I started kissing frogs when I was five. I stopped kissing them when I realized that if I ever found an enchanted prince he’d probably be just like other guys, a toad without charm __ unless you look like a cheerleader.
I don’t. Not even close. It’s not that I’m so ugly that I make people pass out or throw up when they see me, it’s just that I don’t have a tiny waist and long legs that look cute in a short skirt. Plus, I don’t have long blond hair. Mine’s curly, copper-colored and short.
I thought there were two exceptions at Springdale High to the guy-toad rule. One, Colby Peterson, the editor of the school newspaper. He’s also my best friend, which doesn’t make him my boyfriend. The other is Marc Adams. Sigh. I dream of him every night. Even though Marc’s popular, he’s nice to me. We live on the same street and sometimes we walk to school together.
Three months ago something happened that changed everything.
It was lunchtime. I sat on a sturdy wooden crate behind the thick hedge that grows next to the brick wall on the south side of the high school. Totally minding my own business. I had serious work to do. The school paper’s deadline for the ASK AMY column was Friday. I still hadn’t gotten around to reading the letters, let alone giving my sage advice. So I was totally focused on the task.
By the way, my name isn’t Amy. It’s Jennifer. Jennifer Wallace. My friends call me Jen. I live with my Aunt Laura and Uncle John in Springdale, a medium sized town in Northern California. No one at school knows I’m the voice behind the most popular column in the school paper.
The first letter read:
I have a serious problem. I’m in love with a senior girl. I really want to ask her out, but I’m afraid she will laugh at me because I am in the ninth grade. What can I do?
Terrified, But Love-Struck
I popped my gum and scribbled a quick reply in green ink on a yellow legal pad.
It sounds like you don’t really want to be in a relationship, or you’d go after someone closer to your own age. That, or you think a senior girl would be more experienced. Either way, you sound like a typical guy, more concerned about yourself and how you’d look. Think of how the girl would look dating a loser like you. Seeing that you are a loser, why not go on and ask her out? If she says no, you’re still the same person. If she says yes, well you can see yourself as a winner -- the hormone hero of the freshman class. Just remember to brush your teeth and wear deodorant on your first date.
I shook my head and drew a line through most of what I’d written. It was too cruel, even for me. I salvaged what I could and rewrote it.
It sounds like you might be afraid of a relationship, or you’d go after someone closer to your own age. But if it’s true love, why not ask her out? If she says no, you’re still the same person and you haven’t lost anything. If she says yes, at least you have a chance to get to know her better. Either way, treat her like a princess.
I’d started on the next ASK AMY letter when two guys plopped down on the bench in front of my hideout. It’s not my fault they didn’t know I was there.
“Hey, Brian, what’s new?”
I recognized the voice. I’d lain awake nights and imagined it whispering, “I love you,” to me a million times. Marc Adams. Just hearing his voice washed my skin in tingles. I’m not the only girl at Springdale High School to crush on him.
I leaned forward and with both hands spread the stiff branches apart until I had a hole large enough to see the backs of their heads. I don’t know Brian very well, but he’s Marc’s best friend. His was the other voice.
“So what did you want to show me?” Marc asked.
Brian answered in his low southern drawl, “This.” He handed Marc a sheet of yellow lined paper. “It was shoved in my locker during first period.”
“Who’d write something like this? What are you going to do?”
Brian’s massive shoulders shrugged. “Don’t know.”
“It’s ancient history. No one would care.”
“I do. I wonder what they want.”
“The note writer.”
“Probably just to embarrass you. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
“Easy for you to say. It’s not your rep on the line. Hey, just forget it.” He crumpled the paper and shoved it in his pocket. “Let’s talk about something else, like why your pic’s been in the last four issues of the Wildcat Yowler.” He jabbed Marc in the ribs. “I’d say Jennifer Wallace has the hots for you.”
My face felt like Brian had blasted it with a blowtorch. I didn’t think anyone knew about my crush on Marc. How had Brian figured it out? He seemed only interested in cars, football and cheerleaders.
I bit my lip. What was Marc going to say to that? Was it possible he had a thing for me? Or . . . I held my breath in anticipation. His answer had the power to change my life forever and ever. And ever. Even more scary was that they might discover me hiding in the bushes.