CHAPTER ONE  ~*~*~  Red Hot Babe

During the second last week of school before summer, Ryan Proud fell 50 feet down to the ground, from ‘most popular’ to something that was equal to The Black Plague. Nobody knew why exactly, but all the popular kids started avoiding him, and the rest of the student body followed expectantly. Every lunch hour he would sit by himself―all by himself―with an entire lunch table to his fancy. Nobody dared to talk to him―nobody even walked near him―afraid they might catch whatever it was he had suddenly caught overnight.

“It’s not fair that you get the whole lunch table to yourself,” I said as I put my lunch tray across from his. He was busily occupied writing on a piece of creased line-paper, ignoring the stares of everyone in the cafeteria.

Ryan jumped at my voice. I’ve never talked to him before, but I saw him around the school all the time. We were in the same grade and have had classes together since the beginning of elementary school, but he was Mr. Popularity, a complete hottie, and I was an average girl with an average height, average weight, average looks and an exaggerated hatred towards frills, lace and pink. I doubt he’s ever seen me before. “You’re not afraid of me?” He asked, his bright green eyes shimmering with astonishment.

“Should I be? Do you have cooties?” I asked sarcastically, with a roll of my eyes. Ryan chuckled, flashing me his infamous perfect smile. “So make me laugh, what did you do that was so bad that the kids you knew since kindergarten pushed you down the monkey bars in less than a day?”

He shrugged softy. “I might have done some... not so nice things. Said some... not so nice but honest things,” he replied, still laughing. He changed the topic quickly. “Your name is Dannielle, isn’t it?”

I smiled. “It’s just Dannie. How’d you know my name?”

He laughed―again that exhilarating smile. “We’ve been in the same class together since elementary school. I’ll admit that I know nothing about you, but I know your name at the very least.”

I took a bite out of my sandwich and pointed at the paper he was half hiding under his big, masculine hands. “What’re you writing about?”

He looked nervously at me and crumpled the paper up. “Just a couple of things I’ve got on my mind.” Ryan threw the paper ball in the air aiming for a nearby trash can, but I reached my arm up at that precise moment and effortlessly swiped the ball from the air. He clearly didn’t know I could beat any stupid boy at any sport, anytime, anywhere. “Hey! Don’t read that. You’re not supposed to read that. Give it back!”

His body flew up. He was tall and his body hovered over the table, hands flying for the crumpled ball in my hand. “No. No. No.” I teased in a sing song voice. Turning my back towards him, I spread the rough piece of paper out. “Let’s see what kind of secrets you wrote down. 10 things I want to do this summer.” I glanced at him with a smirk and a raised eyebrow and began reading his list. “Number 1: Eat one litre of ice cream.” I laughed, “Are you kidding me? What kind of list is this?”

Ryan gave up and sat back down; cupping both his cheeks in his hands as a pout swiftly adorned his face. “I guess I’ll let you read it,” he said as if he was the one doing me the favour, “since I haven’t talked to anyone but my parents and the teachers for the last week and a half.”

There was a flicker of sadness in his eyes and I couldn’t help but pity him. Ryan had always been a relatively nice guy even though he had all the wrong friends at school. The truth was he couldn’t fit in with the rest of the average kids given that he was exceptionally attractive and athletic. Everything about him was charming and refreshing and I found myself captivated by him even though pretty boys were my least favourite cup of tea. I hated boys that had roses growing out of their backgrounds as much as I hated the color pink. Maybe it was because I felt kind of manly being around them.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been called a tomboy. While other girls growing up with me preferred princess dresses, I ran around with my older brothers baking mud pie and daring each other to eat worms. When they started wearing makeup and chasing boys, I spent my time playing video games and working part time so I had the money to watch wrestling on Pay Per View. It wasn’t like I peed standing up or anything, I just liked to live life simpler and did things that I liked because it made me happy.

I continued reading his list. “Number 2: Shower under a waterfall. Number 3: Have a watermelon eating contest. Number 4: Go swimming with the Great White Sharks.” I looked up and saw him smiling at me.

“Cool huh? I’ve always wanted to do that! It’s going to be the best thing ever.”

I gave him a weird look. “Number 5: Get up to see the sunrise not sunset. Number 6: Play the guitar and sing in front of a crowd. Number 7: Watch a meteor shower.” I smiled at the thought. I love the idea of doing all these things. It was like a test of courage, like doing whatever your heart wanted without anyone’s consent. It felt like for once Ryan didn’t care what others thought if he suddenly stuffed his pretty face down a toilet bowl. “Why are you writing this?”

Ryan shrugged as he ran a careless hand through his dishevelled blonde locks. “I’ve never realized what life meant to me until these last few weeks. I mean, I was always caught up in so much unnecessary drama. If it’s not, hey did you hear 'Kim slept with Jared,' it’s 'did you hear Finn cheated on blah and blah?' I mean, do I really care?” He let out a long, exaggerated sigh and again shrugged, but this time like he was shedding off extra weight. “Now that I have no friends, I’ve got a lot of time to think about...  well, me. I want to do something memorable, something unforgettable this summer to celebrate my realization of... Life.”

“I like it,” I said supportively. “This sounds wicked!” I continued reading down the list, eager to find out the last few items on his summer to-do list. “Number 8: Send a message in a bottle. Number 9: Give mom a dozen red roses and tell her I love her. Number 10...” I stopped. Ryan had erased the last thing and all that was left behind were the indented marks on the paper. It was still readable even though the black pencil lead was gone.

“Well that’s it,” he said. “Want to join me on my expedition sometimes?” He clutched a corner of the paper and pulled but I held it steady in my hands. Ryan didn’t look embarrassed about number ten, it was a different kind of look―one that I didn’t quite understand.

“Number 10,” I said staring into his eyes. “Fall in love?”