A/N: Just to throw this out there, this story has nothing to do with mythology and isn't fantasy in any way (if the genres didn't give that away), even though the title may suggest as much. Just read and find out. And hopefully, enjoy:)
(In advance, I disclaim anything you recognize.)
Member Challenge: Period Pieces
Issued by Lily
Plot: Oh no! Our MC is on a date with Hottie McHott-Hott (aka, Guy of her Dreams). That's the good news. The bad news? It's her time of the month - and she's wearing white.
1) Main character must have an insensitive male friend/relative, who notices her moodiness and asks something along the lines of, "Is it your time of the month?"
2) Said guy of her dreams is not the one she exits the (restaurant, theater, etc.) with.
3) Best friend who comes to the rescue with a jacket or extra pants, etc. Best friend can be male or female. wink wink
4) Female nearby (waitress, fellow moviegoer, whatever) who flirts shamelessly with main character's date.
5) This line or something like it: "Do you know more people die from coconuts than from being eaten by sharks?"
- actual usage of the phrase "time of the month" by anybody. (I know, I've used it in the challenge details, but who cares. XD)
- profanity used by any guy. The main character and all her female friends can use as much profanity as they want. XD But not too much, please. (:
- excessive ranting by main character. Sorry.
Why Not to Date a Greek God
It was to my great dismay that I woke up with red staining my underwear. No, great was an understatement.
It was to my elephantine, unfathomably large dismay that I woke up with red staining my underwear. Guys sometimes like to say that they have it worse than we females because of how obvious it is when they get turned on, which, in a way, is true. At least we females have the opportunity to not show any sexual pleasure we may be experiencing, while you only need to look down to gather the same information about a guy. Or up, maybe, if you're a midget.
But guys don't get their period, either.
Lacy, who was taking AP Psychology in school, told me that PMS was mostly in your head—that getting your period didn't actually make you grumpy—but I told her that this was bull crap and the exact kind of psychobabble I'd warned her about when she signed up for the class. For me, there is no worse feeling than going around knowing that you're shedding the lining of your uterus and actually feeling said organ working. Which, Lacy tells me, is why I get so grumpy in the first place. That's easy for her to say, though, because Lacy doesn't PMS. She's one of those happy-go-lucky people who are always smiling, even when her endometrium ends up on her underwear.
The first thing I did when I trudged down the stairs for breakfast that morning was pop two Midol pills in my mouth. Midol was, as far as I was concerned, the king of all that was bloated and cramping.
"Mooom," I whined once I'd swallowed aforementioned pills. My mother was sitting at the kitchen table with her reading glasses on, reading the newspaper, as always. I plopped into the chair right across from her, rested my head in my hands, and slumped over.
She looked up from the paper. "What's the matter, Julie?"
"I'm menstruating," I told her bluntly, picking up a magazine that was in the center of the table without looking at the cover and idly flipping through the pages.
My mom eyed the magazine warily, but then turned her gaze back to my face. "Did you take some Midol?"
"Then you should be fine."
I rolled my eyes. Of course my mom wouldn't care. She was one of those people whose period you always wished you had, strange as it sounds. She never cramped, never felt bloated, never felt irritable. And a heavy flow, for her, was soaking through a normal absorbency tampon in the instructed six to eight hours during which you could wear one.
Like mother, definitely not like daughter.
My cousin Darren entered the kitchen just then. His family—my dad's brother's family—was staying with us for the weekend for no reason other than the fact that my family and his family liked spending time together. Darren, in his senior year of high school, was a year older than I and one of those quiet, brooding kids with only a few close friends. We usually got along, although that was mainly because he didn't say much.
He made a beeline for the cereal cabinet, arching an eyebrow at my reading material as he passed by the table.
"What?" I snapped at him, a scowl on my face. Only then did I realize I was looking at the Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition. I was currently open to a page with a bunch of busty blondes—okay, they weren't all blonde, but "busty blondes" sounds better than "busty girls"—clad in revealing bikinis.
"I didn't know that was your thing," he answered with a shrug, and turned towards the variety of cereal we had displayed in the cabinet.
"It's not," I huffed, flipping the magazine closed and tossing it back into the center of the kitchen table. Why was that there, anyway? You'd think whoever bought it would at least have the decency to keep it out of the plain view of others.
To save face, I added: "I was just . . . pondering the negative effect that the media has on adolescents."
"Okay there, Einstein."
"Says the guy who got into Princeton. And Einstein wouldn't have pondered the negative effect of the media, anyway. He was a science guy."
Honestly, I wasn't usually this crabby. Even in the mornings. I mean, I wasn't a morning person, but I wasn't anti-morning person. I was usually fine in the mornings. What really made me feel cranky was the intense pain I felt in my lower abdomen. That stupid Midol hadn't kicked in yet.
"I'm not going to Princeton," Darren reminded me for the third time that weekend. (It was Saturday morning, and his family had arrived at our house around six o'clock last night.)
"You still got in."
He said nothing in response to this and instead poured himself a bowl of cereal. My mother, who hadn't even glanced up from the newspaper while Darren and I talked, shuffled the pages around a bit and looked up at me.
"Are you going to eat, Julie? It's better to have food in your stomach when you take medicine."
I stood up and obediently made my way over to the cereal cabinet, only to discover, once I was there, that I hated all the cereal that was in there. Normally, I would have been okay with this. I didn't eat cereal very often anyway, so there were alternate breakfast choices available to me. But I felt like I'd been socked in the stomach, had just spent ten minutes washing blood out of my underwear, felt fat, and was fresh out of tampons, instead being forced to wear a pad which felt to me like the equivalent of a diaper; all of that, at once, combined with the minor Swimsuit edition incident, just pushed me off the edge.
"Why do we never have cereal that I like!" I screamed angrily, loudly slamming the cabinet doors. "God, my stomach hurts and I need food and this just sucks!" I folded my arms over my chest and seethed for a bit, hating life.
My mother had her eyebrows raised in manner that expressed that she was clearly not amused.
"Jeez. You on your period?" Darren asked rhetorically in the shameless manner that comes only to a guy with older sisters. His eyebrows were also raised but in a way that showed cautiousness. Yeah, yeah, don't mess with a girl on her period.
"Why do guys always assume that?" I yelled. "Why do you always assume that we're PMSing! What if I've just been having a crappy day? Hmm?"
Darren glanced somewhere behind me, then back at me. "It's ten-thirty, Julie. I'm not sure how crappy your day could be already."
Unable to answer this, I shot him a ferocious glare and stormed over to another drawer where various snacks were kept. In this drawer, I knew, I would find my usual breakfast food of the breakfast bars they sell in grocery stores.
Sometimes it sucks being a girl.
Lacy and I were at the mall when it happened.
Despite the activity of my uterus, I was having one of those days. And I'm not talking about those really shitty ones where all you want to do is crawl into a hole and wait for the next day. I'm talking about the ones where you look amazing. Where your hair dries perfectly, your face is flawless, free of acne and signs of sleep deprivation, and your makeup comes out the way you always wish it would, but never does. I don't generally think of myself as beautiful, but I was definitely close to it on this particular Saturday. So of course, I had called Lacy and told her that I looked great today, and I had to go flaunt my day-long attractiveness somewhere. Being completely single, this was not a problem. Otherwise, I probably would have rather hung out with my boyfriend.
Not to mention that I needed to go out and buy tampons, anyway.
By the time Lacy and I reached the mall, the tampon run had already been made. We'd stopped at a drugstore on our way here—or rather, she had stopped, since she was the driver—and bought some. I never liked having to hand a box of tampons over to the cashier and pay for them, but this time, it had been even more awkward, because the cashier had been a semi-cute guy around my age. Of course, he'd shown absolutely zero emotion at scanning a box of tampons—like most cashiers—but still. It had been kind of embarrassing.
The tampons were safely tucked away in the backseat of Lacy's car when we began our adventure in the mall, going into various stores, trying on a bunch of clothes, but buying little. We were both rather poor at the moment, so the amount of money we could afford to spend was limited.
After an hour and a half had passed by, we decided to stop at a little café in the middle of the mall, with various small tables and chairs in front of it. The kind right there, out in the open, where anyone could watch you eat your food and drink your drink. I ordered a turkey sandwich and a bottle of water, while Lacy ordered some complicated tomato and cheese sandwich with an iced coffee. Once we had our food, we sat at a table and began to eat.
And that's when it happened.
I was chewing my sandwich and reaching out for my water bottle when I suddenly noticed someone over Lacy's shoulder whose face was turned towards me. This someone, however, was no ordinary someone, which was why I noticed him in the first place. He was abso-freaking-lutely gorgeous. And not just "oh, he's pretty cute." When I say gorgeous, I mean completely and utterly drool-worthy, with a nice body to boot. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Without consciously realizing it, my mouth dropped open and I simply stared at the Adonis seated so close to me, within speaking distance if I cared to raise my voice. So when Adonis glanced over at me, I immediately blushed and looked back down at my half-eaten turkey sandwich. Only then did I register that Lacy was trying to get my attention.
"Julie?" she was saying impatiently. "Hello? Earth to Julie!"
My gaze snapped up to meet hers. "Ohmigod," I whispered.
Daringly, I snuck a peek back at Adonis. I was fully not expecting him to be looking back, which was why I chanced to look at him anyway. The thing was, he was looking back. Completely. Just staring straight at me. I turned tomato red again, and was about to avert my eyes once more when I remembered that today was a good day, appearance-wise. That, I calculated, could be used to my advantage.
So, hoping he wasn't staring because I had something humiliating stuck to my face, I flashed the guy a megawatt grin—the kind I usually reserved for humorous jokes. But I guess there was nothing stuck to my face after all, because he flashed me a megawatt grin of his own.
"Julie!" Lacy yelled, smacking my forehead with her palm. Great. Now I looked like an idiot in front of Adonis. "God, what are you doing? You, like, completely spaced out and never returned to Earth."
"Lacy!" I hissed, carefully glancing back at Adonis, only to find that he was now looking at the person at the table with him, whom I couldn't see due to Lacy being in my way. "You just made me look like a complete idiot in front of a Greek god!"
"What?" She furrowed her brows and spun around. If all girls were supposed to be good at looking without actually looking, like some people say, that would mean Lacy was the manliest person known to the world. My best friend, who couldn't be unobvious if she received lessons from a spy for the CIA. "Where?"
"Lacy!" I spat again, grabbing her shoulder and pulling her back towards the front. "Don't be so obvious about it!"
She rolled her eyes. "I didn't see him, Jules."
"I didn't give you enough time to look, that's why."
"Why not? If he's such a 'Greek God' . . ."
"Because, Lacy, you were being obvious about it. You have to be slick."
"You're not gonna give me another one of your lessons about being inconspicuous, are you?"
I looked back at Adonis and saw that he was watching me with a sort of expectant expression. "Not if you do me a huge favor."
"Go to the bathroom until I'm done talking with Adonis."
She sighed like it was a big deal, but then smiled. "The things I do for you," she said as she got up and headed towards the bathrooms. With her gone, I had a clear view of the other person at Adonis' table, and I was greatly dismayed when I saw that it was a girl with long, brown hair. I frowned. He wasn't going to come up to me right in front of his girlfriend, was he?
The answer to that, though, was yes, because that was the moment Adonis chose to stand up from his own table, wander over to mine, and drop down in the seat that Lacy had graciously vacated.
"Hey." He flashed me the same megawatt grin. "I'm Bryce."
I forced myself to ignore the deep sexiness of his voice—not that his perfect face would help me fare much better.
"Hi," I said, but it came out roughly, more like a croak than a human voice. Turning a million different shades of red, I nervously cleared my throat.
"Hey," I tried again, and to my immense pleasure, it came out better than I expected. Warm and inviting, and slightly sultry, yet not like an open invitation to hop into bed with me. "I'm Julie."
"Julie," he repeated. Wow, my name sounded so perfect coming from his lips. "So you're a jewel?"
Okay, now that was just tacky. And overused
"Um." I racked my brain for something—anything!—to say. "Yeah." Hoping that he wouldn't notice the fact that I wasn't clever at all, I grinned again.
He grinned back. "So, Julie. What are you doing tonight?"
I glanced past him to the brunette. She had turned around and was watching us keenly. It didn't help that she had one of those perfect, delicate facial structures. She was the kind of girl that was indisputably beautiful. There were always the sort of beauty that had more to do with what you preferred, but she had the beauty against which no one could argue. She was beautiful, and that was that. End of story.
I couldn't help but wonder if she got bitchy when she had her period. Granted, I was feeling considerably better now that the Midol had kicked in, but still.
I wondered if the brunette was the jealous type. If she would actively seek me out and do something wicked, like drive her keys through my car or egg my house or something. Or recruit some people to do those dirty deeds.
"How would you like to go to dinner with me tonight?"
What if today hadn't been one of those days where I looked fantastic? Would Adonis—Bryce—have asked me out to dinner with him? On a date?
"Um. What about your girlfriend?"
"Her." I nodded my head at the brunette, who noticed my actions and immediately lessened the intensity of her expression.
He glanced behind him, as if there were any other girl I could be referring to, then turned back to me. "Violet? She's not my girlfriend."
"So who is she?" Forgive me for being so nosy, but I felt like I had a right to know his status with this beautiful girl since he was asking me on a date.
"She's like my sister. So. Dinner or no?" Any other guy would have been a bit anxious at this point. I hadn't answered his question yet because I was pelting him with questions about a beautiful girl he was with—though I was most definitely justified in the pelting. (Wouldn't you be curious about an Adonis' relationship with an Aphrodite—who, in Greek mythology, was not only beautiful, but loved Adonis as well—that happened to be his company at the time?)
But no. Bryce seemed entirely confident—cocky—that I would not turn down his invitation to dinner. Which, of course, I did not.
Instantly, I remembered an episode of "Family Guy" where Peter says, in so many words, that when the most popular girl asks you to the dance, you don't say "no." You just stand there like a doofus with a deer-in-headlights gaze and go "Uh. . . .".
Well. I was no Peter Griffin.
"Sure," I croaked out, then immediately cleared my throat and said in a clearer voice, "I mean, yeah. Of course."
"Great." A grin stretched out across his face, and my brain turned to a puddle of gray. "I'll pick you up at six."
When everything was settled—we swapped phone numbers and I'd given him my address—he joined his brunette, "like a sister" friend, Violet, and picked up where he left off. Or something like that. The second he was gone, Lacy zoomed over in two seconds flat, verifying my notion that she'd been spying on us, only a few feet away the entire time.
I spilled everything out to her, giving every single detail that I could, from the way my nose had itched when I asked him about the girl he was with to the precise way that he said Dinner or no?. Neither Lacy nor I were gossip queens in the traditional sense of the phrase, but we definitely liked to recount those squeal-worthy moments using as vivid descriptions as possible. If you couldn't document one of the most exciting experiences of your life into the mind of your best friend, where else could you?
My phone rang as soon as we got back to Lacy's house another two hours later. We'd spent about forty-five minutes at the café, just talking, and shopped around a bit longer before finally calling it quits and heading back to Lacy's house. Having to dig it out of the depths of my overstuffed purse, I had barely enough time to whip it open and press it to my ear, let alone check the caller ID. So I had absolutely no clue whom to expect on the other line when I answered with a customary, "Hello?"
It took only that word for me to know the identity of the caller.
Matt had taken to calling me emerald almost as soon as he learned my name was Julie. It was a stupid nickname, even though it made sense—take out the E sound in Julie, and you have the word jewel. When I told him that it was about as uncreative as it could get, he shook his finger at me in an ah-ah-ah! motion and told me that Ruby would have been as uncreative as it could get. I argued back by saying that Emerald was second place, up there with Sapphire and Diamond and Amethyst and any other precious jewel that everybody's heard of. He asked for an example of an uncommon one, and I told him Peridot, which was my birthstone, the one for the month of August. He asked whether I preferred Emerald or Peridot. I told him Peridot. He officially christened me Emerald.
That had been our very first conversation in our very first class on our very first day of school in our very first year of high school. Talk about firsts. The rest, as people always love to say, is just history. Matt wasn't my best friend—I didn't think I'd ever be able to talk with him the way I could talk with Lacy—but he definitely ranked among my Top Five closest friends. Probably even Top Three. Okay, okay, Top Two.
"Hey, Matt," I responded in a considerably less enthusiastic voice, since I'd just seen him at school yesterday. Unfortunately, I had been too uncreative to think of a nickname for Matt—so I just called him by the name his parents gave him at birth. Or rather, a normal nickname for the name his parents gave him at his birth.
"Whuzz shakin', mah sistah?"
Matt injected speech fit only for a rapper into daily conversation all the time. I'd never had a conversation with him without hearing Fo' rizzle or in the hizzy or mah sistah The boy himself admitted that he had no real reason for doing this other than that it spiced up the English language.
Matt has weird quirks like that, but that's why everybody loves him. Because without the quirks, there is no Matt; he's just an Average Joe like the rest of us.
"I just got back from the mall with my homegirl, Lacy."
"Emerald." His voice was somber and grave, like he was about to make a deep confession. "I already told you: I'm the only white guy who can pull off gangstah-speak."
I snorted. "Matthew Kirksten, you are far from being ganstah."
"Man, don't be hatin'. You just be jealous."
"Thank you. Now is there any specific reason you're calling? I'm at Lacy's right now." I glanced over at said girl, who was sitting at her kitchen table flipping through a magazine that had just arrived in the mail today. Her eyes were glazed over, though, and I could tell she wasn't paying any attention to the pages.
"Whatcha doin' tonight?"
"Oh. Um? I have a date." I said this uncomfortably, for Matt and I, as close as we were, no longer discussed matters that pertained to our respective love lives. We used to, until one day at the beginning of the school year a few months ago when I tried to bring up a recent date I went on that had gone poorly. Ever since then, we'd refrained from speaking about matters that fell under the jurisdiction of the romance department.
"Oh." His light mood was nearly gone. "You said My Favorite Doily was there, right?"
My Favorite Doily, a.k.a. Lacy. Matt just has a thing for nicknames.
I looked up at Lacy again. She was actually reading an article in the magazine, now. "Yup. She's here."
"Can I talk to her?"
I walked over to where Lacy sat and stuck the phone in her face. "It's Matt," I told her. "I'll be in the other room watching TV, okay?"
She nodded as she took the phone from me. "Matt?" I heard her say just as I entered the family room. Lacy's little brother, Mark, sat on the couch watching television. Mark was only in sixth grade and had had a gigantic crush on me for almost three years now; as soon as I entered high school, he decided that he was irrevocably in love with me. But like any love-stricken kid his age, he showed it by clamming up the second I entered any room in which he was already located. When he saw me entering the family room right then, he turned an alarming shade of white and stared desperately at the TV, as if it would ease his anxiety.
"Hey, Mark," I greeted the pale sixth grader, mainly to be polite and not to lead him on. I mean, really. What kind of person leads on a sixth grader? And one who was her best friend's little brother, no less?
Mark, on the other hand, seemed to think this was some secret, girlspeak code for I love you more than there are stars in the sky , because a brilliant shade of red crept onto his formerly white face. He glanced at me only a second before staring intently at the floor. His lips moved in what I assumed to be a return greeting of his own, but I could hear nothing.
I wondered if I'd acted that way around my crush when I was in sixth grade. Then I wondered if I'd had a crush at all in sixth grade. Then I recalled my date with Bryce tonight and grinned. It's not every day a girl gets to go to dinner with a Greek god.
I was talking to Matt that night as I got ready for my date with Bryce. Insert girly squeal. Ordinarily I would have been talking to Lacy, but Lacy was at my house helping me get ready. I felt bad for bailing out on Matt tonight—even though Bryce had asked first and I had no reason whatsoever to feel guilty—so I decided to speak with him while Lacy did all the other girl stuff. Lacy was not and would never be excessively girly—and that was why I loved her—but she was talented enough to say yes or no to my outfit choices and do my makeup since I was on the phone. Just not the eyeliner. She refused to touch the eyeliner. This was only because she had a bad experience with it in eighth grade, at a slumber/makeover party. She'd accidentally poked herself in the eye while trying to do her own eyeliner and subsequently got pink eye. Even though we knew now that she'd only gotten pink eye because the person who had used it last had pink eye, the experience had traumatized her enough to be warded off eyeliner almost for eternity.
I managed to convince her to wear it sometimes, but only if I put it on. Frankly, it was a hassle. But you'll do some crazy things for your best friend.
He just finished telling a funny story about a half-crazed mother at Subway, right after Lacy rejected a few skirts I had shown her.
"Jeez, Matt, your life is like one giant comedy," I commented, scowling as Lacy rejected a really cute pair of white capri pants that I had been thinking of wearing almost since Bryce had asked me on this date.
He was uncharacteristically quiet for a moment, but then I heard a chuckle of laughter. "Oh, Emerald. You just don't pay enough attention to other people."
I held out a summer dress to Lacy, even though it was the spring. She actually contemplated it for a few moments before shaking her head. I sighed heavily and turned back to my closet.
"Sorry, Matt," I said into the phone. "What'd you say?"
He gasped. "You weren't paying attention to me? I'm wounded!"
In my mind, I could picture him saying this—brown eyes wide, lips pursed, hand pressed against his chest. The image quickly vanished, however, when Lacy rejected yet another pair of bottoms that I showed her. "Lacy!" I yelled, annoyed. "Are you gonna shake your head at everything I own? Or should I just go in my underwear?"
She grinned. "It would be pretty funny if you went in your underwear."
I picked up a discarded shirt and threw it at her. In my ear, Matt said, "Emerald? What're you doing?"
"Getting ready," I said offhandedly, hoping that he would remember for what, exactly, I needed to prepare. "Honestly, Lacy." I found the pair of capri pants that I'd been considered wearing and made the final decision that I would wear them—to hell with Lacy's disapproval.
"You know what, Matt?" I said as I struggled to pull off my current pants and keep my phone pressed against my ear at the same time. "I gotta go now. I'm a little busy."
"Oh." There was another strange pause, but then his permanently excited voice spoke again. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!"
"Of course, Matt. I'll talk to you later." I hung up the phone, at which point I pulled the white capris all the way on. "What's wrong with these?" I asked Lacy, looking down at myself and twisting to see it from different angles.
"They're white," she said simply.
"You have your period."
I rolled my eyes. "Oh, please, Lacy. That's what tampons are for."
I knew when Bryce and I arrived at the restaurant that I'd seen too many movies. Even though I hadn't exactly expected him to take me to a five star restaurant, the place where he did take us wasn't as nice as the restaurants they always show on television or in the movies. However, conversation en route to this place, when he picked me up from my house, was just as you'd expect—stilted and uncomfortable. It wasn't necessarily that Bryce was bad at holding conversation; I was the one who was bad at holding conversations. With strangers, at least. And with Greek gods, no less. He would ask a question, and I would stammer over the answer like an idiot. Whatever ability that I'd had earlier in the day to carry on a conversation vanished completely.
It was a relief to finally be in the restaurant, where the dull murmur of the other patrons covered up the silence between Bryce and me as both of us thought of something to say. We sat idly at the table, separated by about three or four feet of tablecloth. We'd already established that we went to different high schools, he was a junior, like me, he played football and baseball, he had two younger sisters, and he was a lifeguard at a local pool.
"So," I said, desperately racking my brain. "You play football and baseball. Are you any good?"
"I'm starting receiver in football," he bragged.
Okay, so modesty wasn't necessarily one of his virtues. "Oh," I said and wished desperately I'd actually listened to my brother when he tried to explain football to me. "Um. What do they do?"
He raised his eyebrows in disbelief. I got the feeling that he thought I was incredibly ignorant for asking this question. "They receive the ball from the quarterback."
Oh. Duh. I blushed deeply.
A pretty, young waitress appeared at the table, her face about to split in half with the wide grin she was sending at Bryce.
"Hey," she greeted him—I would say us, but she was staring directly at Bryce, not even sparing a single glance in my direction. "I'm Jess, and I'll be your waitress."
He smiled back. "Hey."
The waitress spent the next few seconds making googly eyes at my date, and he did nothing to stop her. He didn't encourage her, either, but still. It was our date, and she was merely here to take our orders. I summoned up whatever was left of my voice box.
"Excuse me?" I said meekly from my end of the table.
She turned to me with an irritated expression. "What?" she snapped.
"Um." I cleared my throat. "We need to order our drinks?"
Rolling her eyes, she turned back to Bryce. "What do you wanna drink?" Her voice was low and husky, and irritating the hell out of me. She bit her lip, making the googly eyes again in the silence that followed.
"I'll have a Coke," he told her.
Her smile was freaking driving me crazy, so it was actually somewhat of a benefit when it wiped clear off her face as she turned to me, looking annoyed once more. As if it was a nuisance for her to do her job by taking my drink order.
"I'll have a water?" I ordered, frustrated at my uptalking.
Shooting one last sexy look at Bryce, Jess sauntered away, shaking her hips from side to side as she did so. It did not escape my notice that Bryce watched this, and I had no doubt in my mind that his eyes were fixed right on her butt. Her long legs, unfortunately for him, were clad in pants, so he couldn't admire those, as well.
I searched my mind for something venomous to say that would actually leave my lips—I had problems insulting people. And finally, I came up with something derived from a fact—one that I rather doubted the truth of—that Matt had told me once when I was eating a coconut muffin.
"Do you like coconuts?" I asked him, my gaze shrewd.
His brow furrowed at my question, a small frown appearing on his face. "Yeah, I guess."
"Did you know more people die from coconuts than from being eaten by sharks?"
The confused look didn't vanish, although now it was accompanied by something akin to nervousness. "No, I didn't know that."
"Well," I said, smirking triumphantly and folding my arms over my chest.
"Where'd you hear that?" he asked, obviously not offended in the least by that comment. I scowled. Not fair. Why was it so impossible for me to insult someone?
"My friend," I replied simply, racking my brain once more for some sort of insult.
"Really." He appeared to consider this. "It seems like BS to me."
Out of nowhere, I felt strongly defensive of Matt and his fact that probably was, as Bryce put it, "BS." I was highly annoyed that he'd so offhandedly insulted one of my closest friends like that, but instead of retorting vehemently, I said, "Oh. Um, yeah."
I needed to work on those sticking-up-for-yourself skills of mine. Or lack thereof.
"So," he said, apparently feeling just as awkward as I. "You said you swim in the summer?"
I nodded; I no longer trusted my vocal chords to do what I wanted them to.
"What're your best strokes?"
"Oh. Um. . . ."
The thing was, while I indeed swam in the summer, I was not exactly the type of person you call "athletic." Sure, I did okay in swimming, but the main reason I was on the team was for fun, not because I was any good. The best times I ever achieved could just as easily be considered the worst times of someone else who actually cared about swimming.
"Freestyle," I eventually said, which was technically the truth since I got my best times in freestyle.
"I used to swim in the summer, but then I got too busy with football," he told me.
"Aren't you special," I muttered under my breath. I was starting understand why he wasn't dating Violet—he seemed pretty in love with himself. I hadn't been talking to him for very long, but his favorite topic was himself, that much I could tell.
"What'd you say?" he asked with furrowed eyebrows.
"I asked if you were good," I lied to try and prove my theory that he was boastful.
"I guess, yeah. I've always been pretty athletic."
Okay, Adonis was not quite who I imagined him to be. Lacy told me that she learned in her Psychology class that we're more likely to attribute positive characteristics to attractive people, and I'd never necessarily thought that it was true until now.
The waitress came over with our drinks in her hand.
"Here you go," she said to Bryce, leaning over slowly to place his drink in front of him. "Do you want anything else?"
Goodness, could she have been hinting anymore strongly that she wanted to sleep with him?
"This is fine for now," replied Bryce, grinning at her like she was God's gift to him. Like he needed any heavenly gifts—he was already a god himself. At least, physically. Because his actions were shaping up to be far from godlike.
"Um, excuse me?" I said meekly as the waitress turned around to walk away. She spun back around and fixed me with an annoyed stare.
"I, um, ordered a water?"
She wheeled around and made her way towards the kitchen, once more switching her butt back and forth. Bryce eyed this appreciatively.
This really was not working for me. I wanted to insult Bryce and call him every foul name under the sun, but when I opened my mouth to say something horrible, nothing came out. The end result was me sitting there looking like a fish, and when Bryce shot me a puzzled look—once he could no longer stare at Jess' butt, that is—I clamped it closed so quickly my teeth started aching.
Because I had nothing better to do, I asked Bryce to tell me more about himself, just to prove my point even further. And it was sufficiently proved when he launched into his life story. I sighed, bored, and rested my chin in my hand.
While Bryce was explaining something about how he was good at basketball but had to quit, Jess appeared with my water in her hand. Shooting me a nasty glance, she set it in front of me then stared at Bryce the rest of the time. He grinned back at her.
I was not going to stand for this.
Abruptly, I stood up, my chair sliding backwards and nearly falling over. Jess and Bryce both looked up at me, surprised.
"I have to go to the bathroom," I announced through gritted teeth. Then I stomped off importantly in what I originally thought was the correct direction. I quickly realized it wasn't, though, when I ended up in a whole other dining room. I was suddenly aware that people were looking at me, for some reason. I scowled at everyone in the room, stopped a waiter to ask where the bathrooms were, and then went in the direction I was pointed.
Once in the bathroom I discovered that reason that people had been looking at me.
Red was splashed all over my crisp, white pants from my stupid period. My tampon had leaked through. My date was a jerk. My waitress was flirting with my date, and my date was enjoying it.
This was officially the Date from Hell.
I hardly wasted a second in whipping out my cell phone and calling Lacy, but she didn't answer the phone. So I texted her the message: call me ASAP.
I went into a bathroom stall and sat down on a toilet in my red-stained pants. Lacy called me only about thirty seconds later.
"Take me home, Lacy!" I wailed when I answered the phone.
"Julie?" Her worried voice made me feel better. "What's going on? Is everything okay? Where are you?"
"My date's a jerk, my waitress is flirting with my jerk—I mean, my date—and my tampon leaked so I have blood all over my pants and I wanna go home," I cried to her. She made a sympathetic noise. "Will you please come get me?"
"Of course! Of course!" she responded immediately. "I'll bring something to cover up your period too, okay?"
I sniffled. "Okay. Thanks, Lacy."
"Of course! Now where are you?"
I explained to her which restaurant I was at, and with her promise to come and get me now, we hung up. I waited in that bathroom stall for about twenty minutes for my best and greatest friend in the whole wide world to come and get me before my phone rang again. It was Matt.
"Hello?" I answered trying not to sound morose.
"Emerald?" Matt said concernedly. "I'm here to get you. Where are you?"
"What? I thought Lacy was coming to get me."
"She's here," he said, "but she's in a no parking zone right now, so she asked me to come in so she could wait in the car. We were at the movies together."
"Oh." And even though it wasn't Lacy, I was equally grateful to have Matt come and retrieve me instead. "I'm in the bathroom right now, but I'll go wait outside for you."
"Okay—oh, crap, sorry, I'm sure it'll come out in the wash!—I'll come find you. And I have a sweatshirt for you."
I exited the bathroom and leaned against the wall right next to the door. I was sure I looked extremely weird just standing there, but I didn't care. I spotted Matt weaving his way through tables towards the hallway in which the bathrooms were located. He carried in his left hand a black sweatshirt while his right held the phone to his ear. On his face was a worried expression that I didn't very often see. This sudden, overwhelming urge to hug him overcame me, and I resisted running towards him
"I see you, Matt," I said into the phone.
He looked directly down the hallway I was in, and when we made eye contact, he seemed enormously relieved. "All right," he responded. "I'm hanging up now."
I watched him stuff his phone in the pocket of his jeans while I put mine neatly back into a pocket of my purse. Impatiently, I pushed myself off the wall and walked towards the end of the hallway. Matt quickened his pace, and the second he stepped into the hallway, I threw myself at him, wrapping my arms tightly around his torso and burying my head in his neck. He smelled like freshly laundered clothes, and I smiled.
"Thank you so much," I gushed, giving him a squeeze. His body was stiff underneath me, as if the hug made him uncomfortable. Matt and I had actually never hugged before, I realized. This was probably really awkward for him. So I pulled away and smiled up at him.
"Don't worry about it," he muttered, shoving the sweatshirt at me and avoiding my gaze. I accepted it from him and tied it around my waist, covering up any traces of my womanly woes.
"Do me a favor, Matt?" I asked of the blonde boy standing in front of me.
He looked at me finally. Some of his playful demeanor had returned to his eyes, which were flickering in amusement. A smile was also on his lips. "Of course, Emerald."
"Give my date hell, will you?"
A grin illuminated his face. "With pleasure."
At the time, I didn't find it strange that he was agreeing to this without even asking me why I wanted him to do this. So we walked up to the table where Bryce sat staring at his Coke with a bored expression. When he saw Matt and me approaching, he smiled at me but glanced warily at Matt.
"Hi, Bryce," I said cheerfully. I felt much better having someone who was on my side standing next to me.
"Hey," he said uncertainly, looking at Matt once again.
"Yes, hello, Bryce," said Matt in a falsely amiable tone.
Bryce glanced back and forth between the two of us, then settled his eyes on me. "Julie, who is that?" he asked me like Matt couldn't hear him.
"I'm her boyfriend," Matt replied for me, and snatched my hand so that we now held hands.
I felt the surprised expression form on my face, but thankfully, Bryce was now staring with alarm at Matt, so he didn't notice me.
"Her boyfriend?" Bryce repeated uncertainly. He looked back at me, and I wiped the surprise off my face and instead tried to look like this was indeed true.
"Yeah," Matt replied menacingly as he took a step forward. "What are you doing with her?"
"Look, it's not my fault, she never told me she had a boyfriend," Bryce explained hastily, shooting me a dirty look.
"Hey!" Matt yelled, and now he was attracting attention from other patrons in the restaurant. He released my hand as he took another step forward. Bryce jumped to his feet and took his own step back. "Don't look at my girl like that!" Matt continued.
"I didn't look at your girl!" Bryce countered, taking another step back.
Matt walked towards Bryce, stepping around his chair, until they were face to face. Bryce was actually taller than Matt was, but the latter was still the intimidating one.
"Look," Matt growled, "Em—I mean, Julie doesn't need some jerk like you, okay? She's got me."
I only wished I had a camera to snap a picture of the look on Bryce's face. "I'm telling you, it's her fault!" he pleaded. He took another step backwards, just in time to crash into Jess who had appeared behind him with a tray of drinks. He fell into her, effectively causing her to spill all the drinks right down his front. Then together, the two of them crashed into the table of the people eating dinner behind them. A fork and a spoon flew into the air and landed in two completely different spots in the room.
There was completely silence as they stood up, both soaked and with food sticking to the backs of their shirts. Then suddenly, as if on cue, the entire room burst into laughter. Matt and I both doubled over in our fits of hysteria. Both Bryce's and Jess' faces were bright red in humiliation. I grinned broadly.
"See you, Bryce!" said Matt, then walked over and took my hand. I waggled my fingers at Bryce, who was glaring at me with a mixture of hatred and shame. Wordlessly, Matt led me out of the restaurant before any type of management could stop us.
Lacy's car was sitting right in front of the entrance to the restaurant in a place where she was definitely not allowed to be waiting. Lacy herself was in the driver's seat talking to a man outside her window. Okay, scratch the talking—she was yelling. Though her old car could not have been noisier in belching carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, we could still hear her shrill voice over the rumbling.
"I'M NOT EVEN PARKED!" she was shouting. "MY ENGINE IS ON, I'M JUST WAITING, DO YOU HONESTLY HAVE TO BE SO RUDE ABOUT THIS, MY BEST FRIEND IS IN TROUBLE AND I'M JUST—"
"Lacy!" Matt yelled as we shared a look of amusement.
Her shouting was cut off. We spotted her in the passenger's window as she ducked down to see us. The man looked up at us, relief mingling on his angry features.
"There!" we heard her yell once more. "They're here. Will you leave me alone?"
The man stalked off, shoving his hands deep into his pockets, and I climbed into the backseat of Lacy's car. Much to my surprise, Matt followed.
"You're not sitting shotgun?" I asked him.
He flashed me a sheepish grin, like a little boy caught calling someone a poopyhead. But then he shrugged. "I just want to sit next to you, my darling Emerald," he teased, leaning towards me.
I smirked and looked out the window on my left, watching buildings flash by through the dusky light.
"Hey, Julie?" Lacy said tentatively from the front seat. "What exactly happened?"
"Yeah," Matt echoed. "Me and My Favorite Doily were really worried on the way over here, but she wouldn't tell me what you said."
He was watching me with the expression of utmost concern on his face, the same way he'd looked in the restaurant. Upon remembering how he'd stuck up for me in front of Bryce, a random surge of affection for him overcame me. It was good to know that despite the teasing relationship we shared, he would look out for me.
So in the presence of my Top Two friends, I spilled out all the gory details of the Date from Hell. And when aforementioned Top Two friends insulted Bryce in every way imaginable, everything was all right.
The three of us were snuggled up together on Lacy's couch watching a comedy. Matt and Lacy were on either side of me, squishing me between them and keeping me warm like a giant security blanket.
A bowl of popcorn sat in my lap from which we took handfuls of popcorn like we hadn't eaten in days. I had already taken care of the issue with my pants and was currently wearing Lacy's underwear and Lacy's sweatpants. I was feeling considerably better since the Date from Hell.
Then tragedy struck. We ran out of popcorn halfway through the movie. Matt valiantly offered to go pop another bag for us, but only if we paused the movie for him.
When he got off the couch and walked towards the kitchen, I suddenly felt extremely cold and like something had gone missing. And then Lacy, understanding me in the way no one else seemed to, whispered in my ear, "Why don't you go help him?"
Grinning, I hopped off the couch and ambled into the kitchen.
"Hey, Matt," I said as I walked in. Matt started and dropped the unpopped bag of popcorn he had been holding. Once he picked it up, he looked at me.
"What're you doing?" he asked.
I continued making my way over to him, struggling to keep a grin off my face. "I thought you might want some help."
His brow puckered and he frowned slightly. "Help making popcorn?"
"Sure." I shrugged and finally reached him.
"'Cause it's so hard to make popcorn on your own," he joked with a nervous grin. He held out the unpopped bag to me. "I guess I'll open the microwave and you can put the bag in."
Matt—crazy, lovable Matt—was uneasy. My smiled widened. His strong hand yanked the microwave open and I placed the bag in the center. After I set the timer and the popcorn kernels were on their way to popping, I turned around. Matt stood there in a hopeless attempt to look casual, hands in his pockets. The thing was, Matt never just stood somewhere casually. That was how I knew what I was doing was right.
"Thanks for everything you did tonight, Matt," I murmured as I took a step towards him. "I mean it."
He shrugged and shifted his weight from foot to foot. He would not look me in the eye. "It's not like no one else would have done it."
"But the thing is, that's not true. Not everybody would have so willingly pretended to be my boyfriend just to piss off my jerky date."
I took another step towards him. He shrugged once more, his eyes still everywhere but my face. The nervousness on his features was plain.
"But it wasn't that hard for you, was it? I mean, since that's what you really want."
His brown eyes finally met mine, full of fear. I took my final step towards him, slid my hands around his neck, and planted my lips onto his. Kissed him. He responded quickly, pushing himself against me and pulling me towards him all at the same moment. I loved the way we fit together, the way our lips melded and our curves just slotted in at all the right places.
We pulled away. His brown eyes sparkled, and I'm sure mine did too.
"You said my life is a giant comedy," he said breathlessly, "because I always tell you those funny stories."
"Like the mom at Subway," I replied with a nod.
"The thing is," he continued, "I usually just make those up."
"You do? Why?"
He closed his eyes for a moment. I watched him desperately, waiting for his answer. "Because—" his eyes flew open "—I just love to hear you laugh."
I grinned and wondered how I could ever have gone on a date when Matt was there the entire time. Because honestly? Adonis had nothing on him.