As lunch was beginning another two hours later, Samara, hidden in a corner, watched Skylar as he approached Eve with a box of See's candies in his hands. Before he could get to her, Samara ran up to him, grabbed his shirtsleeve, and pulled him over like a slightly more competent campus security guard. He was about to open his mouth in futile protest of whatever it was he thought she had in store of him, but she stopped him. "Now that I have your attention, just what do you think you're doing with those chocolates, Hard Drive?"
Skylar looked down at the long white box, then up at Samara, and then over the other side of the wall towards the middle of the quad and Eve therein, before finally saying, "Nothing."
"Really, you're not even going to try to justify it as a gift for Eve?"
"But only because she saw it before you could give it to Stacey, right?"
Skylar once again tried and failed to say something in his defense. This time, Samara deliberately kept her mouth shut a little while longer so as to ensure that his feeble rationalization could be given life. At last, after almost a minute, he caved. "I didn't mean for this to happen."
"Just like you didn't mean to get those pictures of me, and yet you took advantage of it anyway."
"I already apologized for that!"
"So apologize for this now," she said. "Come clean to Eve and Stacey about how you're a two-timing son of a bitch just like Jimmy."
"I'm nothing like Jimmy!" Skylar snapped. "I'm not even dating either of these girls!"
"No, but you're close. They both know you're a pervert who's already seen and experienced far more than he deserves—but they don't see you as the unfaithful type."
Skylar rolled his eyes and scoffed. "If I tell them, they'll both chew me out!"
"You know the phrase, 'quit while you're still ahead'? You're still ahead."
"Not if you caught me, I'm not!"
"Hard Drive," Samara sighed, "if there's one thing you need to know about me, it's that I don't tell people what to do. I observe and give suggestions, which, granted, are always right, but in the end, everyone I speak to acts under their own free will. And it's usually for the worst." She put her hand on his shoulder, making him jump, either out of fear of a woman scorned or out of excitement at being touched by a woman he'd seen in the buff. "Do me a favor. Prove me wrong for once."
"What's in it for me?"
Samara grumbled and pushed him back. "You asked that same question when you had the pictures! You're hopeless!"
Skylar looked into her eyes, his expression hinting at remorse, and then down at the box again. "What if I just gave the chocolates to Stacey? And lied to Eve about what happened to them?" Swing and a miss.
"Then you'd just have to lie to Stacey about why you hid them from her earlier. I hope you realize by now that, at some point, you're going to have to tell the truth."
Stacey stepped out of the bathroom and nearly walked right into the boy who had been a near-daily nuisance to her over the past few weeks. Adam was giving her that same demeaning glare he always did, but perhaps motivated both by the buildup of the frustration he'd caused her and the lack of chocolate in her system, she felt just as ready to give him a verbal beat down today. That she'd had some practice earlier with Samara certainly helped, and she mirrored the younger student's pose to show she could take him: glaring, arms crossed.
She let him make the first move. "What were you doing in there? No, wait, let me guess: you were looking at your beaver, wondering why it never gives guys any wood, weren't you? Yeah, I'll bet."
Stacey smirked. "Is that the best you've got, Adam?"
"No," he said. "I'm saving my best for when you look your worst! You'd think it'd have happened by now, but every time I think you've hit bottom, you show up to school the next day and prove me wrong!" He laughed.
"Well, with all the digging I've been doing, I guess I was bound to throw some dirt in your face sooner or later."
"Fighting back?" he said, acting surprised. "I didn't know you had a backbone. I thought you were just a little worm, inching your way through the mud I wipe my feet with."
"Oh, I've got a backbone," she said. "Want proof? I can point you to a few guys around here that have had me on it." It wasn't the best kind of bragging, but if it was an argument in favor of her beauty, it was worth the trouble to shut him up.
Adam nodded, and then shook his head. "They must cry themselves to sleep every night, knowing they'll never again—"
"Have a better time?" Stacey said quickly, smiling. "I'm sure they do."
"I was going to say, 'be taken seriously as a man.'"
"Why do I suspect that you're only thinking that because you have that very problem?"
"If I felt that way, Stacey," he said, "I wouldn't be here, taking the huge risk of never getting a hard-on again by looking at you."
"Adam, if you have to put a beautiful girl like me down to make yourself feel like a man, then you were never much of a man to begin with."
"I only do it, Stacey, because you won't do the world the honorable thing by taking yourself down."
"You want me to kill myself?" Stacey scoffed. "But then who would you talk to?"
"I'd rather endure an eternity of silence than listen to five more seconds of your grating voice."
"Bullshit. You'd give up everything to hear me cry out your name in the heat of passion."
"Fat chance, fatso."
"Limpdick," she said, remembering the name she'd overheard Claire calling Kent in the early days of his relationship with Holly. The moniker did have a certain catchiness to it. Tired of volleying insults, she began to walk away and rejoin John, but Adam was on her tail, and lying to himself if he didn't enjoy watching her hips sway as she moved. "Stop following me, asshole."
"I can't help it," he replied, which remained a compliment until he added, "Your butt's made of Jell-O. How do you sit down on that thing?"
A few more back-and-forth insults as the two of them walked along the side of the history and science building, and then Stacey reached John, smiling in the middle of one of Adam's off-color remarks about her body, because she knew that once her friend saw this taking place, he would dole out swift, fist-swinging justice to the wrongdoer. Sure enough, within seconds John snapped at Adam and lifted his arm in a threatening manner. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he said to the terrified freshman.
Hunched down, Adam glanced at a grinning Stacey, then up at John, and said, "Nothing!"
"Doesn't look like nothing," John said, lowering his arm but continuing to glare at Adam. "What did she ever do to you?"
"Invaded my space with her ugly face," Adam said in a lowbrow, petty rhyme that earned him another sudden threatening pose from John, who clearly knew his limits. "Hey, man, you asked!"
"How long has this been going on?" John said as he turned to Stacey.
"Several weeks now," she sighed.
"Several weeks? And you didn't tell anyone?"
"I thought if I ignored him, he'd eventually stop and go away."
"No, you thought you could ignore him by confiding in booze instead of your friend!"
"I'm sorry, John, but—"
"Don't apologize to me," John said. "I should've expected this!"
"I told you I wasn't drinking again! I've been turning to chocolate instead!"
"So where's the chocolate?"
"I don't have it! Someone else does!"
"What's stopping you from buying your own damn chocolate?"
"She already thinks she's fat," Adam interjected. "That's my doing. But she doesn't want to be burdened with the guilt of feeling like she caused it herself by buying her own chocolates. If she accepts them as a gift, that weight is off her chest."
"Insightful," Stacey said. "But it's not the chocolates. I haven't eaten any chocolates. It's the person providing them."
"Who's that?" John and Adam said in unison.
"I'm too embarrassed to say," she mumbled, lifting her hand up and placing it on her forehead. Shaking her head in spite of the boys' persistent stares, she repeated, "Really, I can't even bear to think about it."
"Has this guy wronged you before?" John said. He looked at Adam, who shrugged and retreated away from him. "Is that why you're afraid to admit you're attracted to him?"
"Yes on both counts," Stacey nodded. "But I'd feel a whole lot better if we just forgot about him."
"No, we're not going to do that," John said, stepping up to Stacey. "Was this guy punished for what he did to you?"
Stacey shook her head. "I let him off easy. Didn't turn him in."
"Don't you think it's about time we changed that?"
"She can think for herself, man," Adam suggested.
"Shut up," John and Stacey said together.
"Let me see if I understand this," John said. "This guy screwed you over once, and now he's been offering you chocolates. It can't be bribery, since you already said you didn't turn him in, so it must be because he wants to make it up to you, get on your good side. That's actually kind of a nice gesture, but let's face it: he's a jerk. What did he do to you, anyway?"
Stacey made eye contact with John, took a deep breath, and said, "Winter formal."
John's eyes seemed to burst into flame. "Oh, that motherfucker is going down." He slammed his firsts together, then returned to Stacey and said, "But I need a name."