Not You It's Me - Julie Johnson

Chapter One

Caller 100

The dial tone buzzes in my ear, mocking me — just as it’s done the last two times I called the studio.

Damn.

I don’t even know why I bother. I never win this kind of thing. Whether it’s scratch tickets, lottery numbers, or radio call-in prizes, I’ve got worse luck than a black cat breaking a mirror on Friday the 13th, because I’ve yet to win a damn thing.

What’s that quote about doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result?

Oh, right. That’s the definition of insanity.

And yet, I keep calling.

Sighing, I pause with my finger poised over the power button of my cellphone. I know the sane, logical thing to do is throw it onto the passenger seat, shut off my car — which has begun to rattle ominously as I’ve been idling at the curb — and go inside… but I can’t seem to stop myself.

I hold my breath, close my eyes, and punch the screen to redial.

Just one more time.

Sitting there, listening so hard it almost hurts, with my eyelids squeezed shut and all my energy honed on a single, impossible thought, I forget to breathe.

Ring, dammit.

Please, just freaking ring.

For a moment, nothing happens.

And then…

It rings.

My eyes fly open as a voice cracks over the line.

“Congratulations, you’re our lucky 100th caller! Give us your name!”

My mouth gapes like a Miss America contestant asked her opinion on the state of the crumbling global economy. I’m so stunned I can’t form words.

“Hello? You’ve reached KXL - BOSTON, can you hear me?” The host clears his throat and laughs. “Well, if no one’s on this line, we’ll have to move on to another caller—”

Shit!

“I’m here!” I yell into the receiver. “Sorry, sorry, I’m here!”

“Give us your name, sweetheart!”

“Gemma,” I breathe, my mind spinning. “Gemma Summers.”

“From?”

“Cambridge.”

“Well, Gemma Summers from Cambridge, you’ve just scored two courtside seats to tonight’s playoff game!”

“Ohmigod,” I squeak.

He laughs again. “Yep, the game of the season, tonight at seven at The Garden. We win tonight, we’re going all the way, baby!”

“Thank you,” I finally manage to get out. “Thank you so much.”

“It’s my pleasure, Gemma! We at KXL always take care of our listeners.”

“Yeah,” I agree dumbly, still a little shell-shocked.

I can hear him smiling through the phone when he speaks again. “Tell us — how are you feeling right now, Gemma? Are you a Celtics fan?”

Yikes. I should’ve known this was going to come up.

Truthfully, I hate basketball — almost as much as I hate lying. But, can I admit that on live radio without the entire male population of the greater Boston area wanting to kill me for scoring the much-coveted tickets most of them would sell their souls for?

Probably not.

So, I do what any self-respecting girl does in this situation.

“Oh, huge, huge fan,” I lie through my teeth. “But not as big as my boyfriend.”

“Well, then, he’s probably the luckiest guy in the world right now, assuming he’s your plus-one!” The host chuckles. “You’ll make him a happy man, tonight.”

“I hope so,” I mumble, shaking my head. “If this doesn’t work, nothing will.”

“What was that, Gemma? I couldn’t hear you.”

Shit! Did I say that out loud?

“Oh, nothing!” My cheeks flame. “Just, thank you so much, he’s going to be so excited!”

I think.

I hope.

I pray.

Because, seriously — if this doesn’t make him happy, I’m pretty sure nothing I ever do will.

Chapter Two

Gemma-Logic

Ralph is happy.

It’s almost weird to witness. I’m so used to seeing him look at me with that expression of half-indifference, half-frustration on his face, I’m having trouble processing the fact that he’s actually smiling at me. With teeth. For the