A/N: 3-30-09: In my quest to better all of my stories, I went through this little guy and fixed it up. The changes to the story were minimal and more like little details were adjusted, nothing major. Most of the change came in getting rid of anything extraneous. I'm attempting to kick my addiction to adverbs, adjectives, run-on sentences and unnecessary narratives, so a lot of those little boogers are gone, yay! Hopefully this will make it easier - and less tiring - to read my stuff and gives you the reader a little more freedom to figure out what the character is thinking or how they are acting. That was the goal anyway.

So here it is, the new and improved:

Much Better
by JD Allen

Don't feel so damn bad for yourself

My name is Jamie Smith and I have the most basic name in America.

I have to admit I've always wanted to start my story that way. I like the statement. It makes an all too true motto for me: a basic name for a basic girl with a basic life.

Who is this basic-named Jamie Smith? Well, here's the gist: Have you ever watched those movies about the girl who never gets a chance to sit down at dances because she's too busy getting whisked away onto the dance floor by several teen males anxious to dance with her? Yeah, you know her.

Don't you hate her?

Yeah, I do too, especially since I wasn't that girl. That girl – or, just in case my Lit. teacher is reading this, these girls – are my friends. Me, I was the "to the side" girl. I was the one who had plenty of chances to sit down during dances because there wasn't a teen male in the vicinity anxious to dance with her. I was the one who always ended up befriending the beautiful girls with sparkling personalities and well-honed pheromone-releasing systems. I couldn't spell pheromone, let alone release any.

I guess you could call me one of those who hadn't "come out of her shell" yet. Cursed with a shy personality and an arsenal of self-esteem problems, you can bet I wasn't one to attempt conversations with the good-looking chaps I happened to be crushing on. My friends, however, had no idea what the word "shy" meant. They were quite capable of walking up to any random person and striking up the longest and greatest conversations ever. But they had every right to be outgoing, they were all beautiful and guys didn't mind talking to them. Go for it, sister, 'cause you got it goin' on.

Not to say that I'm hideous or anything, because I'm not. Overall, I could say with almost complete confidence that I'm an attractive person. I've got a few features working in my favor (pretty hair, long nose, kind skin) and I can go out in the world without any make-up on. So all in all, I'd say I was a good-looking person…if it wasn't for one thing.

When I was five, a fire broke out in my house and I was trapped in there for a while before I was rescued. I remember something exploding and a piece of burning debris hitting me in the face. From the left side of my hairline to my temple, I got a tear-shaped burn that narrowly missed my eye but took half of my brow. I got out with no other injuries luckily, but the burn was enough. Like most scars, it is very noticeable, pink and textured, and I still don't have half of my eyebrow.

And that stupid little scar has been the big hurdle of my life. Seems stupid that such a little thing could be a hurdle, I know, and yet it still managed to mold my personality.

Elementary school was the worst. The staring, the questions and the endless teasing. You can't fathom the possible cruelties of humans until you've had rocks thrown at you when walking home while the chants of "Hide your face, Scarface" fill your head. Even when you grow up and realize they were just children and they most likely didn't mean it, the words and scenes can still haunt you.

That stuff sticks with you, man.

Middle school was slightly better. They stopped the staring and most of the teasing ("Scarface" survived up until 8th grade I believe) but it only began the next stage of the ugliness of the scar. For with middle school came that utterly heart-breaking complication of noticing boys in the whole new light. No longer were they the idiots who chased you around the playground, now they were guys. Suddenly you find your poor adolescent body betraying you by becoming attracted - not repulsed - by them. You know what I mean. I was no different from the other girls in middle school. I liked plenty of boys – pardon, guys – and spent the appropriate amount of time swooning over them in the overly-maudlin ways of the female middle-schooler.

The catch was none of those said guys liked me back … ever. Bad luck you could call it or just plain normal for the moronic middle-school-aged boy to not like a girl back, but I can't agree with either. Because they were liking girls, just other girls. Other girls had boyfriends, other girls got their first kisses. Other girls got to experience that special joy of realizing a member of the opposite sex had the hots for her. I was not a lucky other girl but – yes, you guessed it - my friends were.

This phenomenon of chronic unrequited love juxtaposed with my unfortunate weight, my pre-braces teeth, my stunning inability to walk without tripping and not to mention the scar were what caused me to keep my feelings to myself. I wasn't like my friends who could just walk up to their 13-year-old crush and say, "I like you" only to walk away hand in hand with him for the week their relationship would last. I couldn't do that and not just because I was too afraid of them rejecting me – because I was – but also because I couldn't stand the idea of them feeling bad that the girl with the missing eyebrow liked them. That chubby, snaggle-toothed Jamie Smith was smitten with them. What sucky luck! Of all the girls in the school, they had to have hopeless Jamie Smith after them.

Isn't the human mind just cruel? I sometimes think our own brains can be the cruelest and mine was no exception.

From then on, well into high school, I basically remained with the above mentioned mindset about guys. If I liked them I would never let on I did, only to spare them the guilt for having to turn down a girl known for being nice but not for being a looker.

It sounds horrible, I know, and I wish I hadn't felt that way. Even though it improved a little with high school – being I grew taller, lost some weight, fixed my teeth and got a smidge more self-esteem – the evil voice was still there whispering. I could finally joke about the scar – with friends at least - and answer questions without getting the urge to cry. I was able to smile back at the children who stared at me in the grocery store and handle the shocked expressions from the adults who hadn't realized my deformity until I turned my head.

It didn't stop me from growing my bangs out long though. Even when they were tucked behind my ear they covered the scar, it was quite brilliant. It took me twelve years to get this comfortable with it and I had no idea how long it would take before it didn't bother me at all. Until then I just planned to always have hair in my face, preferring to deal with the comments about that then having to explain what was behind it.

I went through high school with a little more confidence but nothing to show for it. No boyfriends, nobody asking me to dances and nobody kissing me. That's right, I was a senior and had never had any sort of contact with male lips. This didn't help my fight against the evil voice at all and only caused me – on many occasions – to wish to be a prettier Jamie. Not only had my friends been kissed but they also had had numerous boyfriends and lost their virginities well before they got to senior year. This made me the one they felt bad for. In earnest I appreciated the sympathy but hated feeling pathetic.

They kept drilling me about getting some confidence, to forget my self-esteem problems and just walk up to guys I like and say "hi" or smile or wave. Because, really Jamie, it wasn't "that hard to do." Don't get me wrong, I love my friends, they are some of the greatest girls you could ever know, but when they started in on this stuff I just wanted to punch them.

They had no idea how easy it was for them, absolutely no clue. They had been beautiful and relatively popular their whole lives. When they approached guys, they usually got positive reactions. The guys were almost always interested. They never got the quick looks away, the pretending to have not heard their voices, the expressions clearly stating they had no interest whatsoever. They never had that, but I had. So when they told me I needed to be confident, that it's my job to initiate a conversation and it's not as hard as it looks, I wanted to tell them to shove it. But, of course, I didn't. I usually just changed the subject.

As I made my way through high school I began to notice something about the teenage male. In my studies I conclusively deduced three main points:

1) They're ridiculously obtuse in many areas, mostly sensitivity.

2) They love to play with a girl's head.

3) They're immensely immature.

I know it's a generalization and it's stereotypical but, I tell you, most of the guys I had dealt with in my high school career up until senior year fit this profile. I'm sure there were a few who fell through the cracks but I'm almost positive they had other equally displeasing traits about them. Call me a Nazi-feminist (which I'm not,) call me a bitter hag (which I am I guess,) call me what you want, but I couldn't deny it. The more and more I became accustomed to the enigma of the teenage male the more and more I wondered if I even wanted a boyfriend anyway (which I did, of course, but I still managed to have some reservations.)

I decided to stop thinking that it was possible for a teenage boy to like me. They were too shallow and immature, and I shouldn't expect them to go for anybody but pretty and outgoing girls. This left me to hope that someday, when I was out of high school, a blue moon would rise and someone – deep and mature - would actually want to be with me. Until that day came I gave up hoping.

So here I was, basic Jamie Smith, burdened with inner demons, annoyed with the constant ache of self-pity and echoingly single. I was almost halfway through my senior year without any sign of hope that my plight would stray from its seventeen-year rut.

God, could I feel sorrier for myself? Blegh! I hate it!

I just need to get the ball rolling on this story, right? Yes, let's get away from the pity party: You must be wondering why I'm even telling my story after painting myself as a completely hopeless wretch with such a boring life. Well, if you can believe it, something exciting actually happened to me. Okay, maybe not exciting, but definitely bizarre.

It happened quickly but started something that seemed to last forever. It occurred in the hallway of school of all places (lovely Vaquero High situated in the smallest town I ever had the displeasure to reside in.) My friend Melanie and I were waiting for my Lit. teacher outside her room. It was between classes - thus the halls were a bustling cattle herd - and Melanie and I were deeply involved in one of our strange conversations. I think it was about a weird dream she had had – something involving mimes at a toothpaste party - that we found to be extremely hilarious. We were in the midst of laughing our asses off.

I lowered my head as I laughed and my bangs fell out from behind my ear, covering my scar. I didn't bother pushing them back, I was so used to hair being in my face, and continued laughing with Melanie until something caught my eye.

Not so strangely – given the hall was swamped - it was a guy. A guy both Mel and I had never spoken to in our lives. A bit strangely, he was standing right in front of us, giving me the weirdest look I have ever seen on someone. To say his mouth was actually "quirked" would probably be the best way to describe his smile. That's just how weird it was.

Anyway, Mel and I stared back at him, wondering what he was on, when he suddenly reached out and tucked my bangs behind my ear. I was frozen, as was Mel, so we just watched with wide eyes.

"Much better," he grinned with his deep voice, his black eyes flashing. Then he simply walked down the hall without a look back and disappeared into the crowd.