Tennis Courts and Jogging Paths: Paula Stokes on Her High School Crush

High school crushes seem to last forever, don't they? You know the kind we're talking about, the all consuming, would-do-anything-for-them crushes, the kind that leave a lasting aftertaste. With The Art of Lainey, hitting shelves, we thought we'd ask YA author Paula Stokes about who she was madly in crush with and what she did to try and get him to notice her. Take it away, Paula!

Oh, high school crushes. It seems like I must have had a million of them. Wait, no that was middle school. That’s when every third guy in my yearbook had a heart drawn around his picture.

There were only a couple of guys in high school that I crushed on hard. I was really into tennis, so in addition to playing on the girls’ team, I also managed the boys’ team. “Manager” being a fancy word for someone who toted equipment, shagged balls hit over the fence and looked the other way whenever one of our guys made a dubious call.

There were two factions on our team — the guys who dressed in all white and wore two-hundred dollar court shoes, and the guys who dressed in rock band T-shirts, wore Vans and sneaked smoke breaks in between sets. Guess which guys I liked?

Yep, the troublemakers. I was crazy about one in particular. We’ll call him M. M had really nice eyes. Not blue or green, but a mix — the color of the open ocean. He was sarcastic and made me laugh a lot. He was flirty in a weird understated way — a master of mixed signals. I wrote whole notebooks of bad poetry about M, about the pressure of his leg touching mine when he sat next to me on the tennis courts. About the way I felt hollow when he passed me in the hallways and didn’t even acknowledge me.

In addition to tennis, I was also a big runner. When I found out where M lived, I altered my running path just slightly (okay, fine, I added another two miles to my regimen) so that I could jog by his house. I know, I know, not my proudest moment. But it worked, sort of. One day, M saw me and waved when I jogged by. The next week we ended up talking and then playing tennis together at a park near his house. I kept thinking he would ask me out, but he never did. He was a senior and I was a junior. Eventually, he graduated, and I kept writing bad poetry. I was still writing about M during my freshman year of college.

Last year I ended up talking to him on Facebook about something high school related. “I think I’ve just about gotten over that crush on you,” I joked.

"Huh?” he said. “What crush?

“Um…I liked you for years. I used to jog by your house just to see you. I used to volunteer to do our family’s grocery shopping because you worked at the supermarket.” (I know, but I was borderline obsessed, and my mom loved not having to shop.)

“Wow,” he said. “You should have said something. I had no idea.”

The obvious lesson here is to be bold about your feelings, but I prefer thinking about this story another way. If you can’t be bold, be aware! Someone really sweet (and okay, a little stalkery, but totally harmless) might be writing bad poetry about you right this second.

-Paula Stokes

The Art of Lainey is now available in-stores and online, so be sure to purchase your copy today! And for more fun YA author stories, books and buzz, visit our Everything YA page!