The Hiding Game Ch. 10

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Ass

I hated nothing quite as much as pep assemblies. The entire student body was herded into the gymnasium like cattle, and we all missed class just so the school’s athletes could get yet another demonstration of how awesome they were, and celebrate themselves some more. Our gym, although large, had trouble fitting the entire school, so a mad dash for the available bleacher space ensued. Whoever didn’t grab a seat on time had to stand.

I sat at the end of one row of bleachers with Marisol, and the both of us suffered through the assembly together. The cheerleaders were still as annoying as always, hopefully cheering and dancing their way straight to hell. The dance team took the floor as well, and they did two dance routines in between badly acted, unfunny skits and the only thing that the cheerleaders were actually good at, which was stunting. I occupied myself with staring daggers at Anita Ryan, who was a perfectly cute, conservative looking blond girl with incredibly long legs. I couldn’t help imagine these legs wrapped around Seth, and my jealousy flared even more when I realized that the vision in my mind had, in fact, taken place at one point. He’d admitted that to me that one evening on the school roof, and much as I appreciated that he had at least been honest with me, at the moment I wished he’d never told me.

“Do you realize that if we win today, we’re in the playoffs for sure?” Marisol asked, jabbing me slightly in the ribs. I jumped, interrupting my thoughts and nodding at her. She sighed and gave me a look.

“Sorry Jenna. I know he’s probably right over there, and I know it sucks.”

I nodded, avoiding to glance over at the front of the opposite rows of bleachers, where the entire football team sat, wearing their jerseys. Marisol patted my arm comfortingly.

“You need to take your mind off him,” she said. “What do you say, ten bucks on Anita Ryan for Homecoming Queen?”

“Katie Schoen,” I said. “I’d rather have her win.” If Anita Ryan did win this one, I was going to be sick.

With that thought freshly in my mind, I watched as the Homecoming King and Queen candidates were made to line up in the front of the gym. Mike Stahl, the long distance runner, looked strangely out of place in between the three bulky football players in their jerseys. I stared at him just to avoid staring at Seth instead. There was only so long I could force my eyes to remain at one spot, however, and finally they did wander.

Seth looked almost too casual. He had his thumbs hooked in the pockets of his jeans, and I could see the tenseness on his face. Either he was taking the whole Homecoming King business a lot more serious than I thought he would, or he was in fact still troubled by our break-up. At the other end of the line, Anita Ryan stood ready for the crowning ceremony, her smile so fake I wanted to punch her. Next to her were the two other cheerleaders in the court, Katie Schoen and Lindsay Anderson. Alicia Miller, our resident star track athlete, was standing off to the other side of the girls. I pretty much despised all four of them, but had decided that Katie Schoen was probably the least out of all these evils. Now, all I could do was pray.

“This needs to be over soon,” Marisol whispered when Principal Parrish took the microphone and started to praise the various accomplishments of the Homecoming court members. “Oh, who the fuck cares? It’s not like we’ve never heard of them.”

“Tell me about it,” I sighed. “I want to get home and watch a movie and fall asleep.” Marisol gave me a look.

“That early?”

“I like sleeping. I’m not sad when I sleep.”

She patted my hand. “You can stay at my place, if you like.”

“Sure. If you want.” I was aware how evasive that sounded, and forced myself to smile. “It’d be nice Mari. I’m sorry, I know I’ve been a pain in the ass friend lately.”

Marisol shrugged. “Hey, I’m not complaining. Ooh, look! Finally!” She elbowed me when there was movement, and we could see two cheesy crowns sparkle on two pillows. The crowning ceremony itself was refreshingly short, with the crowns being picked up one after the other by Principal Parrish. The first one was placed squarely on Seth’s head, which caused the gym to applaud and cheer wildly. I shook my head when I looked at him once more, my head suddenly clearing. Dating the Homecoming King? What the fuck kind of fantasy land had I been living in?

When the second, much more delicate crown was places onto Katie Schoen’s head, I thanked the powers that be for the intervention. There was a little bit less applause for Katie, who seemed genuinely surprised by the honor. It endeared her to me a little bit, but when she stretched out her hand for Seth’s that was lost again right away. The two of them bowed several times, and I tried my best not to look like I wanted to shoot myself.

“Mari,” I said,” we need to leave.”

***

I’d rationalized the decision not to attend the football game a thousand times to myself. güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri It would hurt me to see Seth on the field, and I knew damn well that the football players and cheerleaders were going to have some sort of sex orgy after. It happened every year if we won the homecoming game.

I was still asking myself what the hell we were doing when we approached the field, on which the game had been in progress for a while. It was the homecoming game after all, and this would have been the first time in four years we didn’t attend it. I was still refusing to step close enough to actually see what was going on, but Marisol, who wasn’t suffering from any such scruples, had approached the field and the crowd and was now returning, her face pale.

“Uh,” she said. “That’s not good.”

I had been pacing, but now I stopped in my tracks.

“What?”

“The score is seven-fourteen.”

“Are you serious? That’s impossible! Munster is not that good.” That did, however, explain the disgruntled faces of the tailgaters I could see from here. I put my hands on my head, feeling disconcerted.

“From what I gathered…” Marisol shrugged. “Seth Marshall just isn’t on his game today. Maybe he’s sick. Cantelloni is picking up his slack, but he can’t carry the team like Marshall does.”

“I guess not,” I mumbled, for lack of anything meaningful to say. We were hoping like everyone else that Glenn Valley would win the state championship this year – and if we lost this one, we might not even be going. My feelings for Seth aside, this score made me nervous.

“Do you want to stay?” Marisol asked, and I considered. Did I want to see our football team lose at home? Certainly not. Did I want to watch Seth play? Hell, I preferred not to look at him at all, if possible. But still, Marisol looked so nervous that I couldn’t bring myself to make her leave with me, and if I was honest with myself, I had to admit that if I left now, I would just spend the rest of the afternoon worrying and speculating about the outcome of the game.

“We can stay,” I finally said, resigned, and sat down in the grass to stare at the football field from afar.

***

We lost the game 13-21. The mood was downright hostile after the game, and Marisol and I decided to leave when the first fight broke out near the field. Glenn Valley was used to winning, and Munster was simply gloating with glee about having beaten the favored team. The mood was dark as hell, and we wanted no part of any fights, physical or otherwise.

I spent the night at her house again. Having someone to talk to helped me not to think about Seth, which meant I could fall asleep easier. Marisol did her job well; she chatted about her parents, about the weather, about how she’d asked for new bed sheets for her birthday – anything to keep my mind away from Seth.

The next day, we spent most of the day watching movies and baking cookies, and finally, at about five o’ clock, we began to get ready for the Homecoming Dance. I had promised Marisol that we’d go, after all. Neither of us had actually attended a school dance before, but while we weren’t sure what to expect, we were pretty enthusiastic in out preparations. I showered first, and by the time Marisol was done I had already lotioned myself all over, painted my nails with clear polish, and put on an oversized sleeping shirt of Marisol’s so that my wet hair wouldn’t drip all over my skin. I was busy blow-drying my hair when she walked out in a towel and grabbed her own lotion, sniffing my neck as she walked by.

“That passionfruit stuff I gave you does smell pretty awesome, doesn’t it?”

I nodded. “You’re welcome to use it.”

Marisol grinned triumphantly. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.” She traded lotions and looked me up and down, frowning.

“I can do your hair,” she offered. “Unless you’ve already got a plan.”

“I don’t.” I was actually very relieved to hear her say that. I never wore my hair any differently than open or in a simple ponytail, and anything more complicated than that was lost on me.

Marisol nodded, satisfied. “In case you didn’t realize, I plan on parading you around and making sure everyone realizes what a hot and awesome chick you are. And also making sure one certain person realizes that he screwed up big time by being such a prick to you.”

I smiled and stretched out my arms. We hugged for a few brief seconds, then Marisol went back to the bathroom to lotion and I finished my blow-drying.

I did in fact have to use the strapless, backless bra cups that Marisol had bought me. My dress had the thinnest of straps over my shoulders, and almost my entire back was exposed in it. That didn’t leave me much choice when it came to undergarments. The dress itself was sleek and silver-gray satin, fairly simple, which was the way I liked it. Marisol’s dress was a bit more extravagant, red with black, embroidered vines. I had helped her pick it out, and I thought güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri that the colors suited her wonderfully.

We were ready to go by seven thirty, hair freshly pinned up and lips shiny with gloss. Marisol had volunteered to drive, so she was wearing her sneakers, which looked a bit silly with the elegant dress. She had her heels in a plastic bag that she threw in the back of her car before getting in herself.

“So, are we sure this is a good idea?” I asked while she started the car. It was too late to back out now, but I was starting to feel a slight tingle in the general vicinity of my stomach. I knew Seth was going to be at the dance with Anita, and I wasn’t sure if I could stand seeing them together.

“It’ll be fine,” Marisol assured me. “You can do this, Jenna. We’ll have fun, and if you need a moment in the bathroom or something, give me a signal.”

“Like what?”

“Uh, I don’t know. Fan yourself and say you’re hot.”

“You do realize that I’m going to look ridiculous, right?”

Marisol grinned wryly. “That’s okay. Better ridiculous than pathetic.”

***

We arrived fashionably late at the high school, and after Marisol changed her shoes in the parking lot and we both slipped out of our coats, we marched towards the front entrance arm in arm, both slightly nervous. There was a table set up behind the large entrance doors, at which parent chaperones were selling the tickets. Marisol and I walked up to them, smiling. We had plans for this occasion, and they included getting in for cheap.

“One couple,” I told them, and they stared incredulously.

“But… you’re…” said one of the mothers. We both raised our eyebrows at them, daring them to call our bluff. The other woman at the table elbowed the first, who reached for the money box.

“We’ll kiss if you want us to,” Marisol told them, sounding serious. “But to be honest, I think that’s harassment.”

I almost lost it right there. Somehow, I managed to pay for our tickets and walk inside, still holding hands with Marisol, but once we were out of sight, we both started giggling.

“Wow,” I told Marisol. “You’re crazy. Would you really have kissed me?”

She shrugged. “I probably would have raised hell and screamed harassment, but that almost would have been worth it. That couples-are-cheap policy is bullshit anyway.”

We high-fived and made our way further into the school, until we arrived in the commons area. Here, the lights were dimmed and couples were already moving on the dance floor. Along the wall, parent and teacher chaperones stood guard, watching the students and making sure no groping or making out was going on. I recognized Christoph Marshall next to Coach Bassett, and Seth’s dad gave me a short nod and a smile upon seeing me.

“So what now?” I asked Marisol. We were standing there watching the dancers, and maybe I was just imagining the funny looks, but I felt out of place. “Want to leave?”

“No way!” Marisol pulled me along the wall, and it took me a moment to realize that she was targeting the table with the alcohol-free punch bowls. While walking, my eyes darted around nervously, expecting to spot Seth and his date any moment. But they didn’t seem to be around, and I was undeniably glad about that.

I let yet another cheerleader mom hand me a plastic cup of punch. Marisol took one as well, and for a few minutes we simply stood back and sipped our punch, taking in our surroundings and being happy that nobody had harassed us yet. Standing near the chaperones proved to be a pretty good tactic.

“So,” Marisol said after some time. “You think we’ll have the guts to dance to one of these songs?”

“You want to go all lesbian couple on me again, or do you mean by ourselves?”

Marisol laughed. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to give the rumor mill more fodder than we already have. I actually meant by ourselves, although I wouldn’t mind trying to pick up that hot guy over at the snacks table.”

I grinned and looked over to where she was pointing. There were indeed quite a few guys, apparently without dates, standing around the table talking – some of them not bad-looking. I downed my punch and threw the used cup into one of the trash bags.

“Would you mind if I went to the bathroom first?”

Marisol shook her head. “Not at all, go ahead. I’m not coming with you though. Rumor mill and all.”

I laughed and left her, shaking my head until I had reached the edge of the commons. Another chaperone was standing in the only dimly illuminated hallway, making sure of my intentions before he let me pass. This wouldn’t deter anyone truly intent on creating mischief, but it was a precaution the organizers of the dance were required to take. I walked past classroom and rows of lockers on my way to the girls’ bathroom, but when I turned the corner, I stopped abruptly, my heart slamming against my chest.

Seth was standing only a few feet away from the bathroom güvenilir bahis şirketleri door, leaning against the wall. He looked so good in his dress pants and dark blue shirt that it was simply unfair. He raised his head when he heard the sound of my steps, and I saw him tense up when he recognized me. One of his eyes was bruised and slightly swollen, and the injury looked fresh. It was probably a remnant of the fight that had broken out after the game we had lost, but my heart clenched tight when I saw it nonetheless.

I hesitated. I was torn between simply greeting him, showing him the cold shoulder, and throwing myself into his arms. Finally, I decided on the first option and started to move again, but when I was almost past him I chickened out and kept moving towards the bathroom door, head low and jaws clenched.

“You look beautiful.”

I turned back when I heard him say that. He was looking at me, sadly, and I was suddenly at a loss for words. My heart felt like it was being torn out through my chest.

“Thank you,” I finally whispered, my throat dry. Then I turned and fled into the bathroom without looking back at him, passing Anita just as I entered. I locked myself into a stall and just stood there for a few minutes, trying to compose myself. My hands were shaking and I felt something pulling inside me that I tried my best to ignore. I balled up a wad of toiled paper just so I could tear it to pieces. The process, strangely enough, calmed me quite a bit. When the feeling had passed, I walked out in front of the mirror and made sure I looked presentable, running my hands through the few strands of my hair that Marisol had left hanging down to frame my face. The little bit of make-up I was wearing wasn’t smeared, so I just washed my hands with some cool water and made my way back to the dance, intent on finding Marisol and getting the hell out of here.

I didn’t see her right away when I entered the commons again, my eyes still having to adjust to the dim light from the glare of the bathroom. But when I finally did see Marisol, my eyes widened in surprise. She had, in fact, managed to chat up one of the guys from over at the snacks table and was now animatedly talking to him. I recognized the way she moved her hands behind her back as if shy that she was excited, and apparently really liked him.

“Well damn,” I sighed, considering what my options were now. I didn’t want to intrude on Marisol when she was having a good time, especially with my own petty emotional problems.

“Jenna?”

I turned to find Christoph Marshall standing next to me. I smiled at him, and he waved me to follow him into another hallway, where the music wasn’t quite as loud. I walked after him, confused.

“I was wondering if I could talk to you,” he asked. I shrugged.

“Sure. About what?”

“About Seth.” He looked back at the commons, then jerked his head in the opposite direction. “Here, walk with me. I know he’s not too keen on people knowing about his personal business.”

“Oh.” I wondered what Christoph had found out, and if I was in fact the personal business he was referring to. Reluctantly, I followed him through the dark hallway.

“I’ve been worried about him,” Christoph told me while walking. “He hasn’t been himself lately. He’s been moody, and then losing that game…” he shook his head, then let out a sigh. “I hope you don’t mind me asking this, Jenna, but were you, or are you, by any chance… involved… with him?”

So he had figured it out. I bit my lip for a moment, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to tell Christoph the truth. He seemed genuinely concerned.

“I… was,” I said, suddenly choked up, and Christoph peered down at me, looking worried.

“Are you okay? Here.” He opened the emergency door at the end of the hallway and fresh, cold air washed over me. I thanked him, and we stood by the door for a moment. I could see the football field a few hundred yards from here, and I smiled bitterly.

“So, you and him,” Christoph finally said. I nodded.

“But not anymore?”

I shook my head. “We broke up, if you could call it that. You might have noticed he’s here with another girl.”

“Yes, I noticed. One of the cheerleaders. But I also noticed the way he looked at you when you came in. He positively fled the room.” Christoph stepped forward, out of the door, and waved me to follow him once more. It felt surprisingly good to walk outside, even though it was getting rather cold and I was only wearing my dress. I took a few deep breaths. This conversation was upsetting me more than I had anticipated.

“I’m sorry if he hurt you,” Christoph offered. “I’ve been trying to figure out what’s wrong with him. I don’t know why he didn’t tell me about you.”

I shrugged. “He kept it a secret from pretty much everyone. He never told me why, but I think he just didn’t want to be seen with me. I don’t know. I’m still a little sore over it.”

“I’m sorry about that too.” Christoph sighed. “See, here’s the thing with Seth. He has been on different medications ever since his mom left. He didn’t take her leaving well. He’s been getting gradually more depressed and manic ever since. A few months ago the doctor decided to try a new combination of meds, and I think it’s been making him loopy.”

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