My obsession with Luke Jenkins was brief but intense. All the way through Grade School and Middle School, I hadn’t noticed him at all, although that’s partly because boys don’t really exist at those ages, apart from as annoying nuisances who steal your highlighters and fart loudly at inopportune moments in class. Once we started High School, though, it was a different matter entirely. All of a sudden, I began observing how cute he was when I sat behind him in Ms Spirelli’s history class or caught sight of him across the lunch hall, shovelling jello into his mouth as if his life depended on it.
At recess, I sat on the grass with Kimberley and Meg, wondering if they’d noticed Luke’s transformation from a slug to a butterfly as well. (Yes, I know slugs don’t turn into butterflies, but there’s something particularly slug-like about pre-adolescent boys and the way they slither their way through school, leaving a slimy, snotty trail behind them.)
Meg looked surprised when I mentioned that Luke Jenkins had “improved over the summer”. “You mean looks-wise?” she asked, regarding me from beneath her long, mascara-ed lashes.
Luckily, Kimberley was on my side. “It’s his smile,” she said now, a dreamy, far-away look in her eye. “When he smiles at you, his whole face lights up, like no one else in the world exists except you.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. I wanted Luke to be the object of my affection, not hers.
I couldn’t get him out of my head, though. For the whole of the following week, I found myself pulling the petals off daisies whilst muttering, “He loves me, he loves me not” under my breath. The scattered petals that followed me could have symbolised wedding confetti – had Luke known I existed. He didn’t.
That’s when I realised I had to up my game. Inwardly, I cursed myself for blabbing my secret earlier to my friends. If I hadn’t mentioned Luke, perhaps neither of them would have shown an interest in him. As it was, not a day went by without Meg batting her eyelashes at him as she opened her locker – oh, so frustratingly close to his! – or Kimberley walking past him, flashing her legs in skirts that were surely far too short for school guidelines. I had neither eyelashes nor legs – well, not in those quantities anyway; to all intents and purposes, I was the Invisible Woman where Luke was concerned.
The miracle happened on Friday morning. Five daisies in a row had proclaimed that Luke loved me; I took that as a sign that I should let him know my true feelings at last. Now I’m older, I realise that what I felt was actually puppy love; but, back then, I was convinced it was the real thing: I’d been scrawling “Mrs Katy Jenkins” across every available inch of space in my notepad all week.
For once, he wasn’t caught up in a crowd of teenage boys, talking about football and YouTube. My Greek god wafted past me in a cloud of pheromone-laden deodorant that momentarily took my breath away.
“Hey, Luke!” I called after him.
He stopped in his tracks and turned round.
“It’s me, Katy,” I said when he seemed to be having difficulty in placing me. “I sit behind you in history.”
Comprehension dawned on his face. “Katy,” he repeated. “You hang out with Megan, don’t you?”
I nodded, ecstatic that he’d remembered me; but then his next words ripped a hole right through my heart.
“Do you know if she’s seeing anyone?” he continued, oblivious to my horror. “Only, I was thinking of asking her out sometime …”
His voice trailed off in embarrassment as a fat, salty tear rolled down my cheek.
He loves me not, my heart whispered. How could I have been so stupid, thinking he’d look twice at me when he’d been blinded by Meg’s lashes?
That morning, I took all my hopeless, unrequited love for Luke Jenkins and slowly and painfully pulled it apart, stuffing it at the back of my locker until a day when I felt brave enough to throw it away for good. My obsession lasted for exactly one hundred and sixty-seven hours and four minutes – but for every minute of that time, I was deliriously happy whenever a daisy told me that he loved me.