People often talk about love at first sight. Sometimes they say that you'll know who The One is right when you meet them. I, for one, think that is a big, stinking pile of bull-crap. If you think you've fallen in love with someone just by seeing them, you probably need to go see... someone about that. You've got a problem.
The reason I'm thinking about this so much is because the first seventh-grade dance is coming up. This year, people will take dates to the dances. These twelve- and thirteen-year-olds will foolishly say I love you in the heat of Justin Bieber's Baby. They'll go off on dates to the movies and have dinner at McDonalds. Might I say - it's not really much of a date if your mom has to drop you off everywhere.
I think I'm the only one not caught up in the dance fever. It all seems so stupid to me. Why would I waste my few years of education on trying to find the right boy when that right boy still picks his nose and sticks it under the desk? I haven't really bothered to even make friends since the third grade. I just don't need people to be around me. Everyone my age is so immature that I don't want to be around them.
"Hey!" I glance up from my math book and only see one other person in the hallway of my school. "It's been so long since I've seen you!" She can't mean me. She can't.
Oh. She means her friend, who she just saw on Friday. That friend just walked out of the band hall. I watch them embrace and giggle and walk away, all while barely keeping the disgust off of my face.
My phone buzzes beside me. I pick it up. It's a text from my mom. I'll be outside in two minutes, it says. Meet me there. We need to hurry to make it to Taylor's karate class. I sigh and pack up my stuff. School ended thirty minutes ago and almost no one is still here. I had a math club meeting, which only lasted for twenty minutes, so now I have to go to my younger sister's karate class.
I spot my mom's silver minivan pulling into the school right after I walk outside. "Finley! Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiinley!" Taylor is a first grader. She's practically hanging out of the backseat window. "Hi!"
I give her a flop of my hand. "Hey, Taylor," I say as I shut the passenger door of the van. "You're going to fall out of that window if you're not careful."
"No I'm not," she replies, dragging out the 'o' in not.
"Yes, you are. Now sit down or we'll be late to karate," my mom says. I set my backpack down behind my seat and Taylor kicks at it until it's behind my mom's seat. I decide not to say anything about it. "So, Fin," my mom says when she pulls out of the school.
She's using her teasing voice again. "Mom, if it's about the dance again-"
"Finley, you've got to go!" she says. "You'll have so much fun. I promise."
"I'm not going, Mom! I told you already." I roll my eyes a little - only a little! - and turn towards my window. "I'm not paying five bucks to go see people I don't like anyway."
"You should go," Taylor teases. Again, she drags out the 'o' in go. "Maybe get a boyfriend." There she goes again with the 'o' in boyfriend.
"Taylor, I'm not interested in a boyfriend," I say sternly.
"Sure," she giggles. This time she drags the 'u'.
I roll my eyes again and stare out my window more intently to let them know they're bothering me. No one says anything else until we pull into the karate building's parking lot.
"Do you want to go to the library again?" my mom asks.
"As opposed to going to karate? Uh, cha," I say. I grab my backpack from the backseat as we get out of the car.
"Well, I'll walk you over when Taylor's class starts."
"Why can't I go myself?" I ask. Taylor pulls open the glass doors to the building. "It's just next door."
"Fine, whatever," my mom says. Taylor grabs her arm and starts pulling her inside. "Bye! Love you! Pick you up in an hour!"
"Bye." I wave a little bit and walk the ten yards to the library doors. I settle into my normal seat at my normal table and pull out a book. It's called Ender's Game. I started it last night, and it's fascinating. I'm planning to finish it before karate ends.
"Can I sit here?" It's a boy who looks to be about twelve - my age. I look at him - and wow. He has a backpack on one shoulder and a phone in his hand. He's wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and jeans. He has glasses, which sit lopsided on his face, and his brown hair is rumpled. "Hello?" I realize that I haven't answered. "If you don't want me to, that's fine," he says. He straightens his glasses.
"No, no, you can," I say. "You're fine. Sorry."
"Okay," he says. "Thanks. My mom sent me over here because my little brother is in his karate class in the other building. I don't like to sit in there. It smells like sweat and feet."
"My sister is in there too!" I exclaim. "Her name's Taylor."
"My brother's name is Lewis," he says. "I'm Ryan."
"Oh, my gosh, Lewis? Taylor has a crush on Lewis!" I laugh and shut my book. "I'm Finley, by the way."
"Well, Finley, what grade are you in?" Ryan asks. "I'm in sixth. I go to Hurley Middle School."
"I'm in seventh grade at Hurley," I say.
"Cool. Do you like sci-fi?" Ryan gestures to my copy of Ender's Game. "I like Star Wars and stuff."
"I prefer dystopian stuff," I say. "And books. So I don't know much about Star Wars except that it's space kids stabbing each other with glow sticks."
"No, no, no!" Ryan exclaims, a little bit too loudly. He looks around and lowers his voice. He puts a hand on his chest as though I've wounded him. "That's all wrong. It's a heart-wrenching and heartwarming story about how one family has managed to mess up an entire galaxy for three generations." He gestures to his shirt. It has some of the only characters I recognize: Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. "See, does this look like a glow stick battle to you?"
"Um, yes," I say. "They're pointing glow sticks at each other right. There."
"Okay, no, they're lightsabers, not glow sticks," he says with a laugh. He takes off his glasses and cleans them on his shirt. "Have you ever actually seen a Star Wars movie?"
I laugh. "Not all the way through."
As Ryan's brain implodes, I think, Was I wrong? I think I was wrong about first sights. I saw Ryan. I immediately liked him a lot more than anyone I've ever known. Maybe everyone else is just mean, or something, because I can't think of anything that made Ryan different from anyone else. He just seemed nice.
"Okay, you have to watch Star Wars sometime," Ryan says. "It's necessary to life."
"I mean... sure," I say. "Why not."
"Yes," he says. "Perfect. When?"
Oh. When, like, when are you coming to my house. Wow. "Um." I feel my eyebrows crumple. I don't want to say no, because Ryan is great. "I don't know. I'll ask my mom when she comes by." I check the time. "She'll be here in about five minutes." Five minutes already? We talked for a lot longer than I thought.
"I guess my mom'll be here, too," Ryan says. "Cool. I bet they know each other."
"My mom knows every other mom at that class. Which one is yours?"
"Wow, Mindy," I say with a nod. "My mom has only good things to say about your mom, then."
Ryan grins. "Good. Who's yours?"
"My mother is Greta," I say.
"Ooh. She's my mom's favorite, I think."
"Perfect." We laugh.
"Hey, do you know any other sixth graders?" Ryan asks randomly.
I shake my head. "Nah. I barely know any seventh graders," I say. "I'm not even going to that dance next weekend."
"Oh, my gosh, I wish I could go," he says. "I can't wait until next year when I can go. The only way I can go this year is if I have a date, and you're the only seventh grader I know. Also, I'm not interested in a girlfriend."
"Would you want to go with me?" The question just pops out of my mouth.
"I'm sorry, did you not just hear me when I said I'm not interested in a girlfriend? And I thought you weren't going." Ryan raises his eyebrows.
"Changed my mind," I say, raising my eyebrows in a challenge, and to match him. "And just as friends."
"Wait," he says. He gives me an incredulous look. "You're saying I'd get to go to the seventh grade dance? And you'd go just for me?"
"Absolutely," I say. "I'm happy to go if I have a person to go with."
"Thank you!" Ryan says this too loud, again, and the woman at the table next to us glares at us. Ryan winces and lowers his voice to say, "You're the best."
Just then, my mom walks up to the table. I see Ryan's mom outside with Taylor and Lewis. They're doing karate on each other. "Time to leave," my mom says to me. "Taylor's wanting to go get ice cream before we go home."
"And we're... actually going to go?" I say.
"Yes. Mindy and Lewis are going with us."
"Isn't Ryan going, too?" I ask.
"Oh. Yes," my mom says. "How do you know Ryan?"
"Mom. He's sitting right in front of me." Ryan waves sheepishly.
"Oh! Hello, Ryan." She looks over at me. "I'd never met him before." She reaches over and shakes his hand.
"It's all right, Mrs. Greta." Ryan gives her a winning smile and I smile too. "I'll go help my mom wrangle Lewis into the car." He turns to me as he stands. "And I'll see you at ice cream, Finley," he says. He pretends to tip a hat at me. He walks outside and I see him tickle Lewis.
My mom quirks her eyebrows at me teasingly. "So, Ryan..." she says in a singsong voice.
"Oh, be quiet," I grumble. I grab my backpack and walk out of the library.
"We're going for ice cream!" Taylor yells as soon as I walk out.
"We are!" I almost-yell back. Then, normally, I say, "Get in the car. Let's go."
She runs to the car, which is just a few feet of sidewalk away, and jumps in. I follow her and buckle into the passenger seat. My mom gets in and drives us down the street to the ice cream shop.
We order small bowls of ice cream and eat outside. I sit next to Ryan and he animatedly tells a story about when he dropped his ice cream on a random man.
When we leave, I turn to my mom. "By the way, can I borrow five dollars? I'm going to the dance after all."
"You decided to go? That's great!" She's beaming. "You're going with Ryan, aren't you." She says it like a fact, not as a question.
"Yes, Mom," I say. I roll my eyes. "I am going with Ryan. But just as friends."
She can barely control her excitement.
It's not until late that night, as I lie in bed, that I realize that Ryan isn't just my friend. Today, I found The One. The One, apparently, doesn't have to be someone you fall in love with. They can be a friend. And you can find The One with a glance, sometimes - like I did today. I get to go to a dance with The One.
The One - Ryan.