“Think I could turn that boy bad?”
My two friends follow my gaze and laugh.
“No way,” they both agree.
I look at Trevor and my grin widens. He is such a nerdy, goody-two-shoes. Definitely cute, but with his shirt always buttoned to the top, a straight-A Student Body Officer who all the teachers adore.
“I bet I could,” I say. “Might be fun.”
“If you can,” they say, “we’ll pay for your lip to be re-pierced.”
That would be worth it. My current foster family has a no-piercings-on-the-face rule, so I’d have to wait until the summertime, which is when I’m due for my big blow-up so I can get kicked out and move on to the next unsuspecting do-gooders.
“Tonight, I begin,” I tell them.
We show up to the stomp; they have to admit us in spite of our heavy black eyeliner, cherry red lips, stark black hair with red streaks, black shirts and mini-skirts with thigh-high plaid stockings. They want to turn us away, these goodies, but they have to let us in. We have student ID cards.
I search Trevor out almost immediately.
“Watch,” I say, bee-lining for him. The dance is in full swing, sweaty teenagers bouncing to the beat.
“Hey!” I call, and he doesn’t look. I tap his arm and he turns, surprised when he sees me in front of him.
“Wanna dance?” I ask with a seductive look. Now is when his expression will turn to disgust and he will turn away. But he doesn’t.
“Sure,” he agrees, ignoring his friends who do wear the distasteful looks.
He follows me out to the dance floor, and we begin moving. He’s not a bad dancer. I let him go after the first dance, and he thanks me. Dork.
I keep my eyes on him, and make sure he is aware of it. A slow song comes on and I intensify my stare. He turns my way and I lock gazes with him as I walk toward him. He seems unsure, but stands as I come near. I jerk my head toward the dance floor in invitation without speaking and he follows me, placing his arms lightly around my waist, holding me at a respectable distance, though I push closer. He smells good.
I turn on the stalking at school, going out of my way to be in his path, watching him and smiling at him. He’s unsure but polite so he smiles back. My friends are amused.
After a couple weeks of this, I turn it up and begin saying hi. The geek says hi back of course.
“Wanna go to a party on Saturday?” I ask on Friday afternoon.
He’s shocked but recovers quickly.
“Can’t, I’m having some friends over.” Good excuse, I think, but then he surprises me. “You want to come over too?”
No, I don’t, but I can’t give him a reason to doubt my intentions toward him. I say yes and he gives me his address.
My friends are laughing so hard tears roll down their cheeks when I tell them.
“I want to be a fly on the wall at that party,” they say.
“Have fun,” they call sarcastically, laughing. I finger my lip where they will soon be putting a ring and ignore them.
So I go and sit among Trevor’s dorky friends and eat pizza and watch science fiction crap movies. They are uncomfortable with me there at first, all except for Trevor. But eventually the nerd-hormones take over and they can’t temper their excitement over the movies. The night is actually not-horrible.
“Wanna hang out tonight?” he asks me on Friday after another week of my blatant flirting.
“Can’t, family night and all that,” I tell him. It’s the truth; this family insists on Friday nights together. “Wanna go party on Saturday?” I ask.
“Can’t, it’s the third Saturday of the month.” Like that should mean something. At my confused look, he clarifies. “I have to be to the Senior Center that night. You could come.”
“The Senior Center?” my friends choke out between laughs. “You are going above and beyond!”
“Never let it be said I don’t commit,” I tell them.
So I go with Trevor and feed the old wrinkled prunes, then watch in horror and embarrassment as he sits at the piano and plays old songs and sings with them. But I am the only one embarrassed, these centenarians love him. He plays really well, and doesn’t sing so bad, either.
“Wanna go to a party this Saturday?”
“I’ve got a family party. Sucks, but I gotta go. Come with me,” he says, and for the first time I realize how much I like his big green eyes.
“I don’t see him turning,” my friends say.
“It’s a process,” I explain.
“Go to Morp with me,” he says. We are sitting together at lunch, alone since I don’t belong with his group and he definitely doesn’t belong with mine.
Morp is the opposite of prom, casual but for couples. I get an idea.
“I’ll go if you dress like me.”
“I’m not wearing a mini-skirt,” he teases.
“Just a little bit rocker,” I say.
“Okay, but then you come a little nerdy.”
This agreement gives my friends no end of amusement. They want photos.
When he comes to pick me up, I find I’m not really fond of him in black leather pants and jacket, hair spiked, chains dangling from his waist, black lips and eyeliner. But if it isn’t necessarily my goal to get him to dress like this, it is still my goal to get him to turn bad.
“Wow,” he says, looking at me. “You look really good without all that makeup on.” Then realizing he might be being rude, he stammers. “I mean, you always look good, every day, but underneath all of that, you’re really beautiful.”
“I hope none of my friends see me,” I mutter to cover the fact that his comment actually flatters me. Of course, my friends are at the dance – with cameras – but it takes them a while to figure out which bland girl is me.
On Monday, I still wear the black makeup, but I am maybe just a little less heavy with the eyeliner, and I don’t line my ruby red lipstick with black.
On the next third Saturday I go to the Senior Center again, dressing a little more conservatively so as not to scare the old birds so much. A few of them tell me their life stories, which are oddly interesting. Trevor is goofing around on the piano, and later tells me it’s a song he’s writing, inspired by me.
But I’m also a little happy about that.
It becomes summer and I explain to my friends that I need a little more time, but before the summer is out they will see a new Trevor.
“Wanna go swimming?” he asks, and I figure this is a good opportunity for me to swing him my way. My body is one of my strong points.
But I can’t wear makeup to the pool, and even though my swimsuit and flip-flops are covered in black skulls, I don’t really stand out. I end up having fun.
He tells me he’s going camping, and I’m a little bummed that I will be without him for a week. How can I continue my campaign? I wonder. His mom, who is just as nerdily nice as Trevor solves that by inviting my foster family along.
I camp for a week with two do-good families, in a tent, with nightly sing-alongs accompanied by Trevor on his guitar and ridiculous marshmallow roasts, and I’m content. I don’t wear makeup all week, using the camping as an excuse, and I’m pleased when Trevor watches me more closely and smiles a lot at me.
He puts his arm around me when we sit around the fire, and I scoff at the silly gesture in my mind, to reassure my friends that I did. But underneath I feel all warm and fuzzy. He holds my hand and I smile because I am reeling him in, even though my heart pitter-patters a bit. He kisses me and I pretend not to notice that my toes curl a little.
I spend a lot of time with Trevor during the summer break.
School starts again and I remember that I was supposed to have my big blow up to move on to the next family, the next school. But then, I’m not done with Trevor yet so I decide to stay a little longer. Besides, this family isn’t the worst I’ve been with.
Third Saturdays are part of the game and I realize I like the old geezers. One asks me where my parents are and unthinkingly I tell the truth.
“My dad went to prison when I was little for abusing me and then trying to kill me. My mom’s went to prison when I was eleven for stabbing her abusive husband to death.” It is what it is. But the old lady clucks and pats me on the arm, which makes me feel a little watery inside, which would have been fine except I look up and see Trevor watching me. He heard, I can see it in his face, and I read sympathy there, which I know is genuine because it’s how the geek works.
I try to run away from his sympathy, but he pulls me into his arms and holds me, just holds me, nothing else, no false words of comfort, no trying to grope a feel. And I’m undone.
A few weeks into school, I walk in and see Trevor’s head bent close to one of my friends’ and I panic. As if drawn, he turns to look at me and I can read the truth in his face, that he knows. In typical nerd fashion he doesn’t walk away but comes right over to confront me.
“I was a bet?”
He’s hurt, but I pretend not to notice, shrugging, and try not to feel devastated as he walks away.
“Why?” I ask my friend.
“Have you looked in the mirror lately?” she asks.
I do and I see a stranger looking back, someone who almost looks happy, not angry and depressed, wearing jeans and a black t-shirt.
“I have to play at the theater groups play on Saturday night. Will you come?” he asks me five long, miserable weeks later. I look at him in shock, and gratitude, that he’s talking to me again.
So I go and sit on the back row, watching as he walks to the piano in his perfectly pressed tuxedo, and refuse to admit he looks good. My heart breaks a little.
He sits and begins playing, and I soon recognize the song from the geezer home (which I have missed, I admit). It’s my song. He sings the song about love, acted out on stage by two dancers, and I wonder if he’s singing to me, or if he just wants me to know what I’ve lost. When he’s done, he doesn’t wait for the applause, just comes down the steps into the audience.
As if he knows right where I am sitting, he comes my way, eyes intense. He kneels in front of me and wipes my tears with his thumb.
“Thank you,” I whisper.
“I love you,” he says and my heart starts to heal.
“I’m sorry, Trevor, I never meant to hurt you. For what it’s worth, no matter the reason, I’m glad I got to know –”
He cuts me off with a kiss and my tears start again.
“I love you, too,” I whisper.
He presses his mouth to mine.
Geek, I think fondly, glad that he’s so good.