Chapter 1: She Might Be Hot or Whatever

"So Eden sank to grief,
so dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay."

- Robert Frost

It's an all-known fact that the ugly girl never gets the hot guy.

I'm no Einstein, but some things you just… know.

Just like everybody knows that pretty people flock together, form a pack, protect each other from all the ugliness in the world as if talking to someone, who has less bedazzling looks than them, can suddenly turn them into toads. Or worse - social pariahs. God forbid that happened. Being the ugly duckling among a gaggle of girls that easily belong on the covers of all the fashion magazines isn't easy. On the opposite, you'll probably stick out like a sore thumb. Whoever said that beauty isn't only skin-deep, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that should really consider checking himself in the nearest mental facility because – obviously – he's been dropped on the head one too many times as a baby and it's now become apparent that he can't function in today's society.

That, or he seriously needs glasses.


A book shouldn't be judged by its glossy cover, but it's the first thing you see when you pick it up; most of the time, it's also the thing that makes you want to buy said book. It's its texture and fascinating, eye-riveting illustrations that you notice first, not its content. Who isn't drawn to pretty covers, anyways? They please the eye and it would be foolish to think that upon meeting someone for the first time, you can fall in love with him at first sight. That's why it's called love at first sight and not love at first conversation about the meaning of love, life, and all the things in between. Truth is that looks matter, especially when your mother is a former pageant queen and visibly cringes every time she lays eyes on you, like she can hardly will herself not to look away, like she cannot believe that her womb's managed to produce such an unsightly child.

As a conclusion, being beautiful is a weapon, a deadly weapon in the hands of a girl that knows how to use it. And oh, boy, with the kind of striking beauty that Caroline Emerson has, it's no wonder she demands everyone's attention.

"God, Todd, you're such a pig," Gwen complains before she reaches over the table and whacks Todd on the back of his head, catching both me and him off guard. At once, I straighten my back and start to wonder what he could've possibly done to tick her off, but I come up empty. Neither one of us has said a word in the last few minutes. Even so, we've still found a way to rub her off the wrong way. No surprise there.

Startled, Todd yelps half in pain and half in surprise as he almost jumps out of his skin and looks accusingly at Gwen who has her arms across her chest and her pointy nose turned up at us.

"What did I do now?" Todd asks in befuddlement, rubbing the spot where Gwen has hit him and trying hard not to pout, but failing miserably at it.

"You were staring at her," Gwen almost sneers as she jerks a thumb over her shoulder to where Caroline Emerson, resident Queen Bee, is sitting and happily chatting with her friends, sharing secrets and telling jokes. "Actually, you both were staring," Gwen adds as she shoots me an accusatory glare, as if I'm not even allowed to look at people without asking for her permission first. I blink up at her blankly a few times while Todd merely shrugs in response, playing it cool.

"Well, you can't blame me for looking," he explains, his brown eyes flitting to the popular table where Caroline is even as he speaks, "she's hot."

It's the way he says this, like everybody knows it, too (which they do), not the statement itself that truly aggravates Gwen. I mean, Gwen isn't stupid and she doesn't live under a rock, neither is she blind while we're at it too, so she's fully aware of all the sex appeal galore Caroline Emerson has, but what Todd can't get his head around is the simple fact that Gwen's had a crush on him for, like, ever. But since she doesn't do anything about it but wallow in self-pity and wait for him to realize that he's madly in love with her too, which would never happen since love is an unknown concept to Todd. That's why she has to listen to him go on about how hot and doable other girls are.

And Todd finds almost every girl that he sees hot – every one, except for me and her.

"Todd!" Gwen gasps in horror and this time when she leans over the table to hit him, Todd's prepared and he pulls back just in time before she does any permanent damage.

"What?" Todd puts his hands in front of his face, shielding his eyes from Gwen before she scratched them out, but he doesn't have to since Gwen's back in her seat and looking at him murderously. "It's true!"

"No, it isn't," she replies without missing a beat as she adjusts her glasses and stares back at Todd, daring him to object. Challenging him with her eyes to object. As always, spoiling for a fight.

"She is hot," I agree with Todd readily and it's a little too late when I realize that now I've come between my two best friends and Gwen's going to behead me for going against her. Judging by the way she narrows her eyes, I'd say I won't last the day.

Where's your sympathy and support, Georgiana? she'd ask me before she pushes me in front of a train. Or a moving car. Whichever comes first. She wouldn't care as long it gets the job done.

"See?" Todd smiles in triumph, obviously gloating that he has me on his side. "Georgia agrees with me." Todd beams down at me and all I can do is shrug because it's not like I've told a lie. He lifts his hand for a high-five, but I shake my head at him. If the dark look Gwen shoots him, Todd might want to tone down the excitement a bit, if he wants his hand to remain attached to his arm. If he keeps pushing her buttons, he might as well make a death wish and last thing I want is to have him pull me under, too.

"Yeah, well, she might be 'hot' or whatever," Gwen says sourly, making air quotes and rolling her eyes at us exaggeratedly before continuing, "but she's a bitch, though."

"No, she's not. She's nice," I reply immediately, putting my sandwich down and frowning at Gwen because she's being unnecessary mean. I've talked to Caroline and I've had classes with her throughout the years and out of all the popular kids, she's always been the kindest one, always going out of her way to be nice to me. It's not fair to hate on a girl just because she's pretty, smart, has lots of friends, and your crush likes her, too. I mean, okay, I get it, I get why someone (for example, Gwen) wouldn't be Caroline's biggest fan, but still… it doesn't make it okay.

To say that I don't have a harmless girl crush on her would be a total lie, but when have you met a girl that's genuinely nice and popular? Not on this planet for sure.

"She's got you fooled," Gwen tells me, wagging her finger in my face, but so far she doesn't have me convinced, "she's a bitch. Don't you remember what she did to Micah? She broke up with him in cold blood!"

A moment of silence passes as Todd and I digest what we've just been told.

"So…?" Todd drawls and without even glancing at him from the corner of my eye, I know that his expression mirrors mine exactly. We both have no clue where Gwen is going with this. Probably nowhere. So, I wonder why she is even wasting her breath. "She dumped him. So what? It's no big deal." Todd shakes his head and then shrugs casually as Gwen's jaw hits the floor and she all but tackles him to the ground. Fortunately, she refrains herself and doesn't cause a scene. I don't see what the big deal is; people break up all the time, especially when they're in high school.

"Jesus Christ, Todd," she hisses through her teeth, gazing at Todd in something like wonderment, as if he's committed murder and he's asking her to help bury the dead body, "how can you even say that?"

I feel a killer headache coming and start massaging my temples in advance.

When the It couple, Micah Hayes and Caroline Emerson, broke up, it was like the world stood still for a minute. At least Gwen's world did because she kind of had an identity crisis or something like it. All of us thought that Micah and Caroline would get married right out of high school and while some girls were heartbroken when they found out that their favorite couple has separated for good, others were overjoyed because this news means that they still have a chance of snagging the most edible guy at school. Not that they will because Micah's totally unattainable, but it doesn't hurt to entertain such silly ideas. Trying their luck with him… well, even though it's quite the silly notion, it's also worth a shot, I guess. Not that I'll ever allow myself to get my hopes up like them, but hey, a girl can dream, right? It's not my place to judge.

"Can't you see that he's brokenhearted?" Gwen lowers her voice and I follow her gaze to Micah's table. I cock my head to one side thoughtfully and try to see things from her perspective. Maybe she's got a point; Gwen is rarely (if ever) wrong.

"He looks fine to me," Todd remarks, taking the words right out of my mind as we all watch Micah goof around with his friends, laughing like he has no care in the whole world and not even sparing a glance in Caroline's direction. Either Micah is the greatest pretender ever to have ever lived or Gwen is imagining things that aren't quite there. "Absolutely happy."

"He may seem like it," Gwen smartly points out, never one to admit defeat without dragging out every battle she's ever fought, "but he's suffering on the inside."

For a moment both me and Todd are so speechless that we're at a loss what to say. This is so ridiculous that we can't even laugh. Finally, Todd breaks the awkward silence, "Right."

"He does look tortured," he says sarcastically just as Micah erupts into laughter that doesn't seem anything but genuine, like he truly is having a good time and he's not faking it. I'd even make a blind shot in the dark by saying that he seems happy. He can't be faking it; no one can be that great a liar. "Poor guy," Todd says, injecting an awful big amount of sympathy in his voice.

"He is in pain, trust me," Gwen argues, getting all fired up over this and I take a sip from water, hiding a smile because it's so like Gwen to think that she knows people better than they know themselves. Never mind that she's never even exchanged a word with the guy. These are all minor details because Gwen is our very own "love guru". She's always claimed that she's a pro at reading people, as if people's minds are like books that you can open and then skip to the last page and find out how their stories end. "He's in so much pain," she says convincingly, so convincingly that I start wondering if we're even talking about the same guy.

"Obviously, he is," Todd exclaims, widening his eyes comically and bobbing his head up and down like crazy, "just look at him! He's almost writhing on the ground in agony. Someone call an ambulance!"

I look over at Micah's table once more and then I see him doubled over in laugher. Laughing so hard that he might be crying tears of joy; definitely not tears of sorrow, that much is clear.

I giggle behind my palm and this time Gwen catches me and gives me the stink eye. With the help of her almost pitch black eyes she's perfected the death glare. I can tell that later on she'd yell my ear off for not taking her side, but for now I'm in the clear because putting Todd in his place and making him see the truth is her main priority. I shrug helplessly in response and hope that she doesn't take Todd's jokes to heart because he's just having a laugh, messing around and she's just too easy a target. Besides, there's no way she can't see the fault in her words. It's so obvious that Gwen's more distressed and shaken up over the golden couple's break-up than the affected parties are. It's kind of ironic, really.

"You're so ignorant," she informs him, but she's alternating her gaze between me and him, so she probably means both of us.

"Good god, woman, you need to cut back on the chick flicks," Todd shoots back, stealing a French fry from my tray before I push the tray towards him because all this love talk has made me lose my appetite. I'm aching for a topic change.

"I don't watch chick flicks," Gwen sputters, but her face goes beetroot red and everybody knows she's lying through her teeth.

"Come on, Gwen," I cut in before they get into another needless argument and try to lighten up the mood, "Todd was just joking," I say and then I jam my elbow into Todd's ribs pointedly. He jumps in surprise, glares at me briefly, but doesn't say anything, which is good because I don't want him to give Gwen another reason to sock him in the nose. Last time he didn't keep his mouth shut when he should've had, like I warned him to, I had to hold his hand in the nurse's room while he almost bled out to death, or so he says. It wasn't that bad, but he didn't stop complaining about how mean Gwen is to him, like it's her fault that he goes to great lengths to annoy her and get on her nerves every chance he gets. Seriously, he's got to learn, eventually.

"It's not fair," Gwen says sadly and I start to think that she's going to accuse Todd of being a lousy friend and launch into a long, self-righteous monologue explaining why Todd is such a bad friend, "it's not fair that the good guys get to be fucked over by bitchy, slutty girls like her."

Todd snorts and I can imagine him rolling his eyes.

All things considered, I feel obliged to jump to Caroline's defense. "Breaking up with him doesn't make her the bad guy, Gwen," I explain in a calm, reasonable voice because I hate it when she makes assumptions and Gwen is always too quick to judge and point fingers before she's even gotten her facts straight. "Maybe she has her reason; maybe things between them weren't working out. You don't know that. Their relationship is their business. Maybe it was even his fault." I shrug, hoping that this would be the end to our discussion, but Gwen looks at me wide-eyed and scandalized, like I'm speaking in tongues. Then, a second too late, I realize my mistake.

In everybody's eyes, Micah can do no wrong. Even suggesting that he's anything less than perfect is considered to be a criminal act.

Good gracious, I keep telling Todd to think before he speaks, but will I ever learn?

"George's right, you talk about Micah like he's some saint you don't even know the guy!" Todd all but shouts, throwing his hands up in the air and looking skywards. As if knowing that we're talking about him, Micah shoots us a curious look. I cast my head down and when I finally look up, I see him exit the cafeteria, his bag slung over one shoulder and the doors falling shut behind him.

"See?" Gwen points at his retreating back while trying to be subtle about it, but delicacy has never been her forte. "He can't even stand to be in the same room as her!"

It's true that in the beginning Micah left the room every time Caroline entered it, but it's been one month since it happened and I guess Micah has no choice but learn how to live with it. Sometimes one has no choice but to suck it up and deal with it, no matter how much he doesn't want to accept the truth.

"You probably scared him off," I tell Gwen who doesn't appreciate my sense of humor.

"I don't get it," she says, resting her chin in her palm and staring off into space. "Why would they break up? Who would want to break up with Micah?" she wondered, releasing a wretched sigh. "They were the perfect couple."

I shrug because I don't know what to say to that. I see Todd rolling his eyes at Gwen while she pretends not to notice, but a part of me wonders about the same thing, too. I thought that pretty people stuck together. Well, either way, perfect or not, that didn't save them from the heartbreak, that's for sure.