Playing Her Secret Crush(2)

By: Casey Griffin

The giggle of a ten-year-old girl bubbled through Katie’s headphones. “Thanks,” Penny said.

The dragon released an ear-piercing screech as it tried to flick its tail out of Sugarplum’s tight grasp. The ogre ground his brick-like teeth and held tight, muscles twitching, bare heels digging into the ground. “I can’t hold on for much…longer…”

With a violent twist, the scaled beast finally won the tug of war, flinging Sugarplum aside. The ogre soared through the air and landed in front of Katie’s avatar. After she doused him with a small healing spell, he got up and dusted himself off.

Alex groaned. “This is so frustrating. Hold on a second, guys. I’m going to equip different armor and weapons.”

“Me, too,” Penny said. “I need my mace.”

“Let’s fall back and regroup,” Trevor suggested.

The warriors retreated to a safe distance beyond the dragon’s reach. It seemed reluctant to abandon its post in front of the Dwarf Mountains, making Katie certain it was protecting the rumored secret entrance.

While waiting for the others to search their inventory, swapping leather tunics for chainmail and wool leggings for fireproof ones, Katie leaned back in her desk chair. She blinked at her surroundings. As the grassy Eternal Plains gave way to her small bedroom wallpapered with anime posters, the world of Caroon shrunk until it was just an image on the computer screen in front of her.

It always amazed her how the game sucked her in. How real it felt. Not like she was seeing it play out online, but like she was actually there, living it, breathing it, experiencing it. Like she became Fairy_gurl.

As she stretched, Katie caught sight of herself in the dresser mirror. Turning her head this way and that, she checked her freshly applied eye shadow.

She didn’t know much about makeup, but it seemed like her practice was paying off. At least she didn’t look like a clown school dropout anymore, which was good, since there were only two days left to prepare, two days until the start of senior year and the launch of The Plan.

But something was still missing… Lipstick, she realized.

Keeping her cordless headphones on, she rushed to the mirror. She grabbed a ruby-red lip liner and consulted the magazine on her dresser already opened to “How to get Kissable Lips.”

Although she wasn’t used to wearing so much makeup, she’d read that giving yourself a makeover gave you a boost of confidence. When she walked through the doors into Porterville High, she wanted heads to turn.

“Is that Katie Warner?” the other students would ask in shock. It would be just like that Katy Perry song, “One of the Boys.” Over the summer, something had definitely changed for Katie.

Once her lips were lined, to finish off the look, she smeared on Bodaciously Bold lipstick. She puckered up in the mirror. Yup, she was ready. Totally kissable. Or at least, she thought so. However, there was only one way to really know. Only one person experienced enough with girls and dating who could tell her for sure: Alex. After all, who else would know what a “kissable” girl looked like other than the guy who’d kissed them all?

He’d been away for the last week visiting family in San Jose with his parents, and he’d only just returned. Since they’d met during the summer after freshman year, this was the longest they’d gone without seeing each other. Katie had been practicing her New Look the whole time. No one had seen it. She wanted Alex to be the first, so she could get a true reaction from him: the expert.

Before she could chicken out, she typed Alex a direct message in the game so the others couldn’t see it.

Hey, can you come over? There’s something I want to ask you.

With a shaking finger, she clicked on send.

She wasn’t sure why his opinion meant so much to her. Sure, he was her best friend, but if she were honest with herself, she supposed a little piece of her hoped Alex would see her the way he saw other girls. The way she’d wanted him to see her when they’d first met. She wanted to show him what he’d be missing out on.

When they’d first become friends, they’d grown close quickly. Being with him had felt so natural. She’d assumed it was only a matter of time before things heated up. But everything changed when his brother, Jason, died of cancer.

With so many things happening in Alex’s life, what he’d needed was a friend, so that’s exactly what Katie had been. And that’s what she remained, because Alex’s feelings for her seemed to shift—to the cheerleading squad, and the girl’s swim team, and the gymnastics club…

But she was over the disappointment now. Totally over it. Ready to move on. It was all part of The Plan.