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I was in ninth grade. So was Tony, my first boyfriend. Tony was sweet, handsome, popular, and absolutely smitten with me. A girl's dream.

I'll never forget our first date. He took me to a lake behind the mall. He bestowed upon me a single red rose, an adorable, soft teddy bear, and he sang me an oldies love song. We held hands, cuddled, and shared deep secrets.

Tony was in love, my mother was in love (she thought Tony was the cat's meow), and I was in love. But my heart did not beat for Tony, it beat for Brian. Brian Cooey was the object of everyone's desire. Hot, sexy, cocky, edgy, and quarterback for the football team, Brian sauntered through the halls wearing his masculine aura like a knight. Brian was the exact opposite of my darling Tony, and I couldn't shake the desire I felt for this hot rod. There are girls who like bad boys, and some nice guys finish last -- especially in high school. Some members of the female race latch on to guys who simply don't give a hoot about them. We like attitude, and it seems the meaner and more aloof a guy is, the deeper our hearts invest.

Perhaps it's because we're afraid of love. Guys who treat us well and shower us with kindness frighten, send us running for the door. We don't know what to do with hand-holding and serenades, so we get off on neglect and mind games. It's sad and true.

It must be the reason I did the awful deed my mother will never let me live down. It was the most romantic night of our freshman year -- our ninth-grade cotillion. We were dressed in formal wear, and Tony proudly pinned me with a beautiful blue corsage to match his own blue tie. We waltzed off into the night, enjoying our rented Lincoln Town Car. When we arrived at the ball, we were smitten by hanging hearts and '80s love songs. After cake and punch came dancing. "Tender Love" played, and as Tony rocked me in his gentle arms, my eyes began to wander. I found myself scanning the dance floor for Brian.

Tony kissed my cheek and whispered words of romance into my ear, and my body tightened. I tried to pull back, and Tony tightened his grip. I thought I'd pass out. I told Tony that I needed a break; he assumed I meant from dancing. The song finally ended, and I looked deeply into Tony's big brown puppy-dog eyes. Without a smile I declared, "It's over."

Now he knew I wasn't talking about dancing. He looked serious and distraught. I threw him a "Sorry!" and took off. Like all mean girls, I ran away. Adding fuel to the fire, I went in search of my crush. I was a free woman now, and I figured I had nothing to lose.

I spotted Brian by the bleachers, looking dapper and smug with all the other bad boys. Nervous and full of adrenaline, I approached the scene. I muttered, "Do you want to dance?" Brian shot me one of his dazzling smiles. His blue eyes sparkled and caught the glimmer of the disco ball.

This is what real love feels like, I thought. My insecurities about breaking up with Tony floated up and away. I was ready for Brian to take my hand and lead me into the land of fairy princesses. I thought he would feel honored and pleased by my request, bashful even. My body lunged toward him, and I heard, "No thanks."

Brian turned away and dismissed me. And I knew exactly how Tony felt.

Why couldn't it be simple? Why couldn't I submit? I had a perfectly great guy. And I ran.

I dragged my pathetic self home. I had broken the heart of a lover, had my own heart broken, and still had one more heart to break...my mom's. I hung my dress in the closet, tucked myself into bed, and cried. The sadness I felt wasn't for me, though. It was for Tony.

He was so special, so kind. All his attempts to make me happy failed, and he probably felt responsible. There was nothing wrong with his goodness; it was me who was broken. Tony needed a person who could handle and cherish his qualities and nurture them. He was the nicest guy I knew, and he certainly didn't deserve to finish last.

Tell us the story of your breakup and/or date from hell and we will publish it and pay you ($100 for 500-2000 words).

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San Diego Reader/Dumped
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San Diego, CA 92186

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