101 Tried and True Ways To Make Him Fall in Love with You
Phoebe had been thinking about Gerald ever since the night they had spent together in the Tunnel of Love. She kept thinking about the story he'd told of the couple who had gotten lost in the Tunnel of Love five years ago but had survived by hoarding cotton candy and popcorn that people threw over the sides of the boat. She kept thinking about how carefully he had paid attention when she had rambled on about a book she was reading and loved. She especially kept thinking about holding hands with him. She had never held hands with anyone before that night.
However much Gerald stayed on Phoebe's mind, though, Phoebe didn't seem to be on Gerald's at all. They barely spoke to each other outside of a "hi" on the playground, and Gerald appeared to greatly prefer playing baseball with the other boys in their class than having a conversation with her. It hurt her feelings a little bit—okay, a lot—but she refused to let him see that.
Helga seemed to notice, in one of her rare states of selflessness. Phoebe was swinging on one of the swings that normally only third graders used. Helga came over and leaned against one of the poles, crossing her arms. "What's eating you?" she said, sounding annoyed although Phoebe could see right through the act.
Phoebe shrugged. "Nothing," she said quietly.
"You're lying, Phoebs." Helga's voice suddenly sounded softer. Well, until a third grader came over with an idea that he might be able to use one of the swings and Helga told him that if he sat down she would push him so high his skin would turn inside-out.
But that was just Helga being Helga.
Phoebe sighed as her best friend in the entire world stared at her, waiting for her to explain her current state of melancholy. Finally, she admitted, "It's just that I thought Gerald liked me. Like, like liked me. But I guess he doesn't."
Helga let out a short laugh. "That's your problem? Come on, Phoebe. Seriously, a boy? That's stupid!" She shook her head and Phoebe heard her mutter to herself, "Love problems! Crimony, of all the idiotic things!"
"Okay." Helga stood up straight and took on the air of an army commander. "Well, I think it's ridiculous, but I guess I don't want to see you unhappy. So we're going to do something about this."
Phoebe felt strangely hopeful, but she squashed them down because she knew better than to get her hopes up. "We are?"
"Yes!" Helga thought about it for a second. "The Sadie Hawkins Dance is soon, isn't it?"
"Well, you're going. With Gerald." Helga grinned. "Phoebe! We're going to make Gerald fall in love with you."
Just how they would manage that, however, was unclear. After school that day, they took a trip to the grocery store and when they checked out their purchases they tried to distract Mrs. Johanssen from their stack of teen magazines by also buying three large bunches of bananas. They weren't sure if the bananas had actually worked, but better safe than sorry.
They hurried back to the Patakis' and had to stave off three "Helga, honey?"s from Miriam before they finally reached Helga's room. There, they made sure the door was closed tightly and that the blinds on Helga's windows were drawn before they ventured into the world of teendom.
They read through every glossy piece of romantic, beauty, and health advice. They were told that winter girls should never wear brown, and that drinking exactly eleven and a half ounces of cranberry juice a day would help them lose an extra .3 pounds a year. Phoebe was fascinated by a story of a woman who was warned of her cancer by her ferret. They were learning a lot, but nothing that was incredibly helpful.
"Look, this one's good," said Helga. "101 Tried and True Ways to Make Him Fall In Love With You! It's perfect, Phoebe!"
Phoebe took the magazine and read the first few lines. They seemed ridiculous, but if they were tried and true... "Okay. Let's do them."
So the next day, Phoebe tried the easiest thing on the list, Tried and True Way Number Fourteen: Wear bright colors so that he'll notice you in a crowd! She wore a yellow sweater, a pair of red jeans, and a bright orange hat on her head. She felt oddly conspicuous and, upon arriving at P.S. 118, hid behind a bush until she saw Helga, whose arm she pulled so that Helga fell on the ground behind the bush. "Ouch!" she yelled. "You moron! Who the heck—oh, hello, Phoebe."
Phoebe rolled her eyes. "Hi, Helga. What do you think of my outfit?"
Helga squinted as she surveyed Phoebe. Finally, she declared, "It's perfect!" She pushed Phoebe away from the security of her hiding place. "Now go out and get him!"
The crowd at first morning bell was certainly large enough to be unable to spot someone who wasn't wearing eye-popping colors, and Phoebe was almost grateful that her cold feet had made for perfect timing. She saw Gerald over to the right--his hair stood above the rest of the people milling through the halls of P.S. 118--and tried to make her way over to him.
When she finally reached him, the bell had already rung a second time and most people had disappeared into classrooms. She stood shyly behind him as he slammed his locker door shut and turned around. He jumped at the sight of Phoebe. "Phoebe! Um! You look... different, man." She blushed and began to smile, before Gerald added, "It's kind of weird," and hurried away to class.
She stood there for a moment more and tried to hold back tears but when the threat was too close she skipped going to the classroom altogether and ran to the bathroom, where she cried for a whole ten minutes over her utterly broken heart.
The next tip read, "Guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses." Phoebe felt uncomfortable about it, but if it helped Gerald notice her, maybe it was worth it. With much reluctance, she handed her glasses over to Helga on the morning of day two and prepared herself for a whole lot of blurriness.
Getting through class was difficult, to say the least. She couldn't see the words she was writing in her notes, much less the teacher's face or what the teacher was writing on the board. It was all hit or miss.
At recess, she tripped as she tried to make her way—by memory—towards the tetherballs, which was where she had overheard Gerald telling Eugene he would be. She ended up scraping her knee rather badly and Helga took her by the elbow to the nurse's office. Phoebe wiped a tear from her eye as she looked away from the blood and out the window at the cars passing by, and asked Helga for her glasses back.
Day three and time for tactic number fourteen: "respond to everything he says by relating it back to him." The only problem with this was actually getting him to have a conversation with her.
Her first attempt was before the morning bell. She hid behind a wall and watched for him walking down the sidewalk from the bus station. When he appeared, however, he was with Arnold and anyway, Phoebe had already lost her nerve.
The second attempt was at recess. Phoebe joined the boys in what was actually a very fun game of kickball, but she never got to speak to Gerald in terms other than those regarding the game. Helga pulled her over afterward and said, "What are you doing? You know that tip number fifty-four says not to have so much fun with him that you seem like one of the guys! Geez, Phoebs, it's like you don't care about this at all!"
Phoebe frowned. "You play baseball with the boys all the time, Helga!"
Helga growled. "Crimony! That's different! I'm not trying to ask one of them to Sadie Hawkins, am I? You have to be a girl if you want to get a date to the dance!"
Phoebe personally thought these were all big fat lies, but she didn't say so. Instead she rolled her eyes and sighed. "You know what, Helga? I think the magazines are stupid. They don't know what they're talking about. Maybe they're right when you're a grown-up but I'm only nine years old and I don't think anyone wants me to wear lots of red lipstick. If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it my own way!"
Sheena and Nadine were standing nearby, eavesdropping. They cheered at Phoebe's words and wished her luck, and with that encouragement, Phoebe took a deep breath and walked over to Gerald, who was drinking at the water fountain.
"Gerald, can I ask you a question?"
He looked up at Phoebe and pulled away from the stream of water. "Hey, Phoebe! Sure, what do you want to ask?"
"Are you going with anyone to the Sadie Hawkins?"
Gerald shrugged. "Not at the moment. Why?"
"I was wondering if you would go with me."
There was an anxiety-filled moment when Phoebe was sure he would say no, but suddenly he grinned. "Hey, man. I thought you would never asked."
On a whim, Phoebe stepped forward and threw her arms around him, just for a second. It was brief, and the next moment she was stepping away, her face red. Gerald scratched the back of his neck and looked down at the ground. He looked just as embarrassed—and as happy—as she felt. "So, um. I'll see you later, I guess," she said.
He nodded. "Yeah, yeah. See you."
Phoebe turned and walked back to her friends, who were all waiting to hear the news. "I'm going with him!" she announced. Everyone cheered and she felt relieved—until Rhonda asked, "What are you going to wear?"