I sat down on the bleacher in a somewhat empty area. It didn't take very long for at least ten boys to be seated around me, casually trying to strike up a conversation. I gave them extraordinarily boring answers and showed my distaste in the conversation until finally the message went through, and they stopped trying to grab my attention. Well, all except one, and that of course was Luke.
"Ginger, what do you think of Riles? Pretty lame, huh?"
I raised my eyebrow at him, and said smoothly, "He's very charming." It didn't take long for Luke to recover, as he started off telling me a story about how "lame" Riley was.
"His name first of all, Ginger! I mean, do you think his parents really named him that? Riley, like I said, girl's name."
"Uh-huh," I muttered nonchalantly, staring at the cheerleaders setting up the court and getting the microphone ready.
"He told me not to tell anyone this but... he made out with a dude once. For reals, Vic."
"Are you sure that wasn't you?" I asked with a smirk, as he turned beet red.
We were cut off by a "Hello S.D.S.! This is your cheer squad saying, are you ready to show some school spirit?!" coming loud and clear throughout the whole gymnasium. There was a lot of booing, but it was covered up by all the wanna-be outcasts screaming their heads off. Teenagers - I'll never understand their need to "fit in".
"Shit, gotta go! See ya out there, Ging'!"
And there she was, in the front of the squad, taking the megaphone from one of her teammates: Bree.
"We've," they clapped. "Got," another clap. "Spirit!" Clap. "Hey!" Clap.
"S-P-I-R-I-T SPIRIT!" The girls formed a pyramid. "Let's hear it!"
They got down from their pyramid, and Bree called out, "Now, let's here it for our ah-mazing basketball team!"
Oh my lord, I was going to be sick.
Bree, very reluctantly and with a hair flip, handed the megaphone down, until it was in the hands of a more dowdy member of the squad. She called out in a nasally voice, "For our second line..."
I tuned her out, not really caring to hear the names of the names of the arrogant jocks. They could prance around the court all they liked, but I could already see the half I would use if I were to change them, while the other half - the second lineup- made up for their lack of muscle with their pig-headed smirks. They were so full of themselves. It was really a wonder that any sport was actually played at this school; it seemed as if these boys spent most of their practice flaunting in the mirror. How were they any different than the cheerleaders? Then, something caught my attention.
"And now, my boyfriend, Riles Manson!" I looked at Bree with a cocked head. Did she really just announce him as her boyfriend? How needy was she? And "Riles"? I could tell that Riley was incredibly uncomfortable as he headed out. He licked his lip as he high-fived his team-members and the basketball team circled up, doing a "1,2,3, GO HAWKS!"
I tuned out for the rest of the pep-rally. It was nothing more than the silly cheerleaders prancing around, lifting up their skirts, jumping up and down, and the boys whoot-whoo-ing the entire time.
That pep-rally took up the rest of the morning classes, and so it was time for the humans to have their lunch. This would be an excellent time to catch up with Riley.
As everyone exited the gymnasium, I stayed, waiting for the team to change. They emerged from the locker room, after egotistical discussions of the fine meat walking around the school, in groups of three and four. I ran my hands through my hair, and stared down at my shoes, waiting. It didn't seem like a lot of time before I heard, "Looking for someone?" I pretended to be surprised, although I heard him the moment he stepped out of the locker room, and giggled at Riley as he headed up towards me.
"So... what did you think?" he asked, sitting down next to me, giving me a shy, boyish grin.
"It certainly was interesting. My school didn't do quite the same for pep-rallies." Ha, my school didn't have pep-rallies. We didn't have cheerleaders. The closest we had to this was when our Manners Mistress gave us announcements for the next day, before we went off to bed. I had grown up in a completely different time than Riley.
"Oh, well, it was pretty interesting, huh?"
"I'm confused," I told him, staring at him with my wide, green eyes, "Do you like being called 'Riles'?" I scrunched my nosed, disgusted at the pet-name. It sounded wrong coming out of my mouth.
"Um... Bree likes it, so it's cool."
"But, like, I thought they were announcing the guys by their names and nicknames? If that's your nickname, should I call you that?"
"NO! I mean... nah, no, it's... it's not my favorite nickname..." He was so flustered as he ran his hand, sheepishly, through his hair. The contrast between him and my James was incredible. I stared at him intently, thinking of him as a life partner. I couldn't even use the term 'mate' when I talked of anyone besides James. James was so... forceful and direct - perhaps, a little cruel. Riley was shy, sweet, and endearing, but I could never love him. Never. But, I could lie, very well.
"Alright then, Riles is out!" I chirped cheerfully, brushing his hair out of his face.
"RILEY!" I heard a sharp, harpy voice yelp, and there she was again.
"Hi Bree!" I waved, innocently at her, before batting my eyelashes. "You guys did super great!" Ugh, I sounded like a barbie doll.
"Thanks," she said coldly, walking to the edge of the bleachers. "Riles! We have to get lunch, honey!" Riley turned red again, before walking down to her.
Mid-way, I called out, "Riley, weren't you going to show me around the school?" I looked at him, mentally willing him to come back up. He looked at both of us for a moment, like a puppy choosing which owner he wanted to stay with, before he cautiously walked up towards me.
"Yeah, actually, I am. Sorry Bree. You can get lunch with your squad, right?"
"Yes, but I want to have lunch with you," she said, keeping on the fake grin, although it was quivering, as she gave me a spiteful look.
"But, I already promised..." he began, before she cut him off.
"Well, baby, show her around some other time." I decided that this was enough of Riley and Bree time. I was just going to have to get my way, on my own.
"I'm so, so sorry, Bree, but I need to know where my next class is, and Riley was going to show me." I gave her a wink before saying, "You understand, don't you? I mean, unless you can't find anyone else to sit with at lunch, and you absolutely need Riley there with you..."
Her nostrils flared for just a split-second, before she put on a neutral face. "I'll see you after lunch, Riley," she said, bitterly, before walking out. There was a moment of silence in which Bree's icy grasp seemed to freeze Riley over, and then it evaporated. A charming smile swept across my face and I took a step closer to Riley. It was slightly closer than necessary, but it was still innocent.
"Why'd you say that?" Riley murmured, though he didn't sound disgruntled at all. On the contrary, he seemed almost grateful for my lie.
"I thought you would give me a tour," I replied, widening my eyes like a doe caught in headlights. Riley recoiled slightly, grabbing a side of the bleachers for support.
"I guess- I guess I could- could give you a- a.." his voice cracked. He was clearly flustered as he added in a voice two octaves too high, "tour." I nodded, biting my lower lip. And then several things seemed to happen at once. Riley's palm slid off of the railing he had been clutching, and his eyes widened in fear. His hands, which had been nonchalantly spinning a basketball, did not grab onto the seat quickly enough. His boyish, yet still muscular, body crumpled between the gap in the bleachers. In his horror, he only managed to hold on for a second or two. In a flash of fiery hair, I dove behind him. His corn-silk hair slipped through my fingers as he catapulted towards the ground, and time stood still.
For the first time in my never-ending existence, I was concerned. Not for the boy's life, naturally, but for his purpose. It all became quite clear. Riley was easily manipulated, reasonably charming, and at peak physical condition. These characteristics would be multiplied, of course, when I changed him. He couldn't die now, in a freak bleachers accident. What a waste that would be. It would ruin my whole plan, and I would have spent the past two days just toying around with a young girl's pettiness. It was clear what had to be done.
I slid agilely through the gap in the bleachers, curling my arm around Riley's waist just as he let go of the metal. He grunted slightly at the force of my impact, but I merely swung my torso around and pulling him onto the metal seat. For a second that lasted longer than I thought possible, I held him still. If he moved, he would be in danger again. When it became apparent that he was going to survive, I pulled myself through the gap and settled next to him.
"Are you okay?!" I gasped, pretending to be the stupid girl who had just witnessed a miracle.
"Yeah, yeah - you saved me!" he cried out, eyes wide with horror from the near-death experience, and gratitude for my quick reflexes. "T-thank you!" There was no hesitation, no second thoughts, before he was hugging me tightly, as if I were the only solid thing in the universe. I knew I had to think quick, or he would catch on to me... I couldn't have him think I saved him out of affection, or out of some bizarre super-human impulses.
"I didn't want anybody to think I had pushed you off or anything," I teased, only half-joking. "The new girl can't get a bad reputation on the first day." But Riley was smiling, in a daze that nobody but I could penetrate. There was a slight gash on his forearm from where he had collided with the cold metal bleachers. I could almost feel my emerald contacts dissolving at the luscious scent of it.
"Come on," I interupted, waving my hand in front of his face. "Let's go grab lunch."
I leaned down to support him, wary of his post-traumatic balance. I averted his gaze, trying to clear my mind. The truth was, I hadn't even considered his potential as a sidekick when I had saved him. All that I could think was, "Not him."