Every day I wake up at six thirty and from there on it takes me twenty minutes to march from the bathroom back to my room, energetic and revived from my dazed state. My outfits usually consists of a pair of khakis along with a button-up, plaid or solid color depending on how I feel, and a complimenting sweater. Ties are included on the days I'm feeling extra peppy and of course, today is one of those days. It's the last day before graduation, and I'm valedictorian, I have to look my best and my part till the very end. The very last thing that I do when I leave the house for school, is to make sure I carry my head up high with a bright smile from ear to ear.

I'm often one of the first few to get to school early, and when I mean first few I mean of students, the ones who aren't paid to go to school. I arrive with what I left my house with, attire and everything, including that bright smile I carry from ear to ear. It's what I'm known for, other than being someone highly intelligent and liked, something I never really understood how I achieved. I've never felt highly intelligent or liked, more just someone who tries a little too hard.

"Hi," I smile, waving at the lifeless zombies that arrived even earlier than me, as I strut through the hall. They all either do one of two things, grunt as their reply, or wave and actually articulate a greeting with words.

I'm often asked the question of how do I have so much energy in the morning and do I drink coffee? The answer is that the reason why I have so much energy is because I love coming to school, I do really love learning, and I just love being academically involved, and that no, I don't drink coffee.

Being actively involved does take a lot of time and energy from my social life, and I can admit that I don't have the best one, but I do make do with what I have. This goes with my relationship with friends and girlfriends too, you can probably assume that I have somewhat of an awkward relationship with most girls who aren't in any of my clubs. Because let's face it, I'm comfortable around those girls and it's easy to talk to them, but the others who I possibly have a chance with and that I haven't or they haven't friend-zoned me yet are the ones I really want.

Being the top of the class, this year's senior class valedictorian, doesn't mean much when you don't have a girlfriend or at least a handful of ex-girlfriends you can count on two hands. Having a place in the social ladder is something I would want. There are times when I feel as if I've wasted my time in high school on playing sports, running for student council, and starting up clubs and organizations. I do have friends and everything, don't get me wrong, but it's just that I feel like I have always expected more from all the things I've put into this school.

I love Maple Valley High School, it's done a lot for me and I hope I did the same for it. Maybe I should have acted more like Zane. He's another senior, smart, handsome, and he's probably got it all. He could be considered the complete opposite of me socially-wise. The only real thing I have over him are my grades, I try a lot harder than he does in school, but I'm sure if he did Zane would top me in that too. I wish I had his confidence, and not just with girls, but his confidence and mindset in life. Things seem so easy for him, as if his life is effortless.

"Hi Henry!" A cheery voice shouts, echoing through the almost empty halls. The voice broke my train of thought as I expected to be more alone than with someone else in the hall conversing. "Excited for the last day of school before graduation?"

In that instant I knew whose voice it was before I even turned around to face them. The voice that echoed throughout the halls danced and crawled its beautiful way into my ears soothingly. It was definitely Stacy, there was no doubt about that.


Zane. That's what they call me. If not by my first name than I'm known because I'm that guy that all the other guys want to be and to the girls I'm that guy that they all want to date. It's not a bad life, the life I have. I don't hate it nor do I really love it, I just live it. There isn't too much to it. I am a senior at Maple Valley High School, waiting for my time to leave. One day left before that can happen though. I have to hand in whatever essays, finish whatever quizzes, and make do with every project that is due before I can walk alongside my fellow classmates. Then we're able to cheer each other on as we have an end to another chapter of our lives with this stage of schooling. But this chapter only ends to bring us more chapters possibly filled with school and of course life itself.

Thing is though, waiting in class isn't all that great. I'm here in my first hour, AP Biology, staring out the window at the fields filled with kids from all grades. Gym first hour sucks; you get sweaty in the morning and stay that way throughout the whole day. My freshmen year personally sucked because of that.

I begin tapping my pencil watching as these girls near the loop on the track. Each one is beautiful in my mind. What I strongly believe in is that every woman is beautiful in my eyes. They all have their uniqueness that separates them from one another and that's what keeps me interested. I love women.

"Mr. Henderson?" A voice shouts. "Mr. Henderson, are you there?"

It takes another few shouts of my name for me to look and what do I see? I see my Biology teacher, Mr. Wells waving at me, telling me that the hours ended already. I was too busy checking out the kids in gym that I didn't even hear the bell. I nod and give the man a smile thanking him for snapping me out of my daze.

"I should probably go then…" I mutter.

"Most likely," he said in return with a witty smile. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"See yah."


Second hour, another day for me to learn what I already know. We're in Spanish, me and my guys. Senora Ross is looking pretty good for nearing forty, but hey no one can really tell. In the class I get stuck next to Gabby and Ariel, two of the chattiest girls in our class. Luckily they are also two of the hottest girls in class, so that erases the fact that they talk way too much.

Across the room sits Nate and Dave, two of my football friends since middle school, which was when I first moved to Maple Valley. I started out a shy, quiet kid like most new ones, but by mid-year I was full on popular. Ever since then I've been hanging with the football team and loving every second of it. I get the benefits of dating pretty much any of the girls I want because of that. But it's not like I use my football benefits to do that. I can pick up any girls without my reputation.

"Trav!" Nate shouts from across the room. He waves his hands and tosses me a crumpled piece of paper. Unrolling it I try, and I mean try really hard to read what he wrote.

"Crumpling the piece of paper helps no one." I sigh to myself, giving Nate a really stupid look. His letter reads: TONIGHT, YOU, ME, GABBY, AND ARIEL. ASK THEM!

Obviously he wants me to wear the pants now and ask the two girls out on a date. It shows that he's afraid of rejection I think. But hey, if they say yes than it means I get to choose first, that's how it goes between us. That's our rule.

Giving my friend a nod I turn towards Gabby first starting out my smooth talk. "Hey Gabby," I then pause for a second and turn towards Ariel and go on. "Ariel, what are you two doing tonight?"

"N-nothing?" Gabby stutters, sounding a bit surprised. "Why?"

"Well, I was wondering if you two wanted to hang out with me and Nate tonight."

"I don't see why we can't." Ariel says this time. "Do you?" The question wasn't directed towards me so I stay quiet and watch as the two girls give each other the stare. The stare is one between the best of friends in which they can talk to one another through their minds using their eyes. It's crazy, but only girls can master it sadly.

"Yeah that's fine with me," Gabby finally says after forty seconds of silence. "It'll be fun I hope?"

"I hope." I said with a chuckle. It was more of an unsure chuckle, because knowing Nate he never had anything planned.

Spanish class, it was great. And so was the fact that this was our last day before summer began.


Being different is hard. I don't have the blonde hair or blue eyes like all the pretty girls have. I'm Asian; I can't help it that I was born one. My parents are the proud owners of Maple Valley's only Chinese Restaurant, Cho's Garden. We've lived in Maple Valley for as long as I can remember. My parents tell me they moved here when my mother was pregnant with my younger brother, Charlie, but I don't remember being anywhere else but here. Maple Valley isn't bad, but it's not all that great either. It's a small place so everyone knows pretty much everyone. Except for those strange people who live nearby, the ones that don't talk and only come out of their little huts to get the mail and walk their crazed pets.

I am a second generation Chinese, making my parents the first of their generation. I have one younger sibling, Charlie, and two older ones, Tasha and Sybil. We could be considered your traditional Asian family, I suppose. That fact doesn't make us any weirder, but in school though, it does.

Third hour European History is a harsh and draining class. Most of the time you spend reading out of the text book and listening to Mr. Fitzgerald talk about his time in 'Nam. It doesn't get old but it does get tiring hearing the same story just about four times a week. My life as one of the few Asian's at the school has branded me with the titles of 'Genius" and "Prodigy" none that I accepted yet. I don't find them mean, but they are stereotypical and they are of what people expect me to be. It is true that I do get straight A's, but that doesn't mean I know everything about anything. People don't understand that, and it's hard to explain to them once they already set their mind to it.

"Lyla," Grace, my friend next to me whispered. "Want to go to the library after school? Kelly might be coming along too."

"Great!" I said with a fake smile. I don't like Kelly, she dyed her hair bright, neon green which had little to nothing to do with just about anything. The girl liked drawing attention to herself and being in a small town with weird hair colors can do that to you. The only reason I hung out with Kelly was because she would take the attention away from me. It was hard, my friends were all Caucasian and I was the only different one. But now that Kelly hung around with us I wasn't that different anymore. I was just really normal.


The way I see it, I don't have to do anything now. I can just end this year with what I have here and that's it. Done, done with high school for good. Fourth hour I took my one and only study hall. I never once thought about it now until my senior year. It was one of the greatest classes ever made; you sit around and do nothing. I creep, but that's just how I am. It's fun and easy, just like the rest of the day from here on out.

"Zane?" A voice pipes up from behind me.

I turn to see who called out my name and came inches from hitting that person in the face with my flailing hands. "H-hey! Sorry about that?" It sounded more like a question than an apology, but I was a bit surprised.

"I should probably be the one saying sorry. It looks like I scared you a bit there huh?"

"Yeah, basically" I muttered. "Henry, right?"

"Ye-yes!" He shouted, more like a cheer than anything for some reason. "I… I just wanted to say congratulations and I hope to see you at graduation tonight."

"Thanks, congratulations to you too. You deserve it and all, you make a great valedictorian."

"T-thank you!" Henry shouts. He gives me a strong pat on the shoulder and runs off again or so I thought. Something was different about him, usually he was confident when he would speak, but that always changed when he talked to me for some reason, it was strange.

Shrugging it off I turn back around and sit at my table alone. Henry was still around and decided to take a seat next to me, nervously smiling and waiting to start up a conversation with me.

"What's up, Henry?" I say, making the first move.

"Well…" He was hesitant, like usual, but for some reason he wasn't looking at me straight in the eyes. "I was wondering, could you do me a favor?"

"Depends, I don't have to give your speech for you do I?" I smile, hoping to lighten the mood.

"Ha ha, no." Henry nervously chuckles, meaning that it worked. "I was wondering if you could give me a few pointers in talking to a girl."

"Really?" I say surprisingly and pleasantly shocked. Henry, our valedictorian just asked me to give him tips for talking to girls? I should have been the one asking him for tips in life, I never expected this. "Are you sure you want me to give you tips? I'm pretty sure you've got no problems with the ladies." I didn't want to sound too cocky off the bat, I had to have some sort of modesty in me. "Which girl are we specifically talking about though?"

"How'd you know that there was a specific girl?" He responded, questioning my deduction skills.

"Forget that, I'll need specifics to help you out." I laugh, grinning widely. He knew that he was already in too deep to back out now, already asking for my advice in the ladies department.

"It's Stacy… Stacy Howell." Henry finally blurts out, after a solid minute of silence.

Stacy Howell, she's tall, blonde and very cute. The two of them, now this was a really interesting pairing. I wouldn't have expected Henry to have an interest in Stacy, but I mean, I don't see how he couldn't have one either.


"Nate!" I shout from halfway down the hall. After Spanish he dashed out of the room and I haven't seen him since. For some reason he was avoiding me, maybe because I asked them out?

"What do you want Travie!?" He shouts.

"What's your problem man?"

"Oh sh- nothing!" Nate chuckles. "But hey, what'd they say?"

"They said yes, so you have anything planned this time?"

"Oh hell yes I do!" Nate cheers. "We're going to have a grand old time tonight! Now which one do you want?"

"Gabby," I answer back in the speed of light. I knew from the beginning that I wanted Gabby over Ariel.

"Great! Because I wanted Ariel anyways!" Nate laughed. "Damn good choice."

This guy is one of my best friends, which is pretty sad to say, but he is a great guy. We turn around and walk down the hall together for its lunch now, and we're starving.

Once we reach the main hallway of our school the cafeteria can be seen full of students hugging, crying, and exchanging gifts, numbers, and other things. It's the last day of school, so they're supposedly going to miss everyone.

"Look at her," Nate says pointing at an Asian girl.

Her names Lyla, she's a year younger than us, but she's in all the advance classes. Her sister, Tasha is in our grade and Sybil is a year older. Both are extremely hot, but for some reason Lyla's a bit normal looking. Not that it's a bad thing, we need some normal ones. They're a whole lot better than the ugly ones I say.

Walking past I give the girl a wave and a smile, it's the last day. Why not be a little friendlier? She gives me a smile and a wave back, like it's the first one she's gotten since school started. A little weird but it doesn't bother me.

Once we reach our table I take a seat and Nate jumps onto the table sighing really loud. That's when you know he's going to say something ridiculous.

"I, Nate the Great, have a date with Hot Ariel." He says proudly.

All the guys at our table clap and pat him on the back like he's our champion. I let him swim in all my glory because without me he wouldn't have gotten anywhere. There's nothing else I can really do. He's my friend and I let him off with it. It's the last day, I can't wait.


"Hey Stacy," I whisper to myself. "How're you doing? Good? That's great to hear, I was wondering if you would want to go out sometime… Summer's here and all…" If only things were that simple and went that easy, then my life would be so much less of a burden. I stood in the silent bathroom, during my sixth hour of the day, facing myself in the mirror. I was practicing what to say to Stacy, I was this nervous.

"You can do this," I say alone, hyping myself up. I was going to be talking in front of the whole school later tonight and I didn't even feel one nerve for that, but talking to Stacy, I felt like the world was going to end if I messed this up. "Come on Henry, what are you so scared of? Just remember what Zane said, what's the worst she can say to you? No?"

I took a much needed deep breath, almost choking on the pungent, pee stench that filled the blue tiled walls of the bathroom. For almost a second I forgot where I was, regretting my choice in taking such a deep breath of the air.

Walking out of the bathroom, I inhale deeply, taking in as much 'clean' air as I could before removing whatever disgusting taste I had left in both my nose and mouth. That's when by some sort of miracle, it happened. I was face-to-face with Stacy, while I was still giving myself a cleanse of the bathroom aroma in my system.

"Hi Henry!" She smiles with the same bright and cheerful attitude from this morning. "I didn't know you had sixth hour off too."

"Oh, well I have my independent study, not much of an hour off." I mutter, at least without a single stutter. "You have off then?"

"Yeah, I'm actually just getting back, I left during lunch. I have to get a few things in before tonight at graduation."

"Right," I smile, remembering that I was valedictorian again for graduation. That's when it hit me that Stacy was also giving a speech at graduation, her speech was for a Silver Leaf, which was a recognition award for students to give to a teacher who they felt helped them throughout their four years of high school here at Maple Valley. "It's been a busy week, crazy how things flew by, huh?"

"Yeah, I can admit that I will miss MV. Been here since day one and now we're finally done!" Stacy cheers, smiling widely. It was a sight to see, every time she smiled. Her eyes darted towards a clock that hung off the ceiling of the hall, checking the time. "I have to go though, so I'll see you later!"

"Yeah…" I say, bowing to her awkwardly as she slipped past me. "I knew you couldn't do it. Chicken!"

"Oh!" Stacy shouts, turning around a few feet down the hall. "Can you meet me by the Photography studio after class today? I need your help with something."

By some miracle I was given another chance and this time, I wasn't going to mess up, I couldn't mess up. "Yeah, I'll be there."


"Seventh hour, two more of these long dreaded hours," I breath quietly. At lunch I was waved at by Travis Zeke, one of the greatest athletes ever at Maple Valley. He was a year older but that didn't matter, he was popular and super cute. Whenever I start thinking about any boy my face blushes and tingles, I can't help it.

In the classes I'm in there are hardly any of the cute boys. Only the really smart ones are the really cute ones, but they all have girlfriends. The only one who doesn't is Zane, an unmotivated senior. He is extremely good looking… but he doesn't try in school anymore because he knows he's got it in the bag. Smart, good looking, charming, all that and even more. He's only in second compared to Henry Stuart though, now he's a prodigy in my eyes. Henry is pretty much everything Zane is, except he isn't as cocky as Zane. Henry is a true gentleman, plus he's kind and passionate about academics, something that shows he really does truly care. He's truly a nice guy.

"Miss Cho?" A thunderous voice calls.

I turn and greet Mrs. Fevlle, our AP Chemistry teacher. She's smart yet really, really weird. Weird even for me.

"What're you doing?" She asks.

"Nothing?" I answer back. "W-why?"

"Why?" She mimics me. "Why are you not paying attention?"

"I-I am! S-sorry!" I get flustered easily when I'm called out. And Mrs. Fevlle is the only teacher who ever calls me out when I daze. Everyone else knows I can do my work even if I space out from time to time. I turn my head back down and write the notes that are left on the board. "Almost there," I mutter to myself, "almost there."


Finally, I'm done. Seventh hour is at its' end, the bell rings and kids rush out of the room like bulls in a stampede. I love how I've been the last one out today, in all my classes.

Down the hall I pass Travis. He's a football star who has an ego when it comes to the game and really anything. I give him a smile and a nod, causing him to rush over like a little puppy batting his cute, little puppy eyes to his owner.

"Guess what?" He says with a big grin.

"What?" I reply, like I sort of care. "You're not on the football team next year or something?"

"What!? Oh no, I'll always have a spot." He says cockily. "I've got a date with Gabby.

"And what does this have to do with me?"

"Isn't she the one who said no to you?"

I stand there, silenced. His mind has changed a lot and so has mine. I chuckle underneath my breath, and simply say, "Is that it?" There was that side of the story where she rejected me, but if that's what she wanted to say then I'll let her go with that.

"Basically, yeah." He laughs. "Why?"

"Have fun on your date. Okay?" I sigh and walk away.

Travis has a lot of growing up to do still. I'm not saying that I have full grown up too, but there are times when the choices we make with what we say determine what others think of us. There are times when things you do to help your life might not help the others around you, that's when you have to grow up and make a choice.

Down the hall to my eighth hour is one long stretch. It was my only real elective this semester, Photography. It was an easy and fun class. The teacher wasn't bad either. Mr. Lang was teaching it first, but his wife gave birth three months before school was going to end so now we had a young, red-head by the name of Tara Aarons. Miss Aarons is what she wanted us to call her.

"Zane!" She shouts all cheery. "I'm glad you're here. Your last day, exciting isn't it?"

"Very." I reply simply. "You're looking good today."

She pauses and the smile vanishes from her face. For being a young, perky teacher she is awfully professional. Miss Aarons turns around and heads back to her desk to take attendance.

"Great," I mutter to myself. "Just fantastic."

I sit down next to Stacy, the good looking blonde that the valedictorian has a sweet spot for. She is a senior too, just like us, ready for graduation and for summer.

"Hey Zane." She says with a cute smile. "Exciting isn't it?"

"You betcha." I say lamely, but it always works. She lets out a giggle and that means I know I'm in. I have a chance now. "You ready for graduation tonight?"

"Ready, I've been ready since freshmen year!" She cheers. "You?"

Looking at her I realize what Henry must see. She is more than just a pretty face, Stacy is actually fun to listen too, and her voice fills up the empty space in the conversation, making it always full. "Just about the same. I'm excited to be done with high school finally." Talking with her makes realize maybe I should give her a shot. She seems like a nice person, plus she's really cute. An idea and an image comes to my mind, me together with Stacy. "You busy later after the ceremony?"

"I… don't think so? Why, you want to hang out?" She smirked.

"Well yeah, of course!" I gave the girl a smug look hoping that it would work and convince her to go out with me tonight. And of course, it was going to work, it never failed me before so why was it going to fail me now?

"Sorry, I can't."

"No?" I say, actually surprised by her answer.

"I forgot… I actually do have something going on tonight." She replies, me knowing full well that that must have meant Henry was on his A-game tonight.

That's when it also hit me. I thought about both Travis and Henry, I thought about Travis and how I was thinking that he needed to grow up because girls aren't the only important things in life, but then I just was thinking about myself and trying to get with Stacy. I was being selfish, not really thinking about Henry's feelings. Henry came to me for advice on how to talk to this girl, and I tried taking that chance away from him. He felt comfortable and confident enough to ask for my help and I threw it back in his face. Travis isn't the only one who needs a lot of growing up to do, I know now that I for sure do.

With that it was all I needed to confirm myself for the end of the year. After having my little chat with Stacy I wander up towards the back of the room in the studio. There is the extra camera and I take it, walking around the class, and taking quick snapshots of everyone. Candid shots were the best in my opinion. They were real and not fake like those pictures were people are all ready and in a specific pose.


The last bell of my high school career just rang and I was sitting outside of the Photography studio waiting for Stacy. This afternoon we promised to meet up after school for a bit to talk over things about our graduation ceremony tonight. Somehow I worked up the courage to even have a non-awkward conversation with her this morning, and I hoped that throughout the day I could keep the ball rolling with that.

I sat silently waiting, watching and smiling at each and every person walking out of the room. Summer just started for most of them and high school just ended for others, but for me in this very moment I thought I would die. I did hope that I could have kept the ball rolling with my confidence from this morning, but right now the butterflies were going to rip my stomach open as I waited for Stacy.

I took deep breaths like they were my very last ones, up until my eyes met with Stacy, walking out of the classroom with Zane. He tagged along behind her, getting her to laugh and smile like she's never smiled for me.

"No," I mutter under my breath, "You've got to be kidding me. I waited all day, and even asked for his advice on how to talk to her." Thoughts and images whipped through my mind, and both my brain and heart sulked in pain. "What am I going to do now?"

"Oh, hey Henry!" Stacy smiles, finally noticing that I was sitting outside. "Hopefully you weren't waiting too long."

"Ah," I pause, hesitantly. "I haven't been out here too long." I gave Zane a glace, our eyes meeting, and him with his witty smile. "Hey there Zane."

"Hey there, Henry." He replies mimicking me, charmingly.

"Give us a minute?" Stacy nods toward Zane, giving him her ever-so-cute smile.

"Sure thing," he responded, giving me a thumbs up and wink as he slyly walked away. He mouthed the words "you got this," as he passed me, totally clearing my mind from any nerving thought I had before about him and Stacy.

"Did he actually help me?" My mind whispers, "He doesn't owe me anything though, does he?" I didn't know what to think, all I ever thought of Zane was some guy who just wanted to go out with all the pretty girls in school, not of an actual thoughtful, caring person.

"So," Stacy mutters as the hall was dwindling down in numbers as each student rushed off to begin their summer. "I really didn't want to talk about things for graduation."

"R-really?" I choke, surprised and totally unaware. "Weren't you going to give a speech tonight too?"

"Yeah, but I got that done last week already." The pretty blonde smiles, "I really… well…"

She was nervous, I could tell. She wasn't as nervous as me though, because my palms were still sweating like the Niagara Falls. Stacy's words were being jumbled together, and I totally know that feeling. It was time to man, it was time for me to take more initiative. Not just with girls, but with my life in general. I had to be stronger and less afraid to break the mold. Maybe with this, it could be my stepping stone of doing just that, breaking the mold I have always placed for myself.

"Would you like to go out later, after the graduation ceremony?" I said, confidently without hesitation. My voice sounded clear and cut like the finest of diamonds. It was like I had this newfound voice that was hidden away somewhere deep within my chest. I was ready for it, I hoped. It's just sad to see that it took me this long to finally realize that if I really wanted something all I had to do was just go for it and ask.


Graduation, not far from my grasp. Tonight will be a good night, I can't wait any longer. I'm like a leaf on a tree, a maple tree, which is ready to fall and leave the branch for good. I am finally falling off from the branch that I've been stuck on for years, but only to be replaced by the other budding leaves sprouting in. It will be there time soon too, the new leaves of Maple Valley.