Sometimes, I like to pretend that my life is actually a movie. As I ride my bike around the unfamiliar streets of Stjernelys, cameras zoom in for a close-up. In the background, the soundtrack plays – probably a list of angsty fem-alternative or indie-pop tunes. There she goes, a kind-of Chinese American wannabe Finnish girl, on her way to school. But she has no idea that today is the day. Today, she will him, in some adorable meet cute. Their eyes will meet, and they will both fall head-over-heels in love.
Okay, so there was just one problem. He was already in love.
Argh! It is so unfair! Arvid was the most perfect guy I had ever met in my life. Not just good-looking, but smart, too. And super sweet. Like just the other morning, he woke up Katje and me for school by serenading us in bed. He serenaded us. Can you believe it?
But it doesn’t matter how perfect he was, or how fast my heart pounded whenever he walked into the room, or how many songs on my Ipod were dedicated to him. Because Arvid Bergfalk had a girlfriend. Not just any girlfriend, either. Milla Rinne was the most popular girl in school. Milla Rinne could sing like an angel. Milla Rinne was captain of the girls’ volleyball team. Milla Rinne was the bubblegum lipgloss teen princess of Stjernelys.
But I was the Phoenix. And this was my movie. So what if she was popular? I would become more popular. So what if she was cool? I would be cooler.
So I began to attend every party that Katje invited me to. I went to dances, and concerts, and beach bonfires, where I was passed around the crowd like a novelty toy. “Have you met the new girl, Phoenix Jin?” And while Arvid and Milla smooched in dark corners, I threw back my head and laughed at jokes that weren’t very funny, and tried to behave the way I figured a popular girl would behave.
There was one boy, Aksel Arild, who almost made me stumble.
“Have you seen the comet XR-278G yet?” he asked one night at a group outing to the seashore. “It will only be visible for two more days.”
“It will?” I asked, unable to keep the excitement out of my voice. “Where is it located?” Aksel filled me in with the details, then I caught myself. Xifeng would have been all wide-eyed about a comet. But Phoenix did not care about such things (at least not while others were looking). After that, I stayed away from Aksel Arild. I had a popularity contest to win.
Of course, I was far from being competitive with Milla. I played volleyball about as gracefully as a troll. In fact, I wasn’t very good at anything cool. Chess and astronomy were not cool. Being a good student would not help my popularity much, either. I was pretty good at graffiti art, but that’s not the kind of thing you want people to know about.
Then one day, Niklas Bergfalk gave me a gift. “I thought you could use a camera to capture your memories while you’re here,” he said. That was it! I asked to borrow a book on photography, which I studied like crazy. I would pour my creative energy into photography. Then everyone would be impressed by my talent – including Arvid. And he would be all, Milla who? And he would pull me close and kiss me while the soundtrack played a love song. Roll credits.