Chapter one

My name is Giada. I won't bore you with details about my personal life. I'll just say that I hate high school. Nothing bad happened to me, I must admit. I'm among the accepted people, I have friends, I go to parties and I get good grades. I have enough money to dress well and travel from time to time. I live in a nice big house of two floors and I have my own big bedroom. Then, what is my problem, you're wondering? My teacher of English literature put me into trouble. A big trouble. And my dear brother is not helping too much. But lets start from the beginning.

It was a couple of months ago, when the school started. It was our last year there. A few months more and I would be heading to University. I looked at the old building that is my high school. Old for American standards. Because I forgot to say that I'm not American. We moved to California when I was 10 years old. My father got a good job in the States, and we left our dear Italy forever. Yeah, cope with this.. an Italian girl in an American school.. where nothing was like at home. But after 7 years I got quite used. People stopped calling me »The mafia girl« and I got into the culture of such a different place. No more risotto and lasagna. No more jokes about Vito Corleone, who,by the way, was Sicilian!! I come from the wonderful Venezia. It seems it was ages ago when I was living there. But back to the point: why do I hate high school?

My best friend is the typical Californian girl: blonde, blue eyes, atheltic, fanatic of surfing and get tanned on the beach. Sorry if I'm wrong, but for an European, this is the typical Californian image. Lana is her name. She gets all the hot guys and the envy from all girls. But she's a sweetie and she's like a sister for me. When we met she hated me. She destroyed my favourite Barbie, and as a revenge, my brother put a huge spider inside her school bag. It was only after some months , when we were 11 and the teacher assigned us the same project. The first afternoon in her house, I thought I was in a fairy tale. She lives in a huge mansion next to the beach. She's one of the richest girls in the city, and for her, Rodeo Drive is like going to the supermarket: a daily need. I guess it was when I met her family when I realized that not everything was like a fairy tale: her parents divorced that year, and we heard the constant fights through their bedroom's door. She found comfort on me. She was surprised that I didn't run to tell people what was going on there. I kept the secret for two years and she became my best friend.

My parents are less rich, for sure, but we have a nice house with a view to the beach as well. My mother is a teacher and my father works for an important enterprise, and has his own bussines. Loads of money come home every month, but they're very strict parents. I get some money for the necessary things, but they never allowed us to get spoiled. Yes, us.. because I have a brother: Antonio.. he's the handsome one in the family.. just imagine an Italian guy with dark eyes and hair and his native charm with women. He went to the same high school as me, he's two years older. Surprisingly, I got so many »friends« while he was there, especially older girls from his class. »What is he like at home?«, »which is his favourite food?«. Believe it or not, I got thousands of those letters in mylocker during two whole years. Needless to say, whenever he walked with me in the halls, I became popular for one day.. but I hated that.

Lana is crazy about boys. She wanted to get me a boyfriend. Damn the day she got this idea. We were with our group of friends, laying on the beach. It was a hot October and we found our shelter under the sun, lazying on the sand. Should I say that I have bimbo friends? Nice girls, but completely brainless.. especially Dalila. She put herself this name because it sounded exotic. Her real name is Anne. I guess she wanted something genuine.. so, she was Dalila. She got incredibly mad when we called her by another name. Dalila dated one hundred guys, or this she said. I guess none of us believed her, but.. the truth was that she was really pertty and had a special charm to atract boys. Yes, all my friends were dating guys. But I didn't. I guess I disliked all my classmates. Rich spoiled boys with expensive cars and looking for the next victim. Especially John »Jack« Hamilton. He was the reason why I hated high school. All girls were crazy about him. He was tall, athletic, dark blonde hair and nice tanned skin.. ok, I admit it. He was hot. But he was the most unbearable person I had ever met before. What was the worst thing? He was the one who started to call me »Mafia girl« back in time. Yes, unlucky me, he chose the same high school as me. We never had a real conversation, never. We know each other, but not even say hello in the street. I never understood why: a guy who is in my class since 7 years ago, and we never spoke. I guess I wasn't enough for him. People of his class believe it. Except maybe Lana. He's richer than her, and their parents belong to the same clubs. But although they speak from time to time or even share a lunch, they were never together. She doesn't hate him like I do, but he's not her type. Her type is my brother. Many times I wonder if she's my friend because of him.

More bad news? The best friend of my brother is the brother of John. Call it coincidence, but I spent more time with John's brother at home than with my own parents. Contrary to John, Mathew is a nice guy. And my brother Antonio is not that bad. Now that they both are in college, I see them less and less. They go to UCLA, and I guess they're majoring in girls' haunting.

But I got carried away.. we were on the beach, like every afternoon, when Dalila and Lana started to talk about getting me a boyfriend. I knew that it would have a bad ending. When I heard them, I left the towel, fixed my O'Neill bikini and went to swim. I had had enough of that. But , when I returned and saw their smiles.. I knew they already had a plan in mind. Lana didn't want to tell me, of course, and Dalila packed her things and left, followed by Mary and Jenny.

»We'll get you a date for Saturday's party« Lana said, smiling. I rolled my eyes.

»Which party?« She smiled even more.

»Dalila is giving it at her house, and she invited the whole class.. don't you remember?« Her blue eyes narrowed, and then looked away. »We all have a date, you can't go alone«

»Maybe I don't want to go, didn't you think about it?« I put some sun cream on my tanned legs and arms, and pulled my light brown long hair into a pony tail. Lana opened her mouth in shock.

»Of course you will go!! Dalila got you a date with her cousin«

»What?« I shouted, dropping all the cream over Lana's towel. She looked up at me.

»He's nice, I guess..«

»You guess? You don't even know him and you girls arranged a date for me?« I was furious. I picked up my things and the rucksack, and got ready to leave.

»Giada, don't get angry..« Lana spoke, calmly. »It's ourlast year in high school.. get some fun ,ok? You never dated anybody in those four years!« I turned around to meet her gaze.

»And what makes you think that I want now? Call Dalila, and ask her to cancel this. Else, I swear you won't ever hear from me again, ok?« I said, and Lana nodded. I was walking away when I heard her speaking on the phone.

»Dalila, cancel the plan. She's hopeless«

Still guessing why do I hate high school? Go on reading..

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First day of class. English literature at 9 am. Our usual teacher smiled and took her glasses from the desk. She was dressed like always. Big long skirt and sleeveless shirt.. she had them in all colours and shapes you can imagine. I bet she needed three wardrobes at home to keep her things.And after four years I knew her very well. She liked to give us embarrassing duties, she was a freaky fan of romantic literature. Our first essay was a love letter. We had to write it, put it in an envelope with a nick name and give it to her. The envelope in blue, if you were a boy. In red, if you were a girl. So, boys got the red envelopes and girls the blue ones. I opened mine and read:

»If I was a mafia boy, she would be my mafia girl. Even if she's not blonde, I will colour her hair.« Very deep, I know. No need to guess, it came from John Hamilton. Jack. It was such a bad coincidence that I got his envelope. It wasn't signed, but I knew it was him. This happened exactly one year ago. And I suspected that our dear teacher had something in mind again.

»Dear class.. it's the first day of school and we won't work too hard« She stopped as the class aplauded her decission. Her smile increased. »Luck was on my side , and in this class there are 20 boys and 20 girls. Perfect pairing.. so, here I have a list of female names and the correspondent male name. It's a secret for you, but not for me. One by one, you'll come here to check who is your secret love, and during the whole month, I want you to write love letters to this person« A groan could be heard all over the class. Samantha Woodward. The playmate of High school. She was dating John at the moment, or this I heard.

»But.. then it means my boyfriend will get a secret admirer?« She moaned, her painted eyelashes moving up and down.

»Yes, Samantha.. and he will have to write love letters too.. but as well as you. It's just a game to exercise your literary side. It's very helpful for the final exams« Samantha sighed, and looked back at John, who happened to be sitting near me. Her green eyes smiled, and for a second, stopped over me. She didn't like me, like I didn't like her. She envied my high grades and my origins. Although she had an appearance to take the breath away to any man over the Earth. The teacher went on explaining.

»You have to wait outside the classroom, and I'll call you one by one. If somebody talks too much.. he or she will get a negative point. I'm deadly serious. If you don't keep this as a secret, your final mark won't ever reach the highest level. Most of you need the grades to be accepted at University,so.. don't play with your future« Her brown eyes didn't smile as she said this, and the whole class became silent. We left and waited outside, as she was calling us. Lana Anderson was the first by alphabetical order. She gave me a last look before entering the classroom. One minute later she left, and I knew at once that she disliked her secret love deeply. My heart was beating so fast. People came and went, and John Hamilton was the next. When he left the classroom, Samantha ran to him, asking , but he just shook his head, keeping a neutral look. He didn't seem to be disgusted, so I deduced he just got Samantha or any of her friends. She seemed to think the same, because a smile showed up on her lips.

Two more people and it was my turn. I entered the classroom and the teacher smiled.

»I hope you like this idea, come from a romantic country« I tried not to roll my eyes. I hated those topics about Italy.

»Yeah, sure..« She picked up the list and then looked up at me.

»Giada, you'll be writing love letters to Mike Langdon« I nodded, quite relieved. Mike was a great guy. Handsome, intelligent.. many times I dreamt about him, but I was out of his league, I guess.. not because I was ugly, I wasn't. But his life turned around sports. He was the most skilled guy I've ever seen at sports. He would probably end up playing football in some first league team. His free time was for sports, and his friends, a group of boys and girls from our class, who were nice, but always ignored me and my friends. Maybe they thought we were boring, or maybe they wondered how could I hung around with bimbos when I was among the bests grades in my class..Mike Langdon.

»How is the process then?« I asked, and she gave me a typed paper with the rules.

»Read this, and be creative« She smiled and shouted: »Mary Northam«

I left the class, intrigued. Lana looked at me and raised an eyebrow, but I shook my head. I wouldn't tell her. I wouldn't risk my future.

»I can't believe my bad luck..« She whispered, but I stopped her.

»I don't want to hear anything, Lana.. please, do this for me.. I don't want to spoil my grades« She looked a bit dissapointed, but understood. I looked around. We all were waiting to come back to the class. I searched for Mike. He was standing there, with a gorgeous smile, and laughing, talking about the last match. He probably didn't care at all about this school duty.Then, my eyes followed his group, and a sudden question came to my head: who was the guy who had to write me? I checked more faces. Norris was looking at me. Oh, no. He was an arrogant playboy, even worse than John. He was ugly, terribly ugly to my eyes. And terribly stupid. He avoided my gaze. I wondered if I was his secret love. I wished it wasn't so. But another guy was checking me. Alfred Watson. The British boy of the class. Maybe I was just paranoid. We were all looking at each others, and wondering the same..who was who?

»Everybody inside!« The teacher called, and we got ready for a long morning.

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It was late at night and I was laying on my bed, watching TV. I had my notebook next to me, and picked up a pen. Then, read the typed paper with the rules:

"Type the letter, the handwriting can't be recognized.

Be neutral, don't give any clue of your identity.

Strong language must be reported inmediately, with the consequence of a negative point.

Write a message every day(2 lines), and leave it in the mailbox of my office. Don't write any name on the envelope, only inside, so that your friends won't have any chance to discover it. I'll deliver the messages personally, and correct the ortography.

The total of messages is 20, because we exclude the weekends.

Any problem you may have, come to my office."

I sighed, and looked at the TV. VH1 music channel. I just loved it. »With or without you«, by U2. The Classics hour. What a convinient song to start a love letter. I took the pencil and began.

»Dear Mike,

You have the ocean in your eyes and the sun in your smile. You're unreachable for me, and still, you're in my dreams day and night«

Was it too cheesy? It had to be a love letter, right? I picked up my laptop and typed it, then connected the cable to the printer. That was is. I looked for the envelopes I had just bought, and wrote inside his name. Then, glued it and put it on my night table. I turned off the lights and wondered what was waiting for me the following day.