Out of my League

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic


They were the kids people wrote stories about, high school sweethearts of the most iconic sort. The absolute lowest on the social ladder coupled together with the pretty, popular girl anyone would
be lucky to have. They didn't get a happy ending though, and five years later, they're forced to dredge up old memories and figure out where everything went wrong.

Submitted: August 23, 2018

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Submitted: August 23, 2018

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The columns were just as imposing as they’d been five years before. The building didn’t seem to have changed at all really, which was a pretty clear giveaway regarding the school’s budget. Even he hadn’t changed all that much. He was a little taller, had maybe lost a few pounds, but that was it really. His clothes were the same, so was his hair. Even the jittering anxiety four years of bullying had brought about still coursed through him at the sight of the double doors.

“Hi, welcome back!” said the young woman standing at the door. Her voice was sugar coated, like she had been standing at the door way longer than she wanted to. She marked his name off on the list of people who’d shown up. It’s not like he really wanted to go to the reunion, but given that pretty much everyone knew he still lived in the area it would have been pretty obvious he was avoiding the past. He wasn’t even sure why they were having a five year reunion; that wasn’t normal right? Honestly Sadie Simone was just way too enthusiastic, still.

He fiddled with the nametag he was given, nearly having to make another after getting it stuck to itself. He still really hated nametags. Fortunately his boss had stopped caring if he wore it or not years ago, because really, having a stranger call you by name is just so unsettling. It wasn’t even necessary, he figured, since he literally looked the same as he had back in high school. Maybe it made people feel better, like they’d somehow improved so much that they were unrecognizable or something.

The signs were placed along the halls, leading to the gymnasium. He had few memories of the actual gym, as he skipped 99% of that class, but was pretty familiar with the halls leading to it. He’d memorized every crevice, closet, and bathroom on the way. It had been a long four years of hiding from teachers and administrators.

The gym itself, despite holding few memories, held some of the worst. So, he wasn’t exactly the prettiest boy in school, or the most fit. He was a little slow, and a little overweight. People didn’t like that too much.

“Oh my god, you look great!” Sadie half squealed, throwing an arm around his neck the moment he walked in. She was clearly half drunk already, drawing out her syllables a little too long and laughing a little too much.

“Uh, thanks, you too.” He forced out. He hadn’t ever spoken to Sadie before, not even back in high school; it was a wonder she remembered him. That was another thing that pissed him off, the whole “you look great” deal. No, he did not look great. He looked the same as he had five years ago.

“Hey loser, didn’t think you’d show up.” Drawled a familiar voice as he was punched lightly on the shoulder.

“Meg!” he grinned. Meg looked good, great actually. She was tall, much more so than she’d been, her hair now bleached to a lighter blonde. She’d always kind of had a bit of a mane. It had been a frizzy mess back in high school, but now it looked artfully windswept. Like she’d spent hours trying to get it to look just the right kind of messy where it was trendy. Of course, knowing Meg, she’d probably just woken up like that. Him and Meg had been good friends back in school. They were both outcasts, him, the fat kid who smelled funny and only wore band shirts, and her, the chubby lesbian who didn’t know how to dress herself. Now though, she was curvy, fashionable, and had her arm around a cute redhead. He was still the fat kid who smelled funny and only wore band shirts.

“Dude, it’s so great to see you” she said, dropping her arm from the girl’s waist and giving him a crushing hug.

“You too Meg.” He smiled. “Who’s this?”

“Ah, this is April, we met two years ago in calc.” Meg declared. The girl, April, looked up to her proudly.

“Nice to meet you.” April smiled, shaking his hand.

“You too, I’m Ryan.” He introduced himself.

They spent a bit of time catching up, it really had been too long. Meg had been crazy busy when she’d first started school and they hadn’t really had time for each other. Maybe he should have at least texted her every now and then. Ryan made a point to do that from now on. Meg was too good a friend to give up.

A conversation bubbled over to his right just as his own was falling into a quiet spell. Ryan turned, and immediately wished he hadn’t.

Blue eyes met hazel, and suddenly Ryan felt sick.

 

“Dude, hurry up, we’re gonna be late!” Meg shouted over the hallway ruckus. Ryan ran after her desperately. He was wheezing a little bit, and sweating more than he’d ever admit. He lost sight of Meg and began searching the crowd desperately. It was only the second day of the year and he didn’t exactly remember where his classes were. Meg had been his only hope.

Something, or rather, someone, slammed into him, throwing him against a locker. He looked down, preparing to see Justin, Derek, the other Ryan, or Jace and make a run for it. He did not see Justin, Derek, the other Ryan, or Jace. Lying on her back, was a girl he’d never seen. She was pretty, long dark curls falling all around her head like a curtain, black jeans, a Misfits hoodie, and what appeared to be pink unicorn print socks peeking out from her converse. He stared at her in awe, it wasn’t every day a pretty girl touched him, even if it had hurt like hell and had most definitely been an accident.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” she rattled off, quickly gathering her things and shoving the messy heap back into her backpack. “I gotta go, I’m so sorry!” she was off before he even had a chance to respond, leaving him to stare after her in the now empty hallway as the late bell rang.

He got lunch detention for that.

 

“Ryan.” The woman said softly, the conversation around her dying rapidly.

“Toni.”

“It’s been a long time.”

“Yeah. It has.”

A heavy silence fell between them. Ryan couldn’t take it. Meg had put a hand on his shoulder; she was saying something to him. He couldn’t hear her. He broke away from her grip and walked quickly to the door, feeling the prying stares of his old schoolmates following him.

 

There was laughter all around him. He couldn’t make it out too clearly, as his hearing was muffled by the water of the toilet his head was currently shoved in. It smelled rancid and he felt like he was going to throw up, but there was nothing he could do. Fighting only made it worse. Even if it were one on one, he didn’t stand a chance.

“What the hell are you doing?” a voice shouted, Ryan catching the end of the sentence as he was let up for air.

“What are you doing in here?” one of the boys, Derek, yelled.

“I can hear you dicks from the hallway. God, I can’t believe no one’s done anything to stop you yet.” Ryan recognized the voice as Toni. She was new to the area, and had gotten popular so fast his head spun. She was the girl every high school boy drooled over, gorgeous, Puerto Rican, he’d heard; she was a blast to be around, she loved rock music, was killer at video games, and had this crazy ability to just pull people into her. She was the sun. People like Ryan, they were debris, floating out in space, forgotten.

“The hell you doing Toni? This isn’t your problem.”

“Well that poor sap can’t speak for himself when his head’s in the toilet can he?” she snapped, jerking her hand towards him. “Just get out of here and I won’t land you in detention for the rest of the year.” Justin looked like he was about to retort, but she cut him off. “Don’t think coach would be too happy kicking you off the team, hm?” That seemed to hit home. With a grunt, Derek gathered his goons and ambled out of the restroom, sending a glare over his shoulder. Ryan wasn’t sure whether it was meant for him or for Toni, but he didn’t really want to know. “You okay down there?” she asked, squatting.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” He said, spitting the vile taste from his mouth.

“Man, they really don’t like you do they? What’d you do, piss in their shoes?”

“Nah, but that’s not a bad idea.” Toni barked out a laugh at that. She got to her feet with a grin, stretching her arm out for him to take.

“Come on, let’s get outta here before I get in trouble for sexual harassment or something.” She said, pulling him up, which had to have been quite a feat, though she showed no sign of exertion. “Name’s Toni by the way, think I ran into you a couple weeks ago, sorry ‘bout that again.”

“It’s no problem, really. I’m Ryan.”

 

He sat on the curb, watching the cars pass out on the highway. It was a familiar scene, though one he hadn’t witnessed in quite some time. Someone sat down next to him. He expected to turn to find Meg, or maybe Sadie was just that drunk. The last person he expected to see was Toni.

“What are you doing out here, Ryan?” she asked, not looking at him. He laughed bitterly.

“I’m surprised you even remember my name.”

“How could I possibly forget you?” she said, tone serious as she finally turned to face him. “You were my first love.”

“And you were the girl who was way out of my league.”

 

“Oh my god, this is great!” Meg shrieked. She was currently being pulled into a back room by a girl with a Mohawk. Ryan waved her off, not really wanting to think about what would, without a doubt, be happening in that back room. They’d, miraculously, been invited to a Halloween party. He was pretty sure Meg had stolen the invitations from someone else, but he didn’t ask questions. Most everyone was pretty hammered by this point. He had a pleasant buzz going, but that was about it. Being black out drunk with just Meg was one thing, but in front of the whole school was another.

He wasn’t even really sure why he came. This wasn’t his scene. These weren’t his friends. He couldn’t leave without Meg, so he was stuck for a while.

Ryan had squeezed himself onto the couch, trying his best to sink back into the cushions, out of sight. His head snapped up as the door to the kitchen swung open, hitting the wall with a thud.

The moment he realized he was completely in love with Antonia Rivera was when she sauntered into the room wearing the Misfits hoodie he loved with a capri sun in one hand and a bottle of tequila in the other.

She plopped herself on the coffee table, crossing her legs and staring him dead in the eyes. They stared for a lot longer than they probably should have, both a little drunk, before Toni attempted to yell over the music and the crowd. “It’s too loud in here and I kinda hate it, ya wanna head outside?” she shouted, her words taking a moment to settle in.

“Yeah, uh, I mean, yeah.” Ryan tumbled out, spitting word vomit all over the metaphorical carpet of conversation.

An hour later he found himself decidedly more drunk, passing both the tequila and the capri sun back and forth with Toni. He wasn’t really sure when it had gone from just the tequila to both drinks, but he wasn’t about to question it. They were laying in the grass, staring up at the sky, the sounds of the party muffled in the background. He was pretty sure someone was hurling in the bushes behind him, but he couldn’t care less.

Toni wasn’t his, she never would be. Girls like her didn’t date guys like him; that was just the natural order of things. Even so, with her next to him, grinning like he’d put the stars in the sky, he could be happy with this.

That’s what he told himself at least.

 

Their conversation, if you could call it that, had come to an abrupt end after his last words. Toni was looking at him with that face again, and he knew all too well what she was about to say.

“Ryan-“

“Don’t.”

“Don’t be like that. You know that’s not why-“

“No Toni, I don’t know. I don’t know anything, actually. You may have, but I never got closure. I never knew what happened.”

“It wasn’t because of that, okay!” she snapped, eyes flashing in the dying sunlight. “God, this complex of yours, it’s not okay man. I don’t think I’m better than you, I never did. No one’s better than you, okay?”

“Really Toni, that’s what you’re going to say to me after five years?” Ryan let out another hollow laugh, turning his attention back to the highway.

 

“You’re going to prom”

“Yes.”

“With Toni?”

“Yes.”

“But it’s not a date?”

“Right.”

Meg stared at him like he was nuts. She looked pretty lost.

“Okay, let me try this again,”

“From the beginning this time please. Last time it sounded like alphabet soup.” Ryan rolled his eyes at that. Meg just shrugged.

“So, the tickets are cheaper if you buy them in pairs, right?”

“Right.”

“And you and I were going to go together because of that.”

“But then I got a date.”

“Right. So, guess who didn’t have a date?”

“Toni?”

“Right. She still wanted to go, but she didn’t want to go with any of the guys that asked her.”

“But she’s going with you?”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re absolutely certain she doesn’t have a thing for you?” Meg was looking at him like he was an idiot now. Ryan sighed.

“We’re just friends. She wouldn’t ever want more than that, not with me at least.”

“So you’re just going to suffer in silence?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

Prom night came a lot faster than he’d thought it would. Toni hadn’t showed him her dress, only a color patch to match his tie to. “we’re doing this right” she’d said. He’d only rolled his eyes, but now he was kind of nervous. He’d parked his car in Toni’s driveway, too scared to go inside. He’d never met her parents, and he really didn’t want to start now.

The door swung open suddenly, Toni emerging, shoes in hand. She ran down the steps, dark curls whipping behind her. The dress he’d shamefully spent way too long thinking about was red, well, he’d already known that. He didn’t really know much about dresses, but as they went, it was a pretty nice one, short in the front, long in the back, low cut with lacy sleeves. He stared her up and down as she descended the stairs, breath caught in his throat, though he probably would have stared if Toni had just worn her Misfits hoodie. It was a matter of principle really, this chick, this gorgeous girl, she was going to prom with him. Of course they were just friends, he told himself, but he’d let himself live in the fantasy for a moment longer.

His car door opened and Toni flopped down into the seat next to him. “Yo, you look nice.” She said, leaning down to strap on her heels.

“Thanks,” he muttered, still a little awestruck by her. She paused for a moment, staring at her shoes.

“I’m never gonna make it through the whole night with these on.”

Toni did not in fact make it through the whole night with her shoes on. She made it about five minutes actually. The black pumps were currently sitting on a table somewhere else in the room while Toni thrashed around in the crowd. Whoever was DJ-ing clearly had a thing against slow songs as they seemed to be avoiding them, though Ryan couldn’t really blame anyone for not wanting to see a bunch of half-drunk teenagers groping each other on the dance floor.

Ryan watched the crowd for Toni and Meg, having grown tired pretty quickly and deciding to take a break. He spotted Meg, swaying a little awkwardly with Jen, the only other queer girl at the school. They’d been a little limited as far as options went. Toni, however, he’d lost sight of.

“Boo” He jumped a little as hands fell on his shoulders, smacking them away lightly at the familiar laughter.

“Come on, one more, and then we can blow this place.” Toni smiled, yanking him up and out of his seat. Dancing with Toni was a little strange. It was a little less dancing with Toni and a little more watching Toni dance around him. This time though, she grabbed his hands and started maneuvering him like a marionette. He laughed at her, hands flopping a little awkwardly. “Oh my god this is stupid.” Toni grabbed him by the tie, yanked him forward, and slammed her lips into his. It kind of hurt actually, not that he was complaining. Toni kissed the same way she did everything else, wild, passionate, and a little messy.

 

“Ryan,” Toni spoke softly. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

 

The first time he saw Toni cry was a shock. It was like watching a god fall. She’d never been anything but happy, and this had come out of nowhere.

“Toni, are you okay?” she looked at him, eyes red and puffy. “Sorry, stupid question.” He said, tentatively placing his hand on her back.

“I hate this.” She rasped. “I hate pretending everything’s fine all the time like some kind of talk show host.” Her voice was bitter, still shaking with the aftershocks of her sobs. “I can’t keep doing this.”

“Then don’t. Toni, you don’t owe these people anything. They don’t matter.”

“Yes they do, and that’s what I hate most about it. I don’t want them to matter, I don’t want to care what they think, but I do.”

 

“I’m sorry that I hurt you.”

“Really? Because in five years I never got an explanation, not even a text. The least you owe me is an explanation.”

 

Graduation came and went. It was decidedly less sentimental than it really should have been for Ryan. He was just really really hot in that gown. He was glad to be done with everything. The end of high school would mean the end of Derek and his goons, the end of the bullying, hopefully. He was scared though. Toni was going off to some big school in LA and he was just going to community college. She would be out there with all the gorgeous people in the world, far away from him. She’d find someone better. She kept telling him he was stupid though, promising they’d make it through one way or another.

It had been a month and a half since she’d left. They’d started off texting constantly, calling every night, sending letters even. Then the letters stopped. Toni stopped answering her phone. It had all fizzled into nothingness. Then, a week after the contact ceased, she called him.

“Ryan,” her voice was shaky, and he could hear her breathe in and out, as though trying to steady it.

“Toni, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” he asked, recognizing all too well the signs she was upset.

“We have to break up.”

“Wait, Toni, what-“ and then she hung up.

He tried calling her back. He tried texting her. She never responded. He never heard from her again.

Until now at least.

“Why did you break up with me, Toni?”

“Ryan that was five years ago,”

“Exactly, we’re adults Toni, let’s act like it. I think we can handle the truth.”

“I was scared okay!” She finally exploded, words falling from her lips with firework like force. “Leaving you behind made me want to give it all up. I wanted to turn around and run back home, and the worst part was knowing that you’d welcome me with open arms and tell me everything would be okay! So I got rid of the possibility.”

“You didn’t have to-“

“Yes, I did. It was a stupid decision, and I hate that I had to make it, and I hate what happened to us because of it, but I had to do it. That was my dream, Ryan, the thing I’d been working towards since I was a little girl. I couldn’t give it all up for a boy, not even you.”

“I would never have asked you to do that, you know that, don’t you? If you’d just told me the truth back then, I would have understood. I wouldn’t have been happy, but I’d have understood.”

“I was stupid. I knew that the second I hung up the phone, but it was too late. I hate what I did, and I hate myself for hurting you. I hurt you in every way I promised I never would.”

He really looked at her for the first time that evening. The unicorn socks were gone, the hair was longer, she’d come into her figure a bit, the Misfits hoodie was replaced with a fiend tattoo on her shoulder. Toni was the same as she’d always been. She’d grown up, but she was still Toni. He should have known she wasn’t the type to lose herself. She was the same girl he’d fallen in love with that day back in sophomore year, tequila in one hand, capri sun in the other.

“I wish I could do it all over.”

“But we can’t.” Ryan said softly, staring down at the pavement.

“I’m sorry Ryan. For everything.”

“It’s okay.” He raised his eyes back to the highway. “I was never mad at you.”

“That’s even worse.”

“We were kids, really, it’s okay. All I ever wanted was an explanation.”

“You deserve so much more than that though.” There was a long silence then, both staring off at the highway in the distance, pretending to be watching intently. Time had changed the scenery, but it was much the same as it had been back then. “Maybe, if you’re up for it, we could try again?”

“I wouldn’t be opposed.”

“Great!”

She smiled, big and bright, and he saw hope. The future was uncertain, but there was hope for them. Maybe it wouldn’t work out, they weren’t the same as they’d been back then, but maybe that’s what could save them.


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