It was a completely relaxing weekend and by Sunday night I was mentally prepared for another week of school.  I went to bed Sunday dreaming of the hours I would get to spend in class with Ian, but all of the rest I got over the weekend was completely useless when Monday morning rolled around.

Apparently my stupid alarm clock had been thrown against the wall one too many times and had decided it’d had enough.  A silent sit-in is certainly the best way for an alarm clock to demonstrate its point and I think the clock knew that because on Monday morning it didn’t go off.  My mom came in to check on me thirty minutes before school started and I jumped out of bed in horrified panic.  I scrambled for clothes and jumped into the shower, thanking my lucky stars I didn’t have to worry about dressing out for P.E. until next semester; with no time to shave it was definitely a day for jeans.  I had just enough time to shove all of the homework that lay scattered on my desk and floor into my backpack before I ran out the door, yelling my rushed good-byes through a mouth full of Pop Tart.   I got to school with two minutes to spare and came flying into my German classroom just as the bell was ringing.

Frau Schultz started class with her usual greeting and then she asked for the stories we had written over the weekend.  I was feeling pretty good about mine when I handed it in and was even a little excited when she then announced that each of us would be reading a story, written by one of our classmates, aloud so that we could practice both our speaking the language and our aural comprehension.  I was pretty sure everyone would really like my troll prince story and after listening to a story about a boy who did his homework and another about a girl and her dog, I began to think that mine was really going to be the best in the class.  I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t even notice the first snickers of my classmates.  It wasn’t until Becky, the girl who sat beside me, actually burst into laughter that I realized something was up.  I turned my attention back to the story being read and immediately my stomach sank; someone was reading my letter to Ian!

I sat frozen, in shocked horror as the words I had always dreamed of saying to Ian were read to the class.  I wanted to die!  I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.  I wanted lightning to strike me where I sat.  I wanted to sink into the floor or disappear or wake up and realize that it was only a dream, but I knew that it wasn’t.  I could feel the heat in my face, I could hear the pounding of my heart and I definitely felt the waves of nausea that swirled in my stomach.  There was no way it could be a dream; dreams never felt that awful.

I couldn’t imagine how I had managed to turn in that letter instead of my homework and then it hit me.  I must have shoved it into my backpack with the rest of my homework this morning and then handed it in by mistake.  How stupid could I be?  Of all the things to have read to the class, why did it have to be that letter?

As I wallowed in a mixture of misery and self-degradation, I began to wonder who would actually read my letter to the class when they could see right away what it was and then I wondered why Frau Schultz hadn’t put a stop to it.  It wasn’t like her to let anyone pull a stunt like that one in her class, so why did she have to let it go on now?

A quick look around the room answered both of my questions; Frau Schultz had obviously stepped out of the room while I had been spacing out and Ashley Tucker was the one reading my letter to the class.  Suddenly everything made perfect sense.  Ashley Tucker, the self-proclaimed queen of the senior class, head cheerleader and royal pain in the backside, had been a thorn in my flesh since eighth grade.  For some cosmic, unknown reason, Ashley truly hated me and I had spent the past four years doing my best to evade her.  With nothing but our gender in common, it was easy enough for me to avoid her, once we started high school.  I would have been rid of her completely if fate hadn’t decided to be cruel and put us in the same foreign language class.  For whatever reason, Ashley Tucker had decided that learning German was her one true calling (though I always suspected it had a lot to do with the junior varsity quarterback) and I spent an hour every day trying to ignore the glares and snide remarks of Ashley Tucker.

I had really hoped that once her foreign language requirements had been fulfilled, Ashley would drop German and move on to something else.  But for some unknown reason, she stayed, even after the quarterback left.  As I listened to her giggle her way though my letter, I had a sinking suspicion that I wasn’t the only one in class who found staring at the back of Ian’s head so enjoyable.  The sudden realization that she was after the same guy I was, combined with the fact that she had just humiliated me in front of the entire class, solidified her as my mortal archenemy for life.

Frau Schultz stepped back into the room just as Ashley finished reading my letter and the class burst into peals of laughter.  It was painfully obviously that everyone had been able to translate it.  I wanted to look up, to see how Ian was reacting, but I couldn’t; I couldn’t meet his eyes or the eyes of anyone else in the room.  I was horrified and embarrassed and I spent the rest of the hour staring at my desk, begging the bell to ring.  I vowed my eternal gratitude to the bell gods when the bell rang, allowing me to escape into the crowded hall before I had to read someone else’s story; I didn’t think I would ever be able to stand up in class again…ever.  As I wandered, shocked and mortified down the hall, I wondered if complete humiliation was a good enough excuse for dropping out of school.

Of course I wasn’t the only one to leave class with lightning speed.  When the bell rang, Ian was the first one up and out the door.  I could tell by the way he walked that he was less than thrilled about my little love letter.  For the first time in my life, I dreaded going to a class I shared with Ian, but I had no choice, Biology called and I had to answer.  I trudged towards my next class in complete humiliation, unable to ignore the whispers and giggles that seemed to follow me.  In the semi-safety of the biology room, I sank into my seat, next to Yuuki, and flopped my head onto the table.

“Lyla, what’s wrong?” Yuuki asked, concerned by my theatrics.

“I’m an idiot,” I groaned, as I turned my head to look at her.

“No you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

At that exact moment, Ian stormed into the room, his face the perfect combination of hatred of rage.  He rushed past Yuuki’s and my table, giving me a stare so cold it would have frozen helium.  My stomach flopped and my heart sank as our eyes locked for that one second and then he was gone, taking his seat at the table on the other side of the room, while I was left feeling even worse than before.

“Lyla, what happened?  Why did Ian look at you like that?”

“I told you, because I’m an idiot.”

“What did you do?”

“I did what you told me to,” I sighed, “I wrote him a letter.”

“And he actually read it?”

“Not exactly.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it sort of got read to the entire German IV class.”

“What?” Yuuki cried in sympathetic horror.  “How?”

“I sort of turned in my letter as homework.”

“You did not!”

“Yeah, I did.”

“But all your homework for German has to be written in German, right?  How did you manage to have your letter mistaken for homework?  You didn’t write it in German, did you?”

“Yes,” I moaned, regretting having ever written that stupid letter.

“Why?”

“Because I’d just finished my German homework when I got inspired to write the letter and I guess I had German on the brain.  That and I didn’t want my mom to be able to read it, if she found it in my room.”

“Okay, that makes sense, but why did you bring the letter to school?  You weren’t actually going to give him a love letter written in German, were you?”

“No, I never planned on giving him a letter at all.  I just needed to vent a little and writing a letter seemed like the best way.”

Our conversation was cut off when Mr. Sathers, our biology teacher, started class.  I spent the next hour attempting to focus on the various parts of a cell while the icy stare of Ian kept replaying in my mind.  I wondered if my letter, no matter how embarrassing it had been, really warranted such a cold reaction.  I mean, I’m sure he had been embarrassed by the letter too, but surely it wasn’t that bad.  He might get teased a little by his friends, but I was the one who faced the possibility of being “that girl” for the rest of the year.  By the end of class, I was convinced that my letter had struck some sort of nerve and as a result, Ian now hated me.  There was no other explanation, the look he had given me before class was enough to convince me that he would loathe me for all of eternity.

By lunch everyone in school had heard of the letter and I sulked to my usual table to seek solace among my friends.  Yuuki and Maggie offered me their sympathy and comfort but Mattie had an entirely different reaction.

“Lyla!” he called as he approached our table with a gigantic grin plastered on his face.

“Hey Mattie,” I sighed as he sat down beside me.

“So when you said you had a crush on that Ian guy, I guess you really meant it.  Writing a letter like that, for the whole class to hear?  Classic!”

“That wasn’t exactly what I was going for with that letter,” I groaned.

“Well whatever you meant to do with that letter, at least now you’ve got his attention.  If he doesn’t fall madly in love with you now, then he’s not worth your effort.”

“Yeah right.  Like any guy would ever want a letter like that.”

“Sure they would,” Mattie grinned, “if it was from the right person.”

“Great,” I groaned as Ian’s icy glares once again replayed in my mind.

“Matt!” Maggie cried as I half-heartedly poked at my lunch.

“What?”

“Can’t you see Lyla’s in the middle of a crisis?”

“Yeah, so?  I’m trying to cheer her up!”

“Well it’s not working!  Look at her!  She’s miserable!”

Not really in the mood to listen to another one of Maggie and Matt’s debates I decided to leave.  I was anything but hungry and I knew I’d gotten as much comfort from my friends as I could, at the moment.  I stood with a sigh and went to throw my sadly mutilated sandwich in the trash.  Yuuki was at my side before I got half way to the garbage, her warm smile offering more comfort than the riveting conversation I’d just had with Matt and Maggie.

“Don’t worry,” she told me, “things will all work out in the end.”

“Thanks,” I sighed as we slowly made our way outside.

We walked in silence for a while, Yuuki understanding that sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  I thought mostly about what Matt had said, about how guys would love getting a letter like the one I had written to Ian, if it was from the right girl.  It was glaringly obvious that I was not the right girl to be writing to Ian.

After lunch I slowly made my way toward the last class I shared with Ian for the day.  I dreaded walking into my world foods class, knowing that the second I stepped through the door I was going to have to endure another one of his icy stares, but I didn’t have any other choice.  I wasn’t going to skip school, just because I was humiliated; that was the choice of cowards and I refused to be labeled as a coward.  It took all of my strength to muster up the courage to walk into that room, but somehow I found the strength to walk in with my head held high only to be met, once again, by the cold glare of one very ticked off guy.

I spent the rest of the day wallowing in misery.  Not only had I humiliated myself in class but it was quickly becoming apparent that the entire school knew of the German IV fiasco.  I had to endure an endless onslaught of hushed whispers, sideways glances and stifled giggles for the rest of the day; a task that quickly got old.  I practically ran to my car after school, more than ready to be rid of the rumors that I’m sure were already flying.  I hoped that things would calm down, once I got to work, and that I’d be able to put the entire, awful day behind me, but fate was not my friend.

I had just stepped behind the counter when Ian and his friend Jack McKay sauntered through the door.  As soon as Ian realized I was the one behind the counter, he turned around and stalked out, leaving Jack to do the ordering.  For the second time that day, our eyes locked and I felt the coldness of his harsh stare.  I wanted to die but since customers were waiting, I decided I’d have to put my death off until later.

Jack, Ian’s best friend and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known, came up to the counter to check out the day’s flavors, with a slightly sympathetic smile.  He and I had known each other since freshman year; we had both worked on the set for the school’s fall play and had hit it off right from the start.  We didn’t really hang out any other time of the year, but we both considered the other a friend.

“Hey Lyla.”

“Hey Jack,” I mumbled, “what can I get you?”

“Um, a double scoop of rocky road in a waffle cone and a vanilla milkshake, please.”

I started on Jack’s order in silence, not really knowing if or what I should say.  The awkward silence must have been bugging Jack because he tried to start a conversation while I worked.

“So, tough day, huh?”

“You could say that,” I groaned as I handed Jack his cone.

“I can’t believe you actually wrote a letter like that, for the whole class to hear, even.”

“I didn’t mean for the class to hear it,” I moaned.

“But you turned it in as homework.”

“Not on purpose.”

“You mean you didn’t mean for Ian to hear that?”

“No!  And if it had been anyone other than Ashley Tucker who had my paper, they would have realized it had been turned in by mistake and not read it to the entire class.”

“Well that’s good to know, but why would Ashley read your letter to the class?”

“Because she’s Ashley.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.”

“That doesn’t sound like nothing,” Jack chuckled.

“Oh, it’s just that Ashley is the only person in the world who can hate someone for no reason whatsoever.”

“So she read your letter because she hates you?”

“Pretty much,” I sighed.  “Though why she ended up with it instead of someone else is beyond me.  The fates must be very cruel.”

“I suppose so,” Jack sighed with a smile.  “So you really didn’t mean for Ian to hear that letter?”

“Never in a million years,” I groaned.

“That’s good to know.”

“Why?  You don’t mean that he…you…he…”  I stammered as certain implications began to sink in.

“Well, you have liked him since seventh grade.  I think Ian thought you were desperate.”

“Oh geeze,” I groaned, “would anyone really be so desperate that they would resort to public humiliation as a means to get a guy’s attention?”

“I’m sure it’s been done before,” Jack sighed.  “Well, at least now I can tell him it was all a mistake.”

“You’d do that?” I asked as the prospect of having the events of the day explained to Ian sent waves of relief coursing through my body.

“Of course.  He’s been in such a funk all day, I’ve got to do something.  Maybe knowing you’re not an obsessed stalker will help.”

“Maybe I should just transfer schools or better yet, jump out a window.”

“Well, if you do, can you wait until after the play?  We’re really gonna need you for the sets this year.”

“I suppose so,” I sighed as I attempted a weak smile, “here’s your shake.”

“Thanks,” Jack smiled as he paid for the ice cream and left.

As awful as it had been to see Ian walk into the shop, I was really glad that, for whatever reason, he and Jack had come.  Talking with Jack had been both horrifying and enlightening.  At least I knew why Ian had glared at me with such fiery hatred in his eyes.  I still didn’t see how the situation would ever be made right, but at least I knew that Ian would know the truth and maybe, just maybe, the truth would keep him from loathing me for all of eternity.

 

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