Humorously, tragically, a perfect love story goes awry.
By Laura Gonzalez
1. Set Up a Really Great Life With a Really Great Boyfriend and a Really Great Best Friend
This step can take particularly long to achieve. You shouldn’t count it into the ten days. I advise that you don’t even decide to ruin your high school life until you have step one complete. And make sure you do not proceed to Step 2 and Step 3 unless you’re absolutely, positively, entirely sure you want your life ruined.
This step is the most fun: set up a really great life with a really great boyfriend and a really great best friend.
Pick a boyfriend like Ronaldo Newman: captain of the debate team, student body president, National Honor Society president, and a state violin soloist. He’s also incredibly attractive. He looks a little like Clark Kent. Not the Clark that’s Superman, but the Clark who works at a newspaper, complete with the thick, black framed glasses that gave him the adorable studious look. It was a wonder that a guy like Ronald Newman even liked me in the first place.
It has to be the best relationship you’ve ever been in. Make sure he’s the guy who calls you Gorgeous instead of Judith, even when you get a sty on your eyelid that makes you look like an ogre and prevents you from wearing mascara for four days. Make sure you pick the guy who thinks that your mousy brown hair and slightly upturned nose and chipped blue nail polish is cute.
Pick the guy whose dumb jokes make you laugh until your sides threaten to rip apart and you have tears streaming down your face. The guy who you can talk to for hours about how scared you are that you might be too dumb for college, how you feel like you’ll never have enough time to love him, and how moving away from your mom is the scariest thought ever. The guy who will help you theorize the science behind why we get our best ideas in the shower, also what the guy who invented pencil grips went through in order to invent pencil grips.
“I bet he had a callous as big as Jupiter on his middle finger,” he says.
“No, I bet he had it on his ring finger,” you say.
“Who uses their ring finger to grip a pencil?” he says. And you smile at his goofy smile. You cozy up tighter under his arm that’s draped around your shoulders.
Say something like: “I do, you jerk!” And then do that awful sounding snorty-hiccup laugh you can’t help but do when he scrunches up his nose and the corners of his eyes crinkle.
It will be a moment that you will always remember. Because who else would talk to you about the pencil grip inventor? And who wouldn’t run away from the sound of your hideous laughter? Answer: your guy.
Find a guy like Ronaldo Newman, and be the only one who calls him Aldo. Date him for two and half years.
Make sure your best friend approves, and is along for the ride. A best friend like mine, Micra Watson. Ensure she’s your polar opposite. This is the only way she’ll tell you like it is (unless, you’re the opinionated one in the friendship, then scratch that). If you’re like me, pick a girl who likes to dye her hair unnatural shades of red even though she was born with natural red hair. Who performs magic tricks with makeup and turns you into a better-than-average version of you for junior prom. Try to pick her at a young age, like eight, so you can grow up together. She knows the ins and outs of you. She knows that you don’t like being photographed on your left side and that purple lipstick makes your teeth look too yellow. Learn the ins and outs of her too. Know that her favorite color is black even though she admits it’s not really a color. Know that it hurts her teeth to hear people chew ice. Make sure she’s the girl who comes over to watch movies with you even though you have vomit in your hair from the food poisoning you got at Mr. Won’s China Palace. She should be the friend you trust to cut your hair when she decides she wants to cut hair for a living. When she accidentally cuts too much and makes you look like an ugly Victoria Beckham-wannabe, laugh. Don’t cry in front of her. Tell her you love it when she cries about how sorry she is.
“It’ll grow back,” you’ll tell her.
“It’s horrible!” she’ll say. “Don’t try to make me feel better!”
“I love it,” you’ll insist. And then you two will hug like you haven’t seen each other in two million years. Hug each other until you feel like one of you will suffocate.
Do not pick a best friend who will try to steal your boyfriend. Instead, pick a girl who likes bad boys so you can like the good ones. And whatever you do, make sure you and your best friend don’t stay mad at each other for too long. Make sure the worst fight you ever get in is the one when she took the last chicken wing even though you called dibs. The friendship has to last until your senior year of high school. You have to make plans to go to the same college. She has to be the one you’ll make a pact with to marry in case you both wind up still unmarried at 50.
She has to be with you through thick and thin. Make sure you pick someone who supports you in whatever you do. And who loves you like a sister.
When you truly feel like you are on top of the world: Stop, take it in. Cherish it. Stand there. Think about how nothing in the world could bring you down. Think about how great life is. Think about how lucky you are.
On Christmas Eve, stare at how handsome your boyfriend looks in his dark jeans and chestnut brown sweater. Don’t even be mad that he blends in with the wall behind him, the wall with every family photo from the last ten years. Don’t be mad that his brown sweater clashes with the sequined black dress you and Micra both decided to wear. And even though your tiny, cluttered living room with the outdated pleather couches and the laundry basket in the corner that’s hidden not so stealthily with a Christmas blanket over it is not that romantic, kiss your boyfriend under the stuffed Santa with the torn hat and large ears that your mom insists on pinning above the entrance to the living room even though the pins stuck through the hands make it look like a sacrificial lamb. Smile at your best friend who is standing inches away from you, her third soda in one hand and a brownie in the other. Her red lipstick has smeared slightly, and her dress has a dollop of frosting on the sleeve. Hug her in front of the Christmas tree that is so tall, the top bends against the low ceiling.
Grin manically. Say: “I love you both so much!”
Pull them both in into a hug. The kind where they could both possibly suffocate. Plant another sloppy kiss on your boyfriend’s reddened cheek.
“We should all three be roommates when we graduate. You can pay rent Ronaldo,” your best friend giggles. She is hyper from all the sugar she has consumed by then. She smashes her lips against your cheek. The three of you laugh manically even though it wasn’t even really that funny.
Pose for a picture when your mom comes around with the camera.
Only then, will you have completed Step 1.
2. Get In A Fight With Your Boyfriend Over Something Stupid, then Accidentally Get Drunk, and Hook Up With a Douchebag
This step is self-explanatory. I will still explain.
On Christmas Day, you’ll have to get mad at your mom for making you go along with the family to visit your Aunt Gertrude. Aunt Gertrude is your dad’s old secretary whose last name is also Sloan. She will likely insist that your families are related until her dying breath, but she isn’t your real aunt. She will also claim that she was blessed with good genes and will never have gray hair, but you’ve seen the boxes of red hair dye in her bathroom. There is no way that someone with skin as wrinkled as hers doesn’t have gray hair.
Get mad, and be a brat about it. Complain about how she hugs you too hard and gets cat hair all over your clothes. Complain about how her house smells like a sickening blend of mothballs and cat poop. Complain about how she always insists that you eat whatever she’s made and how, nine times out of ten, it tastes like feet that have been soaking in sweaty socks overnight. Get meaner and say Aunt Gertrude’s breath always smells like onions and speculate that whatever gift she gives you will likely be a reflection of her awful taste in clothing. Imagine her in her gaudy printed dresses and stockings that are always halfway down her ankles, and shudder. Tell your mom that you already had plans to spend the day with Aldo’s family. Tell her you still need to exchange gifts with Aldo. He hasn’t given you your gift and you haven’t given him that nice collage you made and that nice watch. Insist that Christmas gifts given after Christmas are not the same. When she doesn’t relent, send an angry text to Aldo about how mad you are at your mom. Tell him you won’t be able to make it.
When he doesn’t text you back in the next hour, send him an angry text about how he never listens to you. You know it’s not true, but say it anyway. You’re angry; you have to take it out on someone. When he calls you at Aunt Gertrude’s, ignore it. You’re not that mad anymore because Aunt Gertrude gave you that nail polish set with 43 different colors that you’d been eyeing at Target, but you feel like you still have to be mad.
When he calls you later, when you’re home from Aunt Gertrude’s, ignore that one too. Realize that you don’t even know why you were ever mad to begin with. Call him back. When he sends you to voicemail, realize you’ve made a mistake.
He texts you in the morning, to tell you he’s sorry that he fell asleep. You’re out with your mom getting Christmas candy fifty-percent off at Wal-Mart. Your phone is in your purse and you don’t feel it vibrate. When you call him, it goes to voicemail. He went hunting with his uncles and doesn’t have service out on the ranch. But you don’t know this. Get mad.
Play phone tag for the next three days. On December 30th, tell him not to forget that you two had plans to go to Jill’s New Year’s Eve party. She throws one every year, but now that you’re seniors, it is going to be bigger and better. When he tells you, “I’m sorry, Gorgeous, but I forgot,” and says he’s spending New Year’s Eve at his grandma’s house, get upset
“Seriously?” you say. You don’t like the way your voice sounds, and you feel bad for a second. But you haven’t seen him in days. You have a right. Don’t worry.
He ignores your sass and asks, “Do you want to come with me? Everyone will love to see you.”
Say: “No. I already have plans. Remember.”
This will make him upset too. “Babe, come on. Don’t do that.”
You answer: “You did it first.”
He sighs. You stay silent. Your silence is seething, and his silence is pleading.
“I miss you. How has your week been?” he asks. “It feels like I haven’t talked to you in forever.”
“Yeah, because you haven’t,” you say. You know he just wants to smooth things over, but you’re still mad. You can’t help it.
“Don’t do this, babe,” he pleads.
“Well then, don’t ignore me and cancel our big plans!”
“I’m sorry,” he says. “It’s just been–” Don’t let him finish. Hang up.
The next day, spend two hours getting ready for the party. When he sees the picture you’re going to post of you and Micra, you want him to be upset that he wasn’t there to see you look so great. Before you leave, take a swig from the unlabeled bottle that Micra has stashed under her bed. Only a sip.
When you get to the party, it’s already in full swing. People forgot about how uncool it was to show up early, and a large crowd of sweaty teenagers are already bobbing to the beat of a song with no words. All have red cups and beer cans in their hands. It’s uncomfortably warm in the house despite the open doors and the high ceilings, and you feel yourself start to sweat underneath the long-sleeved dress you wish you hadn’t worn. A girl teeters by on her heels and grabs your arm for balance. Whatever’s in her cup splashes onto your toes and you cringe. She gives you a slow sloppy grin with glazed eyes before stumbling past you.
The music makes your heart vibrate behind your ribcage, and you can’t hear a word Micra shouts. Smile at whatever she says. Lead her through the mass of bodies and into Jill’s giant kitchen, where people are standing and shouting into each other’s ears. They cluster around a table where they cheer each other on as they try to flip their cups over. Grab a drink. You don’t usually drink because Ronaldo doesn’t like it, but you’re mad at him, so do it. Drink Micra’s drink too. Laugh when she tells you to slow down. When she turns around to talk to someone you don’t really recognize, fill your cup back up. Drink it before pulling Micra away to go dance in Jill’s massive living room.
Somehow, end up losing track of Micra. End up dancing with some guy you vaguely recognize, but you can’t be too sure because you’re still thinking about how mad you are about Aldo. Plus your vision is kind of hazy. Realize you are a lightweight. Drink the drink he hands you anyway.
Make sure he’s kind of cute. When his hands slip onto your waist and slide down your hips, smile. He’ll smile back. Think about how jealous your amazing boyfriend will be.
When he pulls your hand to lead you away from the crowd, follow him. When he falls onto a crowded couch that’s been pushed into a corner, follow him. When he pulls you onto his lap, fall into it.
Forget about the time that Aldo showed up at your house at two in the morning to take you to IHOP the night before his debate tournament because you told him you were craving pancakes. Forget that was the only time he ever placed second at anything in his entire life. Forget that he didn’t even care about his measly second-place trophy because spending time with you was winning enough.
Forget about all that. And instead, when this guy smothers your face with his, don’t stop him. Ignore that his lips are harder than Aldo’s. Ignore that they’re colder and don’t make you feel as good. Just keep letting him kiss you. Jump when you feel his clammy hand creep up your leg. When he runs his hand up your side to grab your boob, forget about the fact that your elbow is digging into the stoned guy next to you. Forget that the couch smells like cat pee and the boy’s locker room hallway. Forget that you aren’t even sure of his name. Pull back and smile at him. Pretend that it isn’t the most unromantic thing in the world.
Hear your name.
Only listen when a hand grabs your shoulder and gives it a hard yank.
It’s Jill’s voice. It’s Micra’s hand.
Jill is surprised. Micra looks horror-stricken.
Glance back at the boy. He’ll smile. You—don’t smile. He doesn’t even seem that cute anymore.
Realize what you’ve done.
Jill and Micra promise not to tell a soul. It doesn’t matter. People saw. The boy is Jason Sanchez. Realize he is not known to keep his mouth shut.
He’s going to tell his equally big-mouthed friends.
Everyone will find out.
3. Try, Embarrassingly, to Fix Things
Between Step 2 and Step 3, there will be 4 days left before school starts again. During these four days, you should call Ronaldo relentlessly. To the point where it becomes near-harassment. This should be no surprise — he doesn’t answer. Be surprised anyway. Stay in your bed and cry off and on for these four days. Only leave your room on the day your mom orders pizza. You might be a horrible person, and you might not deserve the pizza, but it makes you feel better until you’re bloated and heavy with dough. You feel worse. Leave Ronaldo embarrassing voicemails. Beg for him. Also pray that he doesn’t replay them to anyone. You sound crazy. You are crazy.
Promise you were drunk. Say there is no excuse. Say you love him.
Cry when he doesn’t call back. Cry more when Micra won’t call you back either.
“Through thick and thin.” Remind them both. Get excited when Micra finally answers.
Be upset when she says, “That was really messed up Judith. I just—Ronaldo needs someone right now and I’m here.”
“I need someone right now!” you yell into the receiver. You feel her grimace through the phone.
“I’m with Ronaldo right now, Judith,” she says and then hangs up quietly.
Feel betrayed. Despite the circumstance, your best friend has done the one thing no girl is ever supposed to do. She ditched you for a boy. Obviously, cry more.
At school on Monday, everyone will look at you. Word travels fast. Plus, your face is so swollen it looks like someone stuck a balloon pump under your skin and inflated all the semi-decent parts. You don’t have halfway decent mascara job anymore, and your hair looks like you bathed in canola oil and then forgot to take a shower. Congratulations are in order because you have been the first girl to break Ronaldo Newman’s heart.
Show up at his locker like you usually do. Everyone will be watching. Beg him to listen to you anyway. He’ll sigh in frustration. He’ll walk away.
Spend lunch at the tables outside by the dumpsters. You are trash, so it’s where you belong. Plus, it’s time to plot your way back into Aldo’s heart. You are not very bright, so it’s going to take a serious amount of effort. Tear up when you remember that Aldo was the smart one.
Come up with an elaborate plan to meet him after his last class. You know his schedule better than you know your own. Skip your last class in an effort to calm your nerves and practice your lines. You struggle to keep down the bag of Cheetos you eat as you watch the digital clock blink every second.
When the clock strikes 4, the bell rings.
Aldo is the first one out. Ignore that Jason Sanchez is ten steps behind him, a sick smirk on his face.
Smile at Aldo. His smile falls when he sees you. He has his backpack slung across only one shoulder, and his t-shirt is a little wrinkled. He looks adorable.
Speak when he stops. Ignore the fact that everyone else has stopped around you too.
Take a deep breath.
Say: “There is really no excuse for what I did.”
He casts his eyes to the left. He shifts his weight, pulls his backpack up. He looks past you.
When he answers, his voice is low.
“I don’t want to do this.”
Clear your throat. Ignore your pounding heart. You only practiced your speech in the mirror of the downstairs girl’s bathroom.
“I know it was stupid, Aldo. I had too much to drink,” you say.
He’s shaking his head slowly. He isn’t meeting your eyes.
Pull your backpack off your shoulders. Pull out the collage you made him for Christmas, the gift you never got to give him. Hold it up. Your best memories are pasted across the board, laced with lines of puff paint and tiny drawn hearts. All the times you made stupid faces for the camera. All the times he kissed your forehead. Every formal, every dance, every time you laid your head across his chest. All the candid photos of him laughing at something stupid you said.
He doesn’t look at it.
Instead, he puts a hand on it, moving it away. Feel the tears form. Pull out the watch next. Rip it out of its box.
Show him the engraving on the back. He doesn’t look. Read it aloud. ‘Til the end of time. Love, J. It’s cheesy. Your face flushes when you say it.
Scramble for his wrist. It’s difficult to see through your tears. He tugs his arm back. Hold on tight. Accidentally pinch him with your chipped nails. He winces and yanks his arm back.
The halls are still quiet, but the air has grown thick. On all the faces, intrigue has been swapped out for horror and pity. Raised eyebrows turned to gaping mouths.
This was your grand master plan. The Judith Sloan Master Plan, like all things, a failure.
“Keep the watch,” he says.
Someone in the crowd gives an audible gasp.
“I don’t want it,” he says. His words slam at you with full force.
You’re crying. You gasp for air.
“Please, just listen to me,” you say.
“I can’t even look at you.”
Make sure you say something like, “Aldo, please!” Make sure you grab his arm. Make sure you cry. Make sure you cry harder when he flings your hand off. Make sure you know this is straight out of a scene of an embarrassing soap opera.
He turns around and says, “Don’t call me Aldo anymore.” Apologize again. Still, everyone is watching. He says, “Don’t, Judith.”
This is the first time since you’ve met that he hasn’t called you Gorgeous. That’s because you are no longer Gorgeous. You are just Judith Sloan with the upturned nose and chipped blue nail polish. The Judith Sloan who cheated on her boyfriend.
Watch, through blurred vision, as he saunters down the hall. Watch as he stops at the locker you used to lean against. When the crowd begins to clear, see a familiar fiery head of hair in the same spot you used to lean against. Watch Aldo open his locker. Watch the slow smile spread across his face. Recognize it as the smile he used to give you.
You feel the same way you did when your 2nd grade teacher wanted you to sing Rockin’ Robin for the talent show despite your lack of singing ability. Only this time, it’s less acceptable to run off stage. It’s not cute, it’s disastrous.
Watch as she picks up an arm, clad with a million familiar bracelets and places her hand on his shoulder. Her unchipped nails match her hair. Her fingers linger. She drags them down and gives his elbow a squeeze. Her lips move, his smile returns. Now she is Gorgeous.
Step 3 complete.
Laura Gonzalez lived most of her life in Edinburg, TX and has been a self-proclaimed writer since she was writing about mermaids at age 6. Today, she holds both her bachelor’s and master’s degree from UTRGV. She usually writes when she’s supposed to be doing something else (like homework) and is working on novels that she eventually hopes to publish. When she’s not writing, she’s probably reading or at the movies. She also thinks she’s kind of funny and can be found on twitter at @iammlauraa