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Warning: language, sex, underage drinking and…general teenage debauchery?
I: The Welcoming
"Oh my God, Alexis, he's totally stalking you."
The music is too loud. I scan the auditorium. It's the annual Freshmen Welcoming Ceremony at my school. It is organized by the school and the board of trustees and takes place in the first week of September, before school really starts, and everyone is invited, the parents, the students, the teachers, the alumni, even. So obviously the auditorium is packed. Designer dresses from downtown boutiques aren't meant to be worn in places like this, but everyone is showing off, and the glittery lights and fancy ballroom décor makes even the least likely people feel like royalty.
"Who's stalking me?"
"That guy by the stage with the sweatpants and the ugly hair." MJ points.
My head is swimming. I don't see him. "Someone wore sweatpants to a school dance?"
MJ snorts and spills her fruit punch on her new sparkly Louboutins. "Shit," she groans. "I'm so drunk." She fumbles with her flask—it's badly hidden in the belt of her dress.
"Get it together," I take the plastic cup from her. "We're not supposed to be drunk."
Hanna comes up behind me and grabs my arm. "Don't look now but there's a loser over there who's been staring at you for the last hour."
MJ giggles. "Oh my God, is he wearing sweatpants?"
"Yeah," Hanna grins, "with a fucking blazer."
I look over at the stage. I turn too fast and it takes a second for my brain to catch up with my eyes. He's tall and awkward about it, shoulders hunched and head bowed. He's got dorky hair that's a cross between a faux hawk and a bird's nest. He is indeed wearing sweatpants, ugly grey ones courtesy of the school's athletic department, with a navy blue blazer. He has a very straight nose and wide brown eyes that look like they should belong to someone handsomer. I don't recognize the guy, which isn't surprising, since there are over four thousand kids at our high school.
"You want me to go talk to him?" Hanna suggests. I know exactly what she would say. I shake my head curtly. I don't feel like being the Ice Queen today.
His eyes meet mine and I stare him down. His ears turn red before his face does. He ducks his head and walks away.
"What a creeper." MJ snickers. Hanna nudges me. "Hey, here comes Caleb."
MJ tenses up and pats herself down. Hanna tosses her honey brown hair behind her shoulder and slips on her famous smile. "This is it," Hanna says in my ear, "he's gonna ask you out."
I roll my eyes and down MJ's fruit punch. "And that is why we pre-drank."
Hanna rolls her eyes. "Oh, please. You act as if being Caleb's girlfriend is the worst thing that can ever happen to you." I don't answer.
I smooth down my Marchesa skirt and drop MJ's empty plastic cup on the ground, sending it spinning across the dance floor with one inconspicuous kick.
The light changes. I run my fingers over my hair, pulled up onto the top of my head in its usual ballerina bun. Just for tonight I pinned a scarlet rose I picked up at a flower shop on Main Street onto the side of my head. With that and my dark hair and silk ruffled top, I look like a flamenco dancer, a very pretty flamenco dancer. I'm not conceited, it's the truth.
The beat picks up. Caleb makes his way through the crowd with Jacob and Phil and his usual cronies. About a hundred pairs of eyes, adorned with glittery eye shadow, fake lashes, and thick mascara, follow his every move. He swaggers up to us, looks at Hanna and MJ, and then ambles up to me. "Hey gorgeous," he grins. He's at least as drunk as I am, though probably for very different reasons.
I shrug off his compliment. "Hey," I say levelly.
Jacob whistles. "Ooh, ice, ice baby." I look at him, showing him how I got the title of Ice Queen in the first place—because my eyes are the color or arctic ice and I can be just as cold.
Caleb is unfazed, confidence is what he is known for. "I heard you're running for student council president," he says civilly.
I grin. "Yeah, why? You planning to run too?"
Caleb laughs. "Naw, I wouldn't stand a chance against you." His eyes trail down to my bare legs. MJ barely stifles a snort. Caleb looks up at me. "I just wanna wish you good luck."
I catch a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. Sweatpants is back, and walking towards me. His body is stiff and his movements are rigid as if he's being controlled by a hidden puppeteer. I stare at him, incredulous, as he walks past Phil, past Jacob, and past Caleb, until he is standing right in front of me. "Hi," I say reflexively before I can stop myself. Sweatpants seems to take that as an invite to start a conversation.
"Hey," he says.
"Hi." Caleb steps in front of me, like he's shielding me from a leper or something. Sweatpants looks at me over Caleb's head. "Hey Alexis," he begins. He's got a set in his jaw like someone's forcing him to talk with a gun pressed into the back of his neck. I suddenly get an ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach. He takes a breath, and, "…will you please go out with me?"
There's an hour-long pause, then Jacob bursts out laughing. Hanna steps forward to get a better look at Sweatpants. "Are you serious? Is he serious?" MJ, on my other side, laughs derisively with her hand over her mouth. Sweatpants clenches his jaw, his eyes boring into me.
The alcohol has slowed my senses. I open my mouth but Caleb beats me to it. "Get out of the way, man, what the fuck. Phil, get him outta here."
Hanna notices my silence. "A, you okay?"
"Yeah," I manage to say, turning away as Phil slams his forearm into Sweatpants' chest. Caleb puts his hand on my shoulder. "Did the Ice Queen forget how she earned the title of Heartbreaker?"
Heartbreaker, yeah right. I know what title they gave me. I hear them whispering it. It's more like Ruthless Bitch. "I don't talk to losers," I tell him. Caleb grins. "Yeah? What else don't you do?"
"I don't let random guys put their hands on my shoulder."
Caleb laughs. "Okay, how about your boyfriend?"
I look at him, his perfect blond hair, his perfect green eyes, and his perfect Marc Jacobs button-up that looks just perfect with his Moschino shoes. "He'll have to ask me out first."
And he does.
At the end of the night, after the principal has made his annual Start-of-Year speech, under the sparkling light and the "Welcome Freshmen Class!" banner, I announce my candidacy for the student council election with Caleb's hand resting on my waist.
It's my senior year and I'm on my way to getting everything I've ever wanted, but for some twisted reason, the first thing I see when I close my eyes that night is the fierce look of determination in those brown eyes.
Will you please go out with me?
What would I have said? I would have said exactly what my friends said for me.
Is this a joke? Get away from me, loser.
And if I did, everything would turn out just fine and life would go back to the way it was. But as it happens, I didn't, and my life is never going to be the same again.
Caisele: Next chapter is pretty much done. If you guys review it'll make me want to edit it faster and put it up faster!