Stuck

Freddy sighed.

"Don't do dat," Rachel demanded through clenched teeth, but then sighed as well. "Shorry. Ny neck really hurtsh." Freddy nodded in understanding causing a pained moan from both teenagers.

Freddy and Rachel had been stuck in their predicament for well over an hour. Neither one could have foreseen it considering how well the day started.

Rachel invited Freddy to her house while her parents were out for a lunch date in the city since they never approved of boys near their precious little angel. Sometimes she wondered if they got her braces for that very reason, not that it mattered with Freddy; he had braces too. Rachel, being sixteen already and thoroughly irked by her parents' ridiculous behavior, decided that she was going to have her friend over whether they liked it or not. Freddy Collins wasn't the kind of boy they suspected all boys were, but her pleads of "We're just friends!" went unheard. When she thought back, she realized she wasn't even being so rebellious. Her parents would never know it was Freddy in the house and not one of Rachel's girlfriends, but she felt proud all the same.

When Freddy got the call he was understandably worried at first. Anyone who had seen Mr. Grayson's evil eye first hand knew never to earn it a second time. It was what nightmares were made of. However, Rachel managed to coax Freddy into coming over after numerous promises that there would be neither hide nor hair of her parents for hours. It would just be the two of them, some junk food and every videogame Freddy and Rachel had between them.

It felt like the start of a perfect day.

Freddy and Rachel filled three large serving bowls with cheese doodles, pretzels and popcorn and took two bottles of soda from the refrigerator and some plastic cups from the cabinet. They brought them to the living room where the game consoles were set up and soon they were immersed in their competition. Each two person fighter game had their bodies twitching from stunted copies of their characters' moves as if it would help the attack reach its mark. Every race had Freddy and Rachel on their feet digging their toes into the beige carpet and mere inches from the screen as the finish line drew near. They could see the reflection from their braces as they gritted their teeth in anticipation and determination.

And when one claimed the title of victor, a small food fight ensued that left traces of food in their hair and crushed in the folds of their clothing. Freddy was sure the majority of food in his curly brown locks would only be found under close inspection once he returned home. Rachel could easily comb the debris from her hair with her fingers and then threw the pieces back at Freddy.

The time flew by and neither teenager could imagine anything ruining their perfect day.

"Hah! In your face!" Freddy jumped up after beating Rachel in another fighter game. She could admit he was better in those games, but she failed to see the fun in submitting so her taunts continued even after her many losses. Freddy was happy to rub each taunt back in his friend's face even knowing the case was reversed when they raced. "What's the count now? 67 to 0?"

"Oh please." Rachel sent her emerald eyes heavenward with a good-natured head shake. "It's 67 to 33, idiot. Come on! Start up another game!"

"After I take my victory drink." Freddy reached for his cup. Before he could grab it Rachel dropped three pretzels in it with a smirk. "Oh that's really mature, Rach." He scooped out the pretzels and made for the garbage.

Rachel wasn't fooled. She armed herself with more pretzels as Freddy whipped around and tossed the three slick ones at her. Another small battle commenced leaving the living room war torn. Rachel didn't worry though since she could do no wrong in the eyes of her parents so long as boys weren't involved and they wouldn't know a boy was involved.

Freddy and Rachel circled each other, both armed with edible projectiles. Each tried to distract the other with feinting motions until finally Rachel let out a battle cry and leaped forward, letting loose her flavorful weaponry. Freddy flung his food arsenal back, but couldn't move in time to avoid Rachel falling on him. They collapsed to the ground in a tangle of limbs, laughing at first until they felt the sharp sting of colliding body parts and quickly tried to unravel themselves with pained exclamations. A few moments of fruitless and tooth aching struggles left both friends harboring a dark conclusion.

"Uh, heddy?" Rachel asked through her forcibly exposed teeth.

"Yeah?"

"I shink e're shtuck dy our draces."

"I shink sho choo."

"Nayde 'e can get unshtuck."

Freddy and Rachel made a few pathetic attempts at dislodging their mouths, but stopped as the throbbing worsened. They looked around helplessly for a minute before concluding that they were in a bad situation that couldn't get much worse. With a little effort, they pushed themselves up to a seated position to feel more comfortable and so the creeping blush would die down.

"Okay, don't tanic," said Freddy. "'e'll shink o' shunting."

And so they sat there thinking of ways to free themselves of the tangled wire in their mouths while trying to ignore what sort of sight they surely were. They avoided breathing too hard as they thought, Rachel berated Freddy for this a number of times, because both mouths smelled of digested junk food.

One thought was to use the bathroom mirror for a better look. Unfortunately, the problem area was still in a blind spot. They attempted to feel for the connection between their braces, but every inch of sleek metal they could reach felt the same and neither one enjoyed having the other's fingers on his or her teeth. When they realized too much time was passing and the stiffness in their necks was becoming unbearable, they grudgingly admitted that the task couldn't be done alone. Someone would have to help them, which meant someone would have to see them. Both teenagers failed to hold in sighs.

Twenty minutes after an arduous phone call to a friend from school, another boy was eagerly welcomed into Rachel's house. Matt Walker paused in the open doorway at the sight of Freddy and Rachel attached by the teeth and then fell into a laughing fit.

"So daddy dearest finally let you two move your relationship to the next level." The two glares sent his way were ignored. It was clear that he had plenty of pent up gaiety to unleash at their expense. The stuck friends groaned and dragged him inside, locking the door behind him. If the situation weren't so dire they would have taken the time to hit him first.

"'ould you shut ut and helt ush already?!" Rachel shouted.

Matt wiped his tearing eyes and conceded to his friends in need. Examining the metal closely and only making a few cracks at their breath and touching lips, he could just make out where four of the cemented metal squares were caught. He tried to instruct Freddy and Rachel on how to move their heads so the hooked pieces would relinquish each other, but their movements were out of sync and ineffective. Matt frowned in thought, running his fingers through his dirty blonde hair. Then his eyes brightened as he had one more idea. He moved behind Rachel and held her head.

"Here's the plan," Matt said. "Freddy, on three you're gonna move forward and to the right. Rach, we're gonna move kind of backwards and to the right. Not totally backwards or you'll both just fall over. Just go with me. Ready?" Freddy and Rachel gave an awkward nod. Matt leaned over Rachel's shoulder for a better view of the braces. "Okay. Keep your fingers crossed. One. Two. Three!"

Freddy and Rachel shut their eyes and did as instructed. Freddy moved forward and then leaned right while trying to ignore his lips pressing harder against Rachel's and failing. Rachel let Matt guide her head back at a slight diagonal and then to her right. There was an uncomfortable tug that made Freddy's and Rachel's eyes water, but then the pain vanished and the pressure of two jaws interlocked was gone at last. Still caught in the momentum that freed them, Freddy fell forward into Rachel who forced Matt to the floor beneath her.

They lay sandwiched together for a minute in unreal silence before bursting into an uncontrolled fit of laughter that was a mix of their relief and the hilarity of the situation on hindsight. It would be their inside joke for years to come.

"It's getting late, Rach." Freddy finally controlled himself enough to check his watch. "We should—"

A loud click forced all heads to turn to the front door as it opened. The teenagers lay on the floor frozen like deer in headlights under the scrutiny of Rachel's parents. Her father's eyes narrowed into his nightmarish glare, frigid and unyielding, and Freddy, Rachel and Matt nearly expected a guttural growl to follow it. Needless to say they all anticipated nightmares that night. Shoot! Rachel thought. So close!

"Hi daddy," she smiled sweetly as the teenagers scrambled to their feet and stood well away from one another. "Um, I can explain."