Angela began her junior year obsessed with Tony Spinelli, from the moment they'd been partnered together in French class. His Nikes had brushed against her Vans, and she’d felt a low hum of electricity that conjured up butterflies. She’d spent the class too flustered to conjugate her verbs properly, instead striking a balance between evading his gaze and covertly staring at him from beneath her bangs. He was undeniably beautiful. Her friends thought he was hot because of his dreamy smile and purposefully messy curls, but she fell in love with his eyes. They were uncharacteristically serious, electrifying blue. Six weeks after that class, Tony asked her out.
In the weeks between, Angela had become an expert on Tony. She knew his type (to her dismay, it was hopelessly dull: bottle blonds), where he hung out after school (the arcade), and in an all time low, had dug his Social Studies paper out of the garbage after class to discover his view on politics. He’d earned a C+ on the paper, his argument sloppily articulated but clear and direct. Angela’s spiral bound notebook converted from class notes to her extracurricular research and doodles of faceless, floppy haired boys.
A month into her crush, she’d dyed her hair. Champagne blonde. The results had been startling, highlighting her cheekbones and transforming her face from Plain Jane into an Icelandic beauty. Blinking into the mirror, she had barely recognized herself. Good.
When Tony still hadn’t noticed her, she took more radical measures, trading in her flannel shirts and Vans for halter tops and skinny jeans. Her friend Crystal taught her how to contour her face, and before long she had learned how to maintain sultry eye contact by practicing in her bedroom mirror. Entire nights were whiled away on home makeover videos and a Sephora palette as Angela learned how to blend a rainbow of hues to match her new hair and wardrobe. Blowing herself a kiss in her handheld mirror, she indulged herself in fantasies of Tony asking her out. She would coyly say “I’ll have to check my schedule” to keep him on his toes. In her daydreams, she was confident enough to do that.
Angela convinced her friends to go to the arcade with her one weekend, purely to check Tony out in the glow of his favourite game. It was Tron, of all things. The night bled into a haze of salty food and pyrotechnic lights punctuated by piercing whistles and bells, until he had walked up and gave her his number.
Immediately after he’d walked out of earshot, Crystal and Jenny had blitzed her in a rib cracking hug, squealing in her ears and congratulating her. Her jaw ached afterwards from smiling so wide, and she penned his number on her wrist, turning the zero’s into hearts. It made her giddy to look at the number, imagining the ink working its way into her bloodstream. Every time she touched her wrist, a thrill ran through her senses, so she retraced Tony's number with her ballpoint pen every time the ink faded.
The night before their date, she bought another box of hair dye: pink this time. She didn’t want to be just another forgettable blonde to him. She played up the edgy Barbie look, painting on pink lipstick and blush toned eyeshadow, pairing a leather jacket with a pleated skirt that hit mid-thigh. Perfect.
She didn't look anything like herself, but she looked like his type. One step forward for her love life, two steps backwards for her feminist ideals. Ainsi soit-il.
When Eric had dared Tony to ask out the girl in French class, he had audibly groaned. A sharp look from Mrs. Delacroix had silenced him, but hadn’t stopped him from miming out a plea for mercy in Eric’s direction when her back was turned. Eric hadn’t budged. Procrastinating the dare had lasted for days, then weeks. He was willing to endure some locker room ribbing to avoid asking out a hipster lumberjack, even if she did have nice legs. He had his pride, after all. It had gotten to the point where he could barely look at her, so when he’d seen the hot, blonde babe at the arcade, it had taken him a while to recognize her.
“Hey, Angela,” he’d said, turning on the charm. The conversation he’d dreaded for over a month barely lasted a minute before he was sliding the paper with his number into her hand. “I’ll pick you up at 8:00, next Saturday.”
He’d returned to his game, feeding quarters into the slot and smiling without realizing it. Tony’s vision of a quick, in-and-out date at the greasy diner down the corner from the high school transformed into something more meaningful. Mini golf, or maybe dinner and a movie. He’d borrow his brother’s sports car to really seal the deal. He could see himself falling for this girl.
When Saturday came, she tasted like bubblegum and cherry chapstick. Kissing her made him realize he had never truly enjoyed kissing before. He’d liked it enough, but it was this kiss that made him realize why people craved it like an addict jonesing for a hit. He’d pulled away slowly, wanting to linger in the moment, and brushed a lock of her pink hair behind her ear.
“Wow,” he whispered throatily, eyes taking in the slope of her alabaster throat, her defined collarbones, her smudged lipstick. She was perfect. He wondered how he’d never noticed her before. Now, her smoky eyes and blonde hair were all he could see. His hand climbed higher up her skirt, and when she pushed it lower, he only shrugged and kissed her on the cheek. Some girls wanted to take it slow. He could dig that. In fact, he relished the notion that she thought he was worth the wait.
He dropped her off that night, kissing her long and slow on her front porch, ignoring the light that came on in her house. She’d pulled away, murmuring “Au revoir” and slipping through her front door to leave him standing, lovestruck and smiling like a fool. The whole drive home, he replayed their date. Her sarcastic one-liners, her unfamiliar but vast taste in music, the beatific expression on her face as he’d pulled up in front of her house. She might be the one.
Angela leaned against the door, head slumped back in frustration. This was the guy she had spent months lusting after? Checking her phone, she saw a half dozen texts from Jenny and Crystal, asking for details about her date.
Sighing, she wrote back - “CWOT. Turns out I was only love with the idea of him.”