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I stared at Leon Richards the entire class period. The. Entire. Class. Period.
He had a gorgeously tanned face and his arms were extremely chiseled. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him once. I placed my elbow on top of my desk, my palm under my chin, and allowed my eyes to enjoy the magic of real men. But every so often, he would sense a pair of eyes staring at him and he would turn to look at me. Whenever that chance occurred, I gave him a flirty smile and a twinkly wave of the fingers. Then he would grin back and return to taking notes of Miss Mack’s lecture about the Revolutionary War. What a brain he had . . .
“I love you, sweetums,” I whispered under my breath. “With a burning passion.”
Our history class was the last period of the day. I usually spent that time staring at him or writing my first name along with his last name in my special green notebook. It was good practice for when we were married. I already planned for us to live in Wisconsin and have three kids. I didn’t want four (too big) and I didn’t want two (too small). Three was my lucky number and if Leon had a problem with that, he would have to buy me a 4k-diamond bracelet.
The first time I met this heavenly creature was in September. I moved to this district on the very first day of our junior year. I had gone through the school day with ease, making new friends and anticipated boyfriends at every turn. I had already assembled a small clique for me to exclusively run and began the maintenance of being the most popular (and most attractive) girl in the entire school. It was just like my old high school. I was able to take over the entire place in a blink of an eye.
But at the end of that day, I entered my history class and saw a magnificent looking man (yes, he was 18) sitting in my seat. I already decided I was going to sit in the middle of the classroom, but Leon (as I would learn) had unknowingly planted himself there instead. Being the assertive girl that I am, I told him to, “Move your butt somewhere else.”
He looked at me in shock and removed his backpack and books from my seat. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I thought this was a free country.”
“It is,” I replied. “But I pay for it. That’s why it’s free. Thaaaaank you.” I dropped my $500.92 backpack on the floor and settled myself on the seat. I had folded my hands together on the desk and looked at him with an amused expression. His eyes had glinted like bright stars and he smelled better than any cologne sample I could find at the mall. Now this was the man I planned to marry. But sadly, ever since the day we’d met, it hadn’t gotten any farther. It was now the last period before winter break in our senior year and he still hadn’t asked me out. But that would change after I finally revealed my true feelings for him. I prayed that I didn’t get tired of him once he confessed his undying love for me soon after we would have our first date. Then I would have to break up with him like the other countless relationships I’ve had with other guys.
As soon as our history class was over, I darted past other students and ran over to Leon. I smacked my hand on his desk while he was hunched over his backpack. The loud sound scared him and he looked up at me in surprise.
“Oh. Hey, Megan. What do you need?” he asked. His brown eyes shined with gold specks as the fluorescent lights of the classroom beamed on him.
“What do I need, silly? I need you and me together.” I poked him in the shoulder and wiggled my eyebrows. “Because I know we were meant to be. I’ve had my eye on you for a long time and I think it would be good for you to date me. A guy like you needs a gorgeous girl on his arm, specifically moi.”
Leon laughed. “That’s cute, Megan, but I’d rather we stayed friends.”
“And I heard you have a tendency to break up with guys after a few days. I’m into long-lasting relationships so we’d be much better as friends. Don’t get me wrong because I think you’re very pretty, but I also have a crush on someone else in school.”
Ouch. That was a cold fish-slap to the face.
“I never knew there was someone in this school that was more gorgeous than me. I have to say that I’m . . . absolutely shocked!” I forced a fake beam on my appalled face as his news became more and more clear. And I thought that all the times we’d been flirting, we were actually becoming an item. Instead, I was just a sad friend that had a crush on a boy that would never become hers. I was going to destroy whoever this other girl was.
“Who’s the special lady? I’m sure she’s . . . a real dog.” My freshly manicured nails tapped rhythmically on his desk. “In a good way.”
“Her name’s Amy O’Brien. She’s really smart and kind. You might know her. She talks about you sometimes.”
He was IN LOVE with LAME AMY? What had the world come to? She was the only girl in school that didn’t wear little skirts or lipstick. She acted as if she was a saint and tried to convince everyone around her that they should treat themselves with self-respect. All the students thought she was a joke, and it was surprising that a popular guy like Leon would find some interest in her. It was even more surprising that a guy like Leon would choose a girl like her when he knew that there was a stunning girl like me still single (by choice).
“How can you like her?! She is such a . . .” Leon looked at me expectantly. “A fairy princess. She’s absolutely amazing! Fantastic! I hope the both of you go to h– whoops! There’s the bell. I guess I better go.” I made a 180 degree turn and walked away from him with rigid strides. That little . . .
“I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings. I’m sure you have plenty of guys just begging to have a date with you. My friends are always asking for your number,” Leon reassured.
I picked up my backpack and quickly headed to the doorway. “Why don’t you just be a good boy and break someone else’s heart?” I opened the door and took one last look at him. He looked soooo cute in that blue polo. I loved the way you could almost see his six-pack – NO! He was now over with. Done for. “Oh, and have a good break, Miss Mack. But you really shouldn’t be listening in on other people’s private conversations.”
Miss Mack turned away from the whiteboard and stared at me with a confused look. She stopped erasing her notes. “What are you talking . . .?”
“Oh, you know perfectly well what I’m talking about!” I slammed the door behind me and left two clueless people in the classroom. Brenda and Sammy were waiting right outside the door for me.
“We already went to our lockers, Meg. Let’s just go to your locker and then head out to the parking lot. My dad’s waiting in the Mercedes. I can’t wait for all of us to head over to the airport and start our vacation of shopping and boys in Monte Carlo!” Brenda squealed.
Oh, how nice it was to live as rich people.
“I can’t leave the school until I find Lame Amy,” I told Brenda. “Where is that bloodsucking jerk wad of a . . .”
“Whoa, Megan, calm it down.” Brenda smacked on her gum and stared at herself in the window of Miss Mack’s classroom. “Oh my gosh. I look so pretty.”
“Sammy, get her for me right now. I can’t risk breaking one of my heels. If you don’t bring her to me immediately, that mascara of yours won’t be the only thing that’s clumped,” I commanded. Sammy twirled her straight blond hair around her index finger and looked at me with fear. She continued to stand there until my simple words finally made sense to her stupid mind.
“Oh, yeah. I’ll get her for you right now, Megan, but I hope you realize that Brenda is standing right beside you. You can shake her if you want her to look up.” Sammy cocked her head to the side and looked at me with more anxiety. She turned to Brenda and shook her shoulders. “B, Meg wants you. And, like, pronto.”
“Sammy. Get . . . AMY . . . and bring her . . . here,” I said, enunciating every word to get through to the brainless human.
“Oh, sure. Definitely. Sorry.” She darted away from us and weaved between the people in the crowded hallway.
I pressed my back against the wall of lockers and blew my bangs out of my face. I could feel that horrible sense of exhaustion start to overcome me as the hallways became more and more filled. The annoying sounds of excited teenagers getting ready for winter break packed the corridors as we all got ready to leave the school campus. With all these people, it would be hard enough to find an elephant, let alone a petite girl. But it didn’t matter how long it took to find Amy. I was going to find her before we all left.
“Why do you have to find her now?” Brenda asked me suddenly. I stood back up and looked at her. “I mean, you could always wait until we came back.”
“I don’t want to wait until then. I need to have a little discussion with her, just the two of us. She took something of mine that I loved with all my heart and I want her to realize that I completely hate her for doing so . . .” I trailed off as I stared intently at passing students. Many of them called out to me saying that they would miss me during break, wished they could own my new Coco Chanel purse, or desperately wanted my phone number. The other students just darted right by me without saying a word, probably out of terror.
Renee Galevro popped her head out of the sea of people and smiled as she neared us. “Hey, Megan. Hey, Brenda. So where are you two popular ladies headed for this winter break? I’m guessing somewhere that Daddy will spend a lot of money? Am I right?” She snorted loudly and placed her hand on her stomach as she laughed.
Brenda looked at me with a pained expression. “Get this freak away from us,” she mouthed.
“Hey, Renee,” I blurted out.
“What do you need, sweet pea?” Renee snorted again. “That was funny because it rhymed!”
“I need you to do me a gigantic favor. It would seriously make my life, no – actually everyone’s lives, a whole lot better.”
“What do you want me to do?”
Brenda and I laughed and mimicked Renee’s snort. Renee looked like she was about crumple up and die. Tears welled up in her eyes and threatened to pour down her face any moment. “Have a nice break, you guys,” she whispered, barely audible over our loud laughter. She ran away from us before we could see the tears rush down her face. One dork down, another one to go before Monte Carlo.
I stomped my high heels on the ground and let out a frustrated groan. “How long does it take to find one small girl? It’s not like I’m asking Sammy to find a needle in a haystack.”
“There she is,” Brenda said. She pointed to a small, skinny girl in a T-shirt and jeans down the hall. The girl pushed her glasses higher up on her nose and looked at the teenage girls around her with disdain. She started to make conversation with one of them and kept gesturing to the girl’s skimpy shirt and her own clothes.
Yep, that was Lame Amy.
As I came towards her, I could hear her passionately comment to her listener, “How do you expect any guy to respect you if you wear a shirt that has such a plunging, tight neckline? The guy won’t care about you at all. He’ll only be thinking about the deep neckline and what might happen if you bend over. As a respectable lady, take pride in yourself. True beauty comes from the inside out. I’ve seen you in class and you are very, very smart. Let your intelligence win over the guy of your choice. It will pay off, trust me.” Amy smiled and patted the girl’s shoulder.
“Well, I never thought about it that way. Maybe you’re right,” the girl replied. She buttoned her wool jacket over the shirt and she tightly wrapped her arms around her ample chest. The girl left with her friend down the hallway.
“No guy is going to even look your way if you don’t have the goods, sweethearts! Don’t listen to Amy. Guys like girls who know they’ve got hot bodies!” I screamed at them. I motioned to my own white lace corset blouse and low rise skinny jeans. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Amy asked me. “I was trying to teach them something.”
“High school girls don’t need to know how to dress modestly, Amy. They need to know how to get guys.” I wrapped an arm around her neck and dragged her down the hallway towards my locker. Brenda closely followed and Sammy reappeared, doing the same. The hallways were nearly empty with all the buses full of students gone.
“I’m almost positive that most girls would rather spend their time with a guy who cares about them, not their bodies. But I’m sure you want to be the exception, Megan.”
What a brat.
“I heard Leon really likes you, Amy. I’m happy for you. I used to like him, but I just realized a couple of weeks ago that he’s a real dork. A total nerd, geek, bore, drip, AND a freak.” We came to my locker. “But I hope that you guys have a great relationship.”
“Wait, how does Leon like Amy and not Megan? She must feel like crying right now,” I heard Brenda whisper to Sammy. Why couldn’t they just shut up for once?
“Thanks,” Amy replied. “He’s actually taking me to his family’s cabin in the Poconos over winter break. We’ll be having A LOT of fun together. What will you be doing?”
“I’ll be spending my time in South Africa. I’m going to be helping impoverished kids.” I turned away from Amy and did my combination lock. I had a feeling my vacation sounded more fake than Sammy’s nose.
“Wow, that sounds . . . unbelievable. But I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun doing some charity work. I highly recommend it. I’ve gone to Africa every summer with my dad since I was ten to help out. Whenever I go, I feel like I’m really making a difference in the world. It’s an amazing feeling.”
I opened my locker. “That sounds great. Good for you, Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. Now get in here.”
I grabbed Amy’s shoulders and pushed her tiny frame into the large locker. “Help me, you guys!” I screamed at Brenda and Sammy. They hesitated, but finally helped me push her into the tight space.
“What do you guys think you’re doing?! You can’t do this!” Amy shouted at us. Her entire body looked uncomfortably scrunched.
“Oh, just watch me. Next time, you’ll remember not to take a guy I like from me.” I slammed the locker door in her face and put the combination lock in the handle. Pretending to dust off my hands, I looked at my friends. We all laughed and picked our backpacks up from the floor.
“I never took anyone from anybody! Someone please help me!” Amy yelled through the locker. “Someone! Please help! I don’t want to stay here forever!”
The entire school was deserted by now. All the teachers had rushed back to their homes and all of the students were gone. The only people left in the school were the janitors and the principal, but they were all on the other side of campus. If anyone was going to save her, it would take at least an hour and by then she would learn her lesson: No one takes a guy from Megan Syers. No one.
“Have fun!” my friends and I shouted to Amy over our shoulders. We laughed again and turned the corner leading to the school parking lot. I could see Brenda’s dad waiting impatiently in his shiny car.
“Megan!” someone called out from behind me. I turned around and saw Leon. He looked extremely angry and his face was bright red. Oh dear . . .
“I want you to open your locker right now and let Amy out,” he commanded me.
“Of course I will!” I said. “It was just a joke between friends.” I laughed weakly and ran past Leon. This was not going to end lightly.
Everyone crowded behind me as I quickly turned my combination to the right numbers. I burst open the locker door to reveal a very shaken and frightened Amy. Leon pushed us out of the way and pulled her out of the locker.
“Oh, Amy. Are you alright?” he asked with compassion.
“Yeah, I’m fine now that I’m out of there. I thought things like that only happened in stories.” Amy pushed herself away from Leon and looked at me. “Megan, I forgive you for doing this to me. You aren’t a bad person, but you should learn that being mean doesn’t get you anywhere in life. Even if you just say a simple catty statement to your friend or you do something horrible to someone you don’t like, it makes your heart grow cold. I’ve helped out in nursing homes and I’ve seen where mean people end up. They have no one to care for them and they look so alone. I don’t want that same thing to happen to you. Remember that true beauty doesn’t go from the outside in. It comes from the inside. And by that time, it doesn’t matter whether you’re beautiful on the surface. Because you’ll already be any boy’s dream. Have a good break.”
Amy took Leon’s arm and wrapped it around her shoulder. Leon took both of their backpacks and headed out towards the school exits. I stood there in shock as they smiled at each other, acting as if they were the happiest people in the world. I wondered what that felt like.
Amy’s words painfully sunk in as I fell back onto my locker. My eyes never left the couple. I could hear Brenda and Sammy call out my name, asking what we should do, but I couldn’t respond. I looked at Amy in a new light. All this time, I thought that she was going to live alone. I thought that she was going to end up the woman in the nursing home that had no one to care for her. But looking at her now, I could see the sun radiating on her hair with a golden halo once they got outside. She seemed to be filled with optimism. Leon looked at her as if she was the only person on Earth who mattered. Even I had to admit that she looked beautiful. She wasn’t as pretty as me, but she had a sense of love and respect for all people on Earth. And no matter how old her skin became or how saggy her body developed once she was older, that quality of love would never leave her and would make her beautiful no matter how fast the trends changed.
Taking one last look at her before she entered the car with the guy who was supposed to be my future husband, I realized it didn’t matter if your lipstick was perfectly applied or if you had every guy’s phone number. All that mattered was one thing:
If someone couldn’t look at you, but was able to hear what you’d done for others, would they consider you beautiful?