SKoW Member Challenge - Bubblegum

Requirements:

1) Opening line must be: "He hated the way she popped her bubblegum."

2) MC must be male and the story must be told through a male point of view.

3) Setting must be in high school.

4) Use of cliché high school stereotype for both characters, i.e. the rebel and the nerd, the druggie and the cheerleader etc. However, these stereotypes must be employed creatively and in a way so that the stereotypes are not the main focus of the story.

Optional:

1) Romance; the end result of the story does not have to be a couple.

2) A love-hate relationship.

The Girl Who Chewed Bubble Gum

He hated the way she popped her bubblegum.

Sometimes he wanted to walk up to her, stick his hand into her mouth and rip the wad of sticky goo out of her cheeks and squash it into her face. He hated her gum chewing almost as much as he hated the way she dressed, with those skin tight black jeans and low cut shirts, plus so much make up that she looked like a tramp.

Gordon Gleason refused to believe that Shannon Garrity was a bad girl even if she had a reputation around school for being loose and forward. He remembered her from her younger days. They went to the same church and she had a nice singing voice. She was polite and kind, warm and sensitive.

Then around the end of eighth grade she started getting weird. Gordon didn't see her around Church anymore. She stopped singing in the school choir, quit babysitting the neighborhood kids, and she was hanging around with a different clique in high school. She was a tough girl. Gordon saw her riding on the back of a motorcycle with some older dude and he could only shake his head in sadness. Poor Shannon Garrity.

The Girl Who Chewed Bubble Gum's locker was close to Gordon's because they were both last name G's and he had her in a couple of his classes. Shannon sat in the back chewing on her wad of gum and goofing off with the dregs that were probably not even going to graduate. The thing was Gordon knew Shannon was bright. She used to get the best grades in middle school. It was sad to see her go off the deep end now that they were in high school.

Gordon would be the first to admit that he hadn't changed much since his days of youth. He still attended church and served as an altar boy. He was still in the Boy Scouts – working on his Eagle badge. He got his hair cut every few weeks. He was a member of the chess club and rocket club at school and okay so maybe he was a geeky nerd but that didn't mean he wasn't an okay guy.

Gordon once had a crush on Shannon Garrity. At an eighth grade dance it took him all night to work up the guts to ask her for a dance and he was thrilled when she said yes. That was back when she was still normal, wearing a checkered skirt and a pretty sweater, her hair brushed and neatly styled. Gordon remembered the way she smelled (nice) and the way she felt (soft) in his nervous clutch as they semi-slow danced in the gym.

Now Gordon hated Shannon because she chewed gum like a cow chewed its cud and he thought she was annoying and disgusting and gross and kind of loose so he avoided her.

But then Mrs. Robbins in twelve grade English assigned class partners to write feature segment scripts for the school's video magazine. Gordon and Shannon ended up partnered together on a project about the eleventh grade mentoring and anti-bullying campaign which meant the two would be working side by side for several weeks, exposing Gordon to Shannon's bubble gum chewing fetish up close and personal. He seriously wasn't sure if he would be able to resist the temptation to tug the gum out of her mouth like a dentist working on somebody's teeth.

Gordon bit his tongue and tolerated Shannon's chewing gum addiction the first few times they met to discuss the project. She called him "Padre" and "Choirboy" – both veiled references to his church life and his reputation as a good guy at school.

"Maybe you shouldn't be bullying me since we're working on a piece about bullying," Gordon told her.

"Come on, Gordo, I'm teasing you," Shannon replied insincerely.

"Well, how 'bout I call you Bubbles then?" he dared.

"Sure, go ahead, see if I care," she retorted but Gordon got the impression he had offended her.

By the third time Gordon and Shannon met to work on their project, Gordon was about to jump out the window because Shannon was driving him crazy. Not just with the damn gum – but also by the way she purposefully teased him in a seductive way by leaning over the computer desk with her low cut tops when talking to him, daring for him to look at her chest instead of her eyes, or the way she rubbed against him when she was looking over his shoulder to see what he was typing on the computer screen. Shannon was very subtle and covert in her provocative gestures but Gordon knew exactly what she was doing – trying to break him into submission.

Shannon only had one mission: to prove that even Padre Choirboys could be successfully tempted by a sexy woman. Gordon knew she was attempting to insult him and make fun of him by being secretly seductive and it made him feel even more like a loser knowing she really didn't like him the way he used to like her.

Shannon asked him irrelevant questions about his personal and family life even though Gordon knew she could care less. She talked about Church as if she still attended but he knew she was trying to make him feel stupidly square for practicing his faith – "an altar sleeper" she'd say.

Gordon would see some guy from the tech school picking Shannon up on his motorcycle after school and he wondered if her mother knew she was being so reckless and carefree.

But it was the gum that was sending Gordon over the edge more than anything else. He knew when Shannon was in the room without even looking up because he'd hear her mouth chopping or a bubble bursting. He could pick her out of a crowd of fifty students in the hallways of Hillsboro High because of the way her mouth moved. And she didn't even have to wear perfume for him to smell her – the scent of various flavors of bubble gum permeated a fifty foot radius around her.

Gordon and Shannon were working on their project together one afternoon when Shannon stuffed yet another wad of gum into her mouth.

"Man oh man, how many pieces of that stuff do you chew a day?" Gordon groaned with annoyance.

"I chain chew," Shannon admitted sheepishly, appearing to be flustered in front of him for the first time since they began the project. "I probably go through an eighteen pack two or three a day, especially when I'm feeling particularly emotional or stressed out."

"That's nuts," Gordon declared.

"It doesn't feel good," Shannon sighed, slumping back in her computer chair. "But it feels necessary."

He peered at her with surprise, realizing she was being vulnerable and revealing for the first time ever. "When did you start?"

"Summer after eighth grade," she admitted, glancing away as if she was hiding something. "My room is always strewn with wrappers. It's like I'm a smoker except I'm chewing on rubbery shit filled with chemicals which tastes and smells like a perfume factory."

"Well, it's probably not as bad as smoking," Gordon noted.

"I chew until I've chewed out all the toxic chemicals and stupid flavor and then I pop another piece into my mouth – sometimes two at a time."

"You must like the flavors."

"Actually, I don't even like the taste," she confessed. "I think I'm addicted to that initial burst of chemical sweetness that spikes my blood sugar. Every time I stuff anther piece into my mouth part of me reacts with disbelief. I know this has to be doing something bad to me."

"So why do you do it?" Gordon asked with legitimate interest.

"Well, as vices go, I could be into much worse things, I suppose," Shannon justified.

"It's bad enough," Gordon protested. "You come across as a hooker!"

She looked at him with shock. "That's not a very nice thing to say, Gordo."

"Well, it's true," he muttered.

"I've become a slave to it," Shannon confessed. "It distracts me from my other problems and it numbs my brain. Maybe it's masking some sick eating disorder or something. I don't know."

"What kind of problems?" Gordon asked gently.

"See, that's why I chew!" Shannon exclaimed. "It keeps my mouth occupied so I don't put anything else in it or say something stupid."

Gordon blushed, wondering if she had just made a sexual reference with the 'anything else' comment but he was still intrigued by what she wasn't saying. And now he wondered if she was hung up on her appearance.

"I think you have perfect body image," he said and he knew as soon as he said it that it sounded lame and foolish.

She stood from her chair. "Look at these hips, you asshole," she grumbled. "I hate my body - my full tush doesn't match my smaller breasts," she complained.

"You need a more realistic perspective on your body," Gordon said.

"Oh, what do you know?" She growled, falling back into her chair and crossing her arms across her chest in pouting defiance.

"I know you'd be better off sucking your thumb then chewing all that gum all the time," Gordon answered. "Your gum chewing is very annoying and socially unacceptable, especially when you blow bubbles at inopportune times."

"I'm not even aware I'm doing it half the time," Shannon admitted with defeat.

"I remember how beautiful you looked at the prom last year," Gordon offered.

"You were there?" She asked with surprise.

"I was up in the booth running the lights," he said, embarrassed to be found out. "Anyway, that purple dress you had on was a knock out. Your hair looked gorgeous. I couldn't believe how grown up, sophisticated and glamourous you looked. Then, as you stood on the stage, I could see that you were chewing gum from a mile away. And then you blew a bubble with a huge smack and I thought to myself 'she could be standing there naked and the only thing anybody would notice would be the chomp-chomp-chew-chew of her big wad of gum'!"

"You thought I was pretty?" Shannon asked with sincerity.

"You've always been pretty," Gordon shrugged, feeling surprisingly at ease with her all of a sudden.

"You've been awfully critical of me," Shannon complained.

"I liked you better before," Gordon stated.

"When before?" She frowned unhappily.

"Before the gum," he responded. "Before the make up and the clothes. The cleavage and thighs. The motorcycle. Before the attitude and the disinterest."

"You mean back when I was the Choir Girl," she said with disapproval.

"You say that like it's a bad thing," Gordon remarked with annoyance.

"I'm not twelve anymore, Gleason," she said with bitterness.

"Oh," he said sarcastically. "I didn't know we were supposed to give up our values, virtues and ethics just because we turn into teenagers."

"You just don't understand," she sighed.

"I guess I don't," he agreed.

"So, you don't like me because I chew gum?" She asked incredulously.

"Gum chewing is a pet peeve of mine," Gordon said. "I've never been a gum chewer and I have to confess that I've wanted to rip your mouth off of your face like in The Walking Dead just so I wouldn't have to watch you chewing on your cud all the time!"

"I'm not the only one," Shannon pointed out.

"Have you ever stepped in gum stuck on the hot pavement in ninety degree weather?" Gordon wanted to know. "Trailing a sticky string of someone else's crap for a mile before realizing it's sticking to your foot?"

"No," Shannon said.

"Or been the victim of a wad from some jerk jokester in the seat behind you in sixth grade and had to have your hair cut off?"

"No," Shannon admitted.

"Or sat in a piece of "a-b-c" gum at a school assembly?"

"Can't say that I have," Shannon replied.

"Or drooled while chewing gum? Silvia dripping down your chin like a baby?"

"Nope," Shannon said.

"Or swallowed it accidentally? Takes seven years to go through your system."

"Maybe once or twice," Shannon admitted.

"Or had a bubble blow up in your face?"

"Sure, that's happened," Shannon said. "Sounds like you haven't had a whole lot of luck with gum, have you?"

"Among other things," Gordon grumbled. "But we're not talking about me. We're talking about you and your off the charts gum chewing. You chew way too much gum, Shannon."

"I hadn't realized you noticed," Shannon replied, looking dumbfounded as she stared at him. "What do you care for anyway?"

He was flustered by her question. "I…..well…..it's just that….you never chewed before high school."

"Not like this," she confirmed. "That's true. But a lot's changed since eighth grade."

"Like what?"

"I need to get going," Shannon abruptly announced, standing, but she kept looking at him, almost as if she was searching for his soul. "Would you like a piece of my gum before I leave?" She finally asked.

He knew she was making fun of him.

"I don't like gum," Gordon replied impatiently.

"I think you'll like this gum, Gordo," Shannon said, leaning over and pressing her lips to his face, kissing him with force while using the tip of her tongue to force his mouth open. He could smell the gum and her breath and her hair and her warmth and the next thing Gordon knew the piece of gum Shannon had been chewing on was in his mouth!

Shannon broke the kiss, stood straight and glanced down at him with a smirk on her face. "Enjoy the gum," she said before grabbing her book bag and leaving the video room.

Gordon stared after her long after she had disappeared through the door, his heart racing in his chest as the smell of both her and her gum lingered in his nostrils.

They agreed to meet before school to tweak the video that they had shot the previous day. Gordon arrived first and he was seated in front of the computer monitor timing the video footage.

"Sorry I'm late."

Gordon glanced up and he was surprised to see someone standing over him. It took him a moment to realize that it was Shannon Garrity. He hadn't heard her chopping jaw or smelled the strong scent of bubble gum from down the hall. That's because she wasn't chewing any gum!

Gordon gawked at the stranger before him. She hardly had any make up on. Her hair was brushed out, looking freshly washed and styled. She was wearing a full blouse and a modest length yellow skirt.

Shannon smiled as she sat in the computer chair next to Gordon and gave him a look.

"What happened in eighth grade?" Gordon wanted to know.

Shannon sucked in her breath. "My parents divorced," she said sadly.

"Oh," Gordon replied, surprised that he hadn't heard that news at the time. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"It was very hard on me," Shannon said. "I wasn't expecting it."

"So, you went through a hard time," Gordon reasoned, disappointed she hadn't confided in him back then.

"My father quit his job as a cop and took off out west with his guitar to become a country and western singer," Shannon told him still in a tone of disbelief all these years later. "Who does something like that?"

"I don't know," Gordon admitted.

"The reality of my life proved to be a mirage," she said. "Everything I believed in and thought true was a lie."

"Sometimes things just happen," Gordon offered. "There's no reason for it that can be easily explained."

"I lost all sense of security," Shannon testified. "My mom was a mess, falling apart, not able to function and I was adrift without a rudder."

"So you decided to try a new boat?"

Shannon shrugged. "I acted out," she admitted. "I became a bit promiscuous, maybe, hooking up with guys who paid a different kind of attention me to me because it made me feel different." She glanced at him. "I know people think certain things about me but I didn't have sex with them," she revealed. "Still, I'm not proud of my behavior, trust me."

"You're special, Shannon," Gordon told her. "Enjoy your life. Don't worry about the things you can't change."

"Do you want to be my boyfriend?" She wanted to know.

"Huh?"

"I really haven't had a boyfriend," Shannon said.

"Why would you want to be seen with a Padre Choirboy?"

She laughed. "You're the first guy who told me the truth," she said, turning serious. "You're the first one to call me out. Remind me of who I used to be. Telling me I was okay back then."

"You always caught my eye," Gordon smiled. "I've always thought you were sexy and beautiful and that you wrecked all that with the gum and the wardrobe and all that."

"I was insecure," she admitted

"You need to find the confidence in yourself that others see in you," Gordon encouraged.

"My mother dragged me to counseling which only made it worse," Shannon sighed. "I really didn't care about anything, especially myself."

"How are you feeling now?" Gordon wondered, peering at her.

"I'm feeling hopeful," she admitted. "I haven't felt that in a long time."

"Maybe you've reached a crossroads realizing what's really important and that maybe life does not always go the way we want it to go but that the secret is to learn how to live and be as happy as we can within whatever reality we find ourselves in."

"Maybe," Shannon replied with a hopeful smile.

Epilogue

Their video segment was one of the best of the production. Shannon returned to Church. Gordon was happy to be seen with her, holding her hand and proudly describing her as his girlfriend. He was delighted to show public displays of affection for Shannon who was surprised at how easily the two blended together after her four year "hiatus" from the "choir loft" as she referred to her new found peer group! She enjoyed the little things Gordon did to make her smile – the compliments, the attention, the humor, the respect and the kindness. She had missed this part of her life and she was glad to be back in the fold of 'normal' high school romance and relationships.

One afternoon, Gordon was at Shannon's house studying for finals. He was sitting on the floor with a book in his lap. Shannon had excused herself to use the bathroom and Gordon thought he heard the forgotten sound of her cracking jaw and he could have sworn he smelled the scent of bubble gum. His gut wretched at the thought that maybe Shannon had fallen off the bubble gum wagon.

"Hey."

Gordon looked up to see Shannon sticking her head in the doorway and sure enough she was chewing on wad of the gooey stuff.

"What are you doing?" He asked with offended disappointment.

"Do you remember when you said you didn't think people would notice me even if I was naked if I was chewing on my gum?" She giggled.

Gordon gave her a funny look.

"I just stumbled across an old pack of gum in the linen closet by accident," she explained. "And for some reason I thought about not being noticed naked if I was chewing gum so I wanted to see if it was true or not!"

She stepped out from behind the hallway wall that was blocking Gordon's view to reveal herself totally naked. She laughed at the look on Gordon's face as she yanked the piece of gum out of her mouth and threw it at him.

"Catch me if you can!" She dared, disappearing from his view.

Gordon tossed the book aside and leapt to his feet, chasing after her. Shannon was already half way down the front staircase as Gordon followed, his eyes trained on her naked backside as the hysterically laughing Shannon ran as fast as she could – through the living room and kitchen and then up the back stairs. It was the first time the Choirboy had seen anybody naked!

Gordon tripped on the back stairs and that prevented him from catching the naked reformed bubble gum addict and by the time he got back upstairs Shannon had locked herself in the bathroom and she was laughing with delight from behind the closed door.

"You were wrong!" She teased. "You noticed!"

The door opened and Shannon was dressed again, smirking at him with playful glee and enchantment.

"How could I not notice you?" Gordon asked, leaning in and giving her a kiss.

"I love you, Choirboy," Shannon whispered into his mouth, the faint smell of her briefly chewed bubble gum still on her breath.