Having done his business and finished washing his hands, Kent spent his remaining time in the bathroom staring at the mirror. He threw some extra water on his face and sighed. If what Rusty had said was true—that Holly liked Kent as much as he liked Holly—then what was going on today? He'd seen the signs, and no doubt she'd seen the ones he'd given off, but surely she could tell his claim to be in love with Claire was a lie. Right? Keeping to himself a whole lot, Kent wasn't much for interpersonal communication, and if anything, yesterday's events and today's consequences were proof enough that it was time to change that.
But how much difference would that even make? Holly's friendship with Josh had lasted almost as long as the one with Rusty and Claire, and like Kent had dared to say out loud earlier, it was only natural for them to take the next step. What's more, their relationship seemed to completely lack the antagonism and dysfunction present in Rusty and Claire's relationship, and to compound the problem, Holly and Josh were both much more level-headed than their friends, making romance not only that much more likely, but also much more likely to sustain itself in the long run. Maybe it was just an unfortunate coincidence that Josh had asked her out while Kent was in her life. After all, Kent had only been here for a week; Josh had been there for years.
Still, there was no way to be sure of this. Holly might have seemed like a great girl on the surface, but knowing someone a week is hardly enough time to take in their subtleties, their quirks, their faults. For all Kent knew—hell, for all Rusty and Claire, or maybe even Josh knew—Holly spent all that time looking good and leading guys on just to throw a curveball and go for someone else right when those guys think they've got her on the hook.
On second thought, that didn't sound remotely right; there was no way Holly was that evil. Even so, there was no explanation Kent could think of to give Josh's sudden entrance credence. Perhaps it wasn't a habit of Holly's to give and destroy hope, and instead this was just an isolated incident—nay, the first, if it was indeed true that she'd never had a boyfriend before. Claire spewed a lot of ridiculous anti-Kent arguments Holly's way, and maybe they'd finally gotten to her head. Wasn't there someone who once said that if you tell a lie loud enough, long enough, and often enough, the people will start taking it as truth?
None of this was making sense. The simplest explanation is usually the right one. So what was the simplest explanation? Kent reviewed the facts once more: he'd told Holly that he liked Claire, and now not only had Claire's boyfriend mysteriously appeared, Holly had gotten a date of her own. With these facts, the conclusion Kent came to was this: his first mistake was lying about his intentions days before, when he'd told them he just wanted to make some friends. Yesterday, when he'd revealed the "truth" to Holly with another lie, they realized what scum he was—and in retrospect, Kent couldn't help but agree—causing them to reveal to him the handsomer, more interesting men they already had.
That explanation was near complete, but there was still one factor left, the outlying variable that was Holly's flirting with Kent. Simplest conclusion: Holly enjoyed toying with Kent. She was an actor. She'd successfully done her job, and now her performance had reached its climax, wherein she rubs in his face how foolish Kent had made himself look. And it was working.
Well, two can play that game.
"Welcome back, Bruce," Samara said when Kent returned to their corner of the quad, with Rusty still at her behest. The other four—Holly, Claire, Josh, and Jimmy—were still sitting where they had been, but they were all staring at Kent, too, despite his relative innocence. Samara, thankfully, was a big fan of brutal honesty, and quickly told Kent what was going on. "They've been waiting for you because I won't tell them what Cheech did to piss me off unless you're here to share in the fun." She smiled. "Take a seat, why don't you?"
Kent nodded and reclaimed his spot at the blue table.
"As you may or may not know, yesterday after school, I went home with Cheech, not to fuck his brains out like he and everything else with a penis and a heterosexual leaning undoubtedly wants from me, but to smoke up with some cannabis that this otherwise fairly off-putting young man so gratefully provides. An hour passes, and as long as she's there, Cheech figures, why not show Samara this video I found online? He says this video is called 2 Girls 1 Cup, and to the surprise of no one who knows this man, the content of said video is pornographic in nature. I take a seat beside him at the computer, and over the next minute, I must endure watching some of the most disgusting shit I've ever seen put to film, and when I say 'shit,' I mean that in every sense of the word. What could have been a great afternoon was ruined by the unholy consumption of fecal matter, but since it was my afternoon that was ruined—dare I say, shat on—I think it goes without saying that everyone else's afternoon was soon to follow. I curse the uterus from whence you came, Cheech."
"I—" Rusty whimpered, but Samara quickly shut him up with the unexpected second half of the story.
"But that's only half the story, I'm afraid," Samara said, throwing Rusty into the audience that had been watching him. "Today during third period, choir practice, one of my well-meaning classmates, whose name I shall withhold to protect the innocent from any revenge Cheech and any of the rest of you might plan against her for unleashing this beast on you," she continued, pointing to herself, "comes up to me, iPhone in hand, and she shows a me video she found on YouTube last night—a video showing the reaction of a certain Mexican-American high school student and a sexy blonde Jewish woman who is alleged to be his girlfriend, of all people, to a certain pornographic video found online. Apparently, Cheech thought it would be a gas to subject me to the most outrageous of videos, underhandedly record mine and his shared reactions to that video, and then post that reaction on his YouTube page for the entire world to see, all whilst implying that I am willing to share my body with him in ways that would put the 2 Girls of the namesake video that started this debacle in the first place to shame."
She cleared her throat with another loud "ahem." "I'm going to go get a drink of water," she said, pointing to the drinking fountain underneath the eucalyptus tree next to Tom and Kent's usual hangout spot on campus. "If you have any self-respect, none of you will risk being labeled as motherfuckers by leaving the spots where you're sitting. Understood?"
Everyone nodded in silence.
As Samara walked over to the aforementioned drinking fountain, Claire turned to Rusty, smiling with glee, and said, "You embarrassed Samara?!"
"You just earned points in my book."
"Nice work, dude," Jimmy said, and after he raised his arm up, he and Rusty shared a high-five that the latter couldn't fully enjoy due to the punishment soon to be inflicted upon him by Samara.
"What's your name again?" Samara said, her return incredibly speedy, raising an eyebrow at Jimmy.
"Jimmy! How many times do I have to tell you?! My name is Jimmy, damn it! Claire and I have been dating since March!"
Then where the hell has he been all this time? Kent wondered.
"I guess it makes sense that you two should be going out," Samara said, nodding. "I can never remember your name because I forget you as soon I've met you, and I despise her so much that I can never dignify her presence with any name whatsoever. It's a match made in namelessness!"
"Fuck you," Claire said. "You wish you could get a guy like Jimmy."
"You're looking right at him, for fuck's sake!"
"Me, damn it!" Jimmy added.
"Fuck you," Jimmy said.
"You guys are probably wondering what I have in store for Cheech, am I right?"
"Yeah," Kent and Holly said at the same time, which caused them to turn and look at each other. In her eyes, Kent thought he saw longing, the look he'd gotten used to her giving him over the past week, but he turned away as quickly as he could. That wasn't nearly as fast as he'd hoped—those blue eyes were hard to ignore once they'd taken hold—but it was swift enough.
"Would it kill you to take a joke, Samara?" Josh said.
"Are you a motherfucker, Toto?" she replied.
"No," Josh said, "I'm a rational human being who knows better than to exploit my charisma to make others feel inferior."
It may not have been intentional, but Josh's charisma was in fact making others feel inferior: Kent. He'd praised Josh pre-bathroom break, and although, with those John Cusack-esque looks of his, and his obvious coolness and intelligence, he'd deserved every ounce of it, and a guy like him should easily be able to make Holly happy…this was a thought that was supposed to be leading towards an insult, but it was becoming increasingly more apparent that it wasn't Josh who should be receiving such words. That would be Holly. Kent wanted her to be happy, but he also wanted her to pay for the anguish she was putting him through.
Samara ignored Josh's comment and finally got to the point of her being here—the punishment she wanted Rusty to endure if he wanted to stay on her good side. "Before I let everyone know what Cheech is going to have to do," she said, "I just want to remind you all to shut the fuck up unless the thought of joining him in on the suffering appeals to you. Anyone want to provide the company to his misery?" No one dared answer that, though at this point, Samara's presence was becoming so dragged-out and overlong, that any second now, someone was sure to break and attempt to tell her off. "No? Okay then. Cheech, starting on Monday, you're going to be my personal slave for a week."
Everyone turned to look at Rusty, who rubbed his chin for a few seconds before replying, "That's not so bad."
"Asshole," Claire said, looking at Rusty.
"Don't worry, there's nothing sexual about it," Samara said.
The same could not be said about Holly, Kent thought, only half paying attention to Samara. In his gut he could feel the desire to lash out at her boiling, waiting for the right moment to strike back at the woman who'd scorned him. Play with fire, or in this case emotions, prepare to get burned. Not that Kent was at all experienced with feelings this intense, much less the making use of them to exact revenge. He didn't want to hurt Holly's feelings, in fact he wanted to see her happy, but the temptation was so hard to resist after being forced to pull the shortest straw.
"Cheech is just going to be wiping my ass—metaphorically, of course—for the next week," Samara continued to a disappointed Claire. Even Kent could tell she was at least a little jealous that Rusty was at another girl's whim. "Know what that means, Cheech? It means when I make a mistake, you take the blame. When I have a job to do, you do it for me. If I'm too tired to give one of my trademark speeches, well, goddamn it, you better make me proud. Think you can do that?"
"What happens if I don't?" Rusty asked. This was a question asked less out of fear than out of curiosity.
"Then I'll make sure everyone on this campus starts referring to you as Ass-wiper."
"Sounds German," Jimmy remarked.
"Don't worry," Holly said, "we won't call you that."
It's easy for you to say that, Kent thought, the anger continuing to eat away at him inside. You're friends with him, just like you are with Josh. Me, on the other hand, I'm just a pawn for you to toss around before throwing me in with the rest of the garbage. I may not be particularly attractive, I may be a bit eccentric, but just because I'm not up to the standards of everyone else in your life doesn't give any excuse to treat me like this.
"…Shit," Jimmy said quietly to himself. To Claire he said, "I completely forgot to do my German homework!" and based on the desperation in his expression and the obligatory sympathetic gaze of his girlfriend, the only reason he even told her was because he felt he needed to tell someone.
"That reminds me," Rusty said. "Samara, this morning Claire made light of the Nazi invasion of Poland."
"I'm on your side, dumb-ass!" Claire said.
The weight of this anger was heavy on Kent's chest, like yesterday's feelings of genuine love for Holly, but completely the opposite. He was frustrated, not simply because of the circumstances he was in, but also because he couldn't quite express his dissatisfaction. He didn't know what to say or how to say it; all he knew was, he had to just say it, or else Holly would get away with what she'd done. It may have been the result of Kent's own stupidity that this had occurred, but that didn't mean she wasn't at fault for her own behavior. What kind of girl leads a guy only to leap to someone else the moment the opportunity arrives?
"You whore!" Kent snapped at Holly.
The next few seconds felt like hours. Holly gasped, followed in short measure by everybody else, all with their own respective takes on the situation, be it humorous, terrifying, or mortifying. Kent immediately regretted his decision and found himself in the latter category.
Josh jumped to his feet and growled at Kent, "Get out of here!"
Kent grabbed his backpack, took one last look at Holly—his last meal before the execution—and tried to hurry back to Tom, but Samara grabbed his arm, squeezed it, and forced him to deal with more of the consequences of his actions.
"I don't care what you think is going on," Josh said, his eyes tearing into Kent's like razors. "You don't talk about my friends like that! Especially not her!"
After Josh pointed backwards at Holly, she made eye contact with Kent a truly final time before running away, back up the stairs of the building and toward the hallway where she and her friends' lockers were located.
"Kick his ass, Josh!" Claire shouted. In a rare moment of agreement with her enemy, she then encouraged Samara, too: "Why are you just standing there?! Make him your bitch, Samara, come on!"
"Let me go," Kent said desperately. "I didn't mean it! I—I didn't!"
"I'm not going to hurt you," Josh said, and despite his feebleness right now, Kent believed him. "It's not in my nature. You're lucky I'm a pacifist. But I don't ever want to see you around Holly again, you hear me?"
Claire stood up and almost jumped over to Kent, and Jimmy followed close behind. "What's this bullshit?" she asked Samara and Josh while glaring at Kent. "If you won't do it, then I will. Hold him down!"
"…Rusty?" Kent said, looking at his closest companion through this whole crazy week, the one person besides Tom who'd actually stayed on his side and helped him make it through. Rusty shook his head and left, and based on the direction he was heading, Holly was about to be comforted. Right now Kent wished he could do just that, but that'd be like a murderer trying to do the same to the family of his victims. "I'm sorry!"
"Hey!" Tom shouted, and surprisingly, this caused Samara to let Kent go (albeit violently—she threw him onto the concrete), and Claire to back off. Kent rushed to Tom's side for a barrier, and he felt incredibly stupid, for more reasons than he could think of—and he could barely think straight at all. Turning to his friend, Tom asked, "What the hell happened, Kent?"
"I'll tell you later," Kent said in a nervous hurry. "Can we go now, Tom? I'd really like it if we went now."
"You're the biggest fucking pussy I've ever met!" Claire laughed.
"I'm out of here," Josh said, walking away from the group to the other side of campus, past the stairway Holly and Rusty had ascended. "If any of you have any decency, you'd just let him go. You don't need to kick his ass, Claire, he kicks his own ass just fine!"
"That's what a pussy does!" Claire said.
"Come on, you heard him," Tom said. "Whatever Kent did, I'm sure he feels terrible about it without your help." He turned to Kent and asked, "What did you do?"
"Yeah, Kent," Claire said, "tell Mommy what you did! …Damn it, Samara, say something!"
"Okay," Samara said. "Here's something: you're all liars—every single goddamn fucking one of you. And what's more, you're not even good liars. The problem is, we as a society have become so accustomed to these lies everywhere we go, that inevitably something like this happens, not through any fault of our own, but through the combined faults of ourselves plus everyone we know. If we all opened up and simply told each other how we felt, we wouldn't have to deal with situations like this, and we could all be a little happier. If that's how we acted, none of you would be shocked by my words the way you always seem to be. I tell it like it is, and everyone hates me for it."
"We're a society of pussies. We don't want the truth; we want something like the truth, something better than the truth so we can feel good about ourselves. Now, being who I am, I could reveal all your secrets right here, right now, while I have your full attention, but instead, I'm going to let you make the decisions yourselves. You probably won't, and I can't blame you for that, since you're already so used to having things a certain way, but at least I can get you to think about it. You saw what happened here when the truth wasn't told—some of you even enjoyed it," she continued, looking at Claire, "but what if that was you in his position? Would you still enjoy it? Or would you perhaps think about changing your ways?"
The 12:54 bell rang; lunch was over now, and it was time to head to class. As usual, Samara had left everyone speechless.
"Have a nice day," she smiled bitterly, walking away to the relief of all in her presence.
Kent and Claire, who had the same world history class next (fifth) period, looked at each other, and then silently left their friends to walk in opposite directions to the very same classroom. Kent didn't know what Claire was thinking, but at least he knew what was going on in his own head: namely, that his father was right. He was a pussy, just like Samara had drilled into everyone's brains, but more than that, after what he'd been through today, he was always going to be a pussy. Holly and her friends would never forgive him for this—it may have been just a word, a single word, but in the words of INXS, they were weapons, sharper than knives—and even if they did, he'd never be anything more than "that guy I knew in school once."
There were other girls, sure. He came from a wealthy family, sure. In theory, Kent didn't need any help "scoring" (he hated that objectifying term, but there was no better way to quantify the thought) with the opposite sex. But looking back on the past week, something in the back of Kent's mind wouldn't let him give up that easily. A faint glimmer of hope still remained, convincing him somehow that there was some mutual affection to be harvested between him and Holly. This wasn't a possibility Kent was at all likely to act on, but as long as it was there, Kent believed he could rest easy.