Rematch! Round 2

By Reid M. Haynes

The whirling chakrum of death tore through the air as if it were human flesh. It made its way towards the boy in a wide arc, reaching its target before he could even react. The dreaded razor blade imbedded itself in the victim's hand with white-hot fury. "AAAUGH!" The boy let out a bloodcurdling scream, drawing his hand back in excruciating pain.

Ricochet's face slackened with disappointment. "C'mon, man," he chided his friend, slouching a bit. "It's just a frisbee."

"I can't help it!" Nathan shot back, nursing the small red line on his brown palm where the frisbee had 'injured' him. "The stupid thing digs into my beautiful cooking hands!"

Ricochet rolled his eyes. "Wimp!"

The two teens, Ricochet and Nathan, had been playing frisbee for about an hour at Chicago's own North Avenue Beach, packed with beach-goers today as every day. At least, Ricochet was playing; Nathan's tendency to duck away from the frisbee like it was a hornet made it so Ricochet had to carry him for most of the game. It was true that it was a bit windy, and thus harder to predict the frisbee's trajectory. Still, Ricochet thought he would have better luck playing with one of the fanfiction nerds from his Creative Writing class.

With a haphazard swing of his arm, Nathan flung the frisbee, which careened sharply to the left of the other boy. Ricochet hightailed after it, his eyes following the spinning disk like a right cross in one of his sparring matches. To gain a little height, the blond teen stepped onto a folding chair and leapt up from it, the chair collapsing with the movement. "Alley oop!" Ricochet cried as he deftly plucked the frisbee from the air and landed without a hitch, as could be expected from the #2 athlete at the Bloody Queen kickboxing gym.

Nathan whistled at the acrobatics. "A little fancy for frisbee, Ricochet," he commented, though he couldn't keep the piqued look off his face. "This extra juice from your training with Coach Queens?"

"Got a rematch with ol' Akello Eastender in about a month," Ricochet answered, grinning as he brought back the frisbee for another throw. "This time, he's gonna hafta stand up to my A-game!"

The frisbee sailed through the air again, with Nathan trying (and failing) to catch it. "You're pretty cocky," he responded as he huffed after the frisbee, which had landed far to the right towards the mock-ocean liner that was the beach house. "Guess the creative writing for Mr. Matthew's class is getting better too."

Ricochet gave him a thumbs-down. "Nah, I still suck!" The cheery grin was was still plastered on his face.

Nathan's face screwed up in a grimace. "You are crazy today," he groused, flinging the frisbee back at Ricochet. "Why doncha cool it and get some of my Cheesecake Chill tonight? The folks have been asking about you, and if you can handle Keisha being there, I just might let you try a piece."

Ricochet's eyes flickered with uncertainty, and he barely managed to catch the frisbee when it sailed towards him. Nathan's eyebrows raised at the hesitation, but when he peered closer to examine it, his friend was back to normal. "Nah, I gotta hit the bags again," Ricochet responded with a smile. "My Comet Hook needs a little more sparkle to catch Eastender."

Nathan's eyes widened. "Comet Hook now?" He then settled into a shrug. "And they call me a workaholic."

Ricochet picked up his satchel, which was lying next to somebody's beach umbrella, and pulled out a pair of half-glasses. Putting them on, he started off towards his car parked up the beach. "I'll let you work on your own skills for a while," he called out, tossing the frisbee one last time. "Right now, I need to catch up on my footwork!"

"Whatever, Ricochet." Nathan had already turned back to the shoreline, waving him off with a harrumph. "See ya."

"Remember to watch the downdraft!" Ricochet called out as he opened the car door and climbed inside.

"What?" The frisbee hit Nathan on the side of the head. "Ow!"

Ricochet sighed as he fingered the Powerade in the cup holder, drizzling with condensation as his face drizzled with sweat. The open windows of his Volkswagen New Beetle were letting in a sharp wind, but he still felt hot under the collar as he took a swig of his sports drink, resting one hand on the wheel. The cute little car putted down the road between the well-made, if somewhat identical looking houses, which all featured crisp manicured lawns and a collection of gnomes and plastic flamingos. Ricochet thought back to the segment of A Wrinkle in Time he read for Creative Writing class, and wondered if these serene, domestic surroundings were an invitation to Hell.

The next lawn flamingo he passed was blood red, and seemed to be glaring at him. He sighed in defeat at this ominous sign.

Ricochet was not driving towards the Bloody Queen gym to bone up on his training. Rather, he had taken a right on Madison Street, and was headed straight for the upper-class suburbs and school systems. Even though his parents lived close by, he rarely hung around in this part of town, preferring the rowdy environment of the gym instead. However, a change in his life over the past two weeks gave him reason enough to drop by...and reason enough to keep his excursions under his hat.

Arriving at St. Herman's Academy for Gifted Girls, he decided to just roll into the parking lot like he belonged there. Crossing his heart for luck, Ricochet opened the car door and strode towards the main building and the wail of the school bell. A crowd of high school girls wearing the St. Herman uniform flowed past him, a river of grey vests and blue skirts. They giggled and blushed at the handsome newcomer, and Ricochet couldn't resist flexing a bicep for their benefit.

Flippant flirtation was forgotten as he waited by a cherry tree for one student in particular to arrive, biding away his nervousness with a little shadowboxing (despite the looks he got from some of the schoolgirls). He didn't have to wait long, as a pretty black girl with twin ponytails came out of the building after a few seconds, followed by a smaller girl of Chinese descent. The ponytailed girl's full-moon face shone as she caught sight of the tall boy, leaning against the tree like some biker stud from a 50s drive-in movie. "Ricochet, you're here!" she cried, breaking out into a sprint that ended with a skid of her loafers and a kiss on Ricochet's cheek.

The boy couldn't keep the toothy grin off his face, despite the circumstances. "What's up, Keisha?" Ricochet greeted her with a chuckle, as the girl looped herself around his arm.

"I skipped study hall so I could make our date," she told him, thrusting her face in front of his. "I'm really psyched!"

"You cool with that?" Ricochet commented, flicking his blond locks casually as he peered sideways at her. "Might mess up that A average of yours."

"I don't need as much study as you, dummy," she chimed, bopping him on the nose. "You better work on your own stuff first! Hey, you still got that story for me to look at?"

"Hoo, it's more like a novella now!" The teen talent made a twirling motion with his finger. "I added a whole lot of shameless padding, and a two page author's note for the ultimate in Tell-Don't-Show action!"

She laughed, and Ricochet laughed along with her. Ever since he first knew her, Keisha had always managed to raise his spirits, and now that he was dating her, life was surprisingly cool for the most part. She was the genius super girl of St. Herman's, and always a supporter of his ideas, even when they sucked.

Also, she was Nathan's younger sister. This was the hitch in the plan.

Before Ricochet had time to further contemplate that end of the bargain, she skipped over to the friend that had followed her. "Hey, Ricochet, this is my friend Mary Chen," Keisha bubbled, beaming as she rested her hands on the other girl's shoulders. "She comes to my dance class, and we have History together."

Mary, practically hiding under her brown mop-top and thick glasses, seemed content at first to mumble quietly and stare at the ground. Then, she quickly raised her head and accosted the teen fighter with panic-stricken eyes. "Are you going to pull Keisha into a cesspool of sex and violence, Mister Ricochet?" she blurted out, her small body seeming to shake with the weight of her words.

"What, no!" Ricochet took a step back, putting a little distance between them. "We just started going out two weeks ago!"

"Oh, don't worry, Mary!" Keisha laughed off her friend's concerns. "I've known him for years. He's like an old family friend, just with really big muscles."

"B-but older boys are dangerous, Keisha!" Mary exclaimed, flailing her arms like whips. "They start off nice, but then trick you into a lusty scheme! I saw it on Evil, Horrible Male: A Lifetime Channel Original Movie!"

"Um, Mary...?" Keisha scratched the back of her head, chuckling nervously.

"C'mon?" Ricochet interjected testily, thrusting his thumb towards his grimacing mug. "How can you not trust this face?" He gave her a forced, Donkey Kong smile.

"Mmmmmm..." Mary bit her lip and looked back down, clearly not convinced.

"Well, just watch us for a sec!" Keisha changed the subject with a laugh and a wave of her hand. "Mary and I are gonna show you our new dance. We're trying to do the Fly Girls' routine from In Living Color."

Ricochet kept track of Keisha as she moved behind him, but was subsequently surprised to find she had pulled a fold-out chair for him, as if from thin air. "Okay, you sit right there, and we'll be over here!" she instructed, smiling like a cheery airline stewardess. "Here's some pre-show refreshments." She handed him a Whatchamacallit bar and some Twizzlers from her backpack.

Ricochet cocked his eyebrow at Keisha, now as suspicious as Mary. But he shrugged, took the snacks from her hand, and chomped down on the chocolate bar in preparation for the show.

Keisha darted out in front of the school steps, with Mary following after a quick moment of hesitation. The two of them started tapping their feet to an imaginary metronome, with Keisha mouthing a fresh, hip-hop beat. "Alright, here we go!" she sang as they launched into their routine.

With Keisha's beat urging them on, the girls fell into a series of quick steps and spins as Ricochet watched in awe, a Twizzler hanging from his lip. He had known for a long time that Keisha was pretty talented, but the deft purpose in her movements seemed unreal for a high school student. Mary was quite adept as well, keeping up with Keisha with a grace that seemed foreign to the rest of her. They finished up in a dynamic pose, like Greek statues adorning a fountain.

Keisha stood back up, and put a mock-microphone to her mouth. "Ladies and gentlemen, Keenan Ivory Wayans," she announced, her face shockingly serious.

Then, both Keisha and Mary dissolved into a fit of giggles, with Keisha's melodic laugh contrasting with Mary's high-pitched snorts. Ricochet cracked up at this point as well, clapping his hands in support of the show. Then, he was joined by a group of St. Herman schoolgirls, who had materialized behind him sometime during the dance. They offered a show of hands, cheering on the double dynamo.

"Yeh, girl!" one of Keisha's friends called out from the back. "You rock!"

"Show us your moves, Mary!" a blonde girl cried, cupping her hands over her mouth.

Keisha grinned. "You guys can catch us again at the dance this Saturday," she said, walking over to Ricochet and throwing an arm around his shoulder. "For now, I'm hangin' out with Ricochet!"

Ricochet couldn't help but grin at the attention, as he tossed a thumbs up at the crowd. "Well, they say Ricochet McKnight's a one-blow knockout for a woman's heart," he quipped, scuffing Keisha's hair affectionately.

"Wow, that guy's cool," a cheerleader-type breathed out, staring in awe of the teen scream.

"I bet he's good enough for Keisha!" another girl commented, nudging her friend beside her.

Mary blinked. "Evil, Horrible Male was based on real-life events," she murmured.

"So I'm thinkin' I'll have the protagonist turn into a villain halfway through the story," Ricochet shared as he drove Keisha and him between the small stores that lined the road. "Then, my story'll switch over to this minor character, who's gonna nail the new big bad and stuff."

"But won't your readers still like the hero guy more?" the girl inquired, putting a finger to her cheek.

"Nah, he's a loser!" Ricochet flashed her a big smile, probably looking away from the road longer than he should have. "I've got it so everybody'll be sick of him the moment I do the switch-around!"

"Whoa, you're pretty ambitious," Keisha gasped, leaning back in her seat.

Ricochet and Keisha were taking a ride through some of the downtown teen hotspots, coasting about before arriving at a malt shop Keisha had suggested. The Beetle's pug-like body made for easy parallel parking, and Ricochet managed to squeeze into a space three cars down from the entrance. Deciding upon the gentlemanly approach, he got out of the car and opened the door for Keisha, who smiled from ear to ear as she stepped out onto the street. The young couple held hands as they strode up to the doors of the shop, packed full of teens, some of whom they knew from school.

He felt a little conspicuous just waltzing in with the new girlfriend, but Ricochet was overall more confident than when he was driving to St. Herman's. There was hell to pay with Nathan later on, but right now, he could forget all that with Keisha's dimpled smile brightening his life. Squeezing her hand firmly, Ricochet walked with Keisha and pushed open the doors to the malt shop, a refreshing rush of air conditioning hitting the both of them. Ricochet smiled at the ebullient Keisha, currently fixing up her ponytails as they blew with the blast of air, and walked inside.

That's when his heart dropped straight into his stomach. Across the shop, no more than five meters from where they stood, was a tall girl with glasses and long, blond hair manning the counter. Even with the goofy malt shop hat, there was no mistaking her listless eyes and bored demeanor. She was Camille St. Claire, rock 'n' roll enthusiast, critic of bad fiction, and ex-girlfriend extraordinaire.

He had stopped so rigidly that Keisha was actually jerked back when she tried to walk forward while holding Ricochet's hand. "Whooaa!" she yelped, stumbling a bit before impacting against his chest roughly. "What's up?"

"Crap!" Ricochet spat, shriveling up as if trying to hide inside his clothes. "I forgot Cammy works here."

"Your ex-girlfriend?" Keisha pointed towards Camille, who hadn't seemed to have noticed them yet. "I thought you said you guys were over with?"

"Let's scram, Keisha," he whispered in her ear, slinking back to the door and trying to drag the girl along with him. "This is gonna be a nightmare."

"What?" Keisha fought his attempts to get her out the door. "But this is our first date! Going in together's no big deal, right?"

"It's just getting a bit public now." Ricochet bared his teeth in a nervous smile. "Like 'people I know are gonna blab to Nathan' type of public."

"Ricocheeeeet..." she growled, tugging his jacket and giving him a fierce glare.

"Yah!" Ricochet lurched away from the girl's formally sweet looking face, now turned sinister. She's as tough as Cammy! "Alright, but we're gettin' a double chocolate shake," he relented, willing himself to face the counter and Camille. "I'm gonna need somethin' heavy after this."

"That's cool." Keisha was all smiles again, lessened her grip on him as they both got into line.

Camille had cocked an eyebrow when she first caught sight of her jilted lover and his new friend. But when Ricochet and Keisha were ready to make their order, her expression was as unreadable as ever. "Ricochet, it's been a while," she greeted him, taking out the headphones that she somehow managed to have in her ears even while working. "You usually come in here every Tuesday for the double decker special."

"You dumped me two weeks ago," Ricochet muttered, almost under his breath. "It's been a little tough, Cammy."

"Yeah, I know." Camille had the good grace to look chagrined, her eyes drifting away. She then focused on the girl next to him. "I guess you're on a play-date to heal your wounds?"

"I'm his girlfriend!" Keisha snapped, clutching onto Ricochet like a trophy.

"Oh." Camille's small eyes widened, her porcelain face losing its slack look. "That didn't take long, Ricochet." She took a closer look at Keisha. "Aren't you Nathan's kid sister?" she asked, putting her hand to her chin. "He's gonna be pretty ticked to hear about this."

"We kinda haven't figured that part out yet," Ricochet hissed through his teeth, smoothing his hand over the counter hard enough to leave a white streak.

"A little bit rough for you guys, huh?" She seemed to be thinking this over, putting her pen to her mouth. "But I guess Nathan shouldn't talk, with what he's doing now."

"Nathan?" Here, Ricochet lost the flow of conversation entirely, grimacing in confusion. "What's the heck's that mean?"

"Can you just give us a double chocolate shake, please?" Keisha finally said, her voice like tempered steel.

The older girl seemed to get the hint, and turned away to shout new orders to the cook. Grabbing Ricochet's hand as if to claim her property, Keisha stalked towards an empty booth, pulling the young kickboxer along like a suitcase. As they finally made their way into the seats, Ricochet took a glance at Keisha, who now seemed drained by her prior outburst. Her granite-like facade was melting into uncertainly, and she was looking down at her lap while brushing her skirt repeatedly.

Sitting in silence for a moment or two, Ricochet and Keisha were soon given their shake by the waitress, who fortunately was not Camille St. Claire. Although they had intended to share the shake, Keisha immediately snatched it, jabbed a straw in it, and started sucking away like a bloodthirsty mosquito. Her round face was squeezing up like a raisin, and Ricochet almost laughed in spite of himself. "You alright, Keisha?" he asked, covering the smile with his hand.

"Oh, I'm fine!" Keisha insisted, trying to reprise her old vigor. "I'm 100% pumped up!" But soon, she went back after the shake, taking a long slurp that was probably going to give her an ice cream headache if she kept it up. Suddenly, Keisha sputtered like a sprinkler, globs of milk shake flying across the table as she coughed dramatically. Ricochet was on call to help, but the girl quickly got it under control, taking a few gasping breaths as she looked at the other patrons in embarrassment.

Ricochet's smile waned. It was the phrases "kid sister" and "play-date" that had Keisha all flustered, he knew. Somehow, she felt small and insecure when confronted by the likes of Camille, as if being patronized. But doesn't she know she's great? he groused, watching her struggle to wipe the milk shake blots off her school vest. Man, this really sucks.

"That was pretty lame, huh?" he mentioned to Keisha, adding his straw to the shake.

"Yeah," she mumbled, her eyes drifting back towards the counter at Camile. "I guess I was kinda uncool just then. Sorry, Ricochet."

In a burst of boldness, the teen reached across the table and tilted Keisha's chin so that he could meet her eyes. "Yo, I'm gonna play a song on the jukebox," he said, giving her his best Ricochet McKnight smile. "You want the Jets or somethin'?"

Keisha reddened at the handsome young fighter's attention, but soon smiled back. "I'll take Jason Mraz," she told him, her voice lifting a bit. "I went to his concert when he did Chicago."

He nodded, then left Keisha to check the jukebox in the corner of the malt shop. He browsed through the selection with a finger before finding C-3 and The Dynamo of Volition, quickly popping in a quarter and entering the combination. This should get her out of her funk, he decided, leaving the jukebox behind and striding back to the table.

Before he got there, however, he found their booth had been joined by an unexpected guest. Keisha was currently being slobbered over by an auburn-haired musclehead wearing a letter jacket from Ricochet's own P. S. 114. The customary letter was actually missing; in its place was a large "Japanese Anime Sucks" patch, bearing a small doodle that was on par with racial caricatures from old World War II propaganda. This could only mean Jarrod, resident nerd thrasher and public menace of 10th Grade.

Reoccurring baddie, the young kickboxer mused to himself, as he moved closer to catch Jarrod's conversation with Keisha. As it turned out, it wasn't much of a conversation; mostly it was just Jarrod leaning into the girl's space and shooting off a variety of pick-up lines. "I'm just sayin' you should pay more attention to the up-and-comers around here," he mewed in a sort of Lothario tone. "Might get ya a few favors, if you know what I mean!"

Keisha did her best to handle herself, rubbing the back of her head. "Uh, I kinda had a boyfriend." She leaned away and wrinkled her nose, probably from the stench of hair gel.

Jarrod paid her reluctance no mind, and shrugged a brawny arm around her to continue the flirtation. "C'mon, babe, don't miss out." The jock was now patting her shoulder like a dog. "They told me my probation for beating up that anime nerd is being removed in two weeks, so I can get you into the games for free, as long as you pay $8.00."

Keisha looked at his hand as it were a large, hairy spider. "I think you gotta work on your manners first."

Normally, Ricochet would've waited a little longer to see how the whole thing turned out. Since it was Keisha, though, he decided to just cut to the chase and spare her the discomfort. "Hey, it's alright to look at the cute girl," Ricochet said, leaning his elbow on the booth. "Just back up a little, huh?"

"Wha...?" Jarrod tore his eyes away from Keisha, and lurched around for an eyeful of Ricochet's boisterous persona. "You again, McKnight?" he grunted, raising up to his full height in a show of intimidation. "I thought I told you not to shove your nose in my business!"

"Ah, you didn't actually tell me that!" the wiry teen rebuked, paying no mind to how Jarrod towered over him. "You just implied it! Besides you've kinda grossed her out, and that's my girl, y'know."

The hulking jock took a step forward, and Ricochet eased away with a loose smile. "Let's see if she likes you when I drop the number of teeth in your mouth from 18 to 6," he growled, making a fist with his throwing arm.

Ricochet blinked. "Aren't there 32 teeth in the mouth?"

The jock swung hard at Ricochet, aiming to make the misconception about molars a reality. Ricochet effortlessly turned aside the punch, locking Jarrod's arm in place. Jarrod looked down at his missed attack, and then caught the spark in Ricochet's eye, like a single match in a hardwood forest. The smile hadn't changed, but somehow Ricochet's demeanor had subtly darkened.

Across the malt shop, behind the counter, Camille slumped her cheek in her palm. "Here we go," she muttered, turning up the volume on her iPod.

"Comet Hook!" Ricochet roared, arcing forward with a pinpoint punch that brought the stars of the galaxy to his opponent's eyes. Jarrod was sent flying across the tiled floor, landing in a rumpled heap below Camille's counter. Camille glanced down at the fallen combatant for a moment, then quickly motioned for the customers to form a line around him, continuing business as usual. The other patrons stared transfixed at Ricochet, then clapped at the defeat of the malt shop's worst patron.

Ricochet sweated for a second, wondering if he should've busted out the new technique for a malt shop scuffle. But then he caught Keisha, whose mouth was upturned in that open smile of hers. She seemed to sparkle with energy as she clapped along with the crowd, like she was watching one of her favorite break-dancers from an old 1980s music video. Soaking in the adulation, Ricochet played to the crowd and Keisha by dusting off his hands

Sauntering back over to the booth, he rested his hand flat on the table next to Keisha's elbow. "Pretty cool, huh?" Ricochet grinned and gave her the thumbs-up. "A scene of morally questionable violence worthy of Rocky V!"

"Nah," Keisha shook her head, still smiling. "It's just 'cause you said you were my boyfriend."

"Oh, right..." The boy blinked for a moment, and scratched his hair absently. 'Guess THAT would get her out of her funk...

Keisha's good mood persisted after she left the malt shop with Ricochet to check out her favorite downtown music store. From her description, the store was an oddity that dealt in vinyl albums and 8-track tapes in lieu of mp3 players. Keisha's house had an old turntable from the 80s, which she used to blast out an array of cheesy one-hit wonders over and over. Ricochet of course knew all this from listening to Nathan's complaints over the years, but until now, he had never actually talked to her about it.

"I like the clean stuff the best," she went on, her arm back in place around Ricochet's. "The Jets have the beat to keep you goin'! Like Crush on You, or the Chip 'n' Dale theme."

"Nah, Survivor's where it's at," Ricochet rejoined with a smile, pumping his fist. "Nothing's better at pumping you up for a fight than good ol' American Heartbeat. It's even better than their Rocky stuff."

Her mouth burst into a dimpled smile. "Nathan hates that song," Keisha giggled. "You played it at least ten times when you guys were working on that Geography report last year."

At the mention of Nathan, Ricochet's face fell into a frown. "Yeah...right." he mumbled, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. He felt weird with Keisha yet again, the presence of his best friend and bad frisbee partner catching up with him.

Keisha knew him too well though, and he couldn't hide his reluctance. "Are you ever gonna tell Nathan about us?" she asked, her jovial tone replaced with a persistent one.

"I'm...just lookin' for the right time," he argued as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Like after he's won the Pillsbury Bake-Off or somethin'."

She gave him a dull look. "I've been waiting for two weeks, you know," Keisha pressed, her voice growing a bit strained. "I thought you were gonna tell him three days ago, when you came over last."

"Next time, alright?" he said, dodging her eyes once more. "I just gotta train for it, that's all."

"But you didn't even want to come over tonight!" Keisha protested, releasing his arm and turning to glare at him. "Ricochet!"

"Ah, it's just hard, Keisha!" he admitted finally, willing himself to meet her gaze. "Nathan and me have been best buds for three years going. I don't want it to get all crazy."

"Can't we just talk to him?" the girl argued, spreading her arms wide. "I've known you as long as he has, so he's gotta listen to us."

"But you were just his sister when we all met!" Ricochet cried, no longer caring about the scene they were making in the middle of town. "It's different, Keisha!"

"No!" Keisha accosted Ricochet with angry, black eyes. "I thought you liked me too! I don't wanna be your secret girlfriend, or some dumb brat you feel sorry for! You don't wanna be seen with me?"

"Nobody's saying that!" he retorted, feeling his own ire rise in response to her stubbornness. "Don't get your aglets in a bunch!"

The next comeback that came to him died when he saw Keisha was near tears. She was looking down towards the sidewalk, and biting hard on her lip. "Hey, chill Keisha," he said softly, putting his hands on her shoulders. "I'm dating you because you're great, and that's it."

"Ricochet..." she whispered, a few stray drops trickling down her cheeks.

"It's just...goin' kinda fast, that's all," he clarified, his face softening to show some of his own nervousness. "Like takin' on a challenger after just one week of training."

"I know." Keisha wiped her tears in frustration, and stared into his eyes. "I'm scared too. I don't want him to get all stupid, like he does sometimes. I just...I really want it to work out for you and me."

Ricochet and Keisha stood motionless in the middle of the sidewalk, the crowd drifting around them like they were bronze sculptures signifying romance. "Can't we just take it easy, Keisha?" the boy asked her, stroking her cheek. "None of this 'world crisis' stuff?"

"Not really, Ricochet." She shook her head, causing her ponytails to flop back and forth. "'Cause I'm gonna ask you to the Sadie Hawkins dance this Saturday. Dances are kinda a crisis for us at St. Herman's." She smiled slightly at the irony.

For Keisha's sake, Ricochet fought to keep the tension off his face. "You want me to pick you up or somethin'?" he ventured, though he was already resigned to going with her.

"Yeah." She nodded. "It's not my first dance, but it's the first one with you. I want it to be traditional." A slight blush tinted her cheeks. "I sorta have it built up in my head. I guess that's kinda dumb...but can you be there for me?"

Ricochet scanned Keisha's face, trying to fish out any second thoughts that might come up later. But despite her embarrassment, her jaw was set, and her eyes just as determined as ever. She conjured up a smile, struggling to be strong for him. She didn't need to convince him though; Keisha's sense of self was the first thing he admired about her, and even now, it was something he could never say no to.

Next Up- Part 2