-

"Oh Em Gee, what a slut."

Bianca could feel them staring. Even the younger grades, who should've had more respect, were watching her with unabashed curiosity. The toxic levels of interest were making her skin prickle.

She shoved her sunglasses up her nose and continued towards her math class at a brisk walk. After three days of suspension—and the beating of Modern Warfare 2 on veteran mode, which she wasn't bragging about or anything—apparently things had changed for her at school.

A group of prepubescent girls giggled as she walked past their little blonde cluster. Bianca heard the word "slut" again, followed closely by "Jared Webster".

According to Eliot, Bianca was the target of a facebook smear campaign unlike any other. What it had in viciousness and lies, though, it lacked in having a target. None of them knew Bianca's email address, home address, or phone number. Being a complete social reject for the past four years apparently had some benefits, after all.

Bianca could still hear the whispers flurrying around her, though, and was glad she was wearing sunglasses. Showing the slightest moment of doubt or fear around these female piranhas was like running out of grenades while trying to ambush a machine-gun encampment in Rage of the Galaxies III. It only lead to gruesome and unstoppable death sequences.

Further up the cafeteria hallway, she saw a pack of girls her own age slowly form, and face her down. Their brightly painted fingernails curled into claws, and the few muscles in their emaciated legs tensed to spring. Their eyes called out for blood.

Slowly, Bianca slid off her aviators. She was ready for battle.

Her heartbeat pounded in her ears, and for a dim second she realized this was how Marcus Fenix probably felt before facing down the locust hordes: slightly terrified, super-charged with macho-badassery, and with the feeling that the following battle would be fully sick in slow motion set to heartbreakingly sad music.

Prepared, Bianca faced her foes and stood, ready to do battle.

"Boo, you whore," Katie Whitmore sneered.

And then Bianca experienced the greatest deflation of adrenaline in her entire life.

"What?" she said.

Katie Whitmore stepped forwards, getting into Bianca's face until all she could see was looming beige foundation. Bianca stood her ground out of surprise more than anything. Having Katie's face so close to hers was not a pleasant experience.

"The fuck is wrong with you?" Katie said. "Are you really that desperate? You'd sleep with the first guy who was drunk enough to take you?"

A fleck of spit landed on Bianca's cheek. It was disgusting, and at that time she was practically quivering with the need to get away from Katie. "Bitch," Bianca said, "Get the fuck outta my way."

Katie Whitmore didn't back down. Instead, she got even closer to Bianca's face, close enough that if Bianca wanted, she could have ripped Katie's nose off with her teeth. "Bring it, you cocksmoker," she hissed. "I'll settle this with you one way or another."

"Fuckin' whore," another girl chimed in. The whole crowd pressed closer.

Surrounded on all sides by girls shorter and thinner than she was, Bianca wondered if she could fight them all and escape, and then realized that she wasn't even allowed to fight because she'd hit Tom and got suspended. If she got expelled, she was never going to game school. On the other hand, if Katie killed her, she was just going to die. There was no winning. Fuck.

"Whoa!" somebody said, pushing through the crowd. "Calm down, ladies!"

The one person willing to stand up to the hottest senior girls in school turned out to be a short Native American kid who was about ninety pounds and thirteen years old. All of the girls stopped to stare, even Katie. He was like a tiny, righteous puppy in baggy jeans and a wifebeater.

The scrawny kid somehow inserted himself between Bianca and Katie, even though he only came up to their chests. "Put away the claws, yo," he told Katie, pushing the two of them apart with as much force as his skinny arms could bear. "This bitch here is my homie."

"What?" Bianca said, relieved beyond belief at his intervention but still confused over it.

It only took Katie a moment to get her swagger back. "Listen, you fucking piece of border-crossing trash, get the hell out of my way before I fuck you up."

"Yo, you are way out of line," the kid said. "I'm fuckin' Yekooche. We were here before you and your fucked-up white-ass bitches. And you're not even hot enough to be this mean. You have no tits."

"Fuck you," Katie said, crossing her arms protectively across her small chest. "At least I'm not fat."

"Yeah, shut the fuck up, kid," some hot girl from Katie's hot chick club said contemptuously.

Bianca would have lost heart under such intense dismissal, but the little guy didn't give up. "Come on, Bianca," he said protectively, and Bianca found herself being dragged away by her unlikely savior at high enough speeds that the other girls couldn't give chase. In fact, they were just standing there, beginning to laugh like idiot.

"Uh...thank you?" Bianca said once they were halfway down a side hall. The only people around were kids from the younger grades, talking in their own groups.

"No problem, yo," the kid said happily.

Bianca studied the kid for a second. His most striking feature, other than his lack of body fat and height, was that he had huge, limpid dark eyes, like a sea otter. He was staring up at Bianca like she'd just saved him from an oil spill. "Man, that Katie bitch is fuckin' crazy, but you're cool as a motherfucker just standing there."

"Uh...thanks," Bianca said. "Thanks for stepping in, dude, but you didn't need to do anything there. I had it under control."

"Yeah, you did," the kid said, with no trace of sarcasm in his voice. "It's just like, when I run into the fuckin' white trash kids who try to fuck me and my boys up, they always form a fucking pack mentality against me because I'm Yekooche. And I always wish someone would come and help me out, and I fuckin' hate those bitches, most people do, and I saw them coming for you, and I was like, fuck, Bianca is totally cool, I should go help her. Anyways, I gotta get to class! It was nice meeting you! In person, that is."

"You too," Bianca said, slightly shocked and also feeling a creeping urge to smother the kid in a hug. "Wait, what?"

The kid hitched up his backpack and beamed at her. "You're a hella tight gamer, B. I been playing against you for years in Call of Duty, I just never really got the nerve to talk to you in person 'cause you're older and until now you never talked to nobody, but like, the way you can take down a fireteam is seriously impressive."

"Seriously?" Bianca said, amazed. "That's...thanks. We should play on the same side."

The kid's dark eyes lit up. "Yo, for sure, we would own!"

After making her promise she wouldn't forget to add him, he ran off, with one last adoring look at Bianca. Halfway down the hall he ran into some of the other First Nation guys and started flailing at them, pointing back to Bianca and then pretending to hold a machine gun. They all looked mostly unimpressed.

Shaking her head in wonder, Bianca turned to go to her math class. She found herself surrounded by some of the minority girls. Being that they lived pretty far north, away from major cities and actual diversity, the population was mostly white and aboriginal. As a result, the Asians, Persians and Indians had put aside their nationality differences and formed a single unified group in order to have some sort of presence in the school.

"Hey, Bianca," a girl said. "So is it true that you slept with Jared Webster?"

"Um...yes." Bianca winced, preparing to be called a slut or whore with a sinking heart, because there was only so much abuse she could take that early in the morning.

The other girl just grinned at her. "Damn. Lucky you. He's really hot."

"Um...yes. Yes he is."

"See you around," the girl said, and sauntered off. The whole group followed, some smiling and nodding acknowledgment at her. Bianca stared after them in bemusement.

As she made her way to class, she heard a number of people whispering things that sounded horrible and giving her scornful looks, but she also noticed the way a bunch of little guys all grinned admiringly at her, and the way a bunch of the girls in her grade all nodded in a friendly way as she passed.

What the fuck was going on, Bianca didn't know, because to her knowledge she was getting hate and discontent from all sides, but after this morning she almost felt like people—liked her.

-

Katie was seething. "We should key her car," she suggested, drawing a flower in the margin of her note paper. After careful consideration, she added a heart. Maybe she would carve a heart into whatever beater Bianca drove. Or, better yet, a giant penis, because Bianca was a whore and would probably appreciate that.

"I don't think she has a car," her friend said.

"How does she get to school, then?" Katie snapped.

"I think that dyke friend of hers gives her a ride."

Katie was in no mood to be kind. "Then we key her car. We're doing this at break."

Seven text messages later, the time was set. At the morning break, the Katie's four closest friends met up and went out to the parking lot, looking for the sky-blue lesbian Volkswagen with their keys in hand.

The plan was almost immediately fucked when the car pulled in just as they reached the parking lot. Eliot stepped out of it, dressed like a sexy 1940's-era secretary who had been fighting for weeks in the jungle against steampunk robots. She paused when she saw the group of girls headed her way, and her eyes narrowed. She put her coffee mug on the roof of her car and her hands on her hips.

"Oh, no, hookers," she said. "You better not be trying to do what I think you're doing."

Katie realized that the very sight of Eliot chilled her to her bones with fear. Probably because Eliot was gay, or something. "We're just going to my car. God, stop trying to hit on us."

The lesbian just stared. Katie stared back, unwilling to show fear. Despite the fact Eliot was a double-minority, and not in the good way, there was something so compellingly beautiful about her that Katie couldn't help but feel like being a hot blonde was a poor lifestyle choice, even though that clearly wasn't the case. There was no way a Korean lesbian could be hotter than her. Even if she was wearing a bright graphic mini with a waist-belt made out of robotic flowers.

Eliot crossed her lean, pale legs, tipping up her snakeskin pumps, and eyed them all from under her gunmetal eyeshadow. Her silence was unnerving.

"Jesus Christ," Katie said nervously. "You're a freak of nature, you know? Go find the gym teacher, I'm sure she'd love to go down on you."

Eliot smiled, but her eyes were cold. "There better not be a scratch on my car when I get back."

Then she stood up straight and swayed past their group, every inch of her projecting menace, even the sparkling clip that held her hair in its elaborate coiffure.

"I thought lesbians were supposed to wear ugly clothes," one of Katie's friends said in a small voice, looking down at her own Abercrombie and Fitch ensemble.

Katie sighed in exasperation. "Don't be fucking stupid, Amanda. How else would she get women? Let's just go to Starbucks instead."

-

Webs was bored out of his skull in Chemistry class. The teacher had left but there was the threat of turning the assignment in at the end of the class, so for once Webs was actually working on the sheet. He had just finished the third question about reaction rates when one of his friends, Connor, leaned over. "Man," he said. "I know we were joking about that bet, but that Bianca chick? She's actually pretty hot now. That ass..."

"Shut up, Connor," Webs said.

"Nobody wants to hear the inner thoughts of the mentally challenged," Tom added from where he was texting under the desk. He made no secret of the fact he didn't like Connor, but then again he didn't really like anyone.

Connor glared at Tom for a second, and then turned back to Webs. "So, scale of one to Jessica Alba, how good was she in bed?"

"I'm not telling you," Webs said, punching some numbers into his calculator. "Tom, can I borrow your sheet?"

"Now, now, Jared, how will you be a doctor if you can't determine purity percentages on your own," Tom said.

Just like that anger flared up in Webs, unreasonably intense given the fact it was Tom. "My mom's retarded, I'm not going to be a doctor. Give me your sheet."

"Seriously, man, how is she?" Connor insisted from his lonely corner of stupidity.

"Good," Webs snapped. "Seriously, Tom, give me the sheet."

"Touchy," Tom remarked, handing it over with a gleam in his eyes.

Connor was still going. "Is she single still? Because, really, that ass..."

"No," Webs said.

"Did you actually ask that basement-dwelling troll to go steady with you?" Tom asked.

Webs gritted his teeth and admitted, "Not yet."

"Oh, dude, she totally is still single! I'm so gonna tap that," Connor said, wriggling his eyebrows. "Can I borrow the sheet after you're done with it?"

"No," Webs snapped.

"Sure you can, Connor," Tom said lazily, despite usually having a policy of not 'prostituting out his intelligence', as he put it.

"Thanks, man. Yeah, so I would plow that ass."

Webs felt his hands clench and his mechanical pencil broke to pieces in his hand. "Shut the fuck up about her ass for a second, all right? Motherfucker."

Tom and Connor and about half the class all turned to stare at him.

"Fuck," Webs muttered, feeling himself turning red, and began to industriously copy the Chemistry worksheet.

After class, he made sure to wander the halls looking for Bianca, but he didn't see her off the beginning and was losing hope of finding her, which meant he'd just wasted his entire break. It was about two minutes before class started that he saw Bianca in a knot of what looked like grade eight boys, towering over them all and gesturing wildly with her hands. It was probably wrong of him to be so surprised.

"...So being a Rouge class is the best, because then you don't have to go through all the levels again later to get the locked items," she was saying to a rapt audience. "You can get the Sword of Mana on level 34 if you go to the tower as a Rouge."

"But being a warrior is better," one kid said. "Rouges are for fags."

"You're a fag, and so is your dad," she retorted.

The boys all busted out into laughter, and gave her high-fives with glee. Webs didn't really see the great wit there, but okay. "Bianca," he called.

She looked up and almost smiled at him. She looked really good, wearing some tight jeans and a tank top that showed off her curves. Jared liked girls who didn't try too hard about their appearance—which didn't really mesh with Andrea and all those other chicks who were constantly dieting and powdering their faces and putting on coats of really sticky lipgloss, but then again, he never really liked them in the first place. It was possible his entire romantic life was built on going after whatever was the easiest to get.

Bianca extracted herself from the group of little boys and came ambling over. "I finished MW2, so I can get that back to you tomorrow, if you want."

"You can keep it for a little longer if you wanted to play the online multiplayer," Jared offered, even though his brother Brad had been breathing down his neck about the game.

Bianca's eyes lit up. "Cool, 'cause I've still got noobs to own. They need to learn."

Jared looked at her for a second, at loss about what to say.

"Respect," she added.

"That's...cool," Jared said. "So, uh, what are your plans for the weekend?"

She shrugged. "I dunno."

"You should text me," he said, because that was a good plan, and he would stop embarrassing himself in conversations with her if he had more time to think about what he was saying.

Sadly, she shook her head, and his dreams of being a gifted speaker died. "I don't have a cell phone."

"Everybody has a cell phone."

"Are your parents paying for yours? Because, yeah, right now I don't have enough money to go buy one." She sounded kind of pissed, all of a sudden. "It's time for class, anyways, I have to go."

Jared couldn't think of any way to keep her there, so he said meekly, "Okay, see you."

He watched her head off to class and tried to resist the urge to hit his head against the locker. It normally wasn't this hard for him to talk to girls. Usually they flirted and he flirted and then at a party they would be drunk and make out with him and life would be good.

He somehow couldn't see Bianca flirting. Even though he knew it had happened, because he'd slept with her and there was definitely some flirting involved there at some point. That night, she'd been funny without being overly mean about it. Now she just seemed hostile.

He knew what lurked beneath her anger and wooden conversation, though. He knew there were sparks between them. He just didn't know why she was shutting him down so hard.

Back in Chemistry class, he sat and plotted. At lunch, he broke off from Tom and Connor to go to the parking lot, where Bianca and Eliot were almost ready to go off in their Volkswagen. "Hey!" he called, jogging over.

"Hey, Jared," Bianca said, looking perplexed. "What's up?"

"I was just wondering if you wanted to go to go to a party with me on Friday," he asked. "You can come too, Eliot. It's just at a friend's house, no big deal."

"So it's not a date, then," Bianca said.

"Well. Kind of?" Jared said, feeling his confidence in his plan go down a little.

Bianca grimaced and said, "Jared, man...we're not gonna date. Like, ever. Prom night was a one-time thing."

Jared blinked a bit at her, but nothing in her face changed. She looked resolute and a bit sympathetic and mostly just ruthless and totally honest. She meant it, he realized.

"Well, what the fuck," he said, shoulders slumping.

"Sorry," she told him. The other girl, Eliot, gave him a concerned look, but then put the car into first and drove out of the parking lot. Jared turned and walked away so he wouldn't have to see the bumper of the Volkswagen going into the distance.

"Son of a bitch," he muttered. He hadn't felt so defeated in years.

-

"You are such a bitch," Eliot told Bianca.

Bianca crossed her arms and set her jaw. She knew she'd fucked up, but that was about the same as usual, and she didn't want Eliot flaunting her superior social abilities in front of her. "Well, I had to tell him sometime. It was the right thing to do."

"The right thing to do would be telling him, oh Jared, while you are a great guy I don't want to be in a relationship right now because I am leaving and I don't want things to get serious. Not, we're not going to date ever. That was way too harsh. He didn't deserve that."

"Just drop it, okay?"

They were silent for the rest of the car ride home, but Bianca saw Eliot giving her disappointed looks the whole way.

-

"You should totally date that Jared kid," the little dude she'd become friends with said as they skied away from the Russian Mafia in the Alps.

Bianca's avatar bounced over the moguls while spraying the pursuers with machine-gun fire. The controller was making her hands numb with the constant vibrations, and she wasn't in the greatest of moods because her connection was laggy, and also because she was a horrible person. She frowned at the screen. "What?"

"Jared Webster. I hear he likes you, and wants to fuckin' date you. You should hit that."

"I already did," Bianca said sadly.

One of the guys playing said, "B, you're totally a slut. I bet you'd love it if I came over to your house and—"

Her mood flipped from sadness to murderous on a dime.

"MAKE ME A SANDWICH, BITCH," Bianca screamed, killing him, and then returned to the conversation. "So, yeah. Nothing's going on between Jared and I."

Especially not after the way she'd treated him. Bianca winced at the memory and tamped down the uprising of shame. At least now he wouldn't get ideas about a relationship, because he totally thought she was a bitch on the scale of General Shepherd.

"So you just fuckin' used him," the kid said with great censure. "You know that guys actually feel shittier about bad romance when they're teenagers and girls are all just fuckin' okay with it? I read that. It's fuckin' true."

"You're a pussy," one of the other guys said.

"HOW'S MY SAMMICH COMING ALONG," Bianca shrieked, killing them all in a rapid, well-placed burst of bullets and throwing knives. The snow went red with blood. Bianca and the kid's team went skiing away into the sunset. The victory sign flashed on her screen. "Whoops. Sorry. I was going to make them suffer more before putting them out of their misery."

"Just like Jared," the kid muttered.

-

Bianca went to school the next day heavy-hearted, determined to avoid both conflict and failing at social interaction. It was put to the test at about 8:54 A.M., when some kid with a faux-hawk and a v-neck shirt came up to her locker and leaned against it.

"Hey, Bianca, right? You dropped this," he said, flashing a smile. His teeth could have been in a toothpaste commercial, they were so white, and Bianca blinked at him for a moment before recovering.

"Oh. Thanks." She took the textbook he was offering, then belated realized she had never taken Law 12 and didn't have a copy of Canadian Tax Fraud: 2009 Student Edition. "This isn't mine."

"My mistake," he said easily, flashing another shiny grin. He reached out and seized her hand in an oddly limp handshake. "I'm Connor. You must be Bianca."

"Hi," she said awkwardly, intrigued and afraid of his glamorous purple plaid shirt and designer jeans. He looked like one of the rich Christian kids who went to the private school downtown. "Nice to meet you...?"

"The pleasure is mine," he said. He was still touching her arm. "Hey, are you going to that party Friday?"

"Uh...I don't know yet."

"You should come. I'll pick you up. Here, what's your number?"

Slightly in a daze, Bianca was about to tell him, and then realized she didn't even know the kid. She looked over his shoulder, trying to think of an excuse to ditch him really quickly.

Instead, she saw Webs standing in a circle near the vending machines. He was very pointedly not looking in her direction, and instead talking to some blonde chick.

If she went to the party, maybe she could talk to him and apologize.

Maybe she could kill the blonde chick, too.

Bianca embraced her own irrational murderous desires and returned her eyes to Connor's fresh little face. "Sure, I'll go to the party. It might be interesting."

"Great!" Connor said. "I'll talk to you later, then. See you around."

He stroked her arm and then left. Bianca looked after him for a moment, completely confused, and then looked back at Webs.

He was looking at her. Their eyes met for a fraction of a second and then he looked away. Gritting her teeth, Bianca grabbed her bag out of the locker and slammed it shut, then leaned against it for a second. She would apologize to him, and then maybe she wouldn't feel sick with guilt, and she would stop wanting to kill things.

She looked at him one last time. His head was bent towards the blonde, absorbed in whatever stupid shit she was saying. Fuming, Bianca turned and went to class.