by Galilea Oregon
Playing twenty questions with girls you find at CVS is an interesting experience, although not recommended if said girls happen to go to school with you. They’ll pass you notes in the middle of your math class and find out your number and text you and text you and text you. Then they’ll give your number to one of the hottest girls in school and she’ll ask you out for the Sadie Hawkins dance and to be nice, you’re gonna have to say yes and then you’ll find yourself spending a Friday night at a stupid high school dance instead of smoking with your friends.
Which was exactly what happened to Travis-stupid pathetic Travis whom we all warned not to flirt with them. But I guess it was fine to mess around, especially for a guy like Travis, who was pretty damn hot, in a non-gay way. Let’s put it like this: if I were a girl I would definitely chase after him like a lovestruck hormonal fifteen or sixteen year old would.
The boys (minus Connor) and I sent Travis off in his suit and tie with his stupid short brown curly-fry hair slicked back as straight as possible. We stood down the street from his date’s house, waiting outside his mom’s minivan. After his mom blatantly embarrassed him in front of us (the usual mom-type things: patting his head and telling him that he was so handsome and so grown up now), she let us talk to him and give him final words of advice as he entered the uncharted territory that is a high school dance.
“Stay safe. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” I whispered.
“Have fun, Trav,” Princeton fist-bumped Travis and gave him a noogie, setting Travis’s curly fry curls free from their gelled placement.
“You look like you could be my dad or something in that suit. Very corporate.” Tristan punched Travis in the shoulder, mimicking his father’s stern voice.
“Trav, after the dance…if you don’t…you know.” I paused, smirking. “If you don’t get action after the dance, swing by the park. We’ll be there all night.”
“Sure. I’ll be there. Okay, now I have to go or else Mia’s gonna kill me.” Travis stood up straight, corsage in hand, and headed towards the front door.
We scurried away into the minivan and waited in silence until she opened the door. And she…she was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen. Sure, Travis was attractive but she… she looked beautiful. Her hair was long and straight, so black it almost looked purple in the sun. She wore a deep blue dress, the color of the night. And she…she looked vicious, like she could snap my neck while getting her nails done and wearing sky high stilettos. Her eyes darted in our direction, and I swear she looked at me. I could recognize those piercing brown eyes anywhere; this was Mia. The Mia Anderson from seventh grade, the skinny bony girl that was a better runner than me. The skinny bony girl we made fun of in third grade and called her a skeleton. The skinny bony girl that we made cry in the bathroom stall.
Travis turned around toward us and grinned before stepping into Mia’s house. We drove home in anxious silence, listening to smooth jazz on the radio as his mother chattered about how exciting it was for Travis to go on a date.
“Stay safe, boys!” Mrs. Jackson called out from her minivan as we walked into McDonald’s.
“I swear to God, if she hadn’t dropped us off, I would’ve jumped out of the car.” Tristan groaned while pulling out spare change from his grimy jeans pocket.
“She’s not that bad,” Princeton muttered.
“Well of course you like her. She plays smooth jazz in her car and runs a goddamn book club. Seems like something you’d like,” Tristan scoffed.
Prince took a deep breath and almost said something, but I think he didn’t want to start a fight.
He hadn’t started a fight since the end of eighth grade when his step brother Jonathan accused him of acting “girly”. I was there when Princeton punched Jon across the jaw, and I saw when Jon broke Prince’s nose, scarlet blood scurrying down his mouth. After that, Jonathan wasn’t allowed to visit as often. After a few months, Jonathan stopped going to Princeton’s house altogether. We later found out that he had moved to Boston with his mom and new stepfather. Princeton never fought like that ever again.
“Shut up.” Princeton kicked at Tristan playfully, cooling down more.
We sat down in the back booth, throwing french fries around and going back up to order chicken McNuggets. The cashier looked at Tristan and I as if we were dirty, filthy kids, but when she saw Princeton, she smiled warmly. We grew used to that sort of treatment. Prince was an angel, too pure and too good to ever cause any harm.
I sat in silence, thinking about Travis and Mia at the dance. Why would she ask him? We never talked after eighth grade promotion when I spilled my root beer all over her dress on purpose. She’d looked so pretty in that green dress…Why would I want to ruin it with a root beer stain?
“So is Cole gonna join us again or not?” Tristan wondered, leaning against the back of the both, attempting (and failing) to catch french fries in his mouth as I threw them at him.
“If he’s with the goth kids another day he might start wearing black eyeliner and ‘stick it to the man’,” I laughed. We grew silent for a few moments. We missed Cole. We needed Cole back; he was the glue of us, the one that settled the arguments with jokes and booze.
“Yanno, that girl was pretty damn smoking hot…” Tristan trailed off, grinning slyly.
“It was Mia. Anderson. From elementary and middle school. Remember her?” I asked.
“Oh shit! Mia?! She’s hot as hell, man.”
“She’s in my honors chem. She’s a goddamn genius, that’s what she is.”
“Always gotta remind us you’re in honors, don’t you?”
We spun around to discover Cole, standing with his hands inside his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels as he chewed on his lower lip. He’d lost the all black attire and wore the same skater’s uniform as we did. He slid into the booth grinning devilishly.
“Missed me much, King?” Cole asked. Tristan rolled his eyes as he munched loudly on french fries.
“We thought we’d lost you for good.” Prince reached over the table and gave him a brotherly noogie.
“Whatever. I just needed a breather. Where the hell’s Travis? I heard he got asked to Sadie’s, but I didn’t think King would let him.” Cole reached out for a McNugget, but Tristan slapped his hand angrily.
“What’s your deal?” Cole asked frustrated.
“Didn’t think I’d let him? What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I faced him in disbelief. What the hell? Didn’t think I’d let Travis go to Sadie’s with some girl? Sure, I mean maybe if she wasn’t hot. Which she was. She was extremely hot.
“I mean Mia Anderson…one would expect you to keep a babe like that to yourself.”
He was right, at least partly. If I had known she was the one to ask Travis…damnit, we could have talked.
“See, you’re not saying anything because it’s true,” Cole mocked.
Princeton’s face went stone cold and Tristan’s fingers drummed nervously on the table. We sat in silence as the restaurant buzzed. We were frozen in time, surrounded by movement and colors and sounds. A baby’s laugh echoed in my ears and I was back in the dingy booth.
“You’re right. It’s true.”
“King—” Princeton mumbled.
“No no, Cole’s right. That’s why I’m the King. Now listen, boys.” I leaned in. “I love Trav and all. But she’s so damn hot.”
“Oh God, King. What are you gonna do? She’s at the dance with Travis. They must be slow dancing by now and his hands are probably all over her,” Tristan interjected.
“So what?” Cole threw his head back in amusement. “You think that’s gonna stop King? You think Kingsley here… you think he cares that she asked Travis first? Here’s a thing about King, if you haven’t noticed, King doesn’t give a single shit about anyone but himself. He’s a selfish bastard and that’s why we love him. Because he’s a selfish, reckless, handsome bastard.”
I didn’t even grimace at Cole’s harsh words because a) he was right and, b) I was too busy plotting to sneak into the dance. Oh, and also c) I wasn’t about to lose Cole over something that was completely true.
“Sneak me in there,” I finally said.
Princeton’s jaw dropped. Tristan heaved. Cole nodded.
“But you know how Travis gets…you know how he gets aggressive…” Tristan threw a chicken McNugget at me. “You’re so stupid, King. He’s gonna kill you.”
And he was right. Travis was a flaming hotheaded, short tempered, arrogant dick. But he was my friend. So he wouldn’t actually kill me. At least I’d hope so. Besides, he could get any girl he wanted with that body of his.
Wow, that sounded gay.
“What do you want us to do?’ Princeton asked nervously, eyes darting around. He always wanted to help, always.
“We’re gonna sneak me in there.”
“How?” Tristan was agitated.
“Dammit boys, it’s like you’ve never been with King. There’s a back door in the gym. It opens only from the inside. We’ll get Travis to open it for us. King goes in, flirts with a couple girls, then finds the girl.”
“Wouldn’t that just be backstabbing Travis, though?”
“Tristan, I’m going to beat the shit out of you if you don’t shut the hell up.” I kicked him under the table.
“Let’s go get dressed, gentlemen. Time for King to sweep the girl off her feet.” Cole stood up and led us out into the cool evening, leaving a mess of chicken nuggets and french fries strewn on the floor.
We were waiting impatiently outside the back of our school’s gym. Cole had texted Travis before we got there and Princeton called Travis’s mom to drop us off at the school. Night was falling fast and the sun had already set.
“Dammit, “ Cole huffed. “Jesus Christ, he won’t answer.”
“This isn’t gonna work. Let’s go home.” Tristan pouted, pulling out a cigarette.
“Wait, wait…he says he’s coming.”
We stood around nervously. Prince walked around in circles, Tristan took long drags off of his cigarette, Cole hummed, and I waited, nervously cracking my knuckles. Suddenly, the door opened. Travis was waiting, his fists tightened at his sides.
“I swear to God, always screwing around. Get in, get in.” He motioned us inside and we followed.
It was dark inside the gym, only disco lights above us and balloons and streamers dangling off the ceiling. Pop music blared loudly from the speakers as girls in tight mini dresses and guys in unironed shirts danced too close to each other. Teacher and parent chaperones walked around, separating couples that were basically groping each other on the dance floor.
“Do I look okay?” I turned to Princeton, straightening my bow tie.
“Always,” he replied quietly, looking me up and down. What a weirdo.
I cleared my throat. “So, uh, where’s your date?” I asked Travis.
He looked around and pointed in her general direction. My eyes searched around the dark gym, and yes, there she was sitting at a corner table far in the back. Mia looked bored as hell, glued to her phone.
“Dude, did you even ask her to dance?” Tristan pulled at his shoulder.
“I did. We did. I stepped on her foot. I apologized. She said it was okay. I don’t think she meant it. She should’ve asked someone else. Like King. Go ask her to dance, King.” Travis looked like a sad, kicked puppy. Yeah he was hot as hell, but he was boring and scary and always pissed off or bummed out because of something stupid and mediocre. He was a professional sulker, yet when he was mad, all hell would break loose. He’d smash windows and throw porcelain plates off of his mom’s china cabinet. Travis was a wreck without his beer and cigarettes.
“I’m going in.” I straightened my bow tie and walk towards Mia. She looked up at me, bored and uninterested.
“Hey.” I sat down next to her.
“If you’re here to try and convince me that your pal Travis is a great guy, stop wasting your goddamn breath,” she replied without even looking up from her phone.
“Funny, because I came here to do the exact opposite. I was going to ask if you’d like to get the hell out of here.” I looked at her bare shoulders covered in specks of silver glitter. She was so pretty.
“So you can step on my other foot, too?” She scowled at me.
“Or, so we can hook up somewhere.”
“You’re as funny as you were in sixth grade.” Mia rolled her eyes, sighing heavily, looking around the crowded gym.
“Fine not to hook up, but maybe to kiss in the dark.”
“Jesus Christ,” was all she could say. I was losing her interest. Shit.
“Fine, fine to smoke. You smoke?” I knew suggesting to smoke wouldn’t be the smartest idea. What kind of pretty girl would want to kiss a boy destroying his lungs?
“Smoking kills. And you’re a pretty boy. I’m sure all the girls here would miss you.”
Oh, God, she was something else. Sarcastic and honest and funny and relaxed and everything I wanted. Hell, this was the most desperate I’d ever been with a girl.
“True, but here’s my secret. I want to die.” I leaned into her and smiled.
“Don’t we all?” She looked at me with big sad shiny brown eyes. She was opening up a little more. This was my last chance.
“Now you gotta tell me a secret. But you’re gonna have to come with me.”
“Interesting offer…” Mia put her phone down, resting her chin on her hand. Her face, holy shit. It may have been dark but I could still those shiny eyes and her cherry colored lips. And the way the neon disco lights looked on her skin…highlighter yellow never looked so appealing until it hit against her alabaster face.
“Come, let’s go. I can feel your angst and it resonates with my angst.” I outstretched my hand to Mia, trying my best not to laugh.
“Fine. Let’s go.” This time, she smiled at me.
I looked back into the dingy gym. Princeton was talking to some girl and he seemed to make her laugh. Tristan and Cole were already dancing and laughing and smiling. And Travis, well, I’d like to think he wasn’t mad. I don’t think he was. But Travis was difficult, more than me. And he would forgive, but never forget. But I was heading out with a pretty girl and that was the last thing on my mind.
I led Mia out through the back door, holding onto her cold hand. We walked in the empty dark street, hand in hand, the only light coming from the street lamps above us and the cigarette dangling off my lips.
“So there’s this lot near my house…”