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Authors: Jack D. Ferraiolo

Sidekicks (10 page)

BOOK: Sidekicks
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says from the driver's seat.

“Mm,” I respond. I'm exhausted and not up for conversation. Every time I closed my eyes to sleep last night, I kept having the same nightmare: I'm trying to drive a car on a windy mountain road, but I can't see anything because the windshield is blacked out. I try to stop, but the brakes don't seem to work. So all I can do is steer blindly and hope not to hit anything.

“Does it have something to do with you giving up your identity to your archenemy, and endangering everything and everyone in your life?” Louis asks.

“It's either that or that science test I didn't study for.”

Louis laughs. “Well, at least you got a sense of humor about it.”

“Yeah, it's great. I'm sure it's good to know that if some villain kills you, I'll be able to give a funny speech at your funeral.”

“Gettin a little melodramatic there, don't you think?”

“OK, now I do. When the king of melodrama tells you you're being melodramatic, you tend to make a note of it.”

Louis smiles. “Try not to let it get to you, kid. Things got a way of working out.”

“Yeah, but what if my entire life becomes a disaster?” I ask.

“Well, technically, it would be worked out … just not in the way you hoped.”

“Ugh. You're really lousy at making me feel better, you know that?”

“Thanks. Lemme ask you this: When's the last time you felt good? I mean really, really good?”

I stop and think about it. “I don't know.”

“Don't you think that's a problem?”

“I don't know. Lots of people aren't happy all the time.”

“Yeah,” he says, “but how many people are never happy?”

I grimaced. “I wouldn't say I'm
never
happy.”

“You're never happy. There. I said it for you.”

“Thanks a ton. So you think blowing up my whole life is going to make me happier? Seriously?”

“Not necessarily,” Louis says. “I'm just not sure it'll make you less happy than you already are.”

“Well, that's depressing.”

“Come on, kid … just between you and me, how do you feel about going to school today? About seeing her?”

“Freaked out.”

“Honestly?”

“Yes and no … I'm excited, OK? Is that what you want to hear?”

“Yeah. That's exactly what I wanted to hear.”

“Don't you think that's bizarre?” I ask. “This whole thing has the possibility to ruin my whole life, and I'm excited.”

“Our feelings don't always make sense. They're not supposed to.”

“It would be a heck of a lot easier if they did.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Louis says, “but it would also make life a heck of a lot less interesting.”

“Oh man … I didn't think you were going to turn this into a life lesson.”

“Yeah well, if you didn't screw up, I wouldn'ta had to,” he said with a wry smile on his face.

“You know, I'm not as upset about putting your life in danger anymore.”

“The only thing that surprises me, kid, is that it took you this long.”

“Ouch … OK, I surrender,” I say. “So what do I say to her? Sorry for knocking you through a wall just doesn't sound right, especially since I'm not really sorry.”

“Well, in my opinion, I think you gotta wait to see what she says first. Let her start the conversation; that way you got something to respond to. Don't think about it so much. See what she says first.”

“So let her come to me. That's exactly what Trent said.”

“He's right. You're already overthinking things. Any attempt to approach her on your part is going to feel forced, by her and you. Sincerity is your friend in this situation.”

“Even if I'm lying?”

“Especially if you're lying.”

Louis pulls the car in front of the school, and I have a weird rush of adrenaline, one that feels out of place when I'm in my Scott identity.

“Wish me luck,” I say.

“Good luck, kid. Try to put up a better fight with her than you did with me.”

“Had to get one last shot in, didn't you?”

Louis looks back at me and winks. “I'm from Brooklyn. ‘One Last Shot' is our motto.”

I get out of the car. As I watch Louis drive away, I'm full of the weirdest mixture of feelings: dread, hope, excitement, anger, fear. Half of me can't wait to get inside the school; the other half wants to run away, screaming.

The welcome chime rings. I take a deep breath, then walk up the stairs and into school.

When I get inside, it seems like just a normal day. Kids are all over the place, talking, laughing; some trying to gather their stuff quickly and get to class, others trying to milk every last second of hanging out in the hallway. I feel like I have a big sign on my back that says I'm Bright Boy! But as I walk to my locker, it starts to sink in that there's still only two people who can see it: me and Allison.

I'm trying to figure out what to say to her if I happen to run into her in the hallway. I run through my options: fake laugh and a cool “Hey”; fake laugh and a “Crazy night last night, huh?”; fake laugh and a “What's shakin', bacon?” Ugh … those all suck. Should I drop the fake laugh? But how else can I appear like I'm cool and unaffected? Maybe, a finger snap? Or a double finger snap? Man, I am
not
good at this. Maybe I'll just let her kick me in the face …

When I get to my locker without seeing her, I'm a
little disappointed, but mostly relieved. I go through my normal morning routine, but it takes me a little longer since I stop every forty-five seconds to scan the hallway around me.

I'm a muttering-to-myself mess by the time I get to first period. Allison, on the other hand, strolls into the room as if she just had the best night of sleep in her life. She's giggling and chattering away with Olivia and Charlene. Olivia sees me looking at them and gives me a big smile. “Hi, Steve,” she says. Charlene giggles. Allison smiles but doesn't look at me, even when she takes her seat … in the desk directly in front of mine.

She sits through the whole class without turning back once. Twice Mr. Privet calls on me, and twice I just stare at him blankly. The only thing I can concentrate on is the back of Allison's head. Meanwhile, she's answering questions like she's a winning contestant on a game show.

When the bell rings, she gets up and heads for the door, again without looking back. Olivia and Charlene wait for her. They all leave together and resume their chattering and giggling.

“Unimpressive performance today, Mr. Hutchinson,” Mr. Privet says as I'm leaving. “Let's get it together, OK?”

Allison doesn't look at me once, all day. Not in the
three classes we have together in the morning. Not at lunch. Not in the two classes we have after lunch. Not a glance, or a wink, or double snap and a “What's shakin', bacon?” Nothing.

I'm starting to get antsy. Trent and Louis aren't always right about everything. The day's almost over. I've got to go up to her. I have to talk to her. I can't go through a whole night like this. What is her problem? How can this not be bothering her? I stand up to go talk to her. Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of Dr. White's Spanish class.

“Mr. Hutchinson? May I help you?”

The class giggles. Allison doesn't even turn around.

“No, Dr. White … just adjusting my pants.”

This gets a laugh from the class.

“Thank you for sharing, Mr. Hutchinson, but can you please adjust your pants on your own time?”

“Yes, Dr. White.”

“That means you should sit down now.”

The class laughs again. I sit down. Well, that went well.

Allison sits closer to the door, so when class finishes, she's one of the first ones out. I hurry to catch up to her.

“Mr. Hutchinson.” It's Dr. White.

I stop. The rest of the kids stream past me as I walk back into the classroom. “Yes, Dr. White.”

“Something troubling you?” She's looking at me over the top of her half-rim glasses.

“No, Dr. White. My … uhh … pants were riding up a bit … you know how that goes,” I say, then immediately have the urge to slap myself in the forehead. Did I really just try to start a conversation about wedgies with Dr. White? What is my problem? And what is with my sudden obsession with pants?

She sits there and looks at me without saying anything. “Is there something else that you wanted to talk to me about?” I ask.

“Possibly,” she says. “But not yet. Good day, Mr. Hutchinson. Try to keep your pants on straight.” She starts correcting the tests on her desk, as if I'm no longer there. I walk out of her room, feeling like I'm on shaky ground. I feel like I have that I'm Bright Boy! sign on again, only this time I'm not sure that only Allison and I can see it.

When I get out into the hallway, Allison is long gone. I have to find her. I'm through waiting for her to make the first move. I'm—

Someone grabs me by the back of the shirt and yanks.
I'm pulled backward into a dark room. The door slams. I throw a punch, more out of instinct than fear. The light clicks on.

“Whoa!” Allison says, and ducks my punch. “Watch it!”

I go on guard, waiting for a retaliatory punch, but she doesn't throw one.

“Put your guard down, hot shot,” she says. “If I wanted to beat you up, I wouldn't drag you into a closet to do it.”

“What do you want?” I ask.

“I want to stop you before you do something stupid, like cause a scene.”

“Cause a scene? Why would I cause a scene?”

“I don't know. Then again, why would you repeat the phrase ‘cause a scene' twice in two sentences? Maybe because you were thinking about—oh, I don't know—causing a scene?”

“No, I wasn't!” I shout.

“You're causing a scene right now, Bright Buns.”

“Stop calling me Bright Buns, or I'll start calling you Monkey Face.”

She looks at me for a second. “Well, well, well … look who has a snarky side. Deal. So you've finally gotten my attention. What do you want?”

“Oh, come on … this doesn't bother you?” I ask.

“What, standing in a closet? I've been in worse places.”

“No … this! Us! We're archenemies!”

“Yeah. I know,” she says. “Try to keep it down, would you?”

“That doesn't freak you out?”

“Yeah. It freaks me out plenty. I'm just a lot better at hiding it. Which isn't exactly a challenge. Man, you're high-strung! No wonder you don't have any friends.”

“No,” I say. “I don't have any friends because I spend most of my time putting people like you in jail.”

“Ugh. Well, at least you answered the question: If a hero faces a villain and there's no one there to hear, does he still make a speech?”

“You're the one who pulled me in here … what do
you
want?”

“I want you to calm down so you don't blow this for the both of us.”

“Fine. I'm calm.”

“You don't sound calm.”

“I'm not!” I yell. “I just don't get it … I mean this is bizarre, OK? You're like the biggest goody-goody in school, and it's all an act?”

“Well, kinda,” she says. “I mean, I think I'm a good person.”

“You're a sidekick to a sociopath!”

“My dad is not a sociopath.”

“OK, then, what would you call him?”

“Hmm … focused. Unconventional. Not a great dancer.”

“You don't have to do this,” I say.

“Do what?” she asks in a peevish tone.

“Be a criminal. I can help you.”

She starts laughing. “Help me? Help ME?! HA! You're the one exposing yourself every time you go out. Seriously, you're traumatizing half the city.”

“All right … I get it … I wear tight pants. You've driven that point firmly into the ground. Now stop avoiding the question.”

“You didn't ask me a question.”

“I thought it was implied. How can you be Dr. Chaotic's sidekick? I know he's your father, but he's a villain!”

“Define ‘villain,'” she says.

“Wha—? Villain! Someone who steals stuff, hurts people … you know, someone evil.”

“Define evil.”

“Oh, come on,” I say. “Stop avoiding the question.”

“I'm not,” she says. “You're avoiding the answers.”

“What?”

She sighs and rolls her eyes. “Come with me.” She opens the door, grabs my wrist, and pulls me down the hall.

She drags me to the science lab that we're supposed to be in at the moment. Mr. Jacobs sees me first and looks annoyed, but when he spies Allison, his expression softens. “Allison … I'm sure you have a good explanation for being late.” He says it not as a challenge, but as if he already knows it's true.

“Yes, I just saw the most interesting bees' nest outside, and since you're a big believer in independent study, and since we have a big project due in a couple of weeks …”

BOOK: Sidekicks
7.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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