Thirty days into the second semester, Travis Hay became a man.
"P-Man to T-Train, do you read me? Over."
He raised the Walkie-talkie to his mouth. "I read you. Over."
"What's your location?"
"The lockers near the school entrance. Approximate distance from door: two meters."
"Can you get a good view?"
He crept forward, pressed his back against the door, and peered through the nearby window. "I can see the front steps...the walkway...some grass. But I don't see--"
"I do! Target just exited a vehicle--Porsche, black--and is approaching the school."
Travis' blood ran blood froze over, but he gritted his teeth and knew it was now or never. He'd postponed this confrontation for six years. "Begin the countdown, P-Man. Over."
"T-minus fifteen. Fourteen. Thirteen."
He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with his last breath.
He steeled his shoulders, tucked in his shirt, made sure his laces were double-knotted, and yanked open the door.
"Ten. Nine--wait, T-Train, go back! Go back!"
Half outside, Travis froze. "Why?"
"The target is not alone! Repeat: the target is not alone!"
"I'm going in anyway."
"You can't! You'll die! They'll rip you to shreds!"
"Stay out of this, Percy! You don't understand." Travis then spit in his hands and ran one through his red bush of hair, going for the bad boy look. Think John Travolta in Grease. Or Anakin Skywalker. "I've waited half my life to do this."
"You're a martyr, man. Me and the guys are gonna miss you."
"I'll be back in time for recess."
Travis slid the Walkie-talkie into his back pocket and strutted down the sidewalk. Like a timer ticking down a bomb, numbers flashed through his head. Eight. Seven. Six. The target approached, not glancing his way.
Travis walked on. The students around him began to point and whisper. The target, flanked by two equally intimidating creatures of the same species, noticed Travis for the first time and lowered her Smackers lip gloss.
Good, he thought. We have eye contact.
"Um, what is he doing?" asked one of the target's henchmen, wrinkling her nose.
"Dweeb," coughed the other, and they both laughed.
But not the target. She raised her eyebrows and stepped forward, arms folded across her chest, perfect blonde hair curling over one shoulder. And six years of torment--unanswered Valentine's Day cards, declined school dance invitations, public humiliation--screeched to an end. He had to try one last time.
"Victoria Tanner," he said, taking her hands in his, "will you go on a date with me?"