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by Nadia Kardan, 13, Marlboro, New Jersey

"He loves me, he loves me not," I whisper to myself in lunch one day. As usual, I sit by myself on the grass, picking petals off dandelions.

My crush likes Janine, but not me. How are we any different? I'm a girl and so is she. She's amazingly popular, and I'm what people call a loser.

School's a killer for me: everyone's always pointing, staring, and laughing at me for everything I do. I can pick up a pencil and someone would crack a joke and make fun. But Ashley's always there to make me feel better.

Ashley's a girly name for a boy? Maybe, but he's the hottest, most sweetest thing you'd ever meet. Again, Ashley's the most popular thing in the entire state of California. Seriously, I live in Redding, and people in Santa Monica know him and rave about him. I love Ashley, he's perfect for me.

So, let's take a look at this. I'm a loser, he's a hottie, how's he perfect for me? Well, he's done some pretty nice things for me lately. Like take today for instance, in Bio, period four. I was making a funny joke about Janine, and as I was reading it over, Janine's best friend Alina, who just happens to sit next to me, grabbed it from me and passed it to her friend.

OK, so at this point, I was panicking my brains out. If Janine saw that joke, my life would be over. Well obviously, she saw it, and when she did, the look she gave me was as if she wanted to kill me.

Ashley saw my face, and Janine's too, so my baby was to the rescue.

"Can I see that?" Ashley asked Janine in a whisper.

Janine passed it to him, and as Ashley read it, I could see a smile merge over his face. He scribbled something down, and threw it onto my desk. I opened it, and on the bottom it said:

"Funny, pass the joke around."

I stared at him, and he smiled back at me. At that moment, I could not wait 'til class was over. Because I'm tellin' you, I knew that Ashley would say something to me.

OK bell rings, and I'm out of there. I stayed by the door hoping that Ashley would stop too. He passed by, and naturally, I wanted to follow him. So I did, and then I was on the floor. Seriously, I started following him and then I was on the floor. Take a guess at what happens next.

"You think you're cool, writing stuff about me? Lemme tell you, next time you do that, I'll punch your nerdy brain back to the fifth grade."

If you're not following, that was Janine.

So then came lunch, and here I am, on the grass picking petals of weeds. I won't lie, there's open tables out here, but I'm afraid. I don't want to sit at a table and then get kicked out.

So what am I doing now? I'm moving towards a table and I'm sitting down. OK, this is fine.

"MOVE IT PEOPLE!" I hear Ashley's best friend Craig say, fighting through the crowd. "ASH AND CRAIG ARE COMIN'!"

"Man, shut up," Ashley tells him, "let's just get to our table."

"We can't if someone's sitting there."

I am so busy looking at Ashley, I have no idea Craig is talking about me until he slams his tray on the table.

"Yo, Gabby, move yourself onto the grass, this is our table."

I try to be tough and defend myself. "I don't see your name on it."

"Craig," Ashley says, "let's go, there's tables inside."

"Ashley, this is our table. Gabby, how many times have you seen us here? Every day, right? Yeah, that means it's our place to eat. Now move."

"Look," I tell him, "this table was open. I can sit here."

Craig keeps staring at me and at the same time pushes my tray off the table with his hand.

I immediately start picking up all my stuff, while Craig takes my seat. Ashley puts his tray down on the table and picks up my Spanish book from the wet grass.

"Sorry," he tells me before he sits down, too.

I make my way back to the grass and sit down, trying to keep the tears from coming down.

After lunch, the day goes along OK. I ace my two big tests, and then go to my bus. It is hard finding a seat, as usual. No one likes me.

"Sit here," Ashley tells me.

I smile at him, happy to see his cutie pie face, and sit down.

"Sorry," he says again, "Craig's a real jerk when it comes to that stuff. You can sit there anytime you want."

"No, I understand, that's the 'popular' table."

"Popular," Ashley mumbles, "what does that word mean anyway? It used to be defined as 'liked by everyone, many friends.' Take Janine, her only friend's Alina and everyone hates her. She's popular?"

I look up at him. "She hangs out with you. You like her. You're the one with the friends, Ashley, and everyone likes you. If anyone has anything to do with you, they're lucky. They're popular because if people like you, they're forced to like your friends."

"That makes you popular then, right?"


"You just told me, if anyone has anything to do with me, they're popular. Aren't you my friend?"

"I wouldn't go as far as to callin' me your friend."

"Then what's a person you like talking to?"

I think about it, and smile. I even feel like hugging Ashley at this point. I am so happy because I have a friend. And he is the coolest guy in school. My friend is Ashley.

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