FIFTY-NINE, 2.0

“That’s not how you fall in love with someone!” Annie was flabbergasted at what Ed just told her. And she’d just defined the word in English class, so it was oddly perfect timing.

She felt her upper lip curl as she smacked Ed on the shoulder, and knew he was judging her. Ed was always judging her. Not that he had any right to judge anyone. He was more than mildly obsessed with Cindy, everyone and their mothers knew it, and the teachers probably did, too.

The only one who didn’t know was Cindy, even though she was standing five feet ahead of them in line. According to Cindy’s best friend, Frances, Cindy wasn’t really looking to date, seeing as she was much too focused on college applications. But that was just an excuse everyone gave when they didn’t like the person crushing on them.

High school rule #265: be kind when you reject an undesirable from your life.

Annie grabbed Ed’s arm, pulled him out of the lunch line. She said, “Okay, you’re not in love with her. Let’s get that straight right off the bat.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s just… it doesn’t happen that way and you can trust me on that.”

“Like you’ve been in love.”

“Ed, you got a look at her cleavage and probably came in your pants a little. That’s not love, that’s just… well, obsessed. And it’s kind of gross.”

“Now you’re just insulting me.”

He got back in line, and Cindy was thankfully nowhere in sight.

Annie almost pulled her own hair, she was so frustrated. She’d seen him reject girl after girl who’d asked him to the Winter Ball, but hadn’t made a peep about them because, well, the crush on Cindy. It’s not that Annie didn’t like Cindy. She actually really admired her.

Cindy had smarts in every class, took part in cheer leading, student government, and had probably every badge known to girl scouts on the sash that was displayed prominently in her living room. Everyone admired Cindy.

And all the boys loved her.

Annie was loyal to Ed, they’d been friends since Kindergarten, but this was… getting to be too much. Maybe her mother was right: high school means you can’t just be friends with boys. After they grabbed lunch, they sat at the lunch table in the corner. “Are you going to ask her to Winter Ball?”

She wanted to play nice. She could see Ed’s furrowed brow and he’d pulled out a book, meaning he was just going to mope unless she talked about him, to him.

He replied, “I mean, ideally, yeah, but she’ll say no.”

“You can’t think like that, it’s annoying.”

“I’m just being realistic. She barely says hello to me when I say hi in the morning”.

“That’s because you go to her like a lovesick puppy, practically drooling. You probably stare at her tits, and, let’s face it, everyone stares at Cindy’s tits.”

“I mean, how could you not?”

He was being gross, but at least he was smiling.

“My point is, just ask her. What do you have to lose?”

“I’d be embarrassed. Everyone would just laugh at me and the rejection. Also, I can’t dance.”

“Dancing is the least of your worries, and you get embarrassed just walking down the hall — not to be blunt, but you do.” They both looked at the clock and quickly finished their lunches.

On the way out, they skirted past Cindy’s table. Ed and Annie said hi, and Cindy and Ed exchanged a brief, soft glance and a smile.

Annie elbowed Ed down the hall, and he just turned beat red. There were footsteps running up behind them, light and fast. Ed turned first, and Annie watched him smile, and knew who was behind them.

She took a mental note of his smile.

Years later, she would recall that moment on Ed and Cindy’s wedding day. Her toast to the bride and groom may or may not have revealed a fun little tale of puppy love.

And cleavage.

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