Johanna had been in love with Gibson since the second grade, admiring him from a distance. Her underwear drawer was full of unsent love letters, cards for various holidays—Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Halloween—still sealed in their envelopes, badly written poems, lyrics to songs that reminded her of him, and pictures of him cut out from every yearbook all the way up to junior year. It was fitting to have her own personal shrine of him next to lace panties and push-up bras. She felt sexy whenever she opened the drawer to get dressed and saw his beautiful face smiling back at her.
Her best friend, Carrie, was a practical person. She believed that if you liked a guy, you told him that you liked him. You didn’t spend nine years, stalking him, writing him love poems only to keep them to yourself to imagine his reaction, and collecting memorabilia to add to your creepy alter of worship next to lingerie. She often teased Johanna, comparing her to the deranged, love-struck girls in those heinous Lifetime movies who would do anything, ranging from fabricating elaborate stories about rape, to kidnapping, even murder, just to be with the men they loved, or if not, hinder them from developing any kind of relationship with another woman.
“I’m not like that,” Johanna would say.
“You’re right about that. You’re worse. You’re in love with a guy you’ve never even talked to.”
Johanna pondered on whether or not it was crazy to prefer an imaginary relationship from inside her drawer instead of walking up to him during class exchange and proposing that they have lunch together like Carrie probably would have done. However, Johanna was not like Carrie. She was much more reserved, always looking down at the floor to avoid making eye contact with anyone. The idea of him rejecting her was terrifying, and she would have much rather imagined having him wrap his arms around her from behind and sway from side to side to light music, whispering “I love you” in her ear, gently nuzzling the back of her neck with his nose, creating a trail of wet kisses down her spine that caused her hairs to stand on end. It was more pleasant than the reality of him looking down at the crown of her head in disgust as she cowered before him, struggling to bring sound to the words forming in her mouth, forever haunting her. Still, on cold nights when she shivered in bed, dreams could never substitute the warm body she wished lied next to her. So, after weeks of building up the courage to approach him—going over lines from poems and song lyrics, practicing make-out sessions with his pictures in the bathroom, modeling lingerie in front of the open drawer for his approval—Johanna believed she was finally ready to confess her undying love to him.
The night before, she spent hours trying to find the perfect outfit. She thought to wear something revealing like a crop top and a pair of short shorts. Then she wondered if a sheer, white blouse with nothing but a bra on underneath would grab his attention quicker. She considered wearing a tight, black mini dress with high heels, but figured that might be going a little too far. Finally, she settled on a plain, white sundress. Maybe it would spark visions of marriage in his mind.
Unfortunately, Gibson didn’t come to school on the day she had planned to make him fall in love, and the next day, he was again a no show. At first, Johanna was relieved. His absences freed her from the obligation of embarrassing herself in front of him, but after three straight days of no Gibson, Johanna began to worry. Carrie tried to convince her to let him go.
“The guy’s a total asshole, anyway. You know, he only dated Breanna to get in her pants,” Carrie informed her, leaning against her locker during class exchange.
“I don’t care,” she respond.
“Of course you don’t,” Carrie said sarcastically. “He’s already been in yours. Do you still use his pictures for panty liners?”
“No!” Johanna said defensively, but Carrie could always tell when she was lying. Carrie smirked and without warning, grabbed Johanna’s crotch, fondling around until she felt the photo paper bend. Johanna swatted her hand away. She crossed one foot over the other and cupped her hands between her legs to stall the orgasm Carrie had almost cause by sliding the picture up and down within her underwear.
“You are sick, Johanna,” Carrie scoffed. “I bet he doesn’t even know you exist.”
“He would if he came to school.”
“Even if he did, you still wouldn’t do anything. You haven’t done anything since the second grade!”
“Well, I’m gonna do something today!” Johanna said.
“How? He’s not even here,” Carrie said.
Johanna quickly opened her locker and pulled out a notebook. She took a red pen from the front flap of her book bag and wrote down her number followed by the message: “Call me, if you dare.”
“Oh, how original,” Carrie said sarcastically.
Johanna rolled her eyes. She tore the sheet out of the notebook, turned around, and walked down the hallway to locker 243; she knew his locker number by heart. She folded the paper and kissed it, leaving a puckered red stamp from her lip gloss. She slipped the note through the cracks of the locker and skipped back to Carrie, smiling from ear to ear.
“You’re turning red,” Carrie said. She crossed her arms over her chest. “You do know you’ll have to answer the phone when he calls, right?”
Johanna could feel her cheeks burning. The reality of what she had just done was beginning to sink in. Was she ready to leave her fantastical dreams behind and pursue something more physically arousing? For once, she was relieved that he didn’t come to school. That would give her at least a day to prepare for what she would say. She would have to sound dark, mysterious. She would have to speak with a deeper voice, restrain from sounding eager, answer his questions with questions, spark his interest so that the day they finally meet, he would instantly drop to his knees in complete adoration as she stands in the center of the hallway where the sun, shining through the windows casts a spotlight on her and the wind, created by students walking by, weaves through the ruffles in her dress.
That night, Johanna whispered into her drawer what she was wearing: negligee, short, black, see-through. A thin strip covered her breasts and in the center, a metal ring revealed her nipples. She traced circles around them and bit her bottom lip. She spun around, bent over, and lifted the bottom of her gown. She bounced up and down and asked Gibson’s pictures if they liked the clapping noises she made, if they wanted her to go harder, louder. She licked her index finger, closed her mouth around it, and moaned softly as she slid it in and out of her mouth. She was about to slip that same finger underneath the see-through chiffon when she heard a knock on the door.
“Yes!” she said. She didn’t move.
“What are you doing?” her mother asked. The door knob jiggled; the door cracked opened. Johanna pounced on it can slammed it shut.
“I didn’t say come in!” she yelled.
“Excuse me? You live in my house. Did you forget that?” her mother said.
“Can I have a minute, please?” Johanna asked, her shoulder pressed against the door.
“Your dinner’s getting cold.”
Johanna listened for her mother to walk away before she returned to her lingerie drawer. She slipped out of her sexy attire and placed it next to her favorite picture of Gibson. It was from the sophomore styles page of last year’s yearbook. He was wearing a gray V-neck shirt with a black leather jacket, skinny jeans, and black loafers. He could’ve stepped right out of a page from GQ Magazine. She blew a kiss to the picture.
“One day, you’ll be taking my clothes off for me,” she said and closed the drawer.
Johanna was collecting her books from her locker when Carrie nearly tackled her down.
“He’s reading your letter,” Carrie breathed.
“He’s here?” Johanna shrieked. She slammed the locker door shut and looked down the hall towards locker 243. Gibson was more beautiful than ever. She loved how his curly hair fell over his face. She wanted to push his hair back, kiss his forehead, and cradle his head into her bosom. She saw him take his cellphone from his pocket. He would call her now. She hoped he would notice the uniqueness of her phone number. She had it changed just for him. 4-4-2-7-6-6-1. G-I-B-S-O-N-1. Gibson, her one and only love.
“Earth to Johanna,” Carrie said waving her hand in Johanna’s face. “You’re phone is ringing.”
Classes hadn’t started yet, so she still had her ringer on. She forgot how loud it was. Suddenly Justin Bieber’s voice filled the hallway. Students walked by Johanna snickering. A group of boys began snapping and mouthing “baby, baby, baby, oh!” in a spontaneous choreographed routine.
With his phone attached to his ear, Gibson began to look around, searching for the source of the music causing all the laughter, jokes, and imitations. His eyes followed the pointed fingers to Johanna holding her singing phone in her hand, staring at his number displayed on the screen.
“Hello? Are you going to answer?” Carrie asked.
“Everyone’s watching,” Johanna whispered.
“Because of that stupid ringtone. Just pick up. I want to hear what you’re gonna say to him.”
“This isn’t romantic.”
Carrie stared at her. Johanna knew Carrie would tease her for this. She didn’t care. Let Carrie call her pathetic. She didn’t need an audience. In a school hallway over Justin Bieber’s voice is not where she planned to express her love for him. She didn’t want him to mistake her for the timid girl with the pre-teen ringtone. If she cut the ringer off quickly enough, he wouldn’t make the connection. He might try again later. If she was lucky, he would call her back that night while she posed in front of her lingerie drawer. Then she could match his voice to his GQ photograph. She could hear his admiration of her body as she spins in front of him, his words caressing her curves. Their love existed between her silk thongs, lace bras, and chiffon negligee, not among textbooks, three-ring notebooks, and the peering eyes of adolescents. If he didn’t call her again, she could call him. 529-5268 forever imprinted on her brain. His number started with a 5, representing the J on the phone dial pad—the first letter of her name. It was fate.
She hit ignore, and brought the phone to her lips. “Until tonight,” she whispered.