Playing Her Secret Crush

By: Casey Griffin

Chapter One

Fairy_gurl hovered before the enemy, her iridescent wings beating in a blur. She nocked another arrow and murmured the words to a spell that would ensure it hit its mark: the fierce red dragon the size of a Wal-Mart. The tip began glowing with her power. She held her breath and let it fly. It hit, all right, but it ricocheted off the beast’s scales, clanging with failure. This baddie was going to be as tough as calculus.

In response to her pathetic attack, the dragon snorted, almost laughing at her like she was a mere orchard gnome. A cloud of smoke puffed out its nostrils, sending heat waves shifting in the air between them. Its maw spread wide, giving a clear look at the fire glowing deep inside the creature.

Katie gritted her teeth and tapped the keyboard buttons so hard her fingers hurt. “Come on, Fairy_gurl. Go, go, go!”

Wide eyes fixed on the computer screen, she urged her avatar to fly away, wings kicking into overdrive. And whoosh, the fairy was engulfed in flames.

Delicate wings sizzled. An orange glow tinted the screen. The health meter in the corner drained of color, causing Katie’s heart to skip a beat.

“Fairy_gurl!” an anxious voice rang through her headphones. It was Dark_Prince, a.k.a. her best friend, Alex.

Katie’s fingers moved in a blur over the keyboard, and her avatar dove through the smoke. When the screen cleared, she spotted Dark_Prince below with his tall, lean body and handsome elven face. But not nearly as handsome as Alex was in real life.

Her fairy must have appeared on his screen, because he let out a slow breath. “Oh, there you are. Are you all right?”

The relief in his voice made her heart skip for a whole new reason, but she tried to keep her voice cool when she spoke into the mic on her headset.

“Nothing a little healing spell won’t cure.” She dropped her avatar lightly to the ground next to his. With a click of her mouse, the fairy on screen waggled her fingers. A burst of glitter fell over her head, landing on her smoldering wings and healing them instantly. “There. Good as new.”

“Perfect as always,” he said.

She snorted but said nothing. Two years ago, that kind of comment would have made her blush, but he said that kind of stuff all the time. He didn’t mean it that way. At least, that’s what she had to tell herself. If he really meant it, they’d be together, right?

That was just part of the Alex Masse charm, something every girl got a piece of. Besides, if she were really perfect, she’d have had a boyfriend by now—and Kyle Jacobs in ninth grade didn’t count. But that was why she had The Plan.

Senior year was about to begin. It meant a fresh start, a chance to really come out of her shell. This year, Katie would be confident, sexier, funnier. She’d be a better version of herself, someone who things happened for. She’d come first in life and not dead last like she was used to. Last picked out of line for Red Rover in elementary school, last when it came to her father splitting without fighting for custody, and definitely last picked by boys.

It was time Katie came first.

On her screen, the dark sorceress of their group glided into view—the mysterious Pizzalover. As she joined Katie and Alex’s avatars, an invisible wind blew her cloak open. The voluptuous, scantily clad female figure hidden beneath always made Katie question the game’s T rating for teens.

Pizzalover slid her hood back and slipped the tiara of dead souls over her sleek, black locks, arming herself for the battle. Her eyes flashed red as the accessory powered her up. She was beautiful and feminine, but the voice that came through Katie’s headphones was anything but that of a seductive sorceress.

“Less talky talky. More stabby stabby,” said a deep voice belonging to twenty-five-year-old Trevor. On screen, his sorceress jabbed her staff at the empty air in demonstration. “We need to get past this overgrown lizard if we’re going to enter the Dwarf Mountains and search for the God Sword.”

At that moment, the dragon spun, whipping its tail. It swept over the ground in a deadly circle toward them, rustling the tall grass like a whispered promise: you’re dead.

“Look out!” Katie hit the button for her leaf shield and braced for the skull-crushing force, but it never came. When she changed the camera angle, she saw a pair of thick arms wrapped around the tail, holding it back to protect them.

Those arms belonged to the fourth member of their group. A great, purple ogre from the Porcupine Hills, one with a strength Katie had never seen the likes of before in a level forty-six. He was known throughout the lands as the mighty, the terrible…Sugarplum.

Dark_Prince whoo-hooed. “Nice work, Sugarplum!”

The giggle of a ten-year-old girl bubbled through Katie’s headphones. “Thanks,” Penny said.