"You know what I hate? Mushrooms. They're disgusting. And…gross. They're…unnatural." Tanis carefully examined the plate of food before her, slowly picking the mushrooms out of her salad.
"Mmm hmm…" Squib said half-heartedly as he shoveled food into his mouth.
"I'm serious! I mean…mushrooms! What is wrong with them?"
Suddenly (and seemingly out of nowhere), Rick appeared at their table with his own plate of food. "Did YOU know, there are over 100,000 different kinds of fungi?"
"Fascinating," Tanis quipped dryly. He picked a single mushroom out of his food.
"Hey, if I were a mushroom, do you think I'd be one of those red ones with white spots?" He asked, prodding it with one hand while he held the fork in the other.
"Rick, if you were a mushroom, I would've stepped on you along time ago," Squib finally spoke up. "I'm outta here," he said, already standing up, "gotta practice."
"Well, fine, but…" Tanis sighed as Squib walked away.
"What's wrong with you, doll face? Surely nothing a little Rickster lovin' can't fix." Tanis stood wordlessly, gathered her plate, and calmly walked out of the cafeteria.
"Oh…my…God!" Adena panted as she ran up to Tanis in the halls.
"Yes?" Tanis asked calmly.
"Have you heard?"
"Obviously not, Adena."
"Ms. Wiley and Nate Bates are totally hot for each other!"
"…What?" Tanis exclaimed at length. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!"
"It's so true!"
"Well, how do you know that?"
"Everyone knows that! How do you not know that?"
"Whatever," Tanis sighed irritably. "Who cares?"
"Uh, me! Everyone!"
"Well, I don't."
"Gee," Adena took a seat beside her friend as they reached their class, "what's eating you?"
"It's no big deal, okay?"
"Oh, come on, Tanis!"
"I'm just a little stressed over Christmas shopping, okay?"
"I thought you were done? Didn't you finish in town last weekend?" Adena asked, puzzled.
"Well, yeah, I mean- I just…forgot something- er, someone, but-,"
"Oh my God, a boy!" Adena shrieked. "A boy! A boy! A boy!"
"Adena, shut up," Tanis hissed.
"Fine, fine," she brought her voice down to a whisper, "but seriously, is it a boy?"
"Yes, okay? It's a boy." Adena let out a squeal. "Adena! Control yourself!"
"Who is it?" She demanded.
"As if. If I tell you, the whole school will know by lunch."
"Tanis! I am offended! It's true, but how rude of you to point it out!"
"I just have no idea what to get him!"
"Well, if you told me who he was…" Adena's suggestion was cut short, however, when Wiley entered the room.
"Alright, alright, calm down. I know you're all excited about the holidays, but…"
"Oh my God," Adena nudged Tanis. "Did you see that glance she just threw at Nate? Smoldering."
Tanis sighed, scribbling furiously on a scrap sheet of paper, pausing, and crossing out whatever she had written.
"Something wrong?" She looked up and saw Rick approaching.
"Oh, hey, Rickers. Uh, no, nothing…"
"Yeah, um- wait. You're a boy."
"Finally, she notices!"
"Shut up," Tanis chuckled. "I have a problem."
"Alright," Tanis began as Rick took a seat next to her, "there's this guy- and before you ask, no, I am not telling you who- and I want to get him a Christmas present."
"Okay, so, what's the problem?" Rick asked after a pause.
"I have no idea what to get him! Whatever I choose, it'll just be stupid."
"That's not true!" Rick tried to cheer her up. "Let's think…what are his interests?"
"Erm…tennis," she finished weakly.
"Huh. Well then… does he like you like you like him? And I'm assuming you like him like like like him."
Tanis paused a moment to fend off the raging headache that came along with deciphering all those 'like's. "I do like like him. But I don't know how he feels…"
"Get him something you think he'd like. Something that reminds you of him," Rick shrugged, "sorry I can't be more help."
"That's okay, Rickers," she smiled, "you've been more helpful than anyone else I've talked to. Something that reminds me of him…"
"You'll know it when you see it," Rick smiled as he got up and turned away. "Hey," he turned back quickly, "have you heard about Nate and Wiley? Apparently they were caught making out behind the bleachers!"
"Fascinating," Tanis said dryly.
After a full day of shopping, Tanis had finally found something that reminded her of him. And it was freaking stupid. So she could only hope that Rick had been right in his advice (there was, after all, a first time for everything).
"Squib?" She knocked and then pushed open his door before waiting for an answer.
"Yeah?" He looked up from whatever textbook he was submerged in (begrudgingly, no doubt). "Oh, hey, Tanis," he smiled.
"Hi," she replied quietly, hands hidden behind her back.
"Hey, did you hear about Bates and Wiley?" He paused, "The younger Bates, that is."
Tanis sighed, "No. What happened?"
"Skinner caught them…you know…doing it in his office! On his desk!"
Tanis quirked an eyebrow. "Wow."
"I know! And now there are rumors of…well…you know…that the stick was blue."
"Oh, for Pete's sake, say pregnancy, Squib," Tanis rolled her eyes.
"Whatever," he continued, "did you want something?"
"Um, yeah, actually…" Tanis realized, to her horror, that the speech she had been working on for days was gone, and in its place was a terrifying blank slate. "I was uh…well, you know, Christmas is coming up…"
"Yes, I've heard that rumor."
"And…well…you're leaving to go home soon…so I didn't want to wait, and…oh, here!" She pulled her hands out from behind her back and thrust and oddly shaped package at him.
She nodded quickly, figuring it best to avoid attempting to use her words at this time.
"Gee, thanks, Tanis…" was he blushing? He opened the package carefully and found a small, red barrel. Upon opening that, he found a whole hoard of small, red monkeys.
"It's, uh, a barrel of monkeys," way to state the obvious, McTaggart! "I just, uh, you know…I was in town and saw them and they…reminded me of you. I mean, they're kinda funny, and you're kinda funny- not looking! Just, like, you know…funny. And you always say there's nothing to do around here and, you know, they're sort of entertaining, and- oh, forget it, it's stupid." Tanis finished lamely, now starring at the carpet. After Squib remained silent for what felt like hours, she mumbled a, "Merry Christmas," and quickly turned toward the door.
"Tanis! Wait!" She stopped and turned to Squib, struggling to meet his eyes. "I need to give you your gift!" There was enough time for a slightly confused look to pass across Tanis' face before Squib grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her.
"Thanks a lot for this, Ms. Wiley," Nate said as the two exited her class.
"Oh, no problem, Nate! You're one of the few dedicated students I have."
"Well, this extra credit stuff should be awesome; I'll take a look at it right now."
"Alright," Wiley smiled, "if you get through that, come see me again on Monday and I should have some more…"
Adena peaked around the corner to see Nate and his teacher walking down the hall together.
"Oh my God! Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!"