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The Art of (Not) Being a Stalker
Sometimes, I wished I could get a bunch of tacks, a ridiculous amount of poster paint markers (neon, too), and a very large poster board so that I could get this message across to the student body of Jackson High School: Samantha Greenhill is not—and never will be—a stalker. And she is most definitely not attracted to Jake Montgomery and his abominably shaggy hair and green eyes.
I stabbed my fork into my school-issued lasagna to emphasize this point, managing to poke a hole through the Styrofoam tray. Cindy began to laugh, but after getting the evil eye, she covered her mouth to muffle it. It was official: not only was I a lovesick fool, but I was also next on the hit list of Styrofoam trays everywhere.
I’d known Jake since elementary school, when he became that boy I was friends with but not best friends (because of cooties). It wasn’t until last year that I had noticed my old friend had turned into a very fine male specimen.
Cindy had a way of pointing out the obvious. “You know, you could just talk to him.”
Step one of being an effective non-stalker? Never, ever let your target know your interest in him.
I resisted the urge to stab my tray some more. With my luck, the sauce that had been spread liberally on the lasagna was already leaking through the small hole. “No, Cindy. If I did that, he’d know,” I said slowly, urging her to understand.
“Would that be so bad? Him finding out might be able to end this ridiculous obsession you’ve had for years,” she exclaimed. I put a finger over my lips, indicating that she should keep the noise level down. Instead, she just raised her voice higher. “The whole school knows it. Is it really that hard to admit to yourself that you’re practically stalking—“
I covered her mouth to prevent her from saying any more. We had already gained the attention of a nearby table. When I was sure that she was going to stay quiet, I removed my hand. She immediately grabbed a napkin off my tray and practically attacked her mouth with it. “Couldn’t you have wiped your hand before you did that?” she said with disgust.
In other circumstances, I may have felt bad for her, but after hearing her almost blurt out my secret to the world, I was ready to throttle her.
Step two: Try to avoid telling your friends as many of your non-stalking habits as possible. They’ll inevitably blurt them out in a fit of pique.
“Sorry,” I mumbled insincerely. I decided that it was safe to steal another glance at Jake. Cindy must not have been as preoccupied as I thought she was because she poked me immediately.
“Don’t you stalk him enough already?” She made a face. Knowing where he was at all times didn’t constitute stalking…
Step three: His school schedule is now your schedule. Memorize it, breathe it, live it. I had spent a day figuring out his classes and coordinating my own routes around the school to coincide with his. The few times I’d managed to get his attention, he had barely given me a nod before turning back to talk to his friends.
Jake definitely had ways of making a girl feel loved.
But no worries. I knew every major event that happened in his life anyway.
Step four: Online social networking sites are your best friends. Looking up information on him isn't a sign of obsession—it’s merely a precautionary measure to make sure he isn't creepy.
Cindy took one of my cookies, and I figured that I could consider it compensation for getting sauce all over her face. Before she bit into it, something occurred to her. “Where’s that notebook you always carry around whenever you feel like writing about your nonexistent torrid love affair with Jake? I haven’t seen it all day.”
Step five: Non-staking isn’t official until you have documentation for it. I shrugged off her comment, something I’d learned to be very good at when being friends with Cindy—she shot down my hopes and dreams constantly. “It’s right here, of course.” I felt around for it at the bottom of the stack of books I always carried around. The Mead notebook had been used so many times that I could automatically tell the difference between it and my other notebooks.
But wasn’t there.
Resisting the urge to curse loudly, I lifted my large blue binder to see if it was lying underneath, but the only thing beneath the binder was the hard wood of the table.
I was officially screwed.
It wasn’t like I had written “Mrs. Samantha Montgomery” all over that notebook. It was a poetry notebook—used whenever inspiration struck me. It just happened to be that inspiration usually struck me while staring at Jake. Though it would probably take an outsider quite some time to realize the subject of my poems, I had no doubt that their subject would take considerably less time to figure out that I was certifiably insane. I needed that notebook back. I tugged on my hair, trying to remember where I had seen it last. I definitely had it before Chemistry, which was the only class I shared with Jake…
And suddenly, I heard something above my panic. “Hey, Samantha! You left something in Chem.”
Ah, hell no.
Jake’s should-be-illegal long legs carried him over to my table. I saw that his friends had identical looks of confusion on their faces. He grinned and waved my notebook in my face. “Looking for this?”
I glared. “Give it back!” I demanded. I reached up, attempting to snatch my notebook from his hands, but Jake only smirked at me. Cindy snorted in disgust at my antics. I crossed my arms over my chest. “You are so infuriating.” I tried to sound just angry enough while I was nearly hyperventilating on the inside. I didn’t want to think about the consequences of him opening that notebook.
Step six (the step I hadn’t quite mastered yet): Hide any incriminating evidence well.
“But you still love me, right?” he teased. You have no idea. He threw himself into the empty seat next to me, holding the notebook on his other side, out of my reach. He looked down my tray and raised his eyebrows. “You know, your tray is leaking.”
I gritted my teeth. “I know.”
“Why did you poke a hole in a tray? What did it ever do to you?” He took the tray from its spot in front of me, lifting it slightly. He quickly set it down in disgust after seeing the puddle of sauce underneath.
“I didn’t mean to.” I gathered all of my courage. “Look, don’t you have anything better to do than to torture helpless girls by not giving them personal property back?”
He had the decency to look sheepish. “Wow, how mad are you?” He began tapping his foot, a habit of his I had never managed to understand.
“Pretty freaking mad.”
Jake winced. “How much madder will you be if I told you I may have glanced at it a little?”
I repeat: ah, hell no.
Cindy had always said that I had a tendency to freak out before I knew all the facts. I knew this situation would turn out badly if I couldn’t keep control of myself.
Step seven: When it all blows up in your face, have some excuses ready.
“Look—I can explain,” I began. Excuses—most of them completely unrealistic, ranging from my body being taken over by aliens to vampires taking my soul—ran through my mind. I prepared to ask my parents to move us far, far away.
Jake interrupted me. “Before you start making up excuses I won’t believe anyway, you should know something.”
“What?” I asked, mortified. Did he hate me now? Wanted to put a restraining order on me?
“Maybe you’re not as observant as you thought you were.” He looked like he was about to laugh. “Here.” He reached into the pocket of his Stanford hoodie and pulled out a seemingly innocent, folded piece of paper. Jake threw it at me. On instinct, I grabbed it before it reached the ground.
“What is it?” I asked warily.
Jake nodded at the little crumpled-up piece of paper, signaling me to open it. I began unfolding it with trepidation. I almost didn’t want to know what was on the paper, at least not when he was still there to see my reaction, but almost against my will, I opened it anyway.
On it was a creased school map, only with different-colored markings all over it. I stared at it in confusion until I realized that those marking were—
“I marked all the hallways I usually take in red. Alternate routes are in blue,” he explained. I could hear the undercurrent of amusement in his voice. “Thought I’d make your stalking experience easier. You got my route from 5th to 6th periods wrong, by the way.”
Mortification spread through me. “You—you noticed?” I sputtered.
“I don’t think anyone didn’t notice.” He shrugged.
My face began to burn in anger and embarrassment. I couldn’t meet his gaze. “I know this is a joke to you, but could you please not mess around with me like that?”
His voice turns indignant. “Who said I was messing around?”
I nearly shrieked. “You just made fun of my ridiculous obsession with you!” I buried my face in my hands. “Can you please just go away and forget about this incident?” I said quietly. Timbuktu, here I come. I began to count down the seconds until I could check to see if he was gone. 60, 59, 58…
To my surprise, I felt two warm hands removing my hands from my face. I let him do it, wondering where it would lead. He put a finger under my chin, and my eyes widened to an unattractive size.
And in front of Cindy the cynic, his wolf-whistling friends in the distance, and the entire cafeteria, he tilted my head up and planted a kiss straight on my lips.
Step eight: Make out in front of people who really didn’t need PDA to ruin their lunch, get yelled at by a crabby teacher, and find out that the principal had actually been making bets with other teachers on how long it would take you two to hook up.
Maybe not being a stalker had its perks after all.