But I’ve got nothing. We both know that colleges mailed out early admission and athletic scholarship letters this week. If I show up at her door holding a folded piece of paper, it’s too obvious. Not that it matters. Even if I don’t manage to surprise Tess, she’ll still make a big deal about my news. That’s what best friends do when something amazing happens to you.

I park next to Tess’ building and I start to get out with the letter in my hand. But at the last minute, I drop it onto the passenger seat for her to find when she gets in. I jog up the concrete steps, avoiding the crumbling stair the city was supposed to repair two years ago. I punch in the security code for the front door.

I’m dying to tell Reed my news. A benefit of dating my best friend’s brother is that when I come over to hang out with one of them, I get to see them both.

Seven months ago, Reed was just Tess’ hot older brother—until a party, four games of beer pong, and a car ride changed everything. Tess and I weren’t the only juniors who showed up at the epic spring break party at Chicken Johnson’s house. But we were the only juniors stupid enough to play beer pong with Chicken and the wrestling team. The guys were all seniors like Reed, and they outweighed and outdrank us.

After I spent an hour in the bathroom holding Tess’ hair while she puked, Reed carried her out to his car. He looked hotter than usual, in a pair of jeans that hung low on his hips and a gray 18TH STREET MIXED MARTIAL ARTS T-shirt that outlined his muscular chest. He wasn’t over-the-top gorgeous. The combination of Reed’s blue eyes, crooked nose, buzzed black hair, and brooding expression was more gladiator than pretty-boy.

But he had sexy nailed.

Tess passed out in the back seat, and I ended up riding shotgun. It was a first. Tess always sat in the front, and I preferred it that way. I’d harbored a monster crush on Reed for years, but I didn’t really know him—or do things like sit next to him in the car … or talk to him.

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