Cooties

Chapter 1

"…A date?"

Well, this just got more complicated.

"Yeah!" Riley's friend, a short redhead named Tiffany, smiled so wide her freckles seemed to condense to move out of her mouth's way. "I mean, it's our first grown-up school dance! Everyone's been talking about who they're going to bring! We have to find dates! I already talked to Abby and… well, there's a boy she's had an eye on since the start of the year, so she's going to try and ask him to the dance!"

Riley's emotions looked between one another for a moment before Joy reached for the console. Fear reached for it at the same time, turning Riley's reply into a half-hearted "Uh… that sounds… fun…" and causing a purple and gold memory to slide into Headquarters.

Joy huffed, but a part of her was relieved; even she had some reservations about this. The idea of a date was really exciting, but Fear was voicing some valid concerns. For starters, the dance was 3 days from now, and none of the emotions knew where to even begin asking a boy on a date. Sadness was also moaning about how they'd wanted to spend the dance with Riley's friends, which was true (them "abandoning us because they don't like us anymore" ….not so much.)

"Well, uh…" Joy scrambled to figure out a plan, this situation just as new to her as any of the others, "…we… don't have anything to worry about! Riley knows tons of boys at this school! Let's start with who all we already know!" Her hands glided across the control panel, and the recall tube lowered, unceremoniously dumping memories into Headquarters.

There were dozens of memories, each of a different boy Riley had encountered, and none of them were pure gold.

Joy couldn't hold back a wince. "…Wow… we… know lots of people! Riley has really come out of her shell since the move, huh?" None of the others seemed impressed with Joy's nervous laughter, but she was undeterred. One of these memories had to hold the key to the boy of Riley's dreams… or at least the boy they could spend a few hours on a Friday night in an auditorium full of school-spirit colored streamers with.

"Let's just take this one step at a time. Disgust," Joy projected the first memory, "you're on."

"Uh, no," Disgust replied. "His hair looks like something died in it."

"Alllllllrighty!" Joy sent that memory back through the recall tube and projected the next. "How about-"

"He's taken. Not to mention super clingy with his girlfriend. Ugh."

"This one?"

"Joy, why did you even put this one up? Remember what he said to us when Riley accidentally bumped into him in the hallway?"

"Wait, what'd he say?"

"He said 'excuse me.'"

"…And that's a problem?"

Disgust groaned and turned to face Joy. "It's the way he said it Joy. Seriously."

"Oh, I remember this brat," Anger cut in, "he was the one playing games on his smartphone IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HALLWAY! And not only did he make us drop our books TWO MINUTES BEFORE CLASS, but he BLAMED US and KICKED ONE UNDER A LOCKER!"

Joy scrambled to move on before the fumes over Anger's head could turn to flames. "This one?"

"Do you not see that giant zit his face is on?!"

"Seriously." Anger crossed his arms, cutting in again. "They're teenagers. They all have zits."

"Riley doesn't have a zit," Disgust retorted.

"Yeah she does," Anger replied as-a-matter-of-fact-ly. "Saw it this morning."

"What?! No way! I would have caught that!"

"You were still have asleep, remember? You were up late freaking out after Riley's stomach started hurting and she-"

"Guys, focus." Joy cut in, but this only managed to redirect Disgust's attention to Riley apparently having a zit she didn't know about. She took the controls and headed for the bathroom to get Riley looking in a mirror as fast as possible. Anger soon joined her, ranting about how annoying zits are and how he was going to punch one of the popular kids if they pointed it out.

Joy sighed. Four boys into what was looking more and more like at least a hundred, and the bell was going to ring any second. Ever since Riley had started puberty, red and green were becoming a common color combination at headquarters. Everything about the changes happening in their girl seemed to be disgusting, frustrating, or both. The two emotions had sort of bonded in an odd way through the experience.

It was nice to see the two of her friends who were often the most aloof of the bunch start to open up a little – the problem was getting them to shut up.

Joy was about to put up another memory, thinking it might be able to stop Anger and Disgust's griping about how Mom wouldn't let them buy concealer until they got older ("Does she realize what this is doing to our social life?" "She never lets us do anything!") when the bell rung. This time, all of the emotions groaned. The next class was Spanish, their worst subject. They had to focus on their studies.

"Now we have to wait until after school to clean this mess…" Sadness griped, lying down in the memories like a ball pit but apparently not having any fun with it.

"This is stupid," Disgust said. "I remember them all, and they're all gross. Just send them back to Long Term now."

"WHAT?!" Anger stared at her. "You mean we just wasted our precious break time when you already knew none of these boys would work?!"

"Hey, I didn't tell Long Term to dump a pile of memories in the middle of Headquarters. You've seen Riley's Imaginary Boyfriend. The girl has high standards – like she should – and it's my job to uphold those in the face of the collective filth at our school. Now, if you excuse me," Disgust started up the stairs to her quarters, "I'm going to put together a list of requirements for dating Riley. Call me if any gross words come up in Spanish or whatever."

Disgust's door slammed a little too loudly. Yep, Anger thought to himself, that is a primo angry door-slam. A nice blend of irritation and spite with just a hint of repressed seething.

But all that managed to make it out of Anger's mouth was, "What the heck is her problem?"