Crushboy from Hell

In a sea of high school boys named Paolo, Mark, Miguel and John, his name stood out like a sore thumb. It was Cliff. Yes, Cliff – the one place deranged people, like a suicidal, angsty Math genius or a demented, sex-crazed rapist, deliberately sought out. I fervently wished his mother did not draw inspiration from her spot-on foresight that he would be dizzyingly dangerous to a girl's cardiovascular health, specifically mine.

He wasn't anything special. In fact, there were far hotter, smarter and more hunkalicious boys in class. His eyebrows were always pulled together in a frown, partially hidden by unruly hair. He rarely smiled. And when he did, you would see that visible scar on his upper lip, which hinted at back alley fights with knives and baseball bats. He was always bent over his guitar, ignoring everything and everybody.

But shit, he made my knees wobble.

To me and only me did he himself stand out like a sore thumb. His eyes were dark and brooding, promising the possibility of a deep, scandalous secret. He chose to wear black, black and even more black – except on the tips of his Chuck Taylors, which of course he couldn't do anything about. Even the classic Rayban aviators he always wore were black, contrasting sharply against his pale, almost delicate cheekbones. Then there was the way he held his guitar. He did not merely play it – he made love to it, caressing, stroking and making it purr or moan or scream, just the way he wanted it to.

And he had incredibly large feet.

Oh my God. Delish. Jessica, relax.

But I wasn't part of his scene, nor he a part of mine. I gravitated towards fun, cheerful things – like dancing all night long, joyrides to the beach and ice cream after school with my friends. I didn't like all that emo stuff that his so-called band, Era, decided to emulate: wailing songs of unrequited love, mosh pits and Pete frickin' Wentz. Puh-lease. And I abhorred the groupies that swarmed all over them – girls in tight black skirts, fingerless gloves and dark eye pencil. You know, girls who kissed the ground they walked on, knew every single detail about their lives and automatically assumed everybody did too – as if we didn't have anything better to do with our puny, insignificant lives.

I just found myself getting pulled into Cliff's orbit more and more each day. I constantly had to see him across the room from the table where my friend Chloe and I ate lunch, eating his food sullenly or writing some new lyric in the notepad he jammed in his jeans' back pocket. Otherwise, I'd lose my appetite. I had to get my daily fix of staring at his dark, slightly greasy head as we rode the school bus home after school, or else the rest of my day was shot.

But of course, constant also was his ignoring me, even if he looked up every so often at lunch or swiveled around before getting off the bus to meet my blatant, far-from-shy stare. I flashed him a sunny smile every time, and I didn't care that Chloe rolled her eyes and cursed under her breath. He merely shrugged it off, as if saying, "Whatever, it's your prerogative to look or smile at me." Which didn't faze me and fascinated me even more.

Then, like a vulture to its prey, he surprised me one Tuesday afternoon.

"Jess, don't look now," Chloe hissed as we started our stretching exercises before cheerleading practice, "but Crushboy from Hell is coming this way." We were both sitting on the shiny gym floor with our legs spread in front of us, reaching our toes and bending down as far as we could.

Okay, so it was obvious she didn't share my interest in Cliff. Fact of the matter was, she thought he was such a walking cliché of a rock star wannabe – aloof, distant, channeling Rebel without a Cause, growing absurdly long hair. Whatever. I didn't really care about what she thought, even if they were all true. She still had to endure every single second of this, because I was her one and only friend in the squad and in school.

"Hey Cliff," I couldn't resist but greet him first as he narrowed down the distance between our meant-for-each-other bodies to five feet. I was grinning like an adoring fan, far worse than any groupie the history of rock 'n roll had ever seen. Beside me, Chloe groaned and pretended, not too discreetly, to vomit.

"Hey," he said, his eyes flickering over us. He shifted his weight from one leg to another, his right hand curved over the nape of his neck. He was ill at ease, obviously very hesitant to continue, what with the entire cheerleading team doing squats and raising their legs in front of him.

I broke away from Chloe's side, but not without giving her a hard pinch on the arm first, and bounded up next to him. "What's up?" I asked sweetly. I wished to the cheerleading gods my new push-up bra was working.

He cleared his throat. "I wanted to tell you something," he said, his eyes shifting to peer into my face, his expression unreadable, as usual.

Oh my God. Was this actually it? The day of all days? The day he was gonna tell me he loved me too? I could finally look into the deep, dark pools of his eyes and run my fingers over the smooth skin of his cheek? I could kiss him softly and at long last solve the mystery behind that scar on his lip? I could finally be the one person to make him smile? I almost forgot to breathe.

Well, his expression just changed to seriously pissed, now that Chloe decided to open her big, fat mouth.

"We're in the middle of cheerleading practice, in case you didn't notice," she said loudly. I was already smiling brightly at him, but Cliff turned to stare and sneer at her. She just shrugged before turning her gaze up at him again when I shot her a sharp, can-you-please-shut-your-trap look.

I couldn't believe she was ruining the moment for me!

"Cheerleading practice? On your ass?" he asked sardonically, raising those oft-frowning eyebrows.

"I'm stretching, you brain-dead oaf," she shot back, red in the face. "You should try it once in a while, instead of watching the playback of the same gig again and again with your poser friends."

"You're one to talk, airhead – "

Oh no. I had to do damage control. Best friend and future husband were already fighting and he hadn't even had the chance to profess his undying love for me just yet!

"Chloe, would you please shut up?" I gave him an apologetic glance and a cute, well-practiced smile. "Look, I'm sure what you're gonna say is real important, but I promise this won't last too long. How about I drop by your house later so we can really talk? How's 6?"

Chloe snorted as she got on her feet and walked away. "Booty call," she muttered, loud enough for Cliff and me to hear.

I cringed, but Cliff gave a smirk that almost passed as a pained, confused smile. "Okay, Jessica," he said. "You know where I live. I'll see you then."

Ten minutes to 6:00 P.M. and I was already there at his door, smoothing my hair into place. I was fresh out of the shower from our invigorating practice, with carefully blow-dried hair and my favorite perfume on strategic points in my skin. I had on my white shorts and gray parka – cute but not too slutty.

I was rightfully ready for a wild, passionate make-out session after his equally wild and passionate declaration of love.

I mean, what else could it be, right?

Cliff finally answered the door, his eyes wide and expectant. He had a smile on his face, one that I had never seen before. Hopeful, happy, dazed. My heart started hammering inside my chest.

"Jessica," he said warmly.

"Cliff," I breathed, stepping into his arms and –

And then, off that high cliff, I fell. Yes, a cliff – the one place deranged people, like a sad girl whose heart breaks the very first time, deliberately sought out. He undeniably was dangerous not just to any girl's cardiovascular health, but most especially mine.

"I'm in love with Chloe," he blurted out. "What should I do?"

Note: For those friends of mine who clamored for a follow up, I already made one! Already uploaded From Aniston to Paltrow, the sequel to Crushboy from Hell.