From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

Junior High Crush

Junior high. Just the thought of it plagued me for an entire summer. And it was finally given meaning the first day I walked into homeroom. I was late. Not too late, but late enough to gain unwanted attention from my classmates. I nervously glanced around the room for a friendly smile as my new sneakers squeaked on the shiny, waxed floor. Nicole, my best friend since first grade, motioned to me. I figured she wanted me to take the seat next to her, so I made a pirouette and walked in her direction.

“Miss Moore?” bellowed a male voice from behind.

“Yeah?” I spun on my heels and faced a kindly looking man.

“You can take the seat over there in the corner,” he said, gently.

I smiled. He reciprocated, and I walked to my seat. I figured he would be my homeroom teacher for the rest of seventh grade. Maybe junior high wouldn’t be as scary as I thought.

We were about a week into the fall semester when my English teacher, Ms. McKinney, inaugurated a new activity: “The Name Game.” She split our class into two groups and had half of us stand up at the chalkboard and recite our names while the other half stayed in our seats, committing all the new names to memory. My group was called up, and I stood in line next to a tall, lanky guy wearing a dorky Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt from Jerusalem. We exchanged glances and a smile, and shifted our eyes to the boy at the front of the line.

“Cecilia Rivera.” “David Sands.” “Jeff Powers.” One by one, my classmates delivered their monikers. The boy next to me in the Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt cleared his throat to speak. “Max Phillips.”

His voice had cracked. Since I had never before been exposed to pubescent boys (I attended an all-girls elementary school), I turned red and barely choked out my own name.

“R-r-r-achel Moore,” I managed to spit out between giggles. I glanced up at Max while covering my crimson cheeks with my sweaty palms. He blushed, but I could tell he was used to it. I tried to console him with a smile, but he was still red.

I ended up sitting next to him and finding out that he had caught the eyes of many girls, including Nicole. On our bus ride home she gushed about his “adorable” Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt and how they “totally flirted in English today.” I talked about my computer teacher and asked if I could borrow her science notes. Needless to say, Nicole was getting popular, and I was getting left in the dust.

Maybe it was because I felt I needed to fit in, or maybe because there was no one else to like, but I began to start thinking about Max in another kind of way. He wasn’t just that nerdy, tall guy who sat next to me in English. He was a god. Suddenly his repugnant skater shoes became “fabulously stylish,” and I worshipped every sheet of loose-leaf notebook paper he crumpled up and casually tossed aside. I began to wear my Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt from Tijuana, the one Mom got from her Mexican vacation with her boyfriend. The one I swore I’d never wear outside the vicinity of our house. Then, after two months of silent adoration, he spoke to me.

“Did you like Tijuana?” Max asked me one day, while our class was paraphrasing a sonnet from Julius Caesar.

“Huh?” I replied. Was he talking to me? Me? Rachel Louise Moore? The girl who spied on him from across the quad at lunch while he played Hackey Sack with his friends?

“Tijuana. Is it nice?” he repeated.

“Uh . . . yeah! It’s great!” I lied. Who was I kidding? I had never even been out of the United States. Well, I obviously fooled him.

“Neat,” he replied coolly. Whoa, he just talked to me. Which, in junior-high girl language, automatically meant, “He likes me!”

I strutted through the hallways that day. Nicole begged me to tell her why I was so happy.

“Ahhh . . . no reason. Must be the fall breeze!” I responded, with a smirk.

“Okaaaaay . . . whatever, Rachel. You’re freakin’ me out!” Nicole countered. But nothing could get me off this wonderful feeling.

The next day was a Thursday, but I had a cold, so I stayed home. That evening I called my new friend Jackie for our English homework.

“Soooo Jackie . . . anything interesting happen in English today?” I asked, coyly.

“Actually, yeah. Max asked Nicole to the homecoming dance,” Jackie said, matter-of-factly.

My jaw dropped. I was completely dumbfounded. I had built my entire pathetic seventh-grade existence around Max, making witty comments about how boring Shakespeare was every time he asked what page we were on, intentionally dropping my pen so he might take time out of his busy-boy schedule to pick it up for me.

“He what?” I asked with a lump in my throat.

“He asked her out. Today. In third-period English. She was wearing that cute Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt from San Francisco. He told her he went there over the summer, and they spent nearly the entire period talking about it. Ms. McKinney practically had to separate their desks to keep them from talking.”

Ugh. I had heard enough. I got the homework assignment and hung up. I couldn’t believe this! He was supposed to like me! All the signs pointed to me! Why was this happening? I read the assigned pages of Julius Caesar but wasn’t concentrating at all. All I could think about was how they would walk down the halls hand in hand for the rest of the year while I stood idly by, more pathetic than ever. I finally fell asleep.

My mom made me go to school on Friday, even though I begged her not to. Nicole talked about Max for the entire first and second periods. I don’t know why, but I wore my Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt from Tijuana that day. In English, I watched them while I attempted to pen tortured poetry. I felt a tap on my shoulder from behind.

“Rachel, right?” he asked. It was Andrew Rogers. I remembered him from “The Name Game.”

“Yeah,” I replied, shyly. He was cute!

“I’m going to Tijuana for winter break. Is it fun?” he asked. I smiled and shrugged.

“I’ve never been there, but tell me about it when you get back.”

“You got it,” he said as he winked.

I knew then that things were going to be okay.

Rachel Louise Moore

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