Romance Happy Teens & Young Adult

I close my eyes and imagine his dark eyes, chestnut hair. I know every inch of him-- his looks, his interests, his flaws, even the middle name he’d hidden from everyone but I’d found so wonderfully gorgeous. (It was Nathaniel, by the way. Nothing about the name itself was interesting, but the way it locked together with his first name-- Ashton Nathaniel-- was so incredible.)

I remember so well being a lovestruck teenager, staring at the back of the smart boy’s head in English, singing angsty pop songs and pretending he was listening, biking past his house on lonely Saturdays. I’d found out his middle name that way when his mother shouted it for all to hear. “Ashton Nathaniel! Come back here!”

I’d treasured that moment and so many others. But after he started dating Aryana, I’d given up. My feelings had faded away. 

I remind myself that my feelings have faded away.

“So?” Carolyn’s voice, filtered into a crackly imitation by the internet,  prompts me out of my reverie.


“So? Are you gonna ask Ashton out, or do I need to pick another dude?”

I fiddle with my blanket. “I guess.”

“You are the worst at Truth or Dare, Leah! At least pretend to sound excited about it,” Wifaq says. “I mean, he’s kinda hot. You can’t deny it.”

“Wow, Wifaq. And I just want to point out that you were the ones who roped me into this thing anyway. And you were the ones who brought up my middle school crush. That’s ancient history!”

“Sure, girl.”

I’m about to say something else when Carolyn interrupts me. “Go get him! And for real though, bring your phone so we know you’re not sitting on your dang couch watching rom-coms.”

How does she know my every move? I say, “Okay then.” 

“I need to go,” Wifaq says. “My brother just woke up, and well--” 

She hangs up quickly as someone faintly screeches her name. “You know,” I say before Carolyn can make fun of me again, “Where am I supposed to find Ashton? It’s not like he’s hanging around my house.”


“What did you do?!”

“Thank me later. Just go out to your front yard and leave the phone on the porch. I won’t say anything, promise.”

I reluctantly get out of bed and step outside to the porch. It’s freezing out here-- too cold for Valentine’s Day. 

“There’s no one here!” I say, gesturing around to the familiar front yard I grew up in. “I’m going back in. My parents are going to be up soon.” 

“Just wait a few minutes.”

I set the phone down on the porch ledge right as a black car pulls up. I go on high alert, pulling my sleeves tight. 

Ashton steps out of the car, and I swear it’s like a movie. I’m in love again, and the world’s in slow motion as his strong, muscled arms slam the door shut--


“Hi!” I say feebly and rush down to the sidewalk. I nearly trip but manage to catch myself.

“Hi, um, someone told me that I was supposed to meet a person here? I’m assuming that’s you?” Ashton has a cute concerned look on his face. I make a mental note to ask Carolyn how the heck she got him to come here. 

“Oh. Yes, that’s me.” Go for it, I tell myself. “I was just wondering, I guess, since Valentine’s Day is coming up…” 

My cheeks flush. He stares at me blankly.

“Would you maybe like to, er, go out?”

“Oh, um,” Ashton runs his fingers through his perfect hair. God, that hair. “I’m sorry, but who are you?”

“Oh,” I say, surprised and a little hurt that he doesn’t remember me. I guess it makes sense though. We were never really friends, and he changed schools almost three years ago. “I’m Leah. Leah Wilson. We used to go to school together…”

“Oh, Leah! Yeah, I’m so sorry.” He doesn’t remember me.

“Yeah,” I say, deciding to play along. Maybe he will remember me. I know deep down he’s forgotten me, but I still want to hope. “So, how’s St. Mary’s?”

“It’s good.”


This is the most awkward conversation ever. My face is on fire. I just want to disappear into my cozy house and watch rom-coms. Dang it, Carolyn knows me too well.

“So, um, Leigh--”


“Right.” He smiles awkwardly. “Leah. Well, today, I have an um-- I should go.”

“Of course.” I hesitate, then ask, “About, um going out?”

“I’m so sorry, but I have a girlfriend.”

“Of course,” I say again. “I am so sorry. I should have known. Aryana.”

“Oh, we broke up a while ago.” Ashton forces his face into a casual expression.


“Yes, I’m dating a girl named Jillian, and she’s waiting for me. Sorry. Bye, Laine.”

“Bye.” I don’t bother to correct him.

I hold my breath as he gets into his car and drives away. He doesn’t even look at me as he speeds off.

My eyes are watery. Why am I crying? It’s just Ashton, the boy I loved for a full year. Just Ashton, with his perfect hair and perfect eyes and perfect name.

I brush the tears out of my eyes. I hate myself for crying like this. There’s no way Carolyn can see me crying.

It’s too personal. I feel like my emotions have been stripped away and left for everyone to see. But I have to go hang up the call. I slowly walk up the porch stairs and pick up my phone.

“O-M-G, I COULDN’T HEAR A THING!” Carolyn shrieks. “What HAPPENED?”

“I’ll tell you later. It didn’t go well.”

“Wait, Leah--”

But I’ve already hit the button to hang up.

I’m about to go inside, meet Dad and his Sunday morning pancakes while he reads the Bible, then curl up with a blanket and computer and watch To All The Boys for the third time. But I hear the thud of footsteps behind me and brace myself to turn around.

Luckily, it’s just a boy walking his dog. Or maybe not so luckily, because I’ve just been crying and I really don’t want random boys to see me like this.

“Hi,” the boy says, giving me a little wave. He’s kind of cute. Definitely not Ashton-level, but still, cute. Unfortunately, I notice that his dog is squatting down and pooping in our yard. 

“Hi,” I say, waving feebly. “Um, your dog--”

“Oh no,” he says with a sigh, looking down at the dog. He glances back up at me. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay. You know, dogs…” I’ve never had a dog.

“Yeah,” he says, obviously relieved as he expertly scoops it up into a doggie bag. “Sorry again. I really didn’t mean to--”

“It’s not your fault,” I say truthfully, easily. It’s nice to have a conversation with another human being that doesn’t involve truth or dare, awkwardness, or rejection. But honestly, I just need to be alone. I point my thumb at the house. “I need to go. Thanks for picking up.”

“No problem.”

And I finally head inside.


I sip my latte as Carolyn hammers me with questions. She convinced me to go to Scooters with her before school, and I would be regretting it if this latte wasn’t so dang good. 

“I already told you everything that happened.”

“Yes, but what do you think will happen now?” Carolyn demands, tilting her head down to give me The Carolyn Look. (Wifaq and I coined this term after we realized Carolyn gives us the same look whenever she wants us to spill the tea.)

“Nothing,” I shrug, feeling a little pang. But I know it’s true. “Ashton obviously doesn’t like me. I’m over him. So what happens now is we move on.”

“Good move, sis.” Carolyn gives me an approving nod. “Want me to put on my ‘breakup song’ playlist?”

“No! We weren’t even together.”

“Do I need an excuse to play Adele and Mabel?”

“Not Adele, but why you’re in love with that British singer no one’s ever heard of, I’ll never understand.”

“She’s good!” Carolyn protests, but my eyes have locked onto something else across the coffee shop. I gasp. “I’m telling you, she’s so underrated-- what are you gasping about?”

“We need to go.” 

“What? Why?”

But it’s too late. He’s at our table. The boy whose dog pooped in my yard yesterday is at our table.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I feel like I know you,” he says. “I’m Kyle? Did we meet?”

“Nope. No. I don’t think I know you. And we need to go, right Carolyn?” I say, dragging her out of her seat.

“I know!” Kyle says. He lowers his voice. “I’m so sorry about yesterday.”

“Oh, I remember!” I act like I just realized who he was. “No problem. But we better head out. So sorry.”

“Yeah, we have school soon,” Carolyn says casually, completely ignoring my frantic tone. “Where do you go to school?”

“I’m homeschooled, with a few other neighborhood kids and parents,” Kyle says. “I actually have school soon too, but my mom sent me out to get a snack for my brother.”

I smile and quickly tell him goodbye. Carolyn drags me outside and gives me The Carolyn Look. “Why didn’t you tell me about him?!”

“I was going to,” I say lamely. “After Ashton left, he was walking his dog, and the dog pooped in my yard.”

“So romantic.” Carolyn rolls her eyes. “But seriously, he is cute. You should ask him out. Yesterday was Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air.”

“No way!” I say, even though I was thinking he was cute too. But I’m definitely not asking him out. “I don’t want to get into all that again. And we really should head off to school.”

“Well, you’d be a good couple. Think about it.”



In Biology, Wifaq passes me a note. It reads Carolyn wanted me to tell u that she got Kyle’s ph #. Who’s Kyle???

I write back, How? That girl is insane. FYI, Kyle is a guy she’s trying to set me up with. What’s his #?

Idk, she just wanted me to tell u. Do u like him?

Kinda, but I don’t want to date rn. I’ll ask Carolyn about it later.

Wifaq nods at me and shoves the note in her backpack. I’m a little angry at Carolyn, but secretly… I’m glad too. 


I fluff up my pillow and start scrolling through Instagram. I see Ashton, smiling, his arm draped across a pretty redhead. I guess that's Jillian. I'm a little jealous, despite what I told Carolyn earlier.

A notification for a "new contact" pops up. I glance longingly at Ashton's feed, then I open the notification. I spot Kyle’s name and am tempted, just for a moment, to text him.

Instead, I go back to Instagram and unfollow Ashton. It’s a purposeful moment. I’m really letting him go. Then, I open the "break-up" playlist Carolyn sent me. The music echoes through my room, fighting back the loneliness that hangs in the air.

I’m lonely. It’s a hard truth, one that can’t be filled by any music. I hit stop on the music and open up the contacts page again. 

Right now, I ache to contact someone, anyone. I start to text Kyle, but at the last second, I hit the call button.

The phone rings sharply against my ear, again and again, and I wonder if he’s going to pick up. He does.


“Hi,” I say. “I don’t think I actually introduced myself. I’m Leah. The girl who you saw the other morning?” 

“Oh,” he says, sounding surprised. But it’s the kind of nice surprised that you get when you weren’t expecting to talk to someone, but you’re glad you ended up where you are. “Hi, Leah.”

We talk and talk, and there’s no awkwardness here. It’s nothing like it was with Ashton, and I forget about him in minutes. It’s easy, and once I’ve hung up, I decide that maybe, just maybe, I’ll ask Kyle out. Before I can dwell on it too much, the sirens ring, and my heart rate quickens. But I know what to do, just like any other Nebraskan. I grab my phone and a robe and head to the stairs.

“Watch or warning?” I ask Mom as we rush to the basement.

“Don’t know. Dan?”

“Coming!” Dad calls. We enter the basement and sit on the couch. Fortunately, the lights are still on. Mom turns on the weather.

A few minutes into the forecast-- it’s only a watch, they inform us-- my phone buzzes. I check-- it’s Kyle.

You ok?

I text back, Yeah, you?

He sends me a thumbs-up, and I pause before typing. Do you want to go out sometime?

I see the little bubbles. He’s answering. They stop.

Sorry, I know this isn’t very romantic, I say.

No! Of course, I’ll go out with you.

I smile, holding my phone to my chest. We’re stuck in the basement at night, in the middle of a tornado watch, but I couldn’t be happier. My phone rings and I pick up, knowing without really knowing that it’s Kyle.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

February 19, 2021 01:27

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


L Killorin
01:38 Feb 25, 2021

Great story! I love how natural and empowering it was for the protagonist to move through the rejection. I started listening to Mabel halfway through and she is definitely underrated. Thanks for the great read & music rec!


Victoria Bogatz
22:03 Feb 25, 2021

I'm so glad you liked it! I definitely struggled with trying to make it feel natural, so I'm glad it turned out well. I also like Mabel and discovered her right before I wrote this story. :)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.