Making Up the Numbers (Preview/Demo)

Making Up the Numbers

A DEMO of a new story in the works by:
Melanie E.

-==-

Yep. I'm writing this. What you're seeing here is a first draft of the first 3 chapters of a brand-new tale by yours truly that, when finished, will be submitted to Erin for use in the hatbox and, maybe, for Amazon sales. We'll see.

It's been a while since I wrote anything substantial, so this time around I'm going for something a bit, well, a bit different.

Hope you enjoy the demo, and if you like it... well, keep an eye out :)

-==-

Chapter 1
You Gotta Be Kidding me

"You gotta be kidding me."

"Come on, Stevie, you know us better than that. Would we lie to you?" Angela asked me in her very best innocent voice.

"Yes," I said back, rolling my eyes and going to walk past her.

"Nnngh, come on! That was once, it was forever ago, and you can't even see the scar any more," Sarah threw in on my other side, grabbing my arm partially for friendly closeness and partially to keep me from making it the last few steps to my car and, hopefully, freedom.

"I already told you 'no' last month, and that was BEFORE it would require me to do uh, that," I said, trying to talk around the issue as much as I could since we were A) still on school grounds, if only barely, and B) still within easy word shot of a number of people I really didn't want to hear just what they were suggesting.

Also, let's be honest: there was never a question "that" was involved.

"And then we were kinda okay with it since we had another person, but we need you, Stevie. You gotta make up the numbers!" Angela whined, grabbing my other arm and with her added strength finally bringing me to a complete stop.

"Girls, can we please talk about this later? Over the phone? Like maybe when you come back?"

"Stevie...." Sarah began, but on seeing the look of honest impatience on my face she lowered her eyes and let me go.

"Thank you."

"But?"

"NO."

With that I gave the two slightly-upset girls a friendly wave, climbed behind the wheel of my car, and drove home, where my computer chair was calling my name.

-==-

Be-doop.

I looked at the name on the Skype chat request. I ignored it.

Be-doop.

I continued to ignore it.

Be-doop.

I moved my cursor over the icon to close the window, but I just couldn't do it.

Be-doop.

"How many hours have you been trying to ignore them?" Mom asked me from my bedroom door.

I let out an embarrassing shriek as I spun around, but quickly tried to cover that up when I saw the amused smile on her face. "Uh, three hours," I said after a moment. It had really been closer to three hours twenty-three minutes and fourty-nine seconds, but who was counting, right? "I've given them my answer, Mom. They just gotta accept it."

Be-doop, went Skype again.

"Can I come in?" She asked me, and when I nodded she stopped leaning against the door frame and instead walked over and sat my bed, sinking into the comforter. "Oooooooh," she groaned, falling backward and spreading her arms. "Me and your dad really need to get one of these."

I couldn't stop the grin that was growing on my face, so I didn't. Instead I got up and flung myself on the bed next to her. "Yeah," I agreed, giving the microfiber comforter a stroke and admiring the way the light made the cream material's texture look. "It's pretty great."

"Which of your friends picked this out for you?" Mom asked me, still not looking my way.

I froze in place before answering. "Sarah and Angela did. They'd seen me looking at it when we were at the mall and got the guys to help them buy it."

"Really?" She asked, giving me a smile. "What trip was this? The sundress or the skinny jeans?"

I groaned. "Tennis skirt. Round two."

"Tennis skirt?" She said, surprised. "So they kept it in mind for like four months then."

"I guess," I agreed, pushing myself back up and moving to my computer chair again.

Be-doop.

"So how many outfits have they bought you now anyway," Mom asked, getting up herself and walking over to my closet.

I gave a small sigh and closed my eyes before answering. "Eight, I think. More maybe, if you mix and match pieces."

"Really?" The sound of the closet door opening and her shuffling through its contents was enough to draw another groan from yours truly. "There's the tennis skirt one, the sundress... I don't recognize this one...."

"What is it?"

"Purple cardigan and --"

"Black leggings. The cami that goes with that is in the top drawer." A little more shuffling, followed by a muffled 'ooooh' told me she'd found it. It was a cream silk, and really was quite nice.

Be-doop, goes Skype, as though agreeing with her.

I finally had to open my eyes when I heard her start to laugh, only to see her holding a velvet dress in her hands that looked like it was made for a five year old. In truth, I had to have been at least 12 when I'd gotten it, but it's amazing how much younger a pair of pig tails can make you look. "The look on your father's face when you walked in wearing this...."

I could feel my face burning, but I had to chuckle too. "It was the first time they'd talked me into it. I still haven't gotten the jeans they stole back. I think Charlie put 'em in our time capsule for some reason."

"Sounds like him."

Skype gave an extra cheeky be-doop this time, just to make sure we knew it was still there.

"You know...."

"Mom."

"I'm just saying... you know your friends would never try to hurt you right? I might not always like the choices they've talked you into making," she said, holding up the velvet dress again for emphasis, "but I know they care about you."

"I know too Mom."

"Okay sweetie." She hung the clothes she had pulled down back up, but left the cami laying on my bed and gave me a kiss on the top of the head. "Dinner in an hour."

"'Kay."

Be-doop.

"Ugh."

-==-

Chapter 2
Required Reading

I guess if you've made it this far you're wondering just what the big deal is, right? Well you see, here's the thing: I'm a guy.

Yep.

Oh, still don't believe me? Well allow me to introduce myself. The name is Steven Nikola Schuster, and today is... was... my very last day of high school ever, with all the freedoms, fears, and expectations that entails. What you witnessed earlier was two of my best friends -- no, my two best friends -- trying to talk me into going on their road trip with them.

A road trip that also involves their boyfriends, who happen to be two of the other three members of our little Scooby Gang.

The other member of the group is my arch nemesis, Evan.

I think you see where I'm going with this.

Of course, if you've ever read one of these stories before you already know most of the pertinents. Mixed sex group of friends, I'm the scrawny short guy with delicate features, yadda yadda yadda. We'd all been friends since kindergarten, except me and Evan, the tall, dark, and brooding: he had ruined that when he'd introduced himself by pulling my hair and dumping sand down the back of my shirt, and we had been the worst kind of frenemies since.

Sarah and Angela were twins of the almost-identical kind, and had a thing for mirroring each other as often as possible just to mess with people. The other two members of our group would be Charlie, brown hair brown eyed every-man extraordinaire and our default "leader" if you were to ask him, and Jonas, taller-and-darker-but-that's-cause-he's-black and the nicest guy you'll ever meet. Of course when Charlie and Jonas had proposed to the girls the identical engagement rings had been a necessity, though it still annoyed Charlie that Sarah refused to put hers on the correct hand.

So that's all the important background information out of the way right? Nothing else to report?

Right?

Please?

Okay, yeah. The clothes thing.

See, Sarah and Angela are great people, really, but most of our classmates tend to find them a bit on the intense side. As a result, our group had never really found another girl who was willing to put up with the whole mix n' match aspect of everything, so guess who had the honor of balancing the group?

I'll give you a hint: me and the girls? Same shoe size.

"Making up the numbers," Sarah and/or Angie liked to call it. Honestly, so long as we were going places that our classmates weren't likely to see me, I could cope with it (especially after the first couple of times they managed to trick me into it.) Heck, I'd even grown out my hair (an auburn color Sarah always said was unfair) to make it that much easier. My mom was oddly fine with it, and my dad... well, my dad's cool with anything so long as it doesn't involve jail time or unnecessary spending, and since the girls had always fronted the cost of the clothes he couldn't care less.

The big problem was that Sarah/Charlie and Angie/Jonas had been couples basically since they'd learned to walk, which always left me and Evan as the odd men out.

And that was the problem here.

See, the others had planned this big trip up to one of the girls' uncles' cabins for a couple of weeks, kind of a last hurrah for our little group before we all... well, we were going to the same college, so really what was the point? I'd managed to get out of it on the grounds that Evan had a girlfriend who would make up the numbers just fine thankewverrahmuch, so they could just invite her and be done with it. I think that was the only time Evan had ever smiled at me.

Then I had to go and ruin it a week ago by getting in a fight.

Okay okay, no, I didn't start it, and no, it wasn't really a "fight." After all, "fight" implies I threw a punch at some point. Nope. Long story short, though, the guys hassling me had gotten suspended, Evan had gotten detention the past week, I was off scott free, and Evan's girlfriend dumped him for one of the jerks who'd been messing with me.

That was things in a nutshell, though I'm sure you'll find out more later. Hey, Evan and I might not be "friends" per se, but our group stuck together no matter what.

No matter what.

....

Alright, so we all know I'm gonna get ka-girled and go, right? Let's just get to it so we can continue on.

-==-

Chapter 3
Back to Now. Or Then. Or Whatever.

"Glad you finally gave in and picked up."

"Well hello to you too Charlie. What'd the girls offer in exchange for you talking me into this?" I asked in between struggling to get my hair out of my headset's ear cushions. Note to self: scrunchie on desk at all times.

"They offered to wear thong bikinis the entire time we're at the cabin. Jonas nixxed that though, jealous asshole, so this one's pro bono."

"Too bad, so sad."

"They said they'd still try and get you in one," he added, the smile evident in his voice.

"Hah! Y'all only wish," I threw back, even though I knew he was only half joking. I wouldn't put that kinda thing past the girls.

"Hey, I've seen you in a skirt enough to know you got a cute ass. Your fault you keep showing it off."

"ANYWAY," I said, hoping he couldn't hear the blush that was quickly spreading from my neckline up. "The answer's still no. Sorry Charlie."

I heard him sigh on the other end of the line, the same sigh he had whenever he had bad news for someone. "Yeah, see, no. You're going."

"And what makes you think that?" I asked, my temperature rising.

"Because Sarah just texted me that she's talking to your mom right now."

The yank of my headset when I tried to run out still wearing it barely slowed me down.

"What in the HELL do you think you're--"

"Stevie! Language!" My mom admonished me from the couch, sitting across from two grinning demons whose evil looks were only slightly marred by their matching pigtails.

"Yeah, language," Angie agreed. "We're here to rescue you after all."

That threw me for a second. "What are you talking about 'rescue' me?"

"From boredom," Sarah said, raising a finger.

"Loneliness." Angie raised one.

"Laziness."

"Doldrums."

"And those awful shorts," Sarah added at last, pointing at the ratty gym shorts I'd thrown on when I'd gotten home and were just peeking out under the hem of the long cami I'd trade my tee for after Mom had left my room.

It's comfortable, okay?

"They're my pajamas," I argued.

"You've got better ones."

"These aren't pink." Or covered in teddy bears. Nor did the shorts in question have matching panties.

"And?"

I gave my mom a pleading look, but she merely threw up her hands. "This is your deal, sweetie. You're old enough to decide for yourself. But," she said, giving the girls a stern look that made their grins drop immediately. "If he doesn't change his mind tonight, then that's it girls. If I find another ransom note I AM calling it in this time, understand?"

"Yes Mom," the girls answered simultaneously.

"Good." Mom stood up from the couch and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "I'll go warm your plate up hon. You two have twenty minutes," she said, tapping her watch. "Then you're done. I need to grab the air mattress?"

"No, ma'am. We'll leave once we get Stevie on our side."

Mom rolled her eyes where only I could see it then left the room, leaving me to face my two greatest allies and biggest foes alone.

"Uuuugh. Okay. Whatcha got?" I asked, collapsing in the extra-big recliner my dad usually sat in and curling my legs up underneath me. "Money? Games? What's the bribe?"

"How about... a date!" They said in unison, their grins returning and if anything wider than ever.

I stared at them, nonplussed. "Sorry, you're practically my sisters."

"Eww! Not with us!"

"With someone who's got a crush on you!"

I had to laugh at that. "Yeah right. Like that's a thing."

It was a bitter laugh, to be honest. I only really hung out with our little group, and though I did have people I talked to on occasion outside of it, I'd gotten the clear impression that most people thought I was... I dunno. I don't think they thought I was gay, because there were gay guys at school and they didn't hit on me either. To be fair, though, I didn't know if I wanted to date guys or girls anyway, so....

What, that's weird? It's the twenty-first century, people! Get with it!

Still....

"Okay. Who is it."

Silence.

"Thought so," I huffed, and started to stand up.

"No! There really is somebody!" Angie said, launching across the room and landing on top of me, pinning me to the chair.

"Yeah!" Sarah said, joining in. I'd have worried about the weight except we totaled less than 350 pounds. "At least, we think so."

"Know so," Angie countered.

"THINK," Sarah said again, elbowing me in the ribs as she tried to get more comfortable. "Pretty sure, anyway."

"Rmmf," I said, trying without success to free my arms where they'd trapped them on either side of me.

"And even if they don't NOW, they will! A little lip gloss and your falsies and you could have any guy at school."

"So it's a boy then?"

"Maybe?"

"Andy never forgave you two for that double date, remember?"

"Triple date, and it's not him," Sarah said, nudging me gently.

"His loss anyway," Angie said, nudging me too.

We sat there as the girls let me stew and I tried to ignore them. Another sixteen minutes and I'd be free anyway.

Fifteen.

Twelve.

"Oh, come on, just tell me who it is."

"Nope!"

"Nuh uh. Not until after our trip."

"Can't I at least--"

"Nope! We want our best friend Stevie with us."

"I AM your best friend Stevie," I countered.

"Well... yeah," Sarah said, her and Angie both wrapping me in simultaneous hugs. "It's just more fun when you're not resisting being one of the girls."

"I'm not."

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Says the only one of us with pink toenails," Angie said, pointing at my spangly pink nails. I'd gotten bored with the purple earlier in the week.

"That proves nothing," I argued, though I knew it was in vain.

"Oh, come on!" Angie said, getting up and pulling her sister off me too. "You know you want to."

"And you know it'll be a blast," Sarah added, the two of them holding hands while they gave me their best hopeful puppy-dog pouts.

I looked at the clock, and saw that there were four minutes left.

....

"How'd it go sweetie?" Mom asked when I walked into the kitchen five minutes later, feeling far more drained than I should have.

I shook my head at her and collapsed in front of my plate. "I think I'm lucky I talked them out of the thong bikini."

Her eyes widened into saucers, and then Mom began to laugh.

-==-

NOTES:

Welp, that's it for the demo! Lemme know what ya like about this, what ya don't, and if you think it's going somewhere cool.

Or, you know don't. Free world after all. I ain't judgin'.

Love ya all, and peace out!

Melanie E.



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