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TWO
"You left your book, Noel," I wanted to say, but my legs were too tired and she was already heading into the shower room. Later, I realized I should have chased after her, but later, I realized I should have done tons of other things.

"Here, I'll give it to her, Josh. I see her every morning at school," Leah said to me. I turned around, un-aware that Leah was still standing there.

I uncertainly handed the book to her. "Okay."

"Hey Josh! Want to go for some ice-cream? My treat."

"Well, I don't feel like it today."

"Puh-lee-ease?"

She looked like a sad puppy. The kind of expression that gets all of my nerves. I hated girls who beg because I usually give in. "I don't know."

"Josh, you have to! Please!" begged Leah.

"Oh, alright. I'll go."

What did I just do? Why did I let myself give in to Leah? How could I have said yes? The next thing I know, she'll be asking me, a boy, out. I hate that type. I don't even feel like eating ice-cream. I've had enough for the rest of my life. Later, I realized I should have walked away. But the past will always be in the past.

Did I approach Noel wrong? Maybe I should have asked her if she was okay. What a fool I am. I can never get her to talk to me. I know practically all about her. Every class, every grade point average, her address, and favorite things, just naming a few.

I just love the way she is. She goes with a crowd, but she always stands out from the rest. I know she doesn't want to be the center of attention, but her different ways of doing things and the way she handles sudden situations always stands out to me. She dresses simply, and still looks good. My sister adores her for that. I like the way her hair looks. When itıs up in a bun, she looks sophisticated, but when it down and loose, it looks natural, like golden threads. In a good way.

I know I'm not a very good describer when it comes to describing people, but maybe now, you see how much I like her. Noel has a quality I see in only a few people my age. That quality is the quality to focus, to concentrate. I go to many of her meets, and she uses the quality in each apparatus, but also in school. She's never gotten anything lower that a B average. Well, I"ve never gotten anything lower, either.

"Hey Josh! Are you there?" Leah asked, once we were in the ice-cream shop. I licked at a frozen yogurt cone that was dripping onto my hands, making them sticky.

"Oh, sorry. What did you say? I wasn't listening."

"I said your ice-cream cone is dripping everywhere. Don't you know how to eat one?"

"Oh, yeah."

Once we were back in the car, driving home, my mind didn't change a bit. I couldn't concentrate on anything Leah was saying. It went through one ear, and out the other. I know it's rude, but I couldn't help it.

"Josh! You just ran a red light, again!²

"Again?"

"Josh, do you really have a driver's license?"

"Yeah. I guess I didn't see that light."

That was an understatement. I didn't see them at all. I'm lucky enough that the police aren't on my tail. Only if that luck will bring me closer to Noel.

"Hey, when's your next meet? I really want to see you perform." She tried to start a conversation.

"Not anytime soon."

"Well, tell me when you know, so I can see you. You must be great!"

"Not as great as Noel," I wanted to add, but held it back. How could I say that in front of Leah?

"So, are you doing anything Saturday?"

"I want to go see No. . . your meet."

She must have known I wanted to see Noel of all people. ³Noel won't be at the meet," said Leah.

"Why not?"

"'Cause she's grounded."

"Grounded? How?"

"I don't know."

How can she be grounded? And how would Leah know? Noel's dad must not be home. Otherwise, she wouldn't miss a meet in her life. I told you I know lots of things about Noel.

"Hey! You just passed my house!" shouted Leah all of the sudden.

"Oh, sorry," I mumbled. How was I supposed to know where she lives? Leah can be a pest sometimes. I can see why Noel hates her. It's people like her that I try to avoid as much as possible.

"Bye Noel!" Caroline called to me as I headed out the door of the gym.

"Finally, I can go home," I said to myself. Once seated down on the bus, I just realized how handsome Josh really was. All I could think about was Josh and Chris. Chris has dark brown hair, but Josh has dirty blond hair which match his stunning, aquamarine eyes. I have two classes with Chris, but none with Josh. Josh has a car, but Chris doesn't. Does that make a difference? I wonder if any of them ever think of me in a good way.

But my thoughts soon switched back to Josh. Why would Josh, the cutest of the cutest guys want to talk to me? And why didn't he say anything if he was standing there? What would a senior want from me? I guess it wasn't his fault I ran into him.

Why does Leah always have to be right? I'm such a klutz. I practically fall all over myself. But why? Well, that goes for all my chances of him ever talking to me again.

I almost missed my stop when the bus came to my street. At home, I didn't bother to eat any dinner, and went straight to my room, not even giving my mom a chance to ask her usual "How was school?" question. She knocked on my door a dozen times, but I never opened it.

After doing my homework and taking a long, relaxing bubble bath, I decided to write in my diary. I write in it at least two times a day at the minimum.

"Where's my diary? Don't let it be lost! It has to be here!" I shrieked. My mom was on the phone, so she didnıt hear me.

I searched everywhere at least ten times. I went through my gym bag, backpack, and even my laundry. I know I had it when I left school, and I was writing in it before practice started. So where could I have put it?

"Maybe I packed it between my backpack when I left the shower room. I'll find it tomorrow."

Then it struck me. There won't be a tomorrow. I'm banned from the gym this week. "Oh shoot! Why is this happening?"

Oh no! I must have left it at the gym, everyone will read all of my private thoughts! Especially all about Chris! What if someone who knows me reads it? I'll be dead! I've written stuff worse than those gossip columns in the school paper.

If I left it in the gym, and if Josh had found it, he would probably read it. Was that why he was calling my name? Because I left my diary on the chair?

"I'm a total jerk! Maybe it'll be like the last time I lost it. Maybe I left it in my gym locker."

But the 'maybe' kept me awake all night. Hours seemed like centuries, minutes seemed like decades, and seconds seemed like years. Every time I looked at the digital night-glow clock, it seemed to look right back at me, laughing at how stupid I was. I tossed and turned all night. I could tell because when morning came around, my head was hanging off of my bed, and the covers were halfway across the room.

As soon as my mom dropped me off at the back parking lot of my school, I felt all of my friends glare at me strangely, just like what they do to those "out" girls. Then, I saw something I never thought I would ever see. Leah was in the middle of them, talking to my best friend, Eva. They knew she was a show off, so what were they doing talking to her? I didn't want to be anywhere near her, so I ran off to the library in search of my diary, which could have been turned in to the lost and found. I clutched my textbook closer as they followed me with their eyes.

What's the matter with them? Why are they all the suddenly so friendly with Leah? And why did they look at me like that? Are they all turning against me? For what reason? Now I guess that means Iım part of the "out" group.

"Hey Noel! About yesterday, I wanted to ask you if you . . ."

"If you didnıt hear me yesterday, Josh, I said I was sorry. Okay?" Words just came out of my mouth like water pouring out of a faucet. Later, I regretted ever saying that.

"I didnıt mean that, Noel."

"Well then, can you leave me alone? I'm trying to find my diary."

Josh looked flabbergasted. "Didn't Leah give it to you this morning?

"Leah doesn't see me until sixth period and is the biggest snob in the whole wide world! I absolutely hate her! I avoid her as much as possible. How could you have trusted her, Josh?"

"But Noel. . ." his voice trailed off.

"Leah doesn't see me until fifth period and is the biggest snob in the whole wide world. I absolutely hate her! I avoid her as much as possible. How could you have trusted her, Josh?"

"But Noel. . ." his voice trailed off.

"Oh, how could I have ever thought you were nice?" I shouted at him. People around us in the library looked at me like I was crazy. The librarian told me to quiet down.

I didn't want to listen to him or anyone else, so I took off, practically running down the hall to the girls' bathroom. The last thing I wanted to hear was that everyone knows everything I hate about almost every person I've ever seen at school, and above all, that I adore Chris.

"Noel!" I called, but she was long gone. "Geez, she should join the cross country team like my sister."

But making jokes only made me feel worse. Worse about Noel and how I ruined her day. More like her life.

"That's probably why Leah knew she was grounded. It was in her diary." "What are you talking about, Josh?"

I sat back down next to my best friend, Aaron. "I just ruined Noel's life."

"Noel? The girl you like?"

"Yeah."

"Why did you do that? Have you gone crazy, Josh?"

"I might as well be. I trusted Leah. That's the dumbest thing I've done in my life."

"Leah?"

³Leah. You know, that girl who you called a big flirt.²

"Oooohhh, her."

My best friend, Aaron, even knew what a pain Leah can be. At the beginning of the second semester this year, he had become one of the star players on the school soccer team. That was when Leah had made a move for him. But he's just like my sister. They're not interested in dating at all. They would be perfect for eachother except that they hate eachother more than anything in the world. Whenever they see eachother, all they do is argue and try to prove eachother wrong. He swore he wasn't going to get involved with a girl until he finishes college at the earliest. He thinks I'm crazy because I like Noel, but he helps me in every way.

"So I guess you're heading the wrong way with Noel."

"You can say that again." I mumbled.

"So I guess you're heading the wrong way with Noel."

"Don't take things so literally, would you?"

"Well, so-r-ry! You don't have to get mad at me!"

"Sorry. I'm just feeling down."

"Hey, don't. You can tell me the details later. Iıve got to study for this test second period in Math. I don't know any of this stuff!²

Unlike me, Aaron doesn't care about his grades as much, but tries to keep them up for his dad's sake. After his mother died in a car accident when he was only five, his dad raised Aaron by himself. He has a huge company in the next city and produces computer and other electronic devices. So he lives in a mansion kind of house by himself most of the time.

Aaron's dad is expecting him to follow in his footsteps and become the successor of his big company when he graduates from college. He wants to, as much as his dad, but wants to get some fun out of school, so he had joined the soccer team a few years ago. It's only recently that he had become a key player for the team.

As different sports we like, we can relate in different ways. Solo or not, we play because it's all about enjoyment. He's been to almost all of my meets when many other people have teased me about being a gymnast. He was always there to tell me to keep on going. I was at the soccer games when he had let the team down by making careless mistakes. Now, all I hope is that Noel will not lose her best friend, Eva.

"Noel, why didn't you tell me I eat too much junk food?"

"You don't, Eva!"

"Then why did you write it down?'

³I don't know."

"Can't you say it to my face? It's a lot better than getting stabbed in the back."

"I donıt think I wrote it down."

"You're lying! I even saw it written down. And I though you were my friend!"

"But I am, Eva! It's not like you've never wrote something mean about me."

"No, I haven't. Maybe I should!"

"Oh, but it's not my fault. Itıs Leah's!"

"Leah has nothing to do with it. More or less, you've written down every mean thing you can about her."

"But Eva, you've always said mean things about Leah to me."

"Well, now I regret it, and she even forgave me. I think you should do the same."

"But Eva!" Eva covered her ears and took off down the hall.

How could she do this to me? She's always telling me things that are bad about me. But we never did take them seriously. Like when she told me I had a terrible haircut when everyone else said it was fine. She took it upon herself and fixed it. After that, everyone kept on telling me how great I looked. No one credited Eva, but she didn't care. So why is she taking this so differently? Just because I didn't tell her?

My friends have all abandoned me ever since Leah opened her mouth. I just couldn't take another face staring at me. When I went into the locker room, someone had written insulting things about me on the mirrors with dark red lipstick. I tried to hide the anger and frustration, but it must have shown through. Everything I did seemed helpless. When I spoke, I looked down at my hands. I noticed my nails looked really ugly. As a result, no one talked to me the whole day.