Read Biggest Flirts Online

Authors: Jennifer Echols

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #Social Issues, #Friendship, #General

Biggest Flirts (8 page)

BOOK: Biggest Flirts
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Well, if I was honest with myself—a twisting pain settled in the pit of my stomach, which was what I got for being honest with myself—I
had
been flirting with Will all week. I just hadn’t known anybody had noticed. Except for Chelsea and Brody and DeMarcus. . . . The list got longer as I remembered all the people who’d asked me about Will in the past few days. For some reason I’d had the impression we were invisible here at the back of the field with the whole band turned the other way. Now I knew we’d been in a fishbowl for anyone to see.

Worst of all, Will had been elected Biggest Flirt too. I’d felt like I was only teasing him, but the school thought he’d been flirting back. That gave me a head rush. Will secretly liked me.

Or, he
had
. I could tell by the way he was looking up at the sky that he was angry. Angelica had turned her back on him because she didn’t like her boyfriend being named Biggest Flirt with another girl. And that meant my delicious friendship with Will was about to come to a screeching halt.

7

STRANGELY, WILL SEEMED LESS CONCERNED
about what Angelica would think, and more concerned about what his parents would think. With DeMarcus announcing Senior Superlatives titles in the background, Will told me, “You don’t understand what a big deal this is. My parents are going to look through my yearbook next May and see I won Biggest Flirt. If they make friends and start talking to other parents, the rumor may get back to them even sooner.”

“So?”

“So, I’m trying to convince them I’m responsible enough to drive up to Atlanta for drum corps in a couple of months, and to go to college in Minnesota like I always planned. They say the extra expense for out-of-state tuition has to be worth their while. In other words, I can’t screw up or seem like I’m not serious about school. If I’d stayed in Minnesota, I would have been Most Academic.”

“There’s no way you would have gotten that here,” I said. “A lot of people are in the running for valedictorian, but Xavier Pilkington sewed up the title of Royal Nerdbait in third grade when he made a working dishwasher out of Legos.”

“Right. I understand that. I don’t belong here, and everything’s already taken. So why couldn’t I get no title, rather than Biggest Flirt? If the school puts that stuff on the Internet, my friends at home are going to see it.”

“Your friends who cheated on you within two minutes of you leaving?”

He drew back from me and stood up straighter, looking down at me over his shades with astonishment and hurt in his blue eyes.

“Cheap shot,” I admitted, “but you have taken on an accusatory tone. You’re standing here blaming
me
when we
both
got elected Biggest Flirt. We achieved that honor together. It’s like a guy blaming a girl for getting pregnant.”

Instantly I was sorry. I’d blurted out my resentment from a fight Izzy had had with her ex a couple of years ago. Will already had a low enough opinion of me. I hadn’t meant to make it worse.

His mouth flattened into a grim line. I thought he was going to yell at me.

Instead, he opened his arms and slid them around me, stepping forward until he was giving me a full-body hug. My ear pressed against his damp T-shirt. He was getting me sweaty. I didn’t mind. I could hear his heartbeat thumping as the low notes of his voice vibrated in his chest. “I’m not blaming you,” he said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel that way.”

I allowed myself to stay in his arms, enjoying the way his body made mine feel, for three deep breaths before I started to back away.

“Mr.,” Ms. Nakamoto said through the microphone, which she’d taken away from DeMarcus again, “Matthews.”

Will put his hands up, a drumstick in each, in the pose he assumed at least once per practice.

Jimmy called from his towel, “Double header!”

Ms. Nakamoto gave the microphone back to DeMarcus, who resumed his slow recitation of the senior titles.

“Are you okay?” I asked Will. His eyes were closed behind his shades.

“It’s so hot,” he said. “I might vomit.”

I glanced toward the sidelines. The lunchroom workers had already taken away the cooler of water they’d set out for us at the beginning of practice. “You don’t have any water left?”

He tapped the plastic bottle in his back pocket, which made a hollow sound, and shook his head. A drop of sweat slid from his cheek, over his chin, and down his neck.

“Here,” I said, trying not to sound alarmed. I handed him my own half-full bottle from my pocket.

“Thanks.” I watched his throat working as he drank all of it in one long draw and tossed the bottle toward his drum on the grass. Then he pulled up the hem of his shirt to wipe his face. Glancing over at me, he said, “I’m okay.”

“You worry me.”

“I just get kind of dizzy sometimes,” he said. “I feel like a dork.”

“You
are
a dork,” I said, “but not because of that.”

He started toward me. I recognized his headlock stance by now.

“Mr. Matthews,” I warned him in Ms. Nakamoto’s voice.

“Kaye Gordon and Aidan O’Neill.” DeMarcus’s monotone had continued through the microphone all this time, but he caught my attention only when he mentioned my friend. “Most Likely to Succeed.”

That was perfect! Or it would have been, if I’d liked Aidan. At any rate, I could tell
Kaye
was happy about it. She curtseyed, grinned, and gave everyone a two-handed wave like she’d just landed a perfect vault and won the Olympics for the US gymnastics team. I cheered and clapped for her along with everyone else.

One of my hands was jerked down from clapping by something large and fuzzy. I was being attacked by a killer stuffed animal. Glancing behind me, I saw it was Sawyer the Pelican. I stopped fighting him and relaxed my arm before he pulled it out of its socket.

Wrong move. He’d caught Will’s arm too. I realized right before it happened that Sawyer was trying to make us hold hands.

I jerked my hand away and cried, “Stop!” because yelling in the middle of announcements was a great idea when I didn’t want people staring at me anymore. At the same time, Will jerked
his
hand away, uttering an outraged “Hey!” His face was as red as a sunburn.

“Come on,” I said to Sawyer’s enormous bird head, which I assumed had an ear hole in it somewhere so he could hear me. “Will’s already in trouble with the boss lady.”

“Sawyer De Luca,” DeMarcus droned.

Distracted from Will and me, thankfully, Sawyer put his weird, furry pelican hands up to his huge beak like he could hardly stand the suspense of what title he’d been given. Most School Spirit, of course. But if that had been his title, a girl would have been named along with him. He must have won an award we didn’t give to girls because it would make them cry.

“Most Likely to Go to Jail,” DeMarcus called.

“Oh!” I exclaimed. That was low. The title had seemed funny to me when it was a joke. It wasn’t amusing anymore when the winner’s dad had
actually
gone to jail.

I stopped feeling sorry for Sawyer when he grabbed both my drumsticks. I sighed in frustration and put my hands on my hips. I didn’t want to be part of his act. Maybe another day, but not right now, when I felt so mortified that I was partially responsible for mortifying Will. “Give them to me,” I told Sawyer.

He shook his huge head. His googly eyes gazed at me, but staring angrily at him did no good because I wasn’t sure which part of the head he was actually looking out of.

Will stepped forward to intervene. “Back off, bird.”

Good. If Will was defending me, he couldn’t be
too
resentful.

Sawyer put one hand over his beak, like he was horrified, and used the other wing—with my drumsticks in that hand—to cover his bird crotch.

“I said
back
off,” Will said, laughing, “not
jack
off.”

Will was laughing! Now I felt even more relieved—until Sawyer put my drumsticks into his enormous bird beak.

“Oh, Sawyer,” I sighed. Almost as if he’d anticipated being named Most Likely to Go to Jail, he’d been stealing things all period and slipping them into his beak—sunscreen, hats, cheerleader pompons so voluminous they didn’t quite fit and hung over the edges of his mouth like he’d tried to swallow an octopus. When his victims finally convinced him to give their stuff back, he shoved his wing into his mouth, fished around in there, pulled out the possessions in question, and wiped them on his ample tail like they were covered in bird saliva before handing them back, pretend-wet. I didn’t want this to happen to my new Vic Firth sticks. After purchasing them last spring and promptly losing them, I’d found them Tuesday night under my bed and brought them to practice. Will had been impressed. But everyone seemed powerless in the face of Sawyer’s act, and I was no exception.

Apparently, Will
was
an exception. He leaped forward and put both hands around Sawyer’s padded neck to choke him. This was a pretty funny sight because normally Will was taller than Sawyer, but Sawyer in the costume was taller than everyone. Will growled, “Cough them up, pelican.” Sawyer shook his head stubbornly.

Will let him go. “Have you drunk any water since you’ve been out here? You’ve got to be dying in that getup.”

Sawyer picked up the empty bottle Will had thrown down and tipped it up over his beak.

“That’s awesome,” I said. “Pantomiming hydration. Seriously, Sawyer, you’ve got to take your head off for water breaks.”

“Harper Davis and Brody Larson,” DeMarcus intoned.

DeMarcus had been reading on and on as Will and I argued with the world’s largest bird, but at this announcement, Will looked at me in confusion. Sawyer scratched his bird head.

I’d given Will a few possible titles for Harper. And I’d told him Brody might be voted Most Athletic because of his football skills, or Most Likely to Die on a Dare because of the time he jumped from the top of the inflatable water slide on Fifth-Grade Play Day and had to go to the hospital. But Brody and Harper were so different from each other that I couldn’t think of a single thing they
both
might have won. I could tell from Will’s expression and Sawyer’s pantomime that they were thinking this too.

“Perfect Couple That Never Was,” DeMarcus said.

“What?” I exclaimed. “How bizarre.” It was so strange for Harper to get paired romantically with a guy she probably had nothing in common with and hardly knew—especially when that guy already had a girlfriend, and Harper had a boyfriend.

“Almost as bizarre as the two of us getting voted Biggest Flirts.” Will looked over at me, and the big grin he’d been wearing slowly faded.

I don’t know what he saw in my face that made him regret his joke. I didn’t have a crush on him, exactly. To me, a crush implied that I wished we would get together someday. I didn’t wish this for Will and me. The only way we would ever hook up again was if we both got plastered at a party—which happened to me often enough, and likely never happened to Will.

But I did admire him. Long for him. Enjoy teasing him more than I’d ever enjoyed telling another uptight guy dirty jokes. He must have detected this with his Super X-Ray Tall Girl Vision, because his eyes shifted away. He opened his mouth to say something to get us out of this awkward conversation, but he must not have been able to think of anything and closed his mouth again.

Sawyer turned his bird head pointedly to Will, then just as pointedly to me.

“What?” I yelled at Sawyer. It was bad enough that Will was embarrassed to be associated with me. Having a huge bird exaggerate the situation made it worse.

Sawyer had told me before that he never talked in costume, which might have been the weirdest thing about his act, because when he wasn’t wearing the bird getup, he never shut up. This time he didn’t even pantomime a reaction to me shouting at him. He simply reached into his beak, pulled out my drumsticks, wiped the imaginary spit on his big bird ass, and handed them to me between two fingers like they were so gross that he was reluctant to touch them.

The field was full of noise and movement. DeMarcus must have finished the announcements. Most of the cheerleaders and the band moved toward the stadium exit, with a few trumpets playing runs, like anybody was going to be impressed. Those of us who’d ditched our heavier instruments during the announcements bent to pick them up now, Will and me included.

Normally this would be the time at the end of practice when Will and I would get in one last laugh for the road, some meta-analysis of the sorry excuse for a newscaster that was DeMarcus. But Will was very obviously keeping himself turned away from me as he hooked his snare onto his harness to carry it off the field. It was like we were having a sullen lovers’ quarrel without the benefit of making out first.

Across the field, Kaye turned toward me. Anticipating her move, Sawyer had crept up behind her, if that was possible while wearing three-foot-long bird shoes, and stepped into her path. She ran right into his padded belly. “Ooof!” she cried. “Get out of my way, pelican!” Sawyer pumped her hand up and down, congratulating her on being named Most Likely to Succeed. When she didn’t protest, he tried to put his wing around her. This time she shoved him away.

She walked toward me with her arms out for a hug. I put my arms out too. We couldn’t really embrace because my drum stuck out in front of me like I was fifteen months pregnant, but we leaned around the obstruction and patted each other on the shoulder, then walked toward the stadium exit together.

“Congratulations, princess!” I sang. “I want to go down on record as the first person to ask you for money. I’ll give you ten years to become a millionaire before I cash in, but I’m asking you in advance.”

“So noted,” she said, like we were in one of the club meetings she ran so well. “And congratulations to you!”

Despite myself, my gaze floated ahead of us to Will. Every band practice after the first, Angelica had waited for him, smiling brightly, at the gate separating the field from the stands. Today she frowned at him, hands on her hips.

I had mixed emotions about this. I could actually feel the emotions churning like a couple of different kinds of acid in my gut. If Angelica broke up with Will for being named Biggest Flirt, that would make him available for me again. But I’d already decided I didn’t want him. It would be my fault if he lost his girlfriend, and I was afraid he wouldn’t forgive me.

Dejected, I asked Kaye, “Congratulations for
what
?” I doubted she’d be happy for me, even in jest, for being elected Biggest Flirt. Not after her lecture at the antiques shop last Monday.

“For
not
getting elected Biggest Party Animal,” she explained. “What if a college admissions board saw that when they looked you up online?”

“I beg your pardon,” I said. “That’s your neurosis, not mine.” I planned to go to college, eventually, when I got around to it, but not one with an admissions board that ran background checks through Homeland Security.

She stomped her petite cheerleader shoe in protest that I wasn’t taking this seriously. “What about your dad? Your dad might have grounded you.”

BOOK: Biggest Flirts
13.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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