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Jess was walking on air for the whole day. As she took a seat in her Language Arts class she remembered what had happened just a few moments ago. She had been opening her locker when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see Zach Fletcher towering over her. Zach Fletcher was the star pitcher for the Varsity baseball team. He was at least a head taller than Jess, which made her look up if she wanted to see his eyes. His eyes were a deep blue and easy to get lost in. “So…” he had said “what’s up?”
Jess’s heart had begun to beat faster. “Nothing. What about you? ”
Well, I don’t have a date to the Homecoming yet and… I was wondering if maybe you wanted to go with me.”
Jess had been crushing on Zach since fifth grade, so when he asked her out it took all of her strength not to faint right then and there.
“I-I would…y-yeah sure,” she stammered.
Zach smiled and walked away.
“Jessica! I’ve asked you three times now! What is the main conflict in this story?”
Her teacher’s voice jarred her out of her daydream. She quickly glanced at the book on her desk. The cover read A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.
“Well, everyone falls in love with the wrong person,” Jess stated.
“That’s right. Thank you, Jess, for returning to Earth.”
The class continued and as they read the play, Jess couldn’t help but think that her love life was going a lot better than these people’s.
By dismissal, word had gotten out that Jess was going to go to Homecoming with Zach Fletcher. There were only a few people in the school who were not happy about the news; the girls who liked Zach, and Ryan Anderson. Ryan Anderson had dark brown hair and stormy gray eyes. He was almost as tall as Zach and played center field for the JV baseball team. Ryan was Jess’s best friend, but he had liked her since elementary school. When he found out that Jess was going out with Zach, his heart dropped and his temper rose. He couldn’t believe just how clueless Jess was. He couldn’t even stand to talk to Jess anymore…so he didn’t.
Jess couldn’t believe it! All of a sudden Ryan just stopped talking to her! Ever since yesterday, when Zach asked her out, he wouldn’t say a single word to her. She was about to go talk to Ryan when a group of Zach’s friends swarmed her and steered her over to their lunch table. The lunch table. She was going to eat lunch with the most popular people in school. Suddenly, every thought of Ryan flew out of her head. So did everything else. She got a D on her math test and accidentally stood up her other friend, Cassidy for Becca Malone, the head cheerleader. One day, as Jess was rushing out of science class, Ryan stopped her.
“What is the matter with you?” He snapped.
“What are you talking about? I’m not the one who is suddenly mute,” she tossed back.
“All you can think about lately is Zach Fletcher and being Miss Popularity,” he accused “and we’re sick of it….I’m sick of it.”
Jess opened her mouth to talk but nothing came out.
“You know, someday you’ll find out exactly who Zach Fletcher really is and you’ll regret ever going out with him.”
With that, Ryan stormed out of the room and left Jess standing there, open-mouthed.
Unfortunately, Jess and Ryan were lab partners and their chemistry teacher considered lab partners a permanent matter. So the next day, Jess found herself silently mixing chemicals, standing next to Ryan Anderson, who looked just as uncomfortable. Finally, she got up and went to collect more materials as an excuse to get away from the awkwardness. Little did Jess know that that was her biggest mistake.
Pete was what you would call “weird” He was short and had a mop of curly red hair on top of his head. He was covered in freckles and always had that look on his face like he was going to pick-pocket you or put something down your shirt. Pete was also special and a way no one knew about and when he saw Jess walk away he knew that was his opportunity to take action. He reached over and grabbed Jess’s water bottle off her desk. He put a few drops of the chemical in his beaker in Jess’s water bottle and placed it right back onto her desk. Jess didn’t suspect a thing as she took a drink of water, but seconds later she started to feel dizzy. The room was spinning and she felt like she was going to pass out, and before she could say anything, she did.
Jess’s eyes fluttered open. The gleam of florescent lights above her made her squint. She realized that she was in the nurse’s office and that she had a massive headache. She looked across the room and saw Ryan sitting on a plastic stool with a worried expression on his face. “What happened?” Jess asked.
Ryan looked up, his face flushed with relief. “You just blacked out during the lab. Mr. Johnson panicked and told me to take you to the nurse and then he started hyperventilating. He’s outside taking puffs from his inhaler,” Ryan stated as he pointed towards the door.
“Oh, okay. Thanks for, uh, bringing me.”
Jess felt awkward, flushed, and insecure. Her heart was beating rapidly and she seemed to keep getting lost in Ryan’s eyes. They were dark gray… like storm clouds. It wasn’t until they were walking back to class that a frightening realization washed over her. She was feeling around Ryan the same way she would normally feel around Zach. That could only mean one thing … she was falling in love with Ryan.
Jess went home that day feeling as confused as ever. As she unlocked her front door she thought about how random her feelings for Ryan were. She dragged herself upstairs to her room and collapsed on her soft bed. The more she thought about it, though, the worse her migraine became. Ryan had always been her best friend (until recently) and that was it. So why was she feeling this way now? Then there was Zach to think about. How could she go to Homecoming with him if she liked Ryan? Across her room A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream was open on her desk. She now understood what those characters were going through. The only thing Jess was positive of at that moment was that for some strange reason she was madly in love with Ryan Anderson.
The following day, her headache subsided a bit but Jess’s heart still pounded every time she spotted Ryan in the halls. Later that day, Jess ran around the track for her entire gym period, hoping that exercise would clear her thoughts (and feelings) but all it did was make her legs sore and bring her dangerously close to dehydration. After class, she limped over to the vending machine to buy a bottle of water. She shoved a quarter into the cheap machine but nothing came out. Just as she was about to waste 25 cents more, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see Pete holding up a refreshing water bottle. Maybe Jess was just so thirsty that she didn’t notice the smirk on Pete’s face. Or maybe she was so desperate for water that she didn’t consider the fact that Pete was virtually a total stranger. Whatever the reason may have been, she took a drink from the water bottle and her head started spinning … again! Then she collapsed onto the floor… again. That was the second time she’d passed out in less than 24 hours!
Jess woke up feeling light-headed, lying on prickly grass in the far corner of the soccer field. “Sorry about that. Fainting is inevitable.”
Jess jumped clear over Pete who was sitting crossed-legged on the grass next to her.
“You scared me!” She exclaimed.
“I know,” Pete replied smugly.
“So … why am I here?”
“Well, I figured I at least owed you and explanation for all that I’ve put you through these past few days.”
“What are you talking about?!”
Pete took a deep breath and started telling the whole story from the very beginning. He began by telling her about the “love position” he put in her water bottle yesterday during chemistry.
“Why would you do something like that?!”
Pete went on to explain that he was curious about a “study” he had been doing and how the drink of water just had reversed the first potion. Pete explained that now she should go back to feeling about Ryan the way she did before.
Jess sat there quietly, processing everything she’d just heard… and it was a lot to process. Finally, she came to a decision. She was going to go to the Homecoming with Zach and that was it. Jess stood up, brushed off her shorts, and walked to her next class.
Jess was awe-struck as she gazed around the transformed gymnasium. Glittery streamers hung from the ceiling and everyone was dressed elegantly. Zach looked as perfect as always. No surprise there. Out of curiosity Jess glanced over at Ryan. He was wearing a black suit with a deep blue dress shirt that complemented his eyes perfectly. He looked… really good.
Across the gym Ryan was looking over at Jess. Her dark brown curls tumbled down her shoulder and her dress was deep purple. Ryan thought she looked amazing.
Jess was feeling flushed again. Her heart was beating fast… again. The potion was supposed to have been reversed! Jess excused herself and ran across the gym. “Pete!” Jess whisper harshly.
Pete jumped. “What!”
“Are you positive that reversal potion worked?” Jess asked
“Yes, I’m positive… and a little offended to.”
Jess sighed. Then why was she feeling this way? Well, Ryan was really nice and sweet but he was more like a friend. He wasn’t popular or male-model material like Zach, though. Ever since middle school, Jess had been drawn to Zach because he was popular…
Snap out of it! Jess thought. You’ve been dreaming about this night for years and now you can even enjoy it.
Jess glanced over to where Zach was standing. He was talking to his friends, laughing about something they’d said. She walked over to him and was about to ask him to dance, when she heard what he was saying.
“I’m telling you, it’ll be over by tonight,” He told one of his friends. “I hear Becca likes me and she’s way better than Jess.”
Becca was the head cheerleader and the likely future Homecoming Queen.
Jess was paralyzed with shock. She couldn’t speak or even walk away. She just stood there with her mouth open, remembering what Ryan had told her just a few days ago.
You know, some day you’ll find out exactly who Zach Fletcher really is and you’ll regret ever going out with him.
He was right. He was right and Jess hadn’t listened to him. She was so caught up in the popularity and that she was going out with the Zach Fletcher, that she hadn’t listened. And he was right.
One of Zach’s friend’s eyes widened as he noticed that Jess had been standing there the whole time, listening to what they were saying. He motioned to Zach to turn around. He turned around and found himself face to face with Jess. His face went pale and he started making excuses but Jess didn’t hear him. She was too busy scanning the room for Ryan.
Those shallow, superficial words she heard had sparked something in Jess’s mind… and heart. She realized that, with Zach, all she would ever get was a few moments of popularity and maybe a broken heart. A few days ago, Jess’s top priority was that popularity but she could see now that popularity wasn’t going to make her happy. Something else was. And that something else was somewhere in that gym, gazing at Jess through stormy gray eyes… and she needed to talk to him.
Jess walked straight up to Ryan, grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the gym, on to the baseball field. They had to talk and Jess didn’t want any nosy girls eavesdropping on their conversation.
“I’m fine, Jess, thanks. Do I mind being dragged out of Homecoming onto an empty baseball field? No, of course not. Thanks for asking.” Ryan remarked sarcastically.
Jess sighed. Then took a deep breath and started talking. “You need to listen to me. I have a lot to say.” Jess told Ryan everything. From the day that Zach asked her out to a few minutes ago, when she’d had her breakthrough.
“Zach may be popular, but he might just be the most superficial person I know.”
Ryan nodded but didn’t say anything. He hadn’t said a word this whole time.
“You were right and I was wrong,” Jess admitted. She took a deep breath. Now came the hard part.
“I… I like you, Ryan. For real. You are sweet, and funny, and kind, and smart and I was so blinded by popularity that I couldn’t see how … how perfect you are… for me.”
Ryan just looked at her with his intense gray eyes. Jess turned around and was about to walk away when Ryan took her hand.
“I like you too, Jess. I have for a really long time,” He said.
Then he pulled her in and hugged her… for a long time. When he finally let go, Jess didn’t want him to. She felt so happy….Happier than she ever would with Zach Fletcher.
A slow song drifted over from the gym.
Ryan smiled. “May I have this dance?”
Jess smiled back. “Of course” .
And they danced, right there in center field, the stars shimmering bright with hope above them.