Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) COMPLETE, 01/20/16

Fics using the characters from Roswell, but where the plot does not have anything to do with aliens, nor are any of the characters "not of this Earth."

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April
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Someone, Anyone (M&M, CC/UC, AU, Adult) COMPLETE, 01/20/16

Postby April » Sat Apr 05, 2014 2:57 pm

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Title: Someone, Anyone

Author: April

Disclaimer: I wish that someone in this story belonged to me. I wish that anyone in this story belonged to me. But they never have and they never will, so I guess I should just admit to borrowing these characters for entertainment and assure no copyright infringement intended. There.

Summary: Michael Guerin is going nowhere in life, and he’ll be the first to admit it. As a senior in high school, he should be looking forward to his future, but the future is something he hasn’t given much thought to. Ever the reckless, undisciplined teenager, Michael soon unknowingly finds himself thrust into a new chapter of his life, a chapter in which he’ll have the chance to turn out differently than he or anyone else ever thought he would. But is he ready for the twists and turns life has in store for him? Is he ready to be someone?

Category: Michael and Maria AU without aliens (other CC pairings included. Some UC at times, but trust me, this is NOT Alien Abyss material.)

Rating: Adult

Author’s Note: I’ve been writing Roswell fanfiction for roughly 12 years now. That’s . . . sort of hard to believe, but kind of cool to contemplate. When I first started out, I was just a kid wanting to get my ideas out there. As I progressed, I became a lot more confident in what I was doing. And now I’m at the point where I can most definitely assert that writing is a part of who I am and where I’m going in life. It’s an important undertaking for me. The last 3 stories I wrote (Passion, 521, and 522) allowed me to break-through as an author and push myself to new levels. This story, an idea that originally sprang out of nowhere and completely called to me even though I had a different story plotted out in my mind . . . this story means a lot to me. And I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you.



NOTE: First part contains the song "Every You Every Me" by Placebo. Click on the emoticon if you'd like to listen to it.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Prologue

The Comets. That’s what we were to be called from now on. One big, happy school.

If you ask me and anyone else with a grain of common sense, we never needed two public schools anyway. Roswell’s not a big town. Sure, the little green men crap lures in plenty of tourists, but in terms of
permanent residents, it’s not big enough to merit both East and West Roswell High, in additional to those private schools where the girls wear those little skirts.

Mmm.

I went to East all my life. It was an older, shittier building. Had an ever-increasing dropout rate and blackboards instead of whiteboards. Teachers who spent more time in the teacher study complaining about kids like me than they did planning out their lessons for the next day. Meals for lunch that probably once passed as food but pretty much tasted like cardboard by the time I got to high school. And a football team that bore the legacy of being the only positive thing about the crappy East High Rockets in years.

Maybe it just wasn’t meant to last any longer. It’d lasted long enough. Maybe that’s why the flood hit.

Real freak thing it was, a torrential downpour that lasted almost two full days, biggest rainstorm to hit Roswell in decades. It flooded East High the summer before my senior year, destroyed numerous parts of the building. Ceilings started caving in, property was damaged. The city officials had at least five different inspectors take a look at it before they finally accepted the inevitable decision: unsalvageable.

So they came up with a plan. All of us East Roswell students would go to West. The West Roswell Comets. It was a newer, nicer school. And they had just added on a few new classrooms meant for middle school students. The two schools decided together that they would keep the middle schoolers in a separate building and use these newer classrooms to accommodate a new influx of troublemakers. I’m sure that’s what they called us.

Some people were happy about it, some people weren’t. Can’t please everyone, right? Me? I was indifferent. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about school. I still don’t. Not really.

But I should’ve known . . .

My senior year got off to a surprising start. I should’ve known it would end that way.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~

( 8) )

“Michael, where are you going?”

Michael Guerin trundled downstairs and gave his mom a one word answer: “Out.” He slammed the door on his way out of the house. His friends were all piled into the back of Kyle’s pick-up truck, waiting for him. They whooped and hollered when they saw him and lifted him into the truck bed swiftly, giving him a beer right away. And then they peeled off down the street, blaring the radio, daring each other to jump out of the truck while it was moving.

The party in Frasier Woods was in full swing by the time they got there. It was still primarily just the East crowd, since the woods retreat had always been an East tradition right before the start of school, but a few guys, mostly jocks, from West had shown up there, too. Michael recognized a few of them, but he was more interested in their female stock.

He and Kyle settled in comfortably by the keg with a guy from West named Ryan, filling their red solo cups to the brim over and over again until the keg ran empty. This caused an uproar, of course, because the other three kegs were empty, too. A few unlucky sophomores were commanded to go on a run for some more, and the smell of weed quilted the air while they were gone. Music blasted from a car stereo with an extra loud bass, mixed in with the sound of drunken high school laughter.

God, he loved parties like this.

“Man, I can’t believe summer’s almost over,” Ryan lamented, desperately trying to get at least a few more drops of beer out of the keg.

“It sucks,” Michael agreed, already dreading the thought of the next nine months. But on the bright side . . . just nine more months and he was done with it. All of it. For all time.

“I’m actually kinda lookin’ forward to it,” Kyle piped up, sounding almost unnaturally excited about something so unexciting.

“You’re shittin’ me, right?” Ryan said in disbelief.

“No, he’s serious,” Michael informed him.

“Guys, it’s senior year,” Kyle said, as though that were supposed to mean something.

Michael rolled his eyes. All senior year was to him was the last obstacle to a carefree life of fun and freedom, two things he didn’t have at school.

“Come on,” Kyle insisted, “it’ll be awesome. New school . . . for some of us anyway.”

“It’s not that great,” Ryan muttered, staring down at the bottom of his empty cup.

“Brand new coach,” Kyle pointed out. “For both of us.”

Ryan thought about it for a moment, then shrugged.

“Man, I can’t wait for football to start up again.” Kyle’s eyes gleamed. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning just thinking about it.

“Start up?” Michael echoed. “You say that like you actually took a break from it.”

“Hey, do you think Tom Brady ever takes a break from it?” Kyle shot back.

“Sure. He’s gotta fuck his hot model wife.” Michael laughed at his own joke, and Ryan laughed along with him. Eventually, Kyle cracked a smile and nodded in agreement.

“Fair enough,” he said.

“Yeah, she’s smokin’,” Ryan agreed. “Hey, in all seriousness, though . . . you’re big news around here, Valenti. West has never really had a great quarterback before. Now we might actually win some shit.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m gonna light up the scoreboard,” Kyle promised. But because he would actually follow through, it didn’t even sound like he was bragging.

“I’m gonna warm up the bench,” Michael proclaimed.

“You know, you’d actually be a pretty damn good receiver if you’d get your head outta your ass.”

Michael shrugged, not caring. Football was Kyle’s thing, not his. So was wrestling, and track and . . . everything, really.

“No, Ry, don’t let this guy fool you,” Michael said, watching as headlights came into view, prepared to bolt if the cops were showing up to bust this. But the closer the car came into view, the more he could make out the vehicle of the sophomores who had gone to get the new kegs. Excellent. “Kyle’s pumped about football, but the real reason he’s so excited to be goin’ to West now is ‘cause his girlfriend goes there. He’s fuckin’ whipped.”

“Tess Harding,” Ryan practically growled, licking his lips. “Damn, that girl’s so . . . little. Limber.”

“Oh, you have no idea.” Kyle grinned.

“I’d let her whip me any day.”

“Well, easy there, Ry.”

“Whipped,” Michael repeated. Tess and Kyle had been dating for almost two years now. It was crazy as far as Michael was concerned. How anyone could commit themselves to one person for so long . . . he just didn’t have that in him. He’d already tried.

“Fine, I’m whipped,” Kyle admitted. “I don’t care. My girl’s hot. I love her.”

Michael started to make exaggerated puking sounds, and Ryan soon joined in.

“Yeah, whatever, laugh it up,” Kyle dismissed. “Dude, you know you’re excited to see your girl again, too.”

Michael immediately stopped poking fun of his friend. “She’s not my girl,” he quickly denied.

“Your ex, whatever.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Ryan said. “You used to date--”

“Yeah, I don’t like to talk about it,” Michael cut in quickly. It had been a miserable eight months, ended on prom night. Thank God. Because he just wasn’t cut out for the whole boyfriend thing.

“Rough breakup?” Ryan guessed.

“Rough relationship,” Kyle answered for him. “Not worth it if you ask me.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. That’s why I broke up with her.”

“Don’t you mean you cheated on her?”

“Shut up, man,” Michael said, playfully slugging his best friend’s shoulder. He watched as the two sophomores tried to lug the first of two kegs over to the clearing, neither of them having much luck. He wasn’t about to go help them, though. Hell, no. It was a lot more fun to sit back, watch, and get a good laugh at their expense.

“Man, they don’t have a clue,” Ryan remarked.

“Nope,” he agreed. He got distracted, though, when he noticed two cute little things in denim shorts and bikini tops approaching. One was a petite blonde who had obviously gotten too much sun over the summer, and another was a curvier brunette who was wearing too much makeup for her face to handle. Still hot, though.

“Look what we have here,” Ryan said, putting his arm around the brunette. “West freshmen.”

Michael’s eyebrows shot up, intrigued. He loved them young like this. They were so eager to try anything. So loose with their . . . morals.

“You guys wanna dance?” they asked flirtatiously.

“Maybe later,” Michael said. The pelvic thrust just happened to be his favorite dance move, and he was really good at it.

“Yeah, later,” Ryan agreed. “Go get another drink in you.”

“Okay.” The brunette gave him a kiss on the cheek and pranced off towards the new kegs, pulling her friend along behind her.

“Alright, dark-haired one’s mine,” Ryan claimed.

“That’s fine,” Michael said, watching eagerly as their breasts just about bounced out of their tops, “I prefer blondes anyway.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A wave of nausea hit, rousing Michael from his beloved slumber. He held it back, though, and slowly opened his eyes. Damn, his eyelids felt like they weighed twenty pounds each. And his head was throbbing. No surprise there.

It took him a moment to realize he was lying on his stomach on his best friend’s bedroom floor. No surprise there, either. He woke up there a lot.

“Rise and shine, sleepyhead,” Kyle called.

Michael propped himself up on his forearms and squinted as he looked around. Kyle was considerate enough to keep the shades pulled, and he was sitting up on his bed, flipping rapidly through the latest issue of Playboy.

“Late night?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

“Pretty late,” was Kyle’s response, his eyes still glued to this month’s centerfold. “Do you remember gettin’ here?”

“No.”

“Yeah, I figured you wouldn’t. I had to haul your ass in here.”

Michael rubbed his forehead, hoping this wasn’t a headache type of hangover. Sometimes he woke up like this and his head would hurt all day. But sometimes he’d just sleep a little bit more and feel raring to go again. He yawned, managed to sit up, and asked, “Was your dad home?”

“No, he was out with his new girlfriend,” Kyle revealed, closing the magazine and setting it aside on the bed. “And I don’t even think he’s come home yet, so I guess they made it an overnight.”

Michael nodded, able to respect and appreciate the older man’s many conquests. “Alright, gettin’ it in. Way to go, Senior Valenti.”

Kyle rolled his eyes and asked, “Breakfast?”

“Yeah.” He needed to get some food in him. “Crashdown?”

Kyle nodded his agreement. “Let’s go.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Miraculously, his eyes weren’t completely bloodshot, so Michael took off his sunglasses when they got to the restaurant. It was already 10:00, so the early morning elderly crowd had cleared out, and most of the other customers were people like them, high school or college-aged kids who’d stayed up late the night before and were struggling to get around now.

“So what’s the last thing you remember from last night?” Kyle asked as they sat down at their usual booth.

“Well . . .” He grabbed a menu from its perch on the table, even though he knew it by heart. “I remember those girls came up to us.”

“Yep.”

“And then Ryan brought out the hard liquor.”

“Yeah . . .”

“And then . . .” His mind went blank. “I don’t really remember anything after that.”

“You guys went off deeper into the woods with those girls,” Kyle revealed.

Michael grinned. “To have sex?”

“Probably. I don’t know. I didn’t follow. Anyway, Ry came stumblin’ out after about five minutes. He was so wasted he couldn’t even get it up.”

“Oh, that sucks,” Michael said, laughing lightly. Luckily that never happened to him. Or at least . . . he didn’t remember it ever happening. “So I was out there with both the girls?”

“Yeah, for about twenty minutes.”

His eyes grew wider, intrigued. “Did I have a threesome?”

Kyle shrugged. “Possibly.”

“Oh, man, I wish I could remember that. I haven’t had a decent threesome in years.”

“It was a night to remember,” Kyle joked.

He waved it off. “Whatever. So why wasn’t Tess there?”

“Ah, you know she hates that kind of party,” Kyle replied, picking up one of the little half and half cups so he could play around with it. “Besides, I think she and her friends were having a sleepover.”

“Sleepover?” He smiled dazedly, envisioning it in his head. “Man, can’t you just picture all those girls in their little pajamas, giving each other massages, braiding each other’s hair? Having pillow fights. Practicing kissing on each other.”

Kyle accidentally squeezed the half and half cup so hard that it spilled onto the table. “Apparently you can,” he said.

“It’s a fantasy.” What he would have given to be able to spy on a high school sleepover.

“I get it.” Kyle quickly wiped up his spill as the waitress approached. The poor thing. She, like all the other waitresses there, was forced to wear the ridiculous Crashdown café uniform. What color was that supposed to be anyway? Light blue? Teal? And the radioactively silver alien-head apron? And the tacky antennae headband sitting atop her blonde head . . . poor thing. They lived in Roswell, though. Everything was alien-themed. It was . . . expected.

“Hi, what can I get you guys?” she greeted quickly, sounding rehearsed. Michael couldn’t help but watch her mouth move. She had nice full lips. They probably would have looked great wrapped around his . . .

God, he had a one-tract mind.

“Uh, I’ll have a . . .” Kyle quickly grabbed a menu and opened it, then closed it again just as quickly. “Orbital Omelet.”

She jotted that down quickly on a notepad. Clearly she was new, because the more experienced waitresses could just memorize the orders. “And to drink?” she asked.

“Uh . . . just milk.”

“One-percent, two-percent, skim?”

“Two-percent.”

“Okay.” She turned to Michael, asking, “And for you?”

He closed the menu and said, “Same thing, I guess. But instead of milk, could you get me a beer?” He figured it was worth a shot. She looked young like him.

She stared at him for a few seconds, then smiled and said, “Sure. Anything else?”

“That’s it. Thanks . . .” He glanced at her nametag. “Maria.”

“Alright, I’ll be back with your drinks.” She tucked her order pad into the waistline of her apron and trotted off.

“Hey, I didn’t even have to show my fake ID,” he said in astonishment, watching her go. “I like her.”

Kyle just chuckled and shook his head. “You’re a piece of work, you know that?”

He shrugged. As much as he was feeling the effects of last night’s indulgence, he still had a little bit of a buzz from it, too. Why not try to stay buzzed?

“You’re lucky we don’t have school ‘til tomorrow,” Kyle said. “You’d never make it today.”

“Yeah, well, I’m thinkin’ about skippin’ it tomorrow.”

“Skipping,” Kyle echoed. “On the first day?”

“Yeah, it’s pointless. All you do is shuffle around from classroom to classroom, listening to boring-ass teachers explain their rules and expectations, which they know you’re not gonna follow, yet somehow they’re shocked and appalled when you don’t.”

“Yeah, but you could find those freshmen, figure out what exactly you did last night,” Kyle pointed out.

“You think they remember any more than I do?”

“Fine, then you could scope out someone new. Or . . .” He trailed off. “Never mind.”

“I swear to fuckin’ God, if you were gonna say something about her . . .”

“I was,” Kyle confessed as their waitress approached the table again. “I won’t.”

Michael shook his head, only mildly annoyed.

“Here you go,” Maria said, setting Kyle’s glass of milk down in front of him. Much to Michael’s surprise, she set down . . . a root beer? She set down a fucking root beer in front of him. With a small smirk playing on her lips, she walked away again.

He stared at the root beer in utter shock and disappointment, and Kyle began to laugh.

“Bitch,” Michael muttered, reluctantly taking a drink. “I’m not givin’ her a tip now.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael didn’t bother to announce that he was home after Kyle dropped him off around noon. The sound of the front door closing announced it for him.

“Michael?” his mom, Krista, said, skittering in from the kitchen. She had a dishtowel in one hand and a plate in the other. As usual, she breathed a sigh of relief when she saw him. “You know, when you say you’re going out, I’d like to think you’d come home before the next sunrise.”

“I crashed at Kyle’s,” he informed her.

“Then is it too much to ask that you call me and let me know you’re there?”

“Yeah,” he answered honestly.

She gave him an annoyed look.

“Mom, I don’t even remember getting there.”

“Oh, I don’t wanna hear this.” Shaking her head, she headed back into the kitchen.

He had only just started up the stairs when his ten year-old sister, Tina, came running down to meet him.

“Michael, I gotta show you something!” she hollered.

“Right now?” He really just wanted to go to sleep.

“Yeah, come on.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him up the stairs faster than he would have managed to go on his own. Down at the end of the hallway, the door to her bedroom was closed. When she pushed it open, she did so grandly, singing out, “Ta-da!” as he did so.

He stood in the doorway, perplexed. Looked like the same old room to him. “What am I supposed to be lookin’ at?” he asked.

“This.” She pranced over to her bed, where she had an entire outfit laid out. Denim skirt and a bright pink t-shirt that said Sweetie on it, along with a picture of a cupcake. She even had white flip flop sandals set out beside the bed.

“Clothes,” he observed, still not sure what he was supposed to be seeing.

“It’s my outfit for tomorrow,” she said, sounding disappointed that he didn’t seem more interested. “What do you think?”

“Oh, right, first day of school,” he registered. “Girls like to dress up for that.” He nodded, not sure if he was really the best judge. “It’s nice.”

“Do you think anyone can tell it’s all from Wal-Mart?” she fretted.

“Nah. You’ll look great.”

She smiled, bouncing up and down excitedly. “I can’t wait!” she exclaimed. “What about you? Do you have your outfit planned out?”

“Uh . . .” He scratched his eyebrow, still not sure if he was even planning on attending the monotonous first day. “Not really. Guys don’t really . . . do that sort of thing.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“We just don’t.”

“Hmm.” She shrugged. “Well, you think mine’s okay?”

“I think you’re gonna be the stunner of the fifth grade,” he said, wondering how his parents would feel about that skirt. It didn’t look very long lying on the bed, so it probably wouldn’t look very long when she had it on, either.

“You think?” The idea seemed to excite her. Tina had never been part of the popular crowd, and unfortunately, her class was very divided into cliques. The popular girls, the athletes, the nerds. She had a few friends, though, mostly girls like her who really cared about their homework and their grades. She was the total opposite of him in that regard.

“I gotta get some sleep,” he said, turning to leave.

“Wait!” She scurried over to the corner of her room and picked up a pink and black backpack. It was so heavy, though, that she couldn’t even lift it onto the bed. Michael eventually strode into the room and helped her.

“Thanks,” she said, unzipping it eagerly. “Look. All my folders, and my binders, and my pencils, and my colored pencils, and my pencil sharpener, and my highlighters, and--”

“Wow, Teenie,” he cut in, using his nickname for her, “you bought out the whole store.”

“I just wanna be ready.”

“And that’s good.” He didn’t want to discourage her. This feeling of the first-day excitement was something he’d never felt before, which probably explained why his grades were in the shitter.

“Hey, do you think you could ask Dad to write out a check for me?” she asked. “I need lunch money.”

“Yeah, sure. And then I’m goin’ to bed. So don’t bother me.”

“But it’s lunchtime,” she pointed out.

“I know, I’m just tired.” He purposefully messed up her hair on his way out.

“Michael!” she yelped, giggling.

He dragged himself down to the other end of the hallway, figuring his dad wasn’t up and around yet, either. Weekends were his only days off, and he spent most of that time in seclusion.

“Dad?” he called, knocking once loudly on the bedroom door. He pushed it open, not surprised to find his dad, Andy, asleep in his desk chair again, arms crossed over his chest, head tilted to the side. It must have been a pretty deep sleep, because he was snoring. His computer screen was still up, and some zombie game was continuing on its own accord. Next to the computer were three beer cans.

Michael leaned over his dad, pressing a few buttons on the keyboard to end the game without saving. “Dad,” he said, nudging his father impatiently.

His father made a few unintelligible sounds as he shifted out of his slumber. “What?” he mumbled.

“Tina needs lunch money,” he revealed, picking up all the cans. Two of them were empty. One was nearly so.

“Great,” his dad grumbled, leaning forward. He peered hard at the computer screen, seemingly disappointed that he was back at the start menu for his game. “Can you hand me that one?” he asked Michael, holding out his hand.

Michael brought the can up to his mouth and downed the rest of it, what little there was, then handed it to his father, empty.

“Wanna go get me another one?”

“Nope.” Michael left him to . . . whatever he was doing and finally slipped into his own bedroom. He still had piles of clothes on the floor that needed to either be put away or tossed in the laundry, so he stepped over them on his way to his bed. A bed which his mother appeared to have made, because she just couldn’t resist. She hadn’t opened the blinds, though, which was nice.

He took off his shoes, stepped out of his jeans, and crawled up onto the mattress in his t-shirt and boxers. He flopped forward, not moving once his head hit the pillow. Time to recharge.








TBC . . .

-April
Last edited by April on Wed Jan 20, 2016 7:32 pm, edited 89 times in total.
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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April
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Posts: 1556
Joined: Tue Sep 28, 2004 9:32 am
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Part 2

Postby April » Fri Apr 11, 2014 6:26 pm

CandyliciousLovah: M+M have a healthy little back-and-forth going on already, which you'll see more of in this part.

keepsmiling7:
Yes, Michael makes an interesting character to write about or read.....


As much as this will be a romance and an ensemble story, it's very much a character study of Michael Guerin, too, or at least an AU version of him.

Eva:
And what a start! Michael as an almost school drop-out, Maria as the new girl in town, Kyle as the best friend. I'm very curious to read more.


Thanks! You'll see some of the other characters in this part, too.

cjensen2:
It's interesting to see a completely different Michael to 521 and 522.


I didn't want to get stuck in a rut, so I made a conscious effort to write a very different Michael in this one.

I have to say that his behavior with those freshman girls was really repulsive and creepy.


I agree. He can be funny sometimes, but he can be a real loser/creeper sometimes, too, and that's pretty evident in this next part.

And I'm assuming Isabel is his dreaded ex or maybe Liz?


That question will be answered in this part. :)

BB:
Agh, a new April fic. I'm treading warily after the last time.


Oh, probably everyone is. :lol:

Dick Michael is going to take some getting used to.


Yeah, he's . . . really something. And not in a good way. I can't help it, though. I find him funny sometimes.

Sara: Thank you! I'm glad to have you reading! You're such a loyal Candy fan! :D


Thank you VERY MUCH for the feedback! I'm so excited to be posting a new story again.








Part 2








West Roswell High was bustling the next day. Of course. Girls were prancing about, baring more than any school’s dress code would reasonably allow, showcasing their hard-earned summer tans. Guys in letterman jackets were tossing footballs about. Inexperienced freshmen drivers were almost causing accidents in the parking lot. Kyle had to swerve around about a half a dozen of them on his way to a front row parking space. Front row was for the seniors. That was what Ryan had said.

Kyle pulled his truck into an unthinkably good spot, almost as if it had been reserved for him. He shut off the engine, pocketed his keys, and asked Michael, “You alive over there?”

“More or less.”

“Well, listen, man . . .” Kyle unhooked his seatbelt and turned in his seat so that he was facing Michael. “Before we head in, I just want you to know how . . . proud I am of you.”

Michael made a face. What the hell?

“You woke up this morning, on time and everything, dragged your ass outta bed, and here you are for your first day of senior year. I know that’s a big accomplishment for you, so . . . I’m so proud.” He pretended to shed a tear, fighting off laughter.

Michael tried not to, but he couldn’t help but crack a smile. “Fuck you, man,” he grumbled, getting out of the truck.

They headed towards the entrance, noting the intrigued stares from the girls they passed. One who looked like the freshman brunette from the other night waved and said, “Hey, Michael.” But he just walked right past her. He could practically hear the devastation swarm her as she just stood there, watching him walk past.

When it came to freshmen . . . really, once was enough.

“Oh, man, I can already tell we’re so much better off here,” Kyle said confidently, readjusting his backpack on his shoulder.

“You think?” Michael stuffed his hands in his pockets. No backpack for him. No supplies whatsoever. And that was probably how it would be for the rest of the year. Honestly, who gave a shit?

Apparently Kyle did, because he had a huge smile on his face, spreading ever-increasingly wider from ear to ear as he gazed at the building that would undoubtedly someday hang his jersey in the gym.

“Valenti!” a familiar voice called. “Guerin!”

They spun around. Ryan jogged up to them with three other guys in tow. They were all wearing their blue and yellow letterman jackets. Kyle would end up wearing his a lot once his order came in. His dad had placed it shortly after finding out about the school merger. Michael was getting one, too, but he doubted he’d wear it much.

“Hey, man,” Kyle greeted, fist bumping him.

“Hey,” Ryan returned. “Guerin, you made it.”

Michael shrugged. “Made your brunette in the woods the other night.”

“Oh!” Ryan’s fellow jocks shouted. And even Ryan nodded as though he were impressed with that one. “Nice,” he complimented. “Hey, guys, I wanna introduce you to everyone: This is Antonio.” He motioned to the Hispanic one. “This is Jase.” The guy with the spiky bleach-blonde hair tipped his sunglasses downward just enough for them to see his eyes. And that left the heavyset guy who had to either play center or some position on defense. “And this is Bobby. We call him Bubba.”

“What up?” Bubba bellowed, giving Kyle a chest bump that nearly sent him stumbling backwards.

“Your weight,” Ryan mumbled, and they all laughed again at the stupid joke.

“Yeah, I recognize you guys,” Antonio said, before addressing Kyle directly. “And you . . . how many touchdowns did you score in our game last year?”

“Uh, three rushing, four passing,” Kyle answered.

Antonio smiled gleefully. “Man, this kid knows how to score. You play too, Guerin?”

“Yeah,” Michael replied, “but I prefer to do my scoring off the field.”

“He’s a player, this one,” Ryan said. “We’re gonna have a good time together. It’s gonna be a crazy year, fellas.”

“Don’t you guys date some of the cheerleaders?” Jase asked, carefully rearranging his hair for no apparent reason at all.

“He does,” Michael corrected quickly. “I don’t.”

“He did,” Kyle added. “But hey, speaking of, do you guys know where they’d be at right now?”

“Probably practicing,” Ryan said. “I think they usually do that in the old gym.”

“There’s more than one gym here?” Kyle did the slightest of fist-pumps close to his chest. “I’m in fuckin’ heaven. Let’s go, man. See you guys later.”

“See ya.”

Michael followed Kyle in past the front office, knowing he’d probably end up spending a lot of time there. At East, they’d had an entire room for him to sit in whenever he misbehaved. Which was often.

They headed through the commons and cafeteria, hearing a variety of ‘hey’s from a variety of different people. Girls. Guys. East. West. Michael even heard the clicks of a few of the louder iPhone cameras, which meant the girls were going to be forwarding his picture around to everyone they’d ever met and talking about him the whole day. They probably knew Kyle was off-limits, which meant they probably knew he, in contrast, was fair game.

It didn’t take long to find the old gym. The fact that it looked newer than the only gym they’d had at East spoke volumes as to why there hadn’t been more public dissent over this merger in the first place.

And there they were, just like Ryan had speculated. The entire Comets cheerleading squad. They’d had to redo tryouts once word got out that East would be joining, and most of the East girls hadn’t been good enough to make it. Not that it took much skill.

They were standing in two lines, most of them clad in tight little black spandex shorts and white sports bras. Not Isabel, though. Her boobs were way too big for that. She wore a maroon tank top that gave her all the support she needed. Of course she saw him walk in, but she tried to pretend that she didn’t.

Tess was standing in front of them, barking orders in a voice so loud and shrill, it was hard to believe it was coming from her alone.

“For the last time,” she growled, “you use your arms instead of your fingers to make the L sign like you would if you were calling someone a loser. Which is exactly what we’re gonna be if we don’t get this routine down in time for the kick-off pep rally! So drill it in your brains!”

“Tess?” Kyle piped up quietly.

She whirled around, and her face lit up when she saw him. “Boyfriend!” she screamed, skipping towards him. She leapt into his arms, and he hoisted her up, kissing her. Michael glanced away from them, and his eyes landed on Isabel. She was looking at him, too, but the moment their eyes met, she looked down at the floor.

“Oh my god, you’re here!” Tess squealed.

“Where else would I be?”

“But, like, here. In my school. This is awesome!”

He set her down on her own two feet, giving her another quick kiss.

“This is gonna be the best year ever!” Her words came out so quickly that one was barely distinguishable from the next. Finally, she tore her eyes away from her boyfriend long enough to say, “Oh, hey, Michael.”

“Hey, Tess,” he returned, taking a moment to appreciate what she was wearing. She had a tight white t-shirt on, rolled up and clinched in the middle like a midriff. Clearly they’d been practicing a lot, because she was sweating, and that made for some interesting transparent spots in the fabric.

“Girls, let’s show Kyle and Michael our routine,” Tess proposed.

Michael saw Isabel roll her eyes, but she didn’t argue it. Probably knew it was best not to. Tess was the captain, and Tess was a stubborn little thing.

“Alright, let’s see it.” Kyle climbed up onto the second row of the bleachers and tossed his backpack down. Michael reluctantly sat down beside him, wishing now that he’d taken some time to talk to the freshman brunette. Anything was better than being here. As much as he liked to watch these girls jump and shake, it was awkward as hell with Isabel out there. Awkward because she still looked so damn good. Better, even. All that thick blonde hair . . . it’d gotten even longer. She’d gotten a little sun over the summer, too. Her skin looked smooth as ever. And her body was still toned and curvy. So many places to put his hands.

He forced his mind to get out of the gutter and just sat there, trying to look completely uninterested.

“Okay, get ready,” Tess said, pressing the play button on her iPod. An overzealously peppy pop song rang out through the gym, and the girls started to shake their hips from side to side. Tess of course got into it the most, probably even a little too much since Kyle was there. She looked more like a stripper than a cheerleading captain.

They hadn’t done many moves—just a few hair flips and arm motions—when a blonde woman poked her head into the gym. She looked like a teacher, although a fairly young one. “Michael Guerin?” she called, motioning for him to come with her.

“Oh, thank God,” he mumbled, leaving Kyle to be the sole spectator. He walked over to the woman and asked, “What?”

“I’m Ms. Topolsky, the guidance counselor,” she greeted, almost eerily cheerful. “Come with me.”

Great.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The counselor’s stress ball was actually a stress alien. Ridiculous. Didn’t anyone ever get tired of the outer space crap? Michael squeezed it anyway, even though he wasn’t stressed. It was just fun to watch the big black eyes bulge out and get even bigger when he squeezed it the right way.

Topolsky had an overflowing file folder open on her desk and was flipping through the papers inside rapidly. “Punching a teacher in the face,” she read calmly before flipping to the next one. “Punching a student in the face.” She continued flipping. “Punching a student from another school in the face. Punching a locker. And, my personal favorite, ramming a student’s head into a locker before punching him in the face.” She looked him in the eye and asked, “What do you think about all that?”

He tossed the stress ball up in the air and caught it when it came back down. “I’m consistent?”

She sighed, closing the folder. It was so thick that its binding was practically in shreds. “Do you know what this is, Michael?”

He tossed the stress ball again. “Probably the file East gave you about all the troublemakers you’re inheriting.”

“Actually, this is the file East gave me about you,” she revealed. “Only you.”

His eyebrows arched. He studied the folder for a moment, a bit skeptical. But then again . . . no. He really was that much of a jerk sometimes. “Huh.” He tried tossing the stress ball again, but she snatched it from him in the air this time and put it away in the top right drawer of her desk.

“They actually have pages and pages documenting all the times you showed up drunk to school or got drunk during. And then there’s the truancy problem. Looks like county court officials paid a visit to your home because you missed so much school.”

“Yep.” No point in denying it.

“Hmm. You know what all this means to me, Michael?” She picked up the entire folder and dumped the entire thing into the recycling bin next to her desk. It landed with a thud. “Nothing. You get a clean slate here, a chance to start over. Be someone else.”

Same speech, different school. He’d heard it all before. At the start of middle school, at the start of high school . . . sometimes from counselors, sometimes from principals, teachers, or even his own mom. “I don’t wanna be anyone else,” he said, dismissing the idea quickly.

“Someone better, then,” she modified. “Aren’t we all capable of being better?”

“Listen, lady, somewhere in that file, it should mention that this whole be-all-you-can-be bullshit doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

“It probably does mention that somewhere,” she acknowledged. “They really didn’t like you. And Michael?”

He sighed, ready to get out of there.

“My name is Ms. Topolsky, not lady.”

He shrugged. “Whatever.”

“No, not ‘whatever,’ Michael. I’m serious. You have quite the opportunity here. Most of these staff members aren’t from East; they’re right here from West. They don’t have any idea who you are.”

“And you don’t have any idea who I can be,” he snapped. God, he hated this. Stupid know-it-all adults thought they had some kind of obligation to intervene in his life, set him on the right path or whatever. But the path he was on wasn’t all that bad. It didn’t matter if everyone agreed with it or not.

She seemed to sense that she wasn’t going to get much out of him, because she leaned back in her chair a bit, folding her hands over her lap. “Well . . . I’m eager to see how the year goes for you.”

“I always entertain,” he promised, glancing up at the clock. He really wanted to go out and flirt with some of the upperclassmen girls before the bell rang, but there were only ten minutes left before first period now. This was taking way too long. “Can I go?” he asked, poised to leave.

“Hold on a minute,” she said, turning to grab something out of her printer. “I don’t suppose you got online and printed off your class schedule.”

“Nope.”

“Well, I printed it off for you.” She laid it on the desk and instructed, “Take a look at it.”

He picked it up, frowning, pissed. “I don’t have early release?” Kyle did. Kyle didn’t have an eighth period.

“You have too many classes you still need to take,” Topolsky informed him.

He looked at all the classes listed, seeing more crap he didn’t particularly like. “What the fuck is this?” he demanded. “I took chemistry last year.”

“Well, see, there’s a difference between taking chemistry and passing chemistry,” she lectured. “You didn’t pass. So while most of the others in your grade are taking physics, you’re taking chemistry again. With the juniors.”

He rolled his eyes, completely and utterly annoyed.

“Same thing with algebra II.”

“No, I wanted to take basic math,” he argued. “That’s what I signed up for. I don’t wanna take algebra again.”

“Michael, your test scores aren’t low enough for you to take basic math,” she explained. “You’re taking algebra.”

He grunted, crumpling up the schedule, shooting it into the recycling bin. He missed. “Just like that, huh? I don’t even get a choice.” Hell, weight-lifting and art weren’t even on there. There were no easy classes.

“No, you have a choice,” Topolsky insisted. “You can choose to do better this year. It’s your senior year.”

“Yeah, everyone keeps saying that like it’s supposed to mean something.”

“It does. Think about it: At this time next year, you might be in college.”

He almost laughed at the ridiculousness of that idea. “I’m not goin’ to college.”

“But wouldn’t it be nice to have that option?”

“I don’t really care,” he mumbled, becoming increasingly fed up. “Can I just go?”

She sighed heavily, obviously nowhere near satisfied with the way the conversation had gone. “Fine,” she relented. “But pop in anytime. My door’s always open.”

He smirked, unable to resist going perverted with that. “Then I’ll cum inside whenever I want.” Noting the flash of mortification in her eyes, he stood up and left her stuffy office, laughing inwardly.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Poor Ms. Alvarez. She was so clearly fresh out of college and way out of her league. She made the mistake of telling her first period English IV class that they were her first class ever. Little did she know, tomorrow, they’d be talking non-stop and throwing paper airplanes. Because they could tell that she would let them get away with it. It was always calm for the first day. Then and only then. Tomorrow, everything would be different. Tomorrow, she would question her entire career choice.

She wore glasses that made her uglier than she probably would have otherwise been, and a long red skirt that destroyed any potential figure she might have had. She was trying really hard to make them laugh, telling a few jokes and “fun facts” and “interesting tidbits” of information about herself. No one cared.

She made them go around the room and do an icebreaker activity since she didn’t know any of them and since some of them didn’t know each other. They had to describe themselves by placing an adjective in front of their name, and that adjective had to start with the same letter their names did. She said it would help her remember their names quickly. After that, they had to say three things about themselves. Two of those things would be true, and one would be a lie. She would try to decide on the spot what the lie was. Riveting.

When it was Isabel’s turn, she went with the obvious. “Intelligent Isabel.”

Michael cast a sideways glance at her. More like incredible, he thought, in bed. Ms. Alvarez had seated them alphabetically, and there was only one person in between them, a nerdy little son of a bitch who’d gotten a hard-on the moment she sat down beside him.

“Intelligent Isabel,” Ms. Alvarez repeated. “Okay. And what’re your two truths and a lie?”

She didn’t even hesitate. “I’d like to be a writer, I plan to go to Harvard, and I’m a cheerleader.”

“Hmm . . .” Ms. Alvarez thought about it for a moment, then guessed, “Writer?”

“Nope,” Michael whispered.

“No, the Harvard one,” Isabel informed her. “I actually wanna go to Princeton.”

“Ivy league either way.” Ms. Alvarez smiled, probably already sensing who her favorite student would be. “That’s great, Isabel. Okay, who’s next?”

“Uh . . .” The nerdy kid started twisting his fingers together. At first, Michael thought he was from West, but then he remembered shoving him in a trashcan and knew he was from East.

“I’m James,” he said quietly.

“Use an adjective,” Ms. Alvarez reminded him.

“Um . . . jolly James?”

A few people laughed. He seemed the opposite of jolly.

“Okay, jolly James. Go on.”

“Um . . .” He trailed off, and an uncomfortable silence settled upon the room.

“Do you want me to come back to you?” Ms. Alvarez asked.

He nodded eagerly.

“Okay. Next?”

Michael cleared his throat, determined to make a joke out of this whole stupid thing. “Majestic Michael,” he said. Again, people laughed, but unlike they had been with James, they weren’t laughing at him; they were laughing with him.

Majestic,” Ms. Alvarez echoed. “Nice word choice.”

“Thank you.” He sat up straighter, looking around the room. It was split pretty evenly between East and West kids. The East kids all knew they could rely on him to make things interesting, and the West kids would be grateful for it. “Two truths and a lie. Let’s see . . .” he mused. “Alright. A) I hate school. 2) I love music. D) My favorite sexual position’s missionary.”

Mouths dropped open, and peopled gasped in shock. Poor Ms. Alvarez looked stunned.

“Isabel, you’d better answer that one,” someone in the back of the room teased. She shook her head, eyes downcast, looking embarrassed.

Ms. Alvarez at last managed to recover. “Michael, you need to keep this school-appropriate.”

“Oh, you’re right, I’m sorry,” he fake-apologized. “I’m really sorry.” He slouched back in his seat again, waiting for the laughter to fade before he revealed, “It was the sexual position, by the way. I’m a sucker for doggie style.”

Again, there were gasps and laughs. Louder this time. Ms. Alvarez had to tell them to quiet down. For a moment, she seemed to contemplate sending him to the office, and that was exactly what she should have done. But instead, with panic-filled eyes, she whimpered, “Next?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

They day crawled along at a snail’s pace. Michael wasn’t sure he was going to make it past the first two periods, but somehow, when fourth period dawned, he was still there.

His American government teacher gave them each two textbooks. Wonderful.

He managed to find his locker in between classes, worked the combination, and opened it up, tossing the textbooks inside. Chances are he wouldn’t bring them back out for the rest of the year. They would be growing some kind of mold or fungus by the end of the year, and that knowledge brought a satisfied smirk to his lips.

When he slammed his locker shut, Isabel was standing beside him, looking all sorts of upset. She was clutching a physics book to her chest.

“What,” he grumbled, “is my locker already not clean enough for you?”

For a moment, she said nothing. Her eyes were wide and sad, her mouth downturned. Finally, she came right out and asked, “Why did you say that in English today?”

He shrugged. “Gotta keep things interesting.”

“It was disgusting,” she informed him.

“Really? Seemed like everyone thought it was hilarious.”

“Yeah, and now everyone’s talking about it,” she groaned.

“So? Let ‘em talk.”

She let out a heavy sigh. “You don’t get it, do you? Everyone knows we used to date. They all know you were talking about me. It’s humiliating.”

“I wasn’t talking about you, actually,” he informed her. “Don’t get me wrong, you were great in that position, but I always preferred you on top.” He let his eyes drop down to her chest, noting, “Certain parts of you got . . . bouncy.”

She shook her head, looking no less upset than she’d been when they’d first started talking. “This is gonna be a long year,” she groaned, turning and walking away.

Well . . . he thought, watching her go. At least we agree on that much.

Mr. Frost’s chemistry class wasn’t hard to find. It was the room nearest his locker. He sulked in as the bell was ringing, scanning the students, wondering momentarily if he was the only senior in there. He couldn’t be, right? Chemistry was hard. A lot of people failed it.

The teacher wasn’t in there yet, so everyone was still talking. One of the guys from that morning, Antonio, was sitting up in the front corner. They had to sit at tables of two, and even though all the tables around him were full, he spotted Michael, waved at him, and started telling his friends to move. Michael was about to shuffle forward when he heard a familiar voice ring out with his name. “Michael?”

He looked down, and there was Tess, every bubbly, spunky bit of her. She wasn’t wearing her cheer practice clothes anymore, which was a shame, but she was wearing tight denim shorts and a yellow tank top. She was surrounded by girls, most of whom Michael recognized from the cheerleading squad, but like Antonio, she quickly told them to find somewhere else to sit. “Make room for Michael,” she ordered, and one of them got up and went and sat in the back of the room.

Michael gave Antonio an apologetic shrug and sat down next to Tess. Honestly, it wasn’t a hard decision. Sit there surrounded by hot girls or by guys he’d end up getting tackled by once football practice started up again? No contest.

“You’re taking chemistry?” Tess asked.

“Yep.” He immediately made himself as comfortable as possible, leaning backwards in his seat, tipping the chair onto its back two legs only. “Didn’t pass last year.”

“Is it hard?” she asked fearfully. “I’m not science-y.”

“It’s boring,” he mumbled. That was one thing all school subjects had in common.

“Well, I’m glad you’re here. I mean, I’m not glad you failed, but I’m glad we have a class together,” she rambled. “This year’s gonna be so fun, Michael. I swear, it’s already the best year yet. I just wish I was a senior so I could have some classes with Kyle. But it’s okay, ‘cause I get to run into him in the hall all the time. I already ran into him, like, three times today. Did you run into Isabel?”

He laughed a little. “Yeah.”

“And?”

“And nothing. She’s pissed at me ‘cause of something I said in English.”

“Oh, yeah!” she exclaimed. “I heard about that. Everyone’s saying you scared Ms. Alvarez off.”

“Probably.” He wouldn’t be surprised to walk in that classroom tomorrow and see a substitute teacher.

“So what’d Isabel say to you?”

He shrugged. Didn’t really matter. He’d heard it all before. ‘You’re embarrassing, you’re disgusting, I can’t believe you said that, can’t believe you did that, blah-blah-blah . . .’

Tess, always the little gossip queen, continued her questioning. “Are you gonna apologize?”

He made a face. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Why would I?”

“Uh, maybe because then she’d be more likely to forgive you.”

He’d cheated on the girl. There were bigger things she had yet to forgive him for. “I don’t care about that,” he grumbled.

“Oh, please,” she scoffed, lowering her voice as Mr. Frost finally came in, bellowing for them to all be quiet. “You know you two are meant to be together.”

He rolled his eyes, the mere thought of that making him sick. It wasn’t that Isabel wasn’t great. Take away all the nagging and the pestering and she was. She really was. But the thought of being tied down to one person for the rest of his life . . . he couldn’t handle that.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Lunch was some weird kind of concoction dubbed Fiestada. It was supposed to be a Mexican style pizza, but there was nothing Mexican about it. Nothing pizza about it, for that matter, either. They’d had the same meals at East, and Michael knew from experience to avoid that one like the plague.

He strolled off the school grounds without anyone noticing—it was almost too easy—and headed to the Crashdown. A greasy burger would be a nice calorie boost, maybe allow him to make it through the rest of the day without bailing. One of his afternoon classes was just a study hall, which was pretty much known to him as a chance to screw around and waste time. If he could just make it to study hall . . .

The Crashdown was pretty packed, what with it being the lunch hour and all, mostly with the working class type of guys crowded around the counter. Michael recognized a few men from his father’s construction crew, but they didn’t notice him. They were laughing heartily amongst themselves.

He sat down in his booth, even though the table didn’t look like it’d been cleaned off all that well. He glanced around at the waitresses. The older one, Agnes, seemed to be running things up at the counter. There was a tall, impatient-looking one getting cussed out by a guy in a business suit in the corner. And then there was the one who’d given him that damn root beer. He must have been sitting in her section, because she glided towards his table seconds after he sat down. “Welcome to the Crashdown,” she said, sounding ever so slightly more cheerful than last time. “What can I get for you?”

He glanced at her nametag again. Maria. Buzz kill Maria. “Guess I won’t bother asking for a beer,” he grumbled.

She took out her order pad and simply said, “Okay.”

He grunted. Okay? Just like that? Okay? Didn’t she understand that he was complaining? “Where were you when they were handing out customer service skills?”

“I have plenty of customer service,” she insisted.

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah. If a customer’s old enough to order a beer, that’s what he’ll get.”

“What makes you so sure I’m not old enough?”

“Well, for starters, I sense that you have the emotional maturity of a two year-old.”

“A—a two year-old?” he sputtered, not used to girls dishing it out to him like this. “I’m seventeen.”

“Not twenty-one.”

“You look younger than me.”

“I’m eighteen,” she informed him. “I’m technically not even allowed to handle alcohol, so if you really want some, go try it on someone else.”

He reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. “Think anyone would fall for it?” he asked, scrounging around for his fake ID.

“Probably not,” she admitted.

“This looks legit, though, right?” He handed the plastic card to her.

She studied it for a minute, then nodded, stifling laughter. “You’re Ricardo Fuego?”

“Yeah,” he lied. It was his alias.

“I see. And—and when did you last have this mustache?”

“Just last Wednesday.” The idiot who’d made him the fake ID had done a ridiculously bad job of Photoshopping a thick, dark mustache onto his photo in an attempt to make him look older. It looked like an accessory to a bad Halloween costume. He was aware of this.

“Hmm. Not gonna work,” she decided, giving it back to him. “Besides, the name’s spelled wrong. It says Ritardo Fuego.”

“What?” He took a closer look and noticed she was right. “Damn it all to hell.” He put the ID back in his wallet just for the hell of it, though, and put his wallet back in his pocket.

“You’ve got other options,” she pointed out. “Cherry coke, Mountain Dew, lemonade.”

“Lemonade?” he echoed. “I’d rather drink my own piss.”

“One lemonade coming up,” she proclaimed. “Anything else?”

“Just get me a burger. Everything on it.”

“Alright. Maybe you’ll actually tip me this time.” With the slightest of smirks on her lips, she turned and left.

Reluctantly, Michael felt around in his front pocket. He had enough money to pay for his food, but beyond that, he only had two quarters. Wasn’t much of a tip. But what the hell? This was more entertaining than school, so he’d give it to her anyway.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 3

Postby April » Sat Apr 19, 2014 9:27 am

Steffi: Hey, you!

Man, it's been forever since I read / left feedback for a fic, lol. I am normally too wrapped up with writing, but I had to check this one out since your title is already a promise.


You like the title, huh? I got it from a song by the group Anberlin.

So Michael's some piece of work, huh?


Oh, yeah. He's got a lot of issues and can create a lot of issues for other people. But he also has a lot of hidden depths that most people don't get to see.

Hm, not sure if I like Isabel to be Michael's ex, lol. (Could be because I heard about things of 521/522 ;)). But she comes across like a rather normal girl than the cold Icequeen-Bitch, so I will wait and decide later if I like her or not.


You heard things about 521/522, huh? Yeah, that was an intense little roller coaster. :D Isabel and Michael have a history here that can't be ignored, but . . . she's a pretty normal (even nice) girl. She's definitely not the villain of this one.

Carolyn:
Michael and the guidance counselor......this is going to be a long Senior year for him.......and especially his teachers.


Long senior year indeed! And as a teacher myself, I can say that Michael is, like, my nightmare version of a student. :lol:

Loved there is a difference in taking chemistry and passing chemistry.


:lol: I both took and passed chemistry; however, I remember . . . not one thing about it.

CandyliciousLovah:
I will admit, seeing Maria & Michael antagonize each other is quite funny, especially in situations like this.


They have a natural little flow, already. Fun scenes to write.

But, I also enjoy seeing that you include a smidgen of Michael & Isabel/their past, and Kyle & Tess is great to see.


Kyle and Tess's relationship is basically the complete opposite of what Isabel and Michael had. Kyle and Tess are the high school sweethearts.

purple fairy:
I'm guessing the Crashdown is going to be Michael's new favourite hang out especially if it annoys Maria.


Of course! He liked eating there before, but now that he's got a waitress who he can banter/flirt with, he'll eat there even more!

Rodney:
You already got Tess/Kyle together?......hmm...that's different at the start


Yep, and they're together as in, like . . . together together. Like in love. Like that rare high school couple that actually might last beyond high school.

I have to admit I'm conflicted on this Michael. He's funny most of the time but how he treated Isabel in the classroom and hallway has turned me off him a bit *shakes head*


Yeah, he's supposed to be conflicting at this point in time. On the one hand, he is funny, but on the other hand, sometimes he's inappropriately funny. And when he's trying to be funny at someone else's expense, that's not cool.

Sara:
Oh Michael such a bad ass dickhead! I feel bad for the counselor. I feel bad for poor ms Alvarez and I really do feel bad for Isabel.


Yeah, Michael made that first day a memorable one for everyone. He has no filter, which can be a bad thing.

Tess is a little over cheerful but I don't dislike her and Maria....so far so good. A kickass chic....I like it.


Tess is very bubbly and girly and can be a little much sometimes, but she means well. And Maria's . . . well, you'll find out much more about her as we go.

morethenwords122: Okay, I love the lyrics in your signature. "King" is one of my favorite Weezer songs! :D

I don't know why but I got to say... I love badass Michael. I don't condon the way he treats people especially isabel but it still oddly pulls me in.


It's weird, isn't it? I've felt "pulled in" even as I'm writing him. That's how the people in this story often feel about him, especially, right now, Isabel. He has a pull on her.

Can't wait to meet the missing three.


For some, it will be a longer wait than others. But this is an ensemble fic, so all 3 will have big parts to play. One in particular.

Novy: There she is! One of the few who made it through the angst of 522! :)

I am intrigued to learn where his attitude about life comes from if it isn’t about a broken home. I wonder if his dad has a drinking problem or if it is because they seem to be poor and perhaps he doesn’t see himself going anywhere but staying in Roswell.


Michael's home isn't necessarily broken, but it's not exactly intact, either. His relationship with his dad is very strained and has probably been the single biggest factor as to why he's turned out the way he has.

Michael’s meant his match in Maria. I like it! She has a lot experience handling guys like him it would seem.


I think the fact that Maria's not in high school anymore helps her figure out how to deal with him.

He’s a ball of contradictions this Michael.


He surely is! And he's very immature, too, which is a bad combination.

With that said it’s obvious Michael doesn’t think highly of himself. He rather tank his relationship and be bad boy in school and life in general than take a chance and put some effort into his behaviour and actions. It’s sad really. It will be interesting to see what sparks him to give a damn about his life.


It really is sad. He has a lot of potential but isn't utilizing it.

Thanks for continuing to give us a glimpse into your badass writing abilities.


Aw, thanks! I've never been a badass before. :mrgreen:


Thank you SO MUCH for the feedback!








Part 3








After a long first day of school, it was nice to be able to just go home. And Isabel was well aware how lucky she was to have the home she did. She lived in what was dubbed the Historic District of Roswell in a yellow brick house that had been constructed around the turn of the twentieth century. She remembered moving in there with her mom when she was only four years old. After an especially nasty divorce with no prenuptial agreement, her mother had gotten half of her dad’s fortune, and she’d put the vast majority of it towards renovating the house. It was two stories, had both a basement and an attic, a porch that wrapped around the front, and both an expansive front and back yard. The hot tub out back had been a more recent addition.

She couldn’t complain. The roof over her head was one of the nicest roofs in town. Her mom worked hard to maintain it, though, as a real estate agent. Isabel actually sort of dreaded the thought of leaving her house behind when she went to college, as well as the thought of leaving her mom. As amazing as Princeton was going to be, she had a cozy, comfortable life here.

Tess came home with her that day, and she sang along off-key to the songs on the radio the entire way. Isabel inwardly breathed a sigh of relief when she pulled her red corvette in the driveway and shut it off. But unfortunately, with no music, that opened the door for Tess to talk about . . . something else.

“So what was it like seeing him today? I mean, I know it’s been awhile.”

Isabel slammed the driver’s side door shut and pushed a button on her remote to put the top up. “Weird,” she replied simply, hoping that would be enough.

But of course it wasn’t. Not for Tess. She was a sweet girl, and she really did mean well, but she always had to know more. “Details!” she urged. “Did he make you feel all tingly inside?”

“He made me feel all angry inside,” Isabel corrected, leading the way towards the door. “Everything’s just about sex and drinking with him, and he goes out of his way to make sure everybody knows it.”

“Everyone was talking about what he said in English today.”

“I know.”

“Everyone was saying he was talking about you.”

“I know, Tess.” She didn’t mean to sound shrill, but this just really wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have. She unlocked the front door and practically dropped her backpack in the entryway.

“Do you think you’re gonna get back together with him?” Tess asked, sounding hopeful.

Isabel bent down to unhook the straps of her sandals. “No. We’re through.”

“Seriously?” Tess pouted.

Isabel tossed her shoes aside, growing all the more impatient. “Tess, you don’t understand. Michael’s just so . . .”

“Hot?”

She rolled her eyes. “Well, yeah, obviously. But it takes more than that to make a relationship work. Take you and Kyle, for instance. You guys have been together, like, two years now, right?”

“Almost.” Tess beamed.

“And that’s because you genuinely care about each other and respect each other and trust each other. I can’t trust Michael anymore, so that makes it pretty hard to respect him.” She did still care, though. She always would, despite her many attempts not to.

“Maybe he’s changed,” Tess proposed.

“You saw him today. He hasn’t changed.”

Tess groaned, squirming in frustration. “Okay, but that’s just him. That’s just who he is.”

“Right, and I am who I am. We’re two totally different people. We don’t fit together.”

“Oh, really? Because I seem to recall that, after the first handful of times you two fit together, you said, ‘Oh, Tess, he’s ruined it for me with anyone else. The sex is just so, so good.’”

Isabel couldn’t help but blush a little. Yeah, it had been good. Not that she had anything to compare to. “It’s about more than that,” she reiterated.

“But--”

“Tess, stop. Okay?”

Tess sighed, giving in. “Fine.”

“Okay.” She understood why her best friend wanted her to start dating Michael again. The days they had spent hanging out with Kyle and Michael, just the four of them together, had been some of the most fun ones of both of their lives. But there was nothing fun about having a boyfriend who spent half his time puking into a toilet, a boyfriend who could never be bothered to study or get good grades of any kind. And there was definitely nothing fun about being cheated on.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was a miracle. Had to be. Michael showed up for every single day of school during that first week of classes. Of course, he didn’t always stay the entire time, but he made an appearance, and that had to count for something.

Everyone seemed to have settled into a routine pretty quickly, even though nothing about the school year was routine. Cliques and social circles were either tightening to keep out outsiders or expanding to include more. A few of the stricter teachers gave a quiz on Friday. Ms. Alvarez constantly looked like she wanted to put a gun to her head. The lunches got progressively worse.

Football practice had started up, too. It was all anyone could talk about, even though the first game was still a week away. The cheerleaders were hosting a pep rally Friday evening, a sort of kickoff event to what would undoubtedly be a memorable season with Kyle Valenti at the helm.

Michael didn’t go to practice, though. He usually left after study hall, or sometimes during. Kyle and Ryan and all the guys kept trying to convince him to come.

Isabel kept her distance. Tess kept annoying him about it during chemistry.

And just like that, the bell at the end of eighth period sounded, and the first week was done. Students dashed out to their cars like elephants stampeding the Serengeti. The weekend was upon them now. Michael lived for the weekend, even though he usually didn’t remember much of it.

Whenever he did eventually stumble home, whether it was Saturday or Sunday, or maybe even Monday if he had a really wild time, he had to remember to carve another tally mark onto his bedroom wall. He’d started that back on Monday, counting down the days. There were one-hundred and eighty days of school total that year, and there could only be five marks on his wall so far.

A hundred and seventy-five more to go.

Fuck.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Coach Warner ran a tight ship. Practice went from 3:45 until 6:00 every evening. No exceptions. Unfortunately, Kyle was beginning to worry that all the practice in the world wouldn’t help. He was lobbing balls down field left and right, and nobody was catching anything. Both East and West had lost a lot of talent when last year’s seniors graduated. Kyle trusted his feet, knew he could get it done on the ground, too, if he had to. But college scouts would be showing up to these games, and he wanted to show versatility.

His dad, Jim, came to watch practice on Friday. As the sheriff of Roswell, he was able to give himself the afternoon off. After it was over and the players were clearing off the field, he sidled up to Coach to talk about what he’d seen. He voiced the same concerns Kyle had while Kyle himself mainly stood back and listened. Coach did a lot of nodding in agreement and saying things like, “I know, I know.”

“My son can put this team on his back if he needs to. Lord knows he’s done it before. But if we’re makin’ a run at State this year, he’s gonna have to have some help.”

“And he will,” Coach Warner promised. “It’s a new team. These West kids aren’t used to such strenuous workouts, and some of these new guys lack the fundamentals. But they’ll get there.”

“Yeah,” Kyle agreed, trying to be optimistic. “They’re gettin’ better.”

“They gotta get better fast, after what I saw today.” Jim looked . . . truly worried.

“How you holdin’ up, Valenti?” Coach Warner asked Kyle. “First game next week. You nervous?”

Kyle opened his mouth to respond, but his dad answered for him. “Ah, Kyle doesn’t get nervous.”

“Still . . . it’s a lot of pressure,” Coach acknowledged. “Senior season, brand new team, new coach. New stadium to play in, new fans to impress.”

“Kyle hasn’t lost a regular season game since his freshman year,” his father boasted. “He got a concussion on the second play, had to sit out the rest of the game. Probably explains why they couldn’t pull out the win.”

“All I can do is go out there and do my best,” Kyle said. It was so much easier to be modest when his dad was around versus when it was just him and the guys at school.

“Well, luckily your best is pretty damn good,” Coach said. “I’d say the team’s in good hands.”

“Thank you,” Kyle said, catching sight of none other than Michael strolling past the concession stand. The student council was already getting it set up for the pep rally that night. “Hey, speaking of hands,” he said, pointing Michael out to his coach, “that’s the guy I was tellin’ you about.”

“The receiver?”

“Yeah. Michael Guerin.”

“At school?” Jim chuckled. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

“I’m gonna go get him.” Kyle darted towards his friend, surprised to even see him there. “Dude, what’re you doin’?” he called.

“Just checkin’ out the concession stand,” Michael replied. “That’s a lie. Actually, I’m checkin’ out the chicks within the concession stand.”

“Imagine that.”

“Well, I ran into this one girl today. She said she’d give me free nachos. I told her I’d give her free sausage at the pep rally tonight.” He grinned.

“So you’re goin’?”

“I don’t know, maybe.”

“Well, we’re gonna party afterward,” Kyle pointed out, hoping to entice him. Any party with Michael in attendance was always more lively than a party without.

“Yeah, I’ll probably come,” he decided, waving at one of the girls scampering about the concession stand.

“Dude, I think she’s in junior high,” Kyle cautioned.

“You think?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, fuck,” Michael swore. “They wear so much makeup, I can’t tell the difference anymore.”

“Yeah, forget about her. In fact, come with me,” Kyle suggested. “There’s someone I want you to meet.” He led Michael back out onto the field where Coach Warner was still getting an earful of input from his dad. “Coach?” he said. “This is Michael Guerin. Michael, this is Coach Warner.”

Neither one of them extended their hands in greeting. Michael already looked bored. Coach already looked irritated, but he was the first to speak up. “I got a lot of guys from East tellin’ me you’re a hell of a receiver. Valenti here wouldn’t shut up about you all week.”

Kyle laughed.

“Too bad you haven’t shown up to practice, though. I got a lot of receivers who have been.”

Crappy receivers, Kyle thought and almost said.

“What’s the deal?” Coach asked. “Why haven’t you been comin’?”

Michael shrugged unapologetically.

“That’s it?” Coach clearly wasn’t impressed. He imitated Michael’s detached shrug.

“Practice bores me,” Michael revealed.

“Oh, really?”

Kyle quickly jumped in to salvage the encounter. “Alright, Coach, I realize he’s a work in progress, but . . . the guy can catch. And we’ve been playing together since kindergarten. When we get in rhythm, no defense can stop us.”

“Is that true?” Coach Warner was asking the question to Michael, but he looked to Kyle’s dad for input.

“It’s true,” Jim admitted. “Sorta like, uh . . . the Longhorns. McCoy to Shipley. That’s about the most accurate comparison I can think of. Or if you wanna think pro . . . Rodgers/Nelson.”

“Let me show you,” Kyle said, grabbing a football from beside the bench. “Go long, man.”

Michael still looked like he would have rather been anywhere else, but he gave in and ran down the sideline anyway. Kyle did a few pump fakes, then threw it in towards the center. Michael quickly cut inward and caught the ball easily. He stayed on his feet and ran it into the end zone.

Kyle checked his coach’s reaction. He was wearing an expression he hadn’t worn during any of their practices that week. Even though Michael’s personality hadn’t impressed him, his skills on the field obviously had. “Huh,” he said, and that one word alone was enough to indicate at least some vague interest.

“He’s good, right?” Kyle gave his friend a thumb’s up as he trotted on back.

“Kyle, you realize it’s hardly fair, though. Reed and Cooper and all those guys . . . they’ve been workin’ their butts off all week. Your friend hasn’t even been here.”

“I can get him here,” Kyle promised. And he would keep that promise. His senior season was going to be one to remember, and he wanted to remember it with Michael.

“Kyle does pretty much drive him everywhere,” Jim pointed out, “so . . .” He trailed off and shrugged.

Michael rejoined them, handing the ball back to Kyle without a word.

“I’ll tell you what, Guerin: Get yourself a jersey out of the supply room and show up to this stupid pep rally tonight,” Coach proposed. “We’ll take it from there.”

“Whatever.”

“He means thanks,” Kyle said, even though he knew for a fact that his friend couldn’t care less. Because Michael didn’t care about much of anything. And for that, Kyle felt bad for him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael’s bedroom mirror was so speckled and dirty that he had to clean it off just to see his reflection. He’d gotten a jersey, and not surprisingly, it looked damn good on him. Most things did. It was blue, and the number was yellow. Right above the number, also in yellow, was Comets. He’d have to get his name put on the back before the first game, assuming he just might be academically eligible to play.

His dad came into the room, standing near the doorway, hair shaggy, clothes wrinkled. “Hmm.”

“What?”

“Oh, I just had a feeling you’d pick that number.”

Michael grinned. He’d chosen number 69. How the hell had that one even been left? That should’ve been the first one gone. “It’s my favorite,” he said with a smirk.

His dad came further into the room. “Maybe I’ll get to see you get off the bench this year.”

“I played in the first game last year,” Michael reminded him, making sure to add, “You weren’t there.”

“Well . . . I’ll try to get to more this year. It’s just . . . work. Keeps me busy, you know?”

Michael narrowed his eyes at him through the mirror. “Yeah, that must be it.” That wasn’t it.

He went over to his closet and rummaged around for a pair of sneakers. Didn’t matter if they were dirty or not, so he went with the first two matching ones he found and sat down on the floor to put them on.

“You know, my best game was my junior year, homecoming,” his dad reminisced, a faint smile creeping to his lips. “Fourth and goal, and it was up to me to run it in. I just barely got past the defender, had to reach to get that ball across the goal line. But I did it, and we won.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard the story,” Michael muttered.

“I think you might’ve been conceived that night.”

“Haven’t heard that story, and I don’t want to.”

“That was the best night of my life.”

“Really? Not the night I was born?”

His dad waited a moment before answering. “We were seventeen when you were born. So that was the most terrifying night of my life.”

“Figures.” Michael stood up and shut his closet, looking around for his wallet. Even with the free nachos he’d been promised, he’d get hungry for more and need a little cash on hand.

“Is Isabel still a cheerleader?” his father asked out of nowhere. “Do they still wear those short little skirts?”

“No, Dad, the cheerleaders are wearing pantsuits now.” He spotted his wallet hiding beneath his bed and got down on his hands and knees to retrieve it.

“So is she gonna be there?”

“It’s a pep rally, Dad. Who do you think puts on the pep rally?”

“Right.” He chuckled lightly. “Isabel Evans. Girls like that don’t come around very often. You two gonna start things up again?”

Michael put his wallet in his pocket and groaned as he stood up. “Not you, too. Everyone’s giving me crap about that.”

“Well, she’s a beautiful girl.”

“Plenty of beautiful girls out there.”

“Yeah, but she’s got a lot to offer in other ways, too.”

Michael gave him a confused look. When it came to girls, he didn’t really think about the other ways.

“She’s very smart and driven. Really going somewhere in life. Maybe that would be good for you.”

Before Michael could tell him to shut up and stop bothering him about it, his mom came flittering into the room. Her hair was falling out of its ponytail in all directions. “Oh, honey, is that your new jersey? It looks great. I love that blue. Really brings out your eyes.”

“Yeah, I’m so dreamy,” he agreed.

She smiled, and he could tell there was something she wanted to ask him. Had to be. She hardly ever came into his room, so there had to be a reason. “I need a favor,” she finally revealed.

“Oh . . .” he groaned.

“Your father and I kind of wanted to stay home tonight and . . . spend some quality time together.”

“Oh, sick.”

“But Tina really wants to go to this pep rally. She says she’s got these new friends and they’re all gonna be there. And I just figured, since you’re already going . . .”

“But we’re going out right after.” His mom knew as well as anyone that the places they were going were not places where Tina could tag along.

“So just drop her off back here before you go,” she proposed. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

It probably wasn’t, but he still didn’t want to do it.

“Oh, come on, Michael,” his father urged as he left the room. “How often do you do something nice for someone else?”

Hardly ever, he thought, content with it staying that way.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The old wooden staircase creaked as Isabel walked down it, and her new cheerleading shoes squeaked. She hadn’t broken them in prior to tonight, which probably meant that, after her performance, her feet would be killing her.

Her mom, Diane, was just walking in the door and getting off her cell phone when she hit the bottom stair. “Oh, Izzy, is that your new uniform?” she asked.

“Yep.” She smoothed her hand across the bare stomach. It was midriff style this year, showed off about three inches of her belly. And her skirt was super short, leading her to believe that Tess had ordered her an inch shorter than her measurements had actually called for.

“It’s . . . revealing,” her mom commented.

“Yeah, a little too much so for my taste,” she acknowledged, “but what our captain wants our captain gets.”

“Well, it looks great on you.”

“Thanks. Are you gonna be there?”

“Of course. Where else would I be?”

Isabel smiled. Usually her mom videoed every performance, mostly because she was a former cheerleader herself and understood how cool it would be to look back on all of it years later. And partially because Tess liked to dissect the videos and figure out what they could improve on.

“I’ll have to meet you there, though. I have to change and touch up my makeup first. Do you think Jim’s gonna be there?”

“Well, he’s Kyle’s dad, and Kyle’s the superstar, so . . . probably,” Isabel deduced.

“Then I am gonna look my best just so I can show him what he gave up,” Diane declared confidently. “Oh, like mother like daughter, huh? You’re in the same boat with Michael.”

Isabel laughed shakily.

“I’ll tell you, honey, we’re so much better off without them.” She gave Isabel a quick kiss on the cheek, then scampered upstairs, humming some old eighties tune on her way.

Isabel sighed, glancing down at her uniform again. Yeah, she knew she was better off.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael swiped his dad’s keys and drove his car to the pep rally that night. If he was forced to drag his little sister along, he wasn’t going to force Kyle to make a pit-stop between the pep rally and the party. Besides, it was impossible to tell how many people were going to pile into Kyle’s truck tonight. They’d start drinking before they even got to the party, and there was no way he was going to have Tina around all that.

When they got there, the so-called festivities weren’t exactly underway yet, but the bleachers were still bustling. Even though there wasn’t going to be a game played, almost every football dad had shown up. They were congregating around their fearless leader, Jim Valenti, and he was alternating between talking sports with them and flirting with the women who took turns idling up to him and striking up a conversation. The student council looked completely overwhelmed at the concession stand, and Michael overheard them saying something to one particularly dissatisfied customer about running out of nacho chips, which was an automatic disappointment. Kids were zipping through the bleachers, knocking the nachos which had already been purchased out of the hands of annoyed adults, and down on the track, the cheerleaders were practicing their routine in between flirting with the football players. Isabel wasn’t down there. He couldn’t help but notice.

Tina stood up on her tip toes, scanning for her friends everywhere. She frowned when she didn’t see them.

“They’re not here yet?” he asked.

“No.” She sounded disappointed. “They’d said they’d be here by the concession stand.”

He had a feeling these so-called ‘friends’ of hers probably weren’t going to show up at all. She’d told him their names on the way here, and he knew it was the same group who had made her cry on the first day of second grade for calling her ugly. But he played along anyway, not willing to dash her dreams of popularity just yet. “Maybe they’re just running late,” he suggested.

“Yeah.”

Oh, he hated snooty girls like that who thought they were the center of the universe. If they showed up, he’d give them a piece of his mind. Didn’t matter how young they were. A bitch was a bitch, even from a young age. “You can stick with me until they get here,” he offered.

That got a smile out of her. “Okay.”

“Okay.” As much as he’d complained to his mom about having to take her tonight, hanging out with Tina wasn’t really so bad. As far as little sisters went, he could’ve done a hell of a lot worse.

“There’s Kyle!” she exclaimed, waving wildly as he approached. She’d had a crush on him since the third grade. “Hey, Kyle!”

“Hey, kiddo,” he returned, purposefully messing up her hair.

She straightened it out quickly, correcting him. “Kyle, I’m not a kid.”

“Oh, well then hello, Magnificent Tina.”

“Much better.”

“Much better, huh?” Kyle lowered his voice when he spoke to Michael. “You brought your sister along tonight?”

“I’m gonna drop her off at home and meet you guys at the party,” he explained. “I had to. My mom made me.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, so . . .” He stopped talking when Isabel and Tess came out of the bathroom, which was, of course just right next to the concession stand. Which meant, of course, that they couldn’t help but see each other.

God, she looked . . .

That uniform . . .

Her hair was up in a high ponytail. He wanted so desperately to get behind her, grab onto it with one hand and hold her hips with the other and just . . .

Tess looked hot as hell, too, but she was off limits, so that left him with no choice but to stare at . . .

“Isabel!” Tina exclaimed. She sounded even more excited to see her than she’d been to see Kyle. Tina worshipped Isabel. Her dream was to be as beautiful and popular as she was.

Isabel snapped herself out of what looked to be a similar trance. “Hey, Tina, how are you?”

“Good,” she replied. “I like your outfits.”

“Aren’t they the best?” Tess put her hands on her hips, striking a few model poses.

Kyle scooped her up into his arms, kissing her exaggeratedly. “You’re gonna have to wear that for me in private sometime,” he told her.

“Oh, I will.”

“Promise?”

Another kiss. That was probably code for promise.

“So how’s school going so far?” Isabel asked Tina.

“Pretty good. Kinda weird, though.”

“Yeah.” Isabel met Michael’s eyes momentarily, then added, “For me, too.”

“Guess what, though? I decided, when I’m old enough, I’m gonna try out for cheerleading.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, will you help me?”

“Well, I’ll be in college,” Isabel pointed out. “But we’ll Skype or something. I’ll help you.”

“Cool.”

“Cool.” Isabel smiled, and it was a radiant smile, one Michael hadn’t actually gotten to glimpse that often.

Tess, who seemed to be engaged in some never-ending lip-lock with Kyle, finally tore her lips away from his and said, “Okay, Isabel, we gotta go practice one more time. Let’s go.” She grabbed her friend’s hand and tore her away before Tina could even say goodbye.

“I wanna be like them,” Michael heard his little sister whisper longingly.

“Hey, you know, I bet Tess would give you some cheerleading lessons,” Kyle told her. “She does that, you know, during the summer. Usually she charges, but since she’s friends with your brother here, I bet she’d give them to you for free.”

“Really?” Tina’s eyes lit up.

“Yeah, I’ll talk to her about it.”

“Awesome!”

Michael made a face of disgust, hoping his sister didn’t see it. The only thing he liked about cheerleading was the attire. Otherwise, it was a completely obnoxious activity. None of the athletes enjoyed the high-pitched screams of support that came from the sidelines every two minutes. Especially during wrestling. It was so damn annoying when they pounded on the mats. He sort of hated the thought of Tina ever being associated with that, but . . . well, if it was what she wanted . . .

“Hey, I think we’re supposed to go down there,” Kyle said, pointing towards the other players down on the track. He laughed a little when Tess got down there and literally shoved them away from her cheerleaders. She was strong for such a tiny thing.

“Alright, let’s go,” Michael said, motioning for Tina to follow him.

Once they got down there, they were greeted with shouts of “Valenti!” All the guys fist-bumped Kyle. Jase discreetly handed him a flask, and he turned his back to the crowd and took a drink. He offered it to Michael, but Michael shook his head. Not with Tina there.

“Guerin!” Ryan shouted. “Finally decided to play, huh?”

“I guess.”

“Nice. And, uh . . . who’s this?”

“My little sister.”

“She a football fan?”

“Not really. She’s . . .” He watched her for a moment. She was still looking up at the crowd, looking for friends who didn’t exist. “She’s with me.” He wrapped one arm around her protectively, hugging her to his side.

“Alright, cool,” Ryan said, his eyes drifting over Michael’s shoulder to the cheerleaders. “Oh, look at that,” he salivated. The girls were stretching, and those skirts didn’t cover up anything. “Slut’s in season.”

Antonio, Jase, and a few of the other guys laughed. Michael laughed along with them, refraining from pointing out the obvious: that the two best cheerleaders on the squad weren’t exactly sluts, even though they weren’t virgins.

They stood down there for a good ten minutes until the pep rally finally got underway. First they introduced all the volleyball players and softball players, which no one really cared about, and then they forgot to introduce the handful of runners who had gone out for cross country. The captain of that small team jumped up in the crowd, outraged, shouting profanities at the top of his lungs, and the announcer quickly introduced them on the spot.

After that, it was time for the cheerleaders. They ran and tumbled to their positions on the football field, shouting inane things like, “Go, Comets!” and “We’re number one!” Once they were all in formation, they stood still, feet together, hands down, and waited for the music to start up.

Michael tried to watch Tess, because she really was far and away the best one out there, probably the only one who had a future as a college cheerleader. But his eyes kept drifting to the right, to Isabel. To her . . . pom poms. The hip-shaking and hair-flipping was nice, but when they sprang towards the crowd doing this huge, glorious shimmy, he felt his pants get tighter.

“Yeah!” Kyle yelled in support of his girlfriend. “Shake it, baby!”

Ryan modified the phrase to his own liking when he hollered, “Shake it, sluts!”

“Hey, would you shut up?” Michael snapped.

Ryan gave him a confused look.

He pointed down at his sister, whose eyes were glued to the field, and Ryan nodded in understanding.

At the end of the routine, they tossed Tess in the air and just barely caught her. That got the crowd to applaud, and a few of the cheer moms, Diane Evans in particular, stood and clapped for them at the end.

“Give it up for your West Roswell Comets Cheerleaders!” the announcer bellowed as the cheerleaders spirited off the field.

Most of the football guys cheered them on heartily. Michael clapped, because even he had to admit that they’d done a good job of . . . rallying pep. Beside him, Tina was screaming, jumping up and down excitedly, undoubtedly picturing herself out there in a few years.

At last, it was time to announce the football players. Tess and Isabel brought out a huge banner with a picture of their Comet mascot on it, each holding up one side of it. The rest of the cheerleaders returned to the field, standing in two rows, creating a space for the players to run through.

“Starting quarterback, senior, number seven, Kyle Valenti!”

The crowd went wild, and Kyle ran through the cheerleaders, bursting through the banner on his own. He waved at the crowd, and theirs cheers for him were deafening. Standing at the top of the bleachers, Jim Valenti just smiled and nodded, soaking it all in.

They announced the other starters next, including Ryan, Antonio, Jase, and Bubba, before getting to the rest of the team. As fewer and fewer players remained, Tina started to look panicked. He knew he couldn’t leave her standing there by herself, so he bent down and said, “Get on.”

She hopped up onto his back, and he held her in place there, waiting for his name to be called. It was the last one, of course, since he’d technically just joined the team today.

“Playing wide receiver, senior, number sixty-nine, Michael Guerin!”

He ran through the forest of pom poms, carrying a giggling Tina on his back.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was a weird, inexplicable thing that Michael ended up hanging out with his sister after the pep rally that night instead of going to the party. He’d been dead set on going the entire time. But when the pep rally was over and he’d looked into her hazel eyes, he’d seen so much disappointment there. Disappointment that her friends had never shown. Disappointment that he was about to ditch her, too. And he didn’t want to disappoint her.

So he took her out for ice cream. At first she’d said she wanted to go to Dairy Queen, but then they’d driven by the Crashdown and she’d changed her mind. So they went there instead. It definitely wasn’t crowded. There was only one other duo there, and two waitresses. Maria was one of them.

Tina ordered a simple bowl of Vulcan vanilla ice cream, which she’d requested be loaded up with sprinkles, syrup, and chocolate chips. Michael oddly enough found himself ordering two red giant root beer floats.

Fucking root beer.

In between spoonfuls of ice cream, Tina said, “Thanks for taking me out there tonight.”

“Did you like being out on the field?” he asked.

“Yeah. It made me feel like I was in high school.”

“Well, don’t get your hopes up. High school’s not all that great.”

“I think it’s gonna be,” she insisted. “I hope I have a boyfriend like Kyle.”

Michael shook his head, smiling. Oh, Tina. Always so hopeful for the future.

Maria came back up to the table with his second root beer float. “Best one I ever made,” she proclaimed. “Surely this merits at least a seventy-five cent tip.”

He laughed a little. Surely it did.

She started to walk away, but he called, “Hey,” to get her to stop and turn back around. “Why’re you always working?”

She shrugged. “I need the hours.” And then she turned and walked off again.

“Who’s that?” Tina asked.

“Just the waitress.” He sipped through his straw, not even sure if he had enough room for another float. Maria knew how to make them well. It was practically overflowing, and she scooped a lot of ice cream into them.

“Michael?” Tina squeaked quietly.

“What?”

She sloshed the meltier parts of her ice cream around in her bowl, staring down at it when she asked, “When I’m in high school, do you think I’ll be popular?”

Probably not, was his immediate thought. Once you hit the age Tina was at, the social dynamics were pretty much set. “Why do you even care about that?” he asked her.

She shrugged and pointed out, “You’re popular.”

“Yeah, but you’re smart. A hell of a lot smarter than me. And that’s gonna take you further in life than popularity ever will.”

Still, she frowned.

“Hey, those girls who stood you up tonight . . . they’re not worth it,” he told her, happy to be able to impart some kind of wisdom. For once. “They’re gonna grow up to be shallow, stupid, miserable bimbos.”

“What’s a--”

“Just trust me, they’ll be bimbos. You don’t need friends like that.”

“I guess,” she mumbled. But he could tell that, even if she believed him, she was still sad they hadn’t shown.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria fought to contain her disgust while she wiped off the counter. She swore that people sometimes vomited up the food they ate and didn’t clean up after themselves. How else could things possibly get so dirty? By the end of that day, some of the stuff was caked on, no matter how hard she scrubbed to get it off.

She glanced up as she was doing so, watching as the guy with the hair slid his root beer float towards the middle of the table to share with his sister. She leaned in and sipped through the second straw, but when she wasn’t paying attention, he flicked a glob of ice cream at her. She laughed and flicked a glob back at him. He pretended to be outraged and seized the float back from her before giving in and giving her the whole thing.

Hmm. So the beer-loving fake ID guy actually seemed like a good big brother. That was surprising.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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April
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Part 4

Postby April » Sat Apr 26, 2014 10:21 am

Carolyn:
Will be Max and Liz be around....??


Eventually. ;)

morethenwords122:
Thank! I love the song 'king' by weezer too and as a matter of fact, you're the one that turned me on to it in 521


Oh, that's right! Glad you liked it so much!

Anyway, I have a feeling that Isabel is gonna become wrapped back in to a thing with Michael.... and I don't like it.

Don't get me wrong, I love Michael especially after he ditched the party to hang his little sister but.... I feel Isabel deserves better.


Oh, ABSOLUTELY! She totally and completely deserves better. But like many young girls her age, she doesn't always understand that.

BB:
Ugh, Michael is just a giant dick.


Definitely. And he knows it.

I'm side-eyeing the hell out of Tess for pushing Isabel to reunite with him. She should be cheering Isabel on for dumping him and showing up at the rally looking hot as hell.


Tess is very naïve for thinking that Isabel and Michael are made for each other, but . . . that's the mindset of an 11th grade girl sometimes.

Rod:
I think Tess is one of those people who's not happy unless everything in her world is in harmony. In her mind she and Isabel are best friends where so is Kyle and Michael. And seeing how she and Kyle are dating wouldn't it be cool if she could get Isabel and Michael back together? Than they could all be happy and best buds and do all fun things together.


Yeah, this is kind of how I intended her to come across as I was writing her.

Ironically...... when I played football in highschool..... the number 69....was actually "missing"......in the choices. Seeing how my highschool was in a VERY repressed bible belt town I'm now not shocked


:lol: Ha! That's hilarious.

Sara:
I love that he spent the evening with his sister. Totally sweet and completely out of character.


A glimpse of humanity, perhaps? :)

I have absolutely NO idea where you are going with this story and I like it!


It's going to evolve in many different directions, some that I think will be very surprising.

CandyliciousLovah:
I have a feeling that Maria will eventually come around and see the good side of Michael, so here's to hoping that she does SOON


That good side of Michael is very, VERY repressed right now, so . . . I don't know about soon. ;)

Eva:
Maria wasn't the only one who saw another Michael. The question will be: will he stay that way?


Of course not! :lol: He's got a certain reputation to uphold. But . . . at least we know there is actually more to him. And now Maria knows it, too. But most other people still do not.



THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE FEEDBACK! I REALLY APPRECIATE IT! :mrgreen:








Part 4








“Well, this will be fun,” Tess chirped as she and Isabel strolled along the beach. “A relaxing, fun Saturday. Just you and me and maybe Kyle if he decides to show up.”

“Yeah, I love being the third wheel,” Isabel said sarcastically.

“You are not a third wheel.” Tess made a face. “Why do people even say that anyway? What’s so bad about three wheels? Tricycles have three wheels and they’re fun.”

“Tess . . .” Isabel stopped walking when she saw an all too familiar figure walking their way. Kyle had indeed decided to show up . . . and he’d brought his bestest best friend in the whole world with him. “You invited him?” she accused.

“What? No! I told Kyle to bring a friend.”

“Oh my god, Tess!” This was totally a setup.

“I thought it would be fun.” Tess cringed innocently. “Please don’t hate me.”

Isabel looked around nervously. It was just them and a bunch of other beachgoers. Nowhere to flee. So there she stood as the boys approached, wearing a pink bikini she’d ‘modeled’ for Michael for his birthday last year. Terrific.

“Hey,” Kyle greeted, immediately pulling Tess in for a kiss, a quicker one than usual, thankfully. “You girls look great.”

“Thanks,” Tess purred against his lips. “So do you.”

“Oh, do I?”

“Yes.”

“You guys make me wanna puke,” Michael grumbled.

Me, too, Isabel thought. They were just so . . . happy. They’d probably end up getting married someday. Tess even had high hopes that Kyle would propose to her before her senior year.

“Lighten up,” Kyle said, pushing Michael playfully.

That phrase immediately sent Tess into cheer mode. She spun back towards Isabel, clapped her hands, and chanted, “Lighten up, brighten up, and sparkle and shine!” When her perkiness got no reaction, she said, “No? Okay.”

“Let’s get in the water,” Kyle suggested, tossing his towel onto the ground.

“Let’s go!” Tess agreed, dropping her towel alongside his. They ran hand in hand towards the lake, but Tess didn’t get in fast enough for Kyle, so he picked her up and hurled her into deeper water.

God, they were really happy.

When she glanced away from them, Isabel was reminded of the awkward fact that she was now just standing there with Michael. Seeing him in just his swim trunks, no shirt . . . it brought back memories, memories she didn’t particularly want to remember.

“Did you know about this?” she demanded angrily.

“No.”

She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. It just seemed like too much of coincidence that Tess could arrange this whole thing, duping both of them in the process. “I don’t believe you.”

He grunted. “Fine, don’t believe me.” He followed Tess and Kyle into the water, leaving her behind.

She stayed behind. While they splashed around in the lake, she laid out on her towel, reading The Great Gatsby. It was the first book out of many they were assigned to read for English class, which probably meant that Michael would never read it.

She turned the page, determined to focus on what she was reading. Not on him.

“Isabel, come on!” Tess whined, stomping up to her. She stood over her, casting a shadow over her reading. “Seasons are changing. We’re not gonna have many more beach opportunities.”

“I’m fine here.”

“You’re reading a book on the beach.”

“So?”

So? That’s not what the beach is made for. Come on, splish-splash.”

“I don’t want to,” Isabel maintained, well aware that she was being a stick in the mud. “Sorry.”

Tess sighed, clearly disappointed, and sulked back towards the water. She wasn’t sulking for long, though. When Kyle ducked beneath the surface and picked her up, she laughed loudly with surprise. He flung her over his shoulder and carried her deeper.

Isabel returned her attention to the paragraphs in front of her, but she’d only gotten a few more pages read when another shadow fell over her page. “Tess, I told you--” She looked up and faded abruptly when she found a shirtless guy towering over her.

“Hey,” he said, his voice all deep and intrigued-sounding. “Nice bikini.”

“Oh . . .” She cringed. He was all muscles, this one, probably a wannabe bodybuilder. So not her type.

He sat down beside her on Tess’s towel, leaning back and propping himself up on his forearms. “So are you in high school or college?” he asked.

“High school.” She didn’t recognize him, though, so he must have been in college.

“That’s alright. You look older.”

She hated guys like this, guys who started flirting before they even asked her what her name was. She looked out into the water, catching Michael’s eye. She gave him a panicked look, but he didn’t seem to get the hint to come rescue her from his awfulness.

“So . . .” Muscle guy leaned closer. “You wanna get wet?”

“Sure,” she replied, setting her book aside and springing to her feet. “But not with you.” She practically sprinted into the water, heading straight towards Michael. It wouldn’t hurt to make that guy think she had a boyfriend, even though she didn’t.

“Who was that?” Michael asked.

She went deep enough so that the water went up past her chest. “I don’t know, some idiot.”

“Was he hittin’ on you?” In a way, Michael almost sounded . . . jealous.

“Trying to.” It didn’t matter if it had been Prince Charming or even Fabio himself that had come up to her; she would have given them the brush-off, too. She just wasn’t in date-mode now, and she hadn’t been since . . .

“I swear I didn’t know Tess was gettin’ us all together today,” Michael insisted. “I wouldn’t have come if I had.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“No.”

For some reason, that hurt her feelings. Why? She was the one who didn’t want him around. “Good,” she forced herself to say. “Look, Michael . . .” She swirled her hands around in the water, making a face when she felt some disgusting kelp-like thing floating past. “I don’t mean to be such a bitch. But . . . it’s just really hard seeing you again all the time.”

He waded closer, his voice quiet when he confessed, “Not much easier on me.”

“Sure it is. You go to your parties and you hook up with your girls, and it’s just . . . it’s just different for me.” It was hard to explain why she felt the way she did about Michael, but it wasn’t hard to put a name to what exactly that feeling was. Or at least what it had been.

“It doesn’t have to be so weird,” he said, staying a few feet away. “We go to the same school, we have a few of the same classes. Who cares?”

Who cares? she thought, astonished. She cared. She cared too much. That was why all of this was so hard on her. “Right,” she said weakly, slipping beneath the surface to get her hair wet.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Even though they could have parted ways after the beach, they didn’t. No way were Tess and Kyle sacrificing a Saturday together, and Kyle was Michael’s ride, so that automatically dragged him along. And even though Isabel looked like she was considering heading home, she stuck with Tess.

They all went to Kyle’s house to get something to eat, except the girls didn’t eat anything. They took showers and spent about an hour together in the bathroom blow-drying their hair and reapplying makeup. Michael and Kyle alternated between watching cartoons and Sports Center while they waited.

The girls got way too dressed up. Isabel did some kind of fancy, curly up-do with her hair, and Tess put on a tight, shiny blue dress and heels. The party they were going to was in somebody’s backyard. Not exactly an occasion to dress up.

The guy who was throwing the party was only a sophomore, but his parents were out of town and he had a few kegs and some decent music. That was all Michael needed to know.

When they got there, it was dark outside. The kid’s house was sort of out in the middle of nowhere, too, which was nice. The music was blasting and the beer was flowing with not much concern of getting caught by the cops. It was pretty much the usual crowd of wasted jocks and willing girls. If there was proof that East and West were integrated, this party was it. There were people Michael had known for years and people he’d only known for days.

“Well, well, it’s a typical rager,” Tess remarked, clearly unimpressed. “Oh, and look, it comes with its own topless sluts.” She motioned to a few girls dancing around a couple of lucky guys over by the tree line. Indeed, no shirts on. Michael nodded in appreciation of that fact.

Kyle wrapped his arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders, acknowledging, “Look, baby, I know this isn’t your favorite scene . . .”

“It’s just so . . .” She shuddered exaggeratedly. “. . . yucky.”

Yucky?” Michael echoed. “What the hell, Tess? Are you still in preschool?”

“No, unlike you,” she shot back. She’d been pretty annoyed with him all day for not making a bigger attempt to interact with Isabel. “Why don’t you just go hook up with some of the sluts? They look like they’re your type.”

Uh . . . had she really just said that with Isabel standing right there?

Tess immediately realized her mistake. “I didn’t mean . . .” she attempted apologetically to Isabel. “I’m not insinuating that . . .” She kept trailing off and having to start over. “God, I’m screwing everything up today.”

“It’s fine,” Isabel said, already slipping away. “I’m gonna go get myself a drink.”

Sounds like a good idea, Michael thought, but he wasn’t about to follow her. He was happy to give her some space. Let her do her thing and he could do his. Sure, they’d come to the party together, but . . . a group together, not together together.

He sauntered over towards the topless girls, thinking Tess’s suggestion didn’t sound like a half bad idea. They looked like they had good bodies, and they were good dancers. He slithered up behind the redhead while she was whirling her arms in the air and slid his hands around to cup her bare breasts.

She gasped and immediately put her hands down atop his. “Michael!” she exclaimed, craning her neck back to look up at him. “God, you scared me.”

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, kneading her flesh as he swayed with her a bit. “Hey, aren’t you a cheerleader?”

“Yeah.”

“You’d better not let Tess see you. She’d rip your head off for acting like this.”

“Acting like what?” she asked innocently.

Oh, she’s cute, he thought, giving her mouth a quick kiss and her boobs a quick squeeze before continuing on his way. He didn’t really have a destination in mind. He figured he’d just stroll around for a bit, see if anyone else caught his eye. If the redhead was it for the night . . . it’d be a good, solid fuck. He was sure of it. But hell, it was still early. Maybe he could have her and someone else.

He heard rumblings coming from the bushes, sounded like someone was having a nice, quick throw-down, so he hung around to see who it was. A few seconds later, a girl with stringy blonde hair and drugged-out eyes came stumbling out with a beer in one hand and her pants in the other. Her panties were on backwards, but she didn’t seem to notice.

She squinted into the darkness. “Michael?”

“Do I know you?” Something about her did seem kind of . . . familiar.

She totally forgot about the guy she’d been fucking, who was still back in the bushes, struggling to stand up straight, and bounded towards him. “Oh my god, it’s me! Courtney!”

He wracked his brain. Courtney, Courtney . . . He’d been with a couple Courtneys over the years. But then it hit him. “Courtney? No way. Seriously?”

“Yeah!” She threw her arms around him and hugged him almost violently, sloshing beer over his back. “God, I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever!”

“Well, that’s what you get when you go to college.”

“Yeah, I’m . . . not going back this year,” she confessed. “I dropped out.”

“Oh, yeah? Why?”

“Well, I kinda started failing all my classes, so then I sorta . . . slept with some of my professors to get my grades up. And then the dean found out, and he kicked me out.”

“Oh.” He laughed, not surprised. “So you didn’t really drop out.”

“No. Whatever, it’s fine, though. It was stupid. Don’t even bother with it. College isn’t meant for people like us.”

People like us, he thought, looking her up and down. She’d really gone downhill since the last time he’d seen her. Still fuckable, though. He’d do her first, redhead second.

Kyle came up to him a minute later, handing him a beer. “Got this for you, man. Who’s this?”

“Oh, Kyle, this is Courtney. She’s the first girl I ever had sex with.”

“Back when he was just a pimply freshman,” she teased.

“I wasn’t pimply.”

“And I was the hot junior more than willing to deflower him.”

“It was horrible. I only lasted, like, two minutes,” he admitted. They’d hooked up a few times after that, but he doubted she remembered any of it.

“Good thing I ran into you then.” She hooked her fingers into his belt loops, pulling him close. “You can show me how much you’ve improved.”

“Well, looks like your night’s set,” Kyle deduced. “I’m gonna go find Tess.”

“Alright.” Michael looked down at Courtney, grinning. She seemed to have a tongue ring now. Nice. He couldn’t wait to see what she could do with it.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Beer really tasted awful in Isabel’s opinion. There were so many better drinks out there, drinks that weren’t bitter and disgusting. But she drank beer because it didn’t get her drunk. She didn’t want to be drunk and she didn’t want to be sloppy.

Poor Tess. She was such a lightweight. Two beers and she was gone. Luckily Isabel didn’t have the same problem. She was already onto her second one, and she still felt fine.

She swirled it around in her cup, making a face before bringing it up to her lips. She tilted her head back and downed a sizeable amount of it in one swig.

“Isabel?”

She looked up and saw Ryan coming towards her.

“Hey,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d see you here. You don’t usually come to this type of thing.”

“Well, I got dragged along,” she claimed. Which wasn’t totally true. She could’ve gone home. She probably should have.

“I see.” He looked around a bit, then tried to sound casual as he asked, “So, uh . . . you here with Guerin?”

No,” she answered adamantly.

“ ‘cause I saw you walk in with him.”

“And Tess and Kyle. I’m here with Tess and Kyle,” she explained. “Not Michael. No. I’m . . . I’m not here with him.”

“Good,” he said, angling his body towards her, leaning in a little closer. “Then I don’t have to feel bad about flirting with you.”

Her eyebrows shot upward in surprise. Flirting? Was that what this was, or at least going to be? She’d known Ryan for years, and they’d never . . .

But he was cute. And he passed all his classes. He played in the football games. Maybe there was some kind of potential there.

She smiled and decided to go along with it. Why not? Michael was already busy flirting with someone else.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Courtney was being a little clingy—literally. She couldn’t really stand up straight, so she was holding onto him. But she was drunk off her ass and therefore entertaining as hell, so he allowed it.

“Oh my god, your hair’s gotten so big,” she commented, running her fingers through his spiky mane. “I don’t remember it being this big.”

He shrugged. “Everything I have is big.”

She laughed. “I remember. I like it.”

“The hair? Or the other stuff?”

“Hmm . . .” She snaked one hand down in between them to grab his crotch. “All of it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Her fingers were already working to pull his zipper down. But as she was doing that, he made the mistake of glancing over to the kegs and spotting Isabel. She wasn’t alone, though. She was talking to Ryan, and they seemed to be having a grand old time. He said something that made her laugh.

Courtney noticed, so she pulled her hand back and asked, “Who’s that?”

“No one,” he answered quickly.

“Girlfriend?”

“Girl—do I look like I’m tied down?”

“Girl you wish was your girlfriend?”

“No.”

“Ex?”

He didn’t say anything.

“Ah. I knew it was one of the three.” Courtney studied her for a moment, then concluded, “She’s pretty.”

That was an understatement. He really didn’t want to stand there thinking about how pretty she was, or watch Ryan flirt with her because of how pretty she was; so he grabbed Courtney’s hand and said, “Come on. Let’s go do it in Kyle’s truck.” He pulled her along behind him, making sure not to look over at Isabel again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“My truck? Really?”

“Yeah.” Michael smiled proudly. Wasn’t the first time he’d gotten it on there.

Kyle opened the door to the Crashdown and tried to slam it in his face. Michael was too quick, though, squeezing inside.

“Well, dude, you might wanna think about gettin’ yourself tested,” Kyle suggested. “I’m serious. That girl looks like she’s been around the block a few times.”

“Ah, we didn’t actually have sex,” Michael confessed, looking around the restaurant. It was lunchtime, so it was really busy. Luckily, their booth was still open, so they snagged it before anyone else could. “She just gave me head. I did screw the redhead, though.”

“Who?”

“Topless. Sexy as hell. Cheerleader.”

“Oh, you mean Roxie?”

“Sure.” He hadn’t exactly bothered to remember her name.

“Well, I wouldn’t tell Tess that. Her squad’s already got the slut reputation, and she hates that.”

“No, I won’t say anything,” Michael promised. “Roxie might be braggin’ about it, though. She could barely even walk afterwards.”

“Oh, man.” Kyle shook his head, laughing lightly. “You’re a legend. A fuckin’ messed up legend, you know that?”

Michael shrugged. It couldn’t be helped. He’d been blessed with an abundance of good looks and sexual talents. He had to put them to use.

It took longer than it should have for a waitress to come to their table. Not Maria. Just some other waitress. The older one. Michael wasn’t expecting her. She spoke with no enthusiasm and a monotone voice when she said, “Welcome to the Crashdown. Can I get you two started with something to drink?”

“Water’s fine for me,” Kyle said.

Clearly there was no point in even attempting to get a beer out of this ancient bitch, so Michael just said, “Uh . . . root beer, I guess.”

She didn’t even say she’d be back in a minute. She just turned and walked away. Slowly. He wasn’t going to be getting that root beer anytime soon.

“Huh.” He looked around the restaurant, wondering if maybe she was waiting on a different table. But he didn’t see her anywhere. “I guess Maria’s not working today.”

“Who’s Maria?” Kyle asked.

“A waitress. You remember her. Young, blonde, with the lips. She tricked me on the beer.”

“Oh, right, and we didn’t leave her a tip.”

“Yeah.”

“You gonna rail on her in my truck, too?”

Michael laughed. “Dude, it was either that or the bushes, and I really didn’t feel like pickin’ thorns outta my ass.”

Clearly Kyle couldn’t even pretend to be mad at him, because he just sat there and laughed along with him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

On Monday, Tess couldn’t believe her eyes. She stood beside her car, waiting for Isabel to get to school. But when she did, she didn’t cruise up in her corvette. And she didn’t cruise up alone. She was with Ryan Adderman, and they looked very chummy. He parked in the front row and said a few words to her before getting out, and then they waved at each other and went their separate ways. Ryan headed over to his jock friends, who were all making blatant sexual gestures that Isabel somehow didn’t notice.

“Oh my god,” Tess gasped in realization as Isabel trotted over to her. “You like him.”

At first, Isabel pretended not to know what she was talking about. “What?”

“You like Ryan.”

“I do not.”

“Oh, really? Then why did he bring you to school today?”

Isabel shrugged as though it were no big deal. “He offered to give me a ride.”

“Oh! Oh, I see. So you opted to come to school in his beat-up Honda rather than your own convertible. Yeah, it all makes perfect sense now.”

Isabel rolled her eyes, heading inside. “Look, even if I did like him, it’s none of your business.”

Tess scampered after her, not about to let up. “Uh, yeah, it would be, because I’m your best friend.”

Isabel flapped her arms against her sides, still apparently not seeing why this was a big deal. “We just . . . talked at the party the other night.”

“Yeah, I noticed. But here’s the thing: Ryan’s super creepy, Isabel.”

“And Michael’s a jerk.”

“Jerk is a step up from creep, okay? Last year Ryan hit on me, like, incessantly, even though he knew I was with Kyle. And he had a girlfriend at the time, too. He wanted to have a threesome.” She shuddered exaggeratedly at the thought of it.

“Look.” Isabel spun around, clearly annoyed. “I’m not saying it’s gonna amount to anything. But this is good for me. I’m moving on from Michael.”

Tess saw through that flimsy lie right away. “No, you’re not. You so clearly still have feelings for him.”

Isabel shifted from side to side uncomfortably. “I don’t.”

“Yes, you do. Isabel . . .” Did she have to spell it out for her? Apparently. “You’re still in love with him.”

Everything about Isabel froze, and a look of pain flashed through her eyes.

“It’s so obvious. Whenever you look at him, whenever he’s around . . .” She sighed. Her heart went out to her friend, who was so obviously living in denial. “And who could blame you, honestly? He was your first love. Maybe true love, you never know. It was for me and Kyle.”

Isabel quickly blinked back tears and mumbled, “We’re not you and Kyle, Tess,” before she turned and sulked inside. Tess let her go this time.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The only good thing about a locker was that it locked, and therefore you could stash some marvelous things in there. Michael brought a can of Budweiser with him to school that day, knowing it would be pretty gross by the end of the day. But hey, beer was still beer, whether it was deliciously cold or disgustingly warm. He figured if he had a little in between every class, he might just manage to make it through the day.

He popped the tab on the can and took a nice big swig, not really caring if anyone saw him or not, then stashed the can in the back of his locker and shut the door. He was surprised to find Ryan standing next to him.

“Hey, Guerin.”

“Hey.” He really didn’t feel like talking.

“So, you comin’ to practice today?”

“I guess.” Kyle was practically forcing him. He and Tess were going to try to monitor him to make sure he didn’t leave school today. Good luck with that.

“Cool, cool,” Ryan muttered awkwardly before launching into the real reason he was standing there. “Hey, so . . . I just wanted to . . . talk to you about something. You know . . . Isabel.”

“What about her?” He knew Ryan hadn’t slept with her yet. Isabel would never put out that fast. Hell, it’d taken him over a month just to convince her to do oral.

“Well, we kinda started hangin’ out recently. And I don’t know if anything’s gonna come of it, but I just wanted to make sure it’s okay with you.”

Michael laughed lightly. Ryan wasn’t fooling anyone. He was trying to act all casual about it, but he was into her. Really, really into her. And who wouldn’t be? She was Isabel Evans. The girl was a real life supermodel. “Isabel’s a big girl,” he said. “She doesn’t need my permission.”

“Yeah, but . . . I probably do,” Ryan acknowledged, trying to sound all humble. “We’re friends and we’re teammates, and I just don’t want anything to get in the way of that.”

Michael gave him a hard stare. “If I didn’t give you my permission, would that stop you?”

Ryan opened his mouth to respond, but he didn’t say anything. And that said it all.

Michael nodded. Yep. Just as he’d thought. “Do whatever the hell you want with her,” he said, backing down the hallway. “I don’t care.” He spun and barreled down the hall, wondering if Ryan could see right through him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Saturn rings. What a stupid euphemism. Why not just call them what they were, onion rings? The whole intergalactic reputation this shitty town prided itself on was a crock of bullshit.

Michael ordered them anyway, only because he didn’t have enough money with him for a burger. Once again, the older woman was his waitress, and once again, she left a lot to be desired.

He chowed down, figuring this was better than whatever sorry excuse for food was being served up for school lunch today. Topolsky would probably give him an earful when he got back. She’d spotted him leaving today and tried to stop him, but . . . come on. She didn’t honestly think she could get in his way, did she?

The Crashdown was particularly busy that day. Apparently something in the UFO museum across the street had caught on fire, so all the tourists browsing the lame displays in there had hurried across the street to escape the smell of smoke. And now that they were here, they were eating. And talking. Loudly. Annoyingly.

Michael couldn’t even be bothered to notice anyone else until the door to the back room swung open, and out strode Maria. She was in her uniform, but she didn’t have her antennae headband on.

“Maria!” he called, motioning her over towards his booth.

She came his way reluctantly, stopping a few feet away. “I’m on my break,” she informed him.

“So sit down.”

She looked around for a minute, probably figuring she should be helping out around there. But a break was a break, wasn’t it? He looked at her expectantly, and eventually, she sat down across from him.

He swirled one of his onion rings around in the sauce that came with them. He didn’t know what exactly the sauce consisted of, but it was good. He liked it better than the rings themselves. “So who’s the older waitress?” he asked her, keeping his eyes mostly on his food.

“Agnes,” she replied.

“She sucks.”

“She’s the one who trained me.”

“Well, you’re better than her.” Was it too much to ask that Agnes crack a smile? Two words: Customer. Service. He remembered accusing Maria of having none, but in comparison . . .

She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table, and asked, “Do you ever actually go to school?”

He paused mid-bite, and when he spoke, his mouth was full. “What makes you think I go to school?”

“You told me you’re seventeen,” she reminded him. “Plus, the other night, when you were here with your sister, you were wearing a football jersey.”

“Dead giveaway, huh?”

“Little bit.”

“Hmm.” He picked up the sauce and drizzled it atop his rings, wishing they’d given him more of it. “School’s boring,” he stated simply. “Food sucks. Is that why you don’t go?”

“I’m eighteen,” she said.

“So why don’t you go to college?”

She flinched and looked away.

Shit. That probably hadn’t been the best thing to say. “Ah, college is overrated,” he said, hoping he hadn’t hurt her feelings. “I’m not gonna go, either. I’ll be lucky if I even graduate high school.”

“You should,” she advised quickly. “I didn’t. I wish I had.”

“You didn’t?” For some reason, he’d thought . . . well, he wasn’t really sure what he’d thought.

“I dropped out,” she admitted.

“See, I always thought about dropping out. Maybe I should,” he pondered.

“No.”

“Why not? You did, and you’re doin’ alright.”

“I’m a waitress at a greasy restaurant where the customers don’t tip very well,” she said, giving him a pointed look. “Not exactly living the dream.”

“Could be worse.”

“Could be a whole lot better.”

He popped another onion ring into his mouth, grabbing a napkin to wipe some of the excess sauce off his hands.

“You gotta finish,” she urged. “You’re so close. It’s your senior year.”

“See, I don’t get why everyone keeps saying that. What’s the big deal about senior year? What the hell’s it all about anyway?”

“Well . . .” She paused for a moment, a contemplative look on her face. “I don’t know. I never actually made it to mine. But I think it’s supposed to be, like, this last hurrah, or a time to grow and change.”

He grunted. “Well, I’m not gonna do either one of those things.” Which probably explained why he wasn’t going to be doing Isabel.

Even though he didn’t want to, he felt a pang of . . . something when he thought about her. His expression or his posture or mannerisms must have changed, because Maria noticed it right away.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothin’.”

“Something seems wrong.”

“It’s just . . .” He hesitated, not one to ever talk about his feelings. Because his feelings were far and few between, and unless it was a pleasurable feeling, he preferred not to feel it at all. But then he figured . . . why not talk to her? She didn’t go to his school; she wouldn’t be at his parties. She was just the waitress, and she was on break.

“My girlfriend,” he finally confided.

“You have a girlfriend?”

Slip of the tongue. “Well . . . ex-girlfriend, technically. She’s hangin’ out with this other guy. And I’m . . .” He trailed off, unwilling to admit it.

“Jealous?” she filled in.

No.

“Oh, well, clearly not.”

“I’m not jealous,” he insisted. “I just . . .” He shook his head, laughing inwardly at his own ridiculousness. “This is stupid. I don’t even know why I’m . . .” He talked about this kind of thing so infrequently, he could barely even put it all into words. “Don’t spread this around.”

“Who would I tell? I don’t even know your name,” she pointed out.

“True.” In some ways, she was probably the best person to tell all this useless shit to.

“How long did you guys date?” she probed.

“Too long. I ended up cheatin’ on her, which was probably for the best.”

She gave him a confused look.

“We were just too different,” he summarized. “We’re nothin’ alike.”

“Opposites attract?” she guessed.

“Maybe. I don’t know. I mainly just got with her ‘cause she’s hot. I mean, she’s really, really hot.”

“Really?”

“Really.” He laughed a little. “Oh, it doesn’t matter. She’s just a girl.”

“And you’re just a guy,” she said. “So you can’t blame her for getting over you.”

He nodded, thinking about that for a minute. Just a guy. Not a legend like Kyle said he was. No, he was just the senior year screw-up who gave his teachers a hard time, cut class more than he attended it, and sat on the bench at games. Of course Isabel would get over him. Who wouldn’t?

“I have to get back to work,” she said, slowly getting to her feet.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, not really sure if she heard him. As she was walking a way, he called, “Hey.”

She turned back around, putting her antennae headband back on her head.

“It’s Michael, by the way. My name.”

“Michael.” She smiled at him a little, and then she got back to work.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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April
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Part 5

Postby April » Sat May 03, 2014 10:34 am

Carolyn: You're welcome!

morethenwords122:
I like the converstation between Michael and Maria... showing them bonding in a way. But I also like that in his own messed up way, Michael cares about Isabel.


Yeah, Michael isn't completely heartless. And as much as his relationship with Isabel was powered by physical attraction, there had to at least be something else there for him to date her in the first place. And in Maria, he's found someone he can confide that much to.

CandyliciousLovah:
But, awe, she was a drop-out. :( I hope that we can discover why soon :)


There will be much mystery surrounding Maria for a while.

Sara:
Curious to know more about Maria and her back story. What happened that she didn't finish high school. Is Alex going to make an appearance? Is Ryan really as sleezy as Tess thinks? Do max and Liz exist in this?? Ooooh! Can't wait for more!


So many questions, so many answers that I can't yet give! Well, I can't give any answers about Maria at least. But yes, Alex will appear in this quite often. And Max and Liz will exist in this, too, just not yet.

Rodney:
I don't know how I feel about Michael yet. One minute he cracks me up the next I'm kind of shacking my head at him.


And that's kind of how you're supposed to be feeling about him right now. That's how a lot of the other characters, even, feel about him. That's how I feel about him.


Thank you for the feedback!








Part 5








In a shock to no one, the big focus of practice was the receiving game. Coach spent most of his time working with them while the assistant coaches handled defense and special teams. The majority of Michael’s first practice consisted of simply running downfield with no coverage and catching an open ball. Kyle rocketed them out to all five guys in serious contention for the position. But there was no competition. The only other guy who was even semi-competent was Ryan, but even he dropped about half of the passes.

Coach Warner brought in the backup quarterbacks to assist with the drills. They did one where all three quarterbacks threw downfield. Some were short passes, and some were longer ones. The receivers didn’t know where they were going to be thrown. Their job was simply to get to and catch as many as they could. Michael wasn’t keeping count for anyone else, or even for himself for that matter, but he knew he was in the lead.

At the end of practice, they drilled some pass plays with the defense. Even though that made it marginally harder, Michael and Kyle still connected on almost all their pass attempts. Judging by the satisfied look on Coach’s face, Michael knew he’d done enough to snag a starting spot.

Coach huddled them up with thirty minutes of practice left to go and gave them orders in his usual gruff voice. “Alright, I want you guys to hit the weight room for the next half hour. I’ll finalize our starters for Friday’s game and post the list in the locker room. Take a look at it before you go. No whining, no complaining. If you wanna start, you gotta be the best.”

Michael caught Kyle’s eye and smirked.

There almost wasn’t a point in sticking around, but Kyle was his ride home, as usual, and no way was Kyle bailing on practice early. So they took turns lifting the bench press bar and spotting for each other while the clock ticked towards 6:00.

It was really weird how quiet the weight room was, how focused they all were on what they were doing. Michael really wanted to just tell a dirty joke or something, just to interject some life and humor into things. Why did people take sports so seriously? Especially football. Granted, there were a handful of people like Kyle who actually had a professional future ahead of them, but the rest of these guys . . . this was the best it would ever get for them.

So . . . maybe that was why they took it so seriously.

Kyle insisted on doing a few squats before going to check the list, so Michael switched to the much easier bicep curl machine. It was while he was doing that that Ryan sidled up to him. He wasted no time revealing, “Hey, so I’m takin’ Isabel to the carnival on Saturday.”

Michael wanted to say something. Anything. Maybe a nonchalant, ‘That’s fine,’ or a congratulatory, ‘Good for you, dude.’ Or maybe even something insulting about how Isabel was used to getting huge cock from him and would surely now be disappointed. But for some reason, nothing came out. All he could do was just sit there and keep using the bicep machine, getting angrier and angrier by the minute.

Luckily, once the list was posted in the locker room and they were all crowded around to view it, his name was listed next to wide receiver, and Ryan was listed as a backup.

“I’m takin’ your spot in the lineup,” Michael bragged, giving his ‘friend’ a pat on the back that probably enraged him just as much as his brand new backup status did.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It wasn’t unusual to find Isabel studying in the classroom before the bell actually rang. And since they were having an English quiz the next day, that was exactly where she was, in Ms. Alvarez’s room. Ms. Alvarez wasn’t in there. Only James, the nerdy kid who sat in between Michael and her. They both had notes and flashcards, but they studied on their own.

Michael walked into the classroom and sat down behind her, leaning forward to talk to her. “So I hear you’re goin’ to the carnival with Ryan.”

“What?” She didn’t even glance up from her notes. “No, I’m not.”

“That’s what he’s saying.”

“He hasn’t even asked me.”

“Well, then, he’s gonna. Must be pretty confident you’ll say yes.”

She mumbled something under her breath, something about Gatsby. That was probably what they were having a quiz over. He really had no idea.

“Will you?” he flat-out asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Maybe?” He hated the thought of it. Last year’s carnival was when they’d started dating. The thought that she might start dating Ryan at this year’s one . . .

God-damned fucking jealousy. He hated it.

“He’s a jerk, Isabel,” he informed her.

“Pot calling the kettle black much?”

“He’s worse than me.”

“Is that even possible?”

The bell rang a moment later, and students started to flood into the room. “You could go with me,” he offered quickly.

That was enough to get her to stop studying. She turned her head to the side, still not really looking at him, though. “Are you kidding me?”

“No.”

You wanna take me to the carnival?”

“Yeah.”

“Like on a date?”

“No, just the two us hanging out. As . . . friends.” What a foreign word that was.

“You aren’t friends with any girls,” she stated matter-of-factly.

“That’s not true. There’s Tess.”

“She doesn’t count.”

“Well . . . first time for everything, I don’t know.” The person whose desk he was sitting in came into the room, but he held up one finger to signal he’d be a minute. “Come on, it’ll be fun,” he kept trying to persuade her. “You remember how much fun we used to have together.”

“Oh my god, Michael.”

“Okay, no, not that kind of fun. We’ll have a—we’ll have a different kind of . . . come on, Isabel.” He felt like a blubbering idiot, and he wasn’t used to feeling that way.

Much to his surprise, she didn’t totally shoot down the idea. In fact, she didn’t shoot it down at all. “I have to think about it,” she said, starting in on her flash cards again.

Huh, he thought, deciding he’d take it. Thinking about it was . . . better than nothing.

Ms. Alvarez scampered into the room, looking frazzled even though class hadn’t started yet. She noticed he was in the wrong seat and motioned him to his assigned one right away.

As he got up, he bent forward and whispered in Isabel’s ear, “Let me know.” The way her body shivered in response to that was all the answer he needed.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Some quarterbacks liked to pump themselves up before a game. But not Kyle. His ritual was always the same, because it always calmed him down. He sat alone in his bedroom, looking over the dozens of autographs on his oldest football. His dad had taken him to countless NFL games throughout the years, games all over the country. He’d had the fortune of meeting more than his fair share of quarterbacks and other players alike, especially in recent years when college scouts started to take notice of him. He had autographs from Tom Brady, Drew Brees, RG3, both Peyton and Eli Manning. He’d even gotten one from Brett Favre back when he’d played for the Packers.

Maybe some other kid would hold a football with his signature on it someday. The thought made him smile.

With barely a knock, his dad swung open the door to his room and said, “You ready? Let’s go get a win.”

He was ready.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Nothing compared to a Friday night of football. In a town like Roswell where not a whole lot of other interesting stuff happened, everyone made sure to be there. There wasn’t enough space in the bleachers. People had to stand up by the concession stand or sit on the grass. It was a sea of blue and yellow out there. The visitors section, on the other hand, was virtually empty. They were playing the Palmetto Panthers, who sucked so bad, apparently, that their own cheerleaders wouldn’t even show up to support them.

The first game of the season was always electric, but even more so this year since they were so heavily favored to win. Now that they had Kyle, they were favored in all their regular season games. The schedule was favorable, but this first game was supposed to be the easiest. Palmetto hadn’t won one game since 2007.

Tess had always said that watching the boys warm up was her favorite part. And honestly, Isabel kind of enjoyed it, too. She’d grown to appreciate football over time. Three-plus years of being a cheerleader had taught her the basic rules of the game, and getting to stand down on the track and support the boys was actually kind of fun in its own way. Even if they didn’t give the cheerleaders any credit.

It was interesting to watch them warm up as the clock on the scoreboard ticked down towards the start of the first quarter. The offensive line, led by big old Bubba Williams at center, practiced snapping the ball a lot, while the defense practiced tackling. Antonio and Jase were the main running backs, so they practiced zig-zagging past tacklers. Kyle was mainly tossing the ball downfield to Michael and the other receivers. Ryan was participating halfheartedly, but Isabel saw him grabbing his side and hunching over, as if he were feeling sick. He went up to his coach, talked to him for a minute, and then sat down on the bench. He glared at Michael. Just glared.

Apparently she wasn’t the only one to notice it, because as she was stretching, Tess remarked, “Ryan looks pissed.”

“Yeah, he’s not too happy about being the backup.” Isabel bent down to pick up her pom poms, trying to fluff them out a bit. They were brand new this year, but they’d been in the bottom of the box, so they didn’t exactly look new.

“Who would be?” Tess stretched her right arm across her chest, holding it in place with her left arm. “Mmm, Michael looks . . . hot.”

“Subtle.”

“Wasn’t meant to be.” Tess smirked. “So did you decide who you’re going to the carnival with?”

“No.” She watched as Michael jumped up in the air to catch a pass Kyle had thrown a little high. He barely managed to hold onto it. “I’ll probably just go with Ryan.”

“Ew, why?”

“Because I went with Michael last year.”

“Yeah, and you had one of the greatest nights of your life,” Tess reminded her, switching the position of her arms.

Isabel looked down at her poms, suddenly not feeling very cheerful. Because when she thought back to last year’s carnival, she felt the jabs of longing she was trying so desperately to ignore. It really had been an amazing night, and as hard as she tried to convince herself that a night with Ryan would be just as amazing or maybe even more, she knew it wouldn’t be. Because he wasn’t Michael.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Rock ‘em, sock ‘em!” Michael boomed, throwing the ball back to Kyle. He didn’t quite have the same arm strength, though, so it didn’t make it all the way. Kyle darted forward to retrieve it, then motioned for Michael to go long as he prepared to throw it again. Michael started to run back, but he knew Kyle well enough to know when he was going to throw a shorter pass instead. Years of playing together had taught him that, the closer the ball was to his shoulder, the shorter the pass would be. So he ran forward at the last second, and indeed, Kyle just barely dropped it off to him.

“Nice, man. We got this.”

He was sure they did, until he looked over at Coach and saw him talking to the principal. They kept casting sideways glances at him, and he knew what was going on even before Coach motioned for him to come over. Kyle seemed to know, too, because he groaned and immediately started practicing with the other receivers.

Coach pulled him aside, and of course the stupid pep band started playing right as he started to talk. Michael didn’t even need to hear him to know what the deal was, though.

“Guerin, I can’t let you play. You’re failin’ two classes. I gotta bench ya.”

He nodded. “Okay.”

Coach shook his head, apparently expecting some grander show of disappointment. “Adderman, I need you in there,” he said to Ryan.

Immediately, whatever illness Ryan had been feeling cleared itself up. He shot up from the bench and said. “On it, Coach.” He put his helmet back on and ran back out onto the field.

Michael took his helmet off and gazed momentarily at Isabel. She was standing right there on the track, so she’d seen the whole thing unfold. She didn’t look particularly surprised by it, either. Tess was making faces and hand motions to indicate strangling. Clearly she was frustrated with him.

He scanned the crowd, managing to pick out his parents. They were both there. Even his dad. His mom was talking to people, but his dad had his eyes on the field. He’d seen it all, too. Great.

He sat down on the bench, setting his helmet on the ground. He watched as Kyle started tossing the ball downfield to Ryan. He caught some of them. But there was definitely a reason why he was a backup.

Once the game got underway, the crowd was about to burst. Michael had never seen so many people at a game. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that they were now two schools merged into one. And Kyle Valenti’s senior season was big news. There were local TV stations there, as well as college scouts from Arizona, Texas Tech, and a few smaller schools in New Mexico itself.

The Comets got the ball first, but the first possession didn’t exactly go their way. They marched it on down the field to the Panthers’ thirty yard line when Jase, in at running back, fumbled on a simple blast play. Kyle rallied the guys over on the sideline, though, telling them it was okay, that they’d score next time.

But the Panthers scored first. And that was enough to shock the crowd into silence. The Panthers had scored six points total during their last season, both field goals. And suddenly they had a guy catching the ball in the end zone, completely wide open, not even a defender on him. That was six right there, and the extra point kicked afterward made it seven. Coach Warner was so furious, he roared, “Motherfucker!”

The Comets were down in Panther territory again when they made another mistake. Kyle threw a perfect pass, but Ryan couldn’t haul it in. He had it in his hands but dropped it. Just like it was butter. Even on the sidelines, Michael couldn’t contain his frustration. He usually just sat there and watched, whether they were winning or losing, pretty detached from the whole thing. But for whatever reason, whether it was because he wanted to be out there impressing Isabel or because his dad had actually managed to show, this game was irritating him. He started chiming in motherfuckers of his own to go along with the coach’s.

At halftime, the score was fourteen to zero, and the team nobody expected to have any points at all was the team with the fourteen. Coach gave them the loudest of lectures in the locker room, telling them the sun wouldn’t rise tomorrow if they lost this game.

During the third quarter, Kyle stepped it up. Which wasn’t unusual for him. He’d had plenty of games where things hadn’t started off well, and he almost always found a way to turn it around. He didn’t bother handing off the ball on their first possession of the third. He kept it himself, slipped through a hole in the defensive line, and just kept going. The Panthers tried to catch up to him, but it was useless. Once Kyle took off down the field, you weren’t going to catch him. He ran it into the end zone, and the crowd went wild. It sounded like an NFL stadium there. Even Michael jumped to his feet and cheered.

Touchdown, Comets!” the announcer’s voice rang out. “Number seven, Kyle Valenti.”

“Woo! Go, Kyle!” Tess yelled from the sidelines, somehow managing to be louder than everyone else in the crowd combined.

Michael looked around for Jim Valenti and found him surrounded by the other football dads, breathing a sigh of relief.

Kyle didn’t let up after that. He didn’t put the ball back in the air, either. He kept it on the ground, trusting his own running ability. He scored one more touchdown in the third quarter, and another to start the fourth.

“Touchdown, Comets! Number seven, Kyle Valenti. His third rushing touchdown of the night. And the Comets have their first lead, twenty-one to fourteen.”

Unfortunately, special teams couldn’t play for crap. On the very next play, they allowed the Panthers to return a punt for ninety-two yards and a touchdown of their own. They risked it and went for a two-point conversion, somehow managing to sneak it in. So it was then twenty-two to twenty-one, and the Comets were behind again.

As the clock ticked down below five minutes, the crowd sat on the edge of their seat. The cheerleaders chanted, “You can do it, if you try! V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” Bubba snapped the ball to Kyle, and even though he looked like he was initially looking to pass, no one was open. He tucked the ball under his arm and rushed forward, reaching for a first down. He got it, but just barely, as one of the defenders grabbed him by the ankles and brought him down.

Right away when the play was done, Michael noticed his friend grimacing. He stood up fairly quickly, but he wasn’t putting full weight on his ankle.

“Valenti!” Coach called, motioning him over.

Kyle reluctantly came off the field, and the backup quarterback went on.

“Now checking in at quarterback, number five, Daryl Roberts,” the announcer relayed. A scared murmur wound its way through the crowd.

“What’s the matter?” Coach asked.

“Just kinda twisted my ankle,” Kyle said. “I think it’s alright.”

Michael stood up, allowing Kyle to take his spot.

While the trainers were tending to Kyle, the backup quarterback was fumbling. The crowd was screaming in distress, and the cheerleaders were holding their pom poms up to their mouths, watching the game with wide, panicked eyes. Jim Valenti was stone-faced, his arms crossed over his chest.

Luckily, Palmetto couldn’t capitalize on the fumble, so with under a minute left, the Comets got the ball back. It wasn’t a pretty situation, though. They had a third down on their own twenty-nine yard line, ten yards to go in order to get a first down and stop the clock. Coach took his last timeout and gathered the starters in a huddle. Michael stood close enough to hear what he was saying.

“Valenti, you good?”

“I’m good.”

“You’re goin’ back in. I want two short pass plays. We get the first down, we stop this damn clock, then we’re gonna have to take a shot downfield.”

Dammit, Michael thought. I should be in there.

The crowd erupted when they announced that Kyle was checking back into the game. Forty-seven seconds left to go. Bubba snapped the ball. Kyle dropped back, looking for any receivers, but yet again, no one was open. He took off with it himself, even with his sore ankle, and managed to get out to the forty-eight yard line before the defenders closed in on him. He slid down onto the turf safely, and the clock stopped to move the chains. He got the offense back into position quickly, the momentum flowing.

The snap was perfect. The route was perfect. Hell, the whole damn play was perfect. Ryan shot down towards the end zone, easily outrunning the defender Palmetto put up against him. Kyle wasn’t under any pressure at all. He hurtled the ball towards him. It landed easily in his hands. He caught it, took a few more steps, and then . . .

Disaster. He tripped over his own damn feet and fell to the ground. The ball came out before his knee hit the ground. It was plain to see. The slower defender got there just in time to scoop it up. He took a knee right away, because that was all he needed to do. The Panthers could run out the clock.

Everyone knew it. The game was over. It had literally slipped through their hands. All the energy disappeared from the stadium. Coach Warner threw his headset down on the ground. All the Comet players dropped to their knees, except for Kyle, who stood still, frozen like a stunned statute.

Once the clock ticked down to zero, merely a formality at that point, the Panthers players stormed the field, lifting their quarterback into the air. The few fans that had shown up to support them vaulted over the railing separating the bleachers from the track and ran out there to join them.

Shock didn’t even begin to describe it. Disappointment couldn’t even come close. Nobody had seen that coming.

Michael sat back down on the bench.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

No way.

The football was still lying there on the field, right around the spot where Ryan had fumbled it. Kyle just stood and stared at it, wondering for a moment if this was some horrible nightmare. Because there was no way . . .

There was just no way.

The home crowd was so confused about what had just happened that they couldn’t even move. None of the players could, either, until Coach started shouting at them to get their asses into the locker room.

Kyle made the mistake of looking up at his dad, worried about what he might see. His dad was just staring at him, shaking his head. He’d never seen him look so angry, so he took off his helmet, lowered his head, and halfheartedly ran off the field.

“And that’s the ballgame, folks,” the announcer droned unenthusiastically. “Panthers win, twenty-two to twenty-one.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

No one said one word in the locker room after Coach got done ripping them a new one. It was sort of understood that they wouldn’t.

The plan to for a post-game party was pretty much shot to hell. Michael didn’t know what he was going to do the rest of the night. It’d be pretty lame to go home and just go to bed, but what the hell else was he supposed to do? Nobody wanted to hang out. In fact, Kyle even took off without him. So he’d have to either catch a ride home or walk home or . . .

Maybe one of the cheerleaders would give him a ride. Or two.

He walked out of the school and spotted the sexiest cheerleader in the parking lot. She was standing by her car, talking to Ryan. The body language . . . she was all tilted head, hands on the hip, coy smiles. And he was giving it right back to her. He looked like he wasn’t even upset about the game anymore.

Screw this, Michael thought, storming towards them. If he was going to lose Isabel to this dipshit, he was at least going to put up a fight.

“Hey, Ry, what happened out there?” he yelled, drawing their attention.

“What do you mean?” Ryan asked stupidly.

“The game, man. You had the ball; you made the catch. Why’d you drop it?”

“Michael . . .” Isabel gave him a look.

“No, I wanna know.”

“It just happened,” Ryan said, shrugging as if it were no big deal. “Happens to everyone.”

“Yeah, but we could’ve won the game. But we didn’t. ‘cause you couldn’t pull it off.”

“Michael, stop,” Isabel tried again.

“Hey, I wasn’t even supposed to be out there,” Ryan reminded him, taking a few steps away from Isabel. “Maybe if our starter had actually been able to play . . .”

“Well, then we would’ve won. ‘cause I’m better than you,” Michael bragged.

“You sat on the fuckin’ bench the whole time, Guerin!” Ryan bellowed, his anger bubbling to the surface. “Really, how the hell are you already failin’ two classes? It’s the second fuckin’ week of school. You retarded or something?”

Once again, Isabel tried to calm the situation down. “Ryan . . .”

“No, don’t defend this guy, babe. He’s a loser.”

“Oh, I’m a loser?”

“Yeah, you’re a fuckin’ loser. You think you’re so cool ‘cause you fuck a lot of whores?”

“Um, excuse me?” Isabel interjected, offended now.

“What’re you gonna do while I’m doin’ this one tomorrow night?” He gestured to Isabel. “I’m gonna make her forget all about you.”

“Ryan, what’re you talking about?” Isabel shrieked. “Stop being like this.”

“I’m gonna plow her harder than you ever did.”

“Uh, no, you’re not.”

“Shut the hell up, you stupid bitch!” Ryan snapped, shoving her backward a little.

“Don’t fuckin’ touch her,” Michael growled, shoving him back harder.

“You wanna fight me?”

He curled his hand into a fist and swung, colliding with Ryan’s jaw. He stumbled backward, grimacing. Michael shrugged. “If that’s what it takes.” He hadn’t punched anyone for a good long while. It was time to add some more paperwork to that massive file Topolsky had thrown in the trash.

“Stop!” Isabel yelled. “We’re not doing this.”

No, they weren’t. Because Ryan was too much of a pussy to even throw a punch back.

“Ryan, get out of here,” Isabel ordered, clearly disgusted with him.

“Whatever, Is. Suit yourself.” He shook his head, still holding his jaw, and retreated toward the other side of the parking lot.

“Fuckwad,” Michael muttered.

“Oh, fuckwad? That’s real mature.”

“Hey, I just defended your honor,” he pointed out.

“Why’d you have to start something, huh?”

“Because I knew he only wanted to get with you for sex, and see? I just proved it.”

“Fine, he’s a creep; I get it. But you didn’t need to egg him on like that.”

“If I hadn’t, you would’ve gone out with him tomorrow night. And then who knows what would’ve happened.”

“Nothing would’ve happened. I’m not into him,” she revealed in a rush. “God, Michael.”

Not into him? That was good news . . . for him. “Can I get a ride home?” he asked, halfway expecting her to turn him down. “Kyle already left with Tess.”

She sighed heavily, hesitating, but then motioned to that fancy little corvette of hers and said, “Get in.”

They drove in silence. Wasn’t the first time they’d been silent around each other, so it wasn’t really all that uncomfortable. But when she pulled into his driveway and he got out, he felt . . . unsatisfied. And it wasn’t even because he hadn’t gotten any sex that night; it was because he hadn’t gotten an answer.

“Hey,” he said, leaning against the hood of her car. “You goin’ with me to the carnival tomorrow night?”

For a few seconds, she just stared at him, and even though she seemed to be thinking about it, he could tell by that look in her eyes that she’d already given in. “Pick me up at 8:00,” she finally mumbled, smiling just ever so slightly as she backed out of the driveway.

He watched her leave, smiling to himself. There. Now that was satisfying.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael couldn’t even remember the last time he’d gone to bed before midnight. But lo and behold, here he was, hitting the sheets. Alone. Early. So lame.

He actually was pretty tired, though. It’d been a long day. As lame as it was, he was perfectly fine with nodding off early. Then he’d have tons of energy tomorrow with Isabel at the carnival.

His cell phone buzzed a few minutes after he lay down, so he reached over to his nightstand to grab it. “Yeah?” he answered.

“Hey, I’m outside,” Kyle said. “Can you come let me in?”

“Sure.” He ended the call, set his phone back down and got out of bed. Trying desperately to block out the sex sounds his parents were making behind their closed bedroom door, he shuffled downstairs and opened the front door.

“Hey,” Kyle said, stepping inside. He had a sleeping bag and pillow with him. “Can I crash here tonight?”

“Yeah.” Did he really even have to ask?

“Thanks.”

They went back upstairs, talking quietly so they wouldn’t wake Tina. “Your dad?” Michael guessed.

“Yeah. He won’t even look at me right now, but he’s got no problem yelling.”

“I’ll bet.” In some respects, Jim was an awesome guy. He’d bedded more women than was feasibly possible and still somehow only ended up with one kid. But in other ways, the guy could be an ass. His obsession with football was so over-the-top sometimes. To him, a loss like this was the end of the world.

“I hit Ryan tonight,” Michael revealed, flopping back down on his bed.

“Oh, yeah?” Kyle shut the bedroom door.

“Yeah. Little bitch wouldn’t even hit me back.”

“Huh.” Kyle tossed his pillow and sleeping bag down on the floor, then lay down atop it, not saying anything more. As they lay there in the dark, Michael knew there were a lot of things Kyle wasn’t saying. So even though he wasn’t one to get share-y and talk about feelings, he asked propped himself up on his arm and asked his friend, “Are you pissed at me?”

Kyle grunted, still not moving. “Why would I be pissed at you? You didn’t even play.”

“Well, that is why.”

“No, it’s fine. It’s . . . I’m used to it. You . . .” He trailed off for a moment, then suddenly sat up and said, “No, you know what? I am kinda pissed at you. ‘cause you should’ve been in there tonight. And you would’ve been if you just . . .” He angrily clenched both his hands into fists. “Look, I don’t know what the outcome would’ve been if you’d played. Maybe we still would’ve lost. But maybe we would’ve won. Who knows?”

They would’ve won. Michael knew he would’ve made that catch. He’d made it a thousand times before. And he wouldn’t have been stupid enough to fumble it away like Ryan had. “I’m sorry, man,” he apologized.

“It’s just . . .” Clearly, Kyle was still agitated. “I feel like I’m always doin’ all this stuff for you. I drive you to school and home from practice and anywhere else you wanna go. I make sure you get home safe when you’re so wasted you can’t even function. I don’t listen to all the people who tell me I shouldn’t hang out with you. ‘cause you’re my friend. So it’d be nice if you could maybe help me out once in a while, too.” With all that off his chest, he lay back down, turning over onto his side.

Michael lay back, too, feeling guilty. At the end of the day, he didn’t really give a shit about that game tonight. But Kyle did. And knowing that he’d let him down . . . it wasn’t a good feeling. At all.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 6

Postby April » Sat May 10, 2014 11:54 am

Eva:
Hooray for Kyle by the way! He's indeed a good friend.


Best friend Michael could ask for.

and to say something positive too: Michael was a good friend for Isabel too. It wasn't the best way to tangle the subject, but we're talking about Michael here...


It showed that he actually does care about her and he's not always a complete jerk to her.

CandyliciousLovah:
I enjoyed this chapter. It was well thought-out, and I loved reading it.


Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

morethenwords122:
I totally agree, Kyle does everything for Michael and it would be nice to know that every once and awhile Michael would have his back.


Michael's so much more immature than Kyle, but yeah, he needs to step up and help him out once in a while, too.

And concerning, Michael and Isabel.... here we go again


She's getting sucked back in to Michael-land, isn't she?

Sara:
Go Kyle!!!! I'm glad he just went off on Michael. Maybe that will help him to pull his head out of his ass!


Every little bit helps.

And Ryan is a douche bag.


Very much like Michael in that way. :oops:

Carolyn: Thanks for reading!

Rodney:
As much as he likes to criticize the guy for being a jerk.....I personally don't see much difference in between Ryan and Michael.


There really isn't much of a difference right now. Michael's a little more upfront about his sleaziness than Ryan is, but they're both pretty big jerks right now.



THANK YOU FOR THE FEEDBACK! AS ALWAYS, I APPRECIATE IT!

Since I love using music with stories, you can listen to "The Unwinding Cable Car" by Anberlin when you see :) if you'd like or click here to listen to it if you'd like.









Part 6








The great thing about the carnival was that . . . nobody knew what it was for. There was no holiday, nothing to commemorate, nothing to welcome in. Nobody even really knew who put it on, although it was highly suspected that it was the FBLA group’s major fundraiser. All that was known for sure was that the carnival happened every year during the first few weeks of school, and every year, it was usually worth it to go. The food was overpriced, but tasty, the rides were rickety but still worth riding, and it was a small town, so pretty much everyone was there.

Michael borrowed his dad’s car and made sure to get to Isabel’s five minutes early. She didn’t invite him in, but when she walked outside, she looked . . . so damn good. She dressed up a lot and always looked nice that way, but when she was casual, wearing simply jeans and a tight, white shirt like this, she looked even better. Her hair was down, just loose and wavy, and it took everything he had not to reach over while he was driving and run his fingers through it.

“Glad you came?” he asked as they walked around together that evening, surveying all the rides.

“That remains to be seen.”

Oh, she’d be glad. He’d make sure of it.

Up ahead, holding court near the skee-ball games, was Ryan, flanked by Antonio, Jase, Bubba, and a few other guys from the team. When he spotted Michael, he purposefully started talking louder so he could easily be overheard. “The guy’s a loose cannon. Thinks he’s so great. Don’t even give him the time of day.”

Michael laughed. Did Ryan really think he cared if those guys were his friends or not? “Help me out?” he asked Isabel, holding out his arm.

Slowly, she linked her arm into his, making them look all couple-y. It didn’t really matter whether this was a date or not. It didn’t hurt to rub it in Ryan’s face and make him think it was.

They walked past them without saying anything and stopped at one of the food booths. “You want anything?” Michael asked Isabel.

“Uh, sure. Cotton candy.”

“Cotton candy.” He took a five dollar bill out of his pocket and handed it over to the vendor. “Cotton candy, please. Best one you got.”

Isabel smiled a little. “Aren’t you gonna get anything?”

“Maybe later.” The vendor handed him the cotton candy and two dollars in change. “Thanks,” he said, handing it on over to her.

She took one bite and mumbled, “Not very healthy.”

“It’s a carnival. Who cares?” Nothing was healthy there.

Suddenly, Tess was skipping towards them, dragging Kyle along with her and squealing, “Isabel!” When she noticed her friend wasn’t alone, her mouth dropped open. “And Michael. Didn’t expect to see you two here . . . together.”

“We’re not together,” Isabel said quickly.

“Well, yeah, we kinda are,” Michael pointed out, garnering an angry glare from her. “I drove you here and bought you food. And I’m gonna drive you home. We’re here together.”

“But it’s not a date,” she quickly added in.

“Right, it’s not a date.” He rolled his eyes. It was totally a date.

Kyle let go of Tess’s hand and pulled Michael aside quickly. “Hey, man, I’m sorry about goin’ off on you last night,” he apologized.

“No, it’s fine. I probably need to hear stuff like that once in a while.”

“So we’re good?”

“We’re fine.”

“Alright.”

“Hey, let’s go on some rides!” Tess suggested excitedly. “Have you guys been on any yet?”

“No, we just got here,” Michael replied.

“Let’s go on that one,” Kyle said, pointing to the wildest ride there. It was called the Zipper. It was basically a huge rotating machine that pulled twelve metal cages around in an oblong circle. Two people sat per cage, and they tilted, rocked, and spun pretty unpredictably. It was a decent ride, but Michael knew Isabel wouldn’t go on it.

“No, I can’t,” she said, shaking her head. “I got sick on that when I was little.”

“I’ll sit out with you,” Tess volunteered. “You guys go.”

Michael and Kyle grinned at each other, amped up, and darted towards the line.

They rode the zipper multiple times in a row, disappointed that they weren’t spinning as much as some of the others. Isabel finally suggested that they ride separately, because together they had too much weight in one car. When they followed her advice, the ride was a lot wilder.

After that, they went on a few more rides, including the Octopus and the Tilt-a-Whirl. Even though the girls looked a little queasy, they stomached some more carnival food, including funnel cakes that were way too small to cost five dollars apiece. They took a break from the rides to play some of the carnival games. Tess and Isabel mainly stood back and watched as they played. The horseracing game in particular got really competitive. It wasn’t often that Michael was better at something than Kyle was, but he was better at that. His horse came in first, and he won his choice of stuffed animal. He asked Isabel what she wanted, and she pointed out a snow leopard. He gave it to her, and she squeezed hugged it, saying, “Aw.”

Like any decent carnival, there was a standard house of mirrors, which ended up being a major disappointment. But right next to that was something called the Tipsy House, which Michael didn’t remember from last year. They went in and discovered that it was basically just a model of a house where everything was slanted, angled, therefore causing people to have difficulty walking and feel off-kilter. Not Michael, though. In fact, walking around in there actually felt kind of normal to him, probably because he got tipsy all the time. “I’m the master!” he exclaimed, running through the house while his friends staggered along, holding onto walls and railings as they struggled to maintain their balance.

“Okay, that was disorienting,” Isabel said, still clutching her snow leopard as they walked out.

“I felt fine,” Michael said.

“Guys, I wanna go on the Scrambler again,” Tess said.

“Again? But you got so scrambled last time,” Kyle reminded her.

“I know, but that’s the point.”

“Alright. You guys wanna go on it again?”

“I think once is enough for me,” Isabel said.

Michael sensed an opportunity to seize some alone time with her, so he said, “Yeah, we’re gonna go on another ride. We’ll meet back up with you later.”

“Okay.”

( :) )

Michael took Isabel’s hand in his, surprised that she let him. Maybe it was the snow leopard. Maybe that had worn down some of her defenses.

“You wanna go on the Ferris wheel?” he asked, pulling her towards the largest ride there.

She dug her feet into the ground a bit, obviously reluctant. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No.” He grinned, still heading in that direction.

“Michael . . .”

“What?”

“Come on.”

“No, you come on.” He knew what was keeping her from going on that ride, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him.

Eventually, she gave in. They waited in line for only a few minutes, and when they were getting on, he inconspicuously slipped the ride operator a five dollar bill and said, “Stop it when we’re at the top.”

“You got it.”

And that was all it took. He sat down beside her, noting the nervous look in her eyes, and started talking to try to put her at ease.

“I’m really glad we came here tonight,” he said. “Are you?”

“Yeah,” she admitted quietly as the ride began and they rose into the air.

“Are you glad you came with me?”

“Better you than Ryan.”

Well, he’d take that. That was . . . better than nothing. He placed one hand on the back of their seat, trying to be discreet about it as they passed the top and started to lower again. “So how’s your mom?” he asked, hoping that, after a little bit more of this, she’d allow him to really put his arm around her.

She gave him a look, a see-right-through-you kind of look. “Are you seriously gonna pretend to care about my mom?”

He chuckled. “Okay, how’s the Princeton dream? You applied yet?”

“Yeah. I won’t hear back for a few months, though.”

“You’ll get in.”

She gave him the same knowing look. “Are you really gonna pretend to care about my college plans now?”

“I do care,” he insisted. “It’s important to you, so . . .” He shrugged. “I can’t wait for the day when I’m walkin’ through Barnes and Noble and I see your best-selling books there.”

“Oh, Michael, be realistic: You’ll never walk through Barnes and Noble,” she joked.

“I can read, you know.”

“But you never do.”

“I’ll read your books,” he promised. She’d probably end up writing some great romance, though, which didn’t intrigue him unless there were some graphic sex scenes involved.

As promised, the Ferris wheel stopped abruptly right when they were at the top. She gasped slightly, and he took the opportunity to scoot his arm just a little closer to her shoulders.

“Seriously?” she groaned, leaning forward to peer down at the ground.

Déjà vu, huh?”

“This must be the same one they had last year.”

Last year really had been a fluke, getting stuck at the top like this. He remembered sitting with her, just like they were now, after a day very similar to this. She looked exactly the same, maybe even a little prettier, if that was possible.

He must have been sitting there with a big, obnoxious grin on his face, because she narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously and asked, “Did you pay the guy to stop us up here?”

“What? No,” he denied unconvincingly.

“You did, didn’t you?”

“No, I would never—okay, yeah, I did.”

“Oh my god, Michael. Why?”

“Why not?” He smiled at her, letting his eyes roam over her for a moment. She was breathing faster now. Her nervousness must have changed into anticipation. “We had our first kiss up here last year.”

“Well, that was last year.”

“And this is this year.” Why was she being so stubborn? He didn’t know how long the ride operator was going to keep them up there, so part of him was impatient. But at the same time, he didn’t want to rush. “Oh, come on,” he said, “you think it’s cute.”

“It’s not gonna happen,” she told him decisively. “We’re not gonna kiss this year.”

“I know that.” Even so, he chanced it by leaning in a little. She didn’t move away. In fact, she started to move in, too. He closed his eyes as they closed the distance, and moments later, he felt her mouth on his. Kissing her felt as good as it ever had, maybe even better, because he knew now what it was like to go so long without it. There wasn’t a hint of anxiety or uncertainty in the way she kissed him back. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her whole body closer to his, and cupped her cheek with his other hand. And she just kept kissing him.

The Ferris wheel jolted as it started up again, and that caused her to tear her lips away. She laughed a little, and they continued riding. They were only looking at each other now, and it didn’t take long to close the distance and kiss again while they went around a few more times. When the ride ended, Michael’s mouth never left Isabel’s as he handed the operator another five to let them ride again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Tess came over that night after the carnival for a girls-only sleepover. They’d planned it in advance, but now that Isabel had some juicy details to talk about, it was all the more fun. She told Tess all about kissing Michael as they were putting together the mixture for cucumber facials on top of her bed.

“Oh my god, he recreated your first kiss?” Tess’s eyes gleamed. “That’s so . . . romantic. Michael Guerin was romantic?”

“Once in a while he is. It’s rare, but sometimes he just does something . . . surprising.” Isabel hugged her snow leopard to her chest, sighing happily. “And thrilling. And it’s like I’m powerless to resist. God, Tess, my heart is still pounding.”

“I’m sure. I can’t believe he did that.”

“I know. It was so perfect.” He hadn’t even pushed for anything more. He’d dropped her off at home, given her one long kiss goodnight, and told her he’d talk to her tomorrow.

“This is awesome. Now it’ll be just like old times. I knew this was gonna happen,” Tess babbled. “I knew you guys couldn’t go to the same school and see each other every day without getting back together again.”

When she said that, Isabel felt the romantic high wear off a little.

“You guys are back together again, aren’t you?”

“I don’t really know,” she confessed.

“What? How do you not know?”

“Well, we kinda just spent the entire night kissing. We didn’t really talk about . . . the rest.” She frowned, unsure and slightly nervous.

“Well, tomorrow you need to get some clarification,” Tess said. “Because you deserve a boyfriend, and clearly he’s the boy you wanna get so friendly with.”

Isabel giggled, tossing a pillow at her. She’d deal with tomorrow when tomorrow actually came. But for right now, she just wanted to let herself feel happy. Because that was what Michael had made her feel all night.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Family meals of any kind were a rare thing in the Guerin household. Whenever they happened, they happened by accident. It wasn’t that they’d all made a conscious effort to wake up that morning and get downstairs to eat breakfast together. It was that they’d all coincidentally managed to wake up that morning and go downstairs to eat breakfast on their own. Nobody was eating the same things. Michael was scarfing down some Reese’s Puffs cereal while Tina was ferociously digging through a box of Lucky Charms, because apparently they were trying to put toys back in their boxes. Their mom ate a blueberry muffin while their dad read the newspaper and ate fried eggs and bacon.

Nobody said anything until Michael’s mom cleared her throat and asked, “So how was the carnival last night?”

“Good.” No need to elaborate any further than that.

“Who’d you go with?”

“Oh, you know, just Tess and Kyle.”

“And Isabel,” Tina chimed in, sitting up on her knees so she had a better angle to dig into her box of cereal.

“Really?”

“Thanks, Teenie.” Now he was going to hear about that all morning.

“Andy, did you hear that?”

Michael’s dad nodded, his eyes still on the paper. “I heard.”

“Well, that’s great.” His mom, like most other adults, had always really liked Isabel. Both his parent so desperately wanted her to be a good influence on him, but especially his mom. “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah.” He’d said the carnival was good. Didn’t that pretty much entail that he’d had fun? He was more than eager to change the subject, so he asked his sister, “Teenie, what the hell are you looking for?”

She didn’t answer. She was very in the zone.

“Probably some Bieber fever piece of crap,” he deduced.

“Got it!” she announced, pulling out a small ring wrapped in plastic.

“What is that?” he asked.

“A Selena Gomez ring.”

“Oh, of course.” That was going to be his second guess.

The doorbell rang, and his mom got up to answer the door. Michael shoved the last spoonful of his cereal into his mouth and brought his bowl up to drink the remaining milk. He wasn’t graceful about it, though. He drank too fast, causing the milk to spill out all over the old Metallica t-shirt he’d worn to bed.

“Isabel,” he heard his mom say warmly. “Come on in.”

“Oh, shit,” he swore, quickly trying to wipe his shirt off.

“Michael,” his mom said, coming back into the kitchen. “You have a visitor.”

He got up and went out to the living room. There she was, looking a little different than she had last night. Gone were the jeans and simple t-shirt. Now she was wearing a knee-length black skirt and light blue sweater. The skirt was tight, though, and she had cleavage whether the sweater was meant to be low-cut or not. So she still looked good.

“Hey,” he said, quickly pulling her back outside. Once they were out on the porch, he shut the door and kissed her. That really was the best way to greet a girl in the morning.

“Hey,” she returned, sounding all blissful. He knew the female gender well enough to know she probably hadn’t slept a wink last night, but her eyes were wide and sparkling.

“So thanks for asking me to go with you last night,” she said. “I had a really good time.”

“Good.” That’d been the goal.

“What about you?” she asked. “Did you have a good time, too?”

“What do you think?” He slinked his arms around her waist and pulled her in close, kissing her again. He really wanted to just keep doing this, maybe even invite her up to his bedroom for a while. It wouldn’t be a big deal. His parents had learned to turn a blind eye to that kind of thing years ago. But he suspected she’d want to hold off on that, so he forced himself to stop kissing her and just talk to her instead. Because that was probably the reason why she’d come by.

“Why’re you so dressed up?” he asked, rubbing his hands up and down her back.

“Just got back from church.”

“Oh, you mean the place with the praise and the worship?” he joked. “I’m there mentally.”

She laughed lightly. “So . . .”

“So . . .” he mimicked.

“I guess I just . . . thought maybe we could get some clarification on what we are now.” She spoke slowly, each word planned out and deliberate. “Was it just kissing or . . . are we dating again now?”

“Well, what do you want?” he asked her.

“I want you to answer first.”

Of course she did. She was a smart girl like that. “Well, I know I really screwed up last time, and I hurt you. But if you’re willing to give me another shot . . .” As big of a player as he’d been this past summer, he really wasn’t opposed to having a girlfriend. And Isabel had it in her to be pretty fun sometimes, just like she’d been last night. “Are you willing?”

She stared at him for a moment, looking him right in the eye, and as blissful as she was, she seemed to be seriously considering the question. But eventually, a smile swept across her lips, and she answered, “Yes,” before leaning in to kiss him again.

“Good,” he murmured against her mouth. So there. They were dating again. Simple. Not everything in a relationship had to be this huge dramatic deal. “You wanna go get something to eat?”

“Weren’t you just eating in there?”

“Yeah, but I got room for more. Just let me go change.” He ducked back inside to put on something that wasn’t covered in milk so he could take her out the way a halfway decent boyfriend would.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The impatient customer couldn’t have been more rude if he’d tried. Maria handed one dollar and forty-five cents in change to him, plastering a smile on her face. “Have a great day.”

He just rolled his eyes and walked off. The damn bastard had said some really derogatory things to her when he’d been ordering, and he probably hadn’t even bothered to leave a tip. His table was a mess, so she wasn’t looking forward to cleaning that off. For those reasons and many more, she’d purposefully overcharged him. Luckily, he hadn’t even noticed.

She pushed the cash register closed, her eyes drifting over to the front door when Michael walked in. He wasn’t alone this time, though. A tall, shapely blonde girl was with him, and they were holding hands.

Realization dawned. That had to be the girlfriend. The one he’d been all upset about. The one he’d said he’d cheated on. Apparently they were back together now, because they sat together in the booth he always claimed as his own, on the same side the way couples did.

“Maria!” her repulsive manager Derek snapped from inside the kitchen. “Customers aren’t gonna wait on themselves.”

Yeah, yeah, she thought, heading over towards them. No need to treat me like a human being or anything.

When she got to their booth, she wasn’t sure what to say. If it was just Michael, she’d just say hey, but with the girl there, she figured she’d better go into script mode. “Welcome to the Crashdown,” she said. “Do you guys know what you want today?” No, wait, that wasn’t the script. She hadn’t even asked them for drinks.

“Um . . .” The girlfriend picked up a menu, smiling as Michael put his arm around her. She looked over the breakfast section just briefly, then asked Maria, “Do you guys have anything . . . low-calorie?”

Maria wasn’t even sure what to say to that. This was the Crashdown Café. This was the place that caused her to smell of grease even after multiple showers. “No,” she answered simply.

“Oh, well . . . just pancakes then, I guess.”

Pluto pancakes, babe,” Michael amended. “You gotta say it with the space name.”

She laughed. “Okay, Pluto pancakes. And could I have the syrup on the side?”

“Sure thing.” Maria jotted that down on the order pad quickly. “And to drink?”

“Orange juice is fine.”

“Okay.” She looked at Michael, feeling awkward as she asked, “And you?”

“Uh . . .” He scratched the back of his neck with his free hand, not even bothering with the menu. “How about the extraterrestrial eggs benedict, with a side of heavenly hash browns.”

“Root beer?” she guessed.

“Yeah.”

“Coming right up.”

Michael smiled. “Thanks, Maria.”

As she turned to walk away, she heard the girl quietly ask him, “Do you know her?”

“Yeah,” he replied, “she’s the waitress.”

The waitress. The word reverberated through Maria’s mind as she walked towards the kitchen to place the order. Yep. That was what she was.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 7

Postby April » Sat May 17, 2014 10:47 am

morethenwords122:
Michael and Isabel are back together? ... Okay :|

I have a feeling this is gonna end badly.


I'm sure you're not the only one who feels that way.

Carolyn:
I could have kicked him for calling Maria.......the waitress!


Yeah, that kind of sucked. Even though they've had a few interesting conversations . . . that's still the basis of what she is to him right now.

Karin: Hey, you! Good to see you're still around!

MI makes my stomach turn, hopefully it wont last long lol! But he's not worthy of Maria yet tou, speaking of, i hope we will see more of her soon!


Yes, you will eventually see a lot more of Maria, and learn a lot more about her. Eventually. ;)

CamdyLiciousLovah:
The Ferris Wheel kiss was great, well done, April!


A diehard Candy fan liked a Michael/Isabel kiss scene? :shock: But it was supposed to be sort of romantic, in its own weird way, so mission accomplished I guess.

Eva:
Michael doing his best. How long is he going to keep that up?


That remains to be seen . . . :|

Sara:
Oh Michael and isabel....guess we will see how long this lasts! UGH! Those two need to give it a rest.


Unfortunately, that's a little bit easier said than done. On some level, they both still want each other.

BB:
Ugh, Michael and Isabel. (521 flashbacks.)

He really doesn't deserve her. She's way too good for him. (That's new.)


:lol: Flashbacks indeed. But their relationship here is much different than their relationship in that story, because their characters are completely opposite.

Rodney:
Uhhhhhh just when I thought Isabel was the smart one here.


Smart girls can make stupid decisions sometimes. (I'll even lump myself in that category. :oops: )


THANK YOU FOR THE FEEDBACK! I APPRECIATE IT AS MUCH AS EVER!








Part 7








Monday was hilarious. Ryan spent the entire day trying to turn people against Michael. And he was clearly wearing makeup over the bruise on his jaw.

The thing was, though, no one cared about anything he had to say. When Michael and Kyle got to school, Antonio, Jase, Bubba, and the other guys from the team all swarmed them, talking about some crazy party they wanted to have after the next football game, a game that was already being called ‘The Redemption Game.’ And that left Ryan hanging out on his own. He may have been the top dog before the school merger, but not anymore.

Michael wasn’t deluded enough to think he was the one they all wanted to hang out with, though. Maybe they did, to an extent, but higher up on the motivation list was the fact that Kyle was his best friend. If there was anything the first two weeks of school had cemented, it was that Kyle was the king. It had happened almost by default. When somebody was that talented and still was generally nice to people and still knew how to go out and have fun, it was inevitable. Everybody wanted to be on his good side. And if they wanted to do that, they had to be on Michael’s, too.

It worked out, though. Michael technically didn’t give two shits about being popular, but for some reason, he always had been. It was nice, being part of the in-crowd. Easy. People got out of the way when he walked by. They didn’t give him a hard time for sitting on the bench. They squeezed together at the lunch table just to make room for him and anyone who was with him.

And Isabel was with him. He wasted no time making that perfectly clear, just in case there were any other idiots like Ryan who had ideas.

She drove him to school on the mornings Kyle wanted to go early and lift weights. She stayed after with Tess, and together they sat on the bleachers and watched football practice. She even slipped into the eraser room with him in between classes for a quick make-out break. But she never stayed long enough to be late for class.

The four of them were the quintessential cool kids on campus. Two from east, two from west. Everyone knew it. No one questioned it. And the best part? As the week wore on, Ryan’s isolation became more and more permanent.

All the popularity in the world wouldn’t help Michael’s grades, though. He was determined to get in the next game and make something happen, for Kyle’s sake. But the problem was that he was failing English, a class he usually somehow managed to pass. As it turned out, Ms. Alvarez wasn’t the push-over he’d thought she would be. She steamrolled them through The Great Gatsby in under three weeks and gave them pop quizzes to see if they were reading. Michael, of course, wasn’t. But on Thursday, they had a comprehensive test over the entire book. He knew that, if he could somehow pass that, he could get his grade up to a D again and be eligible to play on Friday. That was why he stood outside the classroom with Isabel Thursday morning, still trying to convince her to help him out.

“I don’t know, Michael,” she said quietly, reluctant.

“Please?” he begged. “I want you to.”

“But I don’t know if I want to.”

“Don’t you wanna hear ‘em say it tomorrow night: ‘Starting wide receiver, number sixty-nine, Michael Guerin.’”

She shook her head. “Number sixty-nine. You’re ridiculous.”

“Don’t you wanna be able to look out there and see your boyfriend dancin’ around the endzone?”

“Would you really dance?”

“Yeah, I’ll choreograph a touchdown dance,” he promised.

She bit her bottom lip when the first bell of the morning rang, signaling everyone to head to class. “I don’t know . . .” she said again.

“Is . . .” He brought his hand up to touch her hair, purposefully letting his fingers roam lower to touch her chest.

She swatted his hand away as other students started to flock towards the classroom. “Okay, fine,” she relented. “One finger means A, two means B, three means C, four means D.”

Simple enough for even a monkey to remember. “Got it.”

“Don’t make it obvious,” she cautioned, heading into the room.

“I won’t.” He walked behind her, putting his hands on her waist, and whispered in her ear, “But I will make it up to you tonight. I promise.” He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, then went to his seat.

When the bell rang, Ms. Alvarez came in and said, “Everything away. Pencils out. Time for the test.” Remarkably, everyone did as they were instructed, without noise or complaint. She had really turned things around from that first day, so much so, in fact, that Michael was actually a little worried about getting caught. But that wouldn’t happen. Isabel was clearly her favorite student. She would never even think to suspect her of anything.

She wordlessly lay the ten-page tests down on their desks, told them they had all class period to work on it, and then wished them good luck. After walking around the room for the first five minutes while they got started, she seemed satisfied that everyone was hard at work, so she went to her desk, sat down behind her computer, and started typing.

Michael smirked. Oh, yes, Ms. Alvarez had done a complete one-eighty as a teacher from that first day, but she still had a few things to learn.

When he was satisfied that she was distracted, he glanced over at Isabel out of the corner of his eye.. She had flipped back to the first page and was pointing to question number one with her pencil. He gave her a discreet thumb’s up, and then she started giving him the answers in code. First, she draped one finger over the side of her desk, so he erased the answer he had written and wrote in A on the line provided. Then she hooked three fingers over the side, so he wrote C. They continued that way through the next few pages, until Ms. Alvarez got up to take another patrol. Michael pretended to be hard at work until she sat back down again, and then he and Isabel resumed their system. They were done with fifteen minutes of class left to go. She got up and handed her test in first, and he marked a few wrong on purpose, just so it wasn’t so obvious, while he waited exactly seven more minutes before handing his in, too.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Isabel’s room looked the same as it had five months ago. Same leopard pillows and maroon sheets on her queen-sized bed. Same makeup and perfume scattered across her vanity in the corner. Same framed photo of the Princeton campus on the wall above her headboard. There were even still some pictures of the two of them together tacked onto the bulletin board by her desk.

She always liked the lighting to be dim and romantic, especially when he was up there with her. So when he lay atop her after practice that evening, kissing her, her skin glowed warmly. And it was so soft. He wanted to feel more of it, all over.

“Mmm,” he murmured against her mouth, “you’re so good to me.”

“I am,” she agreed, rubbing her legs against his.

“How can I ever repay you?” He had plenty of ideas in mind, and it all began by undoing the buttons on the thin floral shirt she was wearing. Her stomach muscles flittered excitedly beneath his fingertips, but much to his disappointment, she pressed her hands to his shoulders, pushing him back a little to stop him.

“My mom’s gonna be home,” she said.

“Oh . . .” he groaned, rolling over onto his back. “I knew we should’ve gone to my place.”

“Sorry,” she apologized, turning onto her side. Her shirt was still very much hanging open, though, so the view was nice. God, that girl’s cleavage was a thing of beauty.

“I mean it, babe,” he said, reaching out to stroke the back of her hand. “You really helped me out today. I knew you would. You always come for me.”

She smiled. “Come through.”

He played dumb. “Oh, what did I—what did I say?”

“You said I always come for you.”

“Well . . . you do that, too.” He grinned playfully, eliciting a knowing blush from her.

She scooted in closer to him, curling up against his side. “So who are you guys playing tomorrow?”

“The Fulton Falcons. Or something gay like that.”

“Are you gonna win?”

“Of course. We got this one in the bag.”

“Don’t be cocky,” she cautioned. “That’s what people said about the last one.”

“I’m not cocky; I’m confident,” he corrected. “I’ll be eligible to play, and with me back in there, Kyle won’t have to run the ball so much. We’ll actually have a passing game.”

“Hmm . . . you sound cocky.”

“Confident,” he repeated, stealing a quick kiss. “No, we’d better win. If we don’t, Kyle’s dad’s gonna have an aneurysm.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, sitting up to button her shirt when the front door opened and closed downstairs. Her mom was home.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael’s whole head was practically inside his locker as he chugged the can of beer he’d brought with him today. He heard someone coming towards him before he could finish, though, so he put it away with not much left and slammed the locker door. Probably a good thing, too, since the person approaching was the guidance counselor.

“Oh, great,” he grumbled.

“Michael.” She crossed her arms over her chest, looking stern. But hot. “You have some explaining to do.”

She’d seen him? How? He was very covert. “Fine, I have a beer in my locker,” he admitted openly. “So?”

“You have a--” She looked utterly confused. “That’s not . . .”

Oh, shit. This was about something else.

“Come with me,” she said, leading him down the hall.

When they got to her cramped office, Ms. Alvarez was already seated in one of the chairs. Immediately, Michael knew what was going on. His English teacher was shocked by how well he’d done on the test, and she wondered how he’d done it. She was probably going to quiz him on the spot. Crap. Maybe he should have answered a few more wrong on purpose.

“What’s going on?” he asked pretending to be clueless as he sat down next to her.

“Well, that’s what we were hoping you could tell us,” Topolsky said, sitting in her chair. “Keep in mind, if we straighten this out here, you might not even have to talk to Principal Forrester.”

“Whatever.” He wasn’t intimidated by anyone who worked there.

“Ms. Alvarez, go ahead,” Topolsky invited.

“Right.” The teacher cleared her throat, handing him his Gatsby test. “Look at your score,” she said.

His eyes nearly bulged out of his head when he saw what he’d gotten. A fourteen percent? Not at all what he’d been expecting. No way had Isabel gotten that. She knew this shit backwards and forwards.

“I didn’t read the book,” he spilled, figuring his grade and chances of playing tonight were already screwed now.

“Oh, trust me, I know. That’s not the issue.”

“It’s not?”

“No. See, Michael, let me let you in on a little secret.” Ms. Alvarez folded her hands across her lap and leaned and got all serious as though she were about to reveal some life-changing information. “When teachers make multiple choice tests, they put the right answer, along with one answer that’s very close to being right. And then they put a choice that’s pretty obviously wrong, along with a choice that’s totally, obviously, and completely wrong. Sometimes it might just be a random answer, or a funny one. Sometimes it has nothing to do with what we’re studying whatsoever.”

“I’m with you. Go on.”

“Well . . . take a look at question number six.”

He flipped to the second page of the test, smiling as he looked it over. Yeah, he was an idiot.

“It’s asking which character of The Great Gatsby is the main character. You put Ricardo.”

“Hey, that’s my fake ID name.”

Topolsky shook her head frustratedly.

“I just picked a random name, Michael. And honestly, even if you hadn’t read the book, you should’ve known that one. So do you know what that tells me?”

“What does that tell you, Ms. Alvarez?” He gave the test back to her.

“You cheated. Plain and simple. Did you know that every student had a different form of the test?”

Dammit. He was embarrassed that he’d gotten caught so easily. He hadn’t thought Ms. Alvarez was smart enough to give out different tests. “No.”

“Same questions, just all in a different order.”

“Alright, so I failed. That’s nothin’ new for me.”

“I know you were looking forward to playing in the game tonight,” Ms. Topolsky jumped in, “but that’s not gonna happen now. Do you see how this could be avoided if you just did the reading and studied in the first place?”

He shrugged. Yeah, he saw it. He always had.

“I’d be willing to let you retake it if you let me know who tried to help you cheat,” Ms. Alvarez offered.

Teachers always did this, thought they could catch the other culprit by offering a redo. But what they didn’t understand was that usually the people who cheated weren’t enticed by that incentive because they didn’t care that much about grades anyway. “I didn’t cheat,” he lied, refusing to clue her in to anything. “I’m just an idiot.”

Ms. Alvarez sighed dejectedly, and she and Topolsky exchanged a look. Soon enough, Topolsky was reaching for her phone and getting a hold of the principal. It didn’t matter who they brought in, though. Michael wasn’t going to say anything.

It didn’t take long for word to get around that day that Michael was still failing two classes and wouldn’t be playing against the Falcons. Michael didn’t see Kyle until lunch that day, but as they stood in the lunch line together, his anger was radiating off of him. He barely said anything.

“Dude, I’m sorry,” Michael apologized over and over again. “I know you were counting on me. But what was I supposed to do?”

“Read the damn book.”

“Besides that. The only way I could’ve gotten that grade up was to . . .” He lowered his voice and moved in closer so no one else could hear him. “. . . was to throw Isabel under the bus. And you know I can’t do that. She’s my girlfriend.”

“No, I get it,” Kyle said, but his jaw was still clenched tight. “I would’ve done the same thing for Tess.”

“See?” Truth be told, Michael actually did feel bad, though. It wasn’t fun to let people down, and he did it all the time.

“It’s fine. I’ll make do without you,” Kyle said. “I’ve done it before.”

Michael sighed, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Yeah.” They inched forward in the line, and he got a glimpse at the pasta they were serving for lunch today. Sick. He wished he’d gone to the Crashdown.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Redemption was the theme at the game that night. The crowd was just slightly smaller than last week, but more pumped up than ever. Nothing like a heartbreaking loss to energize people for a win.

Some of the volleyball players had made signs with the letters spelling out Redemption. Unfortunately, they were holding them up in the wrong order, so it said Redemtpion.

Michael warmed up with the rest of the receivers, even though nothing would come of it, wondering absentmindedly if everyone had a shot at redemption. What the hell were people even talking about when they were talking about being redeemed anyway? How bad did things have to get for redemption to be something you sought after? They’d only lost one game. Was that really so unthinkable?

“Number sixteen, starting wide receiver, Ryan Adderman!”

When it was time to stand out on the field with the cheerleaders as the starters ran out onto the field, not one of the students clapped or cheered for Ryan. That made Michael glad.

Unfortunately, it seemed to affect him during the game. He didn’t catch one ball that went his way. Once again, Kyle was having to run the ball more than he should have had to. He scored, and then he scored again, and then he got them close enough so their field goal kicker could tack on three more points. But the Falcons weren’t letting up, either. They had a miserable defense, but their offense fired on all cylinders, including a passing game.

Michael tried not to look at the scoreboard a whole lot, but when he did, it was seventeen to seventeen, three minutes left in the third quarter. The crowd was growing restless, and the volleyball players had put down their signs.

Kyle attempted another pass to Ryan on a short fourth down where they expected him to run. It was an easy catch, but Ryan dropped it. Clearly frustrated, Kyle kicked at the turf, and the offense came off the field and the Falcons took over. One of the guys on their sidelines shouted across the field loud enough for everyone to hear, “Hey, Valenti! Throw it to your girlfriend! I bet she handles balls better than your receivers do!”

Michael glanced over his shoulder at Tess. She and the other cheerleaders were doing a crowd cheer, so she didn’t hear.

“Dammit,” Kyle swore, sitting down next to Michael.

“Hey, hang in there,” Michael said. “Just keep runnin’ it, man.”

Kyle took off his helmet and poured water all over himself. He was drenched in sweat, a clear sign that he’d already been running it a lot.

“What kind of defense is that?” Coach bellowed, throwing his headset when the Falcons running back cut through for a gain of fifteen yards, crossing midfield. “Come on, guys!”

“Where’s my dad?” Kyle asked, turning around.

“Who cares about him?” Michael said. “He’s not the one playing. You are.”

“Apparently I’m the only one playing,” Kyle mumbled. He looked like he was about to erupt. In all the years that Michael had known him, he’d never known Kyle to look so pissed at a game. But then again, the games he played in usually went a lot better than this.

“Hey, Valenti!” Ryan shouted suddenly, pushing his way through the other players. “When we get back out there, why don’t you throw me somethin’ I can catch for a change?”

“Can you fuckin’ catch anything?” Kyle roared, rising to his feet. He and Ryan stood in front of each other confrontationally.

“Kyle, don’t do this,” Michael cautioned, not used to being the voice of reason. He glanced up at Jim Valenti, who was noticing what was going on and looked like he was about to have a heart attack. “Come on, man.” He pulled on Kyle’s jersey, trying to get him to walk away, but Kyle wouldn’t budge.

“I got scouts here to see me,” Kyle said. “I’m not gonna lose this game just ‘cause you’re playin’ like crap.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Ryan shouted, shoving him backward. And that was all it took for Kyle to retaliate. He shoved him harder, and Ryan lost his balance and flipped back over the bench. It escalated from there, with punches being thrown from both sides. Michael kept trying to pull Kyle away, but it was no use. The other players on the sidelines got involved, but it wasn’t until the coaches literally got in between them that it stopped. The audience watched the whole thing, obviously shocked and clearly appalled.

“Break it up!” Coach yelled at the top of his lungs. He stared at Kyle, seemingly stunned, as one of the refs blew his whistle to stop the game and came running over. And he wasn’t the only one. Jim was already pushing past people on his way down the bleacher stairs.

“Get your kids under control, Coach,” the ref warned.

“Both of you, get to the locker room!” There was a vein pulsating so rapidly and noticeably on Coach Warner’s forehead that it looked like it was about to break open.

Ryan lamely attempted to throw a few more punches, but Kyle threw his hands up in the air and walked off the field. Worried gasps and nervous chatter filled the stadium at the sight of the star quarterback leaving the game. Jim raced after him, of course. One of the assistant coaches had to practically drag Ryan in.

The crowd tried to get pumped up again and get excited when the defense got a stop on third down. But when the announcer relayed, “Daryl Roberts, checking in for the Comets as quarterback,” everyone knew they were in trouble.

It wasn’t pretty. Mistake after mistake. When you had players fighting with other players on the team, you had no momentum whatsoever. They fumbled throughout the fourth quarter. They dropped passes. They had interceptions and incompletes. And the Falcons offense stayed electric, putting two touchdowns on the board in a total of two minutes.

The final score wasn’t exactly the redemption everyone had been hoping for. Thirty-four to seventeen.

“And that’s the ballgame, folks,” the announcer said. “Your Comets are now 0-2.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

So much for a party. No one was in a partying mood after that. Michael could barely believe this was the second Friday night in a row he’d wasted by staying at home.

He sat out in Kyle’s truck, knowing he shouldn’t dare go inside. Kyle had gone in about fifteen minutes ago just to get his sleeping bag and pillow again, but he hadn’t come out yet. Michael could hear the shouting Jim was doing. It was non-stop. He couldn’t make out every word, but so much of it was so much louder than necessary that he heard things like, “You ruined your season tonight!” and “You think colleges are gonna wanna recruit some hotheaded punk?”

Kyle never shouted back. He probably felt horrible about what had happened. It was uncharacteristic of him to say the least. But then again, the whole football season so far was uncharacteristic. He wasn’t used to it and he was frustrated. And Michael knew he wasn’t helping him out at all by sitting on that damn bench.

He had a chemistry test next week, and chemistry was one of the classes he was failing. He decided right then and there that he’d study for it.

Finally, Kyle came staggering out of the house, looking a little worse for wear. He climbed into his truck without a word, and they drove off.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Why was it that, when she was working, Maria felt like the time dragged by? But once she was done for the day, it went all too fast.

She ended up leaving late on Saturday because her customers had been complaining that their burgers weren’t well-done enough. So after sending them back, they then complained they were too well-done. The whole thing had been an unending, time-consuming nightmare, and because of it, Maria was running behind schedule.

She nearly collided with Michael on her way out of the restaurant. “Oh, hey,” she said.

“Hey. You leavin’?”

“Yeah.” She wished he’d come in earlier. The complaining customers had sat in his booth, but they would’ve had to sit in another waitress’s section if he’d been there.

“Do you walk home?” he asked.

“Every day.”

“Well, I’ll walk with you.” He motioned for her to lead the way down the sidewalk.

“You don’t have to,” she assured him. “It’s, like, twelve blocks.”

“I got time,” he said, undeterred. “Besides, it’s not safe for a young woman to walk on her own.”

“It’s daytime,” she pointed out.

“Just humor me. I got nothin’ better to do.”

Even though she wasn’t sure why he would want to, she gave in and started down the sidewalk, letting him walk alongside her. It was actually kind of nice to have the . . . companionship for a change. “So all the customers today were talking about how you guys lost the game,” she said, hoping it wasn’t a sore subject.

“Yeah, it was pretty bad,” he admitted.

“They said it wasn’t even close.”

“No. My friend Kyle’s the quarterback, wants to play in the NFL someday. But he and this other guy on our team got kicked out of the game for fighting. With each other.”

“Oh.” That didn’t sound good. “Well, what position do you play?”

“Benchwarmer.”

“Are you not good?”

“No, I’m good,” he asserted as they crossed the street. “I’m just academically ineligible.”

“Oh, I see.” Was that even possible? Hadn’t school only been going on for a few weeks?

“You should come to one of the games,” he suggested.

Was that an invitation? Was he inviting her?

“The next one’s an away one, but the week after that it’s Homecoming.”

“Oh, I . . . I can’t,” she stuttered. “I get . . . it gets . . . busy for me.”

“That’s ‘cause you work too much. Why do you work so much?”

She shrugged. “It’s either work or sit around on the couch. Some of us don’t have high school to go to.”

“Lucky.”

No, she thought, not really. She wanted to change the subject. “So that girl you brought in here last week,” she said. “Is she your ex-girlfriend?”

“Yeah. Well . . .” He scratched his eyebrow. “Girlfriend, again, technically.”

“Yeah, I kinda figured. You two looked pretty cozy.” She reached into her purse to check the time on her cell phone. It was already almost 4:30. She was going to be so late, but she didn’t want to be rude and just bolt on him, not when he was being nice enough to accompany her. “Does she go to school with you?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Is she a senior, too?”

“Yeah. And a cheerleader.”

“Of course.” Were cheerleaders required by law to date football players or something? Because it happened all the time. And were they also required to be unnaturally beautiful? Because that seemed to happen a lot, too. “Well, you were right about her,” she said. “She’s really pretty.”

“Thanks. She’s pretty smart, too. She’s actually takin’ her ACT today.”

The ACT. The be-all and end-all of college entrance exams. Maria had never actually taken hers. “Where does she wanna go?”

“Princeton. She wants to study English and be a writer.” He made a face of disgust.

“Oh.” She’d heard of the place, but all she knew about it was that it was too prestigious for someone like herself. “I don’t even know where that is,” she admitted.

“I don’t, either.”

“So that’s like . . . Harvard and Yale, right? The Ivy League?”

“I told you she was smart.”

“Wow.” Some people just lucked out like that. No wonder Michael was so into her. Popular, pretty, college-bound . . . any guy would be. “So are you gonna go there with her?” she asked.

“No, remember, I’m not goin’ to college.”

“No, I mean, like . . . are you gonna move there with her?” she clarified.

“Oh. Uh . . .” He stuffed his hands in his pockets, shrugging. “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought that far ahead.”

“Well, you guys just started dating again. I guess you’ve got plenty of time to figure it out.”

“Yeah.”

As much as she would have liked to walk the rest of the way with him, she knew she couldn’t. So when they hit the next crosswalk and were waiting for the light to turn, she said, “Oh, I just remembered, I’m supposed to go visit my grandmother today.” She pointed to the nursing home across the street. “It might take a while.”

“Oh, okay.” He took a few steps backwards. “I’ll just go back and have Agnes wait on me then.”

“Okay. Thanks for walking with me.”

“See ya.”

“Bye.” She gave him a small wave, then sighed as she watched the traffic lights change colors. When they turned green for main street, the crosswalk symbol lit up. But instead of walking across to get to the nursing home, she glanced back over her shoulder to check that he wasn’t watching, and then she made a right and continued down the sidewalk.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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April
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Part 8

Postby April » Sat May 24, 2014 11:14 am

Carolyn: Thanks for reading!

morethenwords122:
More mystery concerning Maria :D it just makes me wanna know more about her.


That's the goal!

I got to give some credit to Michael, even thought it' killing me to, he did try to step up and come through for Kyle. It just did end up like he wanted it to


He did try, in his own way, but he was taking the easy way out. That usually doesn't work well.

Sara:
I really hope Michael does study for his next test. I'm glad he didn't rat out Isabel


If nothing else, it's proof that he can be loyal at times.

and I think Jim valenti is a dick! He needs to lay off Kyle!


Jim is extremely hard on Kyle sometimes because he has such high expectations for him.

Rodney:
OK as stupid as this sounds.....their two game losses isn't that bad as long as they weren't area games . They are more important in getting into the state playoffs.


Yep, they could bounce back. Obviously it's not the way anyone wants to start a season, but not all hope is lost at all.

fadedblue:
Delurking to say yay for a new April story


Oh my gosh! You should delurk more often. ;)

I appreciate you taking the time to really set up the characters and background here -- it's interesting to see little bits and pieces of these people being revealed to us chapter by chapter rather than all at once and I think this will pay off, even if I am anxious to see how Maria and Michael's paths officially cross beyond just casual acquaintances!


You know, taking my time with character development is something I've really been trying to work on over my many years as a fanfic writer, and I'm glad you appreciate it. I think it's really paid off and helped elevate my writing in the last several stories I've written.

I'll say this: When Michael and Maria DO become more than just casual acquaintances . . . it's intense. Or at least I like to think so. :)

Eva:
Very smart teacher! I laughed out loud when I heard how she got Michael.


:lol: That whole thing was based off of my own experience catching one of my students last year. I had a feeling he kept cheating on his daily assignments, but I couldn't find the solid proof of it. So I gave out various versions of the same test to every kid, and when he tried to cheat, he ended up circling a completely idiotic answer like Michael did in this last part. And then he really had no choice but to fess up.

Anyway, what about Maria? Would she have a second job or would she really have a relative living there?


I really can't say too much, but . . . she's obviously getting to know more about Michael than she's letting him know about her. And there is a reason for that.

CandyliciousLovah:
For you, April, I would happily support the things that you write, no matter which pairing Michael is in at the moment for the story. You have talent, and I thoroughly enjoy coming here to read both yours AND the ones that Double Trouble write :) It's the highlight of my day/weekend, even if I'm not having a good one


Awww, what a nice compliment! That's so sweet. Thank you! I really appreciate that. :D



THANK YOU FOR THE FEEDBACK! ONWARD WE GO!








Part 8








Early Monday morning, Isabel knocked on the door to Ms. Alvarez’s room, letting herself in quietly. Ms. Alvarez was absorbed in grading a stack of papers on her desk, so she startled a little. “Oh, Isabel. You scared me.”

“Sorry. I just came to see if you could help me out with something.”

Ms. Alvarez moved her papers aside. “With what?”

“Well, I’m applying for this leadership scholarship. It’s like a statewide thing, and I need three letters of recommendation. I know I haven’t been your student very long, but I feel like you’ve really made an effort to get to know me, and I love this class, so . . . I was wondering if maybe you would write me one?”

“Oh, Isabel . . .” Ms. Alvarez stood up slowly, not agreeing to it right away like Isabel expected she would. “I wish I could.”

“You’re probably really busy,” she recognized. First year teachers always were. “It’s okay. I can ask someone else.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s . . .” Ms. Alvarez sighed heavily. “It’s our last test, Isabel.”

Immediately, her stomach clenched. “What about it?” It was literally impossible that she’d gotten a bad grade. She’d read the book twice. She’d done practice tests online. She knew the material.

“Isabel . . . I know that you and Michael have a history, and it’s pretty obvious that the two of you are dating again.”

Oh, no, she thought, panic seizing her. She knew. Somehow, she knew. He hadn’t told her, had he? No, he wouldn’t do that. “What does he have to do with anything?” she asked, trying to act like she had no idea what this was about. She was already wishing she could go back in and time and stop herself from helping him cheat. She hadn’t felt right about it then, and she felt worse about it now.

“The answers on his test were remarkably similar to yours. Will you just tell me, did you help him cheat?”

She wanted to lie. She wanted to be that kind of student who could just lie and say she didn’t know anything about it. But her own expression betrayed her, and she couldn’t say anything.

“Oh, Isabel . . . no boy is worth sacrificing who you are.”

“No, I didn’t . . . I didn’t sacrifice.” That just sounded awful. Michael hadn’t forced her to take part. She was perfectly capable of saying no. “He just . . . he’s got a lot of potential, if you really get to know him.”

“Oh, enormous potential,” Ms. Alvarez readily agreed. “But by helping him cheat, you’re not doing anything to develop that potential. You’re just enabling him.”

She nodded, understanding.

“And that’s so beneath you, Isabel. You’re not that kind of student.”

“I’m so sorry,” she apologized. “You’re right, that’s not like me. I don’t even know why I did it.”

“Well, he’s your boyfriend, and I’m sure he can be very convincing.”

Oh, she had no idea. Before Michael, she’d been determined to remain a virgin until marriage.

“But you can’t let him convince you to do things like that,” Ms. Alvarez cautioned. “You’re too bright to go down a path like that.”

Isabel nodded. She’d heard this all before, mostly from her mother.

“You know I have to inform your parents about this, don’t you?”

Great. Her mom was going to hate this.

“And I’ll also have to give you a zero on your test now.”

She whimpered. This was what she’d been afraid of when Michael had first asked her to help him cheat in the first place. “Is there anything I can do to make it up?” she asked desperately. “A new test? Extra credit? Anything?” A grade like this had the potential to affect her overall class grade, and her overall class grade would impact her GPA. She really didn’t want to lose out on valedictorian.

“I’ll think about it,” Ms. Alvarez said. “Thank you for being honest with me.”

“You’re . . . welcome.” She felt devastated.

“Don’t let him drag you down, okay?”

“I won’t.” She attempted a tearful smile, then hurried out of the classroom, clutching the guidelines for her letter of recommendation to her chest.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Lunch was depressing that day. Michael, Isabel, Tess, and Kyle sat at a table by themselves, mostly because they just didn’t care to be around anyone else. Not one of them was in a particularly good mood. Kyle was still in a funk about the last football game, and Tess seemed annoyed that he wasn’t being his usual loving self. Isabel, meanwhile, didn’t even get anything to eat. She just sat at the table with her head in her hands. Occasionally her shoulders shook, so that had to mean she was crying. Michael sat beside her, reaching over to rub her back once in a while, but when he did, she flinched.

“Isabel, you should eat something,” Tess suggested, sliding her tray over.

Isabel quickly slid it back. “I’m not hungry.”

Tess sighed, looking to Kyle for assistance. He just shrugged.

“Hey, it’ll be okay,” Tess assured her. “She said she’d think about it. So you might still be able to get that grade up.”

“Yeah, it’s no big deal,” Michael chimed in. Really, he and Isabel had totally different ideas about what constituted a big deal. “I’ll take care of this. I’ll talk to her, tell her I pressured you into it. No, wait a minute, that sounds wrong.”

“No, don’t say anything,” Isabel snapped.

“But I could--”

“No, Michael, please, just don’t, okay?”

It was a simple enough request, but it felt like a punch to the gut. Here it was again, the feeling of being a loser boyfriend. This was one of many reasons why it was so much simpler to just hook up with chicks randomly.

“It’s just a grade. It’s not the end of the world,” she said, sounding as though she were trying to convince herself.

“I feel like I should do something,” he said, hating that he felt guilty. “What can I do?”

Tears brimmed in her eyes, and her voice was barely above a whisper when she said, “You know what you can do.” She pushed her chair and got up from the table, heading in the direction of the bathroom.

Yeah. He knew.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ugh, chemistry. Could there be a shittier subject than chemistry? There was a reason why Michael had failed it once before and was already failing it again. He hated it, he didn’t understand it, and it was pointless to him. But despite all that, he was determined to give it a shot on this week’s test. It was their second one, and it was over stuff they’d started discussing back in middle school. The science geeks retained all that information. He didn’t.

He sat in the Crashdown that day, his books and papers sprawled out in front of him. Nobody seemed to mind that he’d gotten done eating over an hour ago and was now just loitering. It was a slow day for business.

A thick aroma of cigarette smoke followed Agnes in when she returned from outside, and she said, “Maria, take your break.”

Michael looked up at his favorite waitress, who was furiously scrubbing away at some stains on the counter. She scrubbed a few seconds longer, then gave up. He smiled at her, motioning with his head for her to come sit by him. She quickly made herself a milkshake, and then she did just that.

“Wow,” she commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you crack a book before.”

He pressed his index finger to his mouth and said, “Shh. I’m in study hall.”

She wrinkled her forehead in confusion.

“Well, I’m in study hall in the Crashdown,” he acknowledged. “Trust me, it’s better this way. If I was in my actual study hall right now, I wouldn’t be gettin’ anything done.”

She sipped loudly on her milkshake. “I didn’t know you ever studied.”

“I don’t. First time for everything.” He jotted down the answer to a likely quiz question on the back of his notecard. Oh, he had notecards, as embarrassing as that was. Flashcards. Whatever you wanted to call them. They always seemed to work for Isabel. “My girlfriend and my best friend both haven’t been too happy with me lately,” he explained, feeling the need to explain why he was sitting there being so lame. “They’ll be glad if I pass this stupid test. Then I can play in the game on Friday.”

“And then maybe you guys will win,” she added.

“Maybe.”

She leaned forward to get a better look at the book and asked, “What’re you studying?”

“Well, I was studying chemistry before someone came over here and started yakking.”

“You’re doing most of the talking,” she pointed out. “And you told me to come over here.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You did the head thing.”

He raised an eyebrow. The head thing? That sounded dirty.

She imitated his head movement, looking a little funny when she did it.

“You’re right, I did,” he admitted. “Well, now that you’re over here, maybe you could help me.”

“Oh, I’m no good at science,” she said, shaking her head adamantly. “I didn’t even take chemistry. High school dropout, remember?”

“So? That doesn’t mean you’re not smart.” He shuffled his flash cards and handed them over to her. “Read the question. I’ll give you the answer.”

“Okay, here we go,” she began. “The three basic components of an atom are . . .”

“Protons, neutrons, electrons.”

“Right.” She flipped to the next one. “An element is determined by the number of . . .”

“Protons,” he filled in.

“Yep. God, I don’t know any of this.”

“It’s stupid.”

“Okay, um . . .” She read the question herself, shaking her head. “Changing the number of neutrons of an atom changes its . . .”

“Oh . . .” he groaned. The first two were really easy. It was when they got to this stuff that things became muddled for him. “Isotope?” he guessed.

She looked at the back of the card and exclaimed, “Yeah, you got it.”

“This is so pointless,” he complained. “Why do I have to take chemistry? When am I ever gonna use this in my life? I’m not gonna be a scientist.”

“What are you gonna be?” she asked.

She sounded like a guidance counselor. But a much cooler one than Topolsky. “I honestly have no idea,” he admitted. “I’ve never really thought about it.”

“Never?”

“No, I just always assumed I’d end up working construction like my dad. He hates it.”

“Then why would you wanna do it?”

“I don’t.”

“Then what do you wanna do?”

“I don’t know. What do you do?” he shot back, turning the question back on her.

“Not work here for the rest of my life,” she mumbled. “My options are kinda limited. No diploma and all.” She set the flash cards down, sighing. “I don’t know, I guess . . . I guess I always used to wanna be a singer.”

“You sing?”

“I used to.”

“What changed?”

She shrugged, waiting a moment before she said, “Everything.”

He frowned, wanting to know what she meant by that. But chances were, she wouldn’t tell him. She didn’t say a whole lot about herself. Most of the conversations they had revolved around him.

“I’m distracting you,” she said. “I should go so you can study.”

“No, stay,” he said. “Keep quizzin’ me. It’s working. I’m really learning.”

She laughed, picking up the flash cards again. “Okay, fine. Next question: What is atomic mass?”

“It’s . . . mass,” he replied slowly, “that is . . . atomic.”

She rolled her eyes.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Isabel lay on her bed, clutching the snow leopard Michael had won for her at the carnival to her body. It had been a rough day, but not hopeless. She’d spoken with her FCCLA sponsor after school and found out that she’d been voted president. That would pave the way nicely for her student body president campaign, which she’d have to launch in a few weeks. She still had to write a few essays for the scholarships she was applying for, though. And she had a feeling in her gut that she’d bombed the Reading section of the last ACT test she’d taken, so she’d probably have to find time in her schedule to take it again.

Senior year was just . . . stressful.

“Okay, stop moping,” Tess said. She was sprawled out on the floor, halfheartedly working through algebra problems out of her textbook in between sending texts (and probably some sexts) to Kyle. “Your bad mood’s contagious, and I don’t wanna catch it.”

“Like I have an infectious disease or something.”

“Well, you’ve slept with Michael, so . . .” Tess shrugged.

Isabel gave her a look. “Not funny.”

“Sorry.” Tess closed her math book, then sent one last text, tossed her phone aside, and climbed up onto Isabel’s bed. “So have you had some time to process everything that . . . happened today?”

“Yep. I cheated. Got caught.” Now she knew what it felt like to be Michael. “Maybe it was a good thing, though.”

“Come again?”

“Well . . . I think Michael kinda feels bad.”

An excited grin swept across Tess’s face. “Ooh, yes, it’s always good when boyfriends feel bad about something they’ve done. Because then they make it up to you. Like by buying you flowers or--”

“Michael’s never bought me flowers.”

“Okay, then . . . by giving you an orgasm then or something.”

She sat up, setting her snow leopard aside. “He is really good at that,” she mumbled. “Actually, he’s coming by tonight.”

“Oh, see? Orgasm.”

Isabel blushed a little. “No, not for . . .” She shook her head, managing to laugh a little for the first time that day. “He said he wants to study.” Even as she said the words, she knew how strange they sounded.

“Study?” Tess echoed incredulously. “Michael Guerin wants to study? Michael wants to study? What?”

“I know. Like I said, he feels bad.”

“But has he had, like, a lobotomy or something?”

“Well, knowing him, ‘study’ is probably code for ‘make-out,’ but . . .” She trailed off and shrugged, figuring she might as well give him the benefit of the doubt. He’d said he was bringing flash cards and everything.

“Well, then I’d better clear out,” Tess decided, hopping back down off the bed. “Kyle’s all bad moody, too, and it’s up to me to cheer him up.” She did an excited little shake and practically tripped over her own feet as she bent to pick up her homework.

“Graceful,” Isabel teased. Her stomach clenched when her bedroom door flew open suddenly, and her mom came in.

“Oh, hi, Tess,” she managed before directing her attention to Isabel. “Well, I just got quite the interesting phone call from your English teacher.”

“I know.” She’d been preparing for this all day. It wasn’t often that she had to admit to her mom that she’d done something wrong.

“She says you got caught helping another student cheat on a test.”

“And that would be my cue to leave,” Tess said, quickly scooping up her things before bolting from the room.

Isabel lowered her head, ashamed and embarrassed, and her mom sat down beside her on the bed. “Honey . . .” she said. “That isn’t like you. I’m worried. Especially because she said the person you helped cheat was Michael. Is that true?”

Isabel nodded.

“Oh, sweetie . . . please don’t tell me you two are starting back up again.”

“We just . . . I just . . .” I just love him, she thought. She couldn’t explain it, so she didn’t even try. She got up and walked out of the room. She wasn’t trying to be rude to her mom, but . . . well, she’d never exactly been Michael’s biggest fan. What sane parent would be?

Her mom followed her downstairs, still trying to stay calm. “If you are, I’d just like to know. That’s all,” she said. “I’m not forbidding you. But I am discouraging it. That boy is . . . oh, Isabel, he’s just not good enough for you.”

Isabel was on her way into the kitchen when she heard the doorbell ring. She stopped dead in her tracks and cringed, because she knew who it was right away, and it was the exact wrong time for him to be there. She thought about rushing to the door and telling him to take off, but her mom was opening the door before she could get to it. Her jaw nearly dropped when she saw Michael standing there.

“Hey, Mrs. Evans,” he said, waving. In his other hand, he did indeed have his chemistry book and flash cards.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Tess came from a big family: two older twin brothers, Tommy and Tanner, who played Division II baseball at New Mexico Highlands University, and two younger twin brothers, Tucker and Trevor, who played anything and everything constantly because they were in kindergarten. Even when the older ones weren’t at home, her house was still hectic. Always was, always had been. Tucker and Trevor kept their parents hopping. The bad thing about that was that there was never any peace and quiet around there. The good thing was that it left them little time or energy to pay much attention to what Tess was doing, so whenever Kyle came over, it was never hard to sneak him upstairs.

He sat down with them while they attempted to eat dinner that night, but Tucker started throwing food at Trevor, and then Trevor threw a fork back at Tucker. So it wasn’t really much of a dinner after all. Tess brought Kyle up to her bedroom and shut the door. She kept the light off, because she knew he hated how pink and girly this room was. Whenever they slept together there, he said he felt like he lost some of his masculinity. But it was a lot more convenient to do it there than at his house where his dad was constantly hounding on him to go work out or watch some footage from the last game.

Holding his hand, she led him over to her window seat, which was the only part of her room he loved, because sometimes they liked to lie there with the curtains open and make out, regardless of who could see them. But whenever things went past a PG-13 rating, she insisted they move it over to her bed. She doubted that would happen tonight, because he really didn’t seem in the mood. But it was worth a shot.

After he sat down, she swung her legs over his lap and sat atop him, looping her arms around his neck. She kissed him, but even though he kissed her back, she could tell his mind was somewhere else, probably racing. Probably racing around a football field.

“Am I gonna be able to be your distraction tonight?” she asked, rubbing his shoulders.

“Distraction?” He frowned. “You’re my focus.”

She smiled. As nice as it was to hear that, and as true as it was . . . he had other things to focus on, too, and she’d accepted that long ago. College cheerleading was probably the best it would ever get for her, but football was something Kyle could make a career out of. It was no wonder he got so stressed out about it sometimes.

“It’s gonna be okay,” she assured him. “You’re gonna win this week’s game, and you’ll be back on track.”

“What if we don’t?” he fretted. “What if I don’t?”

“It’s not just up to you,” she reminded him. “There’s an entire team out there.”

“It is up to me, though,” he said. “Just ask my dad.”

“He puts too much pressure on you.”

“Or maybe I’m not puttin’ enough pressure on myself. Maybe I gotta step it up. Maybe I gotta find a way to make sure last week and the week before that doesn’t happen again.”

“You will,” she promised, stroking his cheek. “I believe in you. I love you.”

“I love you, too, baby,” he said, pulling her closer to him. “And . . . I thought I loved the game, but . . .”

“But what?”

He sighed, lowering his head. “I don’t know. Lately, I just . . . don’t love it so much anymore.”

Wishing she could do something more to make him feel better, she ran her fingers through his hair. But what could she do? She was just a cheerleader. It wasn’t as though she could run downfield and catch the ball for him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Your test begins now.”

Michael stared down at the stapled pages in front of him. Multiple choice, just like the English test had been. Except for this one, he knew the answers. Maybe he had all along.

Beside him, Tess was a ball of nerves, twisting back and forth in her seat, chewing on the end of her pencil nervously. He wished he could help her, maybe push his paper over a little farther on the table so she could see the answers he was putting down. But she probably wouldn’t trust that the answers he was putting down were right. And he couldn’t risk getting caught again. The whole point of all the horrible, boring, unending studying yesterday was to lift this damn grade up, lifting Kyle’s and Isabel’s spirits in the process.

He knew he’d done well the moment he handed it in, but it took two days for Mr. Frost to grade them and hand them back. When he did, he actually interrogated Michael, demanding to know if he’d stolen the answer key or had someone from another class period tell him the answers beforehand. It took every ounce of restraint Michael had not to shove his face onto the floor.

He had to talk to Topolsky after school, just to convince her that he’d studied instead of cheating, thereby satisfying Mr. Frost’s curiosity. That made him late for practice, but he didn’t really care. In fact, he decided to be later by stopping to talk to the cheerleaders. They were out by the field, and Tess was barking orders as they were marking out some kind of sideline dance on the track. He pulled Isabel out of the formation and said, “Two things: First, I’d like it if you practice in a sports bra. A little jiggle goes a long way.”

“Shut up,” she said, smiling.

“I’m serious, that’s crowd appeal right there.”

“Michael!” Tess hissed, stomping towards him. “What makes you think you can just interrupt my practice?”

Second thing,” he said, completely ignoring her. “I think you’re gonna have to cheer a little louder on Friday. I can’t hear you when I’m out on the field.”

“But you’re never--” She stopped short, and her face lit up when she realized what that meant. “You passed your test?”

“I aced it.” He took it out of his back pocket and held it up, crumpled as it was, for her to see. He’d gotten a ninety-five percent.

“Oh my god.” She sounded stunned.

“Uh, no fair!” Tess whimpered. “I flunked.”

“Study with me next time, young grasshopper,” he told her.

“Next time?” Isabel echoed hopefully.

He shrugged. There were still a lot of football games Kyle needed to win if he was going to impress all those damn scouts that showed up to see him. Once wrestling season hit, then he’d slack off again. But for now . . . maybe he could pull it together. For them. It felt good to come through once in a while.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The first away game of the season was predicted to be one of the hardest games of the season. It was in a small town called Recido about fifty miles away. Home of the Razorbacks.

Their fans turned out in droves, all wearing maroon and gold, the school colors. Their cheerleaders did stunts, lifting and tossing girls in the air to entertain and impress the crowd while the players were warming up. The Comets cheerleaders looked on enviously.

Once warm-ups were done, Ryan took a seat on the bench, and Michael jogged out onto the field. They moved down the field slow and steady for the first few plays, and then Kyle aired one out to Michael. He caught it in the end zone, good for six points, and a new school record for longest pass play on an opening drive.

But it wasn’t going to be easy. As it turned out, what made the Recido Razorbacks such a threat was their potent offense. They could run, pass, and scramble to pull a play out of their asses even when there was none available. They weren’t a team that punted the ball away, and they weren’t a team that settled for field goals. They marched it down the field and got six points every time.

Fortunately, their defense either couldn’t keep up or just didn’t amount to much of anything in the first place. With a newfound confidence, Kyle hurled the ball downfield to Michael over and over again. The only time he didn’t catch it, the ref called pass interference on the defender, and they were able to move the ball forward anyway. Whenever he wasn’t able to get open, Kyle ran the ball instead. With that combination of a passing and rushing attack, they were a scoring machine in their own right. Already by halftime, the score was thirty-five to thirty-four, Razorbacks narrowly in the lead due to an extra point the Comets’ kicker had missed.

“They’re good,” Coach Warner conceded during his locker room speech at halftime, “but you can be better.”

And during the start of the third quarter, they were. On the first play of the half, Kyle hurdled a defender in order to get a first down. Literally hurdled him. And on the second play, Michael faked a route to the side before cutting back in to the center. With his defender caught off guard, the ball sailed into his hands effortlessly, and he ran into the end zone with no pressure on him. The visitors section flew to their feet, screaming with delight, and the obviously biased announcer said, “Looks like the scoreboard’s gonna have to work to keep up here in the second half, folks. Valenti and Guerin connect again. Comets score.”

Their cheerleaders became louder, peppier, and all-around bouncier. Their crowd started doing the wave. Their coach was sweating profusely, but still laughing with them and congratulating them whenever they came back over to their sideline. When the defense came back, it was a different story. Because the Razorbacks were still putting up the points, too. Their cheerleaders were still stunting and their crowd was still howling. No chance of backing down.

It continued on this way throughout the entire third and fourth quarters. The scores climbed so high that there was even talk of reaching triple digits. But as the game neared its end, both sides were so exhausted that they started punting the ball away or settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. Both defenses looked like they could barely stand, and both offenses, though they were obviously pumped up, were praying the clock would run down while they were still on top.

In a game so tightly-matched all along, it seemed fitting that it would come down to the last few minutes of play. All the Razorbacks had needed to do was get a first down to run out the clock and win by one, but the Comet defense had come through and forced a fumble. The score was eighty-three to eighty-two, and though the Comets were behind, they had the ball on the opponent’s forty yard line with thirty seconds left.

The first two plays were short runs that were only good for a few yards and ate up way too much clock. The next was supposed to be a pass downfield, but they double-teamed Michael, and he couldn’t get open. Kyle ended up getting sacked for a loss of a few yards, and suddenly they were back at the forty yard line. Fourth down. Ten yards to go to stop the clock. Ten seconds to go before the end of the game. Coach called his last time out.

“Valenti, it’s all you,” he said when they were in the huddle. “They’re gonna expect us to pass, but we’re goin’ QB draw. Follow your blockers. Run it as far as you can get. We stop the clock, we send out the field goal unit, we ice this thing with a few seconds left. Comets on three.”

They all put their hands in the middle of the circle, and Bubba chanted, “One, two, three!” and they all shouted, “Comets!” before scattering back out onto the field.

Michael took his position, casting a quick glance over at Isabel. She was up on her tiptoes, and her poms were on the ground. Her hands were clasped together, and her lips were moving, almost as if she were praying. Maybe she was. Maybe they all were.

Above her, standing on the top row of bleachers, were the football dads. Jim Valenti was stone-faced, focused, and obviously nervous as hell.

The play was underway before Michael even knew it. He did the only thing he could do and ran down the field, trying to divert as many defenders as he possibly could. But they managed to read the play as a run, and they converged on Kyle. His blockers did a good job getting him a push forward for a few yards, but after that, the pocket started to collapse. Defenders grabbed at his ankles, nearly taking him down, but he managed to step away from them. One ran straight into him, trying to tackle him, but he spun out of it and ran to his left, desperately looking for a seam to run through, a play to make.

Michael saw that play. He saw it in the open space all around him. He saw it in the one Razorback defender who wasn’t fast enough to keep up. So he waved his arms about wildly, hoping his friend would see him, knowing he somehow would.

And he did. As impossible a throw as it was, he managed to launch the ball into the air as he was being tackled. He got it out before his knees hit the ground, and even though it wasn’t a pretty throw, it had enough power behind it to cross the distance. Michael never took his eyes off it as he adjusted his route and positioned himself perfectly underneath it. It was too high, so he jumped into the air.

It crashed into his hands, and he stumbled backward, just barely managing to secure it against his chest as the stumbled backward into the end zone.

“Touchdown!” the announcer yelled, and even he sounded excited.

The visitors section nearly exploded with excitement.

Michael sat up on the turf, checking the scoreboard. The first thing he noticed was that the clock had ticked down to zero by the end of that play. The second thing he noticed was that the score still said they were behind by one. But then they changed it, and they were up by five.

“Valenti gets it out at the last minute, and Guerin’s in the end zone to make the grab! I don’t believe it. What a finish! Comets win.”

The Razorback players were already sulking off the field and heading into their locker room. The Comets players were all tearing their helmets off and running around the field like madmen. Michael tossed the ball into the air and shot to his feet.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Holy crap. Those were the only two words crossing Kyle’s mind as their loyal student section, who had made the drive to this stadium, poured out onto the field. Holy. Crap. Had that really just happened? Had they really just won when winning had looked so unlikely? Had that really just been their first win of the season? Were the numbers on that scoreboard actually right? Because if so, that had been one hell of an exciting game.

First he looked around for Tess. She was jumping into Isabel’s arms, screaming with delight. And then he looked up into the sea of blue and gold for his dad. In stark contrast to the last two defeats, his father was now smiling down at him proudly. He gave him a congratulatory thumbs up. Below the crowd, down on the field, Coach Warner was getting a Gatorade shower as some of the players lifted the cooler over his head.

And then he looked down the field forty yards, into the end zone where his best friend, the former benchwarmer, still stood, the ball at his feet beside him. He pointed to him, and Michael pointed back.

Soaking it all in, he stared up at the scoreboard. Eighty-eight points. Eighty-eight points was what it had taken to defeat a team who’d scored eighty-three. He’d played countless football games in his life, but never had he played a game to this high of a score.

Eighty-eight points. A miraculous fourth-down play that hadn’t even been a designed one. The first win of the season. A swarm of elated students surrounding him now. A moment neither he nor Michael would ever forget.

God, he loved this game.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Minimum wage was a joke. The idea that tips were enough to make up the gap between what she was getting paid and what she actually deserved to be paid was just a myth put in place by managers and corporate big wigs. Every time Maria counted her tips, she became more and more discouraged. She felt that her customer service skills were improving, and she was a better, more knowledgeable waitress now that she’d been working there for a while now. But the tips didn’t increase. Not ever.

She stood at the counter that night, counting the money she’d received, wishing there were more of it. But there wouldn’t be. Not tonight, because there were no more customers. They were minutes away from closing down. It was only her, one cook named Jose, and Derek, their manager, left.

“They won!” Derek shouted suddenly, turning up the radio in the kitchen. “They won! They won!”

Jose started saying something rapidly in Spanish, and Derek just kept saying, “They won!” as though he could possibly understand.

Maria knew better than to ask him what he was talking about, so she just listened closer to the radio. It was a local station, and the broadcaster sounded nearly breathless. “The Comets and the Razorbacks lit up the scoreboard. It’s almost unthinkable. Eighty-eight to eighty-three points. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s pandemonium right now. Just a minute ago, Comets quarterback Kyle Valenti did some of the best scrambling I’ve ever seen to make something out of nothing. That kid is a superstar—and who does he connect with for the winning throw? His favorite receiver, Michael Guerin, of course.”

Maria smiled a little. Michael?

“It was one of the most amazing plays I’ve ever seen in any game, high school or college.”

She kept listening, and even though she didn’t know a whole lot about football, she tried to visualize it in her head, what the play must have looked like, and what it looked in that stadium like now.

“They’re gonna be talkin’ about this one in Roswell for years to come, people, and I guarantee, if you weren’t at this game tonight, you’re wishing you were.”








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 9

Postby April » Sat May 31, 2014 12:30 pm

Carolyn: Thanks for reading!

BB:
So Michael came though for Kyle and the team, can he keep it up? Will winning actually motivate him to try harder? Here's hoping, but not betting the house on it.


Yeah, it would be wrong to assume that, just because he stepped up to the plate once, Michael's going to be a super reliable guy all the time now.

Poor Isabel. Gah. I hope for her sake, that she's learning a lesson about dating loser boyfriends and doesn't fall for his type again. If that's all she takes from her relationship with Michael, it'll be a valuable lesson.


Isabel's the classic smart girl who makes dumb decisions when it comes to guys. (Ugh, I think I'm that girl, too. :oops: )

morethenwords122:
As for Isabel... I kinda see what she loves about Michael but I still wish she'd just see that she still does deserve better. Michael's not good enough for her. He's not good enough for anybody, right now


He's . . . kind of charming, in his own unique way. But I agree, he's not good enough for her or anyone right now.

Rodney:
A hundred and sixty point plus FOOTBALL game? :shock: :shock: :shock: ......did either of the team's defense unit actually show up to the game?


Oh, those are my favorite types of football games! Defense optional. ;) The school I teach at had a similar game this year, although it wasn't QUITE as close at the end. But the overall point total for both teams combined did end up being in the 140s, and it was such an exciting game!

Okay....I have to say for me Michael,Tess and Isabel are a bit flawed characters to me...not how you write them...how they are people I mean.


Good! That's how they're supposed to be. :D

I'm not overly fond of Michael all that much. The fact he'd rather hook up with random girls instead of being a good boyfriend shows me he has no character. Isabel who lets him get her in trouble because she 'loves' him,shows me she has no back bone.


Unfortunately, the only male role model Michael has had growing up is a total loser, so he's a loser, too. But that doesn't mean he always has to be. And yes, Isabel, for as confident as she is with school, she's very insecure about her relationship with Michael and always has been.

And Tess in this one where she looked down on herself thinking cheerleading was all she's going to be in life....plus a part of me wonders how much she really loves Kyle and how much is hope with his possible football stardom she can ride on with?


Tess really does love Kyle, but she's that girl who is so wrapped up in her boyfriend that he's the only thing she thinks about when she thinks about the future. And really, for anyone who is close to him in some way--Tess, Michael, Jim--there's definitely this sense that they will be able to ride his coattails into a bright and successful future, because nobody has any doubt that that's what he's going to have.

Sara:
Good for Michael!!!! Becoming a man!


:lol: Well, he's still very much a boy right now. An immature, impulsive boy. He's got a way to go if he wants to be a man, and an even farther way to go if he want if he wants to be a good man.

Eva:
I can only imagine the disbelieve on everybody's faces when Michael aced the test!


He's that classic kid who is very capable but just chooses not to apply himself most of the time.

Maria is indeed a mystery. I'm very curious to know her story, which won't be a pretty one I presume.


Well . . . let's put it this way: If her past was all sunshine and bunnies, she'd be telling Michael all about it.

CandyliciousLovah:
Surprise, Maria. There you are, knowing more about Michael


Knowing a lot more about Michael than he knows about her. ;)


THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH FOR THE FEEDBACK! :mrgreen:


This is a long part, and there's a lot of different stuff happening. I just couldn't figure out when to end it. When I write, I don't write in chapters. I write it all as one long story and split it up as I post. And since I couldn't decide where to split this, you get extra this week. Enjoy!








Part 9








Beneath the sheets, Michael could feel the sheen of sweat on Isabel’s skin as it rubbed against his. He lay on top of her, knowing he should move before he crushed her, but she didn’t seem to be complaining. So he stayed right there.

“Mmm, that was some victory celebration,” he murmured. Actually, they’d had three different celebrations that night. She’d been on top for the first celebration, and on all fours for the second. And he’d decided on good, reliable missionary for the third, since she was obviously exhausted.

“I’m proud of you,” she said, smoothing his hair back from his face. “You played so good.”

“You cheered so good.” He kissed her lips quickly, then kissed her cheek ,and leaned forward to press his face against her neck. “Tell me the truth: The whole time I was out there, were you fantasizing about this?”

“Hmm, maybe,” she replied.

“Maybe?” He latched his mouth onto the side of her neck, sucking forcefully.

“Just a little bit.”

“A lot,” he whispered against her flesh, lifting his head again. He stared down at her for a moment, attempting to gauge from her expression whether or not a fourth victory celebration was in the cards. He had no problem doing it in missionary again if that was all she could handle.

Much to his disappointment, she sighed and craned her neck back to look at the window. “Sun’s almost up,” she said.

He knew what that meant but pretended he didn’t. “So?”

“So you have to leave soon.”

“Soon but not now?”

She laughed a little. “I’m serious. My mom would totally flip if she woke up and found you here.”

“Shit,” he swore, hating that adults were such buzz kills most of the time. “She really doesn’t like me, huh?”

“No. But that’s okay, because I really like you,” she said, rubbing her legs against his underneath the covers. “In fact . . .” She drew it out for a long time before finally saying the words he could practically see on the tip of the tongue. “I love you, Michael.”

She’d told him that before, plenty of times, but he hadn’t heard it for a while. “I love you, too,” he returned, dipping his head down for another kiss. Even though she was acting like he had to go, he knew he’d get his fourth victory celebration now. Girls couldn’t resist when guys said things like that.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“KYLE!”

“I’m up! I’m up!” Kyle scrambled out of bed at the sound of his father’s booming voice. “I’m up, see?” He immediately started doing jumping jacks.

His dad threw open the door to his room. “Come see this!” He ran back out into the living room, and Kyle followed him. The TV was on. ESPN. Always ESPN in the Valenti household. And since it was football season, it was almost constantly football on ESPN. Kyle recognized the play they were showing on Sports Center right away. Because it was his play, the play from the big game last night. He’d dreamt about it all night long during the few hours that he’d actually managed to stay asleep.

“Look!” His dad was bouncing around the living room, holding his hands over his mouth. He looked like an excited kid on Christmas morning.

“Eighty-eight to eighty-three,” the Sports Center analyst recapped. “Sounds like a basketball score, right? Well, check this out: That was the final score of a high school football game, in New Mexico of all places. The top-ranked Recido Razorbacks were hosting the 0-2 West Roswell Comets. It was an electric back-and-forth game all night long. Comes down to fourth down, and Comets quarterback Kyle Valenti makes an incredible pass.”

Kyle’s chest swelled with pride as he saw himself executing the miracle play in slow motion on his own TV screen.

“In the midst of being tackled, this kid’s still able to deliver a perfectly thrown ball to his receiver in the end zone. It’s good for six and their first win of the season.”

“I’ll tell you, this is one of the most amazing throws I’ve ever seen at the high school level,” the other Sports Center analyst chimed in, “at any level, for that matter. Kyle Valenti’s been a top college prospect for a long time, and that play last night is one of many things that sets him apart from all the rest. He’s got a bright future in the sport, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing his name for years to come.”

“You hear that?” His father howled with delight. “National coverage! Doesn’t get much better than that!”

Kyle laughed lightly. What a difference a week made. Last week at this time, his dad had been pissed at him, telling him he’d thrown his whole senior season in the shitter after getting into that fight with Ryan. Now he was the world’s proudest father again.

The phone rang, and his dad bounded to it, answering it way too enthusiastically. “Hello? Oh, Joe, did you see it?”

Kyle nodded. Uncle Joe. His father’s older brother and another big football fan.

“Oh, you think it’s somethin’ on TV? You should’ve been there to see the real deal.”

Kyle smiled. ESPN. Sports Center. It was all coming together. It was all happening just the way they’d planned.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The closer they got to the thrift store, the slower Tina walked. “Michael, where are we going?” she groaned, seeming to sense that this was their destination.

“To the best shopping spot in town,” he proclaimed, not at all embarrassed to be going there. Plenty of people did. The thrift store had everything. The goods were in decent condition and hardly cost anything. What was so wrong with that?

“Why do we have to go there?” she complained, stopping.

“Because you’re out with your bro,” he said, grabbing her hand and pulling her forward. “You’re on a bro-date.” He wasn’t about to let her start becoming that self-conscious. There was no shame in going to the damn thrift store. “Besides, this is all I can afford right now.” He had very little cash on hand now that he was tipping his waitress better.

“Let’s just go somewhere else,” she begged.

“Oh, come on, Teenie, no one’s gonna see you,” he said, putting his arm around her as he led her inside. “Hey, we’ve got some good stuff here before. Maybe we could find some board games or movies for your slumber party thing tonight.” He waved at the three elderly women sitting behind the counter. The whole store was run by volunteers from the local VFW ladies auxiliary group.

“We’re not gonna do board games and movies,” Tina said.

“Oh, really? What are you gonna do?”

“Truth or dare.”

“Truth or dare.” He put his hands on her shoulders and walked behind her back to the room where they kept toys, games, and other entertainment items. “Want my advice?”

“Yeah.”

“Always pick dare. Truth’s way harder. Or, if you do pick truth, just lie. Who’s gonna know?”

“I guess.” She didn’t exactly sound or look peppy, even though she was having friends over tonight.

He let go of her shoulders when they got to the entertainment room, and he pretended to be interested in looking at the movies that had been donated. But really, he was more interested in his little sister’s social pursuits. “So these girls you have comin’ over . . . they the same ones who stood you up at that pep rally a few weeks ago?” he asked.

She lowered her head and mumbled, “Yeah.”

“Yeah? You still wanna be friends with them?”

She shrugged. “They’re cool.”

“You’re cooler.”

“No, I’m not.”

Oh, he saw it happening, and he felt powerless to stop it. Tina was growing more and more concerned about popularity every day. He so badly wanted her to just feel comfortable in her own skin, the way he did. But maybe it was different for girls. Maybe it was something he just couldn’t understand.

He held up an old VHS Winnie the Pooh movie. It used to be one of her favorites. But now she just shook her head to dismiss it. Probably too old for Pooh.

“Isabel’s gonna come,” she revealed suddenly.

“To your slumber party?” He had a few other parties in mind for them.

“Yeah. I called her this morning.”

“You called my girlfriend?”

“Mmm-hmm. She’s gonna do our hair and makeup.”

“Huh.” Well, that would help Tina’s plight, he supposed. Those other little brats would be in awe of Isabel. “She gonna stay all night?”

Tina shrugged, her eyes drifting over to the board games. “Maybe.”

“Hmm, I’ll have to keep that in mind.” He looked up to the top shelf and spied the collector’s edition of Braveheart for only fifty-cents. Holy shit, what a bargain. He had to get that, so he tucked it under his arm, along with a few other videos.

“Alright, let’s prepare you,” he said. “Truth or dare.”

She thought about it for a minute, then decided, “Truth.”

He raised an eyebrow. Going against his advice, huh? He’d take it easy. “You got a crush on any boys yet?”

“No,” she answered quickly.

“Are you lying?”

“Only ‘cause you told me to.”

He grinned. “Alright, fair enough.” He noticed she couldn’t take her eyes off a game called Dream Phone, so he bent down and picked it up for her, even though she seemed sure that they weren’t going to play any board games that night. “Let’s go,” he said, motioning with his head to the door. She walked out first and held it open for him since he had his hands full.

“Truth or dare,” she mimicked as they headed back out front.

“Ah, what the hell? Truth.”

“Do you love Isabel?”

He laughed a little. Little girl knew how to ask a big question. “Yeah, I love her,” he replied.

“Are you gonna marry her someday?”

“Probably not,” he muttered, setting all his items down on the counter. The youngest-looking old lady got up to handle the transaction for him.

“What?” Tina asked.

“Dare,” he said, reminded of his own advice that dare was the easier option in the game. “I switch to dare.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Michael’s little sister was just too cute and convincing for her own good. Even though kicking it with a bunch of fifth graders wasn’t exactly the greatest Saturday night she’d ever had, Isabel couldn’t say no when Tina asked her to come to her slumber party. She knew how important fitting in was to a girl her age, and she knew Tina had always struggled with it. She figured that, now that she and Michael were back together, the least she could do was be there for a little girl who, in many ways, felt like a little sister of her own.

The three other little girls she’d invited definitely already thought they were God’s gift to the world. The apparent leader was named Britney, but she was only the leader tonight because a girl named Hannah couldn’t be there. And her name was problematic because one of the other girls was named Britney, too. When Tina introduced them, the inferior Britney quietly revealed to Isabel that everyone now just called her Brit because she wasn’t allowed to use her full name. The other one was named Sandy, and she talked a mile a minute. Within ten seconds of knowing her, Isabel already knew that her mom had named her after the female lead of Grease, that she’d been born on Easter Sunday, and that her favorite thing to eat was salad without dressing because she liked to be healthy and thin.

She curled their hair for them, and then she got to work on their makeup. She tried to keep it simple, but they kept wanting more. More mascara. More eye shadow. Leader Britney even wanted to try eyeliner. By the time they were almost done, they looked a little too old, and Isabel felt the need to wipe some of it off. “Boys like the natural look,” she told them.

“Oh my god, let’s talk about boys!” Britney exclaimed.

“Yeah!” Brit and Sandy agreed.

“Okay,” Tina said meekly. She probably didn’t have much to say.

“Todd Langston’s so cute!” Britney raved. “I think he’s gonna ask me out.”

“Oh, yeah, he totally is,” Sandy assured her. “Yesterday, when Mr. Meyer told us to pick our partners for the project, he, like, ran to you.”

“I know.”

“Um . . .” Isabel used her makeup remover to lessen the eye shadow around Tina’s eyes. “Aren’t you girls a little young to date?”

“No,” Britney answered quickly. “I had my first boyfriend in the first grade.”

“Me, too!” Sandy squealed. “Me, too! Me, too!”

“Hey, Tina,” Brit piped up, “when did you have your first boyfriend?”

Isabel knew what they were doing. She’d survived enough of these preteen sleepovers to know the tactics well. They were trying to embarrass her by getting her to admit that she’d never had a boyfriend. Isabel quickly jumped in to rescue her. “I didn’t have a boyfriend until the seventh grade,” she said.

“Really?” Britney seemed shocked. “Huh. Now you’re with Tina’s brother, aren’t you?”

“Yep.”

“He’s so hot.”

“Ew!” Tina squealed.

“What? He is.”

“Well, he’s a little too old for you,” Isabel cautioned.

“I know, but I can still think he’s hot.” Britney sighed wistfully. “Do you guys kiss?”

“Um . . .” This wasn’t exactly the conversation she wanted to have with them. “Yeah, sure, we kiss.”

Britney leaned in closer, looking around and lowering her voice. “Do you guys do, like . . . more than kissing?”

No,” she answered quickly, hoping she sounded convincing. “No way.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kyle’s pickup truck bounced along the road as they neared his house. Michael looked out the window, seriously contemplating something. When they turned the corner, he decided to just blurt it out. “Hey, so I was thinkin’, if I start passin’ all my classes, Isabel might actually let me try anal.”

“Ha,” Kyle laughed, “good luck.”

“What, you don’t think it’ll happen?”

“No. Isabel’s way too tightly wound for that.”

“Well, you never know.” Last time they’d been dating, he felt like he’d come really close to talking her into it. Kind of. Her initial response of ‘hell no, no way, not in this lifetime’ had downgraded to a simple ‘no.’

“Even if she agrees, that’s no guarantee it’ll work out,” Kyle cautioned. “Tess and I tried it once. We barely got started before she told me to stop. Said it was too painful.”

“What? I’ve done it before. It feels good.”

“Yeah, to you.”

Michael laughed a little. “I guess.” He’d only done it a few times, and the girls he’d done it with had been way too drunk to feel much of anything, even pain. “Hey, maybe I should ask your dad about it,” he pondered as Kyle pulled into the driveway.

Kyle immediately dismissed the idea. “You’re not asking my dad for anal sex advice.”

“Why not? He probably knows exactly what to say to . . . loosen ‘em up.” He twirled to fingers around in the air, grinning.

“I’m sure he does,” Kyle agreed as they got out of the truck, “but you’re still not gonna ask him. That’s too weird. I don’t wanna have those visuals.”

When they walked inside, Jim was on the phone, just ending a conversation. “Alright, we’ll talk to you later,” he was saying. “Bye.” He ended the call, grinning from ear to ear. Probably some athletic director somewhere wanting to discuss Kyle’s future. “Hey, guys,” he said. “You’re back early.”

“Yeah, party was kinda lame.” Kyle kicked off his shoes and flopped down on the living room couch.

“Whoa, Jim.” Michael surveyed the various wines the elder Valenti had stacked on the counter. And it looked like there were chocolate covered strawberries and whipped cream, too. “Big night planned?”

“Well, sort of. I’ve been seein’ this woman for a few weeks now,” he said nonchalantly. “She’s into the whole romance thing, so . . .” He trailed off and shrugged.

“Right, right.” Michael nodded, taking notes. “So this is how you get her to . . . loosen up?”

Jim smirked.

“Is she comin’ by tonight?” Kyle cut in quickly.

“Yeah, later.”

“Huh. I don’t think I’ve met this one yet, have I?”

“No, you haven’t.”

Kyle leaned forward to grab the remote. He turned on the TV and then picked up a PlayStation controller. “Should I brace myself for another new stepmom?”

Jim chuckled. “No, it’s probably not that serious. We’re just havin’ fun.”

“Looks like.” Michael reached for one of the wine bottles, but Jim swatted his hand away. So he sat down next to Kyle on the couch and picked up the second PlayStation controller, ready to launch into a game of NCAA Football. “Well, don’t worry about it,” he said as they waited for the game to load. “When she gets here, we’ll clear out. We’ll just go look at all the Playboys Kyle’s got stashed under his bed.”

“That’ll take us five hours, at least,” Kyle joked.

“At least,” Michael agreed. “I like the vintage ones. Are those from your collection, Jim?”

He nodded proudly. “You gotta pass those kind of heirlooms down the genetic line, otherwise they get lost forever.” He poured himself a glass of wine and sauntered into the living room to join them. “NCAA Football, right?”

“You know it.” Kyle’s fingers were already dancing around the controller.

Jim took a big gulp of his wine, wiping his mouth off with the back of his hand. “I was just on the phone with this guy from Bama. He said their athletic director’s drooling over you. After the way you played Friday night, it’s not a matter of if you get a scholarship; it’s just a matter of how big it’s gonna be. But you gotta keep it up. Don’t slack off now.”

“I won’t,” Kyle promised as the game screen finally appeared on the TV.

“And Michael, it helped havin’ you in there,” Jim went on praising. “You know they’ve been showin’ that play on Sports Center all day?”

“That’s what I hear.” Even he had to admit, it was a cool thought, knowing he’d been seen by thousands of people all across the country.

“And it wasn’t just a beautiful throw; it was a beautiful catch,” Jim pointed out. “Now I know your dad’s not really too involved with your game, but if you want, I could drop your name to a few of my contacts. Kyle’s not the only one here who could play at the next level.”

“Well, he’s the only one who’s gonna,” Michael mumbled, moving towards the edge of the couch. He was stoked. PlayStation was just about the only competitive thing he could kick Kyle’s ass at. If he got lucky.

“I think you oughta think about it,” Jim advised. “Football could be your gateway to college. You could have a bright future ahead of you.”

“I could,” Michael agreed distractedly, his eyes glued on the screen now that their game was starting.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When Michael awoke, the December 2007 edition of Playboy was open atop his lap. It was his all-time favorite issue, the one with Kim Kardashian on the front. Really, people could say what they wanted about that woman, but . . . what a woman she was. Really.

He sat up, orienting himself quickly. He was asleep on Kyle’s floor again. Kyle was snoring loudly, rolled over onto his side. There were magazines sprawled all around him, too.

Michael closed the December issue and took a moment to admire beautiful Kim on the front. Then he set it aside, forced himself to his feet, and headed out into the kitchen. He wasn’t used to this, waking up on Sunday without a hangover. It was interesting.

He opened the cereal cabinet and helped himself to the Cocoa Puffs. While he was pouring himself a heaping bowl, the door to Jim’s bedroom opened quietly, and a small, slender woman slinked out. She appeared to only be wearing one of Jim’s t-shirts, which, on her, went all the way down to her knees. She had brown hair that went just past her chin, and she didn’t look a day over forty, even though, if she was dating Jim, she probably was.

She froze in the kitchen when she noticed him. “Oh. Hello.”

“Hi.” He set the cereal box down, letting his eyes roam over her. “You Jim’s girlfriend?”

“Yeah.” She tugged down on the t-shirt, but that didn’t make it look any longer.

“What a MILF,” he remarked under his breath.

She tilted her head to the side curiously. “What?”

He quickly reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a milk carton. “I said, ‘Want some milk?’” he covered.

“Oh. No . . . thank you.” She crossed her arms, cautiously making her way to the counter. “So you must be Kyle.”

“No, Michael. I’m Kyle’s friend. He’s still asleep.”

“Oh. I see.”

He added some milk to his cereal. He poured a little too much, though, so it overflowed and sloshed over the sides of the bowl, splattering the counter. He didn’t bother to clean it up, though. In fact, he grabbed a spoon, picked up his bowl, and started eating as he stood there.

“So, Michael . . .” She glanced back at the bedroom, as if she were contemplating darting in there to get dressed. But she was a trooper, stood out there with him, continuing the conversation despite how awkward she must have felt. “I think I saw you on TV yesterday. Jim wouldn’t stop talking about that play at the end of the game.”

“Yeah, it was a good one,” he agreed.

“Seems like you’re a really good football player. Are you gonna play in college?”

He shook his head.

“Why not?”

He shrugged. No need to go into any more detail than that.

“Well, it looked like it was a really good game,” she said. “How long have you and Kyle gone to school together?”

“All our lives.”

“Hmm. That’s nice. Ready to graduate?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.” He tried to scoop up too big of a spoonful, and he spilled some more, on the floor this time.

“I actually have a daughter about your age,” she said.

“Oh, really? She go to school? I probably know her.” I’ve probably fucked her, he thought to himself.

“No, she doesn’t go to school,” she said. “She’s a waitress at the Crashdown, though.”

Immediately, one face flashed into his mind. “Is she?”

“Yeah. Her name’s Maria.”

Slowly, a smile spread across his face. Maria.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

At this point, it was pretty much just understood that Michael would take a root beer for every meal. Maria didn’t even have to ask him. She got him one right when she saw him walk in, and when she set it down in front of him on the table, he smiled. “Thanks.”

“No problem. Hey, you should have the extraterrestrial tacos today,” she suggested. “It’s our special.”

“Extraterrestrial tacos,” he mused slowly. “Alright, sure.”

“Everything on it?”

“Absolutely everything.” He liked things spicy.

“Be back.” She spun to leave, but he wasn’t about to let her go.

“I met your mom yesterday,” he blurted.

She turned back around, looking utterly confused. “What?”

“Yeah. Amy DeLuca, right?”

“Yeah. How--how did you meet her?”

“She’s dating my best friend’s dad,” he explained. “Jim Valenti, the sheriff.”

“Oh, I knew she had a boyfriend. Didn’t know he was the sheriff. Didn’t know he had a son.”

“Yeah, my friend Kyle. He comes in here sometimes.”

She nodded. “Yeah, sure. Wow, so . . . so you met her, huh?”

“Yep.” He took a big drink of his root beer, amazed that it was actually starting to taste just as good as actual beer did to him. “She slept over with Jim. I slept over with Kyle.” He realized how weird that sounded and quickly felt the need to clarify. “Not in a gay way.”

She laughed a little. “Small world.”

“Yeah. Anyway, she was just wearin’ a t-shirt.”

“Oh, ew.” She cringed. “I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t apologize. She looks good. And that bodes well for you, ‘cause . . . genetics, you know.”

She looked like she wanted to sit down, but she stayed standing instead. “It just sounds really sleazy. But . . . I don’t know, I guess she’s really into him.”

“Just think, if they get married, you and Kyle will be step-siblings.”

“I don’t think they’ll get married. I doubt it’s that serious.”

“I don’t know. Jim’s been married three times,” he pointed out.

“That also means he’s been divorced three times.”

“Who hasn’t been these days?”

She made a face, shaking her head. Again, she looked like she was debating taking a seat, but she startled when her boss came out of the back room and yelled, “Maria, what’re you doin’? Get back to work!”

Right. She wasn’t on break. She had a job to do. He had to remember that.

Sighing, she left his table and back to the kitchen to place his order for the tacos.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Okay, does someone wanna explain to me what the hell is going on here?” Tess demanded shrilly to the poor, unsuspecting secretaries in the front office.

Feeling sorry for the women bracing against her onslaught, Isabel tried to calm her friend down. “Tess, it’s okay.”

“No, this is not okay! This is so wrong. How is this girl not nominated for homecoming queen, huh?”

Isabel mouthed her apologies to the secretaries, and Tess just kept going.

“She’s popular, she’s a cheerleader, and she won the damn thing last year! This is—this is a conspiracy, is what this is. You guys are conspiring against her. You’re jealous of how pretty and smart she is, and you’re taking out your jealousy on the freaking homecoming nominations!”

“There’s no conspiracy, Tess,” Isabel said, once again apologizing quietly. This time, she grabbed her friend’s wrist and pulled her out of the office. The secretaries just continued to sit there, stunned, completely perplexed by what had just hit them.

“Isabel, this is so unfair. I’ll get to the bottom of it, I promise.”

“Tess, it’s fine,” she insisted. “I knew I wouldn’t be nominated.”

“What?”

“Yeah, remember how Michael and I had our little Great Gatsby cheating scandal? Well . . . Principal Forrester found out about it, and he really wasn’t happy. So he basically gave me an ultimatum: Either drop out of the race for homecoming queen or the race for student body president.”

Tess made an incredulous face. “So you chose homecoming queen? What’s wrong with you? That’s way more important than student body president!”

“Not to me. Besides, it’s like you said, I won it last year. I already know what it’s like. I don’t need to win it again this year.”

“But you deserve to be nominated.”

She shrugged, not sure if anyone deserved such a thing. “It’s okay. Hey, think of it this way: Kyle’s for sure gonna win king, and you’re probably gonna win queen, so . . .”

Tess’s eyes started to gleam as she pictured it. “Well . . .” She squirmed from side to side excitedly. “That would be pretty cute.”

“See?” It was mission accomplished as far as Isabel was concerned. She’d gotten Tess to calm down. Not an easy thing, because even though Tess was tiny, she had a lot of spunk and vigor in her.

Michael rounded the corner suddenly with a stack of papers in his hand. “Oh, hey, I got those campaign posters made,” he said, handing them to her.

“Oh, really?” She couldn’t contain the disappointment when she saw what he’d come up with. He’d drawn a caricature version of her, which actually was pretty good, but totally not presidential enough. And the slogan was simply, Vote for Isabel. Why? Because I said so.

He shrugged helplessly. “I couldn’t think of anything.” And then he was on his way.

Isabel stared at the posters, wondering if there was even any point in putting them up. Michael was popular. If he said to vote for her, people probably would.

“Well,” Tess said softly, “at least he tried.”

She sighed. That was thing. She knew he wasn’t trying, not as hard as he could have.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sixth period got scrapped that day so everyone could assemble in the gym and hear the student government platform speeches. Of course, sixth period was Michael’s study hall. No, they couldn’t miss out on chemistry or algebra or something challenging like that. They had to miss out on the one class period of the day where he could actually just be lazy and get away with it.

Even though only one person was running for treasurer and only one was running for secretary, they were required to give speeches. Boring. It was really all about the presidential speeches. Three people were running, in addition to Isabel. One was a sophomore girl who had a tendency to stutter and was way out of her league. For some inexplicable reason, maybe because he was no longer part of the jock inner circle, Ryan was giving it a go, too. His speech sucked, though. Clearly he’d been trying to wing it, but it hadn’t worked. The only real competition—if it could even be called that—Isabel had was going to come from a junior named Raymond Sullivan, who had been vice president at East last year. He was so flamboyantly gay that it wasn’t even funny, but for some reason, that made the girls love him. His speech was decent, but Michael cringed whenever he listened to him, because he was trying so hard to sound like a chick.

Isabel’s speech was definitely the best, though, and he wasn’t even being biased. His girl had no problem getting up there in front of everyone and speaking with poise and confidence and all those good qualities schools liked to instill in their students. Honestly, Michael found it difficult to focus on what she was saying, though, because he kept glancing down at the skirt she was wearing. It wasn’t that tight, but he found himself wondering if she was wearing underwear and then wondering if she’d let him drag her into the eraser room so he could find out. Probably wouldn’t, but a guy could dream.

He snapped himself out of his fantasies right as her speech was coming to an end.

“This truly is a year of new beginnings here at West Roswell High,” she recapped. “Two schools have become one. Two student bodies have merged.”

Michael leaned over towards Kyle and joked ,”I’d like to merge with her student body.” Kyle laughed lightly.

“To be elected the head of that student body would be a complete and utter honor,” Isabel continued, “and I would do everything I can to make sure I maintain the integrity of that position. To recap, my first priorities would be to establish an after school tutoring program and to work with our administration in order to procure off-campus lunch privileges for upperclassmen.”

That got a few hollers from the crowd.

“I ask that, if at any time before, during, or after this election you have ideas for our school and for our students, please come share them with me. I’m very open to what each and every one of you has to say. I know that my own ideas are only the tip of the iceberg. We have a plethora of potential here at West Roswell.”

“Plethora?” Kyle echoed, astonished. “Dude, your girl’s so smart.”

Michael nodded in agreement. Plethora. Hmm. He had no idea what that meant.

“Thank you so much for letting me speak to you today,” Isabel concluded, “and for considering me for your vote. Thank you.”

Everyone began to clap as Isabel stepped down from the podium. Michael stood, shouting, “Yeah!” and clapping as loudly as he could. Kyle stood up beside him and proclaimed, “She’s got my vote.” Immediately people around him started nodding and registering that fact, as though that were all they needed to vote for her, too.

“Way to go, Isabel!” Tess exclaimed, her voice somehow rising above all the others as she shot to her feet. “Woo!” She nearly lost her balance and fell forward on the bleachers, but Kyle reached out and caught her arm, steadying her.

After the speeches, they were allowed to mull around the gym for a bit until the end of sixth period. Whenever somebody walked by Isabel, they congratulated her on the job she’d done. Tess, in particular, couldn’t stop raving. But then again, Tess hardly ever even stopped talking, so that made sense.

“I’m not even just saying this ‘cause you’re my friend,” she babbled. “You did so good. Like way better than everyone else.”

“Yeah, all the other speeches were boring,” Kyle agreed.

“Yours was interesting,” Michael added.

She gave him a skeptical look. “You mean actually listened to what I said?”

“Yeah, you talked about the . . . plethora and . . . potential. And merging.” He sighed. “Alright, you looked interesting while you were giving it. I was distracted.”

“Of course.” She gave him a quick kiss anyway.

“Well, well, well,” an annoyingly high-pitched voice rang out. It was Raymond Sullivan, and he was treading towards them with a sneer on his face. “Looks like Roswell Barbie’s trying to give me some competition.”

Isabel rolled her eyes.

“Um, is that supposed to be insulting?” Tess asked. “Because Barbies are pretty.”

Raymond glared at her for only a second, the way you glared at an insect you just wanted to fly away, and then he returned his attention to Isabel. “I gotta admit, I was surprised. That was a pretty good speech.”

Isabel crossed her arms over her chest, not backing down from . . . whatever this was. Confrontation? No, this was way too petty to be that. “And why would that surprise you?”

Raymond shrugged. “I just figured you only used your mouth to suck your boyfriend’s cock.”

Michael couldn’t help but laugh a little. To him, that was funny. But clearly it wasn’t to Isabel. She gazed at him in disbelief, and he knew he had to do a little damage control. “I mean . . . hey!” he barked, stepping in front of her, amping up the bravado as he towered over the little wimp, trying to look intimidating. “What makes you think you can say that to her, huh? That’s disrespectful. You can’t talk to my girl like that.” He pushed on his shoulders, sending him stumbling backward just slightly.

“Don’t push me, bitch,” Raymond ground out.

“Who you callin’ bitch? You’re the little bitch.” Michael pushed him again, but this time, Raymond pushed back, with surprising strength. He actually managed to tackle Michael to the ground, but . . . come on. Varsity football player versus a gay pain in the ass? It was no contest. Michael got a few punches in pretty easily before Kyle pulled him away and the principal finally came to break it up.

It was because of this altercation that he found himself back in Topolsky’s office that afternoon while everyone else went on to seventh period. He knew Isabel would be mad at him for this. She’d say he made her look bad. But the way he saw it, he’d made Raymond look way worse. The little prick was in Principal Forrester’s, probably getting an earful, probably accepting that he’d have to drop out of the election now.

“Oh, Michael, here we are again,” Topolsky said as she closed the door to her office.

“Hey, I haven’t hit anyone else this year. I’d say I’m doin’ pretty good.”

She sat down, taking out what looked to be a brand new student file. Only a month into the year and already his was pretty full. Absences, cheating scandals, now this . . . different school, same stuff.

“Why’re you always dealin’ with me?” he asked her. “Why not make Forrester do it?”

“Let’s just say, you’re my special project this year,” she replied.

“Tough project, huh?”

“Well, I like to earn my money.” She sighed, taking a specific piece of paper out of his file. She handed it to him and said, “Take a look at that.”

He expected it to be some kind note they were sending home to his parents about all his lunchtime absences, but . . . it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that at all. He knew what he was looking at right away but asked, “What’s this?” anyway.

“Those are your test scores from the state standardized assessments we’re required to give,” she explained. “You took the tests last year as a junior.”

“So?”

“So? Look at your scores, Michael. You were above average proficiency in every subject matter. You scored in the ninety-sixth percentile on English, ninety-second on math. And clearly you’re very creative, too, because your state writing piece was judged as exemplary.”

He shrugged, handing the test results back to her. “So I got lucky. Trust me, that’s nothing new.” He grinned. “I get lucky all the time.”

“These scores aren’t just the result of lucky guesses,” she assured him. “You have a first-rate mind, when you choose to use it.”

“Look, I’ve heard this all before.”

“So you’ll hear it again. Michael . . . maybe you should’ve listened a little closer to your girlfriend’s speech. She was talking about potential, and that’s something you have in abundance. Don’t you ever wonder what you could accomplish if you really set your mind to something? Don’t you ever wonder who you could be?”

He knew who he was, and he knew who he wasn’t. All these people that had such high hopes and expectations for him were going to end up disappointed. He wasn’t the type of person who was able to live under the pressure to be . . . good.

Topolsky seemed to sense that she still wasn’t getting through to him, because she put his scores away, her shoulders slumping in defeat. “Oh, Michael,” she sighed. “I just wish I could find something to motivate you.”

He smirked. Good luck with that.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“No.”

“No?” Michael raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “Just no?”

“I’m not doing that.” Isabel’s tone left little room for debate.

“Why not?”

“Because! We’ve been through this. It’s disgusting.”

“What? It’s natural.”

“It is not natural!”

He groaned, shifting his weight on his feet, feeling frustrated. He knew he should have asked Jim Valenti about this. That guy was a guru. “But it’ll motivate me to study,” he attempted desperately.

“Are you serious? You’re bribing me?”

“What? No. Kind of.” He felt all control over the conversation slipping quickly from his grasp.

“You think I’m gonna let you backdoor it just so you keep your grades up?”

“Well . . . maybe?”

“Unbelievable. No. No way. You shouldn’t need that to motivate you. You should just do it.”

“Just do it,” he echoed, still trying to salvage some sort of hope and possibility here. “See? Now we’re on the same page. Let’s just do it and see how it goes.”

“Ugh!” She made a face of disgust and stomped out of her bedroom.

“Oh, don’t act all exasperated,” he said as he followed her downstairs. “I seem to recall, a year ago, you had a different cherry that needed popping. And I popped it so good.” They both stopped abruptly at the foot of the staircase, because Isabel’s mom was walking in the door. She looked alarmed, as if she’d heard the tail end of that conversation.

Michael gulped and managed, “Hi, Mrs. Evans.” But that was all.

Even though he tried to bolt, Isabel’s mom insisted he stay for dinner that night. Which, truth be told, he didn’t really mind. Diane Evans was a good cook. In fact, she was sort of good at everything, very much like her daughter in that regard. She made some kind of delicious fruit salad that Michael liked even though he didn’t like fruit, and she even made meatloaf and mashed potatoes because she knew it was his favorite.

“So Michael, I hear you’re nominated for homecoming king,” Diane remarked in between awkward silences. “That’s quite an honor.”

“Ah, not really.” It was just a popularity contest. Anyone who thought it was anything else was an idiot. “I got nominated back at East, too. But Kyle always wins.”

“Oh, I’m sure.”

“I think Tess is gonna win queen this year,” Isabel said.

“Oh, that’d be nice.”

Michael shoveled some more meatloaf into his mouth, and Isabel discreetly made a gesture for him to . . . slow down? Or chew with his mouth closed? He wasn’t sure, so he tried to do both.

“I was homecoming queen, back in the day,” Diane reminisced. “And your daddy was king.”

“He was?” Isabel smiled a little. “That must’ve been romantic.”

“Not really. We weren’t even dating at the time.” Diane sighed longingly, and her eyes glazed over as she remembered. She literally shook herself out of it, though, and asked, “So what are you two planning to do after the dance?”

Fuck, Michael thought. Nonstop. “Uh . . .”

Luckily, Isabel had more of a censor. “Actually, we were thinking we might just hang out with Tess and Kyle. At Kyle’s house.”

“I see. And will there be any parents there?”

“Kyle’s dad will be there,” Michael lied quickly. “Probably his girlfriend, too.”

A flash of hurt flew across Diane’s face, and she lowered her head.

“Oh, sorry,” Michael apologized immediately. Jim had dated and bedded so many women in his time that it was easy to forget Diane had been one of them.

“That’s okay,” she said quickly. “Isabel, sweetie, can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Sure.” Isabel got up from the table, exchanging a worried glance with Michael on her way out to the kitchen.

Michael continued eating while he waited for them to rejoin him. Even if he hadn’t been able to overhear their conversation, he would have known exactly what was being said. He was every mother’s worst fear, and he accepted that: the hormonal teenage boy who cared too much about sex and not enough about school. Regardless, Diane Evans had always been a pretty decent woman to him. She made sure not to judge him aloud, even though she was probably doing it internally.

But because they only ventured out to the kitchen, and because their kitchen was right next to their dining room, he was able to pick out bits and pieces of what Diane was saying to her daughter. Lots of “be careful” and “I know you love him, but . . .” And then she was questioning whether or not Isabel was still on the pill and reminding her about Princeton and her future. Because Isabel had a bright future, just like Kyle. And other people just didn’t have that.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Tess stood before her full-length mirror, hands on her hips, angling herself in various positions so she could examine the dress from all angles. “Is this the one?” she asked.

Isabel lay on the bed, glancing up from her physics homework long enough to say, “I think it looks great, just like the last three dresses you tried on.”

Tess smoothed her hands over the fabric. This one had lots of jewels and bedazzlements on it up around the torso and waist. But the bottom was unadorned and soft. Even though the dress itself couldn’t seem to decide if it was pale pink or lavender, it was a pretty color. And she liked the light purple belt cinched and bowed below her bust-line. Always good to accentuate the assets.

“I like it,” she remarked, though she was still indecisive. There was a reason why she’d bought so many dresses. She didn’t know which one she liked best. “Should I go with this one?”

Isabel was once again focused on physics. “If you want to.”

“I just wanna look pretty.”

“You always look pretty, Tess. And you’ll look extra pretty when you win homecoming queen.”

“Well . . .” She didn’t want to get cocky, but realistically, Isabel had been her biggest competition, and now that she wasn’t allowed to be nominated . . . “I have to look gorgeous, just in case Kyle proposes.”

Isabel’s head snapped up. “Proposes?” she echoed. “Proposes what, exactly?”

Tess smiled coyly. “What do you think?”

Isabel set her book aside and curled her feet up under her. “Don’t tell me you’re still stuck on this whole engaged-before-your-senior-year thing?”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Tess, you guys are in high school.”

“But Kyle leads an accelerated lifestyle,” she protested. “Think about it: In a few years, he’ll be in the freakin’ NFL. Surrounded by professional cheerleaders and adoring female fans who want him to sign their breasts. I just don’t wanna get left behind.”

“You won’t,” Isabel assured her.

“I’m good for exactly two things in life: cheerleading, and being Kyle’s girlfriend.”

“You’re good for more than that.”

“I just think it’d be romantic is all.” She flapped her arms against her side, turning to gaze at her reflection in the mirror again. “Even if he doesn’t propose on homecoming, that’s okay, because the possibilities are endless.”

“They are?”

“Yeah. Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, my birthday, prom. He could even propose at his graduation, and I’d be content.”

“Even then?” Isabel smiled and shook her head. “Don’t get your hopes up, Tess. I doubt the guys sit around and talk about things like this.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kyle had been banging his hands against the table for what seemed like forever before he finally stopped and blurted, “I think I’m gonna propose to Tess.”

Michael literally spit up the root beer he’d been drinking. It went all over the table. “What the hell?” he barked.

“Not, like, tonight or anything. Relax.”

“Oh, thank God. You had me worried there.” Michael grabbed a napkin and quickly cleaned up the mess he’d made. No sense in making Maria do that.

“I can just tell, though. I can just see it in her eyes,” Kyle said. “Whenever we start talkin’ about homecoming . . . she wants me to propose to her then.”

“But you’re not gonna.” As much as he liked Tess, he hated the thought of his best friend being all tied down like that. Like more tied down than he already was.

“No, that’s just too soon,” Kyle admitted. “But maybe . . . I don’t know. I know she wants me to propose before her senior year.”

“What the fuck?” Michael spat. “Is she nuts?”

“Well, we’ve talked about it.”

“Then are you nuts?” he revised. “God, what’s wrong with you? You’re seventeen. You’re a guy. You’re not supposed to be talkin’ about that.”

“Why not? We know we’re gonna get married someday.”

“Yeah, but . . .” He knew girls generally looked forward to marriage more than guys did, but still . . . he couldn’t imagine putting a ring on someone’s finger so soon. Maybe ever. “You’re a fuckin’ crazy person,” he decided flat-out. “You’re fuckin’ crazy. You know that?”

Kyle just grinned. “I’m in love with the girl,” he said with a simple shrug. “And I think she’d feel a lot better about me goin’ off to college if we were engaged.”

“Are you gonna be like your dad? Get engaged every other minute?”

Kyle frowned. “Dude, it’s not like that. Tess isn’t just some hot chick I’m balling. She’s . . . she’s the one, you know.”

“No, I don’t know,” he confessed. “Well, whatever, man. I’m just not . . . I’m not in that . . . space, you know? I don’t get it. But . . . whatever.” He was relieved when Maria came back to the table. Maybe an outsider’s perspective would do Kyle some good.

“Hey, guys, our cook just had, like, a seizure or something,” she revealed. “It’s gonna be a bit of a wait on the burgers.”

“Ah, that’s fine,” Kyle said.

“Hey, Maria, I got a question for you,” Michael announced. “Do you think Kyle here’s too young to get married?”

“Uh, let me answer that for you,” Kyle said quickly. “Yes, I’m too young to get married. No, I’m not too young to get engaged. So if I decide to do that within the coming months, wish me luck.”

“I’m probably not even qualified to answer,” Maria said. “I don’t even know you.”

“Oh, but you probably will,” Michael said. “Hey, Kyle, you know how your dad’s girlfriend has a daughter?”

“Yeah.”

He pointed to Maria.

It took Kyle a second, but he connected the dots. “Really?”

Maria smiled and shrugged.

“Yeah, I figured it out. I’m a mastermind like that,” Michael boasted, folding his hands behind his head as he leaned back in the booth.

“Well, hey, your mom seems cool,” Kyle said.

Maria made a face. “Not so much.”

“No, really, I liked her. Which is why I’m gonna offer you some advice: Prepare her for the inevitable heartbreak. My dad’s what they call a serial dater. He goes right from one to the next, stops to get married for a few years here and there, but it never really lasts.”

“Better hope that’s not hereditary,” Michael teased.

“Shut up, man,” Kyle growled, kicking him under the table.

“Okay, inevitable heartbreak,” Maria registered with a nod. “Got it.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Friday was a culmination of a busy week for West Roswell High. In between the student government elections and spirit week and the pep rally Tess and her cheerleaders cared way too much about, there were torturous football practices. Coach Warner was determined that they weren’t going to let their egos get too big after their showing in Recido last week. Every day, he reminded them that a homecoming victory would be their first home victory, and that they owed their crowd that much.

And really, that was what the week was all about. Not the pep rally. Not the election. The game. Friday night came, and the game was everything.

The whole town must have turned out—honestly, what better things did anyone have to do? In Roswell, the choices were limited. Michael was semi-surprised to see that even his parents had made it there. His mom gravitated towards Diane, even though they had little in common, and his dad managed to mingle with Jim and the other football dads.

The visitor’s section was basically non-existent. The team they were playing traveled from over two hours away. They were called the Greyhounds, but they sure as hell weren’t fast. That much was apparent just from watching them warm up.

Michael found himself distracted by the cheerleaders while he was supposed to be practicing his routes. As was tradition, they were wearing the football players’ away game jerseys. Isabel was wearing his, of course, and Tess was practically swimming in Kyle’s.

When the announcer introduced Kyle and he ran out onto the field, the applause and cheers for him were so loud that they actually drowned out the announcer’s voice, and even though they had a decent speaker system, the next guy up couldn’t hear his name being called, and he ran out onto the field late.

The energy was palpable—it was homecoming, after all. But if the crowd was expecting another nail-biting, fight-to-the-finish type of game, they weren’t going to get it. But they were going to get a win. That much was clear right from the start. On the very first play of their possession, Kyle eased past sloppy defenders and ran the ball nearly eighty yards downfield for a touchdown. And it continued to be all Comets after that. Everything that hadn’t been clicking during those first two home games was clicking now; they were firing on all cylinders. By the end of the first half, Michael already had three touchdown receptions himself.

The cheerleaders did a dance at halftime, and Michael sneaked out of the locker room during coach’s spiel just so he could see it. Damn, they looked good. Something about those skirts . . .

Before the start of the second half, they recognized all the homecoming royalty candidates out on the middle of the field. This aggravated the hell out of Coach Warner, of course, because all the candidates for king were on the team.

But once they started up in the third quarter, they weren’t fazed by any of the activity. They went back to doing what they did best—scoring. Their defense did give up one touchdown on a kickoff return late in the third, but other than that, all was going their way.

When they were up fifty-nine to seven, Coach Warner made the decision to send in the B-team. Mostly freshmen and sophomores who, even though they weren’t great players, were perfectly capable of securing a win against a crappy team like the Greyhounds. Kyle waved at the crowd as he took a seat, and they gave him a standing ovation.

Even the B-team managed to get into field goal range, so the final score ended up being sixty-two to seven. The crowd was pumped, obviously elated to see that the Comets had a team that could completely and utterly dominate the way they’d been predicted to at the start of the season. The bar had been set. This was what they would want to see from every game on out.

But Michael wasn’t thinking ahead to all the other games. All he was thinking was that it was Friday night. And they’d just won. Isabel was roped into doing some lame team bonding sleepover thing with the cheerleaders, so sex would have to wait. But he still had the guys to hang out with. And since they’d all just played, they were hungry.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was mere minutes before closing that they pulled up out front of the Crashdown. Restaurant workers probably hated it when customers came in right at the last second when they were ready to leave.

“Dude, am I s’pposed to the driver?” Antonio slurred, leaning against Jase for support.

“Yeah, man!” Jase exclaimed.

“No, I-I can’t drive. I’m . . . out there,” Antonio struggled to say. “You drive.”

“I can’t drive, man.”

“I’ll drive,” Bubba bellowed, bringing up the rear. But right as he said that, he hunched over and threw up on the sidewalk.

Michael shook his head. Lightweights, all of them. Even Bubba, who, physically speaking, was a heavyweight. They’d driven out to Frasier woods to kick-start the night with some vodka shots and whiskey, but even though Michael had drunk just as much as his friends had, he was feeling it a whole lot less. Somehow, he was actually the most sober out of all four of them, which never happened. He had a feeling he’d be the one behind the wheel that night.

When they stumbled inside the restaurant, Antonio and Jase started singing the West Roswell fight song. “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here. The Comets are the team to fear!” They sounded horrible and off-key, and they couldn’t remember the rest of the words, so they just started say, “Hey!” over and over again.

Maria came out of the back room, retying her apron around her waist. Michael gave her a head nod and a small smile. Poor girl. She’d been there that afternoon, too. Probably was working another double shift.

They sat down in the wrong booth, so Michael directed them to the right one. They stopped singing long enough for Antonio to yell, “I love food!” at the top of his lungs. Jase picked up a menu, opened it for no apparent reason, and then tossed it onto the floor. “So what’s the plan?” he asked. “Where we goin’ after this?”

“Well, there’s a lot of parties goin’ on,” Michael said. “How about we just go hit all of ‘em and stay at the best one?”

“Yeah!” Bubba exclaimed, fist-pumping the air way too over-zealously.

“Dude, I can’t believe Kyle’s missin’ this,” Jase said. “Where the hell is he anyway?”

“Didn’t you see all those college scouts there tonight? He and his dad are wooing them,” Michael informed them.

Jase and Antonio looked at each other and both said, “Woo!” at the exact same time. They erupted in laughter as though that were the most hilarious thing in the world, but the immediately stopped when Maria came up to the table. “Oh, hello,” Jase said, licking his lips.

“Hi, guys,” she greeted, sounding tired. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

Antonio, letting his eyes roam all over her, mumbled, “I think I’d like to drink you, sweetheart.” That made Jase chuckle.

“What?” Maria asked quietly.

Oh, no, Michael thought. He knew what guys were like when they were this drunk. Hell, he usually was one of the guys who was this drunk. He didn’t want Maria to have to put up with them.

“Actually, I’m hungry,” Antonio went on. “I think I want a . . . blow-job burger.”

Laughter. Michael just smiled nervously. Maria glanced at him quickly, looking uncomfortable. “Excuse me?” she said.

“I’ll take a doggie style hot dog,” Jase added. Louder laughter this time.

Michael felt his smile fading, but he just kept sitting there. It was like he’d forgotten how to talk or something.

“Gangbang guacamole!” Bubba roared. And that got the three of them laughing so hard that Antonio was nearly falling onto the floor and Jase was hitting the table so hard it might break.

Maria looked stunned. And hurt.

Michael knew his friends expected him to say something vulgar, too. And honestly, if it had been any other waitress, he might have. But he couldn’t say something like that to Maria. Still, he felt their eyes on him, waiting, so he forced his mouth to work. “Just get us all root beers,” he said, trying to look her in the eye. It was hard. “Please.”

She walked off, probably relieved to be away from them. Who could blame her?

“Guerin, what the hell, man?” Bubba said, shoving his shoulder.

“Yeah, aren’t you supposed to be the ultimate ladies’ man?” Jase reminded him. “Aren’t we supposed to be learning from you?”

Michael just shrugged. What was he supposed to say? They wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t understand that Maria was . . . she was just . . . different.

“Disssssapointed,” Antonio struggled to get out, shaking his finger at him. “Hot little waitress and you don’t even put the moves on her? Lame.”

God, he felt lame. But not because he wasn’t putting ‘the moves’ on her, not that what these guys were doing classified as that. He just felt lame because he felt like . . .

. . . a loser. And that usually didn’t bother him.

He sat with the guys for only a few seconds more, letting them make their dumb jokes and say their stupid stuff. But then he couldn’t take it anymore. He got up and walked in Maria’s direction.

“Oh, there he goes,” Jase mumbled.

He walked behind the counter, where she was taking longer to get their root beers than was actually necessary. “I’m sorry,” he apologized weakly.

She grunted, not even looking at him. “Yeah, you should be.”

“They’re just drunk.”

“And so are you, I presume.”

“Yeah, but . . .” There was a difference between being drunk and acting drunk. “I didn’t say anything.”

She whirled to face him, accusation in full bloom in her eyes. “Yeah, you didn’t say anything. You just sat there and let them . . .” She trailed off, shaking her head angrily. “You know, I would like to think that, if I’m standing there getting verbally assaulted by those creeps you call friends, you might have the decency to step in and say something.”

Decency? Did he have that in him? He really wasn’t sure anymore. But she seemed to believe he did; otherwise she wouldn’t be so upset.

He felt bad.

She grabbed all four root beers by the bottle necks and brushed past him. But he caught her arm and pulled her back. “Maria,” he said, looking her right in the eye as he apologized. “I’m sorry.” He loosened his grip on her slowly and promised, “I won’t ever let that happen again.”

She still looked disappointed, but at least she looked a little less mad. Letting out a heavy sigh, she didn’t say anything more as she headed back to the table to drop off the drinks. He watched her.

He only felt a little better.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.

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Part 10

Postby April » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:48 am

morethenwords122:
Just when i think we're getting somewhere with Michael... He just has to be a freakin' jerk again


Of course! Because this fic would be FAR too simple if he wasn't! :D

I'm actually starting to get frustared over the lack of everybody, not including Kyle, not realizing their potential. Tess is more than just Kyle's boyfriend and a cheerleader, Isabel ... MICHAEL IS NOT THE GUY YOU DESERVE!!! and Michael... I'm not even going there


It's a recurring theme of this fic (and of high school in general, I suppose), that you can do/be more than what you think you can.

CandyliciousLovah:
Isabel, you really should give up on Michael, but we all know it will be hard when you have to.


She loves him, despite the known fact that she shouldn't. She can't find it in herself to give up on him.

Tess/Kyle, WOW. Young engagement? Not surprising there


You know, I think in every high school across the world, there is just that couple. That couple who is just clearly meant to be and you know they're going to be together forever, and Tess and Kyle (but especially Tess) find delight in being that couple for their school.

Eva:
They are actually all in the process of learning who they are and what potential they have in them. It's called high school and this senior year will be a very important year they won't forget.


Definitely. They're still very young, and young people have to make mistakes in order to learn and grow.

Carolyn: Thanks for reading!

Sara:
Can I rescind my earlier comment about Michael becoming an adult? HA! He made me want to punch him SEVERAL times throughout this update. The only time I was pleased with him was when he was with his sister Tina. And ultimately when he apologized to maria...though an apology shouldn't have been needed had he manned up at the beginning. Asshole. UGH!


Michael was DEFINITELY an ass when he didn't stand up for Maria. But he's just so unused to doing anything good for anyone else that he wasn't even sure how to handle that situation. Not that that's an excuse, but . . . it just is what it is with him. He did promise to never let it happen again, though, so that's a good step.

LuckyMiss:
I'm loving this story, April. We see snippets of what Michael COULD be in parts, then he does or says something that makes you realize he's not there yet, and you've gotta cringe. (And that's putting it nicely. Some of the stuff he says/does is appalling, to say the least.)


Oh yeah, sometimes his thoughts/actions/words just make you wonder if there is actually anything redeemable in him. There is (the snippets, like you said), but it's just very hidden sometimes.

The whole Amy-Jim dynamic is going to be an interesting one, as they're two completely different characters from the show. Looking forward to seeing how this pans out, though I fear it won't end well.


Everyone seems to be thinking it won't end well. We'll see. ;)

Rod:
You used Bama in your story! :shock: This is by far now my most favorite story


:lol: I knew you'd love that. Trust me, that is NOT the last time your beloved Bama will be mentioned and/or featured in this story.

Plus....Jim got busy with Isabel's mom also? Is there any woman in Roswell that Jim hasn't got too?


No, Jim's pretty much gotten around to all of them. 8) He and his son are so opposite in that way.


THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THE FEEDBACK! I LOVE FINDING OUT WHAT YOU GUYS THINK!

I made some manips of a few of the characters showing them in their Homecoming attire in this part, viewable on my author's thread here.

And the music I suggest for this part when you see :| is "Head Over Heels" by Digital Daggers, which is a really cool song (and a cover of a Tears for Fears song, am I right?) Anyway, you can listen to it here or click on the smilie when you see it.









Part 10









The homecoming dance took place the next night. There were a thousand other places Michael would have rather been, and a million other things he would have rather been doing. But when a guy had a girlfriend like Isabel, he pretty much had no choice but to go to the damn thing.

Kyle would wear a tux, of course, but Michael would have none of that. He wore jeans, because . . . well, why not wear jeans? They were comfortable, and he was all about comfort. He tossed on a nice black jacket, one that had once belonged to his dad. And he put on a nice white shirt underneath, too. He looked presentable. That had to count for something.

Apparently it didn’t count for much, though, because he watched Isabel’s face wrinkle up in displeasure when he went to pick her up. She had expected him to look nicer. Indeed, compared to her, he was severely underdressed. She was wearing a long, red strapless gown with a huge slit up the right side and some sparkly-looking adornments that went diagonal from the slit to her breasts. And oh those breasts were a thing of beauty to every member of the male gender. Strapless was the only way to go when you were built like her. She always managed to look ravishing in red, too. It was definitely her color.

Come to think of it, maybe she was just over-dressed. She did look so good, though.

A gust of wind whipped her hair about her as she got into his car, making it wavier than it already was. “You couldn’t have worn a tux?” she asked disappointedly.

“Nope.” They’d had the same conversation last year.

Isabel wanted to get to the dance early, but he wanted to get there about a half an hour later, when it was already in full swing. No point waiting around for the party to start, however lame the party would be. It was just taking place at school, in the cafeteria of all places. When it had been announced that that was where it would be this year, Tess had gotten so upset that she’d considered waging a protest.

When they walked in, even he had to admit that the cafeteria had been transformed, though. It looked nothing like the boring, mundane place they ate lunch at every day—well, some people ate lunch there every day; not him. The lights were down low, and blue and gold Christmas lights were hung from the ceiling, meant to look like stars amongst various paper mache objects, including clouds, asteroids, and of course, comets. A fog machine was keeping things perpetually smoky, and under a balloon arch, a photographer stood, poised to take pictures of all the happy couples. The background was decorated to look like a solar system, and it said A Dream Come True.

“Hmm,” Michael grunted, looking around. “Looks kinda pointless.”

“Um, hello? Do you know who took the time to plan and decorate this whole thing?” Isabel huffed. “The student council. Which I am a part of.”

“Oh, well . . .” He’d really shot himself in the foot there. “I meant pointless in a good way.”

She rolled her eyes, probably about to let him have it until Tess’s voice rang out behind them. “Oh my god! Look at my best friend! Doesn’t she look amazing?”

“You look nice,” Kyle said. Yep, he was wearing a tux.

“And your best friend doesn’t look too bad, either,” Tess added. “God, Michael, you almost look dashing.”

He shrugged. “Almost.”

“Jeans, though?” Tess made a face. “Really?”

He groaned, not about to stand there and get his wardrobe critiqued. “I’ll be back,” he announced, heading over to the food table. Most people were dancing, so that gave him open opportunity to hover around the punch bowl. When he was sure no teachers or other chaperones were looking, he whipped out his flask and poured some whiskey in. He saved some for later, though, when there would be a new batch of punch. He quickly hid his flask away in the inner side pocket of his jacket and poured himself a glass. One sip had even him cringing. That was . . . strong really wasn’t a strong enough word to cover it.

When he rejoined his friends, Isabel and Tess were busy giving commentary on everyone’s dresses. Kyle looked bored, but he was putting up a good front. Still, when Michael came back, he let go of Tess’s arm and stood beside him, quietly asking, “Did you spike the punch?”

“Yeah, I think it was already spiked, though.”

Kyle chuckled. “Well, should make for an interesting night then.”

Maybe ‘interesting’ hadn’t been the right word for it. More like mind-numbing. Endless. Dull beyond the telling of it. After the dress commentary, the girls decided they wanted to dance. Which was something Michael didn’t do. He sat at the table they’d taken over for themselves while Kyle got out there and danced with them, and while they danced with their cheerleader friends. A few of the other football players joined in, and suddenly they were the biggest group out there. Isabel kept looking at him impatiently, like she was waiting for him to just give in and go out there.

He resisted for as long as she could, but eventually she got fed up enough that she marched up to him, grabbed his hand, and tried to pull him to his feet. “Michael, come on,” she whined.

“I don’t dance. Unless I’m making a Harlem Shake video.”

“Too bad. You’re at a dance. Come on.”

He gave in, only because he figured it was easier than having her bother him about it for the rest of the night. He’d dance for a bit—fifteen minutes max—and then he’d sit back down again. Or maybe go get some more punch.

He didn’t have rhythm, and that wasn’t his fault. He’d inherited his two left feet from his dad. So mostly he just stood behind Isabel, his hands on her hips while she danced. Kyle was a little more boisterous, of course, twirling Tess around, even doing a little hip shaking of his own.

As long as Isabel’s hips were moving, Michael was content. In fact, when her butt grazed against his crotch, he felt downright inspired. He dug his fingers into her waist and pressed his pelvis forward, grinding against her.

“Michael, stop!” she yelped, spinning around.

“What? You wanted me to dance,” he reminded her.

“Yeah, dance, not give all our classmates a peepshow.”

He sighed, hating this. Hating every moment of it. On nights like this, he felt like he couldn’t do anything right in Isabel’s eyes. He wasn’t dressed right. He didn’t dance right. He didn’t say the right things about the decorations.

“I’m gonna go get a drink,” he told her, slipping off the dance floor. He immediately dumped in the rest of his whiskey when he got to the punch bowl and poured himself a glass that was full to the brim. He chugged it, feeling the need to thank whoever else had put something in there. It was probably all that was going to get him through the night.

“Michael!” A cute, curvaceous little redhead staggered his way. Literally staggered. Girl was pretty far gone. Even the chaperones had to notice. She tripped over her own feet and fell into his arms. “Oh, Michael!” she squealed, smoothing her hands over his chest. “I’m fucked up.”

“Yeah, you are.” She was wearing a strapless dress just like Isabel was, but hers was currently hanging so low that she was about to show some unintentional nipple. “I know you, don’t I?” She looked familiar. “I don’t really remember you, but I remember . . . enjoying you.”

“Roxie,” she informed him.

“Roxie. Oh, it’s all comin’ back to me.” It really wasn’t.

“Dancing. Topless. Party.”

The topless dancers. He remembered now. She was the one he’d screwed in Kyle’s truck. She was one of Tess’s cheerleaders. “Oh, I got it.”

“Yeah, see?” She tried to take off his jacket, and he half the mind to let her, except that Isabel was coming towards them. “Son of a . . .” He pushed Roxie away, holding his hands up innocently.

“Great, Michael,” Isabel bit out. “You take me to this dance and end up flirting with other girls. Really a dream come true.”

He couldn’t deny that he’d been flirting, or at least letting her flirt with him, so he wasn’t going to. Instead of answering, he took another drink of spiked punch.

Luckily, Principal Forrester got up onto the stage and grabbed the microphone, offering him an escape route when he said, “Would all nominees for homecoming royalty please come up onto the stage?”

“That’s me!” Roxie exclaimed, skipping off. She barely managed to make it three feet before she fell, got back up, skipped some more, and then fell again. Eventually, she made it. Michael followed closely behind.

He squinted against the bright spotlight and stood next to Kyle, wondering if there was some possible way he could get out of this night without making Isabel feel too bad. He could always try the whole ‘I’m sick, and I have to go home’ drill and see if that worked. But she would just say he was sick because he was drinking too much.

No, he was probably stuck there.

In a surprise to no one, Principal Forrester quickly revealed, “Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 homecoming king is . . . Kyle Valenti.”

Thunderous applause rang out as Kyle stepped forward. The outgoing kings from both West and East Roswell were there to put a ridiculous gold crown on his head.

“And as for the moment you’ve all been waiting for . . .”

Michael made a face. The moment they’d all been waiting for? Homecoming queen? Who honestly gave a shit?

“Your 2013 homecoming queen . . . Tess Harding.”

Tess let out a high-pitched squeal and leapt forward as the applause rang out again, holding one hand over her mouth and one over her heart. “Me?” she gasped, pretending to be surprised. “Oh my god!”

Michael disinterestedly clapped for his friends. Not a shocking result, but they deserved it. They were the perfect couple, after all.

( :| )

Everyone had to form a circle around the dance floor for Tess and Kyle to have their royalty dance. When the next song came on, also a slower one, Principal Forrester invited all the other candidates to pair up and take the floor, too. Roxie immediately jumped in front of Michael with a huge grin on her face, as though she were expecting that he would dance with her. And truth be told, he wanted to. She was definitely revealing some nipple now, and it was a nice nipple. But he knew well enough to know that there would be hell to pay if he lay so much as one hand on her, so he walked down off the stage and made his way back to the food table, where Isabel was still standing and looking upset. He held out his hand to her, waiting for her to take it. And she did wait. She waited for at least five seconds before giving in, laying her hand in his, and letting him lead her out to the dance floor.

Tess rested her head on Kyle’s shoulder while they danced, but Isabel didn’t do that with him. She probably would have if things had been going better that night. As it was, though, she put her arms around his shoulders and allowed him to wrap his around her waist, but she stayed pretty distant, and she looked down at their feet as they swayed in time to the music rather than looking him in the eye.

Maybe it was naïve, but he’d sort of been hoping that a slow dance in front of the entire school would be enough to convince her to forget that she was mad at him. But the longer he stood there with her, feeling the space between their bodies rather than her body pressed against his, he knew that wasn’t going to happen. So he buckled down and apologized. “I’m sorry.” Felt like he’d been doing that a lot lately.

She waited a moment, then snapped her head up to glare at him. “Are you?” she asked accusingly.

“Yes.”

“Because it’s the same old story. All the time, Michael. You do something infuriating or immature, and you just expect me to forgive you.”

He frowned. “No, I don’t expect that.”

“Sure you do. And why wouldn’t you? I’m still with you, even though you cheated on me.”

He sighed heavily. Maybe it had been naïve to believe they were past that, too. “Come on, Is.”

“No, you come on. When are you gonna grow up? When are you gonna stop being the guy who spikes the punch and gets drunk and lets girls crawl all over him?”

“What’s so wrong with spiking the punch?”

“It’s just . . .” She clenched her hands into fists momentarily. He could feel them on his shoulder blades. “I don’t know how to get through to you. And it gets so frustrating, because sometimes I really think you might be changing for the better, but then you just do something to prove me wrong.”

“Then maybe you should stop trying to change me,” he suggested.

“I’m not.”

“Yeah, you are. That’s the whole thesis of your little speech.” He glanced out at the crowd around them, wondering if people could tell that they were arguing.

“I just . . .” She lowered her head, and he heard her sniff back tears. When she lifted her head again, they were shimmering in her eyes. “I love you,” she whispered. “And I believe in you. And I want you to be someone. Anyone.”

He hated when she talked like that, because even if it was meant to sound supportive, it just made him feel . . . pressure. Doubt and pressure and skepticism and all sorts of things no one wanted to feel if they could help it. But on the bright side, it seemed to make her feel more at ease once she had that off her chest, because she relaxed in his arms, moving closer to him. And eventually, she lowered her head and rested it against his shoulder, holding on tightly while the dance continued on.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Church was a waste of time in Michael’s opinion, but Isabel and her mom never missed it. Sunday morning hit, and they were always there, right in the front row, singing along with the best of them, dressed in nice clothes, actually paying attention to the sermon and everything. After the less than amazing festivity that the homecoming dance had been, Michael figured the least he could do was tag along to church when they invited him the next day. Mending fences and all that bullshit.

He hated it. He hated every single second of it. He managed to convince them to sit closer to the back, but that didn’t stop other members of the congregation from coming up to him and shaking his hand before the service started and asking him what church he usually went to. He flat out told them this was the first time he’d been to church since he’d been baptized. But truthfully, he wasn’t sure if he’d even been baptized.

He wore the same jacket and nice shirt he’d worn to the dance, because he didn’t have anything nicer. He spaced out while the minister droned on and on with his sermon. The only part that was even semi-interesting to him was communion, because of the wine. But he barely even got a sip of that.

Afterward, they went out to eat. Not for breakfast. Not for lunch. Brunch. Honestly, who ate brunch? Wasn’t that like an old person thing? Or a gay thing?

Isabel and her mom seemed to enjoy it, though. Diane talked about everything that had happened at work that week, and Isabel talked about what had happened at school. When Diane asked her daughter about the dance, though, Isabel became strangely quiet and changed the subject. Every once in a while, Michael made some small comment or nodded his head in agreement, just to make it seem like he was taking part in the conversation. But really, he was just watching the clock, counting down the time, wondering how soon he could be home and be sleeping.

When he got home, his first order of business was to get into comfier clothes. His second order was to take a few of his dad’s beers out of the refrigerator and drink up. Friday night after the game had been far too sober—since when did he end up being the designated driver? And last night had just been miserable all around.

He sat on the living room couch, already on his third beer, having a one-on-one chugging competition with himself, when his mom got home from work. She immediately started picking up dirty clothes that were strewn on the floor. Some were his dad’s, some were Tina’s, and some were the things he’d worn to homecoming. When she saw him and saw what he was doing, she groaned, “Oh, Michael, really?”

He tossed his head all the way back, downing the remainder of what was left in that can. “What? You know I drink.”

“But during the middle of the day? In the house with Tina right upstairs?”

He set the empty can down on the coffee table alongside the other two. There was still one full one waiting for him.

“Couldn’t you try to be a better example?” She tossed the dirty clothes onto his lap, maybe as a way of asking him to toss them in the washer. And then she picked up the full can and brought it back into the kitchen. Maybe to just put it away or maybe to drink it herself as the day wore on.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Maria could see the larger of the two truckers reaching down beneath the table to massage the bulge in his pants while she refilled his friend’s coffee. Even when she turned to him and asked, “Anything more for you?” he didn’t stop.

“Nothin’ you can give me in public.” He grinned, and that got a chuckle out of his friend.

God, were men all alike? Did they all just have the urge to be repulsively hormonal, regardless of age? Because these guys were at least twenty years older than the high school idiots from the other night, but they were acting very much the same.

She forced herself to walk away from the table without giving them a piece of her mind. Because it wasn’t in her job description to do that. With the coffee pot in hand, she slowly made her way through the restaurant to a section that wasn’t her own. It was unusually crowded there today. Some huge UFO tour group had just come in from Arkansas, mostly retirees, and being retired, they were in no hurry to leave. They ordered seconds and thirds, and even dessert on top of it all. Which meant that booths that were usually empty were occupied. Which meant that Michael was relegated to a table near the front window when he came by. Not in her section.

He’d been there for twenty minutes, but all he’d gotten was a root beer float. And he’d barely even touched it. In fact, he was just sitting there, his head down on the table, pillowed by his arms.

She glanced into the kitchen, noticing that Jose was almost done with the heavy trucker’s order of Saturn rings. But she had absolutely no desire to rush those over to him, so she walked over to Michael instead, nearly tripping over an elderly woman’s cane on the way. When she got to him, he was so out of it that he didn’t even hear her. “Michael?”

No response.

She tapped his shoulder. “Hey, Michael?”

Slowly, he lifted his head. His eyes were bloodshot, and he looked tired. Who knew? Maybe he’d been sleeping. Although it was pretty loud in there with all those people, so that was doubtful.

“Hey, your booth’s empty now,” she informed him.

“Oh.” He looked over there for a moment, then just said, “Thanks.”

That was it? He wasn’t going to move? “Are you gonna go over there?” she asked, not even sure why it mattered. It didn’t matter.

“You want me to sit in your section?” he teased. “Why? I don’t tip very well.”

“You’re getting better.”

He finally smiled a little bit, and he grabbed his root beer float and got up to move. She made a quick detour to put the coffee back, picked up the Saturn rings, and dropped them off at the truckers’ table wordlessly. She heard just the first snippet of some kind of derogatory remark, so she scampered off to Michael, sliding in across from him.

“Are you still mad at me?” he asked her.

“Mad?” She frowned.

“For the other night. After the game. Me not standing up for you when my friends were here.”

“Oh.” Though she wasn’t sure why he would call those losers his friends, she figured she didn’t know him well enough to judge him in that regard. “I wasn’t mad,” she informed him. “I was . . . disappointed.”

“Ugh.” He made a face. “That’s even worse.”

“You think?”

“Oh, yeah. Everyone’s so disappointed. Topolsky’s disappointed that I’m not a better student.” He was starting to slur his words a bit, but he kept going as if he hadn’t. “My mom’s disappointed I’m not a better son. Isabel’s disappointed I’m not a better boyfriend.”

“Oh, no. What happened there? What’d you screw up now?”

“What makes you think I screwed up?”

“Well, you seem drunk, so . . . educated guess?”

“Well . . . you’re right,” he admitted. “But I get drunk all the time, so . . . you can’t really just go by that.”

“Noted.”

He sighed, spinning his straw around in his ever-melting root beer float. “At the dance last night, this girl was flirtin’ with me . . . and I kinda flirted with her back.”

“And let me guess: Isabel saw the whole thing.”

“Yeah. How’d you know?”

She shrugged. Wasn’t hard to figure out.

“Well, anyway . . . she was kinda pissed.”

“Obviously.”

“But I’ve been tryin’ to make it up to her. I slow-danced with her in front of everyone. I went to church with her today. I went out to eat with her and her mom.”

“Well, you just have to keep that up,” she advised. Even though she didn’t know a whole lot about Isabel or about the situation, it seemed simple enough. “Show her that you care.”

“Show her that I care?” he echoed questioningly.

“Yeah. You do care, don’t you?”

“Yeah.” He bent down and took a sip of his float. It made a funny gurgling sound as it inched up the straw. “What should I do?”

“Oh, I’m leaving that one up to you. You got any ideas?”

He seemed to sober up for a minute as he looked off into the distance, nodding slowly and contemplatively. “Yeah, I think so.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The water was warm as it fell down around them. It looked so good on her skin. Michael had to touch her. First just her shoulder, then her arm. He slowly moved his hands low enough to wrap around her stomach. If he was sure she wasn’t still upset with him, he would have let them venture lower, but for now, he decided it was best if they just stayed put.

She reached forward to adjust the water, making it warmer as it was starting to cool. Lowering his head, he kissed her shoulder, then moved her wet hair aside and kissed the back of her neck. Isabel shuddered and craned her neck backward, resting against him.

“You know, I don’t need you to get me clean,” she said.

“Maybe I’m tryin’ to get you dirty,” he murmured in her ear.

She laughed a little, turning to face him, looking down at their feet.

He put one hand under her chin, urging her to look up at him. “Hey,” he said softly, “you know I care, right? About you.”

It took her a moment, but finally she nodded and affirmed, “I know.”

Damn right I care, he thought. Romantic shower, no promise of sex of any kind . . . Although, now that they were in there . . . why not do it? Sure, his parents were home, but they didn’t care. Or maybe they did, but they’d just learned not to let it bother them a long time ago.

“I’m really sorry about homecoming,” he apologized, even though he felt like he’d apologized enough. “Senior year. I should’ve made it a better night for you.”

She narrowed her eyes skeptically and asked, “I thought you didn’t buy into all this senior year sentimental stuff.”

“I don’t. But it’s important to you, so . . .” He shrugged, reaching behind her to adjust the water onto the cooler side.

“Well, it’s okay,” she decided. “I mean, not okay, but . . . it’s over. We’re moving on.”

And that was exactly what he’d been hoping to hear. “Good.” He grinned, moving his body in closer to hers, eventually pinning her up against the corner of the shower. As they kissed, he let his hands roam down to cup her round, gorgeous ass, and she instinctively raised one leg to wrap around his waist. He hooked his hand under her knee, positioning himself, bending his knees a little so that he was at the perfect angle to slide into her.

“Wait,” she said, pushing gently on his chest. “Do you have a . . .”

Before she could finish the question, the one she always had to ask, Michael heard the bathroom door open. They both froze, concealed by the shower curtain.

His dad cleared his throat and asked, “Krista, that you in there?”

“No, Dad, it’s me,” he answered back.

“Oh. Sorry. I’ll be outta here in a minute.”

They continued to stay still, and Isabel made a face when they heard his dad lift the toilet seat and start peeing. Yeah, this was definitely a mood-killer.

About ten seconds later, they heard the toilet flush, and the sink turned on quickly as he washed his hands. On his way back out, he called, “Hi, Isabel.” And then he was gone.

Isabel’s mouth dropped open, and she covered it with her hand. He laughed, unable to tell if she was mortified or thought it was funny. He sure as hell thought it was funny, though. Hands-off parents like the ones he had made it possible to get hands-on with his girl whenever and wherever he wanted. He kissed her again, hoping to get her back in the mood so he could show her just how much he cared.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“So you had sex with her?”

“Yeah.”

Maria couldn’t help but laugh at the dopey grin on Michael’s face. She’d seen it before. It was a guy’s classic just-got-laid look. But on Michael, it was kind of adorable.

“Don’t act so shocked,” he said as he walked her down Main Street that night. “I was just taking your advice.”

“Wait, I don’t recall that being my advice.”

“You said, ‘Show her how much you care.’ What says I care more than doin’ it?”

She laughed again, shaking her head. “Well, you’re obviously an old-fashioned romantic.” Such a guy thing to say. Such a guy. “Well, whatever, I guess if it worked out for you . . .”

“Oh, it worked,” he assured her. “We’re good now. She is lovin’ me. She was in such a good mood at school today. And she stayed over the other night.”

“I assume your parents don’t know about that.”

“No, they know.”

Her eyes bulged. “And they’re just okay with it?”

“Yeah.”

Wow.” That was definitely a . . . unique parenting style. But then again, Michael was probably a unique son. “Well . . .”

“Nah, it was pretty tame,” he admitted. “After the sex, anyway. We stayed up and watched movies with Tina.”

“Who?”

“My little sister.”

“Oh.” She couldn’t find the time or energy to stay up late anymore. She was just too busy.

“You know, Maria . . .” He nudged her side playfully. “It’s like you work two jobs, you know. You give me good advice. Part waitress, part therapist.”

“Yeah, well, too bad I only get paid for one job.” For the amount of work she was doing, she sure wasn’t reaping much reward from it.

“Yeah, your job must suck.”

“Thanks.”

“No, I mean . . . the customers suck.”

“You’re a customer,” she quickly pointed out.

“Well, I’m the exception. But seriously, you’re on your feet all day. And I mean all day. You’re always there.”

“Well, my manager—who I’ve aptly chosen to call Fuckface, by the way . . .”

“Fuckface?”

“Yeah. He had the bright idea to fire everyone he didn’t like. So we’re understaffed. Which is actually okay with me, because then I get more hours.” Sure, double-shifts were excruciating, but at least she was able to pull a little more money in that way.

He frowned, stopping at the crosswalk. “Why do you like to work so much?” he asked.

“I don’t like it. I just have to do it.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not in high school, Michael. And that’s what you do when you’re not in high school. You work.”

He grunted, stepping down onto the street when the walk symbol appeared. “No thanks.”

She followed him, glancing around, knowing they couldn’t go much further together. “Have you ever had a job?” she asked him, pulling her jacket tighter around herself as a gust of wind whipped past.

“No,” he admitted. “When I was, like, ten, my dad quit his job and tried to start up this handyman business. Just like a Mr. Fix-It type thing, you know. And he really wanted me to help him. But I was too lazy, and the business never really got up off the ground. So he went back to construction, and I went on . . . bein’ lazy.”

“Hmm.” She nodded, wishing she had that luxury. Even though laziness wasn’t a particularly attractive quality for anyone, there was something refreshing about the way he just owned up to it. “Are you and your dad close?”

“Not really. What about you?”

“Me and my dad?” She shook her head vehemently. “No.”

“You must be pretty close to your mom, though.”

“Well . . .” She wished she were one of those girls who could say her mom was her best friend. “We used to be, but now . . .” She didn’t want to delve into it too much, so she just summed it up with, “It’s complicated.”

“Always is with parents.”

Always? Was that true? She stopped abruptly in front of Blue Moon, which was widely regarded as the worst bar in town, and turned to face him. “Thanks for walking me,” she said, “but I’ve got it from here.”

“Are you kidding? You think I’m gonna make you walk by yourself at night?”

“Actually, um . . .” She motioned behind her to the bar. “I’m meeting someone in there.”

“Oh.” He glanced over her shoulder a moment. She hoped he didn’t look too hard, because it was probably just a bunch of old guys in there. “Alright,” he said, already backing up and heading off the way they’d come. “See you around.”

“Bye.” She put her hand on the door, watching him go, wishing he could take her the rest of the way. Because it really would be nice to not walk home alone.

As he was jogging back across the street, trying to beat the crosswalk sign before it turned, she ducked into the nearest alley and headed towards home.








TBC . . .

-April
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LOVE IS MICHAEL AND MARIA.


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