This choice: Just keep floating along doing nothing · Go Back...
The drive out to Stephanie's grandmother's house is very quiet, and so is the drive back to school so you can drop Stephanie off at her car. She thanks you for your help as she gets out, and you tell her "No problem," which you follow it with a blurted, ""M sorry I got kind of ticked at you." She only flashes you a tight smile in reply.
* * * * *
Tilley texts you after supper to ask what you're doing. Nothing, you text back while lying on your bed and staring at the ceiling. Then Keith asks if you want to hang out and do "nothing" together.
You almost decline, but decide it would be dumb to be so anti-social. You gather up your school books and drive out to his house.
It's a pokey little place in a shabby part of town. Keith pulls you down a short hallway to his room, and you wave at his dad, who's watching TV, as you pass. You're not often at Keith's place, and you give his bedroom a brief, cursory glance around. But it looks just like yours—posters on the walls, piles of clothes on the floor, some dirty dishes and stacks of video games on every free surface.
You drop your back pack on his bed, and plop down next to it. "Whassat?" Keith asks, and jerks his chin at your pack.
"Thought you said you hadn't nothin' to do."
"I don't. That's just to make it look good for my folks." You lift your cap long enough to run your fingers through your shock of hair. "Don't you have homework?"
Keith laughs, something halfway between a cackle and a spasm. "Sure, but I don't give a fuck about it." He shoves some crap off the chair at his desk and falls into it. "Not tonight."
Something about his manner arouses your curiosity. He waggles his legs, and his eyes are bright and darting, except when they light on you, and then they get a gloating kind of gleam. "You got plans or something?" you ask.
"M'neh." He puts his feet up on his bed.
Oh, but he had plans today, didn't he? "How'd the Carlos and Mike thing go?"
"What thing?" For a moment he looks startled, even alarmed, but quickly thrusts the reaction behind him. "Oh, that. It was great. You should'a come. But it's too late now." He cocks his head and regards you thoughtfully. "I guess."
"I guess," you agree. "I think I'm gonna skip the extra credit and get my A the old-fashioned way."
Keith hoots. "You're gonna suck off Mr. Hawks? Isn't that the 'oldest' way to—?" He catches the pillow that you hurl at him. "Well, it's your loss. Say, you wanna play—?"
He pulls a box from the middle of a teetering stack, but the title he proposes is lost in the clatter of falling game boxes. You wait until he's restored some order to his desk before grunting a negative. "I think I just wanna hang out and talk."
"Yeah?" Keith's face lights up, and you almost back out of the topic before you're done raising it.
But you now realize that's the reason you came over. You wouldn't talk about it with Caleb, because he's unsympathetic and has basically told you to go stuff yourself over the subject of Lisa. But Keith doesn't mind talking about girls, and though he approaches the subject from the perspective of a goat in heat, he's a more sympathetic interlocutor than Caleb would be.
"I don't wanna talk about Lisa, though," you tell him.
"Well, that's a relief."
You shoot him a quick, spiteful glance. "I've decided to be over her. Look to the future. Find someone else."
"That's awesome, man. So what kind of proportions are you looking for?"
"What do you mean, proportions?" Keith answers by groping at his chest. "Don't be disgusting. I'm serious. Girlfriend, not ... cum fantasy. They're different things, you know."
Keith rolls his eyes and rolls his shoulders. "Whatever. But what are you looking for? And don't tell me 'a good personality', 'cos I want something I can jerk off to."
It's a minute or so before you answer. Then, because you're thinking of Bailey and the party last Friday, you ask, "Would you date a junior?"
"If she puts out I'd date just about anything. Well, there's limits, like whether she's got a mustache or something," Keith cackles.
"No, I'm serious. If you got set up with a girl who was a junior, would you feel insulted?"
He shrugs. "Not if she's hot. There's some bate-worthy sophomores, don't know if you've noticed, and how come not if you haven't?"
"I told you, I'm serious. Come on, man!" You return Keith's leering smile with a frown. "Would you be insulted of someone said, I know who'd be perfect for you, and it's not a girl in our class, it's someone who's a junior?"
His smile fades, to be replaced by a puzzled sneer. "Why would I care as long as she's—?"
"Hot," you finish for him, and roll onto your back to stare at his ceiling. "Never mind."
"No, now you got me worried," Keith says. "Are you really this hung up on personality? I mean, I get that you're trying to be. Girls get kind of psycho if you're not, like, yeah, it's you, not your tits I love. But—"
"It's not personality I'm talking about. It's, uh, maturity." Now you feel shy about admitting to why you think you were turned off toward Bailey. "If someone put you with someone who was immature, wouldn't you feel insulted, like they were saying that you were immature?"
"You mean like undeveloped?"
"Oh, fuck." You cover your face with your hands.
"Oh!" Keith snaps his fingers. "You're worried about, like, social status? Like, it's a low status thing to be dating someone in the grade below instead of in your own class?"
You start to deny it, but then reflect that it would have seemed a real feather in your cap if, during your junior year, you had dated a senior girl. "Maybe," you sigh.
"Dude, that's fucked up. Don't worry about your social status. 'Cos frankly, you don't got one. It's true!" he yells when you shoot him a dirty look. "I don't got one either, I'm down here with you!"
Then he abruptly falls into a fit of laughter. "Oh, nothing," he says when he's recovered himself. "But come on, let's just talk about tits and pussies."
So you do. It's not as fun as it should be, not at first, but Keith jollies you along, and you're smiling again by the time you go home.
* * * * *
You're back in a reflective mood by the next morning, however, when you arrive at school. All during first period you eye Lisa contemplatively. How did you come to be with her over the summer?
Well, it just sort of happened. You were at the mall one day by yourself, and you saw her sitting alone in the food court. You went over to say "Hi" since you'd known her in a friendly way for a long time, and you wound up sitting down and talking to her for an hour or so. It never occurred to you that it was more than a friendly, casual talk, not even after she called you a few days later to see if you wanted to join her and Eva and Jessica for a movie. (And, to be honest, you'd gone more because of Eva and Jessica.) And from there you just started seeing and hanging out with her more, until it became no big thing to meet up and sit together and speak of nothing while leaning against each other. Not until school was about to start did it occur to you in a really serious way that you had a girlfriend, and did you start talking to Keith and Caleb as though you had. By the tired look in Caleb's eyes, at least, you could tell that he'd already noticed.
So if you wanted get another girlfriend, maybe you could arrange it so the same sort of thing happened in the same sort of way?
But that thought doesn't occur to you until you're on your way to your last class of the day. So, before you can think better of it, you lope into Astronomy and directly over to Stephanie's desk. "So, uh, sorry again about yesterday," you tell her. "For getting mad at you," you explain when she only looks up from her phone with a blank look.
"Oh. 's'okay. Thanks for your help."
"Uh, I thought about some of the stuff we talked about. Um—" Now that's it's come to the point, you do take some small fright, and scratch at your scalp. "Next time there's a party, would you mind sending me an alert?"
Stephanie blinks, and only says, "If I remember."
"Well, then, would you mind if on Friday I shot you a reminder? Like I did last Friday?"
"No, I wouldn't mind."
"Thanks. I'm, uh, trying to kind of come out of my shell."
"That's good," Stephanie says, and she sounds as enthusiastic as though you'd told her you were trying to grow a mustache for Halloween. You stumble your way back over to your seat.
* * * * *
You'd meant to ask her a different question—about what the popular hangout spots were for her and her friends—but had chickened out at the last minute. Instead you lob the question at Eva Garner when by chance you see her in the parking lot after school. But in her case, you phrase it as, "If I wanted to randomly bump into girls outside of school, where should I go?"
"I don't know, Will," she sighs. "And I don't have time right now to talk about it."
"You have an appointment?"
"Yeah, I gotta meet up with some guys for a YouTube thing."
"Carlos Montoya? Mike Hollister?" you ask in surprise. She nods without looking at you.
Interesting, and since you were almost part of their scene, it's a good excuse to follow her out and to keep talking.
Where will this interactive story go?
Members who added to this interactive
story also contributed to these: