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I had never really thought about Ted. In class, I really only noticed the extremely bright students (or at least the ones who raised their hands a lot). Ted was something different; he was average.
But Ted had the face of a Greek angel. Through his unkempt hair glowed two wondrously powerful hazel eyes, each defined by a thick eyebrow. I could have sworn his nose and chin were chiseled by some fine ancient god.
I’m sure girls noticed him. If it weren’t for his quiet manner, athletic Ted would have been the epitome of popular. I never really saw him until October started to wean. I think it was in Latin class, and he had made some sort of joke or comment rare to his demeanor that shocked me from my limited view. I started noticing his large doleful eyes and the way a witty quote by our Latin teacher could spark a smile from his lips.
Soon after, class came alive for me. It was a volcano, from which I could not escape but only try to maneuver delicately through. I was always wary of speaking out in class, but now I had become frightened of saying something that might upset Ted. And so I weaved deliberately through my molten lava maze, groping for a path to Ted’s heart, but all the while knowing I was getting more entangled in a pointless game.
The leaves had begun to get brittle and flutter from the stiff branches pointing the way to school. I was deep into the academic year now, juggling a slew of clubs and schoolwork.
Everyone was caught up in the Homecoming season. My friends tried to drag me to the weekly weekend football games, but I always refused, preferring instead my cozy room and catching up on schoolwork. The whirlwind world of fast football crushes did not interest me. I delved deeper into my studies and my friends began to exclude me from group hangouts.
I was used to late nights. A small pot of coffee teetered awkwardly on a pile of old math papers and my shrilling alarm clock was stoutly placed to shock me awake. Even with these barricades, I couldn’t help pointing my browser over to Facebook. Late night studying always irritated my brain, and Facebook was my welcome distraction.
Typically, not much happens for me when I log in. Today, in addition to the usual gathering of invitations to virtual pet adoptions and garden plants, I received a friend request. I groggily clicked on it.
‘Ted Benton’ flashed on my screen. I felt my pulse quicken at the sight of his tiny thumbnail profile picture. I really should not be this excited by Facebook, I thought lamely to myself. I quickly pressed ‘Accept’, and almost immediately a chat box popped open. I had forgotten to go ‘Invisible’ on chat so no one would disturb me while I was cruising online.
I prepared to kill the conversation. In fact, I had enough prior experience to have in account several excuses to go offline, assembled and ready to shoot.
I scanned the chat box, and my heart beat stopped and picked up again a million times faster.
The box blinked ‘Ted Benton’ in bright red text. If I weren’t so sleepy I would have fallen out of my chair.
“How are you,” read the text.
I stretched my fingers nervously, not prepared for this unexpected dialogue.
“Fine,” I typed back, then quickly added “How about you?”
Ted didn’t respond for a long time, and I felt my heart grow smaller. Of course he wouldn’t want to talk to me, the geeky girl from Latin class. In fact he probably meant to talk to someone else, but clicked on my name by accident. That had happened to me once.
When Ted did respond, I could not believe the screen. This time, I nearly did roll off my chair.
There in plain black-and-white text read, “Will you go to Homecoming with me?”
If my friends had not so cruelly excluded me from their social gatherings, perhaps I would have called one of them up that night and blurted out the whole story in the dark safety of my closet. But because they had acted indifferently, I waited until Monday before spilling my exciting news.
I am going to Homecoming with Ted Benton.
I had never thought of going to Homecoming with a guy before, and definitely not with Ted. I had never even bought a ‘Homecoming-appropriate’ dress before.
Right after telling my friends, we planned a huge Homecoming-weekend-shopping-extravaganza. It was going to be better than Football Fridays. I could barely wait for the week to be over.
Homecoming day: my friends were scheduled to meet at my house, do each other’s hair, and take pictures on the staircase, as tradition dictated.
When it was near noon and my friends still had not shown up, I grew nervous and shakily dialed Selena’s number. As I waited for the dial tone to pick up, scenarios flashed through my mind. They could have gotten in a traffic accident; Selena’s mom could have forbidden her to go to Homecoming after the fiasco from last year, or maybe the other girls got too sick from not eating in days.
Whatever it was, Selena finally picked up. I demanded why she hadn’t come yet. At the end of the other line I could make out the noise of squeamish girls. Perhaps they were in the car and took a detour to a Seven Eleven.
“Look, I’m really sorry Jane! I heard all about it,” Selena sounded apologetic.
I snapped back to attention. “What? What are you talking about?”
Selena sounded surprised. “You know, about Ted.”
“What about him?”
“He’s going to Homecoming with Rachael.”
“That’s not true…” I blurted; weak.
“Honey, we can still get ready. I’m in the car with the girls, and we’re coming over.”
“No, it’s okay Selena. I don’t think I’ll be coming anymore…”