At lunch, I casually strolled over to where Jaynie and her friends sat, trying not to focus too much on how nervous I was. I would finally be shown the real Jaynie on a personal level, and I was honestly terrified. What would she really think of me? What were her friends going to say? Why did I feel like something was going to go terribly wrong?
I turned the corner, and a girl with bright blonde hair with brown ends was waiting, leaning against the wall with her arms folded. I figured she must be part of the group. Soon after, Jaynie finally appeared and let her overweight backpack slam to the floor.
"Sorry I'm late. I got captured in a sea of idiots while leaving Klein's class," she said, her blue-gray eyes looking over everything surrounding her before finally resting on me. "Oh! Brendan! I almost forgot about you. I'm sorry! This is my friend Luna. The others should be here soon enough."
I shoved an awkward wave at Luna and she gave me a polite half smile in return. 1 down, who knew how many there were to go. I stood there quietly as I watched for an opportunity to talk to Jaynie, but every time I tried to speak, someone else showed up. The tall girl she had talked to the day before, Sadie, appeared, followed by a curvy girl named Bianca, a wide shouldered blonde kid with a baseball cap named Sampson, an Asian boy with glasses named Jack, a skinny nerdy boy with a fedora and a green notebook named Will, and then, a tall, brown haired and chubby kid whom they called Cabbie.
"Why do you call him Cabbie?" I asked, desperate to make conversation. We were both sitting against the white washed walls, right next to one another.
"He wants to be a cab driver in New York City when he grows up because it supposedly pays well," Jaynie explained with a slight shrug.
I swallowed nervously before I spoke again. "So, uh, what other bands do you like besides Green Day?"
I got her to smile again, stealing her attention from her friends like an outlaw. "Oh, there's a lot! MCR, Paramore, Blink-182, Fall Out Boy, Bowling For Soup, Panic! At the Disco, Mayday Parade, All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens, Pierce the Veil, Parachute, you know, that kind of stuff."
I nodded my head in response, watching as she checked each name off by counting on her fingers, and drumming my fingers on my legs uneasily. "I'm going to be honest," I said. "I have no idea who any of those are."
She shrugged again. "Don't worry. I'll get you exposed to them all. If you like Green Day, You'll probably like Blink-182 and Bowling For Soup."
I found myself speaking without giving my mouth the permission. "I haven't listened to much Green Day either. Only some of the songs off of American Idiot."
She looked confused, and she folded her arms, leaving me terrified that I had made her mad. Then she smiled again. "Well, that's not a bad start I guess. Your assignment for tonight is to finish up that album and then listen to 21st Century Breakdown. We'll discuss them tomorrow."
"JAYNIE!" Someone shouted, and we both jumped in surprise we both looked out. My mouth stood partially agape as I saw Calvin Larson, his curly blonde moving slightly as his tall figured bounded towards us. Sure, he was in our 2nd period English class too, but he was the last person I had ever expected to talk to Jaynie. His football player status ranked him higher than even me.
"Hey Calvin," She replied, a nervous pang in her voice.
He leaned against the wall and looked down at her, not even noticing me. He towered over us, and he smiled at her. I suddenly felt like stepping in front of Jaynie, but I wasn't sure why. Was this true jealously?
"Hey," he said. "How are you? Oh, and what's up buttercup?"
Buttercup? Who even says that anymore? Was he flirting with her? Why was he smoother at it than I was? I thought, feeling my cheeks redden again, but in frustration. I shoved my hands in my jeans pocket, trying to keep my cool as I watched them interact.
"I'm fine, I'm just discussing music with Brendan here. What about you?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm fine now baby doll. How about you and I go to the vending machines and get something? I'll buy," He said casually. I managed to ball my hands into fists in my pockets.
"No, I'm okay. I already ate. Thanks though. Besides, I'm a little busy here," she declared, gesturing to me.
"Hey Brendan! I didn't notice you there. You'll come to the vending machines with me I guess," he stated, grabbing my arm and hoisting me up abruptly. I almost lost my balance and fell on my face, but the strongman managed to catch me and pull me over around the corner I had originally come from. He turned me to face him, but kept an iron grip on my elbow.
"Uh…did you need something?" I wondered with a nervous laugh.
His eyes darkened, and his voice got deeper, a sudden seriousness appearing in him. "What are you doing talking to Jaynie?"
"We were just talking about music. What's the harm in that?" I questioned.
"She's my girl. I've been trying to ask her out since the beginning of the school year, and I don't want some smart little punk like you trying to steal her out from under me," He growled through clenched teeth.
"If she was really yours, you wouldn't be so worried about me stealing her," I commented.
His grip on my shoulder tightened a little. "Don't be a smart alec. Are you going to follow my orders or not?"
I pursed my lips in thought for a moment before I looked him in the eye and responded. "No way, Larson. Let's make it a competition, here and now. Whoever Jaynie chooses by….let's say the commencement dance, wins."
"Commencement is in two months," he said.
"Your point?" I asked, jutting out a hand for him to shake.
He grasped my hand and finally shook it. "You've got yourself a deal."
"May the best man win," I declared, and then our handshake ended and I headed back to where Jaynie's group was.
"What was he talking to you about?" Jaynie asked.
"Uh, he wanted help with that English project. Listen, I got to go. I'll be sure to listen to those albums and report to you tomorrow," I said and then rushed away, feeling scared again for some reason.
Why had I agreed to this stupid bet? I was sure to lose, because I was completely inferior compared to Calvin. The fact that it was Football player vs. Tennis player made all the more obvious I had no chance. He could hurt me easily. But, in the end, it was up to Jaynie. I couldn't flirt like he could, but perhaps I could still win her over. She had never let him meet her group, had she? Would this mean I had a better chance? These questions flowed through my brain, replacing almost of the ones I had had before. Jaynie was no longer a mystery to me, but a new beginning, and I wanted to keep that new possibility.