CHAPTER ONE - 99 Cent Special
It was a small incident in chemistry class, but it lit an angry ﬁre deep inside Luann. She’d been boiling all day and now, alone in her bedroom at day’s end, she was ready to blow oﬀ some steam.
Luann shut her bedroom door and wedged a pair of jeans along the crack at the bottom. She moved a chair next to the door and stuﬀed two pillows between the chair and the door. She sprawled on her stomach across her bed and picked up a small recorder, her private diary. She punched the record button.
“I HATE Tiﬀany Farrell!!” Luann growled the words through clenched teeth. “I hate her baby doll face and her perky little ﬁgure and her bleached blonde hair... and her ego! All superior and snotty -- she’s like... like... Beauty And The Beast all in one! That girl just makes me want to... Ugh!”
Luann sat up, took a breath and shoved her bangs out of her eyes. “Ok, today in chemistry lab? She snuggled right up to Aaron Hill -- leaned all over him -- and put on her little kitty purr: ‘Aaron, will you adjust my goggles?’ I swear, I almost adjusted her goggles right around her throat! Why does she have to ﬂirt with Aaron, anyway? I mean, all 400 guys at school are dazzled by her. Can’t she leave ONE guy for someone else?”
Luann had adored Aaron Hill since third grade. The quiet way he moved, the soft eyes looking out from under a ﬂop of brown hair, the sweet shy smile... it all melted Luann’s heart into a puddle of longing. Unfortunately, it was one-way longing. Aaron barely knew Luann existed.
Now, for no particular reason, Tiﬀany had decided to go after Aaron -- like a shopper deciding to add a new pair of earrings to her collection -- and it made Luann furious.
She hung her head down and rubbed the back of her neck. She noticed the bottom of her right slipper: in curly letters she had written “Luann Loves Aaron.”
The bulletin board by Luann’s desk was covered with photos, mostly of Luann with her two best pals, Bernice and Delta. Right in the center, glued onto a heart Luann had cut out of red paper, was a photo of Aaron Hill, the Most Perfect Boy Alive. Luann stared at the photo and sighed into her tape recorder.
“Maybe I’m just fooling myself, Diary. I mean, Tiﬀany Farrell is gorgeous. She can have any guy she wants -- including Aaron. How can I compete with someone like that?”
Luann switched oﬀ the recorder, got oﬀ her bed, went to the full length mirror on the wall and stood before her reﬂection. Could she compete?
She studied her face: round, open, pleasant. But gorgeous? Hardly. She looked at her hair: thick and full, parted on top, shoulder length. The bangs were long, swept out to each side above her eyes. Her hair color was an orangey/blonde, an unusual color that Luann liked. It was her one distinctive feature.
She turned sideways, put her hands on her hips, moved her shoulders back slightly. Yes, she had some boobage, even in her baggy nightgown. In fact, the baby fat she hated at age 14 had transformed into some noticeable 16 year old curves. Not that Aaron Hill noticed. Or any other guy. Well, one guy noticed. The one guy Luann wished didn’t notice: Gunther Berger. Gunther wasn’t a creep or anything, in fact he was a really sweet guy. Luann just couldn’t get past his geekiness. Gunther had the school’s highest I.Q. and lowest have-a-clue. He was Nerd Number One. He looked like a doofy cartoon character with his thick glasses, wiry hair and stupid grin. Luann had no interest in being a geek’s girlfriend and it bugged her that Gunther seemed to think they were equals.
“I wonder if looks determine what kind of person you’ll be with. I mean, do you end up with someone of equal attractiveness value? Tiﬀany’s like, a Big Value. So’s Aaron. Gunther’s sort of a 99Cent Special. But what am I? A Medium Value? A Junior Value? What if I’m only a Gunther value? Is it possible for a 99 Cent Special to attract a Big Value?”
Luann leaned forward and studied her face. “I guess the real question is, can a 99 Cent Special become a Big Value?”
“Luann? Are you in bed?” Luann’s mom was outside the door, her voice muﬄed by the pillows.
“Ok, ‘night, hon.” A pause. “It’s late. School tomorrow.”
“It’s the last week of school, mom. I’m pretty sure I know the schedule now.”
“Sometimes I wonder,” said mom.
Luann checked the clock on her night stand: 11 PM, meaning it was 10:45. Luann kept it 15 minutes ahead so she’d always have plenty of time to get ready for school. Of course, knowing she had extra time, she always hit the snooze button, went back to sleep and woke up 15 minutes late.
She stashed the recorder in its hiding place in her desk then picked up a hair brush and went back to the mirror. Stroking her hair, she thought about Aaron... and Gunther. “I’d give anything to be a beauty like Tiﬀany Farrell,” she whispered to her reﬂection. Then she smiled. “Except I wouldn’t be a Beast.”
Luann yawned and kicked oﬀ her slippers. Beauty rest, she thought. That’s what I need. I’d be gorgeous if I could just sleep long enough. Like 14 thousand hours.
She got under the covers, turned oﬀ the nightstand light and stared into the darkness. Her mind spun around the chemistry lab scene. What should I do about Tiﬀany, she wondered. What can I do? Tiﬀany’s a beauty. Boys are attracted to beauty. It’s not like there’s anything I could do to suddenly attract Aaron’s attention.
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