Chapter 5

An hour had passed at the Hopper residence filled with heavy research, as well as a few laughs, for Matthew and Patricia. They'd looked through every website, books and encyclopedias possible and found an almost infinite amount of information. They had collected so much information that they didn't even know what to include in their report.

"Okay, so America broke it off with Germany and then entered the World War?" Patricia clarified as she read through the many pages of their research. She sat on the floor of the den surrounded by papers and open books.

"Uh… I think so…" Matthew replied uncertainly. "Well I know it was call the Good War or something like that." He noted more facts to what they would include in their report on different pieces of notebook paper. His spot on the floor was also surrounded by countless sheets of paper, most of which were crumpled. Due to his many errors, the paper was hardly even decipherable.

"The Great War, you mean…" Patricia corrected with a smile.

"Yeah… that. But before it the Germans did this thingy so that the Brits wouldn't have control of the water or something, right?" said Matthew vaguely.

Patricia laughed heartily and said, "Yeah but to be specific they had this uh… 'unrestricted submarine warfare in an effort to break British control of the seas'."

"Okay." Matthew took note of what Patricia said and then put his pen down.

"Hmm… maybe we should call it a day," said Patricia as she closed the book she was looking through.

"Hmm…" Matthew echoed as he silently disagreed. I suppose all things have to end.

"Let's just continue on Saturday. Maybe we can buy the stuff we need by then!" Patricia smiled and then started to clean up.

Matthew did the same and then stood up. "Well, I'll see you at school."

"Yeah… uh… tell Zack I said hi," said Patricia turning red.

"Sure," said Matthew trying to look and sound nonchalant. "Bye. I'll let myself out." He exited the house in silence and couldn't help but let a disappointed expression appear on his face. I should be getting used to this by now…

Zack sat on the bench of the gym feeling unusually happy. He looked around and his smile grew wider as he saw no Patricia or screaming cheerleaders in sight. Coach Williams, the team coach, made him sit on the bench since he had already made a lot of shots throughout their practice. This was another reason he was completely happy. As he sat cheering his teammates on, he suddenly heard his cell phone ringing. To his delight, it was Meagan.

"Hello?" said Zack with a wide smile across his features.

"Zack! I've done research for our History report already so you don't need to do any more research for tonight, okay?" said Meagan.

"Uh, okay. How else can I help then?" asked Zack.

"Well… we can like… well I don't know. Let's just buy the materials and stuff together. When can you go?"

"Saturday."

"Oh yeah, I forgot about the game. Well, good luck with practice!" said Meagan cheerily.

"Uh, thanks! It's going pretty well, actually," said Zack with a smirk.

"That's really great! Look I have to tell you something," said Meagan with a slightly serious tone.

"What?" Zack felt himself get worried.

"Zack, you know the rules. No cell phones during practice," said Coach Williams, a Hispanic man who was tall and built. He had big round eyes and a sharp nose. Like Zack, he too was the apple of the eyes of many girls at school.

"Meg, I'm sorry. I have to go. I'll call you after practice," said Zack apologetically.

"Oh, it's nothing. Bye."

Zack hung up and felt disappointed that he couldn't spend more time talking to Meagan.

Sitting in her room, listening to Coldplay, Meagan pondered over her afternoon with Monica at the parlor and smiled. I can't believe Monica likes someone! She's like the most driven person I've ever known! And she never lets anything get in the way of her school. Oh, I'm so proud of her! I can't believe it! I just wonder why she got all cold when I came back. That's kinda weird… but I'm still so proud of her! When the door suddenly opened, Meagan drifted away from her thoughts and saw Monica entering her room with a stern look on her face. She was carrying a pile of Meagan's newly laundered clothes.

"Here. Mom just finished folding them," said Monica rather formally then headed for the door.

"Uh, okay. Monica?" called Meagan eyeing her sister closely.

"What?" Monica replied frostily.

"What's wrong? Why're you all… weird?" asked Meagan.

Monica's expression softened and she said, "Nothing."

"Oh… okay." She lay down on her bed and looked up at the ceiling.

"Zack called, by the way," Monica added as she walked out the room.

Meagan abruptly sat up and asked, "He did?"

"Uh… yeah… I told him you were doing something coz you were just here so that's what I figured. Anyway, he just said he'd call you later," Monica replied with a grin.

"Oh… wait, he called our house?" Meagan clarified.

"Uh… yeah," said Monica, her grin growing wider.

"That's weird… he usually calls me room. Well, thanks for letting me know," said Meagan as she lay back down.

"Oh, no problem." Monica left the room and shut the door behind her.

He called? That's so weird… he said he had to go and he calls me like five minutes later… it's only five-thirty and his practice doesn't end until six. Well, that's Zack… but it is kind of sweet… I can't believe he called… that's so sweet! Wait, what am I saying? This is Zack for crying out loud. I don't usually care if he calls every single minute of the day! But now it's all so different… like everything he does matters… well, that's just probably coz he's my best friend… but he's been my best friend for years! Am I in love with him? Well… it wouldn't matter if I am…

When practice ended, Zack rushed out of the gym, feeling adrenaline pump through his veins even though he was already exhausted. Chris was just behind him with a perplexed expression on his face as he watched Zack dial Meagan's cell phone number with haste.

"Zack, slow down," said Chris who was having trouble keeping up.

Zack didn't pay attention as he listened to Meagan's cell phone ringing.

"Hello?" said Meagan on the other end.

"Meg!" said Zack with a smile. "So what did you wanna tell me?"

"Oh… that. Before I tell you… did you call me a while ago? Like five minutes after I called?"

"Uh… no… why?" asked Zack in surprise.

"Nothing… it's just that Monica said you did… well, you didn't anyway so it doesn't matter…" said Meagan with disappointment in her voice.

"Well, you know I would've if I could hide from Coach Williams during practice to talk to you," said Zack hastily.

"Oh. Well, anyway, I was out with Monica this afternoon," said Meagan with a happier tone. "And we were buying gelato and then all of a sudden this guy comes along and Monica starts getting nervous. Oh, I think she likes him, Zack!"

"Well, if she was like that then she probably does…" said Zack.

"Yeah and it's just a bit hard to believe! I mean it's Monica! She's the least boy crazy person I know!"

"Yeah, well she's still human and she still can't help falling in love, right?" Zack started to walk slowly and Chris was just at his side, watching Zack talk on the phone.

"Wow, that's deep. Anyway, I guess you're right. Oh, I'm so proud of her! She's in love! That's like a first for her…"

"Yeah…" said Zack sighing.

"Oh, shit! You must be tired! You should rest."

"I'm not tired. I don't really need rest."

"Zack, you've got to rest. You need it especially with the finals on Friday!"

Zack didn't say anything. He just felt chills go up his spine as he remembered the final game of the season.

"Just call me later when you've rested, okay?" said Meagan with worry in her voice.

Zack was still silent since he still wanted to talk to Meagan.

"Okay?" asked Meagan.

"Okay…" Zack slowly hung up and kept his cell phone.

"So… you got the hots for her?" asked Chris with a sly smile.

"The 'hots'? Not even close," said Zack with a laugh. I don't have the hots for her! I'm in love with her!

"I can tell by your look that you're not lying…" said Chris as his smile grew wider.

"I don't lie," said Zack honestly, putting his hand over his heart with a proud grin.

"Yeah, well you're head over heels, aren't you?" Chris interrogated.

"What?" asked Zack as he felt his heartbeat grow faster.

"You're head over heels. I mean, it's not just a crush you have for her. It's love. I saw it when you were talking to her." The smile on Chris' face disappeared and seriousness crossed his features.

"What? What are you talking about?" Zack felt his palms get sweaty as anxiety crept over him. I never had to admit anything about how I feel about Meg. I never thought I had to.

"Zack, you like, let alone, love her."

"I don't- I mean… uh…" Zack hesitated, stopping in his tracks.

"You can tell me the truth," said Chris as he stood in front of Zack looking gravely at him.

"I… uh… I…"

"Zack, you know my oldest sister used to know a guy who came to our house everyday for different reasons. It went on for so many months and after each day, I'd always see this kind of look on his face. It was like he was happy or something. And then one day, without warning my sister got a boyfriend and when that guy came to our house for the last time, he looked so heartbroken that I almost felt angry at my sister for just getting a boyfriend and leaving this poor guy alone."

Zack felt a lump in his throat as he imagined coming to Meagan's house and seeing her and Charlie kissing on the living room couch.

"So you do love her," Chris concluded looking smug.

"I… I…" Zack looked for a way out of this thinking, I could never say how I feel about Meagan! She's my best friend! But then… what if what happened to Chris' sister happens to Meagan? If I never tell her how I feel then it would… but she's my best friend! What if this ruins our friendship? Oh fuck it… If our friendship really is strong then it would stand something like this, right?

"Zack just admit it," said Chris looking serious again.

"Fine, damn it! I'm in love with her! I'm head over heels! I've over the top in love! Hook, line and sinker!" Zack shouted as he rapidly turned red. Well that didn't feel as bad as I expected…

"I knew it. That story works all the time!" Chris said with a laugh.

"Wait… that really didn't happen? The thing with your sister?" asked Zack in astonishment.

"I only made it up! But it does get you thinking, right?" Chris looked at Zack with pity.

"Yeah… I really don't want that to happen…" said Zack as he got nervous again.

"Well are you gonna tell her how you really feel?"

"I don't know… I have to think about it…" said Zack quietly as he looked down at the pavement. Will I tell her? Should I?

When the last day of the basketball season came, Jefferson High School showed its support to the fullest. Banners have been put up all over the school and the cheerleaders, including Patricia, had already worn their outfits at the start of school and have been screaming the school's cheers across the corridors all day long.

Meanwhile, Zack was too troubled about telling Meagan his feelings that he hardly noticed what was going on. He had barely even scored anything during practice on the previous day. Every time he would think about the game, his mind would somehow go back to Meagan and his anxiety about the finals would drain away.

"Zack, are you okay?" asked Meagan during their Chemistry class which was their last subject.

All day long he had worn a serious face and when he was asked what was wrong, he just said it was about the game. "Uh… yeah… just… I dunno…"

"Zack, don't worry about the game because Matt and I will be there cheering you on," said Meagan with a kind smile. The sincerity on her face almost made Zack want to tell her on the spot but since they were in the middle of a lecture, it didn't seem right to just kiss Meagan all of a sudden.

"Yeah… thanks for that…" said Zack slightly feeling better about the game.

A few hours later, Zack still didn't stop thinking about Meagan. When he was on the way to the boys' locker room, he saw Meagan running up to him.

"Zack! I'm so sorry! But I have to go home for a bit coz my mom needs me to do something. I promise I'll be there as soon as I can," said Meagan apologetically.

"Okay," Zack replied glumly.

"Zack, I'm really sorry. I really wish I could be there. This mom thing is just gonna take a few minutes. I swear I'll try to be here before the end of the first quarter."

Zack looked at Meagan and saw the sadness in her eyes and he grew sad as well. He tried his best to smile and said, "Meg, you can take your time."

"But I won't. I really wanna be at the game and I'll do whatever it takes for me to be there. Well I really have to go, Zack…" she said. With a hesitant pause she whispered, "Good luck, Zack. I know you'll be great," and then planted a kiss on Zack's cheek. She gently squeezed his hand and then hurriedly walked towards the exit.

Zack stood quietly in front the boys' locker room and felt blood rush into his face. A huge smile was plastered on his lips as he thought, I don't see anything that's gonna stop us from winning tonight. Absolutely nothing… When he noticed that people were looking at him and many of the girls who saw him and Meagan were giggling, he hurried into the boys' locker room still feeling blissful.

Matthew sat in the gym alone watching the spectators of the game enter the gym wearing all sorts of things to show their support for Jefferson. He specifically placed his back pack next to him to save a seat for Meagan, whom he was eagerly waiting for. Just a few moments later, the gym was covered by a mass of green and black and the cheers filled the large room. Not before long, the cheerleaders entered the gym as well and Matthew felt his heart skip a beat as he saw Patricia religiously heading the squad. He felt himself get nervous and looked at his sweaty palms, trying to make himself calm again. As he was about to succeed, he heard a familiar voice rise above the crowd.

"Matt!"

When Matthew looked up to see who it was, he saw Patricia with a big smile on her face, waving her pom-poms at him. He waved back with a weak smile and heard a few people around him snigger. "Hey Patricia!" he called back.

Patricia beamed in reply and then turned away when she was called by one of her friends. Matthew felt his heart sink slightly and then went back to looking at his palms.

When Zack and his teammates entered the gym, the cheers from the crowd were so loud that, to Zack, the building was about to crumble into dust. His heart pounded in his rib cage so hard it almost hurt and when he remembered the kiss Meagan gave him, he felt so happy that he could have done a million somersaults and never even get tired. By the time the game started, adrenaline was all over Zack's veins and he was able to make the first three point shot of the game. When he looked at the sidelines, Coach Williams and the basketball varsity were all eyeing Zack with surprise and he thought, None of them probably got kissed by the girl they love today...

Meagan slammed the door behind her and walked as fast as her Birkenstocks can take her, praying to God that there won't be any more delays. As she remembered her moment with Zack the last they saw each other, she felt slightly uneasy but intensely happy. I cannot believe I did that… oh but it was such a thrill! He smells good, by the way… I think he was wearing aftershave… I didn't even know he shaves! But I still can't believe I did that! Oh, it was amazing! As she was amid her thoughts, she ran into a recognizable figure.

"Meg!" said a male voice.

When Meagan realized who it was, she felt slightly annoyed as she saw Charlie beaming at her, wearing his Boston Red Sox cap. She hadn't thought about him for days and since her feelings for Zack had grown stronger, it felt as though the time she first met Charlie was decades ago. "Hey Charlie," greeted Meagan with a smile.

"So where're you going?" Charlie asked.

"Uh… I'm going back to school to watch the finals. Zack's playing, you know."

"Oh. Well, can I come?"

Meagan felt her annoyance at Charlie and his timing increase as she said, "Sure!" She then walked away in haste and heard Charlie jogging behind her to keep up.

"Has the game started already?" he asked.

Meagan looked at her watch and saw that it was half past four. "Yeah… it's probably half time when we get there."

"Oh, I see."

When the second quarter was about to end, Zack had scored twelve points and was having trouble trying to score some more as he was always being blocked. Jefferson was ahead of Sycamore by a slim three points and with just nine seconds left, the ball was with Sycamore and in the hands of their best player, Ben Parker, who was very egotistical, had a very short temper and an impatient fist. Zack approached him and tried to block with his other teammate but then Ben passed the ball to his open teammate who happened to make a three point shot just when the buzzer sounded. The game was tied at half-time and for the first time in days, Zack felt worried. As they entered the locker room, the team had their hopes down.

By the time Meagan and Charlie, both short of breath, entered the gym, half time was about to end and the Jefferson cheering squad had just finished their routine. As Meagan's eyes darted towards Patricia who was jumping up and down and ushering the crowd to cheer as well, she felt an unfamiliar surge of slight anger towards her. When she and Charlie sat on seats next to Matthew, she saw that Matthew was also looking at Patricia wearing the exact opposite of her expression; his eyes were aglow and a smile was flashed across his features.

"Matt! I'm so sorry I was late," Meagan apologized.

"It's okay. Zack was great! You should've seen him. He scored only twelve points but he was always blocked so he couldn't shoot so much. The game's tied though…" said Matthew when he looked away from Patricia and regained his old expression.

"What?! Oh, man!" said Meagan in frustration. She suddenly felt sorry for Zack, knowing that he would be nervous and angry and upset.

As the Jefferson Basketball Varsity walked out of the gym at the end of half time, cheers from the crowd had once again hit the roof and although slightly nervous, Zack felt adrenaline pump through his veins again. He was relieved when Coach Williams hadn't put him back on the floor yet and when he sat on the sidelines, he felt a slight ease. Once the game had resumed, Zack looked in the crowd for Meagan and felt almost ecstatic to see her cheering next to Matthew. When he first caught a glimpse of the person next to Meagan, he didn't know who he was and when he realized the he was Charlie, he felt his heart sink. Oh no… what if… no… but what if… I've done it… I've let my chance slip away… This can't be happening! Charlie's not good enough for Meagan!