Aug 10, 2015

Excerpt: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Adi Alsaid is one of the sweetest, funniest, fantastic authors I have ever met. He has a natural charm and wit that plays out brilliantly in his writing and I am so excited to share this excerpt from NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES (his sophomore debut).

Chapter 5- Making a Mess

                When they left Chili’s, Dave felt wonderful. Things had gone wrong, but in the exact way they should have. Now he had the evening with Julia to look forward to. He sincerely doubted bright green hair would look good on him, but he had succumbed to Julia’s rationale about the Nevers making the end of the year more interesting. So what if it was some insane attempt to prove herself original, probably in an attempt to win her mom’s approval; the Nevers brought out a joy in Julia that he loved being a part of. As long as nothing between them changed, he didn’t have much to complain about.
“Why’d we add this to the list anyway?” Dave asked, after they’d purchased hair dye at the CVS and were parking at Julia’s house. He was holding the boxes of green and pink dye in a plastic bag in his lap.
“My mom,” Julia said. “She’s always told me that changing looks has nothing to do with leading a unique life. It’s usually the sign of a pretty ordinary inner self.”
They walked up the driveway to Julia’s house, a modest two-story with the garage open, her dad’s workstation glistening with tools. The lawn was lush, almost overgrown. A porch swing hung slightly off balance and in need of a paint job. Julia pushed open the door, placing her bag on the little entry table which held a basket for keys and loose change and which was often piled up with unopened mail. A pleasant smell wafted towards them from the kitchen.
“Hey homies,” Julia said when she entered the kitchen. Tom and Ethan were sitting at the kitchen island hunched over a couple of notebooks. Someone Dave didn’t know was standing by the stove, tending to about a million different things; a wok, two saucepans, a cutting board stockpiled with vegetables. He turned over his shoulder to glance at Dave and Julia then wiped the sweat off his forehead with a dish towel before returning to cooking.
“Hello hello,” Tom said, moving to kiss Julia on the cheek and hug Dave. “How was your day?”
“Impossible to summarize in small talk,” Julia said, walking over to Ethan, who was frowning at his notebook and tapping his pen against the counter of the kitchen island. Julia gave his back a hug. “You look stressed, dad.”
“Restaurant stuff,” he sighed and tossed the pen down, sitting up and rubbing a hand through his graying hair. He almost always wore checkered shirts with the top button undone. He kept a cigarette tucked into his ear, though Dave had never seen him smoke. He’d started an internet company before they’d adopted Julia, then sold it to start a string of businesses in the last two decades, none of them quite as successful as the first one. The latest venture was a restaurant. “Say hi to Chef Mike. We’re doing menu testing.”
“Hi, Chef Mike!” Julia and Dave said at the same time.
Julia walked over to Chef Mike to see him work while deflecting her dads’ questions about her day, probably since the only mentionable thing about it was tickling a possibly middle-aged (it was hard to tell exactly how old Marroney was) teacher. Meanwhile, Dave sorted their mail into little piles on the counter; bills, junk, personal/miscellaneous. Dave never got any regular mail himself, save for last year’s college recruiting packets. Aside from that, he was convinced that ninety percent of the mail in the world was credit card offers. He came across a postcard mailed from Mexico, the handwriting familiar and addressed to Julia.
                “Postcard for you,” Dave said, holding it out for her. Her bare feet pitter-pattered against the kitchen tiles and she snatched it from his hand.
                Julia read quickly, almost breathing the words out loud. Then she laughed and said, “She sends her love,” to Tom and Ethan. The postcards didn’t come often, so when they did, Dave knew, Julia read them over and over again, as if they were poetry. Then she’d put them up in her room connected by strings to push pins on a map indicating where they’d been sent from. Ecuador, China, Australia, Belgium, Chile, Mexico. Julia traced her mom’s journeys around the world and used the few details she knew to imagine the days when she would be able to as well. Without question, the best night in Dave’s life was the night he and Julia sat staring at the map, splitting a bottle of wine stolen from the garage and planning travels the two of them would go on together.
                “Is she still in Mexico City?” Tom asked, dipping a spoon into one of the sauces simmering on the stove to take a taste. “More ginger?” He said to Chef Mike, who shook his head.
                “Yup,” Julia said. “Working at an art gallery and part-time at a bar-slash-restaurant-slash-arthouse movie theater.”
                “That sounds about right,” Tom said with a smile. “That’s gotta be the longest she’s spent in one place since you were born.”
                “She says it might be her favorite place she’s lived in. Although I’m sure she says that about everywhere she’s been, because she only picks amazing places.” She slipped the postcard into her shirt pocket. “We’re gonna go upstairs to dye our hair. Call us when some of this amazing-smelling food is ready.”
                “That’s funny, I thought I heard you say you were dying your hair,” Ethan said, looking up from his notebook. Julia nodded with a smirk and Ethan looked over at Dave.
                “I’m going with green,” Dave said with a nod.
                “Don’t you have to ask permission from us to do something like this?” Tom said.
                “I’m a college acceptee,” Julia said. “That pretty much grants me freedom to do whatever I want, except for felonies.”
                “How’d you get talked into this?” Tom asked Dave.
                “Your daughter has a talent for corrupting the youth.”
                “Don’t I know it,” Tom said. He crossed his muscular arms in front of his chest and appraised the two of them. “I don’t think I’m ready to let go of my iron fist of authority in this household.”
                “Don’t worry,” Julia said, grabbing the CVS bag with the hair dye off the counter and kissing him on the cheek. “You can still tell dad what to do all the time.”
                “Hey,” Ethan called half-heartedly, his attention slipping back into his work, “I resemble that remark.”
                “Resemble? What, are you having a stroke, old man? Don’t you mean resent?”
                “It’s a Three Stooges reference,” Dave explained.
                “There is hope yet,” Ethan said, giving Dave a smile as Julia dragged him out of the kitchen by the arm. “Don’t make a mess,” he called out after them.
                “We are definitely making a mess,” Julia whispered to Dave as they went up the stairs toward her room.
                “Which of us is going first?” Dave said, reading the tiny print on the side of the box.
“Let’s do yours first. Your hair’s darker, so we should probably let bleach sink in longer for you.”
                They grabbed some old towels from the linen closet and spread them around the bathroom in Julia’s room. Julia snapped on the gloves that came in the box and Dave sat on a stool in front of the sink, watching Julia go over the instructions again. She had the most hilariously exaggerated reactions to every step of the process, and Dave sat back and watched, relishing each expression. Just as she was about to dab a bit of the dye on Dave’s arm to test for skin allergies, Debbie the cat jumped onto Dave’s lap, getting a green streak down her back.
                “Oops. Dad’s not going to be a fan of that.”
                As the bleach began to do its thing, whatever it was bleach actually did to lighten hair, they swapped spots. Dave draped a towel over Julia’s shoulders and she undid her ponytail, her hair a light brown cascade that brushed against his fingers. “Have we sufficiently researched this process?”
                “Depends on what you mean by sufficiently.”
                “It might not look like a professional dye job but I won’t get us killed.”
                “I guess that’s reassuring?” Dave said making sure the question mark was understood. After the bleach had magically transformed them into blondes—Julia pulling off the look much better than Dave ever could, though he admitted he was biased—Dave took a seat back into the chair and watched a slightly different version of his best friend pour out the dye into a little container provided in the kit.
                “This stuff smells great,” Dave said.
                “Don’t you dare get high off the fumes. Sit still,” she said, straightening his head and focusing on the dye job.
                It didn’t take her long to finish, since Dave didn’t have all that much hair. The instructions said to let it sit for at least twenty-five minutes, though the Internet suggested much longer, so while they waited for his hair to really grab hold of the green, they changed spots again. He tested the dye against her arm, then mixed the two liquids together as she had. He shook the bottle, careful not to spill. When he took his finger off the top though, a single pink drop that clung to his gloved hand dripped off and landed right in the middle of Debbie’s forehead.
                “That’s what she gets for being so in love with you,” Julia said, looking down at her cat rubbing her side against Dave’s leg, unaware of the splotchy dye job she was receiving.
                Dave squeezed out the dye onto his fingers, and for the next twenty minutes he became lost in the task. He worked slowly, not because he wanted to stretch out the time, but because it was Julia’s hair, and everything to do with Julia he did with care. When he was done, he decided to wait with Julia , and that they would rinse the dye off at the same time. They tried to wipe Debbie clean, but she kept moving around and the drops of pink and green she’d absorbed spread across her fur.
                “She looks like a tie-dyed shirt gone wrong,” Julia said.
                “That doesn’t bode well for our hair.”
                Julia sat on the counter and looked at herself in the mirror, leaning in to examine the pink stains by her hairline. “The genius in this is that if it turns out shitty it’s even more of a cliché.”
                “That’ll be a comfort when everyone’s laughing at us.”
                “Look at you worrying about what others think. Way to get into the spirit,” she smiled, then gave him a friendly tap with her foot. “I think that’s long enough. Time for the big reveal.” She hopped off the counter and turned on her shower, grabbing the removable head and waiting for the water to warm up a bit.
                They helped each other rinse the excess dye from their hair, which resulted in more dye getting all over the bathroom. “It looks like a couple of cartoon animals were blown up in here,” Dave said.
                They turned to face each other, and when Julia asked how her hair had turned out he had to swallow down the word ‘sexy.’ “It looks pretty good,” he said. “How’s mine?”
                She cast her eyes up at his hairline and bit her bottom lip. “I couldn’t have hoped for better,” she said then laughed. “Maybe you should just look for yourself.” She moved aside to let him step in front of the mirror.
                “My God.”
                “I think the lighting in here is bad,” Julia said, suppressing another laugh.
                “Julia, it looks like someone vomited on my head.”
                Dave looked at her in the mirror, petrified. She brought her hands up to her mouth, her perfectly pink hair framing that lovely face of hers as the laughter tore through her.
                “This is seriously the worst shade of green I’ve ever seen.” Dave turned on the faucet and ran water through his hair, and the pretty shade of green water that poured into the sink only made the joke crueler. “There’s no way I’m walking around with this on my head.”
                “Oh, come on. You really pull it off.” Julia was doubled over in laughter, trying to catch her breath.
                “I’m shaving it off.”
                “No, don’t! The Nevers!” She dropped to the floor, not taking her eyes off of him, her hand clutching at her stomach. “Oww, Dave, the laughter hurts.”
                “The Nevers just said dye your hair. They didn’t say anything about keeping vomit on my head for the rest of the school year. I’m gonna go to the mall to get this cut. Right now.”
                “If I keep looking at it I might pee myself.” She laughed again, either pretending to wipe a tear from her eye or actually doing it, Dave couldn’t tell at this point. “Wait until the morning. Maybe it’ll look better in daylight.”

                Dave grimaced but stayed put. “Only because I’m such a good friend and you’re clearly enjoying this.” He lingered by the mirror for a second, looking down at Julia, who was trying to fight off another giggling fit. It was hard not to want this to go on, whatever his hair looked like, hard not to chase after the idea of the Nevers, too, when the result was a whole day spent with Julia laughing at his side, her cheeks as pink as her hair, eyes suffused with joy. “It’s going to be a strange end of the year, isn’t it?”


Never date your best friend

Always be original

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken 

Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school. 

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember. 

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

About Adi Alsaid

Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City, then studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in class, he mostly read fiction and continuously failed to fill out crossword puzzles, so it's no surprise that after graduating, he did not go into business world but rather packed up his apartment into his car and escaped to the California coastline to become a writer. He's now back in his hometown, where he writes, coaches high school and elementary basketball, and has perfected the art of making every dish he eats or cooks as spicy as possible. In addition to Mexico, he's lived in Tel Aviv, Las Vegas, and Monterey, California. A tingly feeling in his feet tells him more places will eventually be added to the list. Let's Get Lost is his YA debut.


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