Popularity Contest

by Elven Moon

Chapter Two

"Work with me, Freak, work with me!"

What is this, tap class?

"I'm doing my best, considering!" I hiss at him, quietly enough so nobody else can hear.

His right hand is at the small of my back, left hand clasped with my right, and we're dancing slowly to some pop song that will be outdated by this time next week. I'm shaking and nervous and as a result constantly jabbing into him or stepping on his feet. He's not helping, either.

"Well, try harder!" Keith says with his eyebrows furrowed in ill-humor.

The lights have been dimmed, to the point where I couldn't see the faces of any of the spectators on the bleachers if I wanted. A disco ball spins high above us, shimmering and sparkling and all that jazz. If some stranger should walk in they might think this was Senior Prom, party of two.

"Me try harder? I don't even want to be here! You forced me! And anyway, you're supposed to be a gentleman and floor me with your charm, or I just might decide to hand that over to the lesser of two evils."

I had him there. Ah, the temporary power. He gulps and pulls me slightly closer. "Just follow my feet, and you won't fall flat on your face," adding in so probably not to give off any impression, "as with those huge feet you'd be prone to do."

I again wanted to sock him one, but held back. At least I could possibly get him to act civilized towards me during this whole endeavor. Might as well milk it for all its worth and use it against him later, right? He would do the same thing! Jerk. And anyway, my feet aren't that big. They're a size 8. Not like I'd have to wear clown shoes to feel comfortable.

Actually, it wasn't too bad. He was a very good dancer, not that I should be surprised – how could he not be when he's had hundreds of partners to practice on. Despite my screwing up every few seconds, we sort of glided across the floor, as if ice skating. Or at least that's the best way I can think of to describe it.

There wasn't much talk around us. If I did hear something it was usually, "Oh, he's so graceful! Such a waste!" and "I'm just happy we got out of classes." It did sting, as it always did when I heard things about me. Maybe if a giant deadly mantis suddenly appeared in the gym he could crush them with his bug legs. But I was trying desperately to tune them out. If I didn't I might actually take Keith up on that offer of falling down.

My nose was digging into his shoulder now, and it was difficult to breathe. I let out some gasps, and he seemed to catch the hint as he pulled back a few inches.

"Hey, I gotta make me look good for the ladies!" He claimed, grinning like the Cheshire cat.

"By how? By trying to kill me? You are such a drip!"

Keith retaliated. "If I'm the drip, you must be the mother faucet! Besides, if they think I'll hold them like that they'll be begging me to give them the time of day!"

Ooh, he's done it now!

"If you don't knock it off, I'm walking right out of here, nothing will stop me. I don't care if people are hard on me, they've always been, you especially. I have nothing to lose except my dignity, and I already lost that by being here!"

I look as though I'm really about to do this, and suddenly I see an unfamiliar emotion in his eyes. Despair.

"I'm sorry. Happy? Now, please stay here until all of this is over. I won't make you do anything like this again, I swear. I can't lose what I have."

"Fine, silly putty for brains. I'll stay, but not for you. I should finish what I started."

I never expected Keith Bardsley to ever apologize or try to reason with anyone. Seriously. Well, I saw him give a girl a cheap looking bracelet once after a big scene in the cafeteria. That's kinda like an apology. I wonder how many hearts he's broken. Not that I should even be concerned with something like that. I hate men. All of them – except my dad.

"Oh, and by the way." He looks me, curious, as I speak. "Just because I'm dancing with you does not mean I'm another one of your hussies."

"Hah. Don't flatter yourself, Lizzie. I wouldn't date you if you were the last girl in school I hadn't dated."

"Don't call me Lizzie," I sneer. "And I probably am the last girl in school you haven't dated."

"Hmm, is that so? How amusing." Bardsley the bat is what he is – blind and so into himself he'd end up crashing into a wall. So I guess the nice guy act to win my vote was shot to hell.

"And you are an idiot Preppie who goes through dates like used toilet paper, has no heart or regard for anyone besides yourself, and doesn't even deserve to be given a millisecond glance by a female. Such a player! I can't understand why you're so well liked." Take that!

"Water on my back, it just rolls right off me, Freak."

"Damn you." My teeth are clenched again, and I grip his hand tighter.

Isn't the song over yet? What has it been, 5 years since we started?

He's dipping me now! Dipping me!

"Crap you! What do you think you're doing?!"

"Dipping you, what else?"

"Well, don't!"

The nerve! It's like I'm stuck in a bad silent movie. He should be stroking a curvy moustache and tying me to a railroad track next.

"Ah come on, I'll bet you've dreamed of being dipped by a handsome guy. At least I'm providing a service for a never-been-dated little bookworm like you."

"Don't assume I even care about such trivial things. I've seen what things like that can do and I'm not stupid enough to fall for it myself! So shut up!"

Keith never knows when to, though. "Why not?"

"Why I'm not stupid? Because I'm not! And I hate you!"

The big dipper is over, and I'm once again too close for comfort to this Casanova. Every second I wish this was done, and I think it might be, because the song is slowly fading off.

Thank the floating tissues in the sky.

But this nightmare was not quite over.

"And now, for the final seal of one who is most popular!" And he kisses me on the cheek.

KISSES ME ON THE CHEEK! Holy mother of pearl, am I blushing? I think I am! Dammit!

I think my heartrate just jumped up to one who drinks 100 cups of coffee in one sitting. I can't stand here, I can't stand this. The nerve of him. But I'm so taken aback I can't move. I think Keith senses this, and smiles widely.

"You liked that, huh?"

I'm pretty sure my face is very red. "Of-of course not! You have a lot of gall doing that!"


Then the clapping came.

It's always good to hear from readers, but it of course isn't required. Chapter Three coming fast!