How to Date a Nerd by Cassie Mae

Chapter One

If I say I’m sick, don’t kiss me!

Rules of keeping up your popular rep:

Number one, the shorter the skirt, the better.

Number two, natural hair color is a thing of the past.

Number three, high heels are an extension of your foot. To go without them would be like losing a toe.

Number four, guys are disposable, and should never be used more than once or for an extended period of time.

And number five, never ever reveal you collect Star Wars memorabilia, you know every line to Lord of the Rings, and you actually know the birthdates of all the Harry Potter cast members.

Yeah. I’m a total closeted nerd.

I'm not cool with pity glares in the hallways, painful jabs, and social scars. No thanks. It's much easier to keep my true nature hidden beneath layers of eyeliner, skimpy outfits, and even I must admit to myself, a rockin’ body. Though the pushup bras tend to do most of the work.

Welcome to high school. Where everyone tries to be someone else.

Well… everyone except Zak.

Here’s the DL on my next-door neighbor. He’s labeled King Dork because he wears nerdy shirts and talks in geek code. His front pocket of the plaid overshirt he wears always has at least three or four Pokémon cards in it. And if it’s not that then it’s a graphing calculator he has to keep shoving down so it doesn’t fall out. There’s a Star Wars keychain always clipped to the back of his holey jeans and he sometimes carries a Wii controller in his back pocket.

And I’ve got it bad for the boy.

It’s not just the fact he was the one to introduce me to the awesomeness of the Elvish Language, the hidden mysteries of World of Warcraft, and the magical world that lies beyond Platform 9¾, but really, he pulls off sexy geek so damn well! His dark, like super dark, eyes and his matching hair that flops around his forehead when he’s laughing too hard, combined with his nice height, swoon… he’s like the Peter Parker of my high school.

I may be the only person who finds his nerdiness so hecka irresistible. Everyone else treats him like some dead bug on the sidewalk. I know how it is, and I have no idea how he handles all the verbal abuse.

Middle school Zoe—Geek Zoe, I like to call her—was made fun of and tormented so much she spent most nights crying into her pillow. High school was the break I was totally looking for. A chance to freaking rewrite myself into someone who’s socially acceptable. Summer before school started, I grabbed loads of magazines and watched all those teen movies that so aren’t as awesome as Star Trek, but they were for my status education. And apparently, I was doing this popularity thing all wrong. I gotta be like a major bitch to people, and I’ll end up getting the hottest guy in the end.

Took some work, but I think I got it down. I should win an Oscar for how awesome I am at the fake personality.

But freak, it’s been two years since I was de-geek-a-fied, and I still find myself trying to stifle the urge to buy Comic-Con tickets, and try not to act jealous when I see Zak dressing up for the event.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is pretty darn fantastic and a whole heap lot better than the alternative, which is getting my emotional butt kicked around. So the fake persona is definitely worth it. People think I’m awesome, so that makes me feel awesome.

There’s a huge party tonight. Lots of alcohol and boys, but like every party night, I try to show off first to my neighbor, who can see straight into my open window.

I strip down to my underwear so Zak can get a good look and turn up the music on my iPod. If he sneaks a peek, I can always throw my hands up and be like, “Whoops! I’m changing with the window open again, aren’t I? So sorry.” Then make a nice, sexy show of closing the curtains. It looks perfect in my head, even though it’s completely pathetic that I have to resort to this. I’m trying way too hard to get his attention, but I don’t care. It’s not like I can flirt with him at school. Social suicide bomb right there.

Stealing glances out my window into his, I flaunt around my room pretending like I’m getting ready for the party. But I can’t get a good view of him, and I don’t want to be more obvious than I already am.

Nothing.

Huh, maybe he’s not…

Yikes! I’ve reached my Lost playlist and my heart stumbles over itself as I quickly turn the music back down until I can get a more trendy song on.

“Hey, I was listening to that,” a voice says from outside my window. I knew he was home. Darn boy ignoring a prancing half-naked girl next door. Gosh, I thought I was doing this right. I adjust my bra to make my boobs look extra luscious, and then smoothly appear in his line of sight.

Zak is at his computer, books piled next to him. He rubs his eyes and blinks a couple times before staring back at the screen, brow furrowed. Totally not looking at me or my boobs.

“What exactly were you listening to?” I ask, using my seductive voice guys, well, most guys fall over.

Looking at me—about time—he shakes his head at my revealing attire before reaching over to a cord I can’t see. His blinds shut with a rejected smack!

Youch.

I examine my boobs, but there’s nothing wrong there. Maybe I have a booger or something.

Nope. No booger, no drool, nothing.

Just me.

Great, now I’m all self-conscious. What’s wrong with me? I turn around in circles, trying to examine my butt, but all I can think is I miss my Star Wars panties. These lacy ones are okay, Popular Zoe 101, but there’s nothing cooler than having a big Storm Trooper head slapped across my butt cheeks. Well, if I can’t even impress my nerdboy, I’m not going to even attempt a party appearance.

I throw on my pajamas—the big unflattering ones—and slouch on the bed. Stupid geek boy and the hold he has on me. I shouldn’t care what he thinks.

But I do. Because I care what everybody thinks.

I sigh and look out the window again. The sun dips below the horizon casting orange and yellow streaks across Zak’s blinds, like something out of Harry Potter. Just super full of cool magic beans. I wonder if Zak’s still sitting there at his computer, typing away or plunging his nose into one of his thousands of books.

I shake my head. What does it matter what he’s doing? I. Should. Not. Care.

I hop off the bed, slam my own blinds shut and whip the curtains together. My gaze flicks to the shelves lining the wall. They have been carefully constructed to conceal accusing material, with colorful doors that slide across it, revealing some things, and hiding others. Out of habit, I check over my shoulder before I slide open one of the doors, hiding the lines of lip gloss and compact mirrors and opening the section of the shelf holding several books about the X-Men.

I quickly grab the desired book and a flashlight and slam the door shut. Some of the lip gloss topples over, but I make no attempt to straighten them. Must get under the covers stat! I curl up in the middle of my bed and throw the comforter over myself.

My sanctuary lies here as I open the book I’ve read thousands of times and purge my mind with paragraphs about Dark Phoenix. Jean Grey is my idol. No one will ever know, but I base most of my wardrobe off her.

I don’t know how long it’s been before my phone buzzes on my nightstand. Yeah, my mind turns off to the rest of the world when I nerd-out. I turn off the flashlight and pull the comforter off my head, keeping the book hidden as I reach over for the cell.

My stomach used to flutter whenever I read Cody’s name on the caller ID but now I feel nothing. I really don’t want to talk to my current boyfriend. He’d call me some absurd pet name and ask where I was. So I let voicemail grab it.

I hear the text jingle a few minutes later as I am carefully placing my book back on its shelf.

Where is ur sxy ass???? U better get here b4 any more chicks hit on me.

Ugh. I think his ego can keep him company for a while. Still, I let him know who’s in charge of this relationship.

Another rule that’s off the record: stay in control of all the boys you let kiss you. That way they don’t end up in your pants unless you want them there.

I’m sick. Thx so much 4 ur concern.

There’s no response, but I don’t care. It won’t be the first boyfriend who found someone new before breaking it off with me. I do not put out. Though, I don’t care if they tell people I do. Helps with the rep without me actually having to do that part with guys who’ve been with who knows who. Score!

I kinda feel bad for the girl who ends up in his arms tonight. Cody is a totally status thing. I use him and he uses me. We both know it, and neither of us really cares. It’s been about three weeks, so we’ve pretty much hit our limit anyway. He is a good kisser though. I’ll give him that one.

I look at the closed curtains, thinking of another boy with amazing kissing abilities, but I shove the thought from my mind before I lose it completely to blissed-out Zak happyland.

“Hey, I thought you were going out tonight?” My younger sister waltzes in and plops on my bed. Her dark brown hair has been curled into corkscrews, and she’s covered in pounds of makeup. She’s wearing a blue shirtdress with a thick belt around her middle, making what little bosom she has look bigger. She’s only fourteen, but in this outfit, and that hair, she could pass for my age. I raise my eyebrows at her.

“And you thought you’d tag along?”

“Mom and Dad won’t know, and I’ll leave you alone. I promise.”

I shake my head. “I’m not going. So you can’t either.”

“Why not?”

“There’s gonna be alcohol, Sierra.”

She gives me a look that says, “You’re the biggest hypocrite.” She’s totally right so I play the tattletale card.

“And because I’ll tell Mom and Dad you went out while they were gone.”

She stands and smiles. “You know, if you’re going to start tossing around threats, I’d be a little more worried about what I’d tell them about you.”

I give her my best impression of Gollum on crack. “Fine, go out. See if they even let you in without me.”

She tosses her hair over her shoulder and narrows her eyes. “Fine. I will.” She storms out of my room, and my gut tells me to go after her, but my pride blocks my exit.

I sit and catch my breath before I finally get out into the hallway.

“Sierra, wait!” I call down the stairs. Hopefully I’ve caught her in time. Letting my fourteen-year-old sister go to an all-night alcohol fountain party wouldn’t exactly make me a responsible older sister, even though I never really fit into that category. Still seems wrong not to at least try to get her to stay.

“Sierra!” I get to the bottom of the staircase, and she comes out from the formal living room, scaring the crap out of me.

“Someone’s here to see you,” she says bitterly as she pushes me to the side to get upstairs. Instead of socking her in the butt, like I want to, I kink my neck to see around the wall. What the hell is Cody doing here? His back is turned to me, and he’s holding something in his hand. I duck back upstairs to change into my sexy pajamas. No way is he seeing me in these old baggy ones.

I grab the black silk shorts and cami and slip them on. I let my fake, deep red hair down—you know, Jean Grey— so it cascades down my back, and I quickly run my fingers through it. I don’t worry about makeup, just slab some gloss on my lips. After all, I am “sick.” But girls like me have to look good at their worst.

I throw a light blanket over my shoulders and walk back to Cody. He still has his back to the entryway.

Okay Geek Zoe, it’s been fun, but Cody can’t know you exist.

I take another deep breath and get ready for my act. “What are you doing here?” I ask, letting my phony anger soak into my voice.

He turns around, and his eyes widen at my ensemble.

See? There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s Zak who has a problem.

“Uh…” he stutters as he clears his head. “I thought maybe since you were too sick to go out, we’d stay in.” He holds up a movie, which I’m surprised to see is a total chick flick. Gross. But popular Zoe likes that crap.

“Do you feel guilty about something?” I’ve been through this stuff before. He’s totally trying to make up for something he did that he shouldn’t have done.

Oh well, time for a new boyfriend anyway.

His eyes lower to the floor, and I take in a deep breath and wait for it. The inevitable “I cheated on you” or “I found someone else.”

“I’m sorry about that text. I didn’t mean to make you upset. I was only kidding, really.”

I stare at him, not able to erase the shock from my face. “Huh?”

“I know you haven’t had the best luck when it comes to your exes. I was being stupid. Forgive me?” He tosses me a puppy-dog face.

Now I’m really thrown and I’m not sure how to respond. So I just mumble incoherencies.

“Um… I guess… sure… uh-huh…”

“So,” he says, furrowing his brow and crossing over to me, “we’re cool?”

I give him a nod, but then remember I have a part to play. I fold my arms across my waist and gaze up into his handsome face. His dark hair has been tousled across his forehead and frames his deep brown eyes perfectly. He’s getting five o’clock shadow on his cheeks and chin. Yeah… definitely a status thing with him.

“Don’t treat me like that. I deserve better.” I don’t really mean that. In fact, right now I deserve a lot worse.

“I promise it won’t happen again.”

He takes me into his arms, but I keep mine folded, not responding to his hug. I do let out a fake sigh of defeat and say into his chest, “Okay.”