A/N: This is a pretty important chapter and the longest one so far (at least that's what my word count says). It's also the last one you're gonna see for like a week since school's starting again tomorrow. A note on a metaphor: Greg Louganis is a famous past-diver who turned out to be…gay. You'll see why that info's useful later on. Also, just another reminder that I return reviews and welcome constructive criticism!
You know how everybody always complains about the school cafeteria food, whether in movies, books, songs, or whatever? I really don't know what they're talking about. Cafeteria food, at least at all of the schools I've ever been to, is always 100 junk food, 100 unhealthy, and 100 delicious.
I mean, how can the food be bad when it all comes directly from wherever it got manufactured? The sweets are all packaged, as are the main courses-the burritos, chicken, hot dog, etc.-and the pizza is served right out of a Little Caesar's box. Thank God for those five dollars hot-and-ready Little Ceaser's pizzas, eh? That's all the pizza I ever eat.
I put a slice of the afore-mentioned pizza on my carton to go with my mini Gatorade bottle and Pop-Tarts. The food might be great, but the prices weren't: three dollars for a slice of pizza, two bucks for a Pop-Tarts, and one dollar for one of those Gatorade bottles smaller than the embryo of a chicken. Well not really, but you get my gist. I mean, I thought Iraq was the one with the bad economy, not the USA. Of course, I'm not your expert on the Iraqi War but I though I knew at least that.
I gave the obscenely fat lunch lady my wrinkled dollar bills and then made my way through the crowded lunch area. An upperclassman with one of those varsity letterman jackets bumped into me with a casual, no-look, shoulder-to-shoulder shove. My Pop-Tarts flip-flopped out of my lunch carton in a dive that would have put Greg Louganis to shame. Yeah, that dive and his sexual orientation probably topped that "hall of shame" list. Not to mention his Playgirl pose. Heh. Not like I knew too much about that. No seriously; I'm as straight as a very straight toilet plunger, I just spend too much time on Wikipedia.
I gave the upperclassman the middle finger and contemptuously walked away. Before you baptize me as your new hero you should know that the said upperclassman was already walking away from me, with his back turned. And I knew this fact very well. Hey, just being straightforward with you. After all, they call me Honest Al. No, not really that would be a hideous nickname.
Without further complications, I sat down at my usual table and grinned at my five closest friends. Sometimes, there were another friend or two at our table, but today it was just the six of us.
"What took you so long?" grumbled Steven, lifting one side of his head from the table. His long hair drooped over half of his face, making him look very emo. I think he would have strangled me at the moment if I had mentioned by impression to him. Let's just say Steven would rather be a Yankees fan then an emo. Well, on second thought….
I smiled at the memory.
"Well I had a little altercation-"
"Oh-ho!" cat-called Adam, a little runty, bristle-haired Asian who was more jovial than Santa Claus. "Who-who-who's in Honor's English?"
I grinned. "I am and so are you, busta, so I'd watch it with the honors' disses!"
"So what happened?" probed Kevin, a twitchy, short dude with serious eyes and probably one of the best listeners I have ever met in my life.
I rolled my shoulders casually. "Some dickhead senior almost knocked over my lunch," I said, enunciating on the phrase "dickhead senior".
"Oh, you know, he didn't see the itsy-bitsy freshman until he almost ran over him," teased Adrian, who also sat at our table.
I gave a cursory glance at Adrian's carefully prepared hair. "Something's seriously messed up with your hair, dude," I said in very worried tones.
Adrian's eyes widened in panic and he quickly patted down every inch of hair, desperately searching for the problem. "Wha-where-who-w-w-w-" he frantically blubbered.
We all laughed uproariously, like a couple of drunks who had just seen some amateur try to chug a beer and vehemently failed. I had just been bluffing and Adrian's hair was still in pristine condition, as usual, but we all knew that Adrian's hair was a soft spot with him and we all had gotten a laugh out of it. Well, besides Adrian.
He shook his head, trying to play it normal. "That wasn't funny," he said decisively.
"On the contrary," interjected Jason, a hardcore gamer who had this pale skin that was the closest thing I had seen to albino, "that was hella funny."
We laughed again and even Adrian joined in, all differences forgotten. He wasn't one of those guys who would get serious at every small insult poked at them. But then, neither were any of the rest of my friends.
An older chick strode up to our table, a bored look in her eyes, and a bunch of flyers in her hands. She tiredly leaned against of our table and asked if any of us were interested in loaning money some organization or other.
We all mutedly shook our heads and she turned around and strode from the table without a backwards glance.
Adam snickered. "Oh, she was a very good salesperson. I'm sure she's going to get tons of people to sign up for whatever she was advertising."
I winked confidentially at Adam. "Hey, you can't blame her! You could tell by her body language that she couldn't wait to get in my pants, and she didn't have enough concentration for other thoughts," I joked.
Steven laughed derisively. "Looked to me like she couldn't wait to get away from a bunch of little, horny freshmen."
"Not me," said Jason with a straight face. "Did you see how she leaned across the table in my direction? Her tit was almost popping out of her bra! She couldn't wait for me to get a good lick-"
"Dude," I interjected incredulously, "what the fuck are you talking about? I was just joking, but you….you're not serious, are you?"
Jason nodded. "Well, I mean, it wasn't like she was gonna ask me out or nothing, but you could tell she, you know, liked me…"
I stared at him. "Ok…someone is a little sex-deprived…"
He stared back. "Oh, and what, you aren't? Tell you what, I would bet you that I'd get a girl like her before you could-"
"Ok," I said in an unbelieving voice, even though I wasn't sure of my chances against Jason's at all. I mean, he didn't even have a single zit at all. But still, I couldn't lose face against my friends. "I would take that bet quicker than you could zip your zipper-"
"I'd take that bet against you two losers," interrupted Adrian in a good-natured, joking manner. I think he said it more in order to decrease tension than anything, but it didn't work.
"If we're actually betting," said Steven, seriously, "count me in!"
"Oh, like you guys are gonna actually bet or anything," said Kevin, rolling his eyes. "You guys are just reveling in all the raging testosterone that's being unleashed in here."
"No, I'm serious now," I said, standing up and eyeballing my friends. "None of us actually have a girlfriend, right? Well, what if we took a group bet on who can get a girlfriend the fastest…Unless you guys are smart and know I'm gonna win, so there's no point…"
I grinned as I stepped down amidst all the frenzied protests and denials. Alex, you bastard, you ain't half-dumb after all, I congratulated myself mockingly in a Texan-accent mental voice, way to manipulate these bitches.
"How much?" queried Adam. Asians were always the ones who thought about their money, eh?
"A dollar?" proposed Kevin, but he got booed down faster than Israel and Palestine would be able to launch another attack against each other.
"Five bucks?" counter offered Adam. Half the group looked thoughtful at this idea but I had to keep the party alive so I knocked down that proposition.
"Are you guys shitting? What is this, some small fry bet?' I yelled. "Get the money flowing, buckos!"
"Ten bucks?" stepped in Jason. Some people opened their mouths to protest but Adrian quickly stepped in to stifle opposition with a higher price.
Adam, Kevin, and Jason immediately shot down that idea. Or attempted to. I had another one of my inspirational pep talks.
"C'mon guys," I said in a no-nonsense voice. "Are you guys like penniless or something…"
"Fifty bucks," said Steven smoothly. Incredulous looks dawned on every member of the party and I gasped in surprise. I opened my mouth to-
"One hundred dollars!"
-double the offer? What the hell had gotten into me? I was acting more daring than Evel Knievel. Why was I so damn cocky today? Had I unwittingly become high off some pot or something? Was there any other explanation?
It looked like it didn't matter if I was incredibly reckless or not, because everyone immediately shot down my offer and tore it into shreds. Everyone, except Steven. I knew Steven was a rich bastard who had a million-dollar house but I didn't think he threw around money like that in group bets. He began talking and I berated myself for ever introducing the idea of this bet.
"Look guys, if we all chip in a hundred dollars and if we agree that winner takes all," continued Steven, even though there were even more horrified gasps around the table at this system, "then the winner takes home more than half a thousand dollars!"
"Yeah, and the losers each lose a hundred bucks," pointed out Adam in a very matter-of-fact tone. Thank God for logical Asians!
"I'm with you, Steven," said Adrian nodding across the table. I silently cursed him. Way to let yourself be convinced by about a sentence of half-truths!
"And you're with me too, Alex, right?" asked Steven, now turning in my direction.
I stuttered, stammered, and scratched my ass, neither of which helped me to any avail.
"For God's sake, man," Steven cut me off angrily, "you proposed the bet and the money and now you're backing out of this offer?"
I blushed and changed my tune like a seasoned piper. "Of course I'm with you!"
Steven turned to the rest of our table. "Well, that's three people, fellas! Anyone else?"
After a moment's pause Jason joined on the other side of the table. "My grandparents gave me two one hundred dollar bills the last time they visited my house," he explained, "and anyways, I feel pretty comfortable against the, uh, present competition." He finished in a sneering tone.
Adrian, Steven, and I all jeered at him but not overmuch, because, after all, he had joined our group bet. We both turned to the two remaining people, Adam and Kevin, and continued pestering them.
Adam had always been one of those people that would do anything to go along with the majority and he always cracked under peer pressure so it didn't come as a surprise when he caved in under our boos, taunts, and hisses. Kevin, however, held more steadfast than Mount Kilimanjaro. He sadly shook his head at us and spoke in a soft, quiet, controlled voice.
"Sorry guys, but, no, I just can't do this," he said, his face downcast. In the uncomfortable silence that followed he stuttered that he needed to take a whiz.
The rest of the lunch period passed in a blur. I remembered that Adrian, Jason, and Steven worked out the set of terms between them. The first one was the time limit. They agreed on thirty days as the whole frame for the bet. If at the end of thirty days no one had succeeded then nobody would win and the bet would be called off. Of course if multiple people actually succeeded in getting hooked up then the thirty days didn't matter, it was just whoever had gotten a girlfriend the fastest.
Then, of course, was the little thing of what actually was meant by "getting a girlfriend". We agreed that it wasn't just one date that but that she'd have to return for a second date. Anything that happened from there didn't matter, since if you'd already reached that stage it already counted as getting a girlfriend.
I remember thinking through it all that I couldn't believe I had just sacrificed a hundred dollars for this. I knew my dad always checked my store of money, knowing every hiding place. I think he was scared I would use it on alcohol, tobacco, drugs, porn, or something else along those lines. There would definitely be a few questions when he saw a hundred dollars missing.
I would just have to win this bet….
…or play dirty.
I got to work after the bell rang. I remember thinking, Weird, Kevin never came back, but that was disregarded as unimportant and I hustled to catch up with Adrian. He was walking in the opposite direction of my class so I didn't waste any time. Usually, I would have beat around the bush to get him ready for my proposal but I didn't have any time for it.
"Look man," I spoke hurriedly, "how 'bout we make a deal? If I win the bet I'll give you a hundred bucks and if you win you give me a hundred dollars….How 'bout it? That way we have a better chance of not losing any money and a hundred bucks is some big dough, ya know…"
I trailed off. Adrian was just staring ahead; his face was creased in thought and he looked like he'd been constipated for the past week and counting. Finally, he cleared his throat and I held my breath in hope.
"Sure," he said, his vice still uncertain. He shook his head, giving a shaky laugh. "What the hell, why not? I'm not sure that I'm gonna win anyways, and ok, yeah, no problem. But since we're splitting some of the money, how 'bout we help each other?"
My heart skipped a beat. This was going even better than I thought. "Sure, man," I agreed wholeheartedly. All right!
"Gotta go!" I yelled out, hurriedly, running furiously back to class to get there in time. On the way, since I couldn't help myself, I jubilantly stopped to take a look at myself in the restroom.
This is what you look like you when you're single, I told myself. In thirty days, it's gonna be a whole new look, buddy.
Yeah, those were the old days when I was so naïve, trusting, and…happy. With no idea to what was looming in my future.
A/N's: Don't think for a moment that just because such an important scene happened this early that this story's gonna be short. I have TONS of stuff planned in the future. The problem is if I'm gonna actually get around to writing it all, but that's another issue :D Anyways, read and review! (tip: I'm a whore for reviews, I'll do anything you want! wink, wink)