Battle Royale: The New Struggle
Chapter Three: "Love Quadrangle"
The Monroe Flying Cougars. Two Division-Two football championships in the past three years, due in large part to star quarterback, Jake Fuller. He had several Division-One colleges scouting him, a rare feat for someone from Monroe. Just as important, he frequently got to see his girlfriend at practice since she was on the cheerleading squad. As far as lives go, not to shabby Jake thought, immediately after hitting the tight end in double coverage.
The cheerleading squad was presently taking a break, and Alice took the opportunity to sip some water while sitting on the bleachers. 'Slug some water' as Jake would say. But girls don't slug, they sip. Alice's eyes were on her lap, examining her cheerleading skirt. If you had told me a couple of years ago I'd be on-
Her thought was cut short by a loud clatter on the bleachers. She looked up to find Mark jogging up the bleachers and stood to greet him.
"Hey! What's up, stranger?" Mark joked. Mark and Alice had been good friends since middle school. They hadn't seen each other as frequently as they would have liked since Alice joined the cheerleading team sophomore year. Incidentally, Mark had joined the baseball team the same year.
"Same ol', you know how it goes. Are you coming from practice?" Alice brushed the hair from her forehead. She absentmindedly wondered if Bryan had made the team yet or if he was still snagging errant balls as the de facto ball boy.
"Yeah, we just wrapped. I thought you guys were practicing today so I figured I'd drop by and return this," Mark explained, pulling a book from his backpack. The Heretic Diaries, Alice's favorite book.
Alice took the book and placed it in her backpack, meticulously making sure it remained undamaged. "Did you like it?"
"Yeah, I thought it was really cool. I did think the ending was kind of jumbled though."
Alice smiled. "Don't worry, I had to read it a few times before I really got it." Alice turned to see where Jake's eyes were at the moment, then quickly turned back.
"Well then, maybe we can grab something at Planet Burger some day and you can explain it to me, because I was thoroughly baffled."
"Yeah! That... that'd be great. We haven't done anything like that in a long time," Alice exhaled, once again brushing her jet black hair back from her forehead with her hand. Her hair was one of the things that initially drew Mark to her.
Jake looked on, showing a remarkable amount of restraint, at least for him, and resisted walking over to the bleachers and having an... encounter with the bastard harassing his honey. The words ricocheted in Jake's brain like mental bullets: Destroy. Annihilate. Eradicate. Wreck. Vaporize. Nuke. End. This unhealthy train of thought finally ended when Mark waved, turned, and jogged away from Alice.
Alice sat back down, the lingering smile slowly fading. Before she even had a chance to gather her thoughts, she heard another voice.
"Wow. You really like him, don't ya?" the guy said, confidently. Alice turned to see who had the gall to issue such a blatantly rude statement. It was Jack Culver, that new kid who reputedly was kicked out of his last school for gang fighting. Amongst other things. People love to talk though. I wonder how much of it is true? He was sitting roughly ten yards away.
"What makes you say that, Lord Byron?" Alice quipped casually, looking back at the football practice. At least she hoped casually. She sipped some more water. Jack stood and walked towards Alice, eventually sitting adjacent to her. From there he leaned so that his mouth was inches from her ear. Alice stirred slightly, startled by his brashness.
"It doesn't take a genius, sweetheart. The only difference is a lesser man would've resorted to the abhorrent 'get a room' response," Jack responded coolly. Alice snickered but this response was not sufficient in itself. Meanwhile, Jack extended a pack of cigarettes with one poking out and offered it towards Alice. She considered it briefly but quickly waved it off. God, if Jake caught me doing that...
"How exactly was it obvious? -- assuming I really do like him?" Alice quickly added. Jack stifled a grin at that.
"Of course. I was just referring to your numerous tells during that adorable exchange," Jack vaguely retorted.
Alice was beginning to get a little annoyed at this boy. He's cocky, attractive guys usually are. Cocky, but in a different way than Jake. No. Not cocky. Confident. Wait? Did I just refer to him as attractive?
"Well, don't leave me in suspense, Mr. James Dean wannabe. What might these tells be?" Alice chided. Jack let out a boisterous laugh at this. Alice found it to be a pleasant laugh and brushed the hair off her forehead.
"I always liked Steve McQueen more, but I'll humor you all the same. Where to begin?" Jack sighed. "Okay, first of all, when he approached you immediately stood. You didn't even have time to think about a response. You just acted. You couldn't wait to greet him, eye to eye."
Alice scoffed. "That all? That's nothing."
"Okay, something better. You looked back at Jake a couple of times while you were talking. You two are a couple, aren't you? Why would you check to see if Jake was looking unless you felt guilty about talking to Mark?"
My God, he's right. I did look back at least once. It must've been subconscious. Still, that's quite a leap.
"I would call that something of a leap, wouldn't you?" Alice rebounded.
"If you say so. But I'm not done yet. When he returned that book to you, you were super careful when you put it away. Not to mention it didn't have a mark on it. You said you had read it several times so not only have you had it for a while but you also must like it a lot. Hell, might even be your favorite book. If it meant that much to you, why would you let a 'casual acquaintance' borrow it? He could've bought it himself, he could've checked it out at the library but no, you let him borrow your cherished personal copy." Jack considered a cigarette but thought better of it.
Who the fuck is this guy? How can he read me this well after having known me for roughly ten minutes? He's totally right about the book thing and doesn't even realize it's a rare First Edition! And signed by the author! Either his attention to detail is ridiculously well refined or he's some kind of sick stalker. And in my experience, the latter is much more likely.
"I'm surprised you have time to go to classes since you seem to spend all of it stalking me."
Again, Jack emitted that boisterous laugh. "One more, if I may. You repeatedly brushed your hair back while talking to Mark, a common nervous tick among girls. Now why would you be nervous while talking to someone you've known a 'long time?' You did it during our conversation too... I guess you have a thing for guys with monosyllabic names," Jack said, concluding his amazingly astute observations.
Now that he mentions it, I only do that when talking to Jake or Mark. And him, apparently. Oh God, him too?
"It's okay, your secret is safe with me. And don't worry, it wasn't that obvious, I'm just what you might call an 'intelligent observer." Jack stood and patted the breast pocket of his shirt. "Heh, took a cigarette break and forgot to smoke."
Jack began to walk down the bleachers and, after some hesitation, Alice followed.
"Hey, it was nice to meet you. Breaks are rarely that... informative." At this, Jack closed the distance and put a hand on Alice's shoulder.
"The pleasure was all mine. Thanks for putting up with me; I know it can't have been that easy."
Meanwhile, on the football field, the last straw had broken the camel's back. I can put up with one loser bothering my girl during practice, but two? That's it. Without giving it any additional thought, Jake, quarterback extraordinaire, launched a rocket of a spiral at Jack's head. Under normal circumstances, the throw would've easily met its mark. Just ask the scouts. But these were hardly normal circumstances. He looked on in horror as the pass began to break to the right towards Alice.
Fortunately, Jack was turning to leave as the ball was in flight. He spotted it mere seconds away from hitting Alice. Without thinking, he stepped in front of Alice and covered her up as much as he could. The ball slammed into Jack's right shoulder, and landed several yards away. Alice was left unscathed, except for her water bottle spiraling out of her hands. Much of the contents were spilled on her.
"Here, I'll get that," Jack offered, wiping as much of the water off of Alice as possible with a nearby towel. "There... good as new."
Before he knew it, Jack was shoved away from Alice. It was Jake, and he had a bone to pick.
"Hey! Hey asshole, what're you doin' with my woman? What the fuck are you thinkin'?" Jake demanded.
"You can't even rez what I'm thinking, pal."
Jake was confused by this response but didn't let it deter him.
"Don't you know who the fuck I am?" Jake scoffed.
"The guy who almost brained his girlfriend with a missile?" Jack answered sarcastically.
Jake had heard enough. He swung at Jack with a right hook to the chin. Although Jack anticipated the punch, he took it all the same, but was sure to turn with the punch to reduce the damage.
"Ah. You just made my day." Jack lunged at Jake, quickly sweeping him to the ground and throwing wild punches. Jake answered in kind, but neither boy was truly able to gain a dominant position. Most observers would tell you it was a pretty even brawl.
Before long, Coach Armstrong was prying off Jack while Alice was trying to restrain Jake.
"Break it up, you two!" the coach demanded.
"He hit me first," Jack pointed out.
The coach either didn't hear this or chose to ignore it. "Jake, you get back to practice right now. Jack, I better see you in detention tomorrow."
"But that-" Alice began, but chose to keep quiet instead. She wanted to say it wasn't fair that Jack got detention and Jake didn't, but decided not to get Jake into trouble too.
Jake decided to tack on a stern warning to solidify his point. "You better hope I don't see you around her again, or you'll get it even worse."
"Any time, princess," was Jack's response, and he walked away.