Hi, guys! This was supposed to be a chapter story, but it's not going anywhere. However, it's good writing, so I've decided to keep it up. Hope you enjoy a little bit o' fluff!
Zoë Hanson balanced her books on one hip as she twirled the combination on her lock for the tenth time, trying in vain to open her damn locker. She was preoccupied, though, and kept forgetting the combination. With a sigh of frustration, she kicked it. Though the loud clang was satisfying, it made her drop her books. She bent down to pick them up. This was clearly not her day.
She straightened up immediately as she felt someone slap her butt. Bright red and furious, she glared down the hall at a blond boy she didn't know. He smirked at her, waved, and said, "I'm Josh. Nice ass."
Pressing her lips together tightly, Zoë turned back toward her locker, refusing to meet this boy's eye. She didn't recognize him, and she didn't want to call attention to herself. Only three more years, she thought to herself. Then I'm out of here.
"Hey, don't you dare touch my friend, you perverted bastard!" A voice to her left melted Zoë's cold frown into a smile. The girl who'd spoken was her beautiful best friend, Meghan Laherty. Meghan reached over, twirling Zoë's lock and popping the locker door open. She watched Zoë with a stern look, her cool blue eyes carefully surveying Zoë's own.
"Jeez, Zo, why didn't you just beat the crap out of him?" she asked, flicking her thick red hair over one shoulder. "I mean, you'd do it if he'd hit me."
Zoë wasn't totally sure about that. Sure, she'd do anything for Meghan, and she'd definitely want to help, but she wasn't as self-assured as her friend. Meghan was the kind of girl who could waltz into a room full of strangers, head over to the nearest group of people, and make instant friends. Zoë was the girl who'd stand in the corner, half-hidden by a potted plant and hoping someone would notice her enough to ask her to dance.
Brushing her own pale blonde hair away from her face, she replied, "It wasn't that big a deal, Meghan. And I'm running late. I didn't want to waste time."
Meghan snorted, pulling at a loose thread in her flannel shirt. "Feminism is a waste of time? Standing up for yourself is a waste of time? Zo, why can you make time to help other people, but not yourself? Why, I ask! And ya know what the answer is?"
Zoë was going to be very late for health, and Meghan's tirade was sure to be a long one. Ignoring her friend, she took out her books, avoiding Meghan's eye.
Meghan stopped mid-word, glancing at the locker curiously. "Why couldn't you open this?" she asked.
Zoë shrugged, hiding her face with her hair so Meghan couldn't see her blush. It was because she'd been inwardly panicking over her health class, where she'd be partnered with Luke Kyler for a project. Three whole classes — 240 minutes — of working with him, talking to him, and somehow making him fall madly in love with her. Even in her head, she sounded like a ridiculous kid, obsessing over some guy. . . but he was just so cute. He was way too tall and way to skinny, with a sloppy appearance that made it clear that he didn't care what anyone else thought of him. And somehow, with his messy blond — sometimes it looked light brown — hair and grayish-blue eyes, he made the whole look work. Too bad Zoë was the image of nothingness; with her pale, straight hair and even paler eyes, she blended into the background. Some days she felt as though she'd been attacked and eaten by the background, the way people looked through her.
Zoë's happy mental image of her and Luke talking cozily during classes was suddenly shattered as she remembered the topic of the assignment — sex. Big, fat, honking, two-naked-people sex.
There was the panic again.
Just as she'd decided to skip health class forever, drop out of school, live in a box, and join a head-shaving cult, she heard another voice; one she knew so well, she heard it in her sleep.
"Hey," Luke said, glancing from Zoë to Meghan and back again.
"Hi, Luke!" Zoë replied, nerves making her sound overenthusiastic and trip over her feet. Why, why, why did anxiety make her clumsy?
Clumsy? she scoffed, cringing inwardly as she scrambled to her feet. No, that's not right. 'Clumsy' isn't nearly close enough to the catastrophe you become. Blind, three-legged bulls ice-skating are more graceful than you are.
Luke held her elbow for a second, making sure she wasn't about to collapse again. "Uh . . . see you in health class."
"Yeah," Zoë murmured, praying for a meteor to burst through the ceiling and crush her, "health class." Where they'd be discussing anatomies . . . and people doing it. Her teacher had also mentioned that today she might talk about the risks of certain sexual behaviors. Oh, God. He'd probably be looking at her and thinking, Man, I bet she's too pathetic to have done any of this stuff. Or worse, what if he thought she had done that stuff? The only thing worse than not doing it was doing it. . . . Unless it was better to have done it? Did other girls do it by the time they were sixteen? What if she was a freak? Oh no, oh no. What if she was way behind everyone else? What if Luke had done it? Would he ever want to be with her, then? He could get any girl he wanted, so why would he stick with an amateur who'd never had a boyfriend (unless you counted that weird guy from her middle school, but she'd rather not).
This was a whole new realm of horror. She couldn't breathe. Where was the nearest nunnery?
If Zoë hadn't been busy hyperventilating, she may have noticed that a strangely longing look had come over Meghan's face as Luke passed. One that was similar to what Zoë wore.
Of course, Meghan had never told Zoë about her crush, just as Zoë hadn't confided in Meghan. They felt that some things were better left private.
Unfortunately, this was not one of those things.
Luke leaned forward, cupping his chin in one hand and brushing his hair away from his eyes. Under the pretense of checking the clock, he looked at Zoë and smiled.
She pulled her long blonde hair into a messy bun in that quick, deft way only girls seem capable of. Absentmindedly, she straightened the bottom of her dress, which was surprisingly conservative compared to the other girls'. Zoë, no matter who she was with or what she was doing, seemed much more refined and mature than anyone else he knew. She also had the air of being lonely or sad, and sometimes looked like she was trying to hide herself. He didn't know why — she was perfectly pretty, so why wouldn't she be happy?
If his best friend Nikki had heard him, she would have smacked the back of his head and called him an insensitive clod. But that was Nikki's way of showing affection; insults and violence were her prime methods of communication.
The girl in question was sitting a row behind him and to the left. She ripped a corner off the edge of her paper and pulled a pencil out from the center of her ponytail. She twirled a strand of blue hair around her finger as she scribbled out a message, folded the note into a triangle, and aimed it at Luke's head. Carefully, she flicked it.
The note hit Luke in the side of the head. More specifically, in the eye. "Ah!" He slapped a hand over his watering eye. Everyone in class — except the teacher, who was absorbed in her subject — turned to look at him. Zoë smiled briefly, but then quickly turned her gaze back to her notebook. With a sigh, he shot mental daggers at Nikki, who merely crossed her arms and smirked, then opened the note.
It said, in Nikki's impatient-looking scrawl, Oi, Doofus! Nikki to doofus! Luke, are you alive in there?
He replied, No, I died. Funeral's on Sunday.
What do you want, Nikki?
Nothing. Just wanted to make sure your brain hadn't died or something, what with the stupid way you were staring at Zoë.
Luke crumpled up the note and turned to Nikki. "I was not staring," he whispered firmly.
"Puh-lease, Luke. Bugs could have flown into your wide-open mouth." Nikki winked, then faced forward with an angelic expression on her face.
Just as the teacher said, "Luke, turn around."
He glared at Nikki, who watched him with an expression of doe-eyed innocence.
The teacher continued, "Okay, now that you understand these basic concepts" — damn, Luke hadn't written a word down — "you can break into partners and begin to work on your project."
Matt, a friend of theirs, slid into the seat behind Luke. "I don't want to miss this," he said with a grin, and jerked his head toward Zoë. She was standing uncertainly in front of the chair in front of Nikki.
"Um, may I . . . ?" she asked, gesturing at the seat.
"Sure. Why wouldn't you?"
"Oh!" She blushed. "Of course. Sorry." She sat down, misjudging the distance between the chair and where she was standing, so that she fell on the floor and all her books went flying. "Damn!"
Luke grabbed her wrists and pulled her to her feet. They looked at each other for a moment, before he dropped her hands like they were white-hot and began picking up her books.
Behind them, Matt and Nikki were watching, identical amused smirks on their faces. "God, it's like the world's biggest cliché," Nikki whispered.
"Mm-hmm," Matt agreed, taking off his glasses to better see this debacle.
"We should do something to stop it."
He turned to her, surprised. "We should?"
"Of course! I mean, look at them. They're being all embarrassed. There is no flow."
"And there needs to be flow?"
Nikki smacked him. "Duh! Yes, there needs to be flow!"
"So . . . what do we do?"
"We need to do something that will get them out of this awkward situation."
Matt looked thoughtful for a minute, then reached forward and jabbed Luke in the side with his pencil.
"Gah!" Luke yelped and jumped. In practically the same motion, he turned around so that he was facing Matt and Nikki. His expression was mutinous.
"I am going to kill you," he said, slowly and clearly.
Nikki covered his mouth with her hand. "Shh! We're working." She turned to Matt and pulled at his hair, which was bubble-gum pink. "Pink?" she asked dubiously. His normal hair color was brown, but he was always dying it bright colors.
"Yeah," he said, yanking at it too, "I was tired of blue, and pink just seemed to fit. My brother Josh is moving back from Seattle."
"And your hair is pink because you're . . . celebrating?" Nikki was lying. She knew that Matt hated his brother, who'd disappeared to move in with their father and taking their sister, Amy, with him. Beyond that, all she knew was that Matt and Josh hated each other.
"Well, sure, Nikki. This is the happiest day of my life. But, actually, I chose pink because it represents goodness and sweetness and everything that is good with the world, which Josh is not."
Nikki laughed. "Did you hear about that new girl, though?"
"Her name's Jess Sherwood, apparently. I have her in my math class. Seems pretty weird to me. Kind of dark and gloomy. And damn, she's got a temper. Punched this guy who asked her if she would marry him."
"In other words, she'd be perfect for us?"
Nikki grinned. "Absolutely."
"Fine, I'll talk to her. Now, we are missing such great moments of awkwardness." They both eagerly turned to the couple in front of them, completely ignoring their project.
Luke and Zoë hadn't said anything. They were just staring at their papers, trying to think of things to say. Finally, Luke decided to just go for it. "So . . . sex, huh?" He practically choked on the words. Peripherally, he saw Nikki shaking her head, and Matt slap his forehead and sigh.
Zoë shrugged. "Yeah, I guess."
"What are we supposed to do?"
She pulled the papers toward them, scanning them for anything useful. "We could make a poster, or . . . well, anything, I guess." She looked up at him. "Can you draw?"
Nikki stuck her head between the two. "That's a lie, by the way," she informed Zoë. "He's a good artist, and he knows it."
"Thank you," Luke snarled, shoving her back into her own seat. "Sorry about her, she's a little . . . weird."
"I can definitely relate." Zoë laughed softly, then turned back to the paper. "So, what if you —" Before she could finish, the bell rang, and he stood so fast, he almost knocked the chair over.
"See ya I've got to go next class it's really far away and I only have like ten minutes so bye!" He was out the door before the words were out, leaving her to watch in stunned silence. Once he was across the hall, he dropped his head into his hands and groaned, sliding down the wall so he was sitting.
He heard footsteps, which he knew were Matt and Nikki.
Nikki simply said, "Well, I think we can say that was a failure."
"No, it could have gone much worse," Matt disagreed. "He could have set her on fire."
As they snickered, Luke picked up his binder and hit them with it.
"Aw, relax, Luke," Nikki said, kneeling down next to him. "It wasn't that bad."
"Yeah, and now we're prepared," Matt added. "Next time, we'll be sure to bring a fire extinguisher."
Luke sighed. "I hate you guys."
Hope you enjoyed it! Please R&R! Well, actually, if you're down here, I guess you must have already read. So just review at this point!