Alex Smiley slammed the door and ran up the stairs to his room. His mother May turned from the dining table where she was folding laundry. Shocked, she looked at the stairs where her son had just disappeared.
“Alex?” she called.
She moved to the base of the stairs and tried again. “Alex? What is it, son?”
“Nothing,” Alex yelled from his room. Music briefly filled the house as he flicked his stereo on, and just as quickly turned the volume down. He knew his mom would insist on it any second now, anyway.
Alex threw himself onto his bed, tears of humiliation streaming down his cheeks. He cringed as he recalled Julia’s face—how she had smiled and then laughed when he’d asked her out that afternoon after school.
“Yeah, right,” she’d said, obviously thinking he was joking. When she’d realized he was serious, she had laughed—right in his face! Closing her locker door, she had shrugged and looked at her phone. Sighing, she had looked up to see him still standing there, waiting.
“Alex,” she’d continued in a conciliatory tone usually reserved for small children and frightened animals, “I’m sorry. You’re really sweet but I can’t go out with you. You know that.” She had given him a small, sad smile and, tossing her long black hair over her shoulder, walked away to where her friends were waiting.
Alex had watched her lean forward to whisper something to them, and then they’d gasped and looked back at him, laughing and covering their mouths dramatically.
He punched his pillow. He was so stupid. Of course, she’d said no. No girl was going to go out with him.
He’d watched several of his friends start dating this year. They would walk down the halls holding their girlfriend’s hands, or sit with them in the library pretending to do homework. Why can’t I have what they have? What’s wrong with me?
He got off his bed and stood in front of the full-length mirror. His image stared back. Red blotches covered a round face. Above, his thin blonde hair now stood in sweaty spikes. He pushed his glasses up his nose. He was short for his age and chubby—what his mother called stocky, but he knew what that meant.
He stepped closer and looked at his face. The wide mouth and eyes. He stuck out his big tongue and mocked himself. Then his fingers traced the scar under his shirt. His first operation as a baby—open heart surgery. He stepped back and shook his head sadly. No girl is ever going to date me. Why would they? Who would date a freak like me?
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