Natalie heard a squeal near the entrance to the cafeteria and looked up to see Annie running toward her. "I saw him," Annie said. She couldn't stop moving. She waved her hands at her face and breathed quickly, just short of hyperventilating. "He's here; he's here; he's here! Can you believe it?" She began pacing back and forward in front of her friend.
Natalie's eyes lit up and a smile crept onto her face. "Did you get his screen name or digits?"
"Well," Annie stopped movement. "No," she said slowly. She was still smiling and she sighed as she saw the boy on the opposite side of the cafeteria. She giggled a loud, hiccupy laugh. He's so good-looking, she thought.
"Did you at least talk to him this time?" Natalie asked. She knew it was a useless question, just like Annie was a useless victim.
"I said, 'hi,'" Annie said and another of her obnoxious giggles sounded. "Does that count?"
"I suppose it does for you," Natalie said. "But, next time, I want you to ask him about himself." She pointed a finger at Annie. "Got that?"
"I'll try," Annie said. She giggled again. The boy glanced in her direction and she could feel her face burn. She sat down in a flash and turned away from the boy. He saw me, she thought. He looked right at me.
A few minutes, and a few daydreams, later Annie got up from her chair in the cafeteria to accompany another of her friends, Dan, to get food in the line.
"Dan," Annie asked. "Am I a hopeless case?"
"Hopeless in what way," Dan asked as he grabbed a slice of pizza.
"To guys," Annie said. "I mean, you're hot and funny and lot's of girls like you. Do guys like you ever fall for girls like me?" Why do I even bother? Annie asked herself. Of course Dan wouldn't date a girl like me when he could have any girl he wanted.
"Sure," Dan said, looking in her eyes. "You're pretty, smart, and funny. I don't really know why you don't have a boyfriend yet."
"Well," Annie persisted, "how would a girl like me get a guy like you to notice me?" Is there actually a possibility that he would ever date me?
"Just make conversation," Dan said. "It's as simple as that. If there's enough in common, something will just click." Dan snapped his fingers for effect.
"Talk?" Annie asked, gulping nervously. "I have to start the talking? I couldn't just strut about in cute outfits and look pretty?"
"You say that as if you're afraid to talk," Dan laughed. "But, as far as my knowledge goes, and you have to admit it goes pretty far, you never shut up."
"You'd be surprised," Annie said. She walked with her head down back towards her table behind Dan. About half way there, she almost crashed into a boy standing from a table. Annie froze. It was him.
"Sorry about that," the boy said.
Annie opened her mouth to talk, but nothing came out. Instead, she just smiled and giggled again. The boy lifted an eyebrow in confusion, so Annie walked away quickly, her head bowed in shame and her face a shade of scarlet.
"What was that about?" Dan asked when Annie arrived back at the table again and pushed her food away.
"Did you talk to him?" Natalie asked. Annie shook her head. Natalie turned to Dan and said, "I guess she hasn't told you about Steve."
"Who's Steve?" Dan asked. He looked in the direction they had just come from.
"He's just a guy…" Natalie began, but was quickly cut off by Annie's gasp.
"Just a guy?" Annie yelled. How dare she call him just a guy! He's absolutely perfect. "He's so much more than just a guy. He's smart and dreamy and athletic and…"
"And popular and sophisticated and blah blah blah," Natalie mimicked Annie's frequently repeated speech. Annie crossed her arms and glared at Natalie. Natalie turned back to Dan and continued, "The point is that Annie has been head over heals for Steve since the beginning of the year and has yet been able to talk to him so she can't find out if he likes her."
"If you're actually afraid to talk to him, which I find very hard to believe," Dan began and Annie rolled her eyes. Natalie laughed lightly. "Then why don't you try a different approach?" Dan asked. "Like have Natalie talk to him first and then join her. Eventually…" Annie cut him off.
"No," Annie said. "If Natalie talks to him first then he'll like her. Admit it, all guys like Natalie."
"What am I, then?" Dan asked. "Because, sure, I like Natalie, but only platonically."
"You're an exception to the rule," Annie said. Dan rolled his eyes. He was always an exception to Annie's rules.
"Plus," Natalie said, "I told her that I wouldn't help her with this. It's time she took charge when liking a guy and talked to one."
"But Annie talks to guys all the time," Dan said.
"Yeah," Annie said, "you. But I wouldn't date you because you're you." There he was another exception to Annie's rule.
"How do you even know you like this 'Steve' fellow if you haven't talked to him?" Dan asked.
"There's just something there," Annie said. "He's so good-looking." She giggled yet again.
"So you don't really know anything about him?" Dan asked. "You're just assuming he's perfect because he's handsome?"
"No!" Annie yelled. How dare he!
"So, basically yes," Natalie laughed.
"What don't you two understand?" Annie asked. "I really like him. Can't you two just once support a guy I like?"
"Not if you like him for all the wrong reasons," Dan said. He looked at the group of guys he assumed Steve was part of. He wondered which one it was.
"It's not all the wrong reasons," Annie said. "I mean, I've seen him perform and talk with others, so I know he's all those things. I just haven't been able to talk to him quite yet."
"Well, why not?" Dan asked.
"I don't know," Annie admitted. "It's just that every time I come near him, I freeze up. Kind of…"
"Like you don't want to face the reality that he might not like you?" Dan asked. You just want to stay safe in your little world in your mind where he's in love with you, Dan thought. He would have said it out loud if only Annie hadn't looked so pained at the thought that Steve might not like her.
"It's something along those lines," Annie said, pulling her legs onto the seat of the chair and hugging them. If she hadn't been in public, she would have cried. Why can't I just admit the truth to myself?
"Which one is it?" Dan asked Natalie.
"The one in the orange," Natalie said motioning to a boy standing near the end of a table across the cafeteria.
"What are you going to do?" Annie asked as Dan stood and turned toward Steve.
"I'm going to see if he even knows you," Dan replied.
"Don't," Annie yelled. She grabbed Dan's hand and held him back. "Please don't. If he doesn't know and if I don't know, I can't be hurt."
"Annie," Dan said, "I'm not going to sit around and watch you fall in love with a guy you don't even know. You will be hurt, but I'd rather you have a school girl crush than be in love with a boy who doesn't even exist."
"Dan," Annie said. Her eyes were glazed with tears. "I don't want him to know."
"Then why do you like him?" Dan asked.
Annie shrugged. "Please, just sit down."
"Are you ever going to talk to him?" Dan asked. He sighed as he sat down.
"Maybe," Annie said. "My hope is that I eventually will have to."
"Annie," Dan said.
"Yeah?" Annie asked, looking up from her food.
"You're a hopeless case." Annie threw a carrot at him.