Everyone has their little quirks and flaws, I guess. But mine was particularly heinous. Couldn't I have been cursed with a receding hairline, or an unfortunate laugh, or a lazy eye? But no, mine was crippling shyness—but only when it came to guys.
Not any guys, mind you. Just the hot ones.
Coming into college, I had had this brilliant vision of me, surrounded by handsome swains, carrying on lively and scintillating conversation. But this was all for naught. The first party I went to, I was come on to and dumped within the space of ten seconds, primarily because it had taken me eight full seconds just to stutter out my name.
This had been my curse since grade school, when Al Fetterschiedt—the cutest, most transportation-friendly boy in school (he had a scooter)—had asked to borrow a pencil. It suddenly hit me that he was a boy, and I gave such a high-pitched squeak that probably only bats could hear it, and promptly snapped my pencil in half.
My friends, of course, found it supremely funny that I could transform from an obnoxious loudmouth to a stuttering ninny by just the mere presence of one lone male entering to room. I did not find it quite as amusing. Do you know how embarrassing it is to order food at a restaurant from a smoking hot waiter when you can only get out the words "I want?" Do you know how frustrating it is to never get asked to a school dance because you're too busy doing the one hundred meter dash away from the closest guy? Do you know how sad it is to never get a first kiss because you rambled something about having to vacuum the refrigerator and then disappeared?
I guess the one good thing that this curse—because it was definitely a curse—was that it never impaired my ability to make friends with the…less physically blessed boys at my school. When I had had enough of girl talk and girl drama, I could often turn to my closest guy friend. Seth "Chunky" McFarls is someone I still consider a best friend, and Phil "Harelip" Baytor was a great study buddy, as was Roger Cains, also known affectionately as "Pizza Face," who asked me out on a date once.
It was only now, in college, that I was realizing that my ideal Prince Charming was never going to work out thanks to this awful curse I had. If I couldn't ever muster up the sheer ability to speak a coherent sentence around a hot guy—and trust me, I have—then there was no point in pining after one, because my shyness was far from endearing. I guess I would just have to deal with the fact that my future significant other would doubtlessly be kind and sweet, but probably not the handsomest person you'd ever meet.
Which actually, was not that bad. I didn't want to be a shallow person. It's just that every girl would like to able to string three conherent, intelligent words out in front an attractive male, right?
"Hayden," my roommate, Clarice, called, startling me into the present. "Hayden, your phone is ringing."
I roused myself from my fort of school books and binders and scrambled across the room.
"Hey, shorty," came my best friend's voice affectionately. "Did I interrupt you from something important?"
Ah. Chunky McFarls. I hadn't seen him since ninth grade, when his parents moved him to Idaho. Kids were quite mean, saying he just wanted to be closer to the potato fields so he could make himself some chips.
Ours had been a tearful goodbye, as he had wrapped himself around me like the fourteen year old version of the Pillsbury Dough Boy after I gave him a parting gift (homemade chocolate chip cookies). We had always kept in touch, though, especially now that he had informed me he was transferring to my school at the end of the quarter—which was in a few days. I still considered him a best friend, regardless of the length of time since we'd seen each other.
"Hey Chunks," I said, leaning back into my chair. "Nothing too important. What's up?"
"Okay," Seth said, taking a deep breath. "So I told you that my plane was coming in on Saturday, but something got royally screwed up in translation, and it turns out I'm flying in tomorrow. Eric can't pick me up because he's a dick, so if it wouldn't be too much to ask—"
"I'll pick you up, it wouldn't be a problem."
Seth let out a relieved sigh on the other end. "Okay, that's great. You could just drop me off at the Marriott by the airport, and I can stay there until I can move into my dorm."
"Mi casa es su casa," I sang into the phone. "You can stay over here with me."
"Are you sure?" Seth's voice was so cute and considerate on the phone. He was really like a big teddy bear.
"Positively. All right, I'll get back to the grind. See you tomorrow!"
"Bye, Hay," he said, and then the line went dead.
I leaned back into my chair and sighed. "Do I have anything else to do besides study for women's history?"
Clarice, who was shoving herself into a dress three sizes too short, looked up with a grin.
"You can come with to the party tonight at Rafferty's, but you know what happened last time…" she trailed off delicately.
Last time, which I can't quite remember, was when the freaking quarterback came up to me, asked my name, and I stared at him for a full ten seconds before saying the word "toaster" and vomiting all over him. The story is quite the hit among my friends.
"No, I don't know what happened last time," I decided. "I am a young, relatively cute woman with acceptable hygiene and no criminal record. I can talk to a fucking guy!"
Clarice raised one eyebrow skeptically.
"Yeah, I can!" I said hotly. "I'm a fucking free woman! I can talk to any guy I want!"
"You go girl," she said, shaking her head. "You talk to those boys."
"Yeah I will."
"So, you uh, live around here?" Said the gorgeously hot guy standing practically on top of me, nursing a beer and looking at me with sexy, devilish eyes.
"Ten?" He repeated, his brow furrowing a little bit. I looked around desperately for Clarice, who could normally act as my translator in these desperate times, but she was off dry-humping some frat boy on the dance floor.
"T-t-tenth street." I managed, trying to take a cool, slow drink of my beer but only managing to clink it against my teeth hard enough to make them rattle.
"Oh, that's good," he said inanely. "Are you uh, kinda nervous?"
Finally, someone who understood my crippling social retardation. I nodded fervently. He leaned forward confidently, and I waited for some alcohol-induced confessional where he admitted to having a lisp when he was a wee boy.
"I get that a lot," he said in a low voice. "It's all right, I don't bite."
I stared at him.
"You're cute," Formerly Hot Guy said to me. "But you don't have to be nervous about what to say around me. I can put more than words in your mouth." He winked suggestively.
I tried to think of something biting and sharp to say to this guy who thought he was God's gift to starstruck lushes, but all I could make out was,
In all fairness, my line had included other words that did not make the final cut, such as "disgusting" "fucking" "douche."
I walked home alone, crossing to the other side of the street when I saw a Hot Guy Hazard approaching me. I was finally coming to the realization that maybe my curse wasn't so bad, after all—did I really want to be able to talk to hot guys if they were all so egomaniacally,narcissistically, inconsiderately full of themselves?
"You called him a 'bag?'" Clarice said flatly. "Freaking Adonis is standing right in front of you and that's what you call him?"
"Yeah, except it came out sounding a lot like Porky Pig. In my defense, though, he was being sexually forward."
"Isn't that the greatest?" Clarice said dreamily, looking off into the distance in a lust-filled haze.
"Yeah," I said, after a beat, fearing the direction her thoughts were going into. "Well I have to run. I'm picking up Seth from the airport."
"Seth," Clarice said, tapping her chin. "Kind, sweet, considerate, and thoroughly unattractive?" She had long since gone through my roster of guy friends, only to sadly realize none of them fit the criteria she was looking for in a partner. Truthfully, I was grateful. Good, dependable Seth didn't deserve to be used and abused by a maneater like Clarice.
"And one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet," I added loyally. "He's spending the night tonight, but he'll probably be shacked up in his dorm my tomorrow, okay?"
"As long as he doesn't break the futon," she said disinterestedly. "Or should I say, as long as you guys don't break the futon. You've been nonstop smiling ever since he told you he was transferring here."
"It's called a platonic friendship with a guy. You should try it sometime," I said quickly, feeling myself blush.
"Doesn't it involve your clothes staying on?"
"Sorry, no interest here." I rolled my eyes and left.
Half an hour later, I was at the airport, cursing myself for not saving the text Seth had sent me about what gate his plane was at. I knew for sure it was either 22 or 23, so I positioned myself between the two and tried to look like I knew what I was doing.
About fifteen minutes later, people started streaming from gate 22. Squinting over, I saw a heavy-set boy around my age step out of the barrage of people and look around indecisively. He was slightly turned away, but I could still recognize the nervous hunch of his shoulders, the dark brown hair. Smiling, strode over and wrapped my arms as far I could around his sizeable middle.
His hands came onto my shoulders, but not to return the sentiment. He pushed me away from him violently, making me stumble.
"Chunks?" He said disgustedly. "Where do you get off assaulting complete strangers and calling them degrading names?"
I gaped. "Seth?"
"No," he said shortly, and wrapping his arms around himself defensively, he hurtled away from me.
Well. I felt like an ass.
I was still reeling from my complete inability to recognize one of my oldest, bestest friends, when I felt arms wrap around me from behind and swing me into the air.
"Shorty!" Said a familiar voice in my ear. Even halfway in the air, I recognized immediately something was wrong. His arms weren't pudgy little stubs. I didn't feel his pillow-like stomach cushioning my landing.
Spinning around, I confronted my worst nightmare—the hottest freaking hottie to ever grace my presence, but with Seth's familiar blue-green eyes and dark, messy hair. He was the same—just minus oh, sixty or so pounds.
"Surprised?" He said, smiling widely.
"B-b-bitch." I managed.
To say that was one of the most awkward car rides in the entire world would be an understatement. At first, Seth chattered about his trip, but when I was barely able to squeak out an "mmhmm," and eventually we lapsed into complete silence. The one time I snuck a glance into his side of the car just to make sure I hadn't imagined his amazing transformation, I nearly drove off the road.
When I wordlessly ushered him into our room, I took off to the bathroom and immediately called in reinforcements.
"Clarice!" I hissed into the phone. "SOS! The Titanic is fucking sinking over here!"
" Not understanding," she drolled into the phone. "Did USS Seth accidentally step on someone?"
"Negative!" I said, my voice successfully going through three different octaves. "He's the sexiest person in the entire planet!"
"I guess…if you find fat rolls attractive…"
"Can you listen to me for just one second? I wanted fat rolls! I wanted MY Seth! And then there's this alien person who's a freaking sexy beast who I picked up from the airport with Seth 's name and Seth's Sethness, and I completely freaked the fuck out!"
"Clarice, you need to get over here ASAP. Please. I'm begging you. I will let you have the room for yourself for a full week after Seth's gone. I will even wash your sheets afterward."
"Deal," she said immediately. "Girl, you're too easy."
"Not as easy as you are," I said quickly. "Hurry!"
I don't even know what show Seth and I were watching on my TV when Clarice showed up. I was sitting as far away from him as humanly possibly, and I felt really bad about it too, considering how uncomfortable he looked.
The door opened, and we both looked up.
"Hi!" Clarice said, and then did a double take. "Hi," she said in a lower voice, her tone suddenly sensual. I blinked.
"Hi," Seth said mildly. "You must be Clarice."
"You mean Hayden mentioned me?" Clarice giggled. "Aw, that's sweet. "
"Yeah," Seth said, with a sidelong look at me, which I studiously avoided.
"So," Clarice said, taking charge. "There's a party tonight at High Street. You in?"
Even if she was saving my sorry ass, I glowered. Was 'he' in? Wasn't I part of this awkward tableau, too?
"I-I'm in," I said bravely, and turned bright red when they both turned to look at me.
"Yeah, me too," Seth said quickly, and I gave him a forced smile. I had a few ideas about what could take the edge off, and they all revolved around a game of flip cup.
Even losing a game of flip cup couldn't dull the edge. Seth had been pulled off somewhere by Clarice and a gaggle of giggling girls and I was too busy jealously surveying the hallway they had disappeared down to actually have any fun.
After an hour of mooning around and deflecting guys' come-ons with a string of stuttering "um"s, I was about to give up entirely when I turned a corner and ran across Seth.
"H-hey," I said. "Clarice?"
"She went off with some guy," he shrugged. "You about ready to head back?"
"Sure," I said. "Let's, um, go." It was easier to talk to him if I only looked at his chin. Man, was it a sexy chin. He used to have three of them.
Out on the lawn, I was suddenly accosted by a very drunk, very obnoxious Former Hot Boy, who somehow recognized me through his inebriated state.
"Heeeey!" He slurred. "What a tease. Found another guy already to be coy with?"
Any other day, I would have been mildly pleased that a hot piece of ass actually remembered me, even if he was a complete jerk. But Seth—unfortunately hotter, but still my best friend— was in the picture now, so this prick didn't really matter.
"N-no," I said, sidestepping him. "He's a…friend."
"Right. Bag." Former Hot Guy said, saluting me with his beer bottle.
"Bag?" Seth questioned.
I shook my head. In the darkness of the street, it was easier to talk to him. "It's a long story."
We walked silently all the way back to my dorm. I changed in the bathroom and came back to see a very shirtless Seth stretched out on the futon. Yep. No fat rolls there.
"Night," I said to the darkened room.
So this royally sucked. I had been so excited to see Seth again and spend the rest of my college experience with him, and now we were acting like complete strangers. Well it definitely wasn't my fault he went off to Potato Country and decided to morph himself into a sex monster.
I was just about to roll over and try to fall asleep when he spoke again.
"Shorty? Are you mad at me?"
"No!" I said immediately, sitting up.
"You've been acting weird since the airport. Did I do something wrong?" His voice was hesitant, soft and sweet, and since I couldn't see him, I could imagine him as my best teddy bear again.
"God, Seth. I'm so sorry. This has been all me. Not you at all. I promise."
"Okay?" He said, still confused. I blew out a sigh.
"You know that problem I had in elementary and middle school?"
"Farting whenever a teacher called on you?"
There was a brief, uncomfortable silence as shame washed over me.
"Um, not that one. The other one."
"Oh! You mean losing 55 IQ points whenever a hot male specimen said something to you?"
"Yeah, that one."
There was another silence as he worked that one out.
"Wait…Hay…are you saying you find me attractive?"
There was never a better time than that moment to suffocate myself with my pillow. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks, even though he couldn't see me.
"Well,Seth…you're different. I just wasn't expecting…that."
Seth laughed. It was a nice sound, comforting and familiar. "So I joined the swimming team and lost all of my blubber. I'm still the same Seth."
"I know, I'm sorry! I don't know what's wrong with me. I wish I could explain it. Everything was fine when I was talking to you on the phone and texting you and emailing you. And then I saw you in the airport and everything just changed."
"I don't want you to think that, Hay. We were so excited to go to school together, I don't want that to change, at all."
In the darkness, it seemed more like Seth and I, not Ridiculously Hot Boy and me. I slithered out of bed and padded over to the futon, finding him in the darkness.
"If it helps, I still am super excited, and I don't want anything to change, either." Seth's arms came around me and pulled me closer. I smelled his familiar Seth scent.
"The only other time you've ever been weird around me was when I tried to kiss you the day I was moving to Idaho, remember?"
I nodded, wincing at the memory.
"You said something about having to vacuum the refrigerator and ran away. That was the last time I saw you in person."
"Don't remind me," I groaned. I'm pretty sure that near-fatal collision was embarrassing for different reasons—him because he'd been rejected, and me because I'd been wanting to plant one on him ever since. The question was, did he still feel the way I had—have-all these years?
"Well, I promise I won't try anything this time around. You're my best friend," he said softly, his voice deep from near-sleep.
But that was far from reassuring. I was quickly realizing that Seth, whether hot or not, had always been someone I'd felt a connection with. Unlike every other hot guy I'd come in contact with, he wasn't self-absorbed or piggish. It was actually a blessing in disguise that I never knew he was hot, or I would have never known how amazing he really was.
Was my curse really such a curse, after all, if it helped me to befriend the best person I could ever know, to love him for himself and not his looks?
"W-what if I don't want you to be, though?"
He suddenly seemed much more awake. "What?"
"I think I l-l-l-like you, Seth," I stuttered out, and found myself even more embarrassed. How could anyone be attracted to that? I should have planned this late-night confessional better.
There was no movement from my bedmate. I considered suicide via plunging out the window.
Seth tentatively touched my shoulder. "You're so cute, Hay."
"R-really?" There was a short pause, and then his lips found my neck. My breath hitched. They moved up and found my lips, and then nothing else seemed to matter.
He gently kissed me again, and I smiled. He was right. This really was my Seth, the Prince Charming I always wanted. And it didn't matter a whit to me what he looked like. I just knew I wanted him.
"Good night, Chunks," I said, snuggling into him. He laughed, deep and soft, and pulled me closer.
And just like that, we fell asleep.
So, not exactly where I planned to go with this, but hopefully not completely awful.
Thanks so much to anyone who read/reviewed COASGG, it was a great self-esteem boost!