Cute Hat Boy and the Weird Girl
The Story of Paige and Matt
By Paige Lavoie
ow do you eat an artichoke?” I shout into the phone. I don’t even open with “Hello” or “How’s it going?”—just launch right into the question as soon as the call is answered. I need advice, and I need it quick. Why I am screaming about produce on the phone, you might ask?
Cute Hat Boy. That might sound silly, but it’s not. This is serious business. ULTRA-serious business, in fact, and to understand this to the fullest extent, we’re going to have to go back a few months. Our story starts at a cozy coffee shop in Orlando named “Natura.”
I’m looking frantically around the coffee house when I catch a glimpse of my friend Jessi’s spiky brown hair, bouncing up and down as she flails around, trying to wave me over to the other side of the shop. She’s shorter than I am, so all I can make out is a blur of hair and black-jelly-bracelet arms until I make my way through the crowd to where she’s standing.
Jessi, much like everyone else in Natura, is objectively too cool to be my friend. We met during Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, and I’ve been driving an hour from Disney to the University of Central Florida to watch her rock out on her ukulele ever since.
The coffee house is long and narrow. It has quirky local art, including paper mâché dinosaur bones mounted on the wall, which makes you feel like you’re an extra in a movie. Tonight it’s a sardine-tin-level crowd full of indie rock kids. Cases for the hodge-podge of instruments are stacked up by the stage, right next to where Jessi is still flailing. Inching through the crowd, I accidentally step on or elbow everyone in my path. My twin sister, Lily, on the other hand, has no problem getting to the front of the line. She orders for me, and I slip her some cash. She knows the drill by now. I hate talking to people.
As I’m waiting for my drink, I notice a boy smiling across the room, shooting arrows through my heart. I’m not the type to get overwhelmed by smiles from cute strangers, but I’ve seen this boy before—so often, in fact, that I secretly call him “Cute Hat Boy.” The “cute” part is self-explanatory. He has giant puppy-dog eyes and a glittering smile, dimples included. His shoulders are the kind you wish you could snuggle right into. The “hat” part refers to the fact that he always wears the best hats: hand-painted top hats, fuzzy knitted caps, even bowler hats like the one he’s sporting today.
Unfortunately, his smile isn’t directed at me. My heart aches as I watch him chatting animatedly with a cute girl holding a ukulele.
Lily hands me my drink before disappearing into the crowd to hang out with her friends. This place is nuts. Just looking around is gives me anxiety. “There’s nowhere to sit,” I complain as people squeeze past us. Heck, there’s nowhere to stand.
“Nah, it’s fine,” Jessi says confidently, plopping down on the coffee table already cluttered with coffee cups and a hookah the customers before us abandoned. She points to the old guitar case next to her.
“Neither of these are chairs,” I say, but she just shrugs. Natura is Jessi’s second home, so she’d know better than I would. The edges of the case are duct-taped together, and there’s a giraffe painted on the front. Carefully, I sit down. Everything Jessi owns is customized in some way. Her notebook of song lyrics is made from old cereal boxes, and there are scribbles on her shoes.
“You sure this is okay?” I ask again. I don’t want to ruin her guitar case.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it.”
But it’s me, and I worry about everything. I sit lightly on the case—it’s honestly not very comfortable, but it gets me slightly out of the way of the crowd coming and going from the shop. I take a deep breath and a sip of my Boba tea. The sugary honeydew flavor hurts my teeth but tastes good. People flutter around everywhere. With the constant motion it’s almost hard to focus on the conversation Jessi and I are having. Then suddenly her head jerks up to look at someone.
I follow her eyes, panic rising in my chest.
Cute Hat Guy stands like two feet from me. Why is he standing right here? And oh my God, why is he looking at me? And why is he so much cuter up close? His brown hair is a little shaggy, and it looks impossibly soft. I try (and fail) not to stare like a weirdo.
“Is this okay?” Jessi points to the guitar case, and I suddenly realize this guitar case was never hers.
I’m sitting on the cute boy’s guitar case. This is the worst moment of my life.
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