Lily says my dream girl is a total snob. She says Stacey Peaks doesn’t know I exist. I disagree. I mean, yeah, I might only exist in the way a piece of furniture exists in the corner of a room–something to take up space in the backdrop to Stacey’s life–but hey, I’m there.
Stacey sits in the third row from the window, two seats in front of me. She wears preppy pink or purple collared shirts that set against her tan arms and make me think of tennis courts or golf or horse racing or whatever it is rich people do all summer. She runs her fingers through her silky hair the way one might in a shampoo commercial. Her long legs scream at me every time she crosses them, so that quizzes are flunked and periodic tables are jumbled.
Three weeks ago she smiled at me, I think. At least she smiled as her eyes happened to meet my gaze when we were coming into class. The spray of freckles across her nose blurred and I walked into a desk. I dream about that smile almost every night.
Aloof, maybe. But not a snob. Stacey is above the crude jokes and the boys who sit in her orbit. The girls too. In the hallways she glides along, a book or two in her hand, talking to boys with blonde curls and big smiles. I do not have blonde curls. My smile is crooked. I once spent a summer trying to bend it into place until Lily said it was time to have a serious talk about Tourette’s Syndrome. I still don’t know if she was joking.
But we’re sophomores now. I’ve grown three inches since last year. And unlike Lily I have a plan. I put it to action the next morning as I wake up, grab a bowl of cereal, feed my dog Ray, then my little brother Harry, and draft our a good old fashioned letter—Lily is always going on about the lost art of handwriting.
You probably don’t know me…
You are the most beautiful…
At night the words come to me. The thoughts too. I give Stacey a letter and she’s swept up with my charm and the next thing I know the whole school is talking about us. We’re going to Homecoming. She treats me to the country club and I finally see what’s behind those stately wooden doors. And no one is smoking a pipe, like Lily is always claiming.
I bang out some okay prose before Harry asks what I’m doing. I tell him to be quiet. He sees the name Stacey and that’s that.
“Who is Stacey?” Mom wants to know. She’s got her eyebrows cocked and a mortifying smile on her face. My cheeks go hot and I fold up the letter. Harry goes on about Stacey. Stacey. Stacey. Mom finally gets it and tells him to shush.
I get off the bus full of shame and embarrassment. At my locker, I realize I have cereal dribble shirt.
I spin and find Lily, her stuffed book-bag like an anvil on her back. I wipe down my shirt and nod. “Hey Lil.”
“Please tell me you caught up on Spy Spinners last night?”
I grab my chemistry book and slam my locker shut. “Yeah, no, I’m uh,” I glance down the hallway. Today was supposed to be the day but my confidence is shot. What would I say, anyway? A girl like Stacey isn’t going to want my stupid letter. And she’s never going to talk to me. No girl is.
Lily hunches her shoulders, shifts her book-bag in place. “Ugh, you need to get on it so we can watch the new ones. Actually, I may have peeked already, as in watched them all. But I mean, it’s not my fault you’re lame. You can’t expect me to wait around for you to catch up. So anyway, so, Darius had this mission and…”
The deal was that we have to watch the new shows together, but I’ve been preoccupied. We walk down the hallway, like we always do, Lilly jabbering on with the recap. I’m hardly listening, still trying to drum up some courage when she waves her hands in front of me. “Josh. Earth to Josh.”
I turn and look at Lily. She glances at the floor and then reaches into her pocket.
“Hey, um… if you really want Stacey’s attention,” she looks around, then bites her lip the way she does when she’s up on the high dive at the pool. Her eyes are wide and something is different. I think she’s wearing mascara. She thrusts a note into my palm. “Give her something like this.”
The bell rings and Lily blows out her bangs and starts to say something else but doesn’t. Then she blurts it out. “Just, just use her name where I used your name. You know, just, okay bye.”
She turns and nearly sprints down the hall, her anvil bouncing on her back. And I’m left with her note, still warm in my hand, when Stacey Peaks walks past me, sets a hand on my shoulder, those freckles blurring.
“I think she likes you, Josh.”