Charlie was a man with a mission.
Well, he was more of an eleventh-grader than a man, but he had a mission nonetheless. It was to get his little sister together with his best friend. The obvious "attraction without action" was bothering Charlie; it really was. So he and some other pals were contriving to set them up.
Fortunately, the school board had provided Charlie with the most excellent excuse. In all of its infinite wisdom, the public schooling system had somehow come up with the idea that high school students needed ideals like trustworthiness and tolerance and citizenship instilled in them. As an omnipotent being, the school system had declared a certain day to be "Honesty Day"—a day during which all in the public schools would tell only truths in order to demonstrate that particular value.
As Charlie stated, "It's really just baloney." He did not see how the school intended to ensure that students told the truth, but it was easy to manipulate for his grand plan. So he drew up a diagram with stick figures for the occasion and used it to explain the grand plan to his three co-conspirators. At the end of the demonstration, the junior pumped his fist in the air. "Cupids, unite!"
The teenage Cupids united the next day before class, for the execution of Charlie's grand plan. Damien and Olivia should have expected something when the four others cornered them on Honesty Day in the morning, but alas! The pair was oblivious to Charlie's devious scheme.
"Let's play Truth or Dare," Alice said, in a way that was just enthusiastic enough to sound rehearsed.
Damien gave her a strange look. "Why?" The shy junior was always being forced into adolescent games by his crazy friends.
"It's ironic and fun," Alice said, in an equally-prepared manner. "Fred, Truth or Dare?"
"If you were a murderer, how would you kill someone?"
"With kindness!" exploded Fred, earning him odd stares from his classmates. "Um, or with a chainsaw, if you want something violent. Or both. Yeah, both. Chainsaw and kindness combine to form an excruciating death!"
"Remind me to never get on your bad side," said Olivia dryly.
"Russell, thou hast been chosen. Dost thou choose Truth…or Dare?"
"Truth," Russell replied, not even acknowledging Fred's medieval language.
Fred gave a grin that looked slightly like a smirk. "If you were gay, who would you date?"
"Jim Sturgess," the junior answered readily. Fred's expression morphed to a pointed stare. "Oh, you mean someone I know?"
The older boy nodded. "Remember, it's Honesty Day. You have to tell the truth and all."
"Aww, I'm so flattered!" Charlie gushed, giving an exaggerated smile to Russell.
"Alright, ladies," Damien said loudly. "We'd go on without you, but Russell has to ask somebody a question."
"Fine," said Russell, turning inspired eyes on his classmate. "Damien, Truth or Dare?"
"Truth." Damien was suddenly quieter and less willing to participate.
Russell did not waste a moment. "Please confirm or deny rumors about your alleged attraction to one Miss Olivia."
Blank stares. "Could we get that in English?" requested Alice.
He rolled his eyes. "Damien, do you have a crush on Olivia?"
"It's Honesty Day," reminded Charlie in a singsong voice.
Damien looked at his shoe and Fred's backpack and the ceiling and the window before giving a fraction of a nod.
Olivia, as Charlie had privately predicted, blushed. Satisfied, Charlie said, "Alright. Cool. My turn. I pick Dare."
Since Damien did not seem up for Daring, Alice put in, "I dare you to act out a death scene."
Charlie was already on his feet. "Cause of death?"
Her mouth twisted in a wry grin. "Fred."
The junior nodded, and adopted a look of agony. "Ah, you're too kind! So kind! I am positively suffocating in your kindness! Oh, what a world, say it ain't so!" He clutched dramatically at his throat. "Make a chainsaw noise," he muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
"Aaaaah!" Charlie clutched at his stomach. "Oh, the pain! Oh, the chainsaw-induced pain!" The boy dropped to his knees. "Why must the good…die young…?" He fell over.
By this point, Charlie's scene had attracted the attention of most of the student body. Of course, this had been his intention; however, many watchers kept walking when he sat up abruptly and said, "Olivia, Truth or Dare?"
"Truth," his sister said, not making eye contact.
"Are you madly attracted to Damien?"
She hesitated. "Well, I wouldn't say madly…"
"But you are attracted to him?" A timid nod. "Yes! I knew it!" Charlie looked expectantly between a blushing Damien and Olivia. "Great. So you guys should date now." But neither said anything.
Charlie, whose enthusiasm was truly overflowing, was not dissuaded by this. "Just you wait," he told Russell matter-of-factly, when the other boy stated that the plan had not succeeded. "It's working. By the end of the day, they'll be together. Just you wait."
Honesty Day, so far, was going splendidly for Charlie, the matchmaker decided. He privately wondered, though, when people would begin to deliberately misinterpret—in other words, take advantage of—the whole situation.
Josh, who read the morning announcements, was the first to publicly abuse Honesty Day. He added some personal notes to the end of Honesty Day's announcements, which happened to include how well the football team had done at last weekend's game.
"And this reporter would just like to as that, in all honesty, I'm sick of hearing and reading about how great the football team is. To be perfectly honest, I think it's completely unfair how much attention and funding the football team gets! The swim team practices just as hard and is just as important, and does anyone come to our meets? No!"
In the background, scuffling noises were heard as the office staff scrambled to take the microphone away from Josh.
"That is my honest opinion," Josh added; though he was shouting, his voice sounded farther away. There was more movement from Josh's end of the sound system, and the faint crash of an overturned desk could be heard. Then Josh could be heard from right beside the microphone.
"And, uh, Lisa, please stop texting me. I honestly didn't have a good time on Friday and honestly don't—"
The PA was abruptly cut off as the secretary pulled the microphone's plug from its outlet.
Later in the day, Josh would be rewarded with a complimenting text message from a girl who was not Lisa. This girl—who apparently hated the football team almost as much as she hated her fifth period class and teacher—would end up having a good time with Josh the following Friday.
In Mrs. Dover's second-period English class, the tenth graders were supposed to read speeches that they had toiled over for weeks in advance. Mrs. Dover called speeches "oral presentations", but a thorn by any other name would cause as much pain.
Because she was scheduled to recite after Kenny (whose older brother was the captain of the speech team), Misty was especially nervous about her oral presentation. It was always more difficult to deliver a speech after a very impressive speaker. However, when Kenny got to the lectern at the front of the class…
"Since we're all being honest today, I'm just going to go ahead and say that my brother writes all of my speeches. He's been preparing for the speech tournament next weekend and he didn't write me one. I was kind of…expecting him to. So I don't have a speech. Can I go tomorrow for one letter grade down, Mrs. Dover?"
The teacher stared at Kenny like she had x-ray vision and could see through his brain. Then she scowled. "Two letter grades down," she said. "And if you don't have it tomorrow…"
"It's a zero and I should ask God to rain mercy on my soul," said Kenny in a bored tone. He nodded and walked back to his desk.
Mrs. Dover glanced at her clipboard. Misty's stomach tried to change places with her liver.
"Misty, you're next."
Misty swallowed the ball-of-yarn-sized lump in her throat and walked to the front of the classroom, stepping behind the podium. She could barely see over it because it was practically nine feet tall, and when she stood on her tiptoes she saw her four thousand classmates staring at her. The girl looked at her index cards, which were green and covered in notes about stem cell research.
Josh's actions from first period, however, had somehow planted a seed of mischief in Misty. She glanced back at the class, and then ripped the notes in half.
"My speech," Misty said, barely above a whisper, "is called 'Why I Hate Oral Presentations'." She straightened up and gained confidence in her voice as the class gave a chuckle. "The first reason is that I'm shy. I mean, really shy. I mean, you probably wouldn't even know I existed if I didn't have to give oral presentations to pass this class. That's how shy I am. Getting up in front of the whole class to give this oral presentation is so stressful it practically kills me. I think the school system should be found guilty of attempted homicide, because the amount of stress it's putting on me is enough to give someone a heart attack.
"The whole concept is pretty ridiculous anyway, because I'm going to be a botanist and I'll never have to give speeches or anything, ever. I'll just run my quiet plant shop and answer short questions about Japanese maples and maybe I'll even describe growing conditions and all sometimes. If I feel like it. But I'm sure this course has ruined public speaking for me, so I'll just stick to short answers.
"Why have oral presentations ruined public speaking for me? Because all of the students who I'm giving the oral presentation to are never listening, so that pretty much makes my self-confidence kill itself and then I'm left standing at the front of the classroom talking only to my teacher—who terrifies me—because all of my classmates intimidate me. And I know that everyone else gives better oral presentations than I do, so why bother trying? Right? I might as well just take a zero and not go through the torture.
"Except that, if I do take a zero, I'll go home and then my mother will ask why I got a zero, and she'll be disappointed instead of getting mad, which is worse. And then my dad won't let me volunteer at the Christmas tree farm, which is really the only thing I want to do and I couldn't bear losing that. So I'd rather risk self-esteem-suicide by oral presentation than that punishment.
"And another thing. My teacher calls these tortures 'oral presentations'—" The class laughed at the phrase for the seventh time—"so whenever I say 'I have to give an oral presentation', everyone cracks up because they're all perverts. Well, you know what? Oral, oral, oral, oral, oral! It's just a word. Technically, it means 'spoken'. So shut the heck up!"
Misty paused slightly to take a breath. The laughter faded to awe. "Thank you," she said brightly, with a smile on her face for the first time in English class. "If you want to talk about my oral presentation, I'll be after school from two to three today." Head held high, she made her way to Mrs. Dover to collect her pink "Detention" slip.
The sophomore glanced at the paper. "Make that two to three-thirty," Misty amended, walking back to her seat. The whole class stared, knowing that Misty would forever be known as the Queen of Oral Presentations.
Very few classes were shared by students of all grade levels. Guitar 2 was one of them, which meant that Damien could only congratulate Josh for so long until the older boy brought up Olivia, who was seated nearby.
For her part, Olivia was properly embarrassed about the whole thing and was ready to kill her brother via chainsaw. (No kindness involved whatsoever.) Josh, who had heard about the whole thing from Fred, was much more amused by the situation than the potential couple.
"Damien," he said finally, idly picking out the "Mary Had A Little Lamb" on his guitar, "if you and Olivia want to double, I've got a date on Friday with Elena Weston. We wouldn't mind having you along."
"We're not dating," Damien whispered back. Olivia pretended not to hear, staring at her sheet music.
"Yet," Josh said wisely. "C'mon, tell the truth, do you not want to date her?" Cutting off Damien's attempt at a reply, Josh continued. "'Cause, man, she's pretty hot for a sophomore. Not bad taste at all. If she likes you, go for it."
Damien stared at the senior. "I…want…to go out with her."
Olivia smiled at the music book and blushed, looking away quickly.
"Josh! Damien!" The pair looked up from their guitars and conversation. Damien looked embarrassed; Josh had the decency to pretend to. "Might I ask what's so interesting that you're blatantly ignoring the lesson?"
"We're talking about his love life. Shut up, it's important."
Without another word, the teacher began signing a detention slip. Olivia giggled silently. Josh, however, had a rebuttal.
"Aha! You can't give me detention—I've already got one!" He triumphantly held up the pink paper he'd received after his stunt on the announcements.
The senior was not amused in the slightest when the teacher handed him a slip for double detention. Olivia stuffed her fist in her mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
The usual French teacher was out on maternity leave, and a long-term substitute had been serving his sentence for almost a month. In addition to not speaking French, this substitute teacher happened to have the worst luck in the history of substitute teachers. Most of the students felt an inexplicable pity and warmth for him.
"Poor Mr. Moretti," the students would say sadly, as he approached a group of AP French kids for a favor. The underclassmen already knew that he was asking them to write the quiz for the first-year French class.
"Poor Mr. Moretti," the students would say sadly, as Mr. Moretti ran frantically around the copy room with a large coffee stain on his shirt, trying to get the printer to work.
"Poor Mr. Moretti," the students would say sadly, as he had to call the office for the third time during sixth period, this time because there was a bee in the classroom and half of the class was panicking because they were all allergic and the overhead projector bulb had burned out again; and if the office could send a janitor with a replacement bulb and a nurse to console the panicking students then Mr. Moretti would be quite grateful.
Honesty Day seemed to have started normally—as in, badly—for Mr. Moretti, but he had had enough by fourth period.
After the pencil sharpener had eaten five students' pencils and caused another's to get stuck, Mr. Moretti banged his fists on his desk.
"That's it!" the substitute exploded. "Everyone's supposed to be honest today, right? Well, I hate this class! I hate teaching French! I don't even speak French, this is a favor for my brother-in-law and this whole school is broken and non so mi sono entrato in questo disordine ma lo odio so I'm going home to play Madden for four hours!"
And Mr. Moretti stormed out of the classroom, banging the door shut behind him.
The students looked at each other after a long moment and sighed. "Poor Mr. Moretti," they said sadly, shaking their heads with a shrewd look.
Mrs. Flanders was affectionately referred to by her students as The Homework Nazi. When unfortunate souls forgot or neglected to do their homework, the teacher would mark them down and ask them why they had not completed the assignment.
On Honesty Day, Elena snapped.
"Why didn't you do your homework?"
"Because I hate your frickin' class!" exploded the senior, leaping out of her chair to confront the teacher. "I will never-ever-ever-ever-ever use trigonometry in real life, and I don't see the point in spending hours on your impossible homework when I know that I'm going to fail it anyway, so I might as well work on my dressage routine. I mean, seriously, my horse Brutus is more compassionate than you."
"You think my life is easy?" Mrs. Flanders roared back. "I have to put up with you imbeciles every day!"
"Better off than us—we have to deal with the queen witch of math teachers!"
By the time the exchange was over, Elena had been assigned "octuple-detention"—which did not exist—and the principal had arrived with two security personnel to break up the fistfight that had begun. Both Mrs. Flanders and Elena were referred to the office, but only Elena had to transfer to a different class.
"Enjoy your meal," said the cafeteria worker. Her name tag read Mrs. Mudd and she had a stain of something inedible-looking on her apron.
Alice glanced down at the "meal" on her Styrofoam tray. There was cardboard pizza with plastic cheese and glue-like sauce. The freshman couldn't tell if the cup of soup she had was supposed to be broccoli and cheese or tomato. And the dessert resembled a small, warped two-by-four more than an oatmeal cookie. Honestly, the tray looked more appetizing.
"No, I don't think I will," she replied, forking over two dollars for the lunch anyway.
Mrs. Mudd did not take this kindly. "Are you trying to say something about my cooking?"
"Oh, no," Alice replied with a cheerful smile. "No, I don't think this qualifies as cooking." She wheeled around to rush out of the line, but was regrettably followed by the cafeteria worker.
It would have been okay if Alice hadn't looked back. But when she heard Mrs. Mudd shouting at her, the freshman could not help turning around to see what in blazes was going on. And, naturally, she sped up to escape her pursuer. This caused Alice to collide with a trashcan.
When she hit the trashcan, her tray of "lunch" went flying out of her hands and hit the quarterback, who was sitting docilely three and a half tables away. Many of the new football-haters, inspired by Josh's rant over the announcements, laughed. Needless to say, the quarterback did not hesitate to fight back…
To the wrong person.
For he had assumed that a friend of his had thrown the tray, and he retaliated by throwing another cafeteria "food" at him. That boy ducked, and the "pizza" hit a cheerleader. The cheerleader threw an open milk carton at the quarterback, drenching him and the rest of the team.
One thing led to another, and sooner or later someone stated the obvious by yelling "Food fight!" This officially began the food fight, and the food-flinging lasted for a good twenty minutes. By then, every authority in the general area had arrived to control the situation, and everyone who had partaken in the fight (about three quarters of that lunch period) was given detention. But it had been a historic food fight, and a new journalist for the school paper was able to get some awesome pics on her cell phone, enabling her to get a big break in the next edition with an article titled "Most Popular Food Fight Weapons".
Fifteen minutes after sixth-period started, Alice's brother Fred walked into his Government class. As if he was not dismally tardy, the senior sat down in his seat and started taking notes from the teacher's lecture.
However, Mr. Givens did notice Fred's tardiness. "Why are you late to my class?" he said sharply, interrupting his own lecture. Some of the students who had been asleep awaked; Mr. Givens' soporific drone had ceased as he waited for Fred's answer.
Eventually, Fred did notice the silence and the curious stares. "Hmm?" he asked, glancing around. The teacher glared. "Sorry, could you repeat the question?"
The teacher repeated the question.
"Oh." Fred shrugged. He closed his notebook, opened his backpack, and shoved his supplies inside. "Probably because I was out tagging the city."
"I got Taco Bell, the post office, and that gas station that always has high prices. What's-it-called, the Shell station. That's it. I was gonna get the Safeway, too, but then I realized how late I already was. Probably should have skipped this class, now that I think of it…"
Fred pulled a can of spray paint out of his knapsack and slung the bag over one shoulder, rising from his seat. "You'll love this, Mr. Givens. This is what I put on your car."
He marched to the blackboard and sprayed two intertwined yellow symbols on the greenish surface. The graffiti looked remarkably like a hammer crossed with a sickle. Above it, he drew a star.
"There are also some rainbows," Fred assured his conservative Republican teacher. "I'd draw some here but they take a while." The senior turned and walked out before Mr. Givens could say anything.
Over his shoulder, Fred called back a parting message. "By the way, I'm dropping this class." In all honesty, Mr. Givens couldn't blame him.
But Fred still had to go to detention later. It was better than jail, anyhow.
"Ned is a nuisance," stated Russell to Charlie, before seventh-period Chemistry began.
"Ned Mason?" Charlie asked to clarify, pointing over his shoulder at the star of the basketball team. Charlie was sitting on the desk he shared with Russell, his lab partner.
"That's the one."
"And he did what?"
"Well, he tried to shove me into a locker last period."
Charlie snorted. "That's so middle-school. Out of curiosity, do you know why he attempted this?" Russell nodded and whispered the offense to Charlie, who was apparently incensed by it. The boy turned around to face the bully. "Hey, Ned!" It got the other junior's attention. "Pick on someone your own size, why dontcha?"
Ned was over a foot taller than Charlie, who barely cleared five-and-a-half. The basketball player obviously figured out why Charlie was calling him out. "Gonna defend him?" Ned asked.
"Well, yes," Charlie deadpanned. "After all, he is my boyfriend."
Then Russell gave him an I thought we weren't going to tell anyone look, and Charlie replied with a Too late for that look. And Russell smiled.
At some point in the next minute, an insult was tossed in the direction of Charlie and Russell. The insult may have started with an f, and it was all the provocation that Charlie needed to tackle Ned. Russell barely hesitated in joining.
The teacher quickly noticed the disturbance, of course, and assigned the three of them a detention. Then he sent them to the nurse. Ned ran to the office—with a split lip—but the other two followed at a more leisurely pace.
"I was just being honest," explained Charlie.
"I know." Russell was still grinning.
"Seriously, though," Charlie said, slinging an arm over his boyfriend's shoulder. "Jim Sturgess?"
When Fred showed up for detention, he was surprised to see several people he knew already there. "What are you in for?" he asked Olivia, dropping his backpack on a desk near hers.
"Apprehended in the food fight."
Alice smirked. "Caused the food fight."
"Hey, no kidding? Nice work, little sis." Fred sat down. "I got caught with vandalism."
"I gave an oral presentation on hating oral presentations," said Misty, who was a friend of Olivia and Alice. She glanced at Josh, who had just walked in with Elena. "Your rant on the announcements was great," she said shyly.
"I thought so, too," Elena said. Her hand was intertwined with Josh's.
"I can see Honesty Day worked out for you two," said Charlie, entering with Russell. Charlie was sporting a black eye, and the couple was also holding hands.
Olivia was the first to pick up on this. "I thought you two were a closet case?" she observed bluntly. Russell turned five embarrassed shades of red.
"I love Honesty Day," Charlie declared.
"Nice to know it's working out for you lovebirds," Damien said, entering. He chose a seat behind Olivia, which surprised no one but made the sophomore blush. Ever tactful, Charlie had something to say about that, and he did.
"What about you lovebirds?"
This accomplished nothing, however, and the detention's moderator walked in at that moment, followed by a horde of other students who had also gotten in trouble. In fact, there were so many students with detention on Honesty Day that they had to move from a classroom to the auditorium, which seated one thousand people. It was forty percent full.
"Which makes sense, when you think about it," said Alice to Russell. "Because, I mean, there are maybe fourteen hundred kids at this school. So about…two-sevenths of the student body got in trouble. I'm honestly surprised there aren't more." She gave the upperclassman a suspicious look. "What exactly did you do?"
Russell shrugged. "We had a fistfight with Ned Mason."
"Did you win the fistfight?"
"Of course we won the fistfight."
"Then that's okay."
"No talking!" the prosecutor snapped. The conversation in the room dulled from a rumble to a low drone. However, the high schoolers soon realized that it was impossible for one teacher to quiet four hundred teenage students. Conversation soon resumed.
Two students who were not speaking were Olivia and Damien. After five minutes of self-imposed silence, Olivia received a note that was folded many times. The message read, in Damien's nearly-legible handwriting, Did you mean it?
She replied honestly, in pink highlighter. Yes.
The note passed back to her after many minutes said, Would you like to double with Josh and Elena on Friday?
And honestly, Olivia could not think of a better way to spend that night.