Timeline: The Ducks’ freshman year in high school, two weeks before Summer Break.
Dedication: I was going to say none, but I have to dedicate it to Kristine (NYgoldfish54) and Sam (trulyforgotten9) as I wouldn’t have become a better writer without their help.
Thanks To: Myself. Thank you for learning to write like a normal person.
Cimmy’s Notes: This is a complete re-write of the fanfic I originally wrote back in 2002. New (hopefully not as annoying) characters, new pairings, better plot—the concept is still the same, though. I haven’t really written a fanfic since 2003, but it should be better than some of the crap I used to write.
Disclaimer: The Mighty Ducks belong to Disney. I own Fred, Kate and Daniel. Lex belongs to NYgoldfish54. (Lex was originally not in this story, but Kristine suggested I’d use her, and I just couldn’t pass that up…)
Archived: 29 Oct 2006 | Updated: 27 Dec 2007
Charlie sighed deeply. The weather outside was radiant; the sun was shining and the lawn was occupied by students who had finished their last lesson of the day—and was that girl eating an ice-cream? Charlie continued to stare out the closed window, clearly sulking over the unfair misery that had been inflicted upon him. He didn’t particularly care that there were twenty-four other people in the class that were as stuck there as he was—it simply had to be twice as horrible for him, as he really wanted to be out in the sun, right?
The hour never seemed to want to end. If it hadn’t been for the unbearable heat, Charlie was quite sure everyone would be on edge, as today was the day where they would get their partners for the marriage project that would last for the remaining two weeks of the school year. Charlie wiped some sweat out of his face, averting his eyes from the window for the first time since the lesson began.
Connie was to his right, her elbow resting against the table, while she was trying to cool herself off by waving her notepad in front of her face. Right behind her, Adam was doing his best trying to pay attention to what Ms. Hudson had to say, from time to time dutifully scribbling down a couple of words on his paper. Charlie had no idea how Adam was able to concentrate in the heat. It was quite annoying to have to watch.
Goldberg and Averman had completely abandoned the very thought of concentrating. They were sitting in the corner, stacking their—and Ken’s—books and notepads into an impressively tall tower. Every time the tower collapsed, exasperated groans could be heard from the back of the classroom, along with the distracting sound of the books hitting the table. Ms. Hudson looked up, but never commented on it. Charlie had a feeling she wanted to leave as much as they did.
He turned to the front of the class, observing how Portman and Fulton kept throwing small fragments from an eraser at Julie any time Ms. Hudson turned to write something on the blackboard. Julie did her best with ignoring them, absently wiping the bits out of her hair while she kept writing, muttering quietly under her breath.
Charlie figured being paired with Julie would definitely improve his grade in this class, so he silently hoped that would happen. Glancing at Connie, he decided that being paired with her wouldn’t be too bad either; Connie took her schoolwork seriously enough to not want to screw up the assignment.
With a quick look to the front of the class, he was quite sure of who he definitely did not want as his short-term spouse. Linda had her back to him, but he could still picture how her face would be scrunched up with concentration while she listened to their teacher. Her brown hair fell into her face every time she turned her head down to take notes. Charlie couldn’t picture anything worse than having to spend two excruciating weeks with his ex-girlfriend, even if Linda would earn them an A+ in the process.
Ms. Hudson seemed to have run out of things to say, finally, and looked out over the class. “Now, if you could all—” she said, slowly, going through her stack of papers that she had on the desk. “Oh, I seem to have forgotten the list of pairings in my office. I’ll be right back; there’s no need to leave your seats.”
Charlie watched as she grabbed her keys and disappeared out the door. A handful of people immediately departed once she was seen turning the corner out in the hallway. “She can’t blame us for wanting to purchase some water in this heat,” Portman explained hurriedly, moving faster than he ever had during any practice.
“Yeah. Water,” Julie said, rolling her eyes. “How much do you wanna bet that he’s going straight outside, then conveniently ‘forgets’ to come back in?”
“What’re the odds?” Averman asked instantly, leaning forward over the table. He had a tendency to make wagers over anything; the worse the odds were, the more of a challenge he considered it. He was never one to turn down a bet—as Charlie had experienced hands-on after losing nearly $35 when betting on how many times Luis would knock himself unconscious during practices and games over the hockey season. To Charlie’s disappointment, Luis seemed to have gotten better with learning how to stop.
Julie rolled her eyes again. “It’s not something I’d be prepared to lose money over.”
“Oh, come on, it wouldn’t kill you to take a few risks,” Averman prodded.
Julie threw a quick look at the pile of books, pens, notepads and various other items that briefly had been part of the tower. “Know what? I bet that Portman will be back within ten seconds, about three or so seconds before Ms. Hudson is back—and if I win, I get your candy bar,” she grinned.
“You’re on,” Averman said with a nod, at the same time as Portman came bursting through the door, panting heavily. Julie quickly grabbed the candy bar and turned back in her seat, as Ms. Hudson entered the classroom again, right after Portman managed to jump over the table and sit down on his chair.
Charlie snickered amusedly at Averman’s dumfounded expression. Julie winked at Charlie. “I saw his reflection in the window,” she whispered with a smile.
“I’m glad to see that everyone’s accounted for—even Mr. Portman, for once,” Ms. Hudson said distinctly while surveying the class. A soft sniggering spread around the room.
“I don’t see what this has to do with health,” Goldberg complained quietly as papers with their assignments were passed around.
Russ simply shrugged. “What? It’s a marriage. Knowing how to keep your wife from killing you isn’t healthy no more?”
“Just seem like a waste of time,” Goldberg muttered, staring down at the paper. “Look at this! You don’t take care of eggs, you eat them!”
“It would do you good,” Julie said, reading the rest of the list.
“Oh yeah? If I get paired with you—”
“You’d be sure to get an A,” Adam pointed out absently. “Shut up now.”
Goldberg seemed to take these facts under careful consideration and didn’t object again.
“I don’t have any problems with this project at all,” Portman grinned contently. “Get paired with the right chick and you won’t have to do a damn thing. They take this seriously, you know. Consummating the marriage shouldn’t be too bad either.”
“You’re such a pig,” Connie declared simply. Portman laughed, nudging at her a little too forcefully, shoving her off the chair in the process.
“Has everyone gotten a handout?” Ms. Hudson requested, looking around at them, and then frowning when she got to the empty seat right in front of Charlie. With a dejected sigh, she went over to the door, opening it and gazing out into the hallway. “Has anyone seen Ms. McKinley?”
Charlie hadn’t even noticed her absence, which was remarkable, as Kate McKinley was by far the loudest person in the class—Portman notwithstanding. Charlie didn’t know too much about Kate, other than that she was a member of the cheerleading squad, almost always wearing the red, white and black outfit to all their lessons. Luis was probably the one who knew her best, as she was friends with his girlfriend. Kate was perky, friendly, loud—and most of all, Kate was intense.
As if to demonstrate this, Kate suddenly appeared in the doorway, disgracefully stumbling right into the door Ms. Hudson was holding open for her, losing her balance and almost toppling over, all the time grinning. “I’m sorry, Ms. Hudson! There was a crisis. A cheerleading crisis,” she spoke rapidly, panting slightly, her cheeks glowing almost as red as her hair with something that could be mistaken for excitement.
“Did someone get stuck at the top of the pyramid again?” Portman asked with fake concern.
“No, man, one of them got lost in the gym, so the rest had to go on an organized search for her,” Averman laughed.
Kate opened her mouth to object—loudly, most certainly—but Ms. Hudson averted the argument. “Take your seat, Ms. McKinley. Next time there is a crisis of any sort regarding the cheerleading squad, I expect a note from Ms. Sawyer telling me so.” Ms. Sawyer was the cheerleading coach.
Kate nodded happily, bounding over to other side of the room, swatting Portman over the head when she passed him by. Charlie followed her with his eyes. She was of course wearing the cheerleading outfit, as was the norm; and her curly long hair seemed to be messier than usual. Kate took her place next to her clique of friends—though her friends didn’t comprise of twelve fellow giggling cheerleaders, which had always surprised Charlie. She was friends with Fred, a guy Charlie knew quite well, as he’d played on the team as a reserve a few weeks after the JV/Varsity showdown while Guy was recovering from his injury. Fred was one of the more popular guys in school; he was good at most sports, he had plenty of girls swooning over him even though he didn’t seem to realize it himself, and his family was one of the wealthiest in the country. He wasn’t very good in school, though, and he wasn’t nearly as outgoing as Kate was—not many were, of course.
The other friend Kate was mostly seen with was Daniel DeRienzo—though Charlie had the impression that Kate and Daniel weren’t very good friends, as they mostly fought. Charlie didn’t care much for him. Daniel was obnoxious, arrogant and self-absorbed—Adam had once told Charlie that the reason Charlie couldn’t stand Daniel was because he saw too much of himself in him. Charlie had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but had successfully ignored Adam for the remainder of that day. Daniel was, opposed to Fred, quite brilliant in school, but didn’t seem to care much at all about anything other than getting laid—which wasn’t too hard of a task for him, with his bad guy image and (as Julie had once pointed out) ‘quite good looks’.
Charlie didn’t really care much about either of them, actually. Kate was far too cheerful, Daniel was too obnoxious, and sure, Charlie couldn’t think of anything that was particularly wrong with Fred, but with those friends, there had to be something wrong with him, right?
“Wouldn’t it be a complete and utter joy to be paired with her?” Charlie snorted sarcastically.
Luis, who sat right behind him, turned his head up. “She’s not too bad. She’s pretty cool, actually.”
“Please. Anything in a skirt gets your approval,” Goldberg said harshly, obviously still in a bad mood regarding the assignment.
Luis shrugged without replying. “I’m just saying that she’s not that bad,” he explained to Charlie after a moment of silence. “Better than most people on that damn squad.” Charlie didn’t say anything. Luis had been given a hard time by most of the cheerleaders after he started dating Mindy Keller, as most of them thought she was better off with Rick Riley, the captain of the Varsity team. The Varsity team hadn’t been easy on him either, of course.
“She’s in my math class,” Julie suddenly said. “She’s actually pretty smart.” Charlie watched as Kate waved her hand in the air, asking Ms. Hudson if she would deduct points from their final grades if they boiled their ‘child’ so it wouldn’t break if it was dropped.
Charlie immediately reconsidered his decision of who the worst partner would be.
Credits & References
—Firstly: Sarah (StalkyStar) and Kristine (NYgoldfish54) both beta’d this chapter for me and they did a wonderful job. Thank you!
—Emily (Emily Henson) was the first one to read the story and give me feedback, so she also deserves a big thank you.
—Teenage Wasteland is a song by The Who.
—Daniel DeRienzo is based on Daniel Desario (James Franco) from Freaks and Geeks (except that he’s smart and rich, of course). The last name is an unfortunate co-incidence, as I thought of it before I knew that Desario was the ‘real’ name.
—In other stories, Kate McKinley’s trademark is to make references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other movies/TV shows pretty much all the time. The line above about boiling the egg is from the episode Bad Eggs of Buffy, but as that episode hadn’t aired yet back in early 1997 it’s just a reference and not a direct quote.
—Mindy’s last name is based on the actress who played Cindy in the movie. Guess what Cindy’s last name is.
—The full list of references, complete with links that actually work, can be found with the story either over on Live Journal at my account (campciabatta) or on the site (cimmyscorner/dot/com).
Ms. Hudson unfolded the piece of paper that held their doom and destruction, calling out names right and left, sometimes met by disappointed groans, sometimes by relieved sighs. Charlie was almost certain he wouldn’t have much to be relieved about once this was over.
Kate McKinley was showing more interest in him than usual, rocking her chair back onto its hind legs so she could lean against his table, saying “Woe is you, Captain?” every time he sighed deeply. He wished she could mind her own business and leave him to sulk in peace.
Finally they all seemed to have gotten a partner, even Goldberg, who seemed at least a bit content at the prospect of being paired with Lila Summers, the prettiest girl on the cheerleading squad. Charlie felt a jolt of jealousy shooting through him, as he would’ve given anything for a minute alone with Lila, even if it resulted in the worst grade ever known.
Julie seemed to be on the edge of her seat now, as her name still hadn’t been called. Charlie was tempted to make a bet with Averman over when he supposed Julie would speak up and interrupt Ms. Hudson, but decided against it, as he didn’t have enough money to make such wagers.
Julie nearly fell off her chair when Ms. Hudson finally got to her. “Julie Gaffney and Fred Ahlgren,” she said, having some difficulty getting Fred’s last name out, as if she didn’t want to insult him by pronouncing it wrong. Julie didn’t seem too happy about this arrangement, but gathered her things and moved over to join Fred. “You’re couple number seven.”
Charlie quickly skimmed through the list of assignments on the paper he’d gotten. Julie and Fred were supposed to have two children and come from a working class background. Charlie wondered if Ms. Hudson had paired them together because she was aware that neither Fred nor Julie came from a working class family.
“Oh, bad luck for Ms. Gaffney,” he heard Averman whisper from the back. “Anyone wanna bet who’ll get paired with who?” Connie promptly shoved at him to get him to shut up. “Oh, like you wouldn’t be disappointed if you didn’t get paired with Guy? And dear Charlie here will be absolutely devastated if he doesn’t get to play house with Linda.”
Charlie tensed, mortified by being singled out like that. The breakup was bad enough as it was without Averman drawing attention to it. “Shut up,” Charlie hissed angrily, throwing a quick look in Linda’s direction. Linda was blushing furiously, looking outraged at Averman’s suggestion. Meeting her eyes, Charlie conveniently grew more interested in a spot on the windowsill.
Averman rolled his eyes. He wished those two could just cut the crap and get back together. They weren’t fooling anyone with their slightly deranged behavior.
“Connie Moreau and Daniel DeRienzo, you are couple number eight.”
Connie winced slightly, quietly whimpering under her breath as she grabbed her bag and got up from her seat. Guy snapped his head away from staring out the window, clearly deeply distressed by this arrangement, his eyes glaring daggers at Daniel. “Great, one of the jocks,” Daniel muttered to Fred, pointedly raising his eyebrows, completely disregarding that Julie was sitting two seats away. Charlie decided to himself that he would help Guy dismember Daniel if he did anything bad to Connie.
While Guy hated Daniel’s guts; Luis’ name was called, pairing him with Linda. Once again, Charlie felt that strange jolt of… something. “It’s not too bad, man,” Fulton said in an attempt to lighten Charlie’s mood. “They’re supposed to have marriage trouble or something.”
“Right,” Charlie shrugged, not really caring what Linda did—even if he was a bit curious if she was terribly disappointed in not being paired with him. There was nothing wrong with curiosity, Charlie convinced himself.
“Woe is you, Captain?” came the annoying voice from the edge of his table.
“Oh, please don’t let her be paired with me,” Charlie groaned miserably, trying to ignore the beaming redhead.
“Hey, I take offense to that!” Kate smiled, biting her lip and leaning forward even more. “Look, Captain, I heard about your breakup with Linda, and I just wanna say that—”
Charlie was about to strangle her when Fred turned to them. “Kate, I’m sure you’re the only one who cares,” he announced. “Leave Charlie alone before he sics his enforcers on you.”
Kate didn’t say anything for almost five seconds. Charlie barely had time to feel some gratitude towards Fred for getting her to shut up before she opened her mouth again, tilting her chair back as far as she could—
“Kate McKinley and Dean Portman, you’re couple number ten,” Ms. Hudson announced.
—and then just as fast, Kate’s chair tipped back too far, sending her and the chair to the floor with a loud crash. “What?” she shrieked from somewhere under the table. “I’m with that great big bumble-headed bamboo? He doesn’t have any manners at all!” Fred and Daniel both grabbed her arms to haul her up to her feet.
“Me? You’re the one acting like a five-year-old on a sugar high!” Portman objected loudly, slamming his book into the table to show just how much he disapproved of this choice of a partner for him.
“Me?” Kate howled with a voice that was so high-pitched that most people in the room winced. Charlie figured only seventy-eight percent of her shriek was an act. Kate and Portman stared defiantly at each other—Portman towering over her, while Kate balanced on her tip-toes to make herself look taller.
“Please, both of you, sit down, or you will spend the rest of the afternoon serving detention for disturbing the class,” Ms. Hudson said tiredly, used to their dramatized reactions. Both Kate and Portman sat down, obviously not wanting to risk being stuck inside for the reminder of the day, even if it meant not being able to make a big scene.
“Could you possibly calm down a notch?” Daniel muttered to Kate, as she rubbed her elbow with her hand, obviously having gotten a bruise or two after the fall.
Charlie realized that his name hadn’t been called yet, and everyone else had been taken. Except…
“As we have an uneven number of males and females in the class one of you is forced to finish the project without a partner,” Ms. Hudson said. Charlie drew a breath of deep relief. He wouldn’t have to deal with anyone over the following two weeks. “Mr. Reed, you get to experience the ups and downs with being a newly divorced single father.”
“Oh, how old is your egg? Maybe we can set up a play date?” Kate said instantly. Fulton shrugged, smiling slightly. He didn’t seem to have too much against working on his own.
Adam’s hand shot into the air. “Ms. Hudson? Are you allowed to change partners?”
Ms. Hudson addressed them all when she replied. “Giving up on the project is not an option. That includes leaving your partner, changing partner with someone else—or leaving one person to do all the work. Believe me, I will know if this occurs.”
“Is it okay to cheat on one’s partner?” Portman asked. Kate swatted at him again. “What if I feel like abusing her a little?”
“Hey!” Kate objected.
“I’m just kidding!” Portman laughed, as he saw the disapproving look on Ms. Hudson’s face.
“I do hope for your own good that you are, Mr. Portman,” she said firmly.
“But cheating is all right, then?” he went on, grinning.
“Just shut up,” Julie said anxiously, obviously worried that Ms. Hudson might give them all detention if he didn’t stop.
“Why would you wanna trade partners?” Charlie snorted, wondering who could be so bad that Adam couldn’t deal with her.
“Has your name been called yet?” Adam asked bitterly, almost fuming with annoyance.
“What? No, but why…” Charlie muttered, then realizing what he was saying. “Oh. Oh no…” He quickly turned to face Ms. Hudson. “Please, Ms. Hudson, there must be someone else you can pair him with? I can do the assignment myself! Or, you can pair him with Fulton!”
Ms. Hudson sent him a cold stare. “Mr. Conway, Mr. Banks, you are couple number eleven. No forfeiting of any kind is allowed. You will all hand in your written assignments to me in exactly ten days from now. The phone numbers to where you will be doing your practical vocational training are included on the handouts. If there is any problem with your assignment, contact me—unless it concerns petty differences, as you are expected to solve those yourself.” She was specifically looking at Charlie and Adam when she said the last part.
As Adam made his way up to Ms. Hudson to collect their egg, Charlie moaned with despair and hit his head repeatedly against the table.
Averman was beside himself with excitement during dinner that evening, making wager after wager with people he barely knew on how long it would take a certain couple to give up, have a nervous breakdown, or—as Charlie thought was most likely in his and Adam’s case—kill each other in cold blood. “You would make an excellent divorce lawyer, man,” Russ said, shaking his head when Averman tried to talk him into betting $20 on Portman and Kate being the first couple to physically assault each other. “Thinkin’ it’s funny people’re breaking up and makin’ money off it at the same time. No, man, I don’t care what the odds are; I’m not making any more bets with you!”
Julie came hurrying up to their table, clutching her books against her chest, looking worried. “You guys, I invited Fred over to sit with us, so he and I can work on the project,” she announced with a hushed voice. “Could you please behave and not scare him off? I have to work with him for the next couple of weeks, you know, it would really help if we at least started off on the right foot.”
“Chill,” Portman muttered, taking a small sip directly out of his milk carton. This made Julie wrinkle her nose, but she didn’t comment on it. “Man, do you take this thing seriously!”
“It makes out thirty percent of our final grade,” Julie explained nervously, biting her lip as she often did when she was distressed. Charlie almost expected her to start skipping from one leg to another with impatience, but she didn’t. “Please, you guys?”
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Guy shrugged. “It’s not like we don’t know him—are you expecting us to attack him and, like, peck him to death or something?”
“Yeah, the kid’s all right, let him come hang with us,” Portman said indifferently, taking another sip.
Julie seemed a bit uncertain before she replied. “Well… I kind of told him that he could invite his own friends over too, you know, Kate and Daniel, I mean.”
The milk splattered all over the table (mostly right at Dwayne, who stared unhappily at his now soaked sandwich) when Portman exclaimed chokingly, “Kate? You don’t think I have enough of her during class? Now you’re dragging her over to eat at our table too?”
“Oh, man. He really is gonna peck her to death, ain’t he?” Russ said, observing Portman’s fit of insanity.
Julie seemed prepared to start yet another pointless fight with Portman over absolutely nothing—granted, that was what the two of them did best, after all—but they were luckily interrupted by Kate’s resounding giggle. “Hey there, Duckies,” she smiled, coming to a halt right next to Julie. She was carrying a tray filled with lasagna, two pieces of bread, a muffin and a slice of apple pie with custard. “How’s it going? Care if I join ya? Thought I’d never get out of that line; it’s hell trying to get yourself some food when they’re serving apple pie, ain’t it?”
Charlie realized after three minutes that he could completely filter out Kate’s voice if he wanted to, as she kept talking… and talking… and talking, like she was doing commercial for batteries. “So, anyway,” Guy said, turning his attention away from Kate’s yapping to the teammates on his side of the table. “I’ve asked around, and this Daniel guy seems nothing but trouble. I dunno, do you think I can convince Ms. Hudson to give Connie another partner? It doesn’t even have to be me. You know, it’s in her best interest and all.”
“Sure it is,” Russ said amusedly. “Don’t you think she can take care of herself?”
“Well, of course she can,” Guy replied, ignoring Russ’s initial sarcasm. “I’m just… he’s… he’s just so… slimy! And sly! And deceitful!”
“You do realize those are all pretty much the same thing, right?” Adam pointed out, poking at his pie with the fork.
“Look, all I’m saying is that… if he touches her even the slightest bit inappropriately…” Guy left the sentence unspoken, his face dark from the deepest loathing he could procure.
“Guys, we don’t even know these people too well,” Ken piped up, looking slightly alarmed. “For all we know, they might be decent people. Shouldn’t you save the accusations and plotting of deaths until they’ve proven this wrong?”
“Fred’s all right,” Guy said immediately. “It’s just that Daniel… Do you think he has connections with the mob?”
“Oh, get over yourself!” Russ exclaimed exasperatedly. “All he’s ever done that we know of is to be an obnoxious jerk to everyone he meets.”
“That’s plenty enough,” Charlie decided, remembering his great dislike of Daniel. “I’m with you, Guy. If he goes near her, we’ll kill him.”
Guy looked thrilled to have someone on his side and went on to finish his dinner instead of debating the subject further. “So, anyway,” he continued, his mouth full of salad, “I got paired with that girl who sang with that band at the Valentine’s Dance this year.”
“Which girl?” Adam asked with a slightly disinterested voice, just glad that the new topic didn’t involve killing people.
“Brown hair and brown eyes and stuff,” Guy said simply, shrugging.
“Oh, yes, that narrows it down,” Adam rolled his eyes. “Was she by any chance of a height too?”
“Sure,” Guy replied. “I dunno, she’s just that girl in our class.”
“Did you at least get her name?” Luis asked tiredly. “Maybe you should pay more attention to that project and less at who Connie’s paired with.”
“Eh, I’ll get on that,” Guy mumbled distractedly, obviously busy listening to Connie and Daniel’s conversation.
“Well, I gotta go get more of that pie,” Kate announced loudly, jumping up from her chair, interrupting all ongoing conversations with her abrupt shouting. Charlie noticed that she seemed to be on top of the world, while Portman seemed quite homicidal. Their marriage wasn’t going to last very long, so Averman’s odds for them couldn’t be too good. Charlie made a mental note about that, before biting into his sandwich.
Goldberg joined their table right after Kate disappeared, sitting down next to Adam. “So, how are my favorite newly weds today? Any arguments yet?” he asked with a laugh.
“Screw you,” Charlie muttered. “It’s bad enough I have to live with him. Now I have to adopt an egg with him, too.”
“Don’t influence the egg with your negative energy,” Adam told him, moving the little basket with their egg in it away from Charlie.
“I want a divorce,” Charlie growled, for the third time within an hour. “Who places an egg in a basket anyway? You perfectionist. You’re spoiling an egg!”
“At least I give a damn about my grade. You’d use the egg as a puck if you could,” Adam muttered without looking up from his plate. Charlie didn’t feel the need to object, since it was partly true.
Kate came bouncing back, stopping right behind Portman’s chair and clearing her throat loudly. He ignored her for the first ten fake coughs before he lost his patience. “What?”
“I’m back. You have to pull out the chair for me. I’m your wife,” Kate explained with one hand on her hip while holding the plate with the other.
“Which is why I’m ignoring you,” Portman said conclusively.
Kate glared at him for a moment, before coughing slightly again. At first starting off with small, delicate coughs, they soon grew into noisy, distracting full out hacking, making it impossible for anyone to do anything but watch her and Portman.
Portman sat calmly on his chair, seemingly undisturbed by Kate’s annoying coughs, probably hoping she’d stop once her throat started to hurt. Kate, however, tried another approach when her hacking didn’t seem to get through, dropping the plate on the table and bringing both her hands to her throat, acting as if she was choking, plunging onto the table, still coughing and squirming wildly.
“For God’s sake!” Portman exclaimed, getting up from his chair, unable to continue eating like nothing was going on now when Kate was sprawled over the table.
“Just stop it, before one of the teachers checks up on us!” Charlie hissed, waving at Portman to do something about Kate’s spectacle.
Portman threw his hands into the air, lost at what to do. “You, get off the table! Are you mad? Cut it out!”
Kate sat up, still coughing dramatically. “I’m choking and you won’t even show me the decency to bring me some water?” she howled moodily. “Show some manners, you goon!”
Portman gave up a loud, frustrated growl, shoving his chair into the table before quickly walking out of the dinner hall. Kate clapped her hands together, moving down on the floor again. “That was fun. Oh, no. I forgot the custard! I’ll be right back!”
Kate ran off towards the food line, leaving the entire table stunned by her behavior.
“Eh, right…” Luis finally mumbled, still staring at the spot on the table where Kate had twisted around in her fake choking attack. “I thought Linda and I were supposed to be the dysfunctional couple.”
Credits & References
—Thanks again to Kristine for beta’ing. If reviews were money, my friend, if reviews were money…
—Ain’t That A Kick In The Head was originally sung by Dean Martin.
—The phrase ‘great big bumble-headed bamboo’ was spoken by Rosalind Russell in the movie His Girl Friday.
The weather had changed drastically the next day, as it was pouring down rain early in the morning, and it was still raining heavily at lunch, and after the last lesson of the day. Julie had realized that she didn’t have very many lessons with her new partner, Fred, other than Social Studies and Health, and she had neither of those classes on her schedule on Tuesdays. She was determined to get a good grade on this assignment, though, so at lunch, she tracked down Fred and asked if he had time to meet her later in the afternoon.
Julie wasn’t sure she liked the hand she’d been dealt with. After checking out why Fred didn’t have any other classes with her, she’d found out that he was taking classes that were on far lower levels from her own. It annoyed her that his friend Daniel had been rude enough to insinuate that Connie wouldn’t do as well on the project because she was ‘a jock’, when Fred seemed to be the poster boy for the “lazy jock with bad grades” stereotype. Julie didn’t like to make judgments on anyone she hardly knew, but couldn’t help but feeling that Fred would be just as rude and obnoxious as Daniel—they were, after all, friends.
Her impression of Fred definitely did not improve when it turned out that he wasn’t very good at showing up on time. They were to meet behind the dorms by the southern buildings, close to where the hockey rink was. Ken had accompanied her over there, as they were both in the same Spanish class together, but when Fred became more and more late, Ken had to leave to get to his own study session and Julie grew more impatient by the minute.
When he finally showed up, twenty minutes past their settled time, Julie wasn’t in the best of moods. “So, you decided to honor me with your presence after all?” she asked sarcastically. Even though she’d stayed under the roof, she was still drenched, and afraid to miss him completely, she hadn’t dared to go inside to wait for him there. “Do you know how to tell time?”
Fred blinked to keep the raindrops out of his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
Julie stared at him for a moment, not sure if she was annoyed with him for not showing up on time, or for not bothering to explain why he was so late. Deciding she didn’t particularly care much, and that the answer he’d provide her with would only make her more distressed, she motioned at him to follow her around the side of the building. “You know, it’s polite to call someone when you know you might be late for an appointment.”
“Sorry. My teacher held me back,” he explained sheepishly. “Err, so… Umm, I guess we should… I don’t know, what do you think we should do first?”
“Getting inside would be a start,” she muttered, then softened a bit when she noticed that he was at least showing some interest in a passing grade. “Where do you live?”
“At school,” Fred replied simply, looking around with a confused expression on his face. “Where are we going?”
Julie couldn’t help but stare at him again, wondering if he was trying to mock her, but he seemed to be dead serious. “Which dorm do you live in?” she adjusted the question, hoping for a more giving reply.
“Oh,” he said, and then went quiet for a couple of seconds. “Third floor, main building.” He turned to nod in the direction they came from. “That way.”
Julie had to force herself not to point out that she knew perfectly well where the main buildings were, like every other student at the school did. “Right. It’s closer to my dorm, so maybe we could study there,” she suggested.
“Okay. I’m… I have the papers and stuff Ms. Hudson gave us.”
“Awesome,” Julie said sarcastically, just wanting to get inside from the rain. Fred, however, didn’t seem to detect the sarcasm. “How many kids do we have?”
“What?” Fred asked confusedly, and then looked down at the folder he was carrying, filing through the papers. “Oh, right. Umm… Two, I think.”
Julie stopped and turned to him. They were standing on the path right next to the big lawn, and the rest of the campus was completely deserted. “You think? Fred, you’re supposed to have the eggs.”
Fred chewed on his lip while reading the paper he was holding. “Uh, I never got any eggs.”
“Did you ask Ms. Hudson where they are?” Julie went on, the final bit of patience gone. “Because I asked you if you could get them yesterday, remember, during class?”
“Oh,” Fred mumbled. “I guess I forgot.”
Julie clenched her fists tight, punching the air in frustration. “Right,” she said with forced calm. “Right. We’ll just go and buy some, then. No big deal. Right?”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Fred nodded, quickly tucking away the folder from the rain. “So, should we go that way?”
“Well, do you see a bus stop right here, maybe?” Julie asked sarcastically.
“No, you’re right,” Fred nodded again thoughtfully. Julie decided that he was either too slow for the words to sink in right away, or that he just simply didn’t know what sarcasm was. “We can take my car. The parking lot’s that way.”
“I know where the parking lot is,” Julie pointed out, trying the hardest she could to sound nice. Being offered a car ride instead of having to take the bus was definitely something that would improve her mood. “Two eggs, then.”
“We could buy a whole carton,” Fred suggested. “In case one breaks, I mean.”
“Let’s just try not to break them at all,” Julie said.
“Yeah, of course, I—oops.”
Julie didn’t have to turn around to recognize the sound of paper falling to the ground. Silently wishing she’d been a widow, she rubbed her temples and hoped the papers hadn’t been too destroyed by the rain.
“Man, this is ridiculous,” Luis complained quietly. He was sitting, supposedly hiding, on the damp ground among the school’s many rosebushes, watching Guy peek in through the window right above their heads. “They’re not even there.”
“Look, any minute now they could be back and we need to be prepared—”
“No, you have lost it, and I need to get back to our room. Linda wants to plan our project. And you, Guy, should probably try to figure out who your partner is so you guys can start on the project too.”
“What? What project?” Guy asked absentmindedly, ducking down under the windowsill. “Didn’t I tell you to hide?”
“I think your exact words were ‘get the hell away from the wall and stop giving away our position’, and I’d like to point out again that the only two people stupid enough to be outside right now are you and me.”
“Sshh!” Guy hissed, waving at Luis to be quiet. “Listen, I think they’re… Stop sticking your head up!”
Luis rolled his eyes and sighed heavily. He hadn’t moved an inch in about twenty minutes, and Guy was popping up and down like a yoyo, looking incredibly insane in the process. “I’m not about to bury myself in the dirt just so you can spy on some guy.”
“He’s not some guy. He’s Connie’s guy. What if he makes a move on her and we’re not here to defend her?” Guy explained hurriedly, wiping some water away from his forehead, leaving a trail of mud from his hand over his face.
“The last person who bothered her a bit too much got his ass kicked so hard that he could barely walk the next day. Look, Guy, Julie and Connie can handle themselves. They don’t need us to fend off intrusive guys. If Daniel does anything inappropriate, she’ll handle it. Could we please stop hiding in the rosebushes now?”
“No! They’ll be back soon. I just know it.”
“What if they’re studying at Connie’s place?” Luis pointed out. “Maybe they won’t be back for hours.”
“You think so?” Guy asked worriedly, before looking disturbingly excited. “We’ll have time to sneak into his room, then!”
“No, Guy! That’s not at all a good idea,” Luis whimpered as Guy got up from the ground and ran over to the side entrance of the building five windows away, completely forgetting to be subtle and sneaky.
The Rainbow Café was unusually crowded for a simple Tuesday afternoon, mainly due to the unexpected rainfall. Despite the name, the setup was a diner; commonly know as just “Rainbow” among the Eden Hall students. Located only a few blocks away from the school, it was a popular place to meet at after class.
Unfortunately, Portman wasn’t enjoying the absence of school quite as much as he usually did. “So, I’m thinkin’ that if you don’t really like the name Casper, we could maybe choose another name similar to Casper, or if you wanna have a girl egg or something, we could always call it Casperina, cool, huh? I think I kinda like that name,” Kate McKinley chattered happily, juggling an egg back and forth in her hands. “But still, we could always decide later ‘cause the baby ain’t due yet for another two months, however long that is in fake-marriage time. Hey, Casperina is a pretty nice name, isn’t it?”
Portman, who hadn’t looked up at her at all since she joined the table, continued to stare right into the salt-shaker without paying any attention to what Kate was saying. He’d given up on trying to talk back to her; he’d given up on getting to talk at all, and was now more determined than ever to find a way to get rid of her on.
Kate was grinning brightly at Fulton, who was also sitting with them—Portman had no idea how Fulton was putting up with Kate’s babbling. As to whether he liked the name Casperina, Fulton merely shrugged. “Someone should write this down. It could be crucial for later. Ooh! I’ll go get a pen,” Kate offered, jumping up from her seat and heading towards the counter.
Portman sat up straight. “Let’s leave before she comes back!”
“And how far do you think we’ll get before she tracks us down?”
“Here. Stab me with this fork. We’ll say you hafta take me to the hospital. It’s a good excuse.”
“I’m not going to stab you with a fork,” Fulton said sternly. “Look, just hear her out and then pretend like you know what she’s talking about when you have to finish the report.”
“Man, you have loads more patience than I do. Please, trade with me. No one will notice. Most teachers can’t even tell us apart; they think we come as a unit. You put up with her, and I don’t. I’m sure you’ll do better than me.”
“Yeah, but I’m still not doing it,” Fulton clarified, sounding slightly amused. “Maybe if you get to know her—”
“I don’t want to know her! I want to get rid of her! Kate McKinley is the most annoying person at this school—”
“Second most,” Fulton muttered to himself.
“You know, I’d totally do it for you,” Portman changed strategy. “We’re like brothers, you and I. We have to stick together—”
“It’s just a girl, dude,” Fulton sighed. “You sound like we’re going to war. Shut up, she’s here.”
Kate came skipping back to them. “So, I totally found some very cute pink post-its and the waitress said I could have ‘em. We could write notes on them and put them on the folder, it’ll be awesome! So, let’s write it down, shall we,” she spoke in one breath, leaning over the pink squared pad. “Cas-per. Casp-er-ina. Hey, how do you spell your last name?”
Portman growled with despair, grabbing the salt-shaker and aiming it at Kate’s head, before Fulton grabbed his arm.
The supermarket had for some reason expanded to infinity, Julie noticed, after walking around the same aisle for the tenth time. She hadn’t found any eggs. More importantly, she hadn’t found the shelf with the Tylenol either. She hadn’t found Fred again since they went in different directions to locate the eggs, but she wasn’t really trying as hard to find him.
Fred wasn’t exactly as she’d pictured him to be. He wasn’t like Daniel DeRienzo at all; for having such jerk as a friend he was quite different. He wasn’t cocky or arrogant either; she had to give him that. He was actually very friendly and nice, but he was definitely not brightest guy she’d ever met. In some ways, he reminded her a lot of Portman, though she had to admit that even Portman had some sort of clue regarding most things. Fred wasn’t nearly as loud and energetic as he was either. Julie was actually starting to wish that she had been paired with Portman instead.
They finally met each other by the checkout. “I found the eggs,” Fred told her informatively.
“I can see that. Could we just pay and get out of here?” she asked tiredly. The headache had not subsided at all. “How much do I owe you?”
“Uh, I don’t know. It’s all right, I can pay for them. I was the one who forgot ‘em to begin with, right?”
“Right,” Julie repeated, too beat to argue about it. “I’ll wait outside, if that’s all right.”
“Here, take the keys,” Fred offered, digging the car keys out of his pocket. “You can wait in the car if you want.”
It had stopped raining when she got out in the parking lot. Forcing herself to only focus on Fred’s good qualities, she realized it was kind of hard to keep disliking him. Since it wasn’t raining anymore, she waited for him right outside the exit. It only took a couple of minutes before he showed up. “So, we have the babies…” Julie said slowly, thinking of how to put together all the different aspects of the assignment. “Next week we have the internships, so we should probably try to finish as much of the report as possible this week.”
“All right. I have practice on Thursday, but other than that I’m free all week,” Fred explained while unlocking the car. “I mean, if you need my help.”
Julie frowned, feeling annoyed again as she got into the car. “Why wouldn’t you help?”
“I don’t know. I’m not very good with reports,” he shrugged, placing the carton of eggs in the back seat.
“Well, I’m not writing it all by myself, if that’s what you want,” she muttered. “It’s your project too.”
“I know that—”
“Well, congratulations. At least you know something,” she snapped angrily. “I don’t do other people’s homework for them, you know.”
“That’s not what I meant either,” he said, throwing her an irritated glare before turning to look out the back window while backing out from the parking spot. “I offered to help, didn’t I?”
“Help? We’re supposed to do this together,” she reminded him sourly. “I’m not doing your work too!”
“Did I even say that?” he asked with a frustrated voice. “God, you’re not even listening to me.”
“I am! I think you just don’t want to understand,” Julie snorted.
“What don’t I understand?”
“Oh, never mind!” she sighed forcefully, starting to feel like she was reasoning with a wall. It reminded her of an argument she’d had with Scooter once, and she suddenly remembered that this was just how their relationship had ended a while back. Scooter had been just as impossible to reason with, too.
Fred seemed to share a similar opinion. “You remind me of my ex,” he muttered under his breath.
Julie found that all his good qualities had somehow disappeared.
Charlie paced back and forth in the room he shared with Adam. Never had he felt so miserable before—at least not for a couple of weeks. Fulton, who had finally escaped the Rainbow Café and the fighting couple, was sitting on Adam’s bed, wondering why he’d chosen to visit Charlie of all people.
“I mean, there’s a point to which I’m tolerant,” Charlie explained with exaggerated hand gestures. “And Adam has crossed that line and—”
“Where is he, anyway?” Fulton asked. “You haven’t locked him into the closet again, have you?”
“Look, that was one time, and he was being a righteous pain in the ass!” Charlie growled, stomping over to the desk and going through the piles of paper on it. “He’s off sulking somewhere because I told him how lame his egg basket was.”
Charlie threw his hands into the air, shrugging. “I don’t know, I may or may not have threatened to make a delicious omelet of the little rascal once it’s grown to an eatable size. I mean, he’s just so sensitive sometimes, don’t you think?”
“And he was going on and on about how he’d smash the egg if I didn’t stop annoying him—how is that any nicer?”
“Dude, it’s an egg.”
“Here we are, trying to convince the fake adoption agency to give us a kid, and Adam threatens to smash it? That’s awful!”
“And threatening to eat it is so much better?”
“Well, I wasn’t serious. Plus, it’s an egg. There’s no such thing as an Egg Protective Service, is there, right?”
“You’ve all gone crazy,” Fulton decided, shaking his head. “It hasn’t even been a day yet.”
“How’s your project coming along?” Charlie asked, sitting down on the floor with his back against the wall.
“All there is to do is make sure an egg won’t break and write a report. It’s not that hard, man.”
“Yeah, well, you’re not forced to do all this with someone you can’t stand. Why does this always happen to me?”
“Charlie, you and Adam always fight like this. It doesn’t matter in the slightest that you’re paired for this project, somehow you’d find a way to have this argument anyway.”
“Adam better not smash that egg,” Charlie said through gritted teeth. “I’m looking forward to introducing the little brat to the stove and our new frying-pan.”
Fulton couldn’t help but laugh at Charlie’s determined facial expression. “Come on, man. You can’t torment Adam like that.”
Charlie didn’t bother replying. After a moment of silence, he changed the subject. “How do you think the others are doing?”
“You mean, how do I think Luis and Linda are doing,” Fulton said with a smile. “I saw Guy and Luis a while ago, covered in mud. I’d say it’s not going great.”
Charlie spent another moment looking thoughtful. “You think maybe Linda threw mud at them?” he asked hopefully.
“I kinda doubt that.”
Charlie sighed mournfully, resting his chin against his hand, looking thoroughly discontent with the world.
Fulton rolled his eyes. “You could always ask her to that dance next week.”
“Who?” Charlie muttered. “Linda? Why would I do that? We broke up.”
“Sure. You’re way too interested in what your ex is doing—”
“I was just wondering!” Charlie exclaimed wrongfully, before he looked thoughtful again. “What dance?”
“The girls have been talking about it for weeks,” Fulton explained. Charlie just stared. “The one that all the posters are about? There’s one out in the hallway.”
Charlie quickly got up from the floor and hurried over to the door, disappearing out into the hallway outside. Fulton heard him walk to the end of the corridor, and then he heard a sound of paper ripping, and Charlie swearing, before Charlie came back and slammed the door shut behind him. “Stupid poster,” he muttered, sucking on his finger.
“Did you cut yourself?” Fulton asked amusedly.
“Shut up,” Charlie said quickly, reading the poster he had in his hand. It was blue with white stars, with a text that announced the yearly Spring Fling for the underclassmen. “This is right before school ends.”
“Next Friday, yes. So, you’re gonna go?”
“Nah. It’s stupid, right? Linda doesn’t even like events like these.”
“She’s on the Student Senate,” Fulton pointed out. “Don’t they decorate these things?”
Charlie frowned. “Well, so what? She won’t wanna go.”
“Thought you said you wouldn’t ask her anyway.”
“Could you stop pointing things out?” Charlie muttered, taking his eyes off the poster. “It’s damn annoying and you sound just like Adam.”
“Stop being so stubborn, then. You wanna go with her, so ask her. It’s not that hard.”
Charlie growled inaudibly.
Credits & References
—Dazed And Confused is a song by Led Zeppelin.
—The idea and name of the Spring Fling dance comes from Mean Girls.
—Some of you should be able to figure out the reference to Casper on your own.
—Someone sent me an E-mail, asking what the pairings in the original story were, so here they are: Scooter/Julie, Fred/Connie, Guy/Sarah, Charlie/Cecilia and Adam/Travis. If you don’t understand why I had to re-write it, just look at that list.
—Kristine was my beta, as usual, for which I’m very grateful. From here on, the story will be updated about every other week.
Cimmy’s Notes: Thank you for the reviews, people! Just keep ‘em coming.
This chapter is dedicated to Sam because it is her birthday, and as the crappy friend I am, this is all I have to give her. Happy birthday, chica!
Charlie found that sulking was a lot more boring when no one was around to pay any attention to it.
It was Wednesday afternoon and two days into the marriage project from hell. Tired of listening to Adam admonishing him every time he put a toe over the threshold of their room, Charlie had retreated to the Rainbow Café. The weather was a bit better than he’d expected, but that also meant that he was almost alone in the diner.
He’d been thinking a lot about what Fulton had said the previous day, and whether he liked to admit it or not, it made a lot of sense. Not the part about him and Adam, of course. They certainly didn’t fight all the time. The part about asking Linda out was far more accurate. Charlie missed her, and at times, he couldn’t quite remember exactly why they broke up in the first place.
Adam would claim that it had to do with Charlie and Linda being too dependent on each other, resulting in both of them needing some time apart to breathe, but Charlie just knew that wasn’t the problem, because when had Adam ever been right?
Anyway, it wasn’t like he really cared what Linda was doing or who she’d be going to the dance with, or anything. Not at all.
“Woe is you, Captain?”
Charlie groaned inwardly as Kate McKinley came bouncing up to his table. “Kate.”
Kate imitated his grumpy expression. “Charlie,” she said with a low voice, before taking a place opposite him. “Why such a sourpuss?”
“The nerve!” she said with feigned insult. “Here I’m trying to be friendly and you tell me to go away even though I’m such a lovely company to have.” Charlie only glared at her, fighting back the impulse of dumping his milkshake over her head. Kate tilted her head to the side with a glimpse of sympathy in her eyes. “No, seriously. Did your cat die or something? Man, I love kittens.” She gasped worriedly. “Don’t tell me a kitten died!”
“No one’s died,” Charlie said impatiently. “I don’t have a cat.”
“I hade one once. So, why are you here? Why so gloomy? Is the project not going all right?”
“The project is hell!” Charlie exclaimed dissatisfiedly. “I have the worst partner in the world and everyone thinks I’m mooning over my ex-girlfriend.”
“Well, are you?”
“So, why do you care what they think?” Kate asked curiously, grabbing Charlie’s milkshake and pulling it across the table to take a sip. “People always talk. Most of the time it’s not even true. Believe me, I know how this works. I’m a cheerleader.”
Charlie gave her a confused look, and was then unable to keep from smiling. “Oh, yeah? That’s how it works?”
Kate grinned. “Look, I’m paired with monkey-boy Portman. How much worse can it get?”
“My partner keeps carrying around our egg in a basket.”
“Hey, unless he tried to put you in a dumpster headfirst, I believe I’m winning.”
Charlie laughed. “He did that?”
“Apparently I talk too much,” Kate shrugged with a smile. “He threw me over his shoulder and said that he’d put me in the dumpster behind Rainbow, and I mean eww! How gross wouldn’t that have been? I was wearing my designer jeans and everything! You don’t put my tush in a dumpster when it’s wearing designer jeans!”
Charlie raised an eyebrow. “You’re always wearing designer clothes.”
“Which is why putting me in a dumpster is a deadly sin!” Kate pointed out energetically. “Anyway, he put me down again before dropping me into that thing, but he was dangling me over the edge for nearly ten seconds! The nerve!”
“Well, I haven’t been able to find him today. I think he’s hiding.”
Amused by Kate and Portman’s antics, Charlie was suddenly feeling a lot less miserable. “Sometimes he hides out under the bleachers by the pool.”
Kate looked excited. “Awesome! I’ll check that out. Thanks, Captain.”
“You know, I’m not really your captain,” Charlie smiled.
“I guess you’re not. Can I call you Charlie?”
“Most people do.”
“Your friend Adam doesn’t.”
“Adam is too inhuman to be a real person,” Charlie muttered, taking back his milkshake. “Don’t you have other friends to stalk?”
“Not really. Fred’s with that girl Julie, but he says they only fight all the time,” Kate shrugged. “And Danny’s with Connie Moreau.”
“Ah. And how about the hordes of other friends you have?” Charlie asked, starting to think that she’d never leave.
“Eh. They’re not really my closest friends or anything. I just hang out with them.”
“Right… Why would you hang out with them if you don’t like them?”
“They’re all right, I guess. I have a reputation to uphold, you know. I can’t be popular and not have any friends! That would never work!”
Charlie laughed at her dramatic gesticulation. “I guess it’s tough being the most popular girl in school.”
“Oh, you have no idea,” Kate grinned. “But, uh, I know that’s what they’re saying.”
“That they think it’s weird Fred and I keep to ourselves and hang out with Danny when we’re supposed to be surrounded by the richest and the prettiest, you know. I was never one to pay much attention to what people say, really. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, just to be accepted, you know.”
“That’s… That’s cool, I guess,” Charlie said, realizing he’d always wondered that about her. “But you’re still friends with people you don’t really like.”
“Eh, it’s all part of the game, Charlie. You have to play it to get somewhere. I just play by my own rules, that’s all. So, do you wanna go catch a movie or something? I’m bored and you’re not as bad company as I thought you’d be.” Kate got up from the seat and grabbed his hand to haul him to his feet. “Come on, I’ll even let you choose movie.”
“So, we’ll go see a surf movie, or something,” Kate giggled. “Come on, don’t be such a grouch.”
“Fine. But you’re buying me popcorn,” Charlie caved in, getting to his feet. Kate led him out of the diner and towards the bus stop on the other side of the street.
“You’re such a gentleman,” she snorted. “Is this how you treat your dates?”
“Well, you have to take me out sometime and prove me wrong, then,” Kate said determinedly. “Come on, cough up some money. I can’t pay the bus fare with my credit card.”
Charlie watched her as he went through his pockets for enough change to get them into town. She was a very peculiar girl.
“Remind me again why this is a good idea.”
Daniel grinned lopsidedly, turning his head to look at Connie. “What? It’s sunny and it’s hot, so I don’t really see why it’s so bad to be laying by the pool.”
Connie sighed, shoving her notepad into his chest. “We’re supposed to be studying. God, I can’t believe I agreed to this.”
Daniel stretched out across the bleacher they were sitting on, leaning back against his elbows, still grinning. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“I’m surprised you can see anything with those things covering half your face,” Connie growled, snatching his sunglasses off his nose. “Now, could you maybe stop ogling those girls long enough to help me out?”
Daniel held out his hand towards her, holding the egg, without taking his eyes off the girls that were walking by them. “Sorry, honey. I’m taking care of the little one right now.”
“Don’t call me honey,” Connie warned, poking at him with her pen. They’d been down by the pool for almost an hour, and had made no progress whatsoever. It had been Daniel’s suggestion to go down there and study instead of sitting in the library. Connie regretted this decision, as all Daniel seemed to be interested in was checking out girls.
The pool was located right behind the school auditorium and had a set of grandstands along one of the long sides. The bleachers were packed with people studying or sunbathing in the good weather. Connie imagined that in the right company, she would actually enjoy being there. However, she was definitely not in the right company at the moment.
“Stop poking me and tell me what the problem was again,” Daniel said distractedly, still without looking at her.
“The budget. Our budget. We have three kids to support—”
“Let’s just sell one and see if we make any profit,” Daniel shrugged; giving the egg he was holding a quick glance. “This one’s pretty cute. I’m sure we could get at least $5.50 for it. I’ll ask those chicks over there—”
“You’ll go nowhere,” Connie quickly interrupted, digging her fingers into his arm to keep him from getting up. “Last time you left, it took you twenty minutes to come back!”
“But I did bring you back a nice soda, didn’t I?” Daniel grinned, rubbing his arm. “Stop nagging and fill out the budget. It shouldn’t take this long.”
“If you helped—”
“If I help, how will you ever learn?” he asked simply. “Look, you fill out the total amount here—” He pointed at one of the columns in the chart she had in her lap. “-you fill out your income here, and my income there, and you make the deduction—”
“Wait, wait, wait! What did I put in this column?” Connie asked hurriedly.
“Your income. Come on, it’s just like balancing your checkbook.”
“I don’t have any checks to balance,” Connie pointed out, quickly filling in the correct amount in the columns Daniel was pointing at. “If you know this crap, why won’t you just help me with it?”
“It shouldn’t be that hard,” he muttered, taking back his sunglasses from her. “Let me know when you get to the tricky parts.”
Connie made an ugly face at him. Daniel was just as arrogant and stuck-up as her first impression of him had been. All he did was point out how much he knew that she didn’t, always with the same smug smile on his face. He was a pretentious ass with an ego larger than the entire state, and Connie wasn’t sure how she would ever be able to put up with him for eight more days.
“Now, I have a question for you, love,” Daniel said. He’d given up on staring at the girls that were lying on their towels in the grass right next to the stands, and was now instead fully resting on his back, eyes closed.
“Don’t call me that either,” Connie muttered, kicking at his leg.
“Ow,” he said, laughing. “Take it easy, girl. I have a question regarding your boyfriend.”
“Whatever the question is about, I can assure you that it’s none of your damn business whatsoever.”
“Take it easy!” Daniel chuckled, squinting up at her. “Now, I helped you out with your questions—”
“They were part of the assignment!” Connie declared furiously.
“It’s only fair I get to ask some questions too,” he smirked.
“Is there a particular reason—” Daniel ignored her, “-as to why your boyfriend is stalking us?”
“What?” Connie scowled at him.
“Your boyfriend. Stalking us. Does he always do that, or is it a new hobby of his?”
“What?” she repeated, having no idea what he was talking about. As far as she could see, there was no sign of anyone stalking her, and least of all Guy.
“Boyfriend. Stalking,” Daniel pronounced slowly. “Am I speaking too fast for ya?”
“Just tell me what you’re talking about!” Connie snapped.
Daniel sighed forcefully, sitting up. “Behind us, across the lawn, in the bushes. Two guys, one of them is your boyfriend, the other one is probably not, unless you’re the kinda girl who’s into that. I’m curious what he’s doing there. Is this some sort of game the two of you play? Stalking you turns him on?”
Connie quickly looked over her shoulder, spotting Guy and Luis right where Daniel had pointed out. Guy ducked down when he noticed she was looking, while Luis just stood there, shaking his head dejectedly, until Guy reached up and pulled him down behind the bushes.
Connie decided that Daniel had been far too rude over a very short span of time, and hit him over the head with the notepad. “Luis is not my boyfriend!”
“Just the average stalker, then,” Daniel laughed. “Man, they’ve been following us around all day, and yesterday they had been hiding under my window. At least I think it was them, as a cat wouldn’t have done as much damage as they did, nor would it be stupid enough to be outside when it is raining.”
“They’re not stalking me,” Connie said firmly. She didn’t know why Guy and Luis were hiding in the bushes, but she wasn’t going to let Daniel have the satisfaction of being right yet again.
“No, they just like following you around, watching your every move, breathing heavily each time you show some skin—”
“They don’t do that! Just leave them alone,” Connie growled, blushing slightly. She hated his rude comments. “Daniel, help me instead—”
“Doll, I’m protecting you from evil stalkers! What more can I do?”
“Stop calling me names! It’s very offensive and my name is Connie!” she finally exploded.
Daniel’s attention was elsewhere, though, as his gaze followed a blonde girl who was walking towards the pool. She was wearing a pink bikini and her hair was in a ponytail. Connie recognized her as Chrissie Connors, the head cheerleader of the JV squad. Chrissie had already noticed Daniel’s eager staring, but unlike the other girls that had found Daniel looking at them, she didn’t giggle or blush shyly.
“Charm’s not working for ya?” Connie said; amused to see that there was at least someone Daniel couldn’t flirt with.
Daniel shrugged, trying to come off as indifferent to this fact. “She’s a bad lay.”
Connie raised her eyebrow, finding it very hard to believe that Daniel would know that. “Oh, really?”
“Well, she’s gotta be. She’s refusing to go out with me, so what other reasons could there be?” Daniel asked conclusively, lying back down.
“I’m refusing to go out with you too,” Connie pointed out with a smirk.
“Yeah, but you have two boyfriends, so you can’t be that bad in bed,” Daniel shrugged again.
Connie promptly went back to hating his guts.
Credits & References
—Witchy Woman is a song by The Eagles. I think Kristine is to blame for that song title, but I can’t actually remember.
—Charlie describing Kate as ‘peculiar’ is a Buffy reference. Here’s a funny fact: Riley Finn, who originally spoke that line, is played by Marc Blucas, and he starred in I Capture the Castle with Rose Byrne, whom Kate is portraited by. (Sometimes I’m so good at this I scare myself. Sometimes I just scare myself.)
—Kate originally had a line that referenced the movie Off the Lip (starring Marguerite Moreau) when she was talking about seeing a surf movie. It didn’t really work, so I removed it.
—The pool scene, or all pool scenes, are based on the pool scenes in Get Over It. That movie is one of my many guilty pleasures.
Cimmy’s Notes: Yes, it’s update time again. This chapter isn’t dedicated to anyone, but Emily did give me a lot of feedback on it when she first read it, so many of the changes I made are thanks to her. That’s why it’s, you know, longer and also, like, better.
Just as a side note (which this already was, but eh): I wrote chapter one to ten of this story last summer, so any good requests that are made won’t make it into the story until at least chapter eleven. I have only decided what should happen to Connie and Guy, and Luis and Mindy, but the outcome of the rest of the plots are still in the air. I can pretty much assure you that Portman and Kate won’t end up as a couple, though. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome, I can use some fresh ideas.
Luis managed to escape from Guy’s impending madness on Thursday afternoon. He and Linda had spent little to no time at all on their assignment, so Luis figured it was time to get a grip and let Guy handle his jealousy on his own. After Connie had tracked them down the previous evening, dragging Guy aside to yell at him for trying to ruin her and Daniel’s assignment, Guy seemed to have calmed down a little. Although, Luis knew he was only planning his next move, and also knew it would be best to be far away before it was carried out.
Luis didn’t know Linda too well. Back when Charlie had still dated her, they’d all hung out together from time to time, but that was all. Luis had gotten the impression that Linda hadn’t tried very hard to get to know anyone on the team, aside from Charlie and Adam—Adam was after all, despite much fighting, Charlie’s best friend.
Linda took assignments seriously, Luis knew that much. She was involved in many after school activities and had top grades; Charlie had mentioned that a lot over the past few months. Luis hoped she wouldn’t be too intense. He cared about his grades a good deal, but he wasn’t about to exceedingly obsess over them.
After kissing Mindy goodbye and watching her and the rest of the cheerleading squad troop along towards the gym where they had cheerleading practice, Luis settled down on the stairs outside the classrooms on the third floor, where Linda had told him to meet her. It was cloudy and sunny outside, so the rest of the hallway was completely deserted. The only interruption was when Kate McKinley came bursting up the stairs in a great hurry, almost tripping over him before heading for the gym, obviously late for practice.
Five minutes later, the door to the classroom across the hallway opened and a number of people filed out, carrying papers and piles of books. Linda exchanged a few words with a friend before walking up to Luis. “Sorry, that took longer than I thought it would. We’re still organizing the Spring Fling dance next week and we haven’t sold enough tickets for it yet,” Linda spoke rapidly, looking concerned. “You’re going, right?”
Luis nodded, smiling. “Yeah, you can save me the convincing arguments. Mindy and I already have tickets.”
“Oh, good,” Linda said with a relieved sigh. “I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the seniors to organize their dance, prom and everything. But at least we have something to look forward to, right? I’ve always wanted to visit Minnesota Club—that’s where they’re having the prom this year.”
“Oh,” Luis said unenthusiastically, remembering all too well his last visit there. “I’m sure the underclassmen dance will be just as good.”
“It will,” Linda nodded determinedly. “It’s a lot of planning, but it’ll be great. The JV cheerleaders are going to help us decorate the gym next week, so it shouldn’t take long.”
“Yeah, I heard. So, where should we go study?”
“It’s probably too hot in the library,” Linda mumbled thoughtfully. “We could always sit by the pool.”
“Eh, let’s not,” Luis suggested, knowing Guy would be there if Daniel and Connie were. He desperately wanted to avoid a similar situation to yesterday. Having Connie yell at him wasn’t something he was dying to experience again. “We could go to the diner.”
“Rainbow? All right, I guess we could do that,” Linda said, frowning slightly. “I haven’t been there since Cha-I mean, for a while.”
It turned out that Linda had already outlined most of their project—and report—herself. Luis realized that organization wasn’t just a big thing for her when it concerned dances; she’d made long lists and gone crazy with a magic marker on the paper Ms. Hudson had given them. She had also labeled every section in her folder with different colors, to be able to find the sections more easily.
“So, uh, this is all the notes?” Luis asked uncertainly, holding up a notebook that was crammed with loose papers. “Seriously.”
“Well, I did some research yesterday when you didn’t have time to meet up,” Linda explained simply. “We’re supposed to have these marriage problems, so I looked up a few counselors. Maybe if we call, we could set up an interview with one of them? I think we’d get bonus points for that, don’t you?”
“When would we have time for that? You have your meetings with the dance committee and the student body, and next week we have that vocational practice, or whatever it was—”
“Practical vocational training,” Linda said, going through the other notebook she was holding. “Here, I made a schedule. We should have time for everything. We’re only supposed to be at the magazine next week on Tuesday. That leaves plenty of time for other activities.”
Luis didn’t even have to look at the schedule to feel exhausted. “Linda, I’m not sure we’ll have time for all of this—”
“Of course we will, it’ll just take some hard work. You have pretty good grades, don’t you?” she questioned him suspiciously.
“I don’t think that has anything to do with how much time we’ll have for this project,” Luis said, annoyed with her for making rash judgments of his character just because he didn’t want to be buried in schoolwork during his last week of school.
“Well, you gotta work if you want good results,” Linda explained patiently. “We should start working on our budget right away.”
“I actually have to go pick up Mindy in a few minutes,” he said, looking at his watch. “I’ll help you with it tomorrow.”
Linda sighed tiredly, leaning forward across the table. “Look, you have to be committed to this project to keep up; I can’t do it for you. School isn’t just about scholarships and sports, you know.”
“Thanks, I’m well-aware of that,” he muttered, deciding it was time to leave. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“This is so typical,” she complained, sighing heavily again. “All you care about is your athletic feats and how good your reputation is and how good your team will look in front of the school.”
Luis had a distinct feeling she was describing some other hockey player he knew. “Yeah, those are your issues. Don’t be such a snob.”
“I’m not a snob,” she claimed, before looking like she’d been struck by some other familiarity, and fell silent.
“I don’t know you that well, so I won’t pass judgments on you that you don’t deserve. I’d appreciate if you’d show me the same respect. Look, I gotta go,” he said, grabbing his jacket. “We’ll sort out the rest of this tomorrow.”
“Fine, whatever,” she said quietly. “See ya.”
Linda fell back into her seat, clutching her milkshake with a firm grip, watching Luis walk out through the doors. “Jocks,” she muttered, though feeling strangely subdued and glum after her conversation with Luis.
When Guy came back from his quick tour around the school, unable to locate Daniel (and Connie), the door to Charlie and Adam’s room was opened and the entire hallway seemed to be in an uproar. Taking a quick peak into their room, he noticed that they were just having one of their usual arguments. Adam came bursting out, knocked on the door across the hallway and disappeared into the room without paying any attention to Guy. Guy thought it’d be safer to enter their room if only Charlie was there.
Charlie was sitting on the floor, reading a book, having two eggs lie beside him. There was a yellow colored stain on the carpet and egg shelves spread around the stain.
“Manslaughter?” Guy asked when he stepped in.
Charlie looked up in confusion. “Excuse me?”
“The egg. Did you kill the child?”
“Me? Who do you think did it?” Charlie whined. “Man, everybody’s on my case today! First Portman, then Adam, now you. Conspiracy!”
“What’s Portman mad about?”
“Oh, he’s trying to convince anyone who’s willing to listen to trade partners with him. I’d happily oblige, you know, to get rid of that preppy boil in my ass—” Charlie nodded towards Adam’s bed. “-but you know, it’s Kate McKinley.”
“Anyway, Portman was here fifteen minutes ago, bursting in, blaming me for ruining his fake life, yelled a lot and threatened to kill my eggs if I moved, and told me to stay out of his way. Overreaction much, huh?”
Guy just shrugged, not sure who he thought was the biggest baby. “Right.”
“And then Adam comes storming in here, all worked up about hell knows what, yelling at me and accusing me of being a lousy husband, and I mean, come on! I’m a good husband! Look how I’m watching our kids while he’s off being mental!”
“Anyway…” Guy said, trying to help the story along.
“Yeah, so, anyway, Adam had our first fight without letting me chip in at all, then proceeded to smash one of our eggs, got all upset about it and stomped out to go visit Fulton,” Charlie shrugged, glaring at the closed door across the hall. “So, now I’m all tired of being yelled at, so I’ve decided to kick back with some homework and try to look after our other two eggs in case their mother goes crazy again and tries to decapitate or smash them too.”
“Right… Have you seen Connie?”
Charlie sighed. “Guy, man, you have to get over this. Stalking is never the answer.”
“Do you know where she is?” Guy went on, not sure if he’d heard what Charlie just said.
“No, I don’t know where she is,” Charlie said dejectedly. “Did you check Daniel’s room?”
“Only two times.” Or seven, but that was irrelevant.
Charlie glanced at him doubtfully. “Okay then. So, are you getting along with your partner?”
“What?” Guy said, then waving off the question. “Oh, yeah. Sure.” The truth was that he still hadn’t contacted his partner. He wasn’t sure what her name was, either. It was Pixie or something. Or Dixie. Something with an X. “When do you think Connie will be back?”
Charlie opened his mouth to answer, when they were interrupted by Ken. “There you are. Goldberg is looking for you. Apparently Portman locked Kate McKinley into the locker-room after her practice and now they can’t find Portman—he has the key.”
“Meh,” Charlie said disinterestedly. “She’ll get out.”
“Have you seen Connie?” Guy asked Ken.
“No. Look, Charlie, I think we’d better convince Portman to let her out before one of the gym teachers finds out what’s going on,” Ken suggested. “What’s with the egg?”
“It broke. Adam put his foot on it.”
Ken scratched his head, looking confused. “I thought you only had one egg to take care of.”
“Umm, yeah. Good thing Adam smashed one of the backups, huh? We borrowed a few from Julie; she bought a carton with twelve. It’s always good to have backups.”
“Eh, all right.”
Charlie looked up again when Adam and Fulton showed up. “What, since when is my room a damn metropolis?” he asked. Adam went over to his closet, starting to dig out a bunch of clothes and dumping them on the bed, before kneeling down to pull his suitcase out from under it. Charlie quickly gathered the eggs together to keep them from ending up under Adam’s shoes.
“What’s up?” Guy asked. “Leaving?”
Adam glared at Charlie before replying. “Just going home over the weekend.”
“Thank God,” Charlie exclaimed with relief. Adam threw a sock at him.
“Why?” Ken wondered, still shifting nervously over by the door, waiting for Charlie to join him so they could get to the locker-room in time before someone found out about Kate.
Adam threw his things into the suitcase in no specific order. “My grandparents are taking Mom and Dad to New York for a couple of days and I’m supposed to watch their dog while they’re gone.”
Charlie started laughing. “They trust you with a dog? What an honor!”
“Shut up,” Adam hissed, throwing the other sock at him. “Dinky has been in the family longer than I have, and my grandmother loves him more than she loves us.”
“Dinky?” Charlie continued to laugh. “Dinky.”
“It doesn’t sound so bad,” Guy tried to soothe him. “Your grandparents’ house is nearly as big as this school. It must be awesome to have so much money.”
“Is Dinky rich too?” Charlie asked. Adam tried to kick him.
“Oh, I have an idea,” Fulton said, suddenly looking very excited. “If your folks are out of town, we can throw a party!”
Adam’s eyes widened to the size of small saucers. “No way, forget it! You’re not throwing a party at my grandparents’ mansion!”
Portman stuck his head around the doorframe. “We’re having a party?”
“Do you have super-hearing or something?” Charlie asked. “Do you automatically pick up on certain words?”
“Only when they’re important,” Portman grinned. Ken poked at him. “What is it, little bash bro?”
“Can I have the key to the locker-rooms?”
“What? Oh, right. Man, I completely forgot about that,” Portman laughed, handing over the key to Ken, who left in a hurry. “She’ll be fine. So, when’s the party?”
“No, wait—” Adam spoke up.
“Tomorrow, at eight, Adam’s grandparents’ house,” Charlie explained quickly.
“No, wait a minute; I never said you could—”
“Awesome!” Portman exclaimed. “I’ll spread the word. That place is cut out for a huge party.”
“Huge? No! Wait!”
Portman and Fulton departed, ignoring Adam’s pleas. Charlie shot him an innocent look. “So, this should be fun for Dinky, shouldn’t it?”
Adam roared loudly, throwing himself over Charlie to wrestle him down on the floor, smashing the remaining eggs in the process.
Daniel looked up into Kate’s furious face. He was in his usual spot by the pool, stretched out across one of the benches on the bleachers. Fred was sitting one step above him, watching people dive off the diving-board by the pool. Daniel sat up and removed his sunglasses, laughing at how ridiculous Kate looked when she glared at him. She was soaking wet and still wearing her cheerleading outfit.
“What’s happened to you?” he asked amusedly as she sat down next to him. “Fell in?”
“Shut up. It was that goon, Dean Portman! He locked me into the locker-room,” Kate howled with an upset voice, loud enough for everyone around the entire pool area to hear.
“How ironic. And this made you so devastated that you decided to drown yourself?” Daniel continued, grinning.
“No,” she moped. “I had to crawl out through the window. The sprinklers on the lawn went off right after I got out.”
Both Daniel and Fred laughed at this. “Man, wish I’d thought of that first,” Daniel teased, shoving at her with his foot. Kate growled theatrically, sounding like a vicious feline ready to attack. “Those Ducks are quite entertaining, aren’t they?”
“Shut up. They’re annoying, each and every one of them,” Kate whined, tugging at a strand of her hair. “Look! I’ll look like a troll doll!”
Fred shrugged at Daniel’s statement, ignoring Kate raving on about her ruined hair. “They’re all right. I told you guys they’re not that bad. They’re just like us.”
“Only poor, uncivilized and stupid,” Daniel scoffed, looking away from them. “They act like they own the place, when really they’re just like the average snobs, and we damn well have enough of those already.”
Fred turned his head down, unsure why Daniel felt the need to be so harsh. Personally, he’d always liked the team and the individual players on it—even if he wasn’t getting along very well with Julie at the moment. He’d played together with them during plenty of practices and games, and was still friends with some of them, mainly Adam and Guy. Fred didn’t think Daniel had any right to dislike the entire hockey team only because he was against sports in general. Of course, Daniel had always been narrow-minded, and Fred considered himself to be quite the opposite of that; this also explained why Daniel only really had two friends who tolerated him, and Fred was one of the most popular persons at school.
“I like Charlie,” Kate suddenly interrupted the strange, awkward silence.
“Big surprise there,” Daniel snorted. “You like just about anyone.”
“Nuh-uh,” Kate pouted wrongfully. “He’s nice.”
“He’s also a jock and he’s probably only trying to get you into bed,” Daniel muttered angrily, throwing a pebble into the pool despite objections from the people around him. “That’s what I’d do.”
“We went out yesterday, and he was actually pretty nice,” Kate explained with a discouraged tone.
“You mentioned that, Red,” Daniel said bitterly, tensing up. “I can’t stand the lot of them. People around here treat them like celebrities even though all they do is skate and beat people up. I can do all that, too.”
“You can’t skate,” Kate pointed out.
“Well, so what?” Daniel snarled heatedly, snapping his head to the side, scowling at her. “What’s the big deal with it? It’s bullshit, that’s what it is.”
Fred decided to interfere before the two of them got into another argument. “They’re just doing something they’re good at,” he said quietly. “I play hockey too.”
Daniel sent him an uncharacteristically regretful look. “Yeah, man, I know. I’m just saying that they’re… You’re not full of yourself, that’s all. They’re just—”
“They’re good people, and good friends,” Fred finally spoke up, voicing his opinions out loud. He usually didn’t interfere unless Kate and Daniel went much too far with their shallow assumptions, but the hockey team wasn’t most people. He knew what they were like and he knew that Daniel was wrong to call them poor and stupid. “They haven’t done anything to you so if you wanna be mad at someone, be mad at the Varsity or something.”
“Oh, you think so, do you?” Daniel snapped.
“Not really,” Fred shrugged. “Most of the guys on Varsity are decent people too.”
“You really don’t get a vote in this, seeing how you’re friend with just about everyone at this school,” Daniel cut him off, throwing another pebble hard into the concrete below. “Even that jerk Rick Riley—”
“My dad knows his dad,” Fred hurried to say. “I don’t really like him much.”
“That doesn’t seem to stop you from sucking up to him,” Daniel went on angrily. “And he sucks up to you too, and you just let him—”
“I’m not defending Rick Riley,” Fred muttered, losing his patience with Daniel’s pettiness. “I was talking about the Ducks, and they’re good people!”
Kate held up her foot in the air between them as an interjection. “Got water in my new Nikes,” she announced, emptying the drenched shoe and letting it drip down on the bench. “Can we stop fighting now?”
“Yeah,” Fred nodded. He almost never got into disputes with Daniel, as he wasn’t a big fan of arguing, even if he disagreed with practically everything Daniel had opinions about. “Portman’s not treating you badly, right, Katie?”
“Putting me in a dumpster doesn’t qualify as badly?” she wailed loudly.
“I mean, bad badly?”
Kate shrugged discontentedly. “I guess not. Could you beat him up anyway?”
Fred laughed. “Beat him up? You realize he could kill me, right?”
“I’d like to see you go for it,” Daniel added with a grin.
“Oh, I’m sure you would.”
Daniel stretched out on the bench again. “Entertaining, I’m tellin’ ya.” He looked at them with an amused smirk. “That guy on your team, with the French name—”
“Guy,” Fred filled in.
“Yeah, him. He’s been following me around all week. He’s trying to be all stealthy and shit, but he’s more like a bulldozer. And he’s dragging that Hispanic bloke with him, too. I’m surprised they’re not around right now. They put up quite a show. It’s like watching a French farce, with the Moreau girl running after them and yelling at them every five minutes.”
“Guy is Connie’s boyfriend,” Kate pointed out. She had put her shoes next to her on the bench to let them dry, and was now crawled up next to Fred with her toes resting against the edge of the bench in front of her.
“Thanks, Red, I’m aware of that,” Daniel grinned. “I like that girl, if only because she detests me.”
“You shouldn’t hit on her,” Kate suggested perkily. “Guy loves her.”
“I haven’t seen any announcements about that anywhere,” Daniel shrugged, smiling evilly. “She’s effectively denying that he’s stalking her.”
“Kate’s right. You should probably leave Connie alone,” Fred said, knowing full well how much Daniel liked a challenge.
“Hey, I’m not suggesting I’ll make something of it,” Daniel laughed. “I just like to play with the guy for a while. I’m sure they’ll live happily ever after once I’m done with them.”
“Once you lose interest, you mean,” Kate muttered, wagging her toes from side to side.
“That too,” Daniel nodded.
Fred took a quick look at his watch. “Well, I gotta go. I have to meet up with Julie. We’re still working on our budget.”
“Oh!” Kate exclaimed excitedly, jumping up from the bench. Daniel and Fred watched her with surprise. “Before I forget, you guys, we have to go to the big party tomorrow. I heard someone mention it, and it sounds like it’ll be a blast!”
“What party?” Fred and Daniel said together.
“The Ducks are throwing a party at the Banks’ residence. You know that big, fancy mansion in the wealthier part of Edina? That’s where it is.”
“Banks?” Daniel said doubtfully. “The rich one?”
“Stop labeling people!” Kate snarled, and then continued with a cheerful voice, “We’re going, right?”
“Doubt we’re invited,” Daniel grimaced. “Doubt it very much.”
“You can stay at home, then,” Kate suggested, pouting again. “And not ruin our fun.”
“Not sure I wanna go,” Fred shrugged, grabbing his messenger bag and getting up. “You should probably catch a ride with the cheerleaders if you wanna go.”
“Oh, come on!” Kate whined. “I don’t wanna go without you! The cheerleaders suck!”
Fred looked around and noticed that her loud statement had caught a lot of students’ attention, as they were staring at her quite curiously. “Eh, right. I’m sure they’ll love to know you said that. Look, you two can figure something out. I really gotta go now.”
“If we decide to go, does that mean you’re going too?” Kate asked happily.
“I told you I’m not going,” Daniel muttered sourly.
“Don’t be so boring, Danny! You’re such a pain! Fred, how about it?”
“Eh, sure. Bye.” Fred quickly jumped over the benches to get down from the stands, hoping he’d be far gone before Kate and Daniel’s real fight broke out.
Credits & References
—Always On My Mind was originally recorded by Brenda Lee, but I prefer either the Elvis Presley version or the Pet Shop Boys one.
—“Look! I’ll look like a troll doll!” Name that episode! Hilary gets all mad at Will because of a mishap with her hair, so she tries to choke him. Okay, I’ll name it for you: it’s (probably) When You Hit Upon a Star, season four, episode seventeen of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Kate wouldn’t miss one episode of that show. Anyone who gets the reference in the reference will be praised.
—Daniel likes to say ‘just about’ a lot. Kate says ‘the nerve’ a lot. That’s not a reference to anything in particular. It’s just how it is.
—Coming up next is the chapter where Guy gets so totally busted, the “return” of the mysterious Pixie-Dixie, and, gasp, who exactly has died in Charlie and Adam’s room? Another kid? Adam? Stay tuned!
Cimmy’s Notes: I’m back from my Easter Break and am now in the middle of my Spring Break, so I finally have some time over to update. Thanks for the reviews and for sticking with the story. The next update will probably be once school is over, as both Kristine and I are kind of busy at the moment.
Connie sat down in the cafeteria with her newly purchased cheese sandwich and Adam’s Economics Studies book. She was hell bent on figuring out how the budget and economy parts of the assignment were done to beat Daniel at his own, obnoxious game. She had to learn, or he’d belittle and taunt her for the extent of the project.
She’d gotten to the part about bookkeeping, and how to enter profits and losses, when she caught a glimpse of someone a few tables away. Remembering what Daniel had said a couple of days ago; she closed the book and put it aside. “He’s not here, you know,” she explained loud enough for her voice to carry through the room, and then she took a bite of her sandwich.
Guy lowered the book he’d held in front of his face, crestfallen, completely surprised that Connie had managed to spot him. He sighed heavily and got up to join her table. “How’s it going?”
Connie giggled at his attempt to sound cool. “It’s all right. I don’t need to yell at you again, do I?”
Guy smiled, stealing a piece of bread from her sandwich and putting it in his mouth. “I was just making sure you’re all right.”
“Yeah, I often get into loads of trouble in the cafeteria in broad daylight,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Daniel’s not gonna be here.”
“Well, it’s not about you—”
“No, not at all,” she interrupted sarcastically.
“I mean it! Charlie and the others are just as concerned about Daniel’s intentions—”
“His intentions are to drive me crazy. Guy, we went through this—”
Guy rested his head against the table. “I know, I know,” he whimpered. “I’m sorry. I know you can take care of yourself.”
“Yeah, but that’s not what I meant.” Connie reached out for his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You trust me, don’t you?”
Guy stared up at her, woefully, wondering why he always had to do things that made her feel insecure. “Man, I’m really sorry, Connie. I, uh… Of course I trust you. I just don’t—”
“-trust him,” she finished for him, expecting him to say all the standard lines to make her feel better—he didn’t do it to patronize her; it was just the only thing he could think of to say. Original expressions of emotion weren’t what sixteen year old boys knew best, after all. “Daniel is a jerk, that’s true. But aside from rude remarks and offensive questions, he’s pretty harmless. You don’t have to follow us around. That only makes it fun for him.”
Guy didn’t know what to say. Connie could assure him a thousand times that Daniel was as innocent as a dull poodle, and Guy would still think he was Beelzebub himself. “He doesn’t know I’m checking up on him,” Guy finally claimed.
“Guy, you’re just about as smooth as a bull in a china shop,” Connie said tiredly, reaching for her book again. “He spotted you by the pool the other day. And he knows you’ve been sneaking around under his window.”
Guy scoffed through his nose, trying to come off as indifferent even though he knew he’d been caught. “Connie, he’s only saying that.”
She smiled affectionately at him, tilting her head to the side. “Fine, Guy, but it would mean a lot to me if you stopped doing it anyway.”
Guy muttered something inaudibly.
“Fine, I promise. Man, we were really sneaky, though,” he said confidently. “How the hell did he figure it out?”
Connie shrugged thoughtfully. “I don’t know, Guy. He’s pretty smart. He knows the answers to all our assignments, and he hasn’t even looked at the papers yet. He just sits there and stares and talks about irrelevant matters while I try to explain what I’m having problem with, and all of a sudden he just tells me all the answers out of the blue, like it’s no big deal at all.”
“So, he’s smart,” Guy muttered quietly. “So what? A lot of people are.”
Connie scoffed. “Not smart enough to avoid retaking freshman year, obviously. If he’s supposed to be so damn smart, wouldn’t he have passed a long time ago?”
Guy straightened up, suddenly a lot more interested. “He flunked ninth grade?”
“He must have. He’s one year older than any freshman in this year. He probably spends too much time flirting with girls,” Connie hissed acidly. “You see? Someone can be a genius and still be as stupid as a cashew nut. Knowing all the answers doesn’t help if you don’t wanna answer the questions in the first place.”
Guy was barely listening to her anymore. “Right, sounds great. Gotta go.” With a swift movement he pushed back the chair and ran for the door. Connie watched him with bewilderment, surprised at his quick exit.
Luis was walking back to his dorm, having just followed Mindy back to hers after their trip in to the city. He was still trying to find a solution to be able to have time for everything Linda had planned for them. Not wanting to make her unnecessarily angry with him, he’d decided it was best to try and do as many of the things on her list as possible. Unfortunately, she seemed to be a hopeless perfectionist—and unnecessarily hyper regarding schoolwork. Luis wondered if maybe she was burying herself in work to compensate for how lonely she was without Charlie. Charlie had spent the first week after their breakup skating around the rink so much that he’d gotten an eye infection from the cold.
Getting to the bottom of Linda’s issues was suddenly the least of his problems, when Guy came running towards him. Luis’s first impulse was to run the other way, but decided that would only cause more problems than it would solve. “I got it! I got it! I have something!” Guy announced jubilantly, coming to an abrupt halt in front of him.
“What do you have?” Luis muttered, not in the mood for more of Guy’s jealous rampages through the school.
“Daniel. I know something about him. It might help us… do… something… I don’t know—something!” Guy ranted expectantly, looking more excited than ever. “We could—we could—we could use it against him somehow. I don’t know. It’s something, at least!”
“Guy, I don’t wanna disappoint you, but I’m really not in the mood for this right now. Linda and I aren’t getting along very well, and Mindy is pissed because I’ve had to cancel all our dates for next week. Could we please do this some other time?”
Guy shook his head enthusiastically. “No, no, no. We have to do this now. We need to get into the principal’s office. They keep all the student records there, I’ve seen them. All we need to do—”
“Oh, forget it!” Luis exclaimed nervously. “I’m not helping you break into the filing cabinets just because you think Daniel DeRienzo has connections in the mob!”
Guy laughed lightly, looking up and down the hallway. “Don’t be ridiculous. It’s not like it’s a crime or anything!” He grabbed Luis’s arm and started dragging him down the stairs.
The atmosphere in Fulton and Portman’s dorm room was not the best. “Hmm, this is tricky,” Kate mumbled slowly, taking a quick look at her paper sheet and then scrawling down something with her pen, holding her arm protectively around the paper to keep the others from seeing it. “It could be anyone.”
“There will be more than one murder here if you don’t hurry up!” Portman hissed. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
Kate drew a deep breath of indignation before she announced with an outraged voice, “Someone is dead, Dean, and you’re worrying about time.”
“Calm down,” he said nervously, hoping someone outside wouldn’t hear her shouting. “You think someone will notice?”
Fulton, who sat opposite him on the floor, leaned closer to investigate. “I don’t know, dude. It looks pretty bad.” He had trouble keeping a straight face.
“This is awful. Awful I’m telling ya,” Kate whimpered sadly, shaking her head. Her red curls fell into her face and she quickly brushed them away. “His life was so rich and full of joy and now look at him! Dead!”
Charlie rolled his eyes. “Oh, be more dramatic, will ya? Do you have to make a scene out of everything?”
Kate flashed a grin at him, before regaining her fake devastation. “I think we should pray,” she said solemnly.
“Oh, come on!” Adam finally snapped. “Just roll the dice already!”
Kate wrinkled her nose at him, rolled the dice and moved her piece across the board. “I think it’s Ms. Pinky in the study with the rope.”
Charlie sighed with relief. “Was that so hard? Took you ten damn minutes to roll the dice!”
“And you can’t make up your own names for them,” Adam pointed out, looking at his cards.
“Pink is a nicer color than scarlet,” Kate decided with a nod. “Scarlet clashes with my hair.”
“And pink doesn’t?” Fulton asked just to have something to say. He couldn’t care less if scarlet made her look like a green-eyed monster—which wasn’t too far from the truth, he’d learned that afternoon.
It had, of course, been Kate who’d convinced them that a ‘friendly game of Clue was just what they needed’ and for lack of other things to do, Fulton had agreed to it, and, although grudgingly, Portman had too. After convincing Charlie and Adam to join them, Fulton had expected them to play one round to keep Kate off their backs, so that they could throw her out without feeling guilty.
That had been one hour ago, and they were still in the first round, as Kate kept stalling the game each time it was her turn to roll the dice. Fulton suspected she was bored and didn’t have anyone else to bug—or ‘hang out with’, as she liked to call it. Portman wasn’t helping at all, either, by playing along with her nonsense.
“Whose turn is it?” Kate asked perkily, holding out the dice in front of her.
“Could we maybe stop playing this soon?” Adam muttered. “I still haven’t done all my homework and I have to leave to go home straight after school tomorrow.”
“And I’ve had enough of serious murders in my family for one day,” Charlie sulked, glaring at Adam.
“I wish I could have a serious murder in my family,” Portman growled as Kate forced the dice into his hand. “All right, let’s see… Five! Okay…”
“It’s Ms. Pinky, I’m telling ya!” Kate shrieked excitedly, almost upending the board. “This is so cool. Fred and Daniel never want to play with me.”
“One might wonder why,” Adam said, exchanging a look with Charlie, who in turn watched Kate as she leaned over the board to move Portman’s piece. “Why don’t you go play with your other friends?”
Kate shrugged limply. “Guess they got better things to do. Fred had to study with Julie, and Daniel left to go talk to some chick. He said it wasn’t Chrissie Connors, but he’s always looking at her anyway! Why would he do that?”
“Chrissie Connors? She’s hot,” Portman said tactlessly. Kate gasped heatedly, crossing her arms and turning her back against him. Adam rolled his eyes at her melodramatic performance. Portman went on, “I don’t think anyone here can disagree with that!”
“I can!” Kate shouted, spinning back to face him. “She looks like a pig.”
“A cute pig,” Fulton added.
“A hot pig,” Portman went on.
“A barbecued pig,” Adam filled in randomly.
“Don’t make me hungry!” Charlie complained.
Kate stared at them for a couple of blissfully quiet moments. “You all suck.” Adam was surprised to see that she actually seemed hurt by their opinions of Chrissie Connors, and it hadn’t been his—or the others, he assumed—intention to say something hurtful. Kate didn’t seem to get upset or genuinely sad very often, so he decided to let it go.
Charlie was thinking something along those lines too. “Come on, Kate, we’re just kidding with you. You can take that, can’t you?”
Kate sniffled dramatically. “Of course I can. You don’t understand anyway,” she said determinedly with her trademark pout.
“It’s perfectly understandable,” Adam said. “You’re jealous.”
“Nuh-uh!” Kate gasped even louder. Adam wondered how Fred and Daniel put up with her annoying sounds as much as they did. “I’m way prettier than she is!”
“Yeah, you are,” Charlie agreed to indulge her—at least that’s what Adam assumed he was doing.
Kate looked a bit flustered at Charlie’s remark but quickly shook it off. “She is my mortal enemy!”
“Mortal enemy?” Portman snickered. “Didn’t know teenage girls had those.”
“Yuh-uh, we do,” Kate nodded energetically. “You know, if it hadn’t been for her, I could’ve been the captain of the JV squad! But she’s always wrecked all my chances—wouldn’t even let me join until Ms. Sawyer stepped in! I had to be on the Goddamn pep squad!”
The others watched as she worked herself up into frenzy. “Kate…” Charlie tried.
“You know, Mindy Keller likes me better than Chrissie, she’s told me, and the Varsity cheerleaders have much more influence than we do, so Chrissie Connors can just bite me,” Kate spoke rapidly. Her voice turned bitter in an instant. “Daniel says he’s not interested in her, but she’s just the kind of slag he’s always drooling over. I… I’d hoped he liked being my friend more than he’d like getting her into bed, that’s all. But I guess he’s just like every other guy, only thinking about himself and how to get laid.”
Waiting to see if her tantrum was over or not, neither one of them said another word until Kate sighed heavily and relaxed a little. Adam made a feeble effort to say something. “Err… Kate?” he prodded. Kate looked up at him with questioning eyes. Adam had no idea what to say; he now knew more about her than he’d ever wanted to know, and he was quite certain that he didn’t care about it as much as Kate probably wanted someone to. He wasn’t even sure if he knew what a ‘slag’ was. “It’s your turn.”
Kate’s face lit up. “Oh, right! Forgot.” She reached for the dice, once again as cheerful as one could be. Adam realized that he preferred the perky Kate. The emotional Kate was much too scary.
Fred left Julie’s dorm five minutes before curfew. They had actually managed to get along fairly well without too many spats. They weren’t actually getting anywhere with their endless bickering; accusing her of being a spoiled brat would only backfire on himself, since he was just as spoiled as she was. And each time she told him how unreasonable he was, she was being just as unreasonable herself. Just like that, their fights went back and forth until one of them just gave up.
They still hadn’t settled which one of them was the richest, most spoiled brat—Fred was certain he was winning, though.
As he walked down the stairs from the girls’ dorm and turned the corner to head towards his own room, he almost walked right into a girl who was coming from the other direction—from the boys’ dorm. She had her arms folded and was staring into the floor, stopping only a few inches away from him and then looking up. “Sorry.”
Fred just nodded at first, taking a step to the left to walk around her. The girl also moved to his left, blocking his way again. When he tried walking on her right, she also stepped in that direction, until she lost her patience. “Could you watch where you’re going?” she growled with frustration, throwing her arms to her sides.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered. After having to deal with Julie all evening, he was dead tired of people snapping at him for no reason.
The girl glared intently at him, before sighing resignedly. “Sorry. I’m a bitch, I know.”
“No, you’re not,” he said immediately.
The girl looked him in the eyes. “No, maybe not, but I’m having a really bad day.”
“Join the club,” Fred mumbled, taking the opportunity to move past her now when she was standing still. He stopped and measured her with a look. She had light brown hair and brandy brown eyes, and he recognized her for some reason, but he wasn’t quite sure from where. Her hair was put up in a messy bun, and while she looked very pretty, she also looked exhausted, and he couldn’t leave it at that. “You all right?”
She shrugged dully. “It’s late, and I’m not in a good mood.”
Fred scoffed amusedly. “No one seems to be nowadays.” He suddenly knew where he’d seen her before. “You’re in my Health class.”
“Yeah,” she nodded. “What a joy it is,” she added with mock excitement. “I’m just dying to get married after this.”
Fred couldn’t help but smiling. “Who’s your partner?”
“Oh, I don’t have one,” she said with a determined nod. “I’m all on my own. Well, in theory it’s supposed to be Guy Germaine, but—”
“-he’s too busy stalking his girlfriend,” Fred continued, far too familiar with the source of her initial problem: Daniel. “I’m sorry.”
She sighed again. “Oh, it’s not your fault. I just… I have no idea how to pass this subject if I can’t even find him,” she mumbled dejectedly. “I’ve been to his dorm about a hundred times today, and he’s never there. And… and I think Ms. Hudson is about to fail me… so… that’d be bad. ‘Cause I’ll lose my scholarship if I don’t pass all my classes.”
She was starting to look extremely upset and Fred was worried that she might burst into tears, and he had no idea how to handle a crying girl other than to offer her chocolate. “I’m sure it’ll… be all right. I see Guy almost every day, I can tell him to stop being an ass and… help you out.”
“Thanks, but… All right, that’d be cool, actually,” she decided, nodding persistently, doing her best not to look so messed up. “That’s nice of you.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not having too much fun with my own partner, so I can relate,” he smiled. “I’m with Julie Gaffney. I mean, she’s a nice girl and all, I’m sure we’d get along if we weren’t forced to do this project, but… I guess we’re not compatible as partners.”
“It’s just so much to do,” she mumbled dispiritedly. “The outlines, and the stupid little eggs—did you know we have eight eggs to take care of?—and the budget—”
Fred straightened up. “We’ve finished our budget. If you want, I can try and help you with it.”
She hesitated for a second before she answered. “Are you sure you have time for that?”
“Yeah, it’s… it’s no big deal. Julie did most of the work anyway. I’m not allowed to touch anything before she’s finished it,” he explained with a nod.
She snickered a little. Fred noticed that she had a beautiful smile. “When do you have time?” she asked quietly.
“We can… we can do it now, if you want. Uh, I mean, we can do the budget… now,” he stuttered slightly.
“It’s almost curfew,” she pointed out, looking at the clock on the wall next to them.
“We should probably… uh… go somewhere there are no teachers,” she suggested thoughtfully. “Rainbow. Let’s go there.”
Fred was surprised, but had no problem obliging with that. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed her in class more distinctly earlier. They walked side by side down the corridor to sneak out through the side entrance on the second floor. Fred threw a quick look at her before he opened the door. “I’m Fred, by the way.”
She gave up a short laugh. “Yeah, I know,” she said amusedly. “Everyone knows who you are.”
For some reason, that made him feel slightly self-conscious. “Oh,” he mumbled, blushing.
She smiled shyly. “Your friend Daniel dated one of my friends once.”
“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said, trying to look at something else to keep the blush from creeping up on his face again. He was struck by an unsettling thought. “Oh. You… uh… you didn’t… You didn’t date him, did you?”
“Me?” she laughed. “I don’t think I’m his type.”
“You’d be surprised what he’d be willing to date just to get laid,” Fred muttered bitterly, and then wanted to bite his tongue off. “Uh, I mean…”
“It’s all right,” she said with a smirk. “He’s not my type.”
“Oh. That’s good,” he added, feeling strangely relieved. “Don’t change your mind… about that.”
“So, you’re Fred,” she smiled amusedly.
“Uh, yeah, that’s me. I don’t remember your name, though,” he explained uncertainly, feeling dumb for not knowing her name when they were in the same class together.
“It’s all right,” she assured him, with a much more cheerful tone from when he’d first met her. She held out her hand towards him and he shook it, as she told him her name. “I’m Lex O’Leary.”
He smiled. “Nice to meet you, Lex.”
She grinned at him when he held up the door for her, and they both snuck around the building to get to the diner.
Credits & References
—Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love is a song by Van Halen.
—I owe the entire Clue part of the chapter to Kristine. It was originally intended for another story.
—Also, the eight eggs was Kristine’s idea, not mine. Don’t ask me why it had to be eight.
—Six is the magic number. Stick around to find out how much trouble Guy and Luis will be in once they break into the principal’s office.
Cimmy’s Notes: Huge thanks to Kristine for having the time to edit this chapter, despite her busy schedule.
A loud crash resounded through the abandoned hallway outside the principal’s office. Dead silence reigned for a couple of seconds, before another sound, a smack, followed the first.
“Ouch! Cut it out!”
“Could you please keep it down?” Luis snarled, cautiously peeking out into the hallway.
“This thing is heavy!” Guy complained.
“Well, hurry up! If someone catches us here, after curfew, we’ll be in so much trouble.”
Guy grabbed the handle of the large toolbox he’d tried to lift onto the secretary’s desk outside the office. “You could help, you know.”
“I’m a lookout,” Luis said nervously, still placed by the door, throwing anxious glances in all directions.
“It’ll go faster if you help!” Guy exclaimed shrilly, tugging at the box’s handle to indicate he needed help with it. Luis sighed, taking one last precautionary look out into hallway before putting the flashlight aside on the bookshelf next to him and grabbing the other handle of the toolbox, helping Guy lift it up on the desk. “Thank you. Do you think I can use a hammer to get it open?”
“Are you insane?” Luis muttered, although already aware of the answer. “Do you wanna wake up the entire school?”
Guy had a worried puppy eyed expression on his face, and Luis decided to help out so they could get out of there as soon as possible. “Give me the screwdriver.”
Guy did happily as he was told and then he went over to fetch the flashlight, jumping up to sit at the edge of the desk. “He’ll never see this coming.”
“Oh, yes he will, if you’re stupid enough to announce it to the entire school,” Luis muttered, crouching down next to the desk, trying to come up with a way to break into the locked drawer without destroying valuable property. “Check so no one’s coming.”
“I’m sure there’s like a whole bunch of dirt in his records. He can’t both be smart and be pulled back a year. Whatever it is, it must be awesome!”
“Could you dampen your enthusiasm just a little? And shut up, too.”
“Connie’ll see what kind of juvenile delinquent he really is,” Guy went on, juggling the flashlight in his hands. “Oh, she’ll see—oh, crap…”
“What?” Luis said without taking his eyes off the desk.
“Oh, man, I promised her I wouldn’t stalk Daniel any more.”
“What! I’ve risked getting kicked out of school for nothing! Now you’re telling me this, when we’ve already broken like twenty pretty serious school rules?” Luis hissed as loud as he dared. He hit the palm of his hand against the screwdriver with forceful strength, fuming with repressed anger.
Guy looked worried again, but was quickly distracted. “You got it open, great!”
Luis turned back to the desk and noticed that his last blow had made the drawer slide open. Guy pushed him aside and snatched the bunch of keys at the bottom of the drawer. “You’re welcome,” Luis growled, crawling up from the floor. “And what about Connie?”
“What? Oh…” Guy froze just as he was about to unlock the filing cabinet over by the window. “Uh… You know, she only said she didn’t want me to follow him around. She said nothing about—”
“-stealing school documents?” Luis said, rolling his eyes. “I’m pretty sure she’d have a lot to say if she knew about this.”
“I’m technically not breaking my promise, am I?” Guy asked thoughtfully, chewing on his lip.
“I seriously don’t give a shit,” Luis muttered tiredly. Guy didn’t seem to listen to anything he said anyway.
“So, yeah,” Guy nodded, snapping out of his thoughtful daze and opening the top drawer with the label A-D. “Better grab it now and think about it later, huh?”
“Just do it.”
“All right, all right! Umm… There’s like nothing at all in Adam’s… Oh, here’s Charlie’s folder! Man, it’s more packed than any other folder in the—oh, never mind, Daniel’s is even thicker—”
While listening to Guy’s constant babble, Luis suddenly saw the light switch on somewhere close to the hallway they were in. “Hurry up! Someone’s coming!”
“What?” Guy turned to look at him, and then snapped his head to the door when Luis pointed towards the light. “Damn.”
“Come on, we gotta go,” Luis whispered hurriedly, trying to push the toolbox off the desk by himself. Guy was still holding Daniel’s folder. “Let go of that! We don’t have time, let’s go!”
“Do you wanna get kicked out one week before school ends?” Luis snapped, making one last effort at lifting the toolbox. Guy shook his head. “Well, come on then!”
Guy nodded, but when trying to put all the folders he’d taken out back in the cabinet, he dropped the one he was holding—all the papers and documents in Daniel’s folder slipped down and flew in all directions once they hit the floor. Both Guy and Luis swore. “Damn, damn, damn,” Guy muttered as he bent down to pick everything up.
Luis heard someone approach the office. “Guy, leave it. We gotta go,” he whispered nervously, his heart beating louder than ever. “Help me lift this down.”
Guy quickly stuffed the other folders back in the cabinet and slammed it shut. Taking one last look at the mess on the floor, he grabbed a couple of random papers from the pile and stuffed them into his pocket. Then he went over to the window and pushed it open. With their combined strength, they managed to haul the toolbox out of the window before crawling out themselves. Guy fell headfirst into the dirt, but before he could swear some more, Luis clapped a hand over his mouth. The door to the office had opened.
Lex took another sip from her bottle of Coke, sending Fred an amused smile, with a strange twinkle in her eyes that he couldn’t quite interpret. “That’s funny,” she said. “Of all the schools in the state—in the country, even—they decide to send you to Eden Hall.”
“Maybe not hysterically funny,” he laughed. “I hated it at first, but it’s had its advantages.”
Lex smiled coyly, still with the straw in her mouth. “I didn’t like it at first either, after I got my scholarship. But I had a friend with me from back home, and we stuck together until we found some new friends, and… You know, he’s my best friend.”
For some reason, he loved listening to her talk. “I guess it must be sorta different… I mean, I’ve gone to private schools ever since I was a kid. I never really liked it anywhere, but I like it here. I don’t know, it’s just different, is all.”
“Well, if you can go just about anywhere you want, why’d your parents send you here?” she asked curiously, chewing on a french-fry. “Wouldn’t it be more convenient for them if you went somewhere close to where you live?”
Fred made a grimace. “Eh, I’m sure it would. To be honest, not many schools would want me, no matter how rich my dad is. He had to promise the school board to fund the new library and one of the new dormitories before they would even consider accepting me. I guess I’m a troublemaker.”
Lex started laughing. “You? In that case you’re the worst troublemaker I’ve ever seen.”
Fred grinned. “Managing to get bad grades isn’t really that much trouble at all, that’s true. It’s not that bad here, though. I’m glad they sent me here.”
“Yeah,” she nodded amusedly. “You know, you’re not really how I pictured you at all.”
“You’ve pictured me?” he asked with a smug grin.
Her cheeks turned a bit pink but she didn’t look away. “Yeah, don’t you think everyone does?”
“I haven’t really thought about it,” he said earnestly. “Why would they?”
“Well, you’re rich, and popular, and, umm…” she hesitated for a moment. “You know, generally good-looking.”
“Oh,” he said, feeling himself blush again and had to look down into table. “Well… Most people at the school are.”
She simply shrugged. “Yeah, but you’re richer, and more popular, and more—” she cut herself off and cleared her throat. “What I mean is, you’re like Rick Riley. But nice.”
Fred laughed a little. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Everyone wants to know everything about the richest and most popular—that’s how it works,” Lex explained with another shrug. “And you’re special.”
“I am?” he replied, wishing he could stop blushing for everything she said.
“Yeah,” she said. “You’re not like the others. You’re not stuck-up because you have a lot of money. And you’re definitely not mean to those who don’t have as much money as you. You’re the good kind of celebrity around here.” Fred could only smile self-consciously at this. “You’re nice to everyone you meet, no matter how good, bad, rich—or ugly—they are. That’s why everyone likes you. That’s why everyone around here wants to be your friend.”
“I guess… it’s not the worst thing to be.”
“You don’t think you are special from all the other snobs?” she snorted.
“No. Not really. I think I’m just like them.”
“But nice and non-judgmental,” she added quickly.
“Uh, maybe. I don’t know.”
“Well, it’s the truth,” she stated conclusively. “But I still pictured you to be different from this.”
“How?” he wanted to know.
“You never really say a lot during lessons, and whenever I see you with your friends, you let them talk while you listen. So I kinda assumed you wouldn’t be much fun to talk to. And… well, I know you’re good with sports, so I chalked you up to be—”
“A stupid jock,” he mumbled, knowing far too well that was what most people thought of him.
“But you’re not. You’re actually pretty smart,” she said decisively. “So people are wrong… when they say that.”
Fred didn’t know what to say. “That’s… Thank you.”
“People always talk a lot of bullshit,” she shrugged, leaning back in her seat. “I mean, come on, they think I’m some stoned, poor loser just because I’m in a rock band.”
Fred laughed. “That’s not really true, is it?”
Lex also laughed, wiping the back of her hand at the corner of her mouth. “My parents work on Wall Street and they live on Park Avenue. And last time I smoked anything, I was climbing the walls for hours afterwards, so I don’t see that happening again any time soon. And I’m too cool to be a loser.”
“Yes, you are,” he grinned. “I’m… Do you wanna go to a party with me tomorrow?” Lex looked at him in surprise. Fred wasn’t sure why she was surprised. He’d always been outspoken, saying what he had on his mind without analyzing it to bits like some people tended to do. He hadn’t ever had a problem with telling a girl he liked her, or asking her out if that’s what he wanted. That usually didn’t happen very often, though; that he found someone he wanted to date. He wasn’t sure what he wanted with Lex, but she was nice and he really wanted to get to know her better, even if it would only be as friends.
“A party?” she asked.
“Yeah, the hockey team’s throwing a big bash at Adam Banks’ house tomorrow night. You wanna go?”
She smiled at him, with that same mysterious twinkle in her eyes as earlier. “Sure. Sounds like fun.”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” he suggested. “There’s always something happening that makes it chaotic all around.”
“You’re the party expert,” she smiled, shrugging. “So… Is this like a date or something?”
Fred laughed shortly. “Nah, it’s just a party. You can bring a friend if you want.”
“Oh,” she said, still smiling, but looking slightly disappointed. “Sure, I’ll do that, if that’s all right. I told you about my friend, right?”
“Not really,” he smiled. “But you can tell me about him if you want.”
“Okay,” she replied. “We’re gonna need more snacks.”
“Definitely,” he said, looking at the empty trays on the table. When he turned to have the waitress come over to them, he caught a glimpse of the clock on the wall and noticed that it was almost eleven.
He couldn’t care less, though.
Connie walked into her room, balancing her books and bag on one arm, and carrying a cup of coffee in her other hand. It had taken her hours to understand the basics of how the budget was supposed to be calculated, but she was tired and sick of all things economy. Daniel could say whatever he wanted, at least she had tried to understand it.
She found Julie sprawled on her own bed with one arm covering her face. “Headache?”
Julie threw a quick look at her, scoffing. “Yeah, I wish. I’ve had a migraine ever since Fred left.” She sighed deeply and sat up. “You know, it’s not even that he’s particularly lazy or anything; at least he’s trying to help, but… He just… doesn’t get it! It’s an evil cycle. He doesn’t understand, so I try to explain, and then I get impatient, so that makes him nervous, and that only makes it harder for him to concentrate.”
Connie nodded sympathetically. “I’m sure he’ll understand soon.”
“I don’t know. I’ve given up the hope. We just keep fighting over the most ridiculous things. He reminds me of Scooter, and it’s not really his fault, but he acts just like…” Julie growled with frustration. “You know? Everything he does is annoying because he reminds me of someone else.”
“That’s not his fault, though,” Connie pointed out.
Julie fell back onto the bed. “Yeah, I know. But he’s fighting with me too, so it’s not just me being a bitch. He says I remind him of his ex. Can you believe that?”
“Eh… You just said he reminds you of Scooter…”
Julie covered her face with her hands, moaning loudly. “It’s such a mess! He wasn’t this annoying when he was playing with us, was he?”
“I wish he could try harder, that’s all,” Julie mumbled, her words muffled by her hands. “How’s it going for you?”
“You mean besides Guy and Luis jumping out at me from behind various bushes and furniture? It’s going great,” Connie muttered moodily. “And my partner’s an ass.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Julie mumbled distractedly, still thinking about her own problems. “I guess it could be worse. I mean, Fred might be slow and annoying, but at least he’s not an ass. He’s pretty nice, actually, when we’re not arguing.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Connie said, sitting down on her own bed, kicking off her shoes. “I’d be happy to trade with you.”
“Well, you get along with Fred. I don’t.”
“And I guess nobody gets along with Daniel,” Connie muttered, taking a deep breath. “Party tomorrow?”
“You got it. Should be fun.”
They both started laughing. “Let’s just hope it won’t be a complete disaster,” Connie suggested, giggling.
“Like last time, when Jesse got stuck up that tree?” Julie snickered, sitting up.
“Ooh, we should invite him!” Connie suggested. “I don’t think anyone’s told him about the party yet.”
“Adam’ll pop a blood vessel when he sees how many people will show up at his house tomorrow,” Julie said, sounding a bit sympathetic. “God, my parents would kill me if I threw a huge party while they were out of town.”
“Oh, come on, it’ll be fun!” Connie smiled. “We’ll help him clean up afterwards, put everything back in its place. His grandparents won’t ever find out.”
Julie gave up a short laugh. “He seemed most worried about that dog, though. Binky?”
“Dinky. That dog is vicious. When Jesse and I were at his place once, and Adam’s parents were looking after that dog while his grandparents were on vacation, Dinky almost chewed off Jesse’s leg.” Connie shuddered at the thought. “You definitely don’t wanna know what he did to my leg.”
“We’ll lock him into one of the bedrooms,” Julie suggested with a shrug. “Can’t have him around humping the party guests, can we?”
“Maybe we can train him and set him off on Riley?”
“Hey, that’s an idea,” Julie grinned evilly. “I’ve never been to Adam’s house. Is it big?”
“I’ve never been to his grandparents’ house either,” Connie explained, getting up to walk over to the window. “It looks big from outside. Just think, if they live in such a huge mansion, wouldn’t it be cool to see where Fred and those people live? They’re ten times as much richer. But I guess I’m easily impressed from growing up in the back alleys of the inner-city.”
“Oh, exaggerate some more,” Julie smiled, knowing Connie wasn’t that bad off.
Connie glanced amusedly at her. “I guess you’re used to it. You live in a big house, too.”
“No, actually, I share a dorm room with you, and I’d like it if you could pick up your laundry before Fred shows up next time so he won’t think we’re white trash or anything,” Julie said firmly, kicking one of Connie’s shoes across the floor.
Connie rolled her eyes, leaving her spot by the window. “Yes, Mom.”
Julie grinned. “A bit of cleanliness has never killed anyone.”
“Not yet,” Connie said, while gathering her clothes off the floor. Julie just laughed at this.
Credits & References
—Don’t Fear the Reaper is a song by Blue Oyster Cult. It was Kristine’s idea. I claim no responsibility. 😛
—Chapter eight involves My Little Pony, Jello, shopping, tequila and more smashed eggs. Don’t miss it!
Cimmy’s Notes: It’s been over a year since I updated, and all I can say is that I’ve lost motivation to keep updating like I used to. Chapters nine and ten are finished and have been so for the last two years, but as soon as they’re posted I doubt I will have the time to continue writing this story. I hope you have enjoyed the story so far, and I hope you will like these new (last) chapters. Thank you for reading!
The following day didn’t seem to shape up to be any better than the previous. Averman made an astoundingly $32 after Kate and Portman got into a huge—and loud—dispute concerning the chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria. After a few lethal threats, Averman decided to share some of the win with Portman.
To prepare for the big party later that day, to which Adam was still objecting loudly, Portman dragged Russ and Dwayne away from English class to go pick up some necessary items at the store. Even though it had been his suggestion, Portman complained all the way there. The topic was, of course, Kate McKinley. “Did you know that she collects those tiny little plastic horses? She talks about them like they’re people! ‘Bucky did this, Poncho did that, oh, look at little Ashie’—who would put up with that?!”
Russ shrugged, barely listening. “Those friends of hers?”
“And her hair! It’s like a farming accident; you can’t not be annoyed with it!”
“Apparently not,” Russ sighed, exchanging a weary look with Dwayne. They were both sick of hearing of Kate McKinley’s latest escapades. “I’m actually starting to regret missing out on another dull literature lecture.”
“Yeah,” Dwayne said glumly. “Mrs. Bartoli were gonna tell us all about Medieval literature today. Sounded interesting.”
Russ made a grimace. That didn’t sound the least interesting at all to him. “Uh, yeah. That’s what I’m sayin’. Hey, Portman, did you just drag us along to tell us all about Kate McKinley’s My Little Ponies?”
“No. We’re going to buy stuff, too,” Portman explained briefly.
“Oh, please, don’t drown us in details,” Russ muttered.
Portman was not interested in talking about anything other than Kate for the rest of their walk to the supermarket a few blocks away. He hadn’t told anyone yet—save Fulton—but he had already worked out a plan to get rid of Kate McKinley, even if it would take a lot of effort and determination to make it happen. Portman wasn’t used to putting that much effort into anything but figured it would pay off eventually.
Russ and Dwayne walked a few steps behind Portman, while Portman went into a long rant about Kate’s favorite My Little Pony. “This is gonna take us nowhere,” Russ complained, scowling at the back of Portman’s neck. “Listenin’ to him rant about that girl’s ponies—is this the problems rich people have?”
Dwayne shrugged slowly. “What about the party?” he asked with a smile.
“Yeah, what about the party?” Russ muttered. “There’s no way we’re gonna have time to buy anything if Mr. Short Attention Span over there keep focusing on that damn girl!” He turned to face Dwayne and they both stopped at the crossing, while Portman walked right into the street without looking. “It’s up to us, Cowboy. You and me, we’ll make sure we get everything for tonight, all right?”
Dwayne contemplated this for a moment, while listening to the sound of screeching tires and Portman cussing. “What am I supposed to do?”
“That’s the spirit!” Russ grinned widely. “I’ll think of what we need. And somebody gotta baby-sit Portman so he won’t accidentally commit suicide.”
Dwayne nodded practically, following Russ across the road.
Luis Mendoza was not a happy guy.
After having to spend three hours hiding in a rosebush the previous night, and picking thorns out of his arms and legs for an additional three hours, and getting a grand total of two hours of sleep, just to be met by a surprise pop-quiz in his English class, Luis was at his patience’s end. Guy hadn’t even bothered to show up for class; Luis guessed that sneaking across campus in the middle of the night had taken its toll on the moron.
He didn’t have time to be annoyed with Guy, though. He was to meet up with Linda over lunch, and considering how ‘well’ things had transpired between them the past week, Luis knew it would take all his strength not to kill her on the spot. Charlie probably wouldn’t approve of that.
To his surprise, and utter relief, Linda seemed to have found something more important than schoolwork to devote her time to. She was ten minutes late for lunch, so Luis had decided to go sit with Mindy at her table when Linda finally came running. “Something important has come up,” she explained hurriedly without saying hello first. “Will you be terribly upset if I cancel our lunch? We’ll met up tomorrow instead, all right?”
“I don’t know, that sounds like something Ms. Hudson would give us an F for,” Luis muttered.
“What? No, she won’t do that, will she?” Linda asked worriedly.
“I was kidding,” Luis sighed tiredly. “I don’t care. I don’t think the eggs will care much either.” He juggled one of the eggs in his hand.
Linda immediately grabbed it in mid-air. “Be careful! What if it breaks?” she shouted with a high-pitched voice before slapping his hand and running off.
“She’s a neurotic little lady, isn’t she?” Mindy pointed out after watching the scene between Linda and Luis play out.
“I would say yes, but this project is making everyone high-strung,” Luis said, shaking his head. He took the egg Linda had placed on the table and tapped it against the edge of the tray. Linda had been too worked up to notice that the egg wasn’t their unborn child, but Luis’ actual lunch. “Was it like this when you did this project?”
“Hardly,” Mindy muttered. “I was paired with Cole. Had to do all the work myself to avoid failing completely.”
Luis snorted with laughter. “With Cole? Can he even spell marriage?”
Mindy smiled, shoving at him with her elbow. “He’s not that stupid. He managed to keep all our eggs in one piece, which is more than I can say for you.”
“What? This is the egg from the cafeteria,” Luis said, holding up the hardboiled egg for her to see.
“I’m talking about the egg that’s currently making a break for it,” Mindy chuckled, pointing at another egg that was rolling across the table towards the edge.
Luis leaned forward to grab the egg before it plunged to the floor, but before he had a chance to catch it, someone put down their tray right on the egg, crushing it to pieces. “Oh, crap!” Luis exclaimed, hitting his forehead against the table.
“Aww, Luis,” Mindy snickered, patting him on the arm. “It’s just an egg, honey. We’ll go to the store later.”
Cole stared down at him, unaware that he’d just placed his tray on Luis’ firstborn. “What is it?”
“You smashed my egg,” Luis sighed woefully.
“Stop being such a bitch and go get another one, then,” Cole muttered, rolling his eyes. He picked up the tray and looked under it. “Man, I thought they boiled the egg or something before they serve them.”
Luis glared at him. “Cole, spell marriage for me.”
Portman had packed their trolley so full that things were starting to fall to the floor each time they pushed it to another aisle. “There’s no way in hell we can afford all this,” Russ pointed out, as Portman shooed Dwayne away to get a second trolley. “Do you have money for all this?”
“It’s not that much,” Portman sighed, not sure why he’d brought Russ with him in the first place, since all he did was whine and complain. “Ooh, we need Jell-O!”
“And mix it with what? Milk and cookies?” Russ asked tiredly. Portman grabbed a bunch of packages of Jell-O, carrying it in his arms, waiting for Dwayne to come back.
“I’ll think of something,” Portman explained determinedly, starting to walk. “Man, someone oughtta have an older brother or cousin or something that can buy us a few bottles—hey, don’t you have a brother?”
“Yeah, he lives in Los Angeles,” Russ said with forced calm.
Portman looked thoughtful. “That probably won’t work, no… Adam’s got one, doesn’t he?”
“I suspect he won’t like the idea of buying us alcohol so we can trash his grandparents’ place,” Russ muttered, wondering why he was cutting classes for this.
“Isn’t there anyone we can ask? It won’t be no party if we haven’t got—” Portman ranted, but was effectively cut off when he turned the corner and walked right into someone. All his Jell-O packages fell to the floor. “Dammit, look where you’re walking—oh, it’s you.”
Russ was glad that it was just Fred they’d run into, and not some old lady with a walker. “Sorry, I didn’t see you,” Fred apologized, bending down to help Portman gather the Jell-O. “You guys shopping for tonight?”
Russ could see Portman coming up with a brand new scheme right on the spot. His face lit up into a wide diabolic grin. “Uh, yeah, you’ll be there, right?”
“Thought so,” Fred shrugged, handing over two strawberry flavored Jell-O packages.
“You’ve got money, right?” Portman asked excitedly, dropping all the packages into the trolley so Russ had to throw himself over it to keep everything from falling.
“Uh, I guess so,” Fred said suspiciously as Portman lead him towards the checkout counter.
They’d only gotten a few steps when Daniel suddenly blocked their way. “Couldn’t find her, man. I saw her walk in here… What’s going on?”
“Hi, Daniel,” Portman said with as much genuine niceness as he could procure.
Daniel, however, didn’t have a trace of the naivety Fred had. “What do you want?” he asked brusquely.
Russ decided to interfere before Portman chose to make some irreparable damage to Daniel and toss him into one of the iceboxes down the aisle. “We were talkin’ about getting something for the party tonight. You guys wanna chip in on buying a kegger or something?” It was the only thing he could think of to say that wouldn’t result in a bloodbath. Luckily, it seemed to be an acceptable suggestion by both parties.
Daniel grabbed one of the Jell-O packages. “You can’t make jelly shots with beer,” he frowned, staring at Portman as if he was crazy. “You need vodka or tequila.”
“Well, if you know how to get that—” Portman snapped, taking a step closer to Daniel, who backed away.
“Maybe I do,” Daniel said defiantly, trying to look like Portman wasn’t intimidating him at all, which had him moving backwards until he was standing behind of Fred.
“Right,” Portman snorted, scowling.
“I think my connections are a wee bit better than yours,” Daniel growled defensively, throwing back the Jell-O to Russ.
“Oh, really?” Portman said doubtfully, crossing his arms over his chest.
Daniel glared back, and shuffled his feet hesitantly, before lowering his voice. “Fred, you can get that stuff, can’t you?”
Russ saw that Fred had trouble keeping from laughing. He suspected that the only real connection Daniel had was, after all, Fred. “Uh, yeah,” Fred said nicely. “What do you guys need?”
Daniel sent Portman a triumphant glance, mumbling insults under his voice while Portman thought up a list of things for Fred to get for them. Fred had just explained that he probably couldn’t get twenty bottles of Casa Noble tequila on that short notice when Dwayne returned, accompanied by Connie and Guy.
“What’s up? You gonna buy all that?” Connie asked, looking at the poor trolley that was almost falling sideways under the weight from all the bottles of Sprite Portman had stacked on one side. “What’s going on?”
“Business, Connie. You wouldn’t understand,” Portman grinned.
“Oh, it’s a man thing, is it? God knows there’s enough of that in the world already,” Connie muttered, sending Guy an annoyed look. “We’re only here to buy band-aids. Guy says he got stuck in a tree yesterday. For three hours. Apparently some trees at Eden Hall have rose thorns now.”
Guy wasn’t paying attention to Connie at all; he was staring at Daniel with an evil glimpse in his eyes. Russ was rather glad he didn’t know what Guy was up to.
“Hey, I’ve been looking for you,” Daniel exclaimed loudly. Connie winced; she hadn’t seen him from where he was lurking behind Fred. “You were supposed to give me your part of the budget report today! You think I’ll want to read through that shit tonight when I’m drunk?”
“I don’t have it with me right now,” Connie muttered. “C’mon Guy, let’s go pay for this.”
Daniel walked up to them. “You weren’t skulking outside my window last night, were you? There are rosebushes there too, ya know.”
“Thanks, I know,” Guy grimaced. “And no, I weren’t. Get over yourself.”
“You’re the one who keeps stalking me! Why don’t you get over yourself?” Daniel growled. Fred stepped between them before they started ripping each other’s throats out.
Dwayne followed Guy outside to avoid more semi-fights, and Russ let Connie pay first since she was only buying some band-aids. Portman was still instructing Fred on what sort of alcohol he wasn’t supposed to get. Daniel seemed to have grown bored of starting fights with everyone around him, so he cut in line and pushed himself in between the trolley and Connie, out to cause more trouble.
“That’ll be $1.75,” the cashier told Connie.
“Man, I only have a dollar,” Connie muttered, going through her pockets. “Russ, do you have—”
“I can pay,” Daniel said quickly. Connie made a face, mumbling ‘thank you’ under her breath. “It’s all right honey, no need to pay me back—”
“Don’t call me—” Connie hissed angrily.
“Oh, and wait…” Daniel interrupted, looking around until he found what he was looking for. “We’re gonna need a package of these.” He held out a package of condoms for the cashier, who in turn just rolled her eyes.
Connie flushed red, stomping her foot at his toes. “No, we don’t! Daniel!”
“What? You’ll make good use of these, Moreau. With all your boyfriends and escapades, they won’t even last ‘til tomorrow.”
Connie gasped loudly, hitting his arm hard with her fist and turning to Russ again. “Russ, please, do you have 75 cents?”
Before Russ could go through his own pockets, mostly for show since he knew he didn’t have any money at all with him, Daniel placed his arms on Connie’s shoulders and pushed her towards the exit. “You have to excuse my girlfriend. She gets a bit feisty,” he explained to the cashier. “It’s that time of the month.”
Connie growled angrily, shoving at him with such force that he stumbled into the trolley. The Jell-O packages fell to the floor again. Too pissed off to get another word out, Connie turned and stormed out; shoving at people left and right to get past them.
Daniel snickered and got to his feet again. “Just put her stuff on the same tab as this,” he said, nodding at the items Russ had begun taking up from the trolley.
Daniel hurried after Connie, most likely to torture her some more, and Portman pushed past Russ, also heading for the exit. “Man, I’m getting sick of this place. Meet me outside, dude.”
Russ growled and was about to object when he spotted Connie’s dollar, still on the counter. He grabbed it and decided to see if he could catch her before she imploded with rage. “Connie, wait up!”
Fred sighed heavily, realizing he was the only one left to pay for all the things in the trolley.
Credits & References
—Spirit of Radio is a song by Rush.
—Yes, I know the My Little Ponies have actual names, but I can never remember them, and I doubt Kate would care about that even if she could remember them.
—Did you know that there are at least three different ways to spell ‘Jell-O shots’?
—Casa Noble is an exclusive brand of tequila. Portman has expensive taste.
Cimmy’s Notes: Cimmy’s Corner has moved. Please check it out at (cimmy/dot/inthemoonlight/dot/net) or click your way through from my profile.
The last time Luis had seen Guy, he’d been miserable; cold, wet and with rose thorns in various painful places in his body. This was not the Guy he met in their room after classes, even though he was covered with band-aids, most noticeably on his right ear and left cheek. For once, Luis could sort of understand why Mindy thought all his friends were crazy, as Guy was bouncing all over the room with the papers he’d stolen the night before.
Mindy had followed him up to his room to get the books she’d left there earlier, and both of them stood silently in the doorway, watching Guy run around like a maniac. “What’s up with him?” she whispered to Luis.
“No idea. Hormones?”
Mindy laughed, grabbing her books from his desk. “Well, get him to calm down a bit. I’m not sharing a car with him if he’s gonna be all hyper. I get enough of that from my little brother.” Luis nodded with a grin, leaning in to kiss her goodbye. Mindy jumped back. “Watch it, lip gloss!”
“You’ll live.” Luis rolled his eyes and pulled her closer to give her a proper kiss, despite the violation of the important lip gloss.
Mindy sighed, smiling slightly. “You’re impossible.”
He laughed. “You’re the one worrying about your damn lip gloss!”
“Yeah, yeah,” she smiled, pushing him away from the door so she could leave. “Pick me up at seven?”
“You got it,” he smiled back, closing the door with his foot. “And you, you moron, what’s up with you?”
Guy waved with the paper. “This, Mendoza, is gold. Pure gold.”
“Oh, yeah? Is he wanted in five states?”
“No, it’s better than that!” Guy exclaimed happily, throwing himself down on his bed. “Of all the papers I could’ve snagged, I took the best ones!”
“I’m sure,” Luis muttered, highly disinterested. He went over to his closet and pulled out a sweater that seemed cleaner than most of the others; making a mental note that it was time to do laundry.
“Look at this,” Guy said dreamily, glancing fondly at Daniel’s records. “He got kicked out from eight schools! And at his last school, he got caught smoking pot in the hallway after curfew! I told you he was a juvenile delinquent. I’ve got all the proof I need now. Do you think it’s enough to get him kicked out of Eden?”
“Uh, Guy, I think they already know all this, since it’s in his records,” Luis pointed out, checking under the bed to see if his towel was there, making another mental note that they needed to clean their room.
“Right. Well, maybe they didn’t look very close?” Guy suggested, reaching for straws. “I could tell them—”
“And also explain to them what the hell you’re doing with Daniel’s missing student record?”
“Oh, right,” Guy said thoughtfully. “I could at least tell Connie, right? She won’t think too highly of him after this!”
“I think she already dislikes him quite a lot,” Luis continued. “And you’re gonna tell her how you stole school property?”
“Work with me here!” Guy shouted frantically. “What the hell am I gonna do with his stupid student record if I can’t tell anyone about all the shitty things he’s done?!”
“That’s exactly what I wanna know too,” Luis muttered. “I’m taking a shower. We’re heading to Adam’s in two hours, Guy. Maybe you should get ready or something?”
Guy scoffed. “Yeah, yeah, blah, blah. Look here, he was suspended for starting a fight in the assembly hall… oh, and it says that some guy reported him for assault two years ago—oh! Vandalism!”
Luis closed the door behind him, dead tired of hearing of whatever it was Daniel DeRienzo had vandalized.
“I’m locking the door.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am. You’re not getting in there.”
“Yes, we are.”
“You’re not getting in there!”
“Yeah, we are!”
“You’ll scare the hell out of Dinky!”
“Nobody cares about that stupid dog!”
Adam gasped indignantly. “Dinky has been in the family for—”
“Ages and ages, yes, Banks, I know the damn story!” Charlie shouted. “That dog is crazy, and has most likely rabies or something!”
Adam shrugged stubbornly. “I’m locking the door.”
“You’re not locking the door!”
“Is there gonna be an intermission soon? I’m out of lemonade,” Kate spoke up. She was sitting on Charlie’s desk, watching Adam and Charlie argue back and forth regarding the party that would take place in a couple of hours.
“Lemonade? Talk like a normal person!” Adam snapped aggressively, taking a few big steps towards the door to leave the room and slamming it shut behind himself.
Kate looked at Charlie with a confused expression. “I thought I was talking like a normal person. They say that all the time in England. My grandmother calls it fizzy drinks. You think I should’ve said that instead?” she asked curiously, chewing on her straw.
“Ah, don’t worry about it,” Charlie suggested, grinning. “He’s just pissed off at me. We fight like this all the time. You just happened to get in the way. The others never interrupt when we fight.”
Kate shrugged happily, jumping down from the desk. “It’s all right. Daniel shouts at me all the time when he’s angry. I don’t really care.”
Charlie sat down on his bed, looking through the pile of laundry he’d dumped on the bedspread, which had been the initial trigger to his fight with Adam. “What’re you doing here, McKinley?”
“I dunno. I got bored and thought I’d hang here for a while,” Kate explained cheerfully, slipping a hand through her hair. “Fred took Daniel with him to go talk to some people.”
“Right, they’re getting the drinks,” Charlie nodded to himself.
“Yeah, they say I can’t come with them when they’re doing illegal stuff. They say I’ll get them into trouble. They say I suck when it comes to keeping my mouth shut.”
“And that is somehow related to them getting us liquor?” Charlie grinned.
Kate sat down next to him, throwing her empty soda can in the trash. “Oh, shut up. I’m a lady. I don’t make a lot of noise.”
Charlie laughed. “You make more noise than anyone I’ve ever met, Kate!”
Kate giggled. “I’m special.”
“Yeah, you are,” he said earnestly, smiling.
They gazed at each other for a second. Kate opened her mouth to say something, but they were both interrupted by Portman, who came bursting into the room without knocking. “We got the stuff,” he announced loudly, casting a quick glance their way. “Eww, I’m not interrupting something, am I?”
Charlie stood up. “Don’t be stupid. What’d you get?”
Portman scoffed. “Good. Damn, even you can do better than that.”
Kate kicked at his leg when she went for the door. “I’m a wonderful girl and I’m sure Charlie would love to be my boyfriend,” she said with a pout. She was pushed out of the way by Daniel, who came carrying another two bags that seemed to contain a few more bottles.
“You tell yourself that, Red,” Daniel muttered, putting the bags on Adam’s bed.
Kate didn’t have time to shout a reply, as Adam came running in after them, shoving her out of the way in the process. “You’re not bringing that into my grandparents’ house!”
“Banks, chill out!” Portman groaned with annoyance. “It’s just a damn party; it’s not the end of the world!”
Kate glanced at Charlie, before deciding it was better to leave to let them settle the fight on their own. Daniel grabbed her arm and hauled her out into the hallway as she waved goodbye to Charlie. He waved back with an apologizing look on his face.
“What is with you?” Daniel growled as they walked back down to get to their own dorms. “Must you flirt with everything?”
“That’s fresh coming from you,” Kate mumbled quietly.
Daniel stopped and stared at her, not used to her comebacks being so subdued. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he muttered confusedly. “I don’t flirt with peasants.”
“They’re not peasants!” Kate howled angrily, quickly walking away from him, heading for the stairs. “Just because they don’t have as much money as we do doesn’t mean they’re worth any less!”
“All right! Stop with the bloody yelling!” Daniel snarled back.
“You’re yelling at me!”
“Yeah, but I have no idea why!” Daniel shouted, catching up with her. “If you’re gonna get testy every time I say something about those damn Ducks—”
“Oh, like you’re not trying your ass off to be their friends!” Kate snapped, turning to face him. “Why go through so much trouble to get on their nerves? Huh? They already know who you are; that you exist, so you can stop pretending!”
“Yeah, that’s why,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Call me when you stop being so irrational.”
Kate watched as he walked down a few steps. “I thought we were friends!” she finally screamed. Her voice echoed in the empty hallway and Daniel came walking back up, stopping right in front of her. “I thought we were friends,” she repeated with a quiet voice.
“What the hell…? Who says we’re not?” Daniel demanded, a bit surprised and shocked at her outcry.
“You’re acting like we’re not,” she said, looking down into the floor. “You know I don’t like Chrissie Connors, and you’re still running after her. She’s always so mean to me, and you… You don’t care about that at all, do you?”
Daniel looked away, feeling oddly disconcerted. He knew that it meant a lot to Kate that he didn’t went running after Chrissie Connors. He knew that Chrissie had treated Kate like dirt in the past. He knew all that, and he had still kept trying to talk to her, because Chrissie was the only girl in the entire school that he hadn’t been able to impress in some way or another. “Of course I care,” he said. “I don’t want to hook up with Chrissie Connors, Kate.” He tried to ignore the feeling of remorse he got from lying to her.
“You promise?” Kate asked, looking at him with big, expectant eyes. Daniel realized he couldn’t lie her straight in the eyes, so he just nodded. “You’re my best friend, you know,” she pouted.
Daniel smiled. “Yeah, I know, you silly girl. No need to get all sappy, Red,” he said, putting his arm around her shoulders. “C’mon, let’s go find Fred. We can make our own Jell-O shots before we go to that lousy party.”
Kate nodded excitedly. “I don’t drink, though.”
“Well, you can watch Fred and I finish your drinks too.”
Julie sat down on her bed with a big mirror in her lap. Connie was still trying to decide what to wear, occupying the mirror they had on the door. Initially they’d only had that one mirror, but after a few minor fights and one pretty serious, they’d bought another mirror. The only problem was that they had nowhere to put it, other than in a box under Julie’s bed that they took out every time they needed two mirrors, with their room being so small.
“How are you getting there?” Julie asked, reaching for her makeup bag. “It takes a while to get there, right?”
“Takes about fifteen minutes, maybe,” Connie shrugged, leaning down to put on her shoe. “I’m going with Luis and Guy. We’re supposed to pick up Jesse on the way. I think Mindy’s going with us too. Have you noticed that she’s stopped glaring at everything I wear?”
Julie smiled a little. “Maybe she’s gotten used to us?”
“Once you go Duck, you don’t go back,” Connie giggled.
“Oh, that was so lame,” Julie laughed. “You’re going back tonight?”
“Hell no. I expect certain people to be too drunk to even find their car,” Connie rolled her eyes, straightening out her top. “I can ask if there’s room for you too if you want?”
“No, it’s all right,” Julie shrugged, applying more mascara. “Fred said he’d drive me if I needed a ride. He’s taking Daniel and Kate, and that girl from our health class, Lex, and one of her friends.”
“Uh, yeah, Lex O’Leary. She’s in that band, you know. They performed on Valentine.”
“Oh… Fred’s taking her?”
“Yeah, but it sounds to him like it’s not a date, so I don’t know,” Julie mumbled, leaning closer to the mirror. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him date anyone, really.”
“Maybe it’s his lucky night,” Connie smiled, pulling some more at her top.
Julie snorted. “That boy is too clumsy and shy to make a move on a girl. They’re probably just friends.”
“That’s too bad,” Connie said, frowning. “Fred’s a nice guy.”
“I guess. I’m just happy as long as I don’t run into Scooter,” Julie muttered. “Do you think they’ll show up?”
“For the biggest party of the school year? Nah,” Connie said sarcastically. “Is this top creased?”
“Isn’t it supposed to be?”
“Okay, I’m changing,” Connie decided, diving into her closet again. She had just disappeared when someone knocked on their door. “If it’s Guy, I’m not ready!”
“And if it’s my date?” Julie shouted back.
“You don’t have a date!”
Julie shook her head. “Thanks for reminding me,” she muttered, opening the door, finding Portman on the other side. “What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you. Are you done?” he asked, sounding rushed. “I’m going with you guys. And someone had better slipped Adam a tranquilizer of some sort; he’s supposedly climbing the walls over there.”
“Okay, I’m coming. Hey, Connie, I’m leaving!”
Connie peaked out into the room. “All right. I’ll see you there, maybe?”
“Yeah, probably,” Julie said, grabbing her jacket and bag. “Don’t drink too much!”
“No, Mom,” Connie muttered, climbing out of the mess in the closet. “Hey, Portman.”
He nodded at her. “What’s up? So, are you ready to leave? Con, you going with us?”
“No, I’m leaving with Luis and Guy. Have fun!”
Portman disappeared down the hall, yelling at Julie to hurry up. Julie moaned with annoyance. “I’m never getting rid of him.”
“I’m sure Portman could be your date if you still want one,” Connie whispered quietly.
“Ha, ha,” Julie muttered. “Don’t forget to clean up before you leave.”
Connie hurried to close the door before Julie could think of more things for her to do.
Julie noticed that Fred wasn’t driving the same car he’d been driving earlier in the week, but a much larger passenger van. Kate came skipping over to her when she approached them on the parking lot. “Hi, I’m Kate!”
Julie smiled. “Yeah, I know. We’ve met.”
“Ooh… Julie, right? Or Julia? Or Julian?”
“Julian is a boy name, Kate,” Fred pointed out, walking around the truck to open the door for them. “Don’t mind her, Daniel had her tasting a Jell-O shot.”
“Oh,” Julie grinned, waiting for Kate to step in to the car so she could follow. “Nice car.”
“It’s a surubruan,” Kate explained happily.
“A what?” Julie asked with a confused smile.
“Suburban,” Fred clarified, shaking his head. “There’s a lot of alcohol in those shots.”
Julie looked over to where Daniel and Portman were arguing over a tray of green Jell-O shots. “You haven’t been drinking, have you?” she asked with a frown. She was quite sure Fred was more responsible than that, but as she didn’t know him all that well yet, it didn’t hurt to ask.
“Oh, no,” Fred assured her, waving at Daniel to hurry up. “Of course not. It’s not like Daniel didn’t try to get me to taste one, but I’m not really that stupid.”
“All right,” she grinned, climbing into the car. Daniel and Portman followed suit, now fighting over where to sit.
Fred got into the driver’s seat and put the key in the ignition. “Come on, put on your seatbelts.”
“Fred, don’t be such a bore!” Kate complained, nudging at Daniel to move away.
“This car isn’t built for six people,” Daniel pointed out, putting his arm around Kate’s waist to pull her into his lap. “And what’s with newbie, gettin’ to ride shotgun?”
Julie hadn’t noticed Lex until now, even though she’d been sitting in the seat in front of her all along. Lex turned to Daniel. “Shut up, will ya? You’ve been whining about that ever since we got here!”
“Shut up yourself,” Daniel muttered, clearly out of clever comebacks.
Lex rolled her eyes and turned back in her seat as Fred backed out from the parking space. “I thought we were supposed to be seven,” Julie pointed out, looking around.
Lex turned around yet again, pulling at her seatbelt so she could face Julie. “My friend decided to catch a ride with some of our other friends. I think it was for the best; there are already too many people in this car.”
Portman leaned over the back of their seat and grabbed two more shots. “You want one, Jules?”
“No, don’t drink that shit in the car,” Fred begged. “If I get pulled over—”
“Well, drive like a normal person and you won’t get pulled over,” Daniel sighed, shaking his head. “Seriously, we’re never gonna get there if you’re in charge of driving.”
“I’m not letting you drive!” Fred objected. “You’ve all been drinking.”
Daniel wrinkled his nose, looking awfully discontent. “Whatever.”
“Julie hasn’t tasted your shots yet,” Portman said stubbornly. “It’s only fair that she gets one!”
“And what are you gonna do with the other?” Fred asked tiredly.
“I’ll take it!” Kate offered; snatching the cup out of Portman’s hand and downing it before Daniel could stop her. Julie took the other one and tasted it, figuring it wouldn’t be recommended to do what Kate had done.
Fred looked at them in the rearview mirror. “Portman, don’t give Kate anymore of those. They’re strong as hell and she’s already had two.”
Portman shrugged. Julie wasn’t sure he was even listening. For the rest of the ride, she listened to Kate ranting about every topic she could think of; kittens, spacemen, the weather, and Fred’s ‘surubruan’ car. Fred and Lex were talking to each other and seemed blissfully unaware of Kate’s constant babble.
Julie had a feeling it would be an eventful evening.
Credits & References
—The Winner Takes It All is a song by ABBA.
—“Well, drive like a normal person and you won’t get pulled over.” This is a reference to Freaks and Geeks and the episode Looks and Books where Daniel says “Lindsay, please, drive like a normal person” right before Lindsay crashes her parents’ car.
Connie, Luis, Guy, Jesse and Mindy arrived at the Banks’ mansion a bit late. Mindy, who was driving them in her car, had gotten lost on the way into Minneapolis where they were supposed to pick up Jesse. She parked a bit away from the entrance so nothing would happen to her car while they were gone. “Wow, not bad,” Mindy said as they all stepped out of the car and took a look at the house.
“Gee, approval from the head cheerleader. Must be impressive,” Jesse said amusedly.
Mindy flashed a grin. “If you weren’t Guy’s friend, you’d get my approval too.”
“Hey!” Guy objected indignantly. “I’m a good friend.”
Connie laughed. “Yeah, Guy. C’mon, let’s go find Adam and Charlie,” she suggested, grabbing Jesse’s arm and dragging him up to the house.
“What did she mean by that?” Guy asked Luis.
“She was teasing you,” Luis pointed out, rolling his eyes.
“As was I,” Mindy smiled, grabbing Luis’ hand. “I’m gonna go see where Cindy and the other girls are, all right? You’ll manage without me?”
“I’ll try my very best,” he grinned, kissing her on the cheek.
“You come find me later,” she said demandingly, letting go of his hand as she began walking up the stairs to the front door. “See ya, Guy.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Guy muttered, folding his arms together.
Luis laughed. “Ah, come on, she wasn’t serious.”
“Do you think Daniel’s here?” Guy asked immediately.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Luis moaned, leaving him behind as he walked up the driveway.
“What?” Guy exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air.
Adam couldn’t be more grateful that his entire family was 1200 miles away at that point. Despite his many protests against using his grandparents’ 100-year-old Victorian mansion as the official venue for the end-of-year bash, nobody had paid him the least attention.
He was straight-out refusing to help with anything at all. He was sitting on the sink in the kitchen while watching the rest of his teammates run around to get drinks out of the fridge and put up chips into bowls. Instead of screaming at them with disapproval, he’d resorted to sulking, trying to look like he didn’t care at all what they were doing. So what if Jesse was stacking hundreds of paper cups to use for the punch Goldberg was mixing? So what if Portman locked Dinky into the library? So what if he’d gotten bitten in the process (Adam had smirked at this, but only to himself, of course)? So what if Averman was feeding popcorn to Mrs. Banks’ rare and highly valuable tropical fish in the aquarium out in the living room? Adam didn’t care. He was through caring about all the expensive ornaments that were liable to be broken by the next morning. He wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow if people would be fornicating on his grandfather’s precious oriental rug in the study (Adam sort of hoped that wouldn’t happen, though).
“Mindy mockd me,” Guy announced. Adam looked up to find Guy standing in front of him. Their sulky expressions were almost identical.
“She should be begging for my approval,” Guy decided, leaning against the counter opposite the sink. “Have you seen Daniel DeRienzo?”
“Why don’t you ask the horde of people out there?” Adam asked, nodding in the direction of the living room, from which heavy rock music was blasting from the stereo. Connie came walking in through the revolving door to the kitchen, allowing Adam to get a glimpse of the chaos she was leaving. He decided that it was time to start drinking and grabbed one of the Jell-O shots Julie had brought with her. “Have you seen Charlie?”
“Nope, sorry. I think he’s helping Portman decorating the porch.”
“No, you’re kidding,” Adam whimpered, quickly swiping another shot. “What’s wrong with the porch?”
Guy shrugged, surveying the tray with Jell-O to decide which one he wanted most. “Portman said it’s too dark, people might not see it from the road.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Adam sputtered, choking in the progress.
“Well, they’re putting up lights now, so don’t worry about it—why is your eye twitching?” Guy asked worriedly.
Charlie was deliberately staying out of Adam’s way, knowing full well that his friend was more than a little pissed off at him at the moment. However, while skulking around out on the porch for a while with Portman, Kate had showed up with Fred, Daniel and some girl Charlie only recognized from class. Daniel had quickly scurried back inside when he noticed that Portman was there, but Charlie managed to convince Fred to stay and help out with putting up the lights since Fred was a bit taller than he was.
Portman seemed to want to scurry off too, once Kate started asking questions about the most proper way to handle a hammer. Charlie didn’t realize until ten minutes later that she was drunk. Not really too interested in the damn powered lights and their entangled cords, Charlie sat down next to Kate on the steps to talk to her for a while. “I’m first hammer assistant,” Kate explained firmly, holding the hammer Fred had used a while ago. “Without me, nothing would ever get done.” Fred snorted silently, but Kate ignored him.
Charlie opened his mouth to make some idle small talk with the hyper redhead. He wasn’t particularly interested in being anything other than her friend, even if the thought of snogging her senseless had occurred to him both once and twice—she was after all a very pretty cheerleader and he wasn’t more than human.
He had only just finished that thought when a bunch of people came walking up the driveway, passing him and Kate on their way to the door. After a quick glance in their direction, Charlie noticed that Linda was one of the girls in the crowd. She was walking next to a guy Charlie knew from school, and he had his arm draped around her shoulders. Charlie snapped his head around to watch them walk the rest of the way up the stairs, and tried desperately to hear what they were saying, but Kate was talking too fervently and Portman was hammering too loud that he was unable to hear anything at all.
That familiar jolt of… whatever it was, flared up inside of him again. A look of utter shock settled on his face and his mouth fell open. What was Linda doing with some guy that wasn’t… him!
He threw an angry look at Kate, blaming her for losing his chance of overhearing what Linda had said to that other guy. Kate, unaware that anything at all was happening around her, was still talking happily, not noticing the expression on Charlie’s face. Realizing he was still gaping, Charlie regained his posture and sat up straight. All previous thoughts he’d had concerning Kate McKinley was fading away. She wasn’t really that bad. Yes, she was actually quite charming, in her own sort of way. The annoyance he’d felt toward her was slowly turning into intrigue. “Have you had a chance to look around yet?” Charlie interrupted Kate’s rant, craning his neck to look in through the window to see if he could spot Linda.
“Just a little bit,” Kate nodded, waving the hammer around so carelessly that Fred decided to take it back and hand it to the other girl instead. Kate seemed confused for a second, until she figured out where the hammer had disappeared to. “Err, anyway… Who lives here again?”
“Banksie,” Charlie said, tilting his head to the side. “He’s mad right now, so you probably shouldn’t talk to him.”
“Oh, nonsense and humbug,” Kate laughed dismissively. “Everyone wants to talk to me! I’m a very nice girl! Fred, tell him.”
“Yes, Kate, you’re a very nice girl,” Fred muttered monotonously, glaring at her. “Shut up, will you?”
Kate gasped. “The nerve! Anyway,” she continued, turning back to Charlie. “Who’s Banksie?”
“I can’t work under these conditions!” Portman exclaimed out of nowhere, marching over to the door and violently pulling it open to go inside.
“Well, the lights are up,” Fred shrugged indifferently. “Kate, you scared off Portman.”
“Nuh-uh, did not,” Kate said loudly, getting up. “Did I? Oh, I better go apologize. Come, Charlie.” She grabbed his hand and dragged him along.
Fred held up the door for them, watching them as they disappeared into the crowd of people in the drawing room that was across the hallway from the slightly smaller living room. “Disturbing image, that.”
“Kate dating Charlie?” Lex smiled, walking passed him.
“A drunk Kate coming on to Charlie,” Fred grinned, following her as she made her way through the living room while taking her jacket off.
“Ah, yes. Scary thought,” Lex nodded, looking around to get familiar with the place. Fred stood still, suddenly feeling lost, now knowing what to say to keep her interest. Lex moved to face him. “Let’s go see if there’s anything left to drink, all right?”
“Umm, yes,” Fred replied, again trailing her when she headed for the table where Fulton was putting up more bottles of Sprite. “Better watch out for that dog, too.”
“There’s a dog?” Lex asked, smiling. She took one of the paper cups that were stacked next to the punch bowl and handed it to him. “Here, hold this. Hey, what’s in the punch?”
Fulton turned to her. “Tequila, lots of sugar, pineapple and papaya—and a bottle of Mr. Banks’ champagne. We found it in the basement,” he smirked contentedly, opening one of the Sprite bottles. “I’m sure it’s awesome.”
“Oh, evil,” Lex said, stirring in the bowl with the ladle, until deciding against tasting it. “We better mix our own drinks, Fred. You never know what’s really in this.”
“What, you don’t trust our ability to mix something as easy as punch?” Portman asked from behind her, grabbing a handful of chips from the bowl next to the punch.
“I’m definitely not tasting it if you were in charge of mixing this together,” Lex concluded, reaching for a bottle of vodka. “It’s safer this way.”
“Hey, I take offence to that,” Portman said with mock huffiness, putting his arm around her shoulder. “I’m sure I can make you something you’ll like.”
Lex raised an eyebrow, shrugging off his arm. “If you don’t behave, I’ll call Kate over,” she said.
Portman flinched back. “What? She’s here?” he whimpered, quickly retreating to the drawing room.
Lex grinned devilishly and continued to search the table for something to make a good drink out of. “Is there any rum? We could make piña coladas.”
“There’s no coconut milk,” Fred pointed out, moving out of the way when Fulton left to get more snacks. “Mix it with the apple juice. We’ll put some Sprite in it, it’ll be fine.”
Lex laughed, pouring some vodka into the bottom of the cup she was holding. “That sounds a little bit suspicious, but you’re the expert,” she said, shrugging. “I’m not gonna get completely wasted after only one drink, am I?”
“Well, the fact that you’re still standing after tasting one of those Jell-O shots is a good sign,” Fred grinned, handing her the bottle of Sprite. “We could always go investigate the kitchen and see if there’s some coconut milk lying around somewhere.”
“Maybe we should just bring the Sprite and the vodka along, in case we get sidetracked and won’t find our way back again,” Lex suggested, quickly grabbing the bottles from the table. “Sounds good?”
“Sounds brilliant,” Fred nodded, looking around to see if anyone was watching them. “Let’s investigate outside first, okay? Maybe we’ll run into that dog.”
Connie walked up the stairs to the second floor, caring a small bowl filled with water. Even if Dinky was a complete monster, he still deserved to get some refreshments. Luckily, she’d talked Jesse out of pouring whiskey into Dinky’s water before she went upstairs.
The loud music from the living room seemed oddly distant once she reached the hall. Stopping briefly to look in the hallway mirror, checking to see if her top was still creased, she heard a sound coming from around the corner. Connie decided to go check it out; she figured it wouldn’t be too good if people were walking around upstairs. Many of the most valuable things they’d hidden before the party were stored in a couple of the rooms.
It wasn’t someone trying to steal Mrs. Banks silverware, though (Connie assumed), as she ran into Guy, who was sitting on the floor up against the wall outside the library. He was writing on a notepad, and Dinky’s distant, never-ending barking could be heard through the door. “Hey there,” she said to get Guy’s attention. He seemed to be too wrapped up into his writing to notice anyone at all.
Guy jumped with surprise when he heard her voice and quickly hid the notepad behind his back, reflexively throwing his pen away. It bounced off the wall in front of him and rolled back over the floor to his hand. “Err, hi.”
“Smooth,” she said amusedly, glancing at him suspiciously. “What are you up to? Why aren’t you downstairs?”
“You’re not badgering Dinky, are you?” she asked, frowning. “He sounds a bit agitated.”
“Not at all,” Guy said innocently. He had been pouring out a lot of his drink under the door for Dinky to drink, hoping that the dog would eventually pass out. “I was just, uh, finishing a project.”
“The marriage project?” Connie asked curiously, sitting down next to him, ignoring Dinky’s snarling. “That’s so… uncharacteristically you.”
Guy grinned widely. “Ah, never mind. Don’t worry ‘bout it. What’re you doing here?”
“Thought I’d bring Dinky some water,” Connie explained, putting down the bowl between them. “You’re not planning to do anything to Daniel, are you?”
As usual, Guy was surprised how well she knew him. “Eh, don’t worry. Nothing like that,” he said. It was partly true. His plan didn’t involve Daniel directly—it would hardly be Guy’s fault if Daniel was effected by it in the end.
“You know,” she said slowly, taking his hand in hers, playing with his fingers. “You, uh, promised you wouldn’t follow him around anymore, Guy.”
Guy nodded fervently. “Of course. I know. I won’t.” Stalking wasn’t part of the plan anymore, after all. “I’m just a bit concerned, is all.”
“He is a huge jerk,” Connie admitted. “But I can deal with it myself. No need to be vengeful. He’s just as first class asshole. I can deal with those. I grew up with you guys, didn’t I?”
“Ha, ha,” Guy said, rolling his eyes. “That’s the second malicious thing someone’s said to me today.”
“Aww,” Connie laughed, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek. “You know I’m just kidding. So, do you wanna help me dump this at Dinky and go downstairs again? You’re not half as drunk as I expected you to be by now.”
“Well, Dinky’s gotten more than he bargained for,” Guy explained, and without giving Connie a chance to start lecturing him, he leaned over and kissed her gently, wrapping his arm around her waist. Connie giggled against his lips, moving her hand to cup the back of his head. Leaning into her even more, they both feel to the floor with a thud.
“Very graceful,” Connie laughed, rubbing her head where it had met with the hard floor.
Guy shrugged, kissing her again when he didn’t hear her complain. They stayed like that for a while until Guy accidentally kicked the bowl with water, having it all spill out on the floor and over their shoes and his pants. “Oh, no,” Connie whined, rolling over on him to keep her skirt from getting wet. “Look what you did.”
“I did? You’re partly responsible too,” Guy told her, as they struggled to get up on their feet. “Why is Dinky oddly quiet?”
Connie turned to look at the door Dinky was behind. “Dinky? You there? You all right, little guy?”
“He’s so small. Maybe he drowned?” Guy suggested, silently wishing it to be true.
Connie hurried over to open the door, but found that it was locked. “Oh, damn. Portman must’ve taken the key with him when he locked the door. Dammit! You think he’s all right?”
“Probably a bit drunk by now—”
“Dinky! Do you think Dinky is all right?”
“I’m sure he’s just scheming, or saving his voice or something,” Guy said tiredly, not giving a rat’s ass about Dinky and his whereabouts.
Connie twirled around, heading back down the hallway. “I better find Portman. If we kill Dinky, we’re screwed,” she shouted. “Dinky, don’t die!”
Guy heard her run down the stairs and fell to his knees, speaking into the crack under the door. “Go towards the light, Dinky. Don’t be afraid. Go towards the light.”
Credits & References
—What I Like About You is a song by the Ramones.