• Anne sat cross-legged on her bed with her acoustic guitar slung across her lap. Her fingers wanted to strum a song, but her mind wouldn’t let her. Her head pounded. Her cheeks flushed every time she thought of him, even though she was the only one in the house. She wouldn’t let herself be flattered. He said he loved her, but how much? How could she tell? She had never really spoken to him before. She saw him switching classes in the hall. He had once even sort of smiled at her as she passed by. It was a dazzling smile, a real smile. But that was their only exchange. He was the high school heartthrob, but what could he want with her? She wasn’t popular in the least, and she hardly thought herself attractive.
    Anne set the guitar on the bed beside her and stood up. Skeptically, she shuffled to the full-length mirror. She gazed at herself. No; not merely attractive. She had dark wavy hair and wide hazel eyes – and how could that compare to Ashleigh Macon’s long stick-straight blond hair and turquoise irises? Anne’s face was thin with a sharp jaw, high cheek bones, and thin peach lips. Her complexion was so pale whereas Ashleigh’s was a gorgeous California tan. But he said he loved her. How her heart fluttered every time she repeated those words in her head.
    She was so tense, like she had just drunk five cups of coffee and eaten two bags of cotton candy. She fell back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Her mother was an artist. She painted the ceiling baby blue with white fluffy clouds hanging lazily overhead. Anne loved to forget herself behind and envelop herself in her own little fantasies. She wanted to fly, and she could in her dreams. In her dream she imagined Blake never even noticed her. He had never smiled at her in the hall. He never confessed his undying affection for her. She found her breathing slowing. A flicker of a grin fluttered across her face. Anne was so good at convincing herself everything was okay – she had had a lot of practice – even though she knew as soon as she opened her eyes, reality would snap back into place and she would remain as clueless and helpless as ever.
    And if that’s what it took to escape the chaos, then she’d sleep until the day she died. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy.
    The phone began to ring. Anne groaned, but turned herself over to glance at the caller ID. It read PRIVATE NAME PRIVATE NUMBER. She wrenched the receiver from the dock and pressed the TALK button.
    “Hello?” she asked into the phone. She lay back down and propped herself up on one arm.
    “Is this Anne?” a masculine voice asked. Blood rushed to her face and her breathing quickened.
    “Look, Blake, this isn’t a good time!” she gasped, lunging to hang up.
    “Wait!” he protested. She hesitated at the dock. Reluctantly, she put the phone back to her ear.
    “Yes?” she said.
    “I wanted to know if you’d… you know, if you wanted to hang out some time?” he sounded just as nervous as herself. Anna sighed.
    “I’d really rather not complicate things”, she answered.
    “Complicate things? Is there someone else?” he asked, clearly surprised. Anne couldn’t hold her laughter in. Someone else! What a riot. As if anyone would want her. “What’s so funny?”
    “Nothing”, she said, swallowing the rest of her giggles. “No, there isn’t anyone else. I’d just like it to stay that way for the time being”, she told him honestly. There was a long silence and she was seriously concerned if he had died on the other line.
    “Oh”, he said at last.
    “Sorry”, Anne told him. She desperately wanted to end the conversation, but for some reason her hand wouldn’t hang up the phone, no matter how much coaxing she gave it.
    “Okay then. Um… I’ll see you in school tomorrow”, he said grimly.
    “Bye!” she said and was relieved when the phone started beeping. At least she wouldn’t feel guilty about hanging up on him. Anne replaced the receiver. She picked up her guitar and began to pluck out random notes. She had inspiration now. She had stood her ground and turned him down. Accomplishment was radiating of her skin. She felt she could face him after today. His smiles during passing periods would bounce off of her like balloons. Anne was actually excited for tomorrow.