The September sky was a beautiful, bruised, shade of grey. It was the kind of grey that promised gentle light, silence, and cool breezes.

Sal sat on the rocky ledge and stared intently at the beach and lake before her. The area was mercifully empty of tourists, beach-goers, and other people in general.

Though she had brought a book, she couldn't muster up the focus needed to translate the letters on paper into vivid mental images. Her journal and pencil crayons lay in the messenger bag beside her, but she didn't know what to draw. Sal was no good at scenery or anything lifelike. The lines always swerved uncontrollably, the faces looked wrong. She could only do abstract; lines and shapes and blurs, intersecting and crashing and merging.

The lake was a normal-looking one, she mused. Though in her 17 years she'd only been out of the valley a few times, she realized that it was a fairly average lake, with sandy shores and dark blue mountains that shielded it from the rest of the world.

Picking up her book again (a regular fantasy novel; it was mediocre, with a bit too much kissing and not enough blood to be much good in Sal's opinion), she tried to read some more. The hero was just trying to falsely convince a troll that no, he hadn't stolen his gem-encrusted dagger, when Sal was forced back into the real world by footsteps.

She didn't look up or react at all; that was her default reaction to other people. Ignore them and maybe you'll be lucky enough to have them ignore you. But it appeared that Dame Fortuna was not looking kindly upon the anti-social girls of the world today, and the footsteps stopped right in front of her.


She slowly looked up. "Can I help you…?" she asked, letting some of her annoyance at being noticed leak into her voice.

Her irritant was a guy, maybe a little older than her, maybe the same age. Sal was no good at judging ages. He was average height and weight, with hazel eyes and dark brown hair. His clothes were normal, if a bit more respectable than most teenagers his age. He had glasses, big, thick, things that made his eyes look weird. He had a backpack with Star Trek characters on it. Great. He was a Trekkie. Sal was an adamant Star Wars fan and Mandalorian fan girl. However, the most infuriating thing to her about his appearance was the fact that he was happy-looking. Amused, even. Sal hated it when people looked at her like that. In her experience, unknown people her age smiling at her generally indicated something bad about to happen.

"You can," he said. She could almost see the chat speak smiley face punctuating his sentence. "May I sit here?"


"Too bad, it's public property."

"Go away."

"But you look like you need cheering up."

"Bugger off."

"See!? That's precisely what I mean!"

Sal closed her eyes briefly and considered running away, but she'd have to grab all her stuff first, and she got the feeling that he'd just follow her if she tried to walk away. Like a stalker. Fantastic.

"What do you want? If you're trying to get a girl to sleep with you, try a girl that actually dresses like a prostitute."

"Woah, calm down. I just saw that you had Red vs. Blue buttons on your bag, a fantasy book, and a Star Wars t-shirt. Thus, you are one of the rare but infamous female nerds."

"I'm a geek, idiot. Nerds have pocket protectors and those stupid-looking retainers."

"My bad, ma'am."

"Go away, Trekkie."

"I double-dog-dare you to a Star Wars trivia test!"

Val finally put down her book and looked at him with her full attention for the first time.

"Bring it, Klingon-lover."

"Cool. I'll go first. What was the name of Jabba the Hutt's main advisor?"

"Bib Fortuna. You'll have to try harder than that, Trekkie."

"Challenge accepted. Who trained Darth Sidious?"

Sal snorted. "Oh come on. Darth Plagueis. You're obviously going easy on me because I'm a girl."

"No, it's actually because you're so pretty. Most geek girls are clingy and half-psychotic from being cut off from their natural female social circles, but you actually seem well-adjusted. And pretty, of course. The raggy Maximum Ride haircut looks great." Sal was speechless by now, something that didn't happen often. "Now, next question. Who killed Mara Jade?"

"Jacen Solo, or Darth Caedus if you want to be specific."

"Curse you for being good at this."

"My turn. Let's see how well a Trekkie knows Star Wars," she said with a smirk. "What fighter class starship did Tycho Celchu fly for the Battle of Endor?"

"A-wing. Got to try harder than that, Miss Mandalorian."

"Don't call me that."

"What should I call you then?"

"You can call me… Tex." He laughed at that.

"I'm pretty sure you're not a robot, but you seem smart enough to be an AI," he said flatteringly.

"Sod off. What's your name?"

"Alaric. But to you, I'm Church."

Sal hurriedly came up with more Star Wars trivia. The two of them went back and forth, trading Star Wars facts, compliments, and colourful insults.

Finally, they had to concede a tie.

"Wait… is this the part where I realize I just spent an hour talking with a total stranger who is not only my age, but also of the opposite gender?"

"Looks like it."

"Well, this just turned into a stereotypical teenage romance story. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drown myself in that conveniently-located lake over there," Sal said cheerfully.

"If you do that, I'll have to go emo. I'll dye my hair black and write absolutely awful poetry about how much life sucks. Sound good?"

"Meh. I'd rather not be indirectly responsible for unleashing more shoddy poetry into the world. Do you like coffee?"

"Nope, I'm a classy tea-drinking snob."

"Well, there's a Tim Hortons about a 15-minute walk away from here. Want to go get drinks and exchange emails there?"

"Depends on whether you expect me to pay for yours. Because if you do, I'll have to decline."

She laughed. "Oh good, I don't have the bad taste to have accidently asked out a guy with sexist chauvinism. Still want to go?"

"It's really not like I have anything better to do, so why not?"

The two of them walked down the lakefront, not holding hands. Yet.

"Compliments, Insults, and Geekdom"

By Sarina Bouvier