Chapter one

Oh it's funny to see you after so long girl

And with the way you look, I understand

That you are not impressed

The twang of the guitar and cool tones of Elvis Costello's voice rang through the small bedroom. Cutie Pie sat propped up by her pillow against the headboard of her bed as she held her eyes closed, drifting away to the music. The sound of tapping on glass caught her attention, distracting her away from the song. Sitting up all the way, she looked toward the window. Right away, a familiar gap-toothed grin greeted her from behind the glass.

Alison, I know this world is killing you

Oh, Alison, my aim is true

"Juan!" She gasped through a bright smile. Hopping off the bed, she went over to the window to open it. "What are you doing here?"

Epstein crawled in through the window and looked at her. "I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop by to say hello."

"You came all this way just to say hello?"

"Well, not exactly." He grinned and then reached into the inner pocket of his sleeveless jean jacket. "Had you on my mind all day, Cutie Pie. So I thought I'd come by and give you this." From his pocket, he pulled out a small white daisy. "I know it ain't much, but, y'know. Thought you'd like it anyway." He said, handing the flower to her.

"Oh Juan you're so sweet."

"There's one more thing." He grasped the chain that hung around his neck and slipped it over his head. "I'd like you to have my good luck charm."

"Juan, your necklace?" She blushed "I couldn't."

"Sure you can. Here," Slipping the necklace over Cutie Pie's head, he then neatly adjusted it in place around her neck. Then, carefully, he un-tucked her hair from inside the chain and placed it gently over her shoulders. "Looks good on you, honey." He said. This caused her to smile. "Now it's official."

"I don't know what to say."

"You don't gotta say nothing."

He pulled her into a warm embrace and gave her a kiss. As the kiss lingered, Epstein backed Cutie Pie over to her bed. While they lowered themselves to the top of the bed, they remained in their lip-locked embrace. At first, they sat facing each other, then Epstein guided Cutie Pie in a slow recline. Breaking their exchanged kisses, Epstein then crawled on top of her and looked down lovingly into her eyes. After giving her a small smile, he moved back into the kisses.

At that moment, footsteps approached the bedroom. This sound caused the couple to freeze and their eyes to turn toward the door. The teenagers sat up quick and separated in a panic. Cutie Pie signaled with her hands, telling Epstein to hide under the bed. Taking her cue, Epstein dove beneath the bed right before the bedroom door opened to the newcomer.

Remaining motionless in his hiding spot, Epstein listened as Cutie Pie's father entered the room. It was nothing new for Cutie Pie to be nervous while speaking to her father, but with her boyfriend hiding under her bed, her nerves were at a much higher level than usual. Epstein held his breath for a few seconds as he listened to his girlfriend and her father talk. He watched the shadows moving across the floor as Cutie Pie's father walked around the room. His heart pounded loud in his ears as the man came unbearably close to the bed. When he saw the man's feet within grasping distance of his fingers, Epstein felt his own nerves rising to the same level as Cutie Pie's. He thought then that he surely was close to achieving death by an angry father.

After what seemed to be the longest nerve-wracking few minutes of a teenage life, the man finished his talk with his daughter. Cutie Pie walked over to the door with her father and watched as he left the room. Then, after closing the door behind her father, she took a moment to listen in silence. Once she was sure he was gone, she walked back over to her bed. With a small, reassuring smile, she peeked under the bed at her boyfriend.

"He's gone, Juan." She half-whispered

"Thank God for that." Epstein crawled out from under the bed and dusted off his clothes. "I prob'ly should take off before your dad comes back. Don't really feel like stickin' 'round to see what he'd do if he caught me here."

"Good idea." She nodded

He gave her a kiss before walking to the window. "See you in school on Monday, honey." He grinned. "And take care of my good luck charm. Don't lose it or nothin'."

"Don't worry." She smiled, holding part of the chain in between her fingers. "I won't let it out of my sight."

He smiled, starting to climb out the window. "Bye, Cutie Pie."

"Bye, Juan." She stood next to the window and gave him one last kiss before he climbed down the fire escape.

...

The bell rang, causing tardy students in the halls to scatter. Most of Gabe's students found their way into the classroom, but, as usual, the entire class was not present. Knowing that Epstein was going to arrive at any moment with yet another excuse note, Gabe decided to allow a delay to the start of the class.

In the hallway, Epstein stood by his locker, embracing the small, curvy frame of his girlfriend. Epstein smiled and then whispered something in Cutie Pie's ear. She blushed with a small shiver, letting out a giggle. Then, Epstein placed a finger under her chin to lift her head so she would be looking him in the eyes. He smiled before bringing her into a deep kiss. The kiss, however, was interrupted when Gabe cleared his throat. The two students pulled apart and looked toward the classroom to see the teacher standing in the doorway. Gabe grinned as he looked at the students, receiving matching and somewhat coy, smiles back at him.

"Hi Mr. Kotter." said Epstein "I was just helping her look her something."

"Look for what? Cavities?" Gabe laughed "Juan, say goodbye to her and come to class."

"Ok just one sec." He went in for another kiss.

"Now, Epstein."

Epstein nodded and then gave Cutie Pie a small kiss. "See you later, Cutie Pie."

"Yes, see you later, Cutie Pie." Gabe retorted, urging the students along.

"Bye Juan." She kissed him on the cheek before walking down the hallway.

After watching Cutie Pie leave, Epstein strutted over to where the teacher stood. When he reached the teacher, he shrugged his shoulders and gave a smile that seemed to read "What can I say?". Then he entered the classroom, with Gabe close behind him. As Epstein headed for his desk, he was facing away from Gabe and missed his grin.

"Well, now if it isn't the Sweathog's very own Don Juan Epstein." The teacher said. "Nice of you to join us."

Vinnie looked over at Epstein with a slight, confused grin. "Hey Epstein, when did you change your first name to Don?"

Epstein sat up a little "I didn't, Barbarino." Unable to disguise his grin, he then turned his attention to the teacher. "So Mr. Kotter, we're all here now, let's say we get this class started."

Gabe looked at him in disbelief. "Did you just ask to start class? Epstein, are you feeling ok?"

"I feel great Mr. Kotter."

"Hold up, Epstein." Freddie leaned toward Epstein's desk. "Since when do you want to start class, no matter how great you feel?"

Sitting on the other side of Epstein, Horshack reached over with one hand and placed the back of it on Epstein's forehead. Epstein slapped Horshack's hand away, looking at him with a small scowl.

"I ain't sick, Horshack. Can't a guy just come into class happy without people wondering about it?"

Vinnie perked up with a smile and spoke with a laugh. "So who's the chick?"

Epstein looked at his friends with a sense of smugness. "Well if you must know, I was just out there with the one and only Cutie Pie."

All eyes in the room landed on Epstein. While some of the students smirked quietly, a few students held expressions of near disbelief. Epstein leaned back in his seat and clasped his hands together in the back of his head. There was a small, yet, smug grin resting upon his lips as his eyes casually turned toward the front of the room. Suddenly, the silence was broken and the attention turned off Epstein as Horshack started laughing.

"YOU and CUTIE PIE?" he laughed some more

Epstein sat up and glared at him, narrowing his eyes. "What's wrong with that, Horshack?"

Horshack stopped laughing abruptly and appeared with a small nervous half-grin. "Nothing! Nothing I swear! You two make a lovely couple."

Smirking, Epstein leaned back in his chair as he turned to the front of the class. The rest of the students started talking about the relationship that they had just discovered. Amongst the mumblings, there was a combination of praises, questions and some jokes towards the couple. Epstein merely sat there, basking in the fact that he was at the center of attention in the classroom, even if some of that attention was somewhat negative.

Soon, the teacher brought the discussion to an end and the class was finally started. Even though the discussion of the couple had ended, interest of the current topic was still present before the four Sweathogs. Throughout the rest of the class, these four students whispered amongst each other, to get the scoop straight from Epstein. This was quickly ended by Gabe, who brought the attention back onto the schoolwork. This, however, was not the end of this particular discussion amongst the four friends for that day.

...

Once again, as the class period ended, the four Sweathogs left the classroom in a state of jovial relief. Before even a conversation could start, Epstein ducked away from the group. The others watched as Epstein walked down the hallway towards another classroom. As they watched him return a few moments later with his arm around the shoulders of Cutie Pie, the other three students started calling out obnoxious comments directed mainly at their Sweathog friend. As the couple reached the rest of the group, the comments became much more obnoxious. Epstein, still with his arm around Cutie Pie, scowled at the other guys.

"Hey what's going on here?" He asked. The tone he used was stern, bringing the others to a quiet state. "You guys got a problem with me and my girlfriend?"

"No, it's not a problem with you and your girlfriend." Freddie answered, bouncing slightly from his hips. "It's more like a problem with you being with your girlfriend." He looked at Cutie Pie and smiled with a wave to acknowledge her presence. "Hi there."

Cutie Pie gave him a slightly irritated grin. "Yeah, hi there, Freddie. What're you getting at?"

"Cutie Pie, of all the guys in school you could be with, what are you doing with him?"

Vinnie stepped toward the couple with a dimpled smile and a laugh in his voice. "Yeah. The only thing two you seem to have in common is your height." He turned his eyes onto Cutie Pie, lowering them to her feet. "Well until you take off your platforms, that is." He laughed. "What? Do you come up to his shoulders when you're barefoot?"

"Actually, Vinnie, I come up to his nose. But thanks for your concern."

Freddie laughed, showing off his teeth. "Look at you. You sure are a tiny little thing, aren't you? You're like a doll."

Cutie Pie looked up at him and gave him a cool smirk. "Would ya rather Juan date a girl as tall as you? 'Cause I think that would be something worth laughing at." She rolled her eyes. "Damn, what's with you guys ragging about my height all of a sudden? You never seemed concerned about it before."

There was a short moment of silence before Horshack spoke up. "You never were with Little Juan before. So now it's, Little Juan and Little Cutie Pie." He grinned before letting out a sshort laugh.

Epstein, still a little visibly upset, stepped away from Cutie Pie and looked at his three friends. "What exactly is your problem with me and Cutie Pie any way? We've all been friends with her since she moved here. We've all flirted with her and tried to date her just about that long. But now I'm actually with her, and there's a problem?"

Cutie Pie looked at Epstein before returning her attention to the other three boys. When she looked at them again, she held a knowledgeable smirk upon her lips. "Oh I get it, Juan. These boys are jealous." Her smile broadened once she spied the quiet looks of guilt written on the faces of the other boys. "I'm right, aren't I?"

Looking at his friends, Epstein developed a smile to match the one on his girlfriend's lips. "Hey, Cutie Pie, I think you're right." He laughed. "Well, honey, let's give them something to be jealous about." Wrapping his arms around her, he then pulled her into a kiss. Despite the groans from the other three guys, he let the kiss linger a few seconds. Upon pulling away from the kiss, he turned back to them with a satisfied smirk. "Come on, Cutie Pie." He said while slipping an arm around her waist. "Let's go."

The couple gave their friends one last smile before turning away to go down the hall.

"Check you later, guys!" Cutie Pie called out, with a small giggle following her as she and Epstein turned the corner.

The other students watched as the couple left their sight. Then, turning toward each other, they entered different degrees of impressed expressions.

"Alright." Freddie spoke first. "I have to admit, they do look good together. Epstein must be one smooth operator in order to land a chick like that."

"Yeah. Even I couldn't bag her. And I'm Vinnie Barbarino!"

"Oh Vincent, Vincent, Vincent." Horshack started as he placed a hand on Vinnie's arm. "Sometimes you just gotta accept the rejection and move on. I do that all the time."

"Oh no." Vinnie said, waving his hands with a bashful grin. "Girls don't reject me."

"Cutie Pie did. Now she's with Epstein."

"Good one Freddie!" Horshack attempted to slap Freddie a five, only to have Freddie pull his hand away.

"Hey, why are we worried about this fo'?" Freddie asked. "Epstein seems happy with her. She's happy with him. We should just let them be."

"You're right, Freddie." Vinnie sighed slightly, looking towards the direction their friends went. "They do look good together." He finished with a smile.

The three of them laughed before heading in separate directions down the hallway. As they each started walking to their classrooms, right on time for the tardy bell to ring, they each realized how happy they actually were for their friends. They knew then that this new relationship between Epstein and Cutie Pie was going to bring many more things for their group of friends to face, but neither of them had any idea of what was to come.