Sunday, August 18, 2013

POPULAR (chapter thirteen: the offer)

Chapter Thirteen
The Offer
That afternoon, as I updated my Matchmaker files, Hilary called.
   “Hi Honey,” Hilary said.
   “Hi Hills, what’s up?
   “I need to talk to you, now. I’m so excited.”
   “Okay, tell me everything…”
   “Not on the phone...”
   “Oh, of course, come over for a swim. Daddy’s at work and the only person who might disturb us is my mutant neighbor but Ethan’s been distracted lately…”
   “Okay, see you soon.”
   Hilary arrived on her bike. She only lives a few streets away. I didn’t overly approve of her riding because the sooner a girl gets her own motor, the better to promote her as a socially independent entity, but since we don’t even drive yet, that can wait until next year. At least biking is good for toning your upper thighs. I made a note of Hilary’s predicament on her file: Under the heading Roadworthy, I wrote ‘encourage Hills to learn to drive.’  
   One of the things I love so much about making friends and taking on new matchmaking projects is that I learn so much. Of course, initially my subjects are supposed to learn from me but it’s so much better when I also learn from them.
   Hilary was excited when I answered the door, practically jumping out of her skin.
   “Guess what?”
   “I got invited to pre-prom… I mean, the vampire ball… Dance Fangdango.”
    My plan had worked fast.
    Almost too fast.
   “Oh wow,” I said to Hilary, tentatively. I didn’t realize Flynn was so… ready. “Tell me everything. How did he do it?”
   “Well, we’d been smiling a lot at each other in the halls…”
   “I’ve noticed.”
   “And then at lunch, in the cafeteria…”
   “Yup, noticed that too…”
   “And then, we got talking when we both had to do that joint project…”
   Instigated by me, I thought proudly.
   “And well, he suggested we meet up at the library to study…”
   Hang on, libraries weren’t Flynn’s style…
   “And well, he told me he’d had feelings for me since last year.”
   “Feelings? That’s awesome!” Then it occurred to me, “Flynn only just arrived in school at the start of the semester…”
   “Oh, it’s not Flynn, Honey. It’s Rafe. Rafe Martin. We met at a television and comic convention before I came here…”
  The maths nerd? I was aghast but tried to control my shock.
   “Yes. That’s why I need your advice. You’re so smart Honey. Here. Read the note he left in my locker.” I picked up the crumpled note with my finger and thumb.
   “It’s so genuine and sweet, don’t you think?”
   “Mmm… it’s been written on a napkin,” I said disapprovingly, feigning surprise.
   I held the one edge that wasn’t stained with soda and read the first few lines.      “Rafe’s sentence structure is surprisingly error-free,” I announced.
   “Yes. Intelligence is one of Rafe’s strong points.”
   “Really?” I said.
   I unfolded the note, noticeably stuck together with the remains of Rafe’s lunch. That guy was so socially absent.
   Reluctantly, I read the entire document.
   Dear Hilary
    I’ve liked you since we got to know each other over our math project. You worked so hard even though you told me math wasn’t your ‘special interest’. You are the most fun I’ve ever had in math class – apart from that time when I discovered the value of Pi, years ago. I’m the sort of guy who would never go to a dance normally but I’d like to go this year. I’d like to go with you – if you’ll have me.
   Rafe Martin
“It’s quite…”
“Good?” Hilary ventured.
“Actually, I was going to say… uninspired.”
“Do you think I need to reply?”
“Oh, yes, it would be impolite not to.”
“What do you think I should say?”
“Oh, I would never interfere in your social life, Hilary.”
 “But, we’re just getting to know each other…”
 “Well, do you like him?”
  “I think so.”
  “But, do you think… you could ever love a man who sleeps with his calculator?”
   “How did you know that?”
   “Well, I mean, it’s just a dance.”
   “Only that, well, I’m almost certain there is another boy, a far more socially acceptable boy who really wants to ask you… he just hasn’t gotten around to it… yet.”
   “Flynn Elton, of course.”
   “Really? Flynn likes me? How do you know?”
   “It’s so obvious. He was hovering over your photograph, trying to get the image perfect. When I stepped in because he had to take another phone call, I took the final picture. Your image was in the view finder and when he saw it he just went cray cray. He even said he wanted to have it framed professionally!”
  “Oh,” Hilary said, surprised. It was obvious my new friend had been previously oblivious to her own charms so I set her straight.
  “I’m only telling you this Hilary because I wouldn’t want you to accept an offer from some random ‘friend’ when you could potentially go to Dance Fangdango with the future love of your life. I mean, think, it could just be like that final scene of a great teen movie – like Twilight or Some Kind of Wonderful or Pretty In Pink - something without the vampires.”
  “Oh,” Hilary replied again, looking more than a little confused.
   Hilary thought for another moment. Her slight short sightedness (I had convinced her to use contacts) making her eyes rub at this very moment. And if I wasn’t mistaken, her eyes were watering a little.
  “So… you don’t think?… “
  “…You should accept Rafe Martin?”
  I sighed, exasperated.
  “Well, what do you think Hilary?”
  “I don’t know.” Hilary searched my face for a sign of approval or disapproval. I did not smile.
   “No?” she ventured.
   I breathed a sigh of relief before I spoke.
  “I’m so glad you reached the same conclusion as me. I don’t even know if we could keep you in The Princesses if you were to regularly start associating with Rafe Martin. He’s such a dork!”
   I smiled. I didn’t mean to be mean, but it was true.
  “I am so glad I have my new friend back,” I added, “I was so worried you’d gone over to the dark side and I’d never be able to speak to you again.”
   “Oh… well… how should I word my reply?”
   Hilly looked so confused it was only right to offer assistance.

  “Here,” I said, “I’ll help you. You can even use my laptop. This is how you should begin…”