"You think you could save a few for us poor saps?"
"What?" I asked, taking my usual lunchtime seat, across from my best friend, Jeremy. I looked from his annoyed face down to the cookies on my lunch tray, slightly surprised. I knew Jeremy liked the cookies, enough - he generally inhaled any form of junk food he could get his hands on. And I did grab the last few, ahead of him in line. I was only late joining the table because I got sidetracked by a few freshman girls.
I looked up at Jeremy about to tell him he could have them if it was that big of a deal.
"Not the cookies, Einstein, the girls!"
"What?" I was more confused than before.
He glanced meaningfully over to where the girls, I'd just been talking to, sat giggling and peeking back at us. They noticed me watching and one of them waved.
I smiled and they turned back to each other, giggling some more.
I turned back to Jeremy, still smiling and noticed his annoyance again.
"What? That?" I asked in disbelief. "That was nothing. They stopped me."
"Yeah. I know." He said digging in to his plate of macaroni and cheese. "Do you think you could brush them off for a change? Maybe be a jerk once in a while?"
I tried to hide my grin as I started on my own food. "You're mad because I'm nice to girls."
He gave me one of his looks.
"Ok, fine." I amended. "Really nice." I shrugged. "They were cute."
"Yeah? What are their names?" He asked.
I grinned. "I forget."
Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Doesn't matter. All it takes is for you to glance at them and they start planning the wedding. Honestly, can't you just get another girlfriend already? Or at least ask one of them out so the rest will get the idea of you out of their heads?"
"It's not that bad."
"No?" He quirked an eyebrow before leaning over to the next table and tapping the brunette on the shoulder.
She looked back, curiously.
"Charity, could I borrow a few napkins?" He asked.
"Uh, sure." She said uninterestedly before she grabbed a small stack from her tray and put them in his hand. She started to turn back, but stopped when she noticed me watching and twisted further in her seat to face me.
"Hey, Mike." She smiled, sweetly. "I missed you at Aaron's party last week." She pouted with wide eyes.
I tried not to laugh at the irritated look that had resurfaced, across the table.
"Sorry, Charity, I was practically being held hostage that night."
"You're going to Jamie's on Friday, aren't you?" She bit her lip and looked hopeful.
"I might." I said vaguely.
"Oh, well, maybe I'll see you there?" Her disappointment was clear on her face.
"Sure." I nodded.
She gave me one last smile before she turned her attention back to her table.
I looked back at Jeremy, who still looked miffed. "What's your point?"
"You know she's hoping you'll ask her." Jeremy lowered his voice, so Charity couldn't hear. "Why don't you?"
I shrugged. "I don't know."
"We need to get you off their radar, my friend." He pointed his fork at me. "The sooner the better."
"Why the sudden interest in my love life?" I asked, his annoyance starting to rub off on me.
He glared down into his plate and stabbed at the macaroni angrily.
"Jenny?" I asked, suddenly understanding his frustration. "Did you ask her out yet?"
"How can I when all she wants to do is talk about you?" He fumed.
"Sorry, man." I said. "Hey, if you want I can-"
"No!" He said. "You stay away from her! Ignore her!"
"Would you like me to wear a brown bag over my head from now on too?"
He huffed. "This isn't fair. You're the one they all want, and I'm the...approachable guy. The guy they come to hoping they can get to you!"
I tried my best not to smile.
"Look, you just need to get another girlfriend and Jenny will move on." He said. "Hopefully to me."
"I don't know." I said. "I don't think I want a girlfriend right now."
"Why not?" He asked. "You can have your pick."
"That's the problem." I mumbled.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I shrugged and looked away. "It means...I don't know if any of them actually even like me."
Jeremy raised his eyebrow in disbelief. "Do you need another demonstration?"
I shook my head. "I know they like me." I said. "But I don't know if they really like me or if they just like...the idea of me - my face, my reputation."
"So find out." He said. "At least until I can get Jenny to go out with me."
"I don't know." I said. "It just feels...too easy, you know? Kind of pointless."
"Poor baby." Jeremy's face lacked all sympathy. "What ever would I do if I had your problem? I think I just might kill myself."
I rolled my eyes.
"So find one that's going to be a challenge." He said. "You're not that desirable, you know."
"Like who?" I asked, humoring him.
"Do I have to do everything?" He asked dryly.
I held up my free hand. "Hey, this is your idea, not mine."
He sighed in aggravation and began looking around the lunchroom. I focused on my food, glad that he was distracted.
"There." He said after a minute. "Christina."
"Christina who?" I asked trying to follow his gaze.
"Brown?" I looked back at him after I realized who he meant.
"Why not?" He asked. "I haven't seen her drooling over you yet."
"That's not surprising." I said. "I've never seen her drooling over any guy." I didn't know why the idea of approaching her made me a little nervous all of a sudden. If there was one thing that came naturally for me, it was approaching girls. Thankfully.
Jeremy smirked. "Noticed, have we?"
I felt an unusual heat creep up the back of my neck. "I'm not blind." I said. "She's beautiful, sure, but I never really thought about her that way. She's always so busy. I don't think she'd even have time for dating. Besides, I've heard her dad is scary." I glanced over at her again to really look at her. She was definitely beautiful. She had blonde hair, blue eyes and the natural, classic kind of beauty. The kind she didn't have to enhance with make up or jewelry or anything fancy done to her hair. In fact, I think all that stuff would have taken away from it.
She was smiling sweetly as other people at her table monopolized the conversation.
When I looked back at Jeremy, he was watching me with raised eyebrows.
"That's our girl." He said triumphantly. "You can't say it would be too easy."
"Yeah...but I doubt she'd even like me."
He looked exasperated. "So, you don't want to ask her because she doesn't like you and you don't want to ask other girls because they like you too much? Is that your twisted argument?"
I couldn't think of how to respond. He had a point.
"Besides, Christina likes everybody." Jeremy said. "She was even nice to that foreign exchange student, everyone else avoided.
"I don't know...."
"What? Are you afraid she'll turn you down?" He asked with that annoying smirk.
I gave him one of my own. "Not likely."
"Eh." I shrugged and popped another forkful into my mouth.
Jeremy groaned. "For the love of all that is holy, if the last three years of our friendship has meant anything, please, just do it. For me."
I pursed my lips and looked back at Christina. She was flipping through a notebook, not even pretending to pay attention to the conversation at her table any longer.
I sighed and looked back at Jeremy. "Fine." I finally agreed. "But you owe me."
"Oh, yeah." He said sarcastically. "You dating a hot girl is gonna be a huge favor for me."
I grinned and looked back at said girl. I watched her for a minute before the girl next to her said something causing Christina to meet my gaze.
She looked at me curiously for a few seconds before she gave me a small smile and went back to her notebook.
Ugh, three tests, two papers, and meetings and deadlines galore. This weekend couldn't come fast enough.
I stared at my trusty day planner wondering how I was going to fit everything in and get my usual A's on the tests. History and English shouldn't be a problem, but Chemistry was starting to be a real pain in the butt.
"Oh my gosh, Christina!" Madeline hissed in my ear. "Mike Maddin is staring at you!"
I automatically looked up to meet his intent gaze.
That was strange. Sure, I'd known Mike forever, but he usually ignored me more or less and I did the same. The sudden attention made me a little uneasy. I smiled awkwardly and attempted to focus on my planner once again.
Madeline giggled next to me. "I'm so jealous!" I knew the teasing tone in her voice was completely forced.
I looked up at her and smiled. "I don't know why." I said. "If there's a girl in a 50 mile radius, he would be looking. I'm sure it was just a coincidence anyway, he's probably already moved on to the next girl."
Madeline risked another peek. "Oh, no, Honey, he's still watching you."
I looked back and Mike gave me that stupid cocky grin of his. Slightly annoyed, I wished we were a little closer so I could ask him what his problem was.
"Ugh, I'll bet he asks you out." Madeline whined.
I turned to her. "I hope he doesn't."
"Are you insane?" She asked, wide eyed. "Most girls would jump at a chance at a date with him." Including Madeline.
I shrugged. "Not me. Besides, I have no desire to be number twenty-three or whatever."
"Nine!" Madeline said defensively.
I tried not to laugh. "Listen, if he does, I'd be happy to send him your way, ok?"
"Would you?" She looked so hopeful.
"Absolutely." I smiled. Madeline looked as though I just gave her the best present ever.
"I gotta go." I said standing up. "The library calls."
"You and that library." She tisked. "I swear, you could die in there and no one would miss you for days."
"I have alot to do." I said. "I already wasted too much time for lunch."
"Chris," She tried to appear serious. "I love you, but you need a life in the worst way."
I rolled my eyes. "I'll see you later." I grabbed my stuff and headed towards the door.
As I walked, I felt eyes on me and I glanced back to see Mike watching again.
Shooting him a not-so-pleasant look, I turned away and made a mental note to actively ignore Mike Maddin from now on.