From Aniston to Paltrow
I should receive an acting award – and nothing less than an Oscar would suffice. I had always imagined donning a beautiful long gown by Oscar de la Renta, complete with Christian Louboutin pumps and serious bling. An unknown but handsome usher would gracefully lead me up the podium as I cover my mouth with my hand, still unable to fully grasp that I had won. And of course, everybody would get up on their feet and applaud, nodding and agreeing I deserved the little golden naked man more than Meryl Streep. I really should get that damn award, for being the Best Actress Pretending to be Fine but whose Heart has been Beaten to a Pulp in a Not So Comedic Situation.
Right after I gulped down the remnants of my pride, agreed with mock cheer to act as matchmaker with that stunned smile frozen on my seemingly Botoxed face and told her the great news, Cliff and Chloe became inseparable – nauseatingly so. Yes, Cliff, the boy I obsessed over since the beginning of senior year, hooked up with none other than the girl formerly known as my best friend, Chloe.
They quickly became the school's own version of Brangelina. Some dweeb even coined them a name: C2. They were absolutely golden – she, the pretty co-captain of the cheerleading squad and he, the dark, brooding guitar demigod who shot to instant popularity because of his so-called better half. I wouldn't have died of shock if paparazzi popped out of the bushes to catch a shot of Cliff and Chloe together – and they would have a fabulous field day, as C2 had zero qualms about major PDA.
So where did I fit in the picture, pray tell? I wanted to steer clear of being the Jennifer Aniston to their Jolie-Pitt fantasy. Sure, I loved her gams and her impeccable style – almost as much as I liked Cliff's tight butt under those dark denims. But there was something sad about the fact that Brad and Angie already had an international team of tots under their care while Jen still remained in supposedly blissful singleness, going through a handful of far less yummy Hollywood bachelors. I mean, fine, who could possibly compete with the Sexiest Man Alive, right? But still, who wanted to be described as sad?
I actually dreamed to be likened more to Gwyneth Paltrow, who found herself a man who was the complete opposite of her ex. Now the very sexy and very British Chris Martin wrote her beautiful (but verrry slow) songs and provided enough goo and mushiness to fill her Goop blog.
Eureka moment! New strategy: search for a man totally far from the image and likeness of Cliff! Yes! Then the next most probable move was to star in a big summer flick like Iron Man and its sequels, if the heavens were willing. But how was I supposed to do all that when I couldn't stop staring at Cliff's damned butt?
Of course, Chloe had been so concerned, asking if I was truly okay with the whole C2 thing. What was I supposed to say? So I lied through my teeth and assured her I was, rolling my eyes for effect and flashing a big, bright smile. And to permanently shut her trap, I said, in the most flippant way my facial muscles could muster, that I didn't give a fly if she told her boyfriend that I had a one-minute crush on him, because that minute was so over. She broke into a wide, visibly relieved grin and hugged the breath out of my lungs.
Never did I think of asking her why she suddenly was head over heels in love with her supposed arch nemesis. Didn't she declare she hated his stinking guts every time I came up with our future kids' names? Didn't she want to commit suicide when I forced her to watch him play onstage with his pretentious band? Didn't she have a scathing remark ready when he would approach us? Oh shit, was that the way they flirted? Ugh. It was too Mr. and Mrs. Smith – in total alignment with their Brangelina role. Just my frickin' luck.
And as the end of the school year neared, C2's Power Couple status swiftly mutated to Front Runner for Prom King and Queen.
I deliberately distanced myself from them. I was turning a permanent shade of green from suppressing the barfing spree that threatened to overcome me when I looked at them.
You would think that the other head honcho of the cheerleading squad would have brainless minions following her every move to make up for the absence of her suddenly occupied friend, just like Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl, right? Wrong. And you'd think she would merely shrug and continue playing the field, what with the lines of hapless high school boys salivating to get into her pants, right? Still wrong. And you would assume she truly was over her adolescent crush on her former best friend's boyfriend, right? Wrong again.
I still watched him from afar. I couldn't help it – old habit, I guessed. But this time, I watched the movie that was his life with Chloe perpetually attached to him at the hip. Yes, even if it gave me a migraine. Cliff strumming his guitar on the school lawn… looking deep into Chloe's adoring eyes. Cliff scrawling something in that tattered old notebook during lunchtime… then pushing it towards Chloe for her to read. Cliff listening to his iPod on the bus home… sharing the headset with Chloe with his head resting against hers.
What did he like in her anyway?
Okay, so Chloe had legs that stretched until forever, in a shade that needed absolutely no leg makeup. Unfair, huh? She also always looked perfectly groomed, even when the rest of us in the squad already had soil and bits of grass on our clothes and hair from practice on the field. And okay, she also had a naturally rosy glow that made her look like she had just orgasmed every single time she smiled. She was pretty, for heaven's sake!
But what about me? What about poor, old, miserable me? I was morphing into a replica of Jennifer Aniston by the second!
"Jennifer Aniston? Not even. You're beautiful, Jessica."
The voice snapped me back t reality. It was a Thursday afternoon and I was spying on C2 make goo goo eyes at each other as they stood by Chloe's locker.
I whirled around, my entire face flaming. Was I actually saying my thoughts out loud? How embarrassing!
"Don't be embarrassed."
My eyes focused on Mark. He was smiling down at me, leaning against the row of lockers I had tried to hide behind, with this arms folded across his chest. Seemed like he had been standing there for more than a few minutes now – and he was immensely enjoying himself.
Mark? Who was Mark?
Captain of the basketball team. Tall, muscular and looked like he just stepped out of a Tommy Hilfiger ad in a magazine. Clowned incessantly with the other giants in his team. Smiled a lot, flirted a lot, dated a lot. Unremarkable name, remarkable body. So unlike Cliff!
And suddenly looking at me like he wanted nothing more than to drag me to his car and blow me away with some major make out moves. But beyond that blatantly hormonal stare, a tender light glowed, melting my heart and making my pulse rate shoot up. So totally unlike Cliff!
"Oh my God," I blurted out, "I can't believe I didn't notice it before. You are so in love with me!"
He didn't bat an eyelash. "It took you this long to figure it out?"
I felt myself smile at him. I probably looked like a rightful dork. But when he smiled right back, I decided maybe I didn't look as stupid as I had thought. Maybe my push-up bra was finally working! And maybe those make out moves deserved a shot.
I was so sure we looked great together. The cheerleader and the jock – perfect. And hooking up before school let out!
As I slid my arm through the one he was offering, I couldn't help but murmur against the varsity jacket that covered his bicep. "Chris Martin."
He looked confused for a moment. "Huh? Chris Martin? From Coldplay?"
I tightened my hold on him. I dimly heard Chloe calling my name a million miles away but I ignored her. I was finally in a good place – and I didn't have to obsess to find my happiness at last. "You can call me Gwyneth."