Update: Idiotloveidiot, you definitely had guts reading this story, and you pretty much hit all the points I was trying to get at, symbolism aside. This story is near and dear to me.Your review almost made me cry. April 9, 2007.

Update: To the two of you who have this on your favorites, I'm eternally grateful, but perplexed. April 8, 2007.

Author's Note: Something I wrote as a sophomore in high school, going through a huge rift of depression. Back then, I had no idea what tone was, or what word choice was, or what an audience was. But looking at this made me have some hope for myself, because I wasn't completely shallow back then and I'm not completely shallow now. I wrote this to myself and for myself, which was amazing that it was even completed or that it turned out this long, though I do have a habit of finishing what I start most of the time. It's all posted as three chapters because I am lazy. If/when I edit it, it'll be spiffy, probably a hell of a lot shorter, and not so obnoxious. I just want to see it on this site; I just want it to be accessible.

This is about 10,000 words longer than Windless, which isn't so bad, considering that some stories that I love to read can go for 4,000 to 6,000 words a chapter.

The plot of the story is simple. Main character finds nerd girl he likes, they fall in love, she becomes afraid of getting hurt, turns hot, leaves into a different crowd, Main character's best friend starts going after her, Main Character gets jealous and gets balls, tells girl he likes her in whatever shape she comes (wish fulfillment LOL), and happy ending. Though this is the plot, I seemed to have cared more about the surrounding storylines. The main character has three guy friends who all have different problems: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And then they deal with them. The end.

Even though you're seeing three incredibly long chapters, there are actually about 18, and they're broken into six subchapters apiece. this is an extremely dialogue-happy story.


INTRODUCTION

"Parallel lines 'a' and 'b', cut by transversal 'c' become system 'one'…"

…What am I doing here?

"But notice that 'a' and 'b' are cut by a line perpendicular to them, but also parallel to transversal 'c'…"

… Even better question. What am I doing?

"Parallel lines 'a' and 'b', cut by transversal 'd' make up system 'two'…"

… No. I know what I'm doing in this class. I know what all of this is, but. What am I doing here?

"Don't let the parallels and perpendicularities fool you guys! They can be quite tricky!"

How did gum get on the ceiling? Jesus. It's all on the underside of my desk, too.

"Mr. Haley. What is angle three?" Mr. Geometry came up to me with a geometrically proportionate grin.

… Corresponding angle. "It's an alternate interior, sir."

"Wrong, but nice try. It's a corresponding angle."

I furrowed my brow and watched him walk up to another person, and I watched his egotistical grin grow wider with another incorrect answer.

I sighed, and sunk lower into my seat.

My name's Matt, and I hate my life.

Chapter OneSOPHOMORONS

It's my second year of high school. I'm guess I'm another stupid teen with stupid trivial matters, and a stupid promiscuous attitude. "Promiscuous". You know, the term "promiscuity" wasn't a sexual term until culture started to associate it with sexual recklessness. I should know. I checked a dictionary once. But I'm not nearly as promiscuous, pun intended, as my stupid friends, and I'm not really sexually active. In fact, I just broke up with my girlfriend a few stupid days ago.

We were having stupid problems, so she dumped me and our stupid relationship.

It was the best day of my life, breaking up with her.

I'm through with women. I don't get them.

It was pointless, just like the rest of my life is now. I know all the answers already. I know the truth. I've matured. What's the point of living the rest of my life when I'll only lose more brain cells. And hair. I'll just grow more moronic and bald by the hour. I'll regress to the wrinkly child I came out of my mom as, diapers and all… eating canned peaches, crying for someone to help me out of bed. That whole nihilistic cycle. It's a pointless existence. And, what's really sad is that this stupid adolescence is the peak of my existence.

It's lame.

Sub Chapter 1.1DOORMAT and BUTTFACE

"Hey, Door-Matt."

That's my friend, Luke, "What's up, Butt-Face?"

"New girl in town."

I looked at him, "What're you talking about?"

"Transferred from that school a few miles away."

"What's a private school girl coming around our side of town for?"

"I don't know but she's hot!!" Luke's always had a fetish for 'hot' private school girls. "Those uniforms! Matt, picture it! A school teeming with hot chics in skimpy uniforms!" He flung an arm around my shoulder and peered at an invisible floating object in the air.

"Cut it out," I shoved him off, "You're going to make me lose my appetite."

"..." He was still envisioning all the possibilities.

"What's her name?"

"..."

"Butt-Face."

"Huh?"

"What's her name?"

"Oh," he paused. "I don't know,"

I rolled my eyes.

"but it doesn't matter! She's HOT!"

We scooted farther down the lunch line.

"Eric says she's in our class, too."

"Oh, joy."

"Man, oh, man! If I'm lucky, she'll be in all the regular classes!!" He then snickered to himself and rubbed his hands together, "... and all mine ..."

"Chances for that're slim, Luke. You know those preppies."

"I know, but if she's in all of your classes, she'll just go to waste!"

We scooted down some more.

"By the way, how's that Honors crap working out for you?"

I shrugged, "It's whatever."

"Tch. Figures," Luke's attention shifted, "Hey! Meril!!"

She was walking toward the cheerleaders' table, "What?"

"Saturday night? You? Me?"

"Get a life."

"Alright, then! Saturday it is!"

I rolled my eyes and nudged him to get his mashed potatoes and scoot down some more.

We've been the dynamic duo since the third grade. He's the reckless moron, and I'm the sensible, rational moron. So, if us two were trapped on an island together, him being the reckless moron, would drink the seawater, and me, the rational moron, wouldn't drink anything at all. So, it doesn't really make a difference. Either way, we'd both die.

That's how him and I are. Despite all these extra curricular activities and different courses, I could almost swear we'll both end up in the same college, get jobs in the same building with cubicles right beside each other, marry twins, have sons who'll grow up, become best friends in third grade, and start this moronic cycle all over again.

That's why there're so many idiots in the world. They keep multiplying. The geniuses start thinning, so they either have to breed or crossbreed. Either way, more idiots'd be born. Forty years from now, there'll be a one hundred to one ratio of idiots to nerds. Sad, sad world.

"Door-Matt! You're holding the line up!!"

Oops.

Sub Chapter 1.2THE NOT-SO-FANTASTIC FOUR

Lunchtime…

Luke and I are the dynamic duo, but we have a fantastic four. The other two of our idiot clan make up the second dynamic duo. John and Mark are a lot dumber and smarter than us: At least, I think Mark is a bigger idiot than Luke and John's twice as rational.

Every single lunchtime, they always manage to get their food and save us seats. I don't know how they always make it there before we do. One time, Luke and I tried to get to the cafeteria before them by using the crapper five minutes before class, so when the bell'd ring, we'd be able to run to the cafeteria without waiting to be dismissed. But as usual those two losers were already there.

It's a bit creepy and queer how four guys meet as third graders and become inseparable for years. We're all best friends, but we have our designated 'seriously-real best friend' slots. Luke's in mine.

"Hey, Toilet-Head," Luke plopped down into his seat.

"Luke," John, or Toilet-Head, nodded.

Mark turned to me, "Did you hear about the new---"

"Yeah, Luke already told me."

Mark and Luke looked at each other, "SCHOOL GIRLS IN UNIFORMS!!"

John and I rolled our eyes.

"I have her number," Mark gloated.

"Like hell you do!" Luke burst in dismay.

"Would I lie?"

"Lemme see it, then!"

Mark took it out of his pocket, "See?"

"YOINK!!" Luke stole it from him.

"HEY!!"

"I've got her number! I've got her number!!"

"Give it back, you retard!" Mark snatched at it with crab claws.

"You're the retard for taking it out in the first place!"

"HA! You're both retards!" John smirked.

They looked at him.

"That one was just a decoy! This is the real one!" John waved the little piece of paper in front of them, "I stole it from you an hour ago, Mark."

"WHAT?!" they both yelled.

"HA!!" I stood up. "All three of you are retards! She was right behind you, John. And she was trying to say 'hi', but you didn't see her!"

The three of them looked.

I stole the number out of John's hand, "Ha! HA! Retards always look!"

"HEY!!" All three of them shouted.

Luke socked me.

"OW!!" I started running. They chased me around the cafeteria and gave up as soon as I ran out the door.

"Eh, you'll be back, Matt! You KNOW you want your stale pizza!!" Luke yelled after me.

Suckers.

Sub Chapter 1.3OUCH

What am I going to do with this number, anyway?

Oh, well.

Crumple, crumple, and OUT of my pocket it goes.

I walked through the empty halls.

I like the halls like this. You don't have to push your way through crowds of people, or wait for them to move out of the way.

I've had this thing about--- OW!

I fell back. My face felt like it's been smashed in by a door. Oh, wait. That's right. It was.

"Oh…!! I'm sorry, Matthew!!"

Ow. I was a bit dizzy, so I couldn't tell who was talking to me.

"I'm so, so sorry!

My vision blurred back into view. Those familiar long, braided pigtails: "Oh, yeah. Damn. Jesus. It's fine, Akira."

"No, really-- I'm so sorry. I was just so bent on solving this stupid Geometry problem-- I'll try to be more conscious. I'm really sorry,"

"No, really. I'm okay. I'm good." I stumbled to my feet as she helped me up. I shook it off, "What's this concept you're talking about, anyhow?"

She showed it to me.

"Oh. It's all quadrilaterals and parallel lines. Look at the givens--" Making sure to indicate this as I went along "--Quadrilaterals're two triangles, and that angle's the alternate interior to that one. So, that one becomes the linear pair of that one, that's a vertical angle to that one, so that must mean that it's supplementary to that one, which means that all the rest of the variables'll be just a bunch of piece-of-cake fill-ins."

Akira paused and looked at it. Then at me. Then back down at it, "No way."

I smiled.

"Thanks…" she looked up at me. She paused again.

I rose a brow.

"It's the first time I've ever seen you smile," she crinkled her eyes, "you should more often."
Uh?

She nodded and looked down, "Thank you, Matthew." And with that, she quickly walked off.

Huh?

Sub Chapter 1.4DUMB CANDLESTICKS

After school…

We all walked home.

"I still want my number back," Mark sulked.

I stuck my tongue out at him.

John chuckled.

"Is the decoy a real number?"

John nodded, "It's Meril's."

"Whoo-hoo!" Luke jumped.

I sighed.

"Why am I deprived of all this?" Mark cried out.

"You've always been deprived, dweeb-loser," Luke teased him.

"Of brain cells."

"Hey! Not funny, John!"

Luke laughed at Mark.

I wonder who lives in all these houses.

"Boy, but did Matt sure fool us!" John said in an over-exaggerated tone and whistled.

We're all neighbors. Luke lives next to me, and right across the street from him and I are John and Mark. But, wait. It gets creepier.

"Don't worry, though," Mark cracked his knuckles, "We'll get him while he's sleeping."

I know most of the people who live on this street, but after this street, everything else is pretty foreign. Not that I'm scared or anything. This is a pretty friendly neighborhood.

"Why don't we get him while he's on the crapper?" Luke suggested.

It's just I haven't really thought about it, you know, exploring the neighborhood. I think I really just don't care about knowing more than what I have to.

"… And let's put super glue on the toilet seat!" John added.

Hm. Maybe I should. Whatever. I don't know.

"Then it's settled! At exactly twenty-four hundred hours, we will strike!!" Luke declared.

I looked at them, "What're you striking?"

John and Mark raised eyebrows at each other.

Luke looked at me funny.

"No, really, what're you guys striking?"

John blinked.

Mark sighed, "I think we were wrong, you guys. He's probably the dumbest out all of us."

"Either that, or he doesn't listen to his mom when she tells him to clean those candlesticks out of his ears," Luke scolded.

John scratched his head, "I think it's both."

… HUH?!

Sub Chapter 1.5SMARTER THAN DUMB

"… What do I think of Akira?"

"Yeah," I sat Indian-crossed on the floor.

"Is your mom gonna make anymore cookies?"

"Yeah."

"Well, she'd look damn hot if she took out those braids."

"Akira?"

"Yeah. And if she stopped wearing overalls all the time. Oh, and the glasses thing doesn't help, either."

I sighed.

Luke sat up and tossed a pillow at me, "Come to think of it,"

I caught the pillow and threw it back at him.

He knocked it out of the way, "She'd be pretty sexy if." He paused. I think he was imagining the possibilities.

I leaned back on my elbows.

"Nah," he said as an afterthought: "She's too busy with her silly books."

"What's wrong with that," I said with a tone of indifference.

"She should pay attention to herself more, I think."

"Well, I'd have her over a narcissist like Meril."

"Hey! I take offense to that!!" Luke took the comforter off my bed and smothered me with it.

"Hey, cut that out, asshat."

He bellowed a malicious laugh.

"HEY! Cut it out!!"

"I reign supreme!"

"Whatever," I shoved him off.

"And to think there're two more days 'till the weekends." Luke deflated. "Damn. I hate Thursdays."

"Thursdays are the best, what're you talking about."

"Yeah, if anyone's a loser like you! I thought you said you were bored!"

"But my schedule for Thursday spreads everything out nicely. All the boring crap is spread out pretty even."

"Man, all regular classes are stupid and slow."

"Like you?"

"Shut up!" Luke's mouth was filled with cookies.

We just sat there in silence for a while.

Luke looked at me as he ate.

I raised an eyebrow at him.

"You like her?"

"What?"

"Akira."

"No, I---"

"Good. You scared me, there. I was beginning to think that you stopped believing in cooties."

"Christ."

"Out of the four of us, you're the only one who hasn't gotten girl-crazy. Heck, not even a first crush,"

"Uh-huh--"

"Even your girl."

"What about her?" I sat up.

"You didn't even seem to like the chick. It's like, you were just cornered. You didn't even seem interested."

"She kept bothering me," I traced circles into the carpet, "So I guess showed her that a boyfriend wasn't everything."

He chomped down on more cookies.

"She was concerned with boosting her status. All that shit. So I gave her what she wanted until it was over. I didn't really think too much of it."

"Why not? She's hot!"

"She was shallow." As I thought about it, I realized she was also too idealistic.

"What do you mean?"

"Novel romance."

"And?"

"I didn't even want her as a friend."

"Damn, wow,"

"I just held her hand until she got tired of me. Fight. Break up. Freedom."

"No kissing, huh,"

"Naw."

"Hugging?"

I let out a half-assed chuckle.

"'I love you'?"

"Since when have I ever said anything I didn't mean?"

"Huh." Luke chomped thoughtfully for a moment. "Maybe you are smarter than all the rest of us."

"Maybe," I shrugged.

Am I?

Sub Chapter 1.6ENGLISH INQUISITION

Luke and I biked down to the lake and read comics. He brought along a bunch of cookies in a bag with him.

Our flashlights started to die out, so we used candles. The air was pretty cold.

"I don't get it."

"What?"

"How can John be so, like, suave?"

"Suave?"

"Yeah," Luke propped himself up on an elbow, "He's smart. Athletic. Women adore him."

"Come on. He's always been that way."

"And how is it that Mark's such an idiot, but women think it's so cute?"

"He's just like that, that's all."

"And how come you're just all content with your life, and it's like you don't even feel the need to improve?"

I shrugged.

Luke furrowed his brow.

I turned the page.

"And, how is it that--"

"Will you shut up and read, already?"

Luke scoffed and stuck his tongue out at me.

And how come it is that he's asking all these questions all of a sudden?

Chapter TwoALIKE

"Matthew! Ma-atthew…!!"

Ughn. What does she want?

"Hurry up, get ready! You're gonna miss the bu-uuus!"

I jolted up and looked at the clock. Crap.

I yanked my towel off the floor. Crap, crap, crap.

Ah! Too cold! Crap! BAH! Too hot! Crap, crap! Damn it, my clothes-- where did I? In the room, all the way back in the room. Crap, crap, crap;

I hopped down the stairs on one foot while struggling to pull the other pant leg on.

"Oh, honey. Luke was hungry, and you were a bit late, so I let him have your breakfast."

I looked at Luke.

"Hey," he grunted with his mouth full of toast.

"Crap."

My mom looked at me.

"Oh-- Uh." I said that one out loud.

Luke chugged down my orange juice and shouldered his backpack, "C'mon, wet-head. Gonna be late."

I rolled my eyes as we proceeded out the door.

"Bye, sweetie!" Mom called out to me.

"Bye, mom!" We both yelled as we hopped aboard the bus.

John and Mark saved us some seats.

"You guys live right across from us," Luke yelled. "How is it that for eight years, you two've managed to--"

"We're cooler than you two," Mark casually interjected.

"You wish." Luke plopped down in his seat.

John was striking a conversation with Meril's best friend, Sara.

I forgot I was still standing. The bus driver leered at me through the rear-view mirror. I quickly sat down. Then the bus zoomed off.

I looked out the window at the grey sky and sighed. And to think we have a over a semester of school left. What am I going to do with my life after high school and college? Tax auditor. Professional beggar. Permanent bag boy. Yes. Three PhDs, and what'll it all be worth. An excellent job opportunity in the exciting new business of twenty-first century leaf blowing.

"Hey!! Are you listening?"

Window-cleaning for a one-story, one window, third-party law firm in the middle of a crime center.

"Are you listening? Hey. Hey,"

No. "Yeah, yeah. What is it?"

"Issue number twenty-five, douche."

"I'll trade you for issues eight and seventeen."

"Deal," Luke nodded.

I returned it and noticed Akira sitting alone across from us, staring out the window.

Luke looked at me funny and raised an eyebrow. He followed my eyes toward Akira and looked back at me, "Yeah. You nerds're all alike. So engulfed. Don't even notice you've traded off a limited edition for two pieces of crap!"

"What?"

"You weren't even listening when I told you which series of issue twenty-five I wanted."

"Oh, no. It better be 'Cane of Eden',"

"WRONG! 'Keys', suckaaaaa'--"

"Bastard." It was too late. The Pact has been made. No one-- well, not Luke and I at least-- breaks The Pact.

He paused and looked at me before he bellowed another malicious laugh.

I sighed.

There was silence.

"Okay, stop staring at her already."

I narrowed my eyes at him. He had a curly grin.

Mark smirked at Luke as Luke winked furiously, "Look, I know you're doing some kinda mathematical calculation to figure how far you have to leap over me to get on top of her,"

"Aw, stop you old cornball,"

"but, uh," Luke patted me on the back, "Our stop is here."

I scratched my head.

Mark snickered.

Luke winked at me some more in that ultra lame way.

I rolled my eyes and gathered my things.

Are we really alike? Akira and I?

Sub Chapter 2.1RIBBIT.

If non-disjunction were to occur at a two to one ratio, would it affect Evolution in the long run, or would Humanity just die out? I wonder if kids born in non-disjunction conditions have any advantages over 'normal' kids?

"… The Calvin Cycle's a bit complicated, but, I'm sure we'll work through it. A little later, that is."

Why am I thinking about this. And what's that smell?

"… As you know, photosynthesis is the anti-thesis of cellular respiration,"

How come nobody notices the smell?

"… Photosynthesis only works in daylight and only in plants, whereas cellular respiration goes on day and night, and occurs in all living things."

I think somebody forgot to throw away a frog after dissection. Nobody notices it. That bugs me. Personal hygiene at this school sucks. Can't anyone around here smell rotting frog carcass?

"Let's get into detail of these two--"

"Uh," Akira raised her hand.

"Yes, Akira?"

"I don't mean to be rude, or anything, but. It smells like something died in here?"

"I don't smell anything."

"But--"

"Come to think of it," Mr. Biology walked over to the trash bin and opened the lid, "Ew, guh-ross!" He fanned the air.

A rancid smell crept across the stuffy lab.

"How many times do I have to tell those kids to dispose of their specimens in the dumpster outside?"

Everyone was clueless. I don't think they smelt it.

Akira opened all the windows and the sunlight broke through the greyness and shone into our room.

Her skin. It glows in the sunlight.

Sub Chapter 2.2RETAIL VALUE

Lunchtime…

"Hey. Snap out of it, Door-Matt!" Luke yelled in my ear.

I scratched my head, "Yeah,"

"Eat your food! It's getting cold," Luke commanded.

"Since when did you have breasts and stretch marks?" John squinted an eye at Luke.

"Ever since your mom taught me how."

"Hey-- Your mom,"

"Oh, yeah?! Your face!"

"I'm giving you five reasons to shut your pie-hole, and they're right here!" John shook his fist at him.

"Calm down, you two," Mark casually sipped on his chocolate milk.

Luke and John playfully socked each other.

"Besides, we all know John's mom's HOT!" Mark burst.

John almost choked on his sandwich.

"Testify!" Luke and Mark slapped high-fives.

"Hey, you pervs, stop saying disgusting things about my mom,"

"John's mom is HO-OT! John's mom is HO-OT!" they teased.

"Shank you," he murmured. He looked at me, "Matt. You with us?"

No. "Yeah,"

"Maybe he's got the runs, and he just doesn't want to tell us," Mark grinned.

"What's the matter? The casserole's got a rat in it?" John chomped down on the last of his sandwich.

"Need Pepto Bismol?" Luke smirked.

"Shut up, you old cornball," I said. Then I looked at everyone, "Do I look constipated or something?"

"Matt, you always look constipated," John joked around.

"Yeah!" Mark added.

"You've been lost in space, lately. But it's gotten worse since yesterday. You alright?" Luke looked at me.

"I'm good."

"If you say so, chicken-butt," Luke shrugged. He forked my casserole, "In that case, I don't think a good casserole should go to waste."

"Maybe you need another girlfriend," Mark suggested.

"I agree," John peeled an orange.

"Like hell he does!" Casserole bits flew out of Luke's mouth.

"You think landing a girl solves every problem," I rolled my eyes.

"It DOES!" John and Mark burst out.

Luke looked longingly at his last piece of my casserole, "Well, I guess it's just you and me, Cassie. Don't worry, babe. You solve all of my problems."

Mark guffawed, "Figures he'd sweet talk a casserole."

"Sad," John sank his teeth into his orange.

"Hey!" Cassie bits were flying at them, "I'll have you know that this casserole has ten times more to offer than your lousy women,"

"Says who?" Mark asked.

"Women're just men with different accessories. They're extortionists, man!"

"How dare you defile the sacred name of Women!" John stood up, "DIE!!" he threw pieces of orange at Luke.

Mark flung potatoes at Luke, but it missed and hit John.

John batted an eye at them, "Oh, it's on, now!"

"Bring it on!" Luke shouted.

John spat seeds out at Luke. Luke used Mark as a body shield.

"Auuu!!" Mark yelled, "The citric acid! It BURNS!!"

Luke bellowed a villainous laugh, "In the name of Casserole, I shall slay you!" He jumped over the table and tackled John to the ground and smothered his face with mashed potatoes.

"AUGH!" Mark dropkicked Luke and the three of them became tumbleweed of feet and fits.

Everyone in the cafeteria laughed and cheered and clapped.

I shrugged.

… I wouldn't trade them in even for one hundred limited edition 'Keys' issues. I think.

Sub Chapter 2.3JOG LIKE THE WIND

Coach Bossy barked at us, "C'mon, ladies! This is men's advanced physical education, not Sissy 101! Pull yer acts together!"

John zoomed past me, "Snooze, ya lose, Haley! I've seen my grandma jog faster than you!" His voice got smaller as he sped across the other side of the track.

"How can John be so, like, suave?"

I cringed.

"Haley!" Coach Bossy roared, "Krause'll lap ya twice at the rate yer goin'! Pick up the pace!"

I rolled my eyes, "Yes, Sir."

Man, for late fall to early winter, it's pretty warm. Maybe it's just me.

"HALEY!!" he used his whistle on me.

"Yes, Sir."

"Pick up the pace! Don't make me repeat that again, boy!"

"I'm tired, Sir."

"Like hell you are! Extra laps for that potty mouth of yers!!"

Idiot. You don't give more laps to a tired runner. "Yes, Sir."

"Go, go , GO!!"

What's the term for dying from heat and over-exertion?

I'm bored.

I looked at the bleachers. Hey. It's Akira.

She was reading a huge book. Meril and Sara were coming up to her. I wonder what they were saying. Akira just shook her head and smiled. The two cheerleaders started to laugh, but it didn't look like she told them anything funny. I wonder what's going on--

"OOF!" I fell flat on my face.

John zoomed by and laughed at me, "Loser."

That's what I get for thinking I'm too cool to tie my shoes.

Sub Chapter 2.4BRIEF BRIEFS

"Oh, come on, Matt. You could run faster than that," John dried his hair.

"Nope. I really can't."

He rat-tailed me.

"Aw, you maggot!" I tossed someone's soap at him.

"And I saw you checking out the nerd." He smirked.

"I wasn't 'checking her out' and she's nota nerd."

"Oh, getting defensive, are we?"

"….."

"I'm beginning to think that you actually have a heart, Matthew Haley," he put on his shirt.

"Shut your face." I looked up at him, "I don't."

He looked at me.

"If I did, I wouldn't be able to do this!" I took his pants off his duffel bag and ran outside.

"HEY!!" He chased after me.

The bell rang as we raced across the track. Everyone was coming out of their classes to see John running after me in his briefs.

I waved his pants around like a white flag, except I didn't give up.

Everyone howled with laughter and cheered.

"Heh. Not so suave now, are ya, Krause?" I yelled over the rise of laughter.

"What the hell are you talking about?! Give me back my pants!" he screamed, "I thought you couldn't run!"

"I lied!"

The crowd got bigger. And the whooping and hollering and whistling and catcalling got louder and louder.

He couldn't catch me.

Luke cheered the loudest.

"Give me my pants, ass-wipe!"

I grinned and jogged like the wind.

Cheers, Luke. Cheers.

Sub Chapter 2.5BUBBA WHAT?

After school…

"Ahahahahaha!! Man, Matt really pulled a fast one on you!!"

"Shut up, Mark! He still has your number!"

Ha. No. I don't.

"Damn. You've gotta admit it. He's good," Luke patted me on the back.

I gave them a scary, all-teeth grin.

"You're one cool bastard," John socked me in the shoulder. "One cheeky bastard."

Mark put me in a headlock, "If you weren't my best friend, I'd fart on you."

Luke chortled.

It was Thrasher Thursday. Every Thursday since the fifth grade, we'd stuff ourselves like crazy and go through half of our Fridays miserable and suicidal and then we'd spend the other half hosting Ludicrous Friday. Uh, implication's in the name-- The by-product of binging and the post-sugar rush. You could only guess how we spend our Fridays.

Ah. Bubba Burger Butts. The best oil-saturated, cholesterol-loaded, pimple-popping junk food in town.

"Hi, uh, I'll have a triple Bubba Burger Butt Burger," Mark leaned over the counter.

"Hey, Rose." John winked.

She smiled, "And what'll you be having?"

"Bubba Burger Butt Fries with extra chili."

"And you?"

Luke squinted at the same menu he's squinted at for years, "Uh, a Triple Bubba Burger Butt Burger with extra beef, Bubba Burger Butt Fries with extra chili and Monterey Jack, a Bubba Burger Butt Chocolate Shake, um, make it a large, and a Bubba Burger Butt Ultra Deluxe Cookie."

She looked at him funny, "Will that be all for you?"

"Yeah." Luke said with a satisfied grin.

She was afraid to ask me, "… And you?"

"I'll have the Super Butt Combo."

"Hey," Mark whispered, "I heard that it comes with two eager men and an objective sumo-wrestler."

"What?" I elbowed him.

John and Luke burst out laughing.

Rose sighed, "Seventeen ninety-two, please."

We all paid our respective amounts.

After we all got our food, we went to our usual table.

"Hey! I bet you guys ten bucks that Luke is gonna hurl on John this time."

John turned to Mark, "What're you talking about? He always chucks on you!"

"That's why I've got dibs on your seat."

"Get out!"

"No."

"Fine."

A little while later…

We walked out of Bubba Burger Butts.

"SICK!" John was wiping the remaining chunks off his shirt.

Mark simpered, "I win!"

Luke patted his tummy with complete satisfaction.

I rolled my eyes.

Sub Chapter 2.6SECOND TOAST

Luke and I were at the lake.

I reluctantly traded off my limited edition twenty-five for his crappy eight and seventeen.

"Mwa-hahaha-ha-haaaaa!" his voice echoed across the lake.

I rolled my eyes and popped open number eight.

He did his silent cheer and excitedly opened his spiffy new comic book. He never did believe in collecting comics for the sake of collecting. He read.

He looked up after a while, "Hey, Door-Matt?"

"Yeah?" I continued reading.

"Thanks for roasting John."

"Whatever."

He chuckled and went back to reading.

What a guy. The kind of friend who thinks that other friends remember crap like that. I think him remembering was more important than me remembering. Maybe me remembering means nothing at all to anyone but me. Who cares. Look at him. Reading a limited-edition comic for the sake of reading.

Cheers, Luke. Cheers.

Chapter ThreeSUPER BUTT SPECIAL TO GO

"Hurry up, moron!"

"Don't eat my breakfast, or I'll slap you."

"Too late!"

"Go home and eat your own, jerk,"

"I'm telling mom you're being mean,"

"Who's she gonna believe?" I shouldered my backpack, "The kid who came out of her, or the kid who comes every morning and scarfs down her son's breakfast?"

"I don't eat it every morning," Luke puckered his lips.

"Don't make it a habit." I scowled.

"Bye, sweeties!"
Grr.

"Bye, mom," We hopped aboard the bus.

"Scoot over, Luke."

"No. You're mean," he teased.

The bus driver leered at me, so I sat down in the closest seat.

"Oh, hi! Good morning, Matthew!"

Uh.

"Not a morning person?" she smiled.

Don't look directly at her. "Used to be, I guess."

"Is it the weather?"

"Naw." I felt kind of childish with my head turned away from her. I sat in a more normal position and casually glanced over at her.

Her eyes crinkled through her glasses.

Nice shade of blue. I casually glanced away again.

There was a lapse of awkward silence.

Why the hell is the bus driver taking his sweet time, Jesus Christ. Who cares if the guy has crouches; Let him walk. Just close the bloody door and get to school.

Great. My palms're sweating. "Yeah. I saw you yesterday on the bleachers."

I could tell she was looking right at me.

I didn't know what to do with my face. "What were those two saying to you?"

"Oh,"

I looked at her. She was staring out the window, "It was nothing."

"….."

She sighed.

"I didn't mean to---"

"Oh, no! It wasn't anything, honest," she negated herself with a smile.

"Alright."

"Nice job with the clothing deprivation stunt."

Clothing deprivation stunt? Oh, yeah. John's pants. Haha. I chuckled a bit. "Yeah. Thanks."

There was more silence.

"Pssst!"

I turned to Luke.

He was winking furiously and Mark was raising his eyebrows.

I rolled my eyes.

"Here's our stop," Akira stood up, "I'll see you in History, okay?"

"Yeah."

She smiled and stepped off.

Mark teased, "You want one of her Super Butt Specials, dontchya?"

Luke and John laughed.

"Shut your face." I casually stepped off the bus. I casually tripped over a crack in the sidewalk.

Wait a minute. I have History with her, too?

Sub Chapter 3.1OLÈ

I've just figured out that I have six out of seven classes with Akira. Christ. I don't know if I can handle anymore confrontations with her, I should try to avoid them. … Wait, why can't I handle them? It's not like--

"Señor Haley."

"¿Sí?" What now?

"Conjuga verbo 'to have' en pasado, por favor," Mrs. Español's fiery eyes burnt through my skin.

Tuvé. Tuvíste. Tuvó. Tuvimos. Tuvieron. Spanish people're random. "Uh… No sé."

"¿Porqué?"

"Uh,"

"¿No estudias?"

"Ah…"

"¿Nervioso?"

"No, uh,"

"¿Tú es un Bobo, Señor?"

I can't believe she just called me an idiot in Spanish. She's lucky I'm supressing the urge to use all the Spanish no-no words I know on her.

No, profesora. Soy muy cansado y aburrido. Me duele la cabeza porque este clase es facíl y quiero morir. ¿Alegré? "No, Profesora."

"¡No duerme¿Si?"

"Si, profesora."

"Bueno."

I feel like wacking a piñata right about now.

Sub Chapter 3.2AIRPLANE GRAFFITI

… I think I ate too much Triple B food. I won't even attempt to say the name. I might just hurl all over my desk.

Mr. History gabbed on and on about the French Revolution. Or, at least I think it was. He had this weird way of double-talking.

"Napoleon, being the strategic genius he was, had many flaws. Many, many flaws. Kind of like my wife. Every time she makes meatloaf I'm heading for the bomb shelter. The kids, and the laughter, he commended Frederick, that Voltaire did. Voltaire seemed to have this passion for writing and Diderot was more than grateful to have Catherine the Great to sponsor his encyclopedia. But, enough about that, let's talk about the Battle of Waterloo."

I sighed.

A piece of paper skidded across my desk as if it were a makeshift runway. I looked around before I unfolded the airplane.

Akira nodded.

I paused. Huh.

I opened it.

"I don't know about you, but if he keeps going on like this, we'll all either and up with speech impediments or Schizophrenia by the end of this semester;"

I half-smiled.

"I knew that'd make you smile--"

I looked over at her.

She smiled at me.

Yeah.

"Thanks for asking about them. It happens all the time anyway, but it's nice to know someone cares. Smile, Matthew."

I did.

In a sort of uncomfortable, feel-like-I'm-being-watched way, but I did.

Sub Chapter 3.3MUSH, PLEASE.

Lunchtime…

I can't believe I traded off my precious action-packed issue twenty-five for romance plot-inflicted eight and seventeen. Nothing happens. Just mush. I hate it.

"What'd you get?"

Mark eyed John, "Pizza. Why?"

"I got this gloopey stuff,"

Well. I don't hatemush, it's just that. Okay, yeah. I hate it. More productive things could be happening. What's stopping them. It's a friggin' comic book. What could go wrong with more violence and less of that other crap?

"I'll eat it!"

"Fine, Luke. I'll trade it for those cookies."

"Like hell you will!"

"They're just cookies, Luke."

What kind of generations are they trying to build. A bunch of sappy Romeos with sad one-liners?

"They're not 'just cookies', John,"

"What's the big deal?"

"They're a batch of Mrs. Haley's,"

"So?"

Mark just watched them as he picked the pepperonis off his pizza and popped them into his mouth.

"What do you mean, "'So?'?"

"Lemme have them, bitch,"

"I'll bite you."

Next thing you know, a few decades from now, every kid'll be more interested in sweet-talking girls than defending their country. All thanks to sappy comics. Not like I care about my country. But.

"OW!! You bit me, you jackass!"

Mark guffawed and the pepperonis were falling out of his mouth.

"That's what you get," Luke stuck his tongue out at him.

"Just for that," John yanked the Ziploc bag right out of Luke's hands, took out all five of the cookies, and shoved them into his mouth.

"AUGH!" Luke seethed, "You did not just eat all my cookies, asshole,"

"I DID!!" Cookie crumbs flew into Luke's face.

"YOU WILL FEEL MY WRATH!!" Luke angrily stood.

"Oh, c-crap," John sputtered.

Mark was dying.

"DIE!" Luke flung gloopey stuff in John's face.

I snapped out of it.

John jumped over the table and pinned Luke down and spat cookie bits into his eyes.

"AUGH!!" Luke shoved him off and blinked furiously. He grabbed a huge stale chunk of mashed potatoes off my plate and hurled it at John.

John ducked right in time for it to smother its stale, mashed self all over Mark.

"HEY!!" Mark stood up and took my ketchup and squirted it all over Luke's shirt.

John hurled my Jell-O at Luke.

Luke took my stale brownies and chucked them at Mark and John.

Someone got up and yelled, "FOOD FIGHT!!"

And food was flying.

I bolted out of there, having to duck, jump, and slide across the floor to get out the door unharmed.

The minute I got out, I sprung to my feet and saw a pastry splatter and slide down the cafeteria door's window.

Close call.

All that over cookies? Forget it. I'll take the mush.

Sub Chapter 3.4UNBÖRING

I strolled down the hall.

And to think all that food that could've fed thousands of third-world children was being flung around left and right. It's pretty bleak, isn't it---

SMACK!!

"Christ,"

"Oh!! I'm SO sorry!!"

"Jesus," I held my forehead.

"I'm so, so sorry!"

That's twice.

"I'm really sorry."

I squinted, trying to see straight. "… geometry concept?"

She hesitantly handed it over.

I rubbed my forehead and looked over it, "… Pentagonal. House. Three triangles. Remember, a quadrilateral consists of two congruent triangles. Pentagons are like houses. A square with a triangle for a roof. After that, use the transversals, and the perpendicularity symbol to figure out all the rest,"

She looked at me, then at it, "Get out of town."

"I would, but then who would be around to help you?" I smiled.

She returned it. "Where're you headed to?"

"Away from the cafeteria,"

"Why?"

I shrugged, "There's a food fight going on in there."

Her eyes widened, "A food fight?"

I nodded.

Akira furrowed her brow, "Interesting."

I scratched my head. Should I--

"Well, thank you for helping me again. I'm really sorry about the door-in-the-face thing; Um, on the bright side, it wasn't as hard as last time."

I chuckled, "You weren't the receiving end of the door,"

"Eee," She sheepishly smiled, "Well, I guess I'll see you later, okay?"

"Alright, then."

She nodded and walked off.

Interesting.

Sub Chapter 3.5TALK THE WALK

After school…

"Aw, shut up, dingle-doe. You only won because those ugly, desperate chicks have a thing for you, John," Mark batted an eye at him.

"Haha!" John socked him in the shoulder.

Mark stumbled into the grass before rejoining us on the sidewalk.

"Who cares who won! That was the best fight we've ever gotten into, you guys!! The whole school was involved!!!" Luke jumped.

"Yeah," They nodded in nostalgia.

I rolled my eyes. Yeah, this'll definitely be the best thing to tell my grandchildren. 'Back in my day, I hung out with idiots! We didn't have your silly hologram thingamabobs. We had fun the old-fashioned way! We chucked food at each other!!'

"But I better not see you eat-- No. I better not even see you touch my cookies, or I SWEAR I'll bite all your fingers off and sock your teeth out of your mouth!" Luke shook his fist at John.

John taunted, "You talk."

"And I'll walk, so don't push me," Luke said with sheer confidence, "Or I will walk the walk if you do!"

Mark giggled furiously.

"Shut up, you old cornball,"

"Hey, shut-up, butt-munch," Luke shoved me.

John laughed.

Hm. He'll walk if he's pushed?

Sub Chapter 3.6ROAD BLOCK

"Here, Luke. I told ma what happened, so she made two batches for you."

He screamed like a girl, "Oh, I'd KISS your mom if she weren't twice my age!"

I raised an eyebrow.

"LUDICROUS FRIDAY!!" He yelled.

"I'm too tired to be crazy." John rested his chin on his arms.

"I'm not," Mark went over and farted on Luke.

"HEY!!"

John burst out laughing like a hyena and rolled over onto his stomach.

"Don't get me started, maggot," Luke angrily chomped away.

Mark stuck his tongue out at him.

"How 'bout you, Matt?" John looked at me, "What do you wanna do?"

I blinked. "Sleep."

Mark cleared his throat, "… with Akira."

"Shut your face, kid."

"Oh, Matt. Don't be such a piss-in-the-pants. We're just joking with you," John yawned and rubbed his belly.

"No, but hey," Luke gulped down some milk in a thermos my mom gave him, "Are you into her?"

"Yeah. Are you?" Mark sat down next me.

I poked the fire with a stick, "I don't know. Who cares."

John lazily tossed a rock into the lake, "You should."

I looked at him.

"Why?" Luke brushed the crumbs off his pants, "He doesn't have to--"

"He does," Mark took a stick and poked the fire, too.

John rolled onto his back and looked at the stars, "It's a passage into manhood, that's why."

I looked at him some more, "The hell? 'Passage into manhood'?"

"Sex is a cruel punishment for men who don't get any," Mark countered.

"Loss of virginity is one sign that you're growing into a man," John stretched.

I felt irritated all of a sudden. "We get chest hair and our voices change. Try a sip of beer, light a cigarette, but it won't make us men."

"I agree," Luke nodded, "Sex changes us into animals, not men."

"You're just afraid, virgin-hugger," Mark tossed the stick into the fire.

John propped himself up on an elbow, "Who gets the women, huh, Matt? The men do."

I sat up, "That's stupid. Any girl who's desperate'll go after you."

"And the REAL men have commitments not built on top of physical conquest. They have jobs and futures and goals and stuff," Luke took another sip out of his thermos.

Mark was silent.

"No, the REAL MEN know that one of their goals in Life is to take a passage into manhood-- their first physical conquest is their key. REAL MEN have tasted that poison, and have become immune. All REAL MEN have."

I joined Mark in complete silence. Jesus. I'm really peeved.

"Have you?" Luke looked at him.

John paused. "Huh?"

"Have you taken your so-called 'passage into manhood'?"

"No."

"Then shut the hell up and leave Matt alone, bitch-monkey."

John fell silent.

Luke popped a cookie into his mouth.

Mark muffled a chuckle.

I hid my wide grin behind my knees.

Cheers, Luke. Cheers.

Chapter FourLAZY

I hate the weekends. I never do anything on weekends. Well, I never do anything in school, either. Come to think of it, I never do anything at all. But at least in school, I'm supposedto be doing something. Having something to do and not doing it is still sort of doing something. But when I'm not being yelled at, and I'm sitting on my couch recuperating from Thrasher and Ludicrous, I'm bored. I hate the weekends.

Oh, Saturdays, my mom's usually working from morning to night, and Luke swings by. He always comes over here. But I've only been to his house once or twice at most.

John and Mark've never been to his house, but he's been to all of our houses one too many times. He eats my breakfast for me in the morning, for God's sake. Almost everyday, too. Oh, well. Luke'll be Luke.

I sighed.

Man, I'm bored.

I paused.

Why don't I ever just go outside?

I stood up. Then I sat back down.

Oh. I forgot. That's why.

I sighed again.

I'm too lazy.

Sub Chapter 4.1YOU HOSER

"Matt!!" Luke barged into my house. I think that whole spare-key-under-the-rock thing's become too predictable.

"Hey, Butt-Face," I changed the channel.

Luke took the remote control, and chucked it at the lazy boy.

"Dude. I was using that."

"Well, guess what? You're not using it, anymore."

"What's the big idea?"

"For fifteen and a half years, you've done nothing but sit on your lazy ass and watch brain-washing, skull-numbing, unethically-subliminal crap."

"So? Calm down."

"So?! So, Mr. I'm-Too-Good-for-the-Great-Outdoors, I'm having you off that lazy ass of yours, and we're heading outside,"

"Where the hell are we going?"

"Anywhere,"

"I don't wanna--"

"You never want to go anywhere with me,"

So, this is what it's like to be married. I looked up at him, "You know why, right? 'Cuz you're lame and you whine too much."

"Who's the lame one? The lazy ass on the sofa-- Who's being a jackass? You!" He pointed in incriminating finger which I stared at cross-eyed. "GET UP!!"

"No."

"Come on."

"Make me."

"FINE." Luke grabbed my feet off the coffee table.

"H-hey, you jackass-- what the---?! Let go,"

He dragged me out onto the lawn and closed the door behind him.

"CHILD ABUSE."

He laughed.

The sprinklers turned on, and I was lying on top of two of them, "Auuuu!"

Luke laughed harder and let go of me.

"Help me up, fag--"

"Ahaha! You look like a turtle!"

I struggled to my feet.

"A cockroach! Ahahaha!!"

"You won't be laughing for long, asshat!"

"Oh, crap!" He tried to run away.

I tackled his legs and brought him down and we rolled around in the domesticated, commercialized topsoil mud of my front lawn and ran rampant through the sprinklers.

When the sprinklers turned off, we both let out a universal, "AWWWWW!!"

"Man, that was so---" Luke yelled, "AUGH!"

I whipped my head to see Mark using his hose from the other side of the street, belting out an evil laugh.

I guffawed as Luke fell in the mud and got hosed down by Mark.

Him and I ran over to the other side of the street and tackled Mark down and used the hose on him. We were rolling around and laughing and yelling.

John pelted us with water balloons from his second story window and Mark used his hose and got John right in the face.

John ran out of his house screaming like a maniac and we all got into a huge water fight in front of the whole neighborhood.

I guess Ludicrous Friday was stuck in traffic for a day and a half.

Sub Chapter 4.2DAYS OF OUR LIVES

John thought of calling it Super Soaker Saturday.

"How 'bout it?"

"I don't know," I looked at John, "I wouldn't want to do any of that again,"

"Yeah," Mark and Luke nodded as they strained the water out of their shirts.

John tossed me a towel, "Suit yourself."

"I would, but I didn't do the laundry," I grinned as I dried my hair.

John rolled his eyes as Mark and Luke chuckled.

John plopped onto his couch, "I think I found out the true passage into manhood."

We looked at him.

"Beating the crap out of your best friends, man."

We all laughed.

"From what I recall, you were the one getting pummeled," Mark smirked.

"Hey, shut up," John got defensive.

The rest of us laughed some more.

There was silence.

We sighed.

Luke silently contemplated with his tongue sticking out before he looked at us, "It's days like this that don't have a name. Days like this that don't happen as often as they should."

We all nodded and sighed again.

Sub Chapter 4.3BLACK HORIZON

I went biking through the neighborhood. Mark, Luke, and John went to the comic book store.

I should've asked Luke to trade my crappy mush for some action-packed, adventure-filled violence.

I biked my usual route and biked past the school, Bubba's, the comic shop, my house. I was on my way to take my usual scenic route through the lake when it dawned on me-- Just a few days ago I was contemplating about not knowing much my neighborhood.

I swerved away from the lake's bike path entrance and went up my block to explore the houses on the other end.

I was looking at a powder blue house when I noticed I was about to hit another biker.

I came to a screeching halt and saw the bike's blue alloy, attached to a pair of baggy pants, then pigtails, and I looked up to see that I almost plowed Akira over.

"Phew!" she exclaimed. "That was a close one, Matthew!"

"Uh."

"What're you doing on this side of town?"

"I… live on the other end of the block."

"You do?"

I nodded. There's no avoiding this chick.

"I didn't know you lived so close by!!" She pointed at the powder blue house that I was just looking at a few moments ago, "That's mine."
"It has a nice color." I didn't know what else to say.

"Why, thanks! I painted it myself!" she smiled, "Which one's yours?"

I looked at her and paused.

She raised an eyebrow at me.

I scratched my head before I started pedaling, "I'll show you."

We reached the other end of the block, "That's mine."

"Nice design," she marveled.

"Thanks. My dad made it himself." I smiled slowly.

She raised another eyebrow as her smile grew.

I cleared my throat. "Where're you headed to ?"

"Nowhere. Just around. I was just thinking to myself a few days ago, 'Geez, Akira, you really need to get out more! Practically half your own neighborhood is foreign to you!' So, I'm exploring a bit."

I said nothing.

"What's wrong?"

Whoa. "It's nothing."

She adjusted her glasses, "Care to join me?"

"Yeah, alright,"

"Just promise you won't run me over, okay?"

"Can't guarantee you anything."

She laughed, "C'mon, silly."

We zigzagged and weaved through the neighborhood. And broadened our horizons.

Sub Chapter 4.4STAND CORRECTED

"Are you getting tired, Matthew?"

"Nope."

"….."

"Are you?"

She laughed, "A little."

We stopped on our bike path skimming the lake and plopped down near the shore.

Akira laid herself out on the grass, "I didn't even know there was a bike path coming up this way,"

I pulled a few blades of grass out of the ground and fiddled around with them.

She rolled over onto her stomach and rested her chin in her arms and looked at me.

After a while, I stopped. "What?"

She chuckled, "Nothing."

I went back to what I was doing. Picking at… grass?

She smiled, "No, it's just that. You always look so serious and everything."

"Is there something wrong with that?"

"No, no," she chuckled some more, "But it's kind of nice when you smile."

I looked down at my lap to avoid eye contact.

"In class you look like this," and she imitated my face. That bored look I probably always have plastered on there. She laughed. "Sometimes when I look at you, it looks like you're planning a way to get out of there. I don't know. It looks to me like you aren't getting enough out of Life."

I stopped fiddling with the grass. I looked at her, "And how would you know?"

"Well, you're always frowning, intentionally answering questions wrong,"

My eyebrows shot up.

"Always off in a different world, like you're unsatisfied or something,"

My heart started to beat faster. I wanted it to stop. "And how would you know that?"

She looked at me, and fell silent for many moments.

I looked at her, unsure of whether I should or shouldn't.

Akira smiled. "It takes one to know one," she said with finality.

This wasn't important. It shouldn't be important. I looked away, and saw fireflies dancing over the water.

I didn't even notice it that it had already turned nightfall.

"To think that those stars are there all day," she rolled onto her back and looked at the sky, "Those stars're just like us, Matthew. They're there during the day, but at the same time, they're not really there." She then smiled, "That was a corny thing to say."

I laid down next to her and joined her in stargazing.

She gently laughed, "I guess that's how it is for people who need more answers, who want purpose. For people who feel like there's nothing to really live for."

I furrowed my brow. Wasn't it just a few days ago when I said just that?

But have I really matured at all? Do I know the full truth about Life? Is this really the peak of my existence, or is it only the beginning?

Just a few days ago, I didn't think I needed anymore answers.

But maybe. Maybe I was wrong. I don't know. Who cares.

Her and I continued to stargaze in the most comfortable silence.

Sub Chapter 4.5DON'T LOOK

I sighed and looked at her.

She was fast asleep.

She had a peaceful smile on her face as she slept.

I looked away. I had this feeling that this is one of those things I would let pass right over my head, like most things. It was easiest that way, I think.

And I think looking at her directly at her's taboo, or something. I couldn't even look her straight in the eye when we were talking.

I sat up and hugged my knees and paused.

It won't hurt. I took a quick glance at her.

She might catch a cold.

I took off my jacket, covered her with it, and resumed looking at the sky. There were a lot of stars out.

"… thank you…"

I jumped out of my skin, "Holy Christ--"

She smiled.

There was more silence.

I scratched my head, "Yeah, no. Who cares--" I stopped. "I mean, don't worry about it."

She sat up and stretched with a small yawn. She looked at her watch, "Oh,"

I looked at her questioningly.

"It's getting late," She stood up, "Thank you for exploring with me."

"Yeah."

I knew she was looking at me.

It won't hurt. I looked at her. I half-smiled.

Then she nodded with satisfaction and mounted her bike, "Bye."

"WAIT! I mean." I got up, brushing off the grass and shaking myself off, "I'll escort you home,"

She paused, "I could get home alright, it's fine, Matthew."

"No, it's night. I'm escorting you home."

She mildly shrugged, "I don't want to trouble you. You've already done me a big favor by accompanying me,"

I mounted my bike, "Let's go."

A while later…

We arrived at her house.

"I can't thank you enough,"

"Whatever, don't worry about it."

"I slammed a door in your face twice,"

"It's alright."

"You've helped me figure out all that Geometry stuff,"

"It's fine." I tried not to smile.

"You were nice enough to bike with me today, and--"

"Look," I interrupted her, "I didn't mind doing any of it. Really."

We were able to see our breaths in the cold night air.

Her skin had that glow. She let loose an unsure smile, "Thank you, Matthew."

I let out a small chuckle and shuffled my feet. I didn't know what to do with my hands. Don't look at her. Don't look at her. I started to feel weird just standing there, so I quickly mounted my bike.

"I'll see you at school, okay?"

I couldn't help it. It won't hurt. I looked at her and smiled, "Alright, see you."

She gently nodded and rolled her blue bicycle toward the garage.

I glanced at her before she turned around and waved. I returned it, kicked the stand up, and zoomed off.

I couldn't help it, I just couldn't not look at her.

She just has this thing.

It won't hurt--

Right?

Sub Chapter 4.6STOP THINKING

I lie in bed and looked out the window at the stars. The stars that her and

I are so much like. Those were the same stars I watched in comfortable silence by the shimmering lake. The same stars I didn't give a hoot about just a few days ago. The analogy was sort of corny. What did it matter? It felt kind of good.

I tucked my arms behind my head and stared up at my ceiling.

I stared so hard and long at it, that I began to see right through it to the black expanse of sky.

I remember brushing past one of her pigtails while we were on the grass. Man, she smelled good.

No. Stop thinking about it. Get a hold of yourself. It's not important. It shouldn't be important.

Only idiots like that kind of crap.

Stars and all that.

And mush.

Don't think about it. Don't look at her, anymore. Make yourself forget. It's easiest that way. You'll have less to worry about.

Don't think about it anymore.

Chapter FiveTOO EARLY

I woke up early this morning. It was Monday. Don't ask me why, I just did. I took a shower early, I put on my clothes at normal speed. I headed down the stairs. I woke up so early, that my mom wasn't even up yet. I made breakfast myself. It was so early that Luke wasn't around to eat the breakfast that I made.

Man, oh, man. I've forgotten what it felt like to get this early in the morning. The air's still clean. I waited on my front porch for Luke.

Luke came out of his house a little while after stretching. He came up to me.

He paused, "Did the bus leave?"

"No."

"Am I late?"

"No."

"Oh, well. Let's eat."

"Mom isn't up yet."

He scratched his head.

"C'mon, dumbass. We're walking."

"I'm too lazy."

"Too bad."

He childishly stomped after me, "Hey! Wait u-up! Why're you up so early?"

"I don't know."

"It's a Monday! There's nothing to look forward to!"

"And?" I continued walking.

He whined on our whole stroll to school.

Damn. I just realized it. It's Monday. There isn't anything to look forward to today.

Sub Chapter 5.1HONORABLE

Ah… I like English as a topic, but not as a subject. What's the difference? Voluntary discussion versus obligatory resuscitation. All that verb, noun junk gets tedious after a decade of it. It's the creative part I like.

But right now we're hearing the junk.

Ms. English wrote the meaning of blah-blah-blah, and blah-blah, "This is a participle. To utilize it, you just have to…" Blah-blah-blah. Yeah. Okay.

Where's the honor in this Honors class? Maybe I'll drop out and try AP or something. It'll probably give me something to do that I'll end up not doing. Which is better than this.

I looked over at Akira. She was sleeping with her eyes open.

How could I tell?

It took one to know one.

Sub Chapter 5.2SOCIAL CLASHES

Lunchtime…

"Where were you on Saturday? I was worried sick about you!!" Luke yelled at me.

"Dude, calm down. I was just biking around."

"Get that silly grin off your face. You think this is funny?" he nagged, "You could've at least let me know or something."

I sighed, "Are you going to make an issue out of this?"

A bunch of disgruntled teens behind us shot us angry squinted eyes. We scooted down the lunch line.

"Well, I---" Luke was interrupted by Meril.

"Hey, Luke?"

"Hey, yeah, what's going on."

"I thought we were going out last Saturday?" She smirked and winked at Sara.

"So original. Intelligent mind you have there, Meril." Luke frowned, "So much for beating a dead horse. You kinds are so last week."

"Wha--"

"Yeah, save it for the next show 'cuz the fat lady's sung. Game over. Shoo."

"Wh-what?"

"Can't you take a hint? Man, you cheerchicks're all alike!"

I looked at Luke. What the hell's he trying to pull?

"All a-like?"

"Yeah, you're all God's gift to men, with your skirts and your tail bones and your guy-snatching--"

What? I don't think that made sense. Meril was still devastated.

"I--"

"--and because I'm some, average, middle-class loser, you think it'd be funto date and dump me, wouldn't you?"

"Luke. Calm down."

Sara withdrew into the crowd that had formed.

Meril looked at everyone with a mouth wide open, eyes searching for sympathy. She fisted her hip. "If I remember correctly, you hit on me!"

"Not before I tried to ask you out nicely a million times."

She was revolted. She looked like she was ready to faint. Or die.

"You tick me off. Go away. I have someone else already anyway. And her name is lunch."

Everyone laughed. Some guys cheered.

Meril was flushed. She pursed her lips and shook her head with beady eyes. "I hate you," she seethed.

"Good," Luke rolled his eyes.

She batted an eye at him. Then she angrily stomped off.

Sara nervously giggled, "I never liked the girl, anyway."

The crowd dispersed.

Luke whistled happily as the lunch lady handed him his gloop.

He sat down at our usual table and started eating.

The three of us just gaped at him.

He went where no man has gone before. He has taken one huge, angry step for the social middle class. He had just told the most popular girl, the girl of his dreams, a cheerleader nonetheless, to get lost.

He looked up at us with his mouth full, "What?"

Mark blinked.

I rose my eyebrows and looked away.

John crossed his arms over his chest, threw his head back, and bellowed a hearty laugh. "Wow, Luke. I didn't think you had it in you."

"I walk the walk," Luke said confidently.

"I can't believe you said that twice. That is the lamest line," Mark joined in laughing with John.

I shook my head.

"Who needs women when I've got all the sexy, molded, cafeteria food I can eat?" Luke shoveled some into his mouth.

They continued laughing.

"I'm proud of me." Luke grinned a fat grin.

Looking back on it, I think he did it because he was bored.

Sub Chapter 5.3MY JACKET

I walked through the empty halls and listened to my footsteps echo.

You know, echoes are a funny thing because--

Wait.

I put my hand out in front of me and slapped the opening door. "Ow!"

"Oh, I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!"

"It hurts," I pretended to feel a world of hurt.

"That one must've!" She ran up to me, "I'm so, so sorry!"

"I can't remember anything. Where am I?"

"Oh, no! Please! I'm so, so, sorry! C'mon, Matthew! Don't go out on me--"

I paused and looked at her slowly with wide eyes. "Who's Matthew?"

"Oh, no! Oh, my god!"

I started to chuckle.

She paused.

I laughed harder.

She gasped. "Oh, Matthew! I can't believe you!" She started laughing, too.

I died.

Then we sighed.

Alright. Back into serious mode. "Hand it over."

She showed it to me.

"I could see why you'd get confused. It's a faulty copy. There's a perpendicular indicator right there. And there're parallel indicators here and here. Oh, and that's an eight, not a three."

She looked at it. Then at me, "You've gotta be kidding me."

"I think once is my limit for today," I half-smiled.

"Well, thanks, again,"

"It's nothing."

"Then I guess I'll, um, see you later," She started to saunter off.

"Akira,"

"Yeah?" she turned around quickly.

Wait. I don't have a reason to call her back. Uhh. "So. Where're you going?"

She smiled and raised an eyebrow, "Why?"

Uh. "I don't know. Christ." I didn't know what to do with my hands again.

"Upstairs to the third story window," she looked at me, "Care to join me?"

"Yeah, alright." Don't look at her, don't look at her.

She started walking again.

We headed upstairs toward the window.

Akira looked out and sighed.

I watched her. The wind blew our way. I smelled that familiar fragrance from her hair. I inhaled deeply. It was beyond my will to resist. I swear.

There was silence, except for the wind. It rustled the trees and hustled the gold, red, and brown leaves up and down the empty streets outside.

"I never see you in the cafeteria."

She looked out the window a bit more before she turned to me, "Oh. Well, you know,"

I realized that she… I dismissed it quickly, "Whatever. It's a good thing. The cafeteria food's never good anyway."

She smiled and strands of loose brown hair flailed in the wind blowing through. We looked out the window at a world we should've already been in a long time ago.

The wind was a bit chilly, so she crossed her arms over her chest with a slight shiver.

That's when I noticed the familiar sleeves. It was my jacket.

She was wearing my jacket.

"Matthew?"

My jacket. Well. My dad's jacket, but it was mine now. And she was wearing it.

"… Matthew?"

"Yeah?" I didn't know I was smiling. I quickly looked out the window.

"You kind of zoned out on me there."

"Yeah."

She smiled, "It's alright." She resumed looking out the window, "So, Matthew. Why aren't you in there?"

I paused. Good question. I tried not to look directly at her, "I don't know. Whatever. Who cares? There's nothing to do in there anyway and the good's bad."

She smiled.

I returned a half-smile.

We stared out the window in the same comfortable silence that we were in the night before last. The bell rang.

She turned to me, "Thank you for keeping me company."

"No prob."

I watched her walk off to our next class.

She was walking off in my jacket.

Sub Chapter 5.4NEEDLE

"Look, kids. I can't go easy on you just because it's Fall. You're in an honors class, and you have to pull your weight!" Mr. Geometry leaned against his podium, "Now, number eight, please."

Alternate interior. Lines M and L. By transversal X.

Akira raised her hand.

"Finally! Akira."

"… Alternate exterior, lines Q and R, by transversal Y."

"That's totally WRONG! INTERIOR, M and L, by X!" he grinned.

I turned to her.

She grinned.

I turned back around and smiled to myself.

I think she was just as amused as I was with boosting an arrogant teacher and watching his head swell with each fluky answer he had to correct. It was his duty after all. Making sure we knew that we know less than him.

"John. Number ten, please!"

"Uh, corresponding, Q and R by Y, sir."

Pop.

Mr. Geometry deflated, "That's correct."

Ha.

Sub Chapter 5.5BEAT AROUND THE BUSH

After school…

The four of us were all heading out the door to walk home together when Meril came up to us, "Luke."

John and Mark simpered at each other.

"What?" he batted an eye at her.

"I just wanted to like, you know, apologize? And," Meril looked at all the rest of us.

We scooted out of hearing distance. Well, at least I did.

Mark and John snuck behind a bush and listened in.

"S'alright, Meril. I didn't mean to blow up on you, by the way."

"No, it's good. It was a huge wake up call for me."

"Whatever floats your boat."

She giggled.

"'Kay. I guess I'll see you later, Meril," he started to walk off.

"Luke--"

He turned around, "Hm?"

"Are you going to ask me out some time?"

He shrugged, and walked off.

"Oooo!!!" they both cheered, and slapped each other high-fives. They laughed like hyenas.

"What? What happened?" I squinted to see Meril just standing there.

"Oh, crap. He's coming." Mark gasped.

"Quick, you guys! Pretend you're doing something!" John hustled.

Mark fell down on his back and hastily got around to making a dust angel, as John pretended he was inspecting the bush.

I rolled my eyes and stood there.

"Hey, let's go, you guys," Luke lazily trudged off.

"Hey, what happened?" I whispered.

"He turned down one of the hottest chicks in school, man." John followed him, giggling excitedly.

"He's just afraid to put out 'cuz he's got a small willy," Mark followed John with dust trailing behind him as he got up.

I paused.

He did what?!

Sub Chapter 5.6JUST IMAGINATION

Luke and I sat by the lake. Instead of reading comic books, I gazed up at the sky.

He silently read and chomped down on some cookies. He eats a thousand cookies a day and they magically disappear. He's a human garbage disposal. The crunch echoed.

I tried to count the stars and gave up after a while, "Why'd you blow her off?"

"I didn't."

"What've you got up your sleeve?"

He looked at me with a straight face and one cheek fatter than the other with cookies, "Self-esteem."

I looked at him, "Self-esteem's worth more to you than the girl of your dreams?"

"If the 'girl of your dreams' acts like a retard and then all of a sudden wants you, forget it. I'll take the self-esteem over her any day," he went back to an impetuous sort of chewing.

I nodded and resumed looking up at the stars.

He continued reading.

Silence.

I chuckled, "You were just too scared to say 'yes', weren't you?"

"Yeah," he shrugged as he shoved another cookie into his mouth.

I chuckled some more.

Cheers, Luke. Cheers.

I stared out the window.

Luke's becoming stronger and stronger. I could tell. It's as if he's figured out something that all the rest of us haven't yet.

Maybe the whole purpose of Life is achieving inner peace or something. Or learning to be satisfied with yourself. I don't know. I've never really thought about it.

A chilly breeze crept in through my window.

Man, it was getting pretty cold.

Cold. Catching a cold. My jacket.

I wonder if she was wearing my jacket to tell me something. Or maybe she forgot? It seems more like her to have forgotten. Man, what's the utility of knowing whether she did it on purpose or not?

Do I like her? Does it matter? How could I tell? Do they have some kind of dictionary that tells me in clear-cut, Times New Roman, font twelve, that I do or don't like her? Maybe I'm attracted to her. That seems reasonable. Then again, maybe not. I'm not the kind who's attracted to women. I mean I kind of like them and all. But they're too much trouble. Maybe I enjoy her company.

Do I want more than that?

Maybe.

Whatever. I'm tired. I'm going to bed.

I pulled the covers over my head.

I felt the air seeping through my comforter, and I smelled a familiar fragrance.

Wait a minute.

I threw my comforter off and hopped to my feet and ran up to the window.

Damn. No one.

Now I feel stupid.

Am I just fooling myself?

Maybe.

What am I hoping for, here?

Man. Whatever.

It's just my imagination.

65