It was the worst thing that could happen. I tried to hide it as best as I could, but my parents discovered that, to their absolute horror, their teenage son was playing video games online when he could be doing his taxes or praying or whatever the hell they expected teenage boys to do.
“These are your friends?!” my dad’s yells echoed in my head. I was sitting in my room, unable to stop myself from reliving the moment. “They’ve never even met you!”
“Why can’t you just… I’m not being rude, but why can’t you just be normal?” my mother’s exasperated voice rang in my head. “You don’t do anything at school, you aren’t making friends…”
Of course, when I pointed out I spoke to my online friends nearly daily, she’d scoff and say, “Real friends, Jason.”
I stared at the ceiling, shifting around on the bed. They really couldn’t comprehend that it wasn’t like I couldn’t make friends at school and settled for online friends instead. It wasn’t like I was socially deprived or something. I chose this life. Some students were happy pretending that classes were more entertaining or fulfilling than League, and hey, good for them. What was I supposed to do, apologize for knowing I learned more from something like Minecraft than my functions class could ever teach me?
Well, that was gone now. My parents weren’t exactly known to bluff, so when they said they’d take away my computer privileges, it was clear they meant it. And none of my usual backup arguments were good enough anymore.
What about typing up my school assignments? “You could easily do that at the library.”
Didn’t I have a right to my own free time? “That doesn’t mean you have a right to our computer. Go outside.”
I talked to these people, my friends, every day for years. Couldn’t I at least log on one more time and say I’ll be gone for a while? “Nice try.”
Jesus… ‘nice try.’ Anything after that was met with, “don’t talk back, Jason.” Because of course. Everyone knows that giving a reasonable reason, or your side of things, is always “just talking back.” If the authorities tell you to do something, you should just do it without questioning it and thinking about it. Hail friggin’ Hitler.
A knock on my door took me out of my mind. “Hey, you done with the computer?” Hailey’s voice greeted me from outside my room.
“Forever,” I groaned.
“Um, is that a yes?” her annoyed tone replied.
“Mom and dad just finished yelling at me,” I told her. “I’m probably not going on it for a while, so it’s all yours.”
“Oh. Um, that sucks,” she said without conviction. There’s this weird expectation that siblings are always supposed to either perfectly get along or be mortal enemies. I think Hailey and I were more like most siblings than movies let on. “Well, I guess I can use it then.”
“Can you, uh…” I paused. “Can you log on to my account first? Discord should just automatically sign me in. In the first server you see, just say that I won’t be there for a while and I say goodbye.”
“Why would I do that?” she asked.
I sat up on the bed, getting up and opening the door so I could look her in the face. Even though she was two grades below me, and a girl, she was nearly as tall as me. It’s not like I couldn’t grow anymore, but I was sixteen. Clock was ticking. I’d appreciate being taller than 5’7. “Because I can’t, and these are my friends. I talked to them every day, and now, what, complete silence? They’re gonna think I died or something.”
She rolled her eyes. “Alright, fine. So dramatic.” She turned to walk away, then looked back at me. “You’re really angry, huh?”
“I like playing games. I like my friends. Mom and dad are doing this for no reason.”
“I think they’re doing it because only having friends on the other side of a screen is weird,” she told me. “What are you even gonna do now? You’re on that computer all day. It’s supposed to be a family computer, you know.”
“Yeah, well, good news for you, I guess,” I replied. “I didn’t think about it. I’ll still be in my room, though. I’m not spending any more time around mom and dad than I have to.”
“Maybe you should join a club or something,” she suggested.
“What, at school?”
“Yeah. It gets you away from mom and dad, and you might get to make some real friends.”
“Don’t you say that too, Hailey, you’re supposed to be the good one in the family,” I joked.
“I am the good one,” she reaffirmed. “Maybe they have a video game club or something, I dunno.” She turned back around. “It’s just a suggestion. Later.”
It wasn’t my favorite suggestion, but hey, if Hazelwood had a video game club, maybe they had some kind of room with computers that could handle games. Maybe I could find a workaround.
“As you know, Hazelwood is one of the best in the state for extracurricular programs,” the guidance counselor told me as she handed me some kind of pamphlet. This was definitely some speech she rehearsed or something.
I looked over the pamphlet, my eyes glazing over most of the words. “Is there some kind of tech section?”
She paused. “Well, we have the media section over here,” she offered, coming to my side and pointing it out. “And of course, if you have an interest in technology, perhaps you can engage with the online community yourself, like with blogging, or starting a YouTube channel!”
I don’t even know if that would have appealed to me while I still had a computer, but sans computer, definitely not. “Pass,” I found myself saying out loud, hoping only afterwards I wasn’t being too rude. I looked over the media section, only seeing stuff like the school paper, the competitive robotics club, and the yearbook team. “Anything that uses computers, but in a kinda… community way?” I asked.
“Well, I suppose it depends on what you mean by that,” she said.
“Yeah, like… yearbook team, it’s kind of like work. They’re creating something, and they have to know about Photoshop or something. What if I just wanted to do tech stuff… with no real expectations? You know, like if, just as an example, if there was like a video game… club. That kind of thing.”
“As in, a club for teaching students to make video games?”
“Honestly, more like discussing them, or, y’know… playing them…”
The guidance counselor gave a single condescending laugh. “That’s why we have computers at home. Hazelwood doesn’t need to set our students up with video games.”
“Yeah, but, y’know, it might be cool. Y’know, for example, if the students were too poor to afford computers or something.” I looked at the counselor, who was returning my look. “I dunno. Just an example. Anyway, what else is there?”
She looked at me for a bit longer before taking a pamphlet and reading one herself. “Well, what kinds of interests do you have?”
“Kinda what I just said. Computers and video games.”
“Yes, but what else?”
I paused. “I don’t know,” I replied. “Just… stuff.”
“Well, do you like creating things?”
“Not really. I’m not good at it.”
“Maybe it’s the time to start!” she offered.
“I’m not really sure I want to,” I replied in a monotone voice, my eyes looking over the paper.
“Look, I do have my job to do, so if you aren’t sure, maybe you should take the pamphlet with you,” she offered with an exasperated tone. “I don’t think we’ll get too much done here like this. If you need to pick something, close your eyes and point to a random spot on the page.” She got up and went back to her desk.
Jeez. Wasn’t she supposed to help me? What happened to counseling? And… guidance? I walked out of her office into the main hallway and ran a hand through my shaggy blonde hair. Maybe extracurriculars weren’t the thing I should look for…
…But what the heck could I do instead? Hailey was right, it gave me an excuse to stay out of the house, and if the rest of last night was any indication, that was nothing but a good thing. I looked down at the pamphlet in my hands, closed my eyes, and moved my finger around on the page.
I opened my eyes and followed my finger. Quiz Bowl. Trivia, I guess? It wasn’t the worst choice… and they were one of the only clubs that met twice after school, so that was nice. I probably was garbage at trivia, but what the heck, it could be fun.
I opened the door and entered, not sure what I was expecting. I guessed that Quiz Bowl wouldn’t exactly be made up of the most popular kids at school. Trivia was kind of seen as a nerdy thing, right? I wasn’t even sure if I was nerdy. I just liked video games.
It definitely didn’t help their case that the meetups happened in the physics lab. We called it a lab, but really, it was a classroom just like any other, except this room had upgraded to whiteboards instead of blackboards, because science, I guess.
When I entered, none of the… five students noticed me. The teacher – the physics teacher, Mrs. Chadwick, that made sense – was reading some kind of question, and four of the students were paying attention to her like their life depended on it.
“…proposed by then General-in-Chief Winfield Scott,” Mrs. Chadwick finished reading the paper.
One of the boys at the table hit the buzzer first, milliseconds before another girl could. “The Anaconda Plan,” he declared in a high voice.
“That is correct,” Mrs. Chadwick said before turning to me. “Oh, hello!”
“Uh, hey,” I replied lamely. “Is this where the Quiz Bowl team meets?”
What a dumb friggin’ question. Why else would they be sitting around with buzzers and trivia questions? Luckily, none of the students took the opportunity to roast me for it. In fact, none of them said anything. Mrs. Chadwick simply smiled politely and nodded. “Are you interested in trying?”
“Uh, yeah,” I replied. “My name’s Jason, and… yeah.”
“Well, we’re just training for Regionals now, but… tell you what. We are supposed to have six contestants anyway, so you can be one of our alternates for this practice.”
“Um…” I stared around the room, at the five students. Four of the students were at the desk with Mrs. Chadwick, and another was sitting at the next desk over. “…What? I thought this was just a trivia club.”
“Oh, sorry,” Chadwick replied, realizing my lack of context. “So, Quiz Bowl has tournaments all across Massachusetts where schools go head-to-head. For these tournaments, we need to have four primary team members – why don’t you meet them? This is Ryan…”
The guy that gave the answer raised his hand with no interest on his face whatsoever. He probably looked the closest to mainstream in the bunch – short light brown hair, green eyes, a square jaw… Damn, if it hadn’t been for his high-ish voice, he probably would be a jock or something.
“This is Sarah…” Chadwick continued. A redhead with blue eyes at the table smiled and gave me the peace sign. Even though she was sitting down, I could tell that she was the tallest in the group, no competition. It was crazy, she was probably something like 5’11 when she stood. And it wasn’t like she was wiry either – I mean, I guess she wasn’t fat, but it’s not like she was a bean pole. Her look oozed ‘Seattle hipster,’ with a knit sweater, glasses, and various pieces of inexpensive-looking jewelry.
“This is Rose…” I had to look at where Chadwick was gesturing to see who she was talking about, because Rose made no effort to even wave. In every way, she looked like some kind of Youth Cadet kid or something. Short hair, intense brown eyes (which were sizing me up as Chadwick spoke), and the darkest skin of anyone at the desk, although I wasn’t sure if she was foreign (or came from foreign parents, whatever) or just really tan.
“And this is Jack,” Chadwick finished, gesturing to the final person at the desk.
“Yo,” Jack said in a friendly way. I noted he was the only one who said anything. He seemed friendly enough, and I guess he gave Ryan a run for his money – both looked kind of ‘generic popular,’ although Jack looked more trendy and less jock-y than Ryan. The thing that sold him was the voice. Reasonably deep for our age and cool as a cucumber. Even from one word it was clear he was here to show off his voice or something.
“And Candy,” Rose added in a monotone yet clearly unfriendly voice.
Chadwick looked to the other desk, where an Asian girl in pigtails was sitting. “Oh, of course! Sorry, Candace is our other alternate.” Candace smiled at me, and hesitantly, I smiled back. She was definitely one of those girls – dressed in a pastel-colored skirt, holding a backpack that had over a dozen buttons and keychains with various pop-culture references I didn’t even get. A pride flag too. I got a feeling like I’d seen her somewhere, but couldn’t remember where.
“Nice to, y’know, meet you all,” I said, sitting down next to Candy. “So we’re just here to cheer the team on?”
“Normally, alternates only participate if primary team members are sick or need a break,” Chadwick answered me. “But because this is only practice, and we want Candace to practice as well, we’re going around and swapping out for each other. So, if you’re comfortable playing, we can swap you in too, and see if you’ve got what it takes.”
Jeez. I guess the ‘something casual, no work’ idea was out the window. I couldn’t help but notice too that when I walked in, it was like they were in the middle of practice, even though the school bell went like five minutes ago. I guess these people were hardcore.
“Okay, let’s get back into it. Hands ready,” Chadwick commanded. “A hammer with a two-pronged side, used to pull out nails, is called a what?”
I looked around the room, eventually looking over at Candace. There was silence from the desk. “Jeez,” I whispered to her. “If it were me, I’d just take a shot in the dark. I mean, why not, right?”
“Nobody?” Chadwick asked. “Three, two, one… the correct answer was a ‘claw hammer.’”
“If you buzz in and get the wrong answer, it’s minus points,” Candace whispered back. “It’s like Jeopardy.”
Huh. That seemed intense. I guess that made things go along smoother and punished timewasters.
“In 2002, Mohammed Zahir Shah returned to the land where he was once king, after 29 years in exile. What country is it?” Chadwick asked.
Rose’s hand immediately hit the buzzer. Ryan was clearly thinking about buzzing in, but he hesitated. “Afghanistan,” she swiftly said. Jeez. Her voice could cut steel. I looked at her intently, and she caught my gaze and returned it, although her gaze soured over a period of a few seconds. Eventually, I looked away.
“Alright, Ryan, you’re swapping out for… Jason,” Chadwick finished, trying to remember my name. I didn’t take physics, so it was fair that she didn’t remember.
Ryan got up as I did, and I couldn’t help but take pride in the fact that I was barely, barely, taller than Ryan. 5’7 and the second-tallest guy there. Not too shabby. Then again, I was still the third-tallest person there, and even though it was clear Candace was pretty short, I hadn’t seen Rose standing up yet.
Watching Sarah standing up was quite something though. Two things were definitely clear to me – number one, yup, she was at least 5’11, maybe even six feet tall. Number two, I needed to stop watching so much porn, it was definitely rotting my brain. I couldn’t not notice Sarah’s ass when she got up and swapped places with Candace.
I took Ryan’s place sitting next to Rose and across from Candace. All three of the others just looked at me as I put my hand over the buzzer. “So I just hit this thing when I know the answer?”
“That’s right, but make sure you know it,” Chadwick told me. “If you get an answer wrong-”
“Yeah, points get deducted. I know.” I was met with silence from the others. I looked around. “It’s cool. I got it.”
“Okay,” Chadwick said awkwardly. “Shall we get started? This will be a standard match, with three rounds of questions. There will be a minute break between each round… Forty-point snapstart to round one. What is the name of the famous hill in Athens, Greece, upon which the Parthenon is located?”
Rose’s buzzer went off before I could even process the question. “Acropolis,” she swiftly replied.
“Correct,” Chadwick replied.
“Damn, Acropolis is a hill?” I asked. “I never knew that.”
Rose turned to me. “During a game, contestants aren’t allowed to chitchat,” she informed me.
“Jeez.” It was all I could think to say. I turned to Jack, and he put a hand up casually, as if to say, ‘no harm done, buddy.’ I could tell he and I were going to be faster friends than Rose and myself.
“Which British physicist invented a cloud chamber, revolutionizing the study of cloud-particle physics by allowing sub-atomic particles to be easily viewed?” Chadwick asked.
Who could possibly know this?! Why would they know this?
“…Nobody? Three, two, one…”
I heard Ryan sigh from behind me. “The correct answer was Charles Wilson,” Chadwick said, and I heard Ryan mumble the name at the same time.
Okay, this quiz stuff was definitely not for me. I came here to get away from judging eyes, not to have three more sets-
“What city was evacuated in 1986 after a nuclear accident?”
Oh shit. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. I knew this one. I hit the buzzer, then tried to speak, but something caught in my throat. After coughing, I croaked, “Chernobyl.”
“Correct,” Mrs. Chadwick said with a smile.
I did it! That actually felt kind of good. Who knew? I still coughed once or twice, but the game moved on. Chadwick would call question after question, and some were downright baffling, but some seemed easier – “softballs,” Candace called them. Once or twice, after the correct answer was given, she’d giggle and say, “That was a softball.” Each time, I turned to Rose, who said nothing, not even noticing I looked at her. I guess during a game it was a-okay for the girls to chitchat or something. I mean, I didn’t want to throw Candace under the bus, so I didn’t say anything, but it was clear it wasn’t the rules Rose cared about.
I quickly discovered that my talent wasn’t in knowing the trivia – I was way faster on the buzzer than any of the other players. I wasn’t exactly buzzing in often, but anytime I knew the answer, I wouldn’t have to watch someone else buzz in first and give my answer.
Question after question came, until the ending closer. “To end the round: what famous megalith stands near Salisbury, England?”
I buzzed in, but didn’t know why. I didn’t know what a ‘megalith’ was. Or where Salisbury was. After buzzing in, I tried to explore my head. I was confident about something… a thing standing in England…
“Stonehenge,” I replied with conviction.
“Correct. Well done, Jason.”
“I think there’s something wrong with my buzzer,” Rose reported.
“What’s wrong?” Chadwick asked.
“For the entire round, every time I tried to buzz in at the same time as Jason, there was this delay. Every time.” She handed Mrs. Chadwick her buzzer, and Chadwick furrowed her brow as she hit the buzzer a few times.
“Can I see your buzzer for a second?” she asked me, holding out her other hand.
“Uh, sure,” I replied. Was that it? I thought I was just… good.
She flicked a button on the main console, then clicked both buzzers. Both of them lit up at once. “Your buzzer is working normally,” she reported, handing both of our buzzers back.
“But that isn’t right,” Rose countered.
“I think he’s just buzzing in quicker, to be honest,” Jack replied casually, scratching his face.
Rose shot a look at me, then back at Jack, saying nothing. Without another word, she stood up and motioned to Sarah, who slowly walked over to swap places with her. I watched Sarah’s ass as she sat down, then looked up to her eyes. She was looking right at me. I panicked, making some kind of apologetic face, then quickly looked back to the front.
“You’re not going to play for the full match?” Chadwick asked Rose.
“No,” she simply replied.
“Okay, then I guess Rose’s score is now Sarah’s,” Chadwick reported.
“Good, I need the advantage,” Sarah replied with a laugh.
“Going into Round 2, the scores are: Sarah, 80, Jack, 40, Jason, 40, and Candace, 10.” Chadwick looked up from her paper. “Hands on buzzers.”
“What term describes the joining together of light atomic nuclei?”
Jack buzzed in. “Fusion.”
“Correct!” Chadwick put down her bundle of papers. “That ends the match. In individual scores, Jack won with 170 points.”
“Let’s gooooo~!” Jack celebrated, pumping his fist in the air.
“Sarah came in second place with 110 points…”
Sarah looked guiltily at Rose. “I had help.”
“…And our newcomer, Jason, finished in third place, with an impressive 100 points! Well done, Jason!”
I bit my lip. Trivia was… cool. I mean, I guess it was a game. It was like this exciting trip through your own mind, relying on everything you remember to solve puzzles. Was this what ‘gamified’ learning was? It sure felt more like a game than school stuff.
“Candace took fourth place with a still-impressive 40 points.”
Candace smiled sheepishly. “You guys killed it though,” she said to everyone in the room, then turned to me. “You were really cool! Are you going to stay?”
“Well, yeah,” I replied as if it were obvious, then smiled in realization. “Ha, I didn’t even know I was gonna say that!”
I looked around. There were smiles everywhere. “Hey, welcome to the Quiz Bowl team, man!” Jack enthusiastically said, holding his hand out. I shook his hand.
“This means we have six teammates!” Ryan said happily in his high voice. God damn, did his voice ever not match how he looked. “We qualify, right?”
“We can actually compete this year!” Sarah happily sighed, seemingly realizing it for the first time.
My brow furrowed. “Wait… weren’t you already training for regionals?” I asked.
“That’s the idea,” Chadwick confirmed. “But every year, we fall just a little bit short of the six players we need. We were training in case… well, in case this happened. I’ll just get you a form and once your parents sign it, we can start preparing for regionals.”
Parents. Great. Well, maybe they’ll like how their son is spending less time at the computer, even though he still found a way to play games. This was kind of cool. Not as cool as duking it out online with Campy and M4TSuN0 and Klutz the Kanadian, but still cool.
As Chadwick handed me the form, I heard the door open behind me. I turned just in time to see Rose walking out the door in a hurry. She had her backpack.
I didn’t know what to say, although Jack came to my rescue with a lax tone. “Ahh, don’t worry about it,” he said reassuringly.
I smiled in slight relief. “Oh, she does this with every new person on the team, huh?”
“Well… no…” Jack awkwardly admitted. “But hey, whatever her issue is, we’ll work it out soon.”
I looked back at the door. Jeez. Well, hey, if she wanted to act that way, I guess that was her business.
“Hey Ryan, can you give me a ride home again?” Sarah asked casually as she sauntered towards the exit, stopping briefly to look at me. “Great job today, glad you’re joining the team.”
I blushed. I hoped she didn’t remember that I was caught pretty explicitly staring at her. “Yeah, great job today,” I replied.
She made the cutest little confused expression at me, like she wasn’t sure why I said that, then walked off. Without another word, Ryan joined her, leaving just myself, Jack, and Candace with Mrs. Chadwick.
“So… I don’t think I’ve seen you guys before. Are you all grade twelves?” I asked.
“I am,” Jack answered flatly. “And Ryan, and I think Sarah.”
“Oh, so you’re in my grade?” I asked Candace.
“I think last year we were in-”
“Math, right,” I replied, snapping my fingers. “I thought you looked familiar.” I looked back towards the door. “So Rose is in my grade? I don’t think I have her in any of my classes.”
“She’s in most of mine,” Candace replied.
“So is she like that all the time?” I asked, still looking at the door.
“Like what?” Candace asked.
I turned back. I kinda didn’t want to say ‘like a bitch’ out loud, especially on the first day.
Jack looked between us. “Smart? I think she keeps to herself a lot, so you’d never know how good she is,” he swooped in.
I smiled at him slyly. With a poker face, he just stared back at me. Not bad, amigo, not bad.
By Tuesday, I had the form signed. Of course, my parents asked what this was going to cost them, if they had to drive me anywhere, the usual ‘you’re a burden’ shit, and Hailey couldn’t resist throwing in, “You’re not even good at trivia.”
I could learn though. With the computer still out of my reach and my phone just being a shitty flip phone (thank you, mom and dad), I decided to go to the library and read through some trivia. The library was a little far away from school (only a few blocks, but still), but right by my house, so why not, right?
It was a cool place. I definitely would have rather been playing video games, but it was big and full of books, so it felt cool and important. Plus, other students were there too. Mostly nerds, although the popular crowd – Taylor, that one girl known for being hot, along with her tall friend and some guy I didn’t recognize- were there too. I guess it was the place to be.
I stayed there for a bit, just reading through trivia books, noting to myself that this was somehow better to my parents despite me being less socially active than if I just had my damn computer back. It was just because there was a screen involved. That was it. They’d rather their son be alone reading in a library than having a good time gaming with his real, actual friends, friends he’s had for years. Dumb.
When Wednesday rolled around, I daydreamed through all of my classes. I already didn’t really care too much about school, but now, I had something other than gaming to look forward to. Mondays and Wednesdays were Quiz Bowl days. I was going to get to do more trivia stuff, and this time, I read books. Hold your applause, Jack. Suck it up, Rose.
Rose was weird. I wanted to believe she was cool, but she really gave me nothing to work with. Honestly, it was Sarah who was actually cool. She saw a guy staring at her – like any guy would – and let it roll off her back? I bet Rose would have brought it up in front of the group or something. It was a good thing Sarah was the attractive one there and not Rose. That would have made things complicated.
“Yo, he actually did it! He came back!” Jack announced as I walked in. “The mad lad.”
“Hello, Jason,” Mrs. Chadwick said, setting up the buzzers. “Thank you for coming back.”
“Uh, thank you for, y’know, having me,” I clumsily replied. I looked around the room. Jack and Ryan were sitting at one desk, Sarah and Candace were sitting at another, and… that was it. “Where’s Rose?”
“Who knows?” Ryan asked. “It’s only a few minutes after the bell though. She could be in the washroom or something.”
“Okay,” I simply replied. Jack and Ryan kind of intimidated me, so I sat at a third desk, next to the two ladies. “Sarah and… Candace, right?”
“I actually like ‘Candy’ better,” Candy replied.
“Oh. Uh, ha, who doesn’t?” I joked.
“Hey,” Sarah said with a slight smile. She had a beanie on today. Hazelwood didn’t like people wearing hats indoors, but I guess that was only a rule for school hours. Either that or Sarah was proudly displaying she gave no shits or something.
“I like your beanie,” I told Sarah.
Her smile turned genuine. “Thanks… it’s Jason, right?”
“Yeah,” I replied, smiling back.
We waited for another five minutes until Chadwick decided to start the training. Everyone was eager to start on the buzzers, so I elected to stay behind and be the alternate or whatever it was called. The other four started the round and Chadwick fired off the questions. I sat at the desk behind them, eagerly listening, realizing it was painful when I knew the answer and no one else did, though Jack and Ryan were beasts – I rarely had the upper hand on both of them at a time. Between them and Rose, I was definitely not the team star.
Rose showed up a few minutes in, her intense stare never wavering as she walked through the door, put down her stuff and walked towards the alternates’ desk, stopping when she realized I was sitting at it. After a moment’s pause, she sat at another desk.
That was the limit. I shot her an incredulous look, followed by a shrug of disbelief, aimed right at her. Indifferently, she shrugged back. What the hell was her problem? I hadn’t even done anything.
After the match ended, Chadwick turned to us as Ryan celebrated his victory. “So, who wants to swap in?” Chadwick asked.
I tried to keep a poker face. I knew what I wanted to do. After a few seconds of silence, Rose answered, “I guess I’m going in.” Candy happily offered her seat in exchange.
As soon as Rose was fully sat down, I piped up. “I want to swap in too. I want the experience. Y’know, so I can catch up to you all.”
Rose turned back to look at me, then got up. “Okay, I’ll wait until next round,” she replied.
“No no, you can stay, you were out the first round,” I insisted. “I want us both in.”
Rose finally let some emotion show on her face – puzzlement. Jack, however, couldn’t stop his smile. “I’ll step out then,” he reported. “I was off my game anyway. I need a nap.”
“Two people swapping in?” Chadwick asked. “Are we sure?”
“Yeah, it’s kind of weird,” Rose immediately agreed, still standing, moving towards the back.
I smiled and looked down at the desk I was now sitting at. “Scared?” I asked in a quiet, smug voice.
Even though I was looking at the desk, I could hear her stop walking, then sigh. “Fine,” she said in an ominously calm voice. I looked up to see her walk back to the main desk, sitting down and looking me right in the eye.
No one said anything, although Jack started whistling that one theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. I turned back and grinned at him. Fuck, he was such a cool guy.
When we picked up our buzzers, it was clear this wasn’t just a normal game anymore. I’d invited the storm.
“The sinking of which ship in 1898 precipitated the Spanish-American war?”
Rose buzzed in. “The Maine.”
“Correct. What is the name for fox spirits in Japanese folklore known for their magical abilities and wisdom?”
I buzzed in. “Kitsune.”
“Correct. What nationality was explorer Ferdinand Magellan?”
Rose buzzed in. “Portuguese.”
“Correct. Who was the only British monarch to be abducted and held for ransom?”
I buzzed in, despite Rose practically attacking her buzzer. “Richard the Lionheart,” I said with a grin. Thank you, Civ V mods.
“Correct. This concludes round one. If anyone would like to swap in-”
“I think I’m too scared,” Jack quipped. Both Rose and myself were breathing heavily, although I was doing so with more of a smile.
“Well, the scores after round one are, Rose, 80, Jason, 70, Ryan, 50, and Sarah, 20.”
“It was a good twenty though,” Ryan joked. Sarah smiled back.
I caught a stare Rose fired at me and smiled. “What? Aren’t you having fun?” I asked. If nothing else, I was just going to enjoy this. “I don’t even get what your problem is.”
“I don’t have a problem,” Rose firmly said. “I’m good to start the next round.”
Chadwick awkwardly looked at us. “Okay,” she conceded. “Hands on buzzers. 20-point question to start the round: crown, elephant, A1, A3 and B4 are all types of what?”
Rose buzzed in. “Ammunition?”
“I’m sorry, that’s incorrect,” Chadwick replied. “Anyone else?”
Sarah made a face, then buzzed in. “Standard sizes of paper?”
“Very good!” Chadwick was slightly taken aback.
“Another good twenty,” Ryan quipped. Rose said nothing. I think she knew we were even now.
“The next four ten-point questions deal with lines. A line which bisects…”
Amazingly, Rose and I remained even throughout the entire round. If one of us got points, they either lost it with a bad guess or the other one caught up.
“What was the year Pluto was declared not a planet?”
Rose buzzed in. “2006.”
“Correct. John Stith Pemberton is best remembered for creating what product at his Atlanta chemical company?”
Ryan buzzed in. “Coca-cola.”
“Correct. Which African country’s soccer team is known as “The Squirrels?” No one said anything. “Nobody? Time. The answer was ‘Benin.’ What is the brightest star in Earth’s night sky?”
Rose buzzed in. “The North Star.”
Rose sat back, baffled or angry, as I buzzed in. I didn’t know this, but I only knew about two stars. “The Dog Star.”
“The Dog Star or Sirius A, correct,” Chadwick replied. “Who Am I? This question will give you four clues about a person, real or fictitious. If you can correctly identify this person after the first clue, you get forty points. If I read the second clue, it’s worth thirty, et cetera. Clue number one, I am a fictional character who dropped out of Saint Olaf College and later-”
I buzzed in. I opted to read this instead of Lord of the Flies in grade ten. “The Great Gatsby.”
Chadwick hesitated. “Correct, well done.”
“Come on,” Rose spat bitterly. “He’s not even letting you read the full question.”
“Quiz Bowl rules don’t say you have to read the whole thing,” Ryan rebutted.
“Yeah, but we agreed to ignore that here,” Candy added quietly. “Otherwise it just devolves into us guessing.”
“Enh,” Jack said thoughtfully from the back. “If we’re actually going to regionals this year, we should probably play by their rules. Other schools probably won’t be respecting those rules.”
“If we’re doing that, shouldn’t we not play for individual points?” Ryan asked. “If we’re practicing for team stuff, we should… play as a team.”
“How would we even do that, what would be different?” Sarah asked. “Aside from just pooling our totals together.”
“We can make this the last game we play for individual points, if everyone wants that,” Chadwick offered.
“Last individual game? I’m okay with that,” I cockily replied, knowing I just got 40 points. As expected, Rose gave me a glare, one I was just thoroughly enjoying at this point. At this point, I understood: sore loser. She hated that I was buzzing in faster and, this game, beating her. And this was our last game for individual points. And I was winning.
“We’ll see. Let’s finish up the match, there is only one section left. Forty point open questions to end the round – Fathers on Television. I’ll give you the father’s name, you give me the show title. Ready? …Peter Griffin.”
I buzzed in. Too easy when you’re the fastest buzzer. “Family Guy.”
“Correct. Al Bundy.”
There was a pause, then Candy buzzed in. “All in the Family?”
Ryan buzzed in. “Married with Children.”
“Correct. George Bluth, senior.”
Oh man, I loved that show, even if the final fourth season sucked. “Arrested Development.”
“Correct. Anthony Cooper.” No one said anything. “Nobody? …Time, the answer was Lost. That’s the match, everyone!”
I smiled triumphantly. Right at the end, I snuck in friggin’ 70 points. I turned to Rose, a smug smile still on my face. She noticed, and caught my gaze, staring at me as Chadwick read off the results.
“That’s the match. Jason won with a decisive 230 points.”
My smile grew bigger.
“The score was, Jason, 230, Rose, 180, Ryan, 150, Sarah, 90.”
Rose sighed and slowly closed her eyes. “Good job,” she said with an air of defeat. It was clear she wasn’t happy about it, but hey, this was the kindest I’d ever seen her.
“You too,” I quickly followed up. “You really gave me a challenge.”
“Wow,” Ryan marveled. “That’s one of our best games ever as a team.”
“I think literally our best ever,” Jack added. “Maximum possible score is 1000, right? 230, 180, 90, 150, that’s… 270 plus 380… 650.” He grinned. “That’s Nationals material right there.”
“No way. Have you ever looked at Nationals games?” Ryan cut in. “Look ‘em up, they’re on YouTube. It’s insane. Total scores never go below 850.”
Jack continued arguing about how that didn’t count because that was eight people versus our four as I pushed my luck with Rose. “Have you been doing trivia for a long time? You’re really good.”
“Yeah,” she simply replied. I wasn’t sure which part she was saying yes to, but she was already looking away at this point. No scowl, no blush, no emotion on her face. Okay… message received, I guess.
I started going to the library more often, mostly because there was nothing else to do. I guess gaming addiction was real, because now that I didn’t have my video games, the Quiz Bowl games became a little obsession of mine. I’d just go to the library, find trivia books, and cover the answers with my free hand as I read, imagining myself buzzing in. After all, I was already the fastest buzzer, so if I just learned more, I’d be golden.
I went to the library on both Thursday and Friday after school. Thursday was relatively quiet, but on Friday, I got an unexpected visitor.
“Oh hey,” I heard a friendly, feminine voice calling behind my book. I lowered the book and looked up to see Sarah’s smiling, high-up face. “Practicing?”
“Uh, yeah,” I mumbled, putting down the book. “Hi.”
“Wow,” she murmured, looking over the book. “You showed up for two meets and you’re making this your whole personality, huh?”
I blushed. It wasn’t like I had much choice in the matter. “I just needed something to do,” I told her. She kept looking, making me feel like I had to continue. “My parents took my computer away, okay?”
“So you wanted to do Quiz Bowl?”
“No, I just wanted to… they’re not nice. My parents. I just wanted to be away from them.”
“Oh, okay. So you’re spending more time at school, and the library. That’s smart.”
Score one for Hailey. “Thanks,” I told her. “I thought it was.”
“I know what you mean,” she added, sitting down. “I’m not crazy about my parents either.”
“Is that why you’re here?” I asked. “Getting away from them?”
“No,” she flatly answered. “I barely see my dad. Never see my mom. I’m just here because I like the atmosphere.”
“Yeah, I guess you look like you would like libraries,” I admitted.
“How do you mean?” she asked, seemingly genuinely curious.
“Oh, you just… look like it. You kind of look like a coffee shop Mumford and Sons hipster type.”
“Hmm. I guess I’ll take it as a compliment,” she replied. She leaned in closer towards me, sitting at the opposite side of the library table. “So it’s pretty clear you’re staying.”
“In the team,” she replied. “You’re pretty good.”
“Oh, thanks,” I replied. “Yeah, it’s pretty fun.”
“Yeah.” Her expression dimmed. “You probably are going to bump me down to being an alternate.”
“Why? You’ve been in the club longer,” I replied, closing the book. At this point I accepted I wouldn’t be reading it anymore.
“Yeah, but you score more points,” she said bluntly, leaning back into her chair. Your red hair moved in perfect rhythm with her. “It would be better for the team if you were a primary, and I want our team to do good.”
“Uh, no, it’s okay…” I replied uneasily, feeling like this was a trap. “I don’t mind if you’re the… primary. I can just come back next year.”
She made a puzzled but amused face. “Next year? Your parents took your computer for that long?”
“Well… no.” I felt myself blush again. I didn’t blush much. “I…y’know, I like Quiz Bowl.”
“Alright,” she replied coolly, turning away and grinning.
“Wait, what?” I asked. “Why are you smiling like that?”
She turned back to me. “I just think… there’s another reason.”
She shrugged. “I dunno! It really seemed like you were looking at Rose a lot. I thought you knew her for a class and you were trying to… trying something.”
“Ew,” I said instinctively. “No. Definitely not.” Feeling fidgety, I picked up the book again and reopened it. “She hates me. And I’m not her biggest fan ever.”
“So then, why don’t you just ignore her?” Sarah pressed.
“Because she’s a bitch,” I said defensively. “If she’s going to act all moody just because I’m showing up, why should I go out of my way to be nice to her?”
Sarah stared at me for a bit. “So you’re going out of your way to be mean to her instead?”
“I’m not being mean,” I let her know. “I’m just, y’know, pushing back. She pushes, I push back. Is she literally only like this with me?”
“I mean, I don’t know what ‘like this’ means,” she said, looking away. “She’s really serious when it comes to the game, but that’s all. She’s not mean, or a bitch.”
“Jeez. Well, if she’s not, I’ll see if there’s a change in our future meetings,” I replied.
Sarah kept staring at me, even as I started reading, or at least, pretending to read my book. “You can come across wrong too,” she finally said.
I shrugged. “I’m not there to make friends,” I replied.
She chuckled. “Wow, you’re charming,” she joked.
“Well, y’know…” I put down the book. “It’s pretty clear you guys are already a clique, and I’m not here to insist ‘me too’ or something.”
“Uh, you’d be surprised,” she replied, thinking to herself. “The only person I’m really friends friends with is Rose.”
“Is that why you’re talking to me about her?” I asked. “Wait, doesn’t Ryan give you rides home?”
She blushed in turn. “Oh, nah,” she said a little too eagerly. “Ryan’s cool, but he would make a bad boyfriend.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “I…” I slowly said, savoring the moment. “I never said anything about a boyfriend. I just meant you two seemed like friends. You were the one to immediately jump to how you two would totally make a bad couple.”
“Well, I… uh…” Sarah scrambled to speak. “I… agh…” She smiled sheepishly, and gave a long pause, then quietly chuckled. “Wow, the longer I don’t speak, the worse this looks, huh?”
I didn’t stop smiling. “So… you’re a couple?”
“Ugh, shut up,” she ordered with a smile. She was as red as her hair. “Okay, so… no, Ryan and I aren’t a couple. And yes, he would make a bad boyfriend.”
“So you say,” I smugly replied. “Do you just have feelings for him?”
She opened her mouth, then shut it, then sat back for a second. “So, we barely know each other. How cool are you with, like, secrets, or like, personal infodumps? Like, I have a reasonable explanation, but it might be weird hearing it from a girl you don’t know.”
My breath got a little shorter, but I played it cool. “Uh, y’know, whatever,” I replied, keeping an even tone. “Just tell me. Why not?”
She exhaled. “Don’t tell anyone please. So, Ryan and I… kinda sorta fool around sometimes.”
“Fool around?” I asked with fake naivety.
“Oh, come on,” she replied with annoyance.
I shrugged. “Never heard the term before.”
“Yeah, sure,” she replied sarcastically. “You’re the worst. We have been known to… well, no, no one really knows… so maybe telling you isn’t the greatest idea…” She stared at me for a bit. “Can’t your imagination fill in the blanks?”
“Isn’t asking a guy to do that dangerous?” I asked with a slight smile. My heart was beating faster. This was exciting.
Her face was an equal mix of amusement and playful frustration. “Ugh!” she exclaimed, clearly genuinely upset by her situation but knowing she was the one to cause it. “Lean in.”
“At a library?” I asked coyly.
“Lean in or I’m dragging your ass outside to tell you,” she replied, her discomfort winning over her amusement. “Or I just leave, and never come to Quiz Bowl again, and you get to know you did that.”
I rolled my eyes and leaned in.
“So, uh…” Her eyes met with mine. “Hi.” She chuckled. “Okay, so…” Her voice lowered to a whisper. “We do, uh… oral on each other. As friends.” She leaned back, and her voice returned to normal. “There. Happy? You know more about me now.”
“Oh, nice,” I replied, not knowing what else to say. There was something caught in my throat.
“So yeah, when you asked me if there was something going on, I figured, ‘oh no, he knows,’ and then I thought that if you suspected we were doing… that, you’d think we’re boyfriend and girlfriend, so yeah. That’s why I jumped to that conclusion. Happy?”
I don’t know why something inside me shifted. She did look genuinely uncomfortable. Her face lost any and all humor, so I guess I just followed suit. “I’m sorry I accidentally backed you into a corner there,” I replied. “I guess it sucks to tell someone you don’t really know stuff like that.”
A sympathetic smile returned to her face. “Thanks, that’s probably the sweetest thing I’ve heard you say,” she replied.
“It wasn’t that sweet.”
“I know.” She winked. “I mean, it’s not the end of the world. I’m kind of picky when it comes to partners, so I’ve done more stuff out of relationships than in.” She shrugged. “You just know a little more about me now. But now I want to know, do you actually have a thing for Rose?”
“I genuinely don’t have a thing for Rose,” I admitted to her. “Or Candy.”
“Or Ryan, or Jack?” she asked.
My face screwed up. “Um, no?” I replied, grossed out.
“Ugh.” For the first time, her face showed true disappointment. “Come on, dude.”
“What, do I have to be attracted to dudes?”
“No, but acting like a dude being attracted to dudes is the grossest thing ever is kind of cringy,” she answered with a full voice.
“I’m not saying dudes, I’m just saying me. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I happen to not like dudes is all. Be as gay as you want.”
“So if Jack and Ryan kissed in front of you…” she trailed off.
“I’d find it weird, but I’d find it weird if Ryan and you kissed in front of me. Or you and Rose or something.” I shrugged. “I’m an equal-opportunities guy, I hate all PDA.”
She slightly smiled and shook her head. “Okay, fine,” she conceded.
So, her and Ryan, huh? It made sense. Her asking him for a ride home that one time… “But you wouldn’t kiss him in front of me, you wait until you’re in the car,” I teased further. The idea of Sarah doing stuff outside of a relationship wouldn’t get out of my head. My pants were getting tighter.
“Hey,” she mumbled, looking around her.
“What? I’m gonna joke about it,” I told her as a matter of fact. “It’s what I do.”
“Yeah, well, I say too much. That’s what I do, I guess,” She slumped down in her chair, and sighed, a hand over her eyes. She moved it down her face, then looked at me. “I don’t know what I think about you.”
“Then don’t think about me at all,” I told her. “I said I’m not there to make friends.”
“Yeah, well, I am,” she said. “And you’re… interesting.”
“Well, coming from you, that’s… nice,” I replied, trying to be sweet.
“Coming from me?” she asked.
Well, that backfired. “Y’know, you’re interesting too!”
“I don’t know. How?”
“Well, y’know, you look interesting, you approach other people, you’re willing to talk about… that…” I blushed again, and had to turn away.
“You keep circling back to it,” she observed out loud. “I was happy to leave it alone, but you keep bringing it up. Are you curious about something? Because I’d rather you just ask.”
I felt my mouth get dry. I was definitely hard underneath the table. The image of Sarah getting on her knees in front of some guy… Her eyes and smile when she pulled down his pants… God, the way her ass must look when she’s squatting…
“No, I’m not trying to ask you to do anything for me,” I replied coolly. “You do that for Ryan, and that’s… that’s cool, but it’s not for me. I’m flattered you offered though.” Okay, one minor word repeat, but whatever. Still was flawless aside from that.
Sarah smiled knowingly. “First of all, nice voice crack, smooth operator,” she opened.
“Second of all, I wasn’t offering, and I didn’t think you were asking about that. I meant I could talk about how it started, since I know boys are kind of pervy and like knowing details about that.”
“Um, ew,” I replied instinctively. “Jeez. I don’t want to hear about that stuff. I’m not turned on from this. This is actually turning me off.”
“Okay,” Sarah simply replied. “So stand up.”
“You’re wearing sweatpants, right? I feel like we can settle this really quickly. If you’re going to keep talking about my sex life and then tell me it’s actually gross, prove that it’s not turning you on.”
“Um…” I felt all the blood in my body rush to my face. Or at least, all of the blood that wasn’t in my dick. “Isn’t – isn’t it weird that you’re admitting you’re going to even look in that area when I stand up? Y’know, that’s harassment, isn’t it?”
“So what do you call the times at Quiz Bowl where you were staring at my butt?” she challenged me, a completely serious look on her face.
All at once, I felt ashamed and my cock jumped in my pants. God dammit. “I never…” I feebly started.
“Yeah, you did,” she replied in a cool tone. “I get it a lot. I know what it looks like. You were definitely doing it.”
My heart was pounding in my ears. I didn’t know whether I wanted to admit anything to this girl or just bolt. “So what, I’m a bad guy for… y’know…” I trailed off.
She held her tongue between her lips in thought for a moment. “I’m not calling you a bad guy,” she finally soothed me. “I get it. I understand that guys like… visual stuff. I guess I’m just asking you to be honest.”
“Wh-…” I stammered. I paused for a bit. “This is just weird. This is our first time talking.”
“You didn’t have that problem when bringing up what I did with Ryan over and over again. You kept getting back to that. Again, if you wanted to ask something, just… Like, I get it, being direct would have been weird, but if you have to ask something, now not being direct would be weird. I don’t want Quiz Bowl to be awkward.”
“And seeing my boner wouldn’t make it awkward?” I couldn’t help but smile.
“So you do have a boner?” she smiled back.
“Are you proud?”
“Flattered,” she replied with a smug smile. “Flattered, for sure. I’m, uh, sorry I did that to you.” She blinked once, and the spell was seemingly broken for her. “Wow, I’m really leading you on here, aren’t I? I’m sorry.”
“No no, it’s cool,” I replied coolly, realizing this conversation could be cut short.
“”No, no, I, uh…” She looked away from me and breathed. “Yeah, sorry. You should… probably go to the washroom and splash some water on your face. I can look away while you walk if you want.”
“Sounds like I can’t ask anything about you and Ryan right now,” I noted. She didn’t reply. “Sorry, did I make it weird?”
She chuckled. “It’s pretty clear we both made it weird,” she admitted, then breathed again. “I feel like we might have had a moment there, and I should probably clarify I’m not trying to seduce you or looking to do anything with you.”
“No no, that’s cool,” I replied clumsily. “I mean, hell, it would even be cool if you did want that, y’know. I can… I can take it.”
She gave me a frustrated smile. “Jason, this is our first time talking. Just because you heard I will do things out of a relationship… how easy do you think I am?”
I shrugged. “I’m not assuming either way.”
She actually furrowed her brow at that. “Huh,” I found her murmuring out loud.
“Nothing,” she mumbled, looking down.
“Come on, I’d like to know. No secrets.”
“No secrets?” she almost laughed. “You’re not even willing to admit you want to do stuff with me but you’re too chicken to admit it.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but ended up keeping it open for a bit. “Alright, you know what? Fine. Yes. I want that, and I’m too chicken. Any guy would. You piked my interest, but I didn’t ask because I thought that might cross a line.”
“Piqued,” she replied quietly.
“Peaked?” I asked.
“P-I-Q-U-E-D. It’s pronounced, ‘peaked.’” She exhaled. “Well, I’m glad you’re being honest with me. I was surprised because…” To my surprise, she got up and walked around the table, sitting next to me. “I was surprised because, no offense, I thought you’d judge me for being easier than other girls. That’s why I went all, ‘huh.’ Most boys hate girls if they do anything outside of a relationship, even though they want to be the next boy they do stuff with. I was kind of waiting for that moment, and was trying to use my openness to disarm you. It never came.”
“I don’t think that deep,” I honestly replied.
She chuckled. “Yeah,” she murmured. “Look, I, uh… I’m worried that if I say ‘maybe’ you’ll lord it over me, like I owe you something, or I’m required to say yes. I’m also worried you’ll treat me different at Quiz Bowl, but I’ll be worried about that no matter what. So can I just say no for now?”
I mulled it over. “I’d like to know if it’s actually a maybe. I can handle it if it turns into a no later. I want to know if there’s a chance.”
“Boys will always take chances as a ‘yes’ in waiting, even if they don’t know it,” she replied. “I just… need time to even know. I also don’t want to come across as that girl. It took me like two months of knowing Ryan before I even knew… you know?”
“How did it come up betw-”
“Nope,” she interrupted. “Absolutely not. Let me have some dignity.” We paused. I could now smell her perfume. My cock was rock hard. “I meant it when I said you were interesting. I don’t give the time of day to any boy.”
“Well, I’m… thankful.” I replied. “Sorry for making it weird and… about sex.”
“Every boy makes it about sex, don’t worry,” she admitted. “It… is refreshing with you, but I don’t know how yet. Maybe because I just was an idiot and said too much.” She blushed, and turned to me. Her eyes flickered down below the table, then back to my face. “I’m sorry for teasing you like that.”
“I’m sorry for… y’know. Being rude,” I admitted. “I think I could be your friend. Whether we have sex or not.”
She stared into my eyes for a bit and slowly smiled. She blushed and looked away. “Okay, you earned your maybe,” she admitted, then quickly looked back to me. “But it’s not a yes. And try not to look at my ass at Quiz Bowl. Or do anything to make anyone think… we even talked like this.”
I gripped the edge of the table. “Wow, fuck,” I breathed. Today was absolutely insane.
“Wow,” she mumbled. “Am I being too much?”
“No, I’m just not sure about what to… y’know, do,” I admitted.
“You don’t have to do anything. And, odds are, the less you do, the better your odds will be.” She gave my shoulder a friendly rub. “Don’t be creepy. And, no matter what, accept that I might not want to do anything with you.”
“Yeah,” I said with a nod. “If… I can speak freely, you don’t have to assume the same thing.”
She started laughing, clearly not expecting that. “You’re funny,” she said. “I should probably get going, huh? Leave you to calm down so you can stand up.”
“You looked at it,” I said. “I saw.”
“So are we even now?” she asked teasingly.
“That’s flirting,” I said in a voice just above a whisper.
“Oops,” she said with a wink, getting up. She bit her lip, walking to the other side of the table. “And hey, if this was too much, or like, weird, you’d tell me, right? I’m probably going to go home and think about how weird this was.”
“I’m going to go home and breathe into a paper bag,” I joked. “But I’m not going to think anything.”
“Well, y’know, not until you told me you want to do anything with me yet. I’m not going to assume. I want you to be you, not like… the person I imagine you are. Y’know.”
Sarah gave me a puzzled look as she picked up her bag off the floor. “Huh,” she mumbled. “You actually are charming when you want to be, you know that?”
“Well, y’know, I never would have guessed you’d have any kind of interest in me…” I admitted.
“As a friend, for now,” she wanted me in a playful voice. “Maybe we can listen to Mumford and Sons together sometime or something.” With another wink, she walked off. “See you, Jason.”
“Bye,” I said, feeling a frog in my throat. Yeah, it was going to be a while before I was going to be able to stand up. What a week. I guess mom and dad were right, getting away from the computer brought me some strange fortunes. Now all I had to do was pray that Sarah would want exactly what I wanted.
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2 thoughts on “Final Answer – Chapter 1”
Wow, I did not think this story would capture me as much as it did. Love the characters and I can’t wait to see how the story pans out.
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While I’ve really enjoyed all your stories in this setting, I find the characters here to feel much more real. I think it’s because none of them seem too good to be true. They all seem like someone I could have gone to high school with. It felt very refreshing and compelling.
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