|Beating the Game
Author: Lord Iron-Balls PM
Patrick Morrison had it good. He was socially invisible, ignored by the Neanderthals around him, and on the fast track to MIT. Then he made the mistake of getting involved in Marielle Pason's social games. But to Patrick, the only way out is to win.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 18 - Words: 83,282 - Reviews: 1,166 - Favs: 976 - Follows: 680 - Updated: 08-01-08 - Published: 01-03-06 - id: 2081998
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Anybody? Come on, folks. I know one of you did the reading. Mr. Morrison, perhaps?"
I sighed, removing my gaze from the window, which I'd been staring out of vacantly for the last five minutes. Mr. Edwards was, I supposed, to be commended for trying to get a class full of high school seniors to concentrate on a Friday afternoon. Deigning to give the teacher a glance – he looked hassled, understandably – I returned my gaze to the dull gray sky. In a bored tone, I recited the answer he was looking for.
"The Blitz is generally considered to have been a German mistake because it removed their attention from the British radar stations, allowing the RAF to continue their observation of incoming air formations and to inflict what would eventually become crippling damage on the Luftwaffe. London was nearly destroyed, of course, but it did nothing to the resolve of the British people to fight."
I flicked another glance toward the front of the classroom. Edwards was looking around hopefully, obviously hoping one of my nearly catatonic classmates would view this as his cue to perk up and contribute. Nothing doing. I decided to be nice and bail him out further, in the hope that he'd be pacified and allow us to leave a few minutes early.
"In my opinion, it's the Western equivalent of the Stalingrad/Caucasus push in the East – one of Hitler's fatal, megalomania-induced mistakes that eventually cost them the war."
"That's a good comparison, Patrick. Does anyone disagree?"
Dead silence from the classroom. Soft snoring could be heard from the back of the room.
"Is anybody even alive, besides Patrick?"
More silence. Mr. Edwards sighed.
"Very well, I suppose my attempts to implant some vague understanding of the course of World War Two in you are futile. However, I am not, as I'm sure some of you have accused me of behind my back, a Nazi, so I will allow you to leave five minutes early."
The class rose as one from its seats, bored and somnambulant alike shuffling toward the exits, the latter still with their eyes closed. Mr. Edwards smiled at me as I passed him. I acknowledged him with a brief nod before continuing out of the classroom. To be honest, I didn't care in the slightest about his opinion or his class, except in the sense that it was an easy, prestigious-looking A but it never hurt to keep the teachers on your side. I'd need good recommendations for college, and it also didn't hurt to have some leverage in disciplinary proceedings. Not that I planned to get involved in anything that serious, of course. But you never knew.
I was halfway to my locker when the scent of perfume assaulted my nose. I recognized it immediately as the scent used by half the cheerleading squad, an unfortunate fact I'd picked up when wandering near the football field one afternoon. There'd been a noxious, invisible cloud of the stuff hanging over the lot of them.
Sure enough, a too-high voice grated on my eardrums, adopting what I termed the Cheerleader Wheedle – a tone of voice that managed to be both vapid and patronizing at the same time. "Patrick?"
I turned around to find Melanie Anderson standing behind me, twisting a strand of her dyed blond hair around one perfectly manicured finger and batting her eyelashes at me. It was times like this that I was grateful for my height. Being six foot two allows you to look down on most people, and I find that to be a handy tool for dealing with the unwanted conversation partner. It's easy to make people feel uncomfortable, if you stare correctly.
She was obviously expecting some sort of reply, but it was Friday afternoon and my patience for the week had been just about completely used up, so I really couldn't be bothered to engage in unnecessary discourse if I didn't absolutely have to. I quirked an eyebrow at her instead. Obviously a little disconcerted, she hesitated for a second before her two-second attention span moved past her momentary discomfort and she started in on her request.
"Umm... you know, I'm not really doing so well in History of American Conflict." Big fucking surprise there. "So, like, I was wondering if you could maybe, like, help me out? Like, tutor me or something? I don't want to do all the reading, 'cause I don't, like, do the book thing. So maybe if you could lend me your book or something, with highlights in it? I mean, you do that studying thing, right? So you have notes?"
I almost laughed aloud, but decided to restrain myself in the hope of further amusement. "Actually, I don't do the reading either."
She blinked, confused. "What do you mean?"
"I remember most of the shit in this class from some books I read when I was fourteen. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, in particular. Of course, you wouldn't be interested in that one. It's over a thousand pages long."
Her eyes widened in horror, but she pressed on, undeterred. "Well, um, maybe you could like make some notes for me or something?"
I sighed, fed up. "No."
"But you'd be doing me a really big favor!"
Normally, I'd have just told her to fuck off and walked away. I knew some of the geeks would've taken her up on it, just for the chance to bask in her fake, store-bought beauty for an afternoon, but as I had both self-esteem and a low tolerance for bullshit, I wasn't one of them. So I was all set to turn away from her when some evil little impulse rose up inside me. Maybe it was the weather – I always feel somewhat disgruntled on these days, the kind of cold, overcast, fall day so common in New England. Maybe it was something else. But I was suddenly completely, utterly sick of her manipulative little games.
"Would I now?" Dumb bitch that she was, she didn't pick up on the mocking condescension hidden under the surface. Surprising, actually, considering the vicious backstabbing games she and her friends played with each other.
"Definitely!" Her tone was sugary, the eyelashes batting at an increased rate as she sensed an opening. My response, unfortunately, was not the one she was looking for. I raised my voice slightly, just enough to be heard over the low background murmur of the passing period hallway.
"Do I get a blowjob out of it?"
I could almost feel the surrounding population screech to a halt around me. Allowing a smirk to creep onto my face, I cocked my head and kept my gaze squarely on Melanie, who was gaping like a dying fish. At last, she managed to gasp out a retort.
"How dare you suggest that! I'm not a whore!"
"Really?" I kept my voice soft and smooth, baiting her and drawing in the crowd that was slowly gathering around us now that other classes were letting out. "Then what is it you're doing, batting your eyelashes at people you'd never talk to otherwise so they'll do your work for you?"
She sniffed, cheeks flushed with indignation. "It's a perfectly fair trade. They get to spend time with me, don't they? God knows they'll never get near a hot girl otherwise."
I smiled wider now. "Maybe that's true – some of the poor dupes really don't have any social skills. But, you see, I'm not one of them. I can talk to pretty girls without stumbling all over my own feet, and while I'm sorry to shatter your illusions about programmers, I'm not a virgin. So bartering your attention – which makes you an attention whore, by the way, although by an alternate interpretation of the phrase – isn't going to work with me. I'm simply suggesting the logical next step. Nothing you haven't done before, I'm sure."
The spots of color on her cheeks grew brighter, and I knew I'd hit home. "There's a big difference between showing some poor geek a bit of attention and being a prostitute, Patrick Morrison!"
Did she really believe that saying a person's full name would get her anywhere? Maybe if I'd been five years old and she was my mother, but right now it just made her sound like a petulant brat. Which was pretty much the case.
I laughed, a low, mocking sound, and spread my arms expansively as if to illustrate my next point. "Oh, but there isn't, in the end. You do this to save yourself from your own incompetence. Right now, that means avoiding bad grades by exploiting acne-stricken freshmen. But people grow up, Melanie, and their demands increase. The same stammering kids you use now end up running the world. I'm just giving you a taste of how it's going to be out there. And if you think being asked for a blowjob by some arrogant asshole like me in exchange for helping you not fail a class is bad, wait until you're working as a secretary, getting fucked in the ass in a storage closet in exchange for covering up your utter ineptitude at anything but being what you are. A whore."
The crowd was providing everything I could have asked of it. Murmurs of "Zing!" and "Owned, dude" were like music to my ears, and the low rumble of laughter provided an excellent accompaniment. Melanie's mouth worked silently, but no words came out. After a minute, she turned and fled. I think she might have been crying.
I gave a mocking half-bow to the crowd before heading toward my locker, which had been my original intention. On my way through the crowd, however, one gaze caught my eye. Marielle Pason, head cheerleader, was looking at me with open amusement. Unlike her compatriot in miniskirts, there was actual intelligence in her gaze, which was sharp and appraising. A little smile played on the corner of her mouth, and she nodded slightly to me as I passed her. Well. Acknowledgement from the Queen Bee herself. I was moving up in the world, it seemed. Amused in my own right, I gave her a smirk and a raised eyebrow to remember me by.
I suppose the exchange should have served as fair warning for what I was about to get myself into.