"These things suck!"
I turned and looked at the girl who stood beside me and raised an eyebrow in question.
She gestured at the garishly decorated gymnasium. "This! It sucks!" She pointed at Jessica Wheeler, the head of the junior varsity cheer squad. "These things are designed for girls like her to have a good time." She then gestured between the two of us. "And for girls like us to be reminded of what losers we are."
This made the eyebrow rise a little higher. Loser, eh? I might not be the most popular girl in the school, but I felt that I was far from being a loser. I thought of myself as more of a loner. I had a couple of good friends and that was more important than having a bunch of fair weather acquaintances.
I face her more fully. "Speak for yourself. I don't consider myself a loser," I informed her.
She snorted. "Right. You're here, alone, in the corner by the punch, just like me." She made a show of glancing around to make a point. "I don't see anyone here with you and no one has stopped to say hi. Face it," she said with a smug look, "you are a loser."
I reached over into the bowl that sat on the table beside me and took a handful of the candy hearts that were in it. I picked one out, looked at it and smirked at the irony. I showed it to her. 'You're Special'' it said.
She waved it off. "Those are like fortune cookies; they don't mean crap."
I popped it into my mouth and fought the automatic cringe that the immediate chalky taste created. As the candy dissolved in my mouth, I studied the girl. She was new since I had never seen her before. I'd grown up in Crestview, so there weren't any unknown students at the high school for me. I'd heard rumors that a new sophomore had started the day before. The petite, blue-eyed brunette in front of me had to be her. The bitterness surprised me, however.
"Aren't you still a little too new here to decide if you're a loser or not?" I asked, curious.
She shrugged and blew her bangs out of her eyes as her attention was pulled to the couples dancing out on the gym floor. The wistful look that crossed her features would have gone unnoticed it happened so fast had I not been watching her so closely. "New or old, it doesn't matter. People don't change, only names and faces do."
"Well," I said as I popped another chalky heart in my mouth, "aren't you just a little ray of sunshine?" I frowned as I gave her a considering look, weighing my next words carefully. "You're new here. It's a fresh start, you know?"
Her laugh was less than amused. "Sure. Fresh start. Yep." But the sarcasm didn't quite hide the sadness.
I glanced around at the students dancing and laughing at the school Valentine's Day dance and felt bad for her. "I'm Meagan, by the way."
"Kathy," she responded with a nod of her chin. "I'm a sophomore. You?"
"Same." I held my hand out to her, offering her the candy hearts. "Want some?"
She took the last of the candies from me in silence. She studied me as she ate them and finally asked, "Why are you here?"
"I'm waiting for someone." I glanced down at my watch with a frown. "And they're late. Not a good sign," I muttered. Figured. I was at the dance against my will to begin with... "I'm going to call my mom soon, I think," I continued, twisting the watch around to sit better on my wrist. At that, I heard a strangled noise come from Kathy and looked up in alarm. "Are you okay?" I asked in concern when I saw the strange look on her face.
My brow wrinkled as I gazed at her in confusion. She'd turned an interesting shade of scarlet and was rather wide-eyed. Getting more distressed at her behavior, I started to demand an answer when I realized she was looking at something behind me. Curious and even more confused by her odd behavior, I turned to see what had her so disconcerted. What greeted me had me fully understanding what was happening to the girl behind me.
Striding confidently across the expanse of the gym were none other than Robert Munroe and his best friend, Stephen.
A quick glance back at Kathy showed that she was just as awestruck as the rest of the girls at Crestview High were. Who could really blame her, though? Both seniors were tall and broad-shouldered, muscled from their years of sports. Robert was dark haired, and Stephen was sandy blond. Both were insanely good looking and both knew it.
Robert bypassed the various cheerleaders and other girls with a determined look on his face. Another glance at Kathy showed that she was close to hyperventilating and I hid a smile. Suddenly, I felt a warm presence beside me and I let the grin burst free.
"You're late," I stated as I turned to face Robert.
"You're gorgeous," he said in return, taking me in with a lingering sweep of his eyes.
I beamed at him, pleased and feeling as beautiful as he claimed when he looked at me like he was just then. "You're forgiven. But, where were you?" I looked over and saw that Stephen's attention was zeroed in on Kathy and frowned. "What happened?"
"We got held up Steve's house. His parents..." He trailed off, needing no further explanation as he wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me close. "I'm sorry."
I peeked up at him and saw that he was looking down at me with a contrite smile. "It's all right," I reassured him. "But if you hadn't shown up soon, I was calling Mom to come take me home," I finished with a smirk.
He leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to my temple. "I'm glad you didn't."
"Yeah, well," I paused as I reached past him and grabbed a couple more candy hearts, "this really hot guy said he was going to meet me here." I popped one of the candies in my mouth and smiled at him. "I didn't want to miss out on that."
"Hm...yes, wouldn't want you to miss that at all." He took one of the hearts from me, inspected it and grinned. He flipped it over in his fingers, showing it to me to see that it said 'All Mine'. He winked at me as he tossed it into his mouth and began to chew. At his grimace, I started to giggle. "I'd forgotten how bad these taste," he muttered in disgust.
I nodded and looked over to see Stephen and Kathy deep in conversation. When she glanced my way, she gave me a shy smile. I flashed a quick thumbs up to which she blushed and I grinned back at her.
"You ready to head out?"
I frowned up at Robert. "Why'd we come if we're just going to leave right after you got here?" I fidgeted with the shoulder strap of my red dress and shot him a look when he brushed my hand away from it. "We could have just done something else."
"That," Robert said as he tapped my nose with a finger and smiled, "would have defeated the whole purpose."
"And that is..?"
"To show you off to everyone tonight!"
How does one not become a glob of girly goop at something like that?
"But, you also have a curfew, baby," he reminded me. "So we should probably go."
I nodded and pulled away, walking over to where Kathy was talking to Stephen. I waved her over to me and grinned as she came over. She shook her head at me and blushed.
"I feel like an idiot," she said. "You're definitely not a loser!" She peeked over at where the boys were talking to each other, waiting for us. "You're going out with him?" she asked.
I nodded with a pleased smile. "Yeah. He finally convinced me a few months ago to give him a chance."
"You needed to be convinced?" she asked, incredulous. "What? Wow!"
I chuckled. "Well, let's just say that Robert had something of a 'reputation' at the time." I paused and we watched as the two boys ignored the efforts of Jessica and one of her cohorts to get their attention. "But I'm pretty sure that's a non-issue these days." I brought my attention back to her and looked her up and down. "So, are you ready for it?"
She looked at me in confusion. "Ready for what?"
"The part where you're not a loser," I said with a smirk.
"Huh?" She looked at me blankly. I just shook my head and smiled. I jutted my chin in Stephen's direction.
"I don't think you're much of a loser in his opinion," I murmured. "But what do I know?" I backed away. "I gotta go! Robert's taking me home. I'll see you around tomorrow," I tossed over my shoulder as I headed back to Robert. I grinned at the shocked look on her face. When I got to them, I shot a stern glare at Stephen.
"What?" He looked at me, bewildered. "What'd I do?"
"You be nice to her," I said as I poked him in the chest. "She's new and she seems sweet!"
He held up his hands in surrender. "Okay! I'll be nice."
I glanced over at Kathy then back at Stephen. "I'm serious, Stephen Holden!" I warned him. I poked a little harder to let him know I meant business.
"Ow! Jesus! I get it!" He exclaimed.
I nodded with narrowed eyes then turned to find Robert busy rooting around the bowl of candy hearts. I frowned as I watched him for a moment. Suddenly, he grinned to himself, pocketed some of the candies and then held a hand out to me. Puzzled, I took it and allowed him to lead me out through the gym into the parking lot until we reached his truck. Once there, he helped me in and then we started the drive to my house.
I was a bit surprised when he pulled onto a dirt side road and parked before we got there. I looked at him, head tilted with a raised eyebrow when he shut off the truck and turned in his seat toward me. The odd look on his face made me nervous and I swallowed hard before I asked, "What's wrong?"
In silence, he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the candies. I watched as he studied them for a moment before he picked one out and handed it to me. In the dim light, I could just make out it said 'You & Me'. I looked at him even more confused.
"What's going on?"
He grinned at me and shook his head then handed me another one. This one said 'Be True'. I gave him a soft smile.
"I know we are," I murmured.
He hummed in response then handed me another heart. I took it and felt my heart stutter and my breath stop. This one said 'True Love'. My eyes flew to his, a million questions whirling in my head. Only one came out, however.
"What?" I asked, my voice coming out strangled and breathless.
He leaned closer to me in the cab of his truck and ran a finger along my cheek. A wealth of emotions and words reflected back at me in his eyes. He continued to trace along, outlining my lips, chin, jaw, along my neck... I closed my eyes and that is when he spoke low into my ear.
"I know we're young, believe me, I know we're young..." He ran his nose along my jaw then pressed a kiss to the corner of my mouth. "But I think you just might be the one." Gentle fingers touched my chin to turn my head to look at him and I opened my eyes. All the air I'd been holding escaped in a whoosh when they met his. "I love you, Meagan."
He leaned forward and kissed me, lips moving softly against mine. It was the sweetest kiss, filled with emotion that shook me to my core. It was at that moment that I knew that he and I were a forever-type thing. I pulled back and looked at him, biting my lip for a moment before I smiled.
"I love you, too."