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When I woke up, I cursed to myself. February is definitely my least favorite month, 'cause it has my least favorite day.

See, here's the thing about today. I've got eight real close friends, which with me makes nine. Some of them I've known for close to a decade, and some I've known for only a year or two, but we're all sophomores and we're super tight. There's one little hitch, though. My little gang is both guys and girls. And they're all dating each other. Guess who's the odd one out? And guess what day it is?

The thing is, it doesn't really matter to me if they want to have their little romantic moments with each other. Good for them if they want to be alone; I don't need to be with my friends every day. The absolutely infuriating thing is that since I'm the only single person in our group, they all feel bad for me and all four couples try to invite me to hang out even though they'd much rather be alone. If I say yes to one of them, we hang out together and all three of us try to think of a good reason for me to go away. If I say no to all of them, I get not-intentional-but-totally-frustrating condescension from all eight of them.


A thought occurs.


What if I just… didn't go to school at all today?


I shower, dress, and eat breakfast like any other day. Wouldn't want Mom to suspect something. But once I'm out the door, down the stairs, out of the building and around the block, I flag down a taxi and head to Central Park. Even though it's February, it's pretty warm (maybe those scientists are onto something with the whole greenhouse effect thing), and it's almost 60 degrees out. I'm fine with just a sweatshirt and jeans.


I'm wandering around the park randomly. I guess I'm not the only high school student not in class today. There're a lot of couples around the park today, and at least a half dozen are clearly teens. One pair I recognize as being from my school, but I can't come up with their names, and they're too absorbed with each other to notice me. Would they even recognize me if they did? I'm not exactly popular.


I've been here for three hours now, and the day is absolutely beautiful. The sun's shining, the grass is growing a little bit from the last week of warm weather, and the sky is bluer than I've ever seen it. Everything is perfect until I spot someone I recognize.


His name's Jack, and back in middle school, I hated him. He was friendly to like everyone else, but he seemed to have it in for me. He loved to make fun of me, and embarrassed me in front of dozens of people more times than I know how to count. Basically, he's an asshole. Well, crap, now he's noticed me, and he's headed this way. Man, he's a lot taller than he used to be. In eighth grade, I had at least an inch on him, but now he must be two or three above me. He looks stronger, too. What happened to the skinny kid I knew in middle school? I play soccer and I'm not soft or weak, but he could probably take me now.


“Hey, how's it going??” He's closer now, and we shake hands. Luckily, we both went for the same handshake, so it wasn't awkward.


“Hi, Jack.”


“Crazy, you're the last person I expected to run into today. What brings you out here on a school day?”


Aw, what the heck. I don't have anything better to do, and I'm feeling pretty friendly. It is a pretty awesome day out, after all. I tell him about all my friends, and how I didn't want to deal with their crap. “So yeah, I just thought I'd save everyone a lot of trouble and not show up to school. What're you doing out of class?”


Jack shrugs. “Well, most of my friends are single so I don't have your problem, but all the hearts and flowers make me sick. I just thought I'd walk over this way.” Ok, so the high school Jack goes to now is closer to the park than mine. “Never thought I'd see you here, though.”


It's kinda weird how people change, isn't it? I mean, I never thought I'd see the day where Jack and I walked in the park and reminisced about people we knew in middle school. But here we are, hanging out and generally just having a good time. It's getting warmer out by the minute, there's a gentle breeze, the birds are chirping… It's just a great day.


It's nice talking to Jack, actually. He's got a calming voice, and he's pretty thoughtful. I'm telling him all about one of the guys a year below me who I think is super annoying, and he's telling me that he thinks the poor kid just wants attention. Maybe I'll talk to him later this week. Not for too long though.


“So it's getting about time for lunch,” I say.


“Wanna get pizza?” Jack asks.


“Sure,” I say. “Lead on.”


We've managed to find a place that smells pretty good and has outdoor seating. The waiter reeks of Axe body spray, and I wiggle my eyebrows at Jack. He makes a distasteful expression in response.


We get a large supreme pizza. I order my Coke and he drinks milk. When I tease him about it, he shrugs and says, “Protein's good for you. Makes ya live to be a hundred.” Or makes you super ripped, apparently. Sitting across from Jack, I'm noticing more and more how much older he looks. He's kinda… handsome. No. Nope. Not gonna think that. Not going down that path. No thank you.


By the time we're finished eating, we've exchanged cell numbers, and after we split the bill, we part ways. I had a really good time, and I don't know if he noticed me feeling a bit uncomfortable towards the end, but if he did it didn't seem to bother him.


I wander around town until the time school gets out, without anything else interesting happening. When I go home, I tell my mom I have homework and then watch Netflix in my room for the rest of the evening.


Then, in 3rd hour the next morning, I make the mistake of telling Matt, my best friend, all about it.


“Wait, so you went on a date with this dude?”


“No! No, we just met up and had food.”


“So that explains why you're blushing?”


I tell Matt to go soak his head, but the words stick with me as I sit doing my homework that evening. I start wondering if maybe that's what Jack was going for. It's possible, I guess. Unlikely, but possible. What'll I do if it is? That's the real question. I mean, if I'm being honest with myself… I'd be okay with that. It's a little weird and people might talk, but could it be worth it? Maybe. I'll just wait for him to call or text me and then do something about it.


But what if he's waiting for me to get in touch? Gah, this is horrible. Maybe I'll just text him.


5:23 Me: hey


6:12 Jack: sorry, was at practice

now im doing hw



Me: same How's yours coming?


Jack: slowly, pretty tired atm


Me: you didnt say you were in a sport

which one is it


Jack: basketball


Me: jv or varsity?


Jack: jv

but hopefully varsity next year

you play soccer still?


Me: yeah but that was fall

conditioning is only tuesday thursday


Jack: that mean youre free day after tomorrow?


Me: afternoon yeah


Jack: coach called off practice next 2 days

wanna hang?


Me: sure

meet up where?


Jack: Ill let u know


Me: sure thing

Ill let u get back to your work


Jack: cool

catch you wednesday

And there you have it. The story of how valentine's day ended up being a good day for me this year. Funny how stuff like just seems to happen exactly when you least expect it, but Jack and I've been together for a month now and things are pretty great. That's pretty much it as far as that story goes. But if you wanna hear another story, we can hang out tomorrow and I'll tell you about how we went fishing. God, what a disaster that was. Anyways, see you later!

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