Chels (spazzychick96) wrote in ducks_fiction,
Chels
spazzychick96
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Breaking Face Value: Chapters 3 & 4

It seems that posting all four chapters together made the post too big, so it had to be seperated into two posts. :)

Title: Breaking Face Value
Author: spazzychick96 (C-chan96 on fanfiction.net)
Rating: PG
Pairing: Linda/Charlie
Character(s): Linda
Short summary: Sometimes the best thing you’ll ever find is hiding behind a stereotype.


-Chapter 3-

I walked into my room with a smile on my face, kicking the door closed with my feet and throwing myself on the bed.

Charlie and I had talked all the way until we got to my stop. He was much more easy-going and funny than I had figured. He asked me what kinds of things I was interested in and what classes I was taking. Turns out he was in my first period speech class the first day, and I hadn’t even realized it. He even had my mom as one of his teachers…how disturbing was that?

I got quite a surprise when he trashed the Varsity. Sure, I saw that he and the other two guys had done the lunch thing, but I had figured it was a prank between friends. Turns out it was quite the opposite.

He told me he lived with his mom and stepfather, the latter of which he had an obvious dislike for; his mom worked at a diner in the Twin Cities, his stepfather was in some kind of business that I couldn’t seem to remember. I told him about my mom being a teacher at the school, my father’s evasive job as a lawyer, my ten-year-old brother Sammy, and our nanny Fran.

He seemed somewhat surprised that we had a nanny, but nothing was said about it. I wondered where he lived, but I didn’t ask.

I just enjoyed listening to him talk. If you found the right subject, he was animated and interesting to watch. I may not like hockey, but he made me rethink whether I had to boycott the sport forever. He most definitely liked it; that much was for sure.

Unfortunately, my stop came far too soon. We hadn’t even reached lifelong dreams yet. What a bummer.

My mom knocked on my door, but I just kept gazing up at the ceiling. I was so going to the game on Friday.

And I sounded so pathetic.

I knew my mom would flip when she found out. She’s been begging me to support my past schools for years, trying to convince me to attend athletic activities and school sporting events, but it’s never interested me. I didn’t even want to take P.E. this year, but it was a required credit, and the dance class was full. Not that I could dance, but anything would’ve been better than P.E.

But I was willing to make the sacrifice for Charlie (still felt weird not to call him “Green”)…who knew? It might even be fun.

---

The days flew by quickly. To be honest, I didn’t see a whole lot of Charlie until Friday. Of course I saw him in speech and algebra, but I could tell he had an established table with his friends at lunch, presumably his teammates, so I stuck with my new “normal” table. Every other day I even got to eat with Margie. Charlie seemed to have backed off a little, but still made little efforts to acknowledge me in the hall, talk before class – just little stuff to know I hadn’t been dismissed. It was oddly comforting.

I shifted my books around in my arms and started for the bus. I felt a small breeze as a group of people on rollerblades whooshed by in a blur. One of them turned around, revealing himself to be Charlie.

“Hey, you coming tonight?” he asked me.

I nodded in confirmation. “Yeah, I’ll be there.”

I saw his face break into a grin. “Awesome. I guess I’ll see you then,” he said, skating backwards for a second before turning back around to catch up with his friends.

As he disappeared around the gate, I smiled to myself.

My heart nearly leaped out of my chest when a hand clamped down on my shoulder. I jumped and whipped around to see Margie with a sly smirk on her face. “What’s happening tonight?” she asked impishly.

I closed my eyes briefly and placed a hand on my pounding heart. “Don’t do that.”

“Sorry, Lin. Now tell me, what’s happening tonight?” she asked again, wiggling her eyebrows teasingly.

Now that I had been given time to recover, I rolled my eyes, hoping that would distract her from my burning cheeks. “Nothing is happening tonight, Marge.”

“Oh yeah? Then why do you look like you fell face first into a bucket of scarlet paint?”

“I don’t,” I retorted, though I knew that I did.

“Uh huh. Sure. So who was the guy? He’s cute. What’s his name? Where are you going? Why are you trying to keep these things from me, Linda? You know that you can’t,” she said all in one breath.

I tried to keep my face from getting any redder. Did she have to show up at that exact moment?

Deciding resistance was futile, I sighed and gave in to her questioning. “His name is Charlie, and I’m going to his hockey game tonight. That’s it.”

“Hockey game? You hate hockey. You hate sports,” Margie said before pausing. “Don’t you?”

“Well, I don’t hate hockey-”

“But I remember-” She stopped mid-sentence. Another impish grin spread across her face. “Ooh, you must have it bad if you’re going to a sporting event for him. How cute is that.” Then she added in a singsong voice, “Linda’s in loooooooove!”

I could have sworn my face was purple from all the blood rushing to my face. Could she be any more embarrassing?

My hands flew to my face in humiliation; amazingly enough, I managed to keep hold of my books. That could possibly have made the situation even worse.

“Shut up, Margie! It’s just a game. It’s no big deal,” I said, repeating the phrase a few more times in my mind to make sure it was rooted there. No big deal, no big deal, no big deal.

“Suuuure. So says the blushing, sport-hating schoolgirl who’s going to a hockey game for the cute boy,” Margie said with a grin. “You’re the last person I would imagine turning to goo for a guy. And an athlete, nonetheless. This is priceless. I’m marking it on my calendar.”

“Stop saying that!” I said, my face still covered with my hands. This is why she wasn’t supposed to know. I would never hear the end of it. Why, oh why did I tell her?

“Okay, okay, I’ll stop. It’s just ironic that you, of all people-”

“I know!”

“Gotcha. Stopping,” she said with a grin.

I rolled my eyes and started for the bus again, trailed by Margie. Her brother usually drove her home, but he had to stay after school for a yearbook meeting, so she was riding the bus with me. Just my luck.

“So what are you wearing?” she asked as we sat on the bench to wait.

“Clothes,” I responded in a deadpan voice.

“Well, I’d sure hope so. Though I’m sure the alternative-”

“MARGIE!” I said, covering my face again and making a small scream in my hands.

“Hehe.” A wide grin nearly split her face in half. “I was just saying…”

“Well, don’t say it! I was just trying to veer you off the subject; ya know, discourage you from prying into it more!”

“Didn’t work, did it?” she said with a false sense of sweetness.

“Apparently not. Normal logic doesn’t seem to work on you,” I said, shaking my head.

“How silly of you to forget,” she said with a smile, leaning against the back of the bench.

“You’re such a perv.”

“Am not. I’m just amused by the fact that you have a potential boyfriend here. My little Linny’s growing up so fast!” she said, making sniffling noises and pretending to wipe away tears.

I playfully swatted her and smiled, shaking my head. “Shut up.”

As the bus pulled up, Margie and I stood up and walked to the bus. As she was climbing on, I glanced around for Charlie. He had ridden it every day this week, but it seemed he had an alternate form of transportation this time.

Good move.

That could’ve been really, really, really embarrassing. There’s a good chance I’d have never spoken to him again.

---

I took one last look in the mirror and exhaled, checking all angles of my face and hair as if it was any different from the last twenty times I had done this. You never know.

Shaking my head, I turned away from my reflection and chuckled at myself. I really was turning into a piddling puddle of goo, and I was beginning to embarrass even myself. This really wasn’t a big deal. It was just a hockey game and possibly a coke afterwards, depending upon if he even remembered. Nothing to get all giggly about.

Once I had calmed myself, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. I would not be a screaming fangirl. I would not go into cardiac arrest any time he as much as glanced in my direction. I would not screech and jump up and down like a knockoff cheerleader. I had dignity. I had dignity. I had dignity.

Having that down in my mind, I opened my eyes with a smile. I was ready to go and give team sports a try. Or so I was telling my mother.

I opened the door to my room and walked down the stairs where my mother was waiting for me. She greeted me with a smile. “Ready to go?”

I nodded. “Yep.”

The ride to the school seemed incredibly short. I shouldn’t have been nervous since it really wasn’t a big deal at all, but I had a very tiny case of the butterflies. And of course that part of me that feared it was some kind of joke, or he had completely forgotten about me within the last few hours. Anything could happen.

I followed my mother to the ticket booth where she bought me a ticket and smiled in that motherly, “I’m so proud of you” way. It was kind of creepy when you thought about the fact that to her knowledge, this was simply to broaden my horizons in the school spirit arena. If she knew of my ulterior motives, she probably wouldn’t feel quite so accomplished. I had such a weird mom.

She bought a ticket for herself and went to find a seat far from me. I managed to use that as a part of the deal; I go if she sits elsewhere. She didn’t know that I actually did want to go, so that was a good bargaining chip.

When I walked into the stands, I was hit head with the bustling roar of the pre-game crowd. None of the players had even stepped onto the ice yet, and still the noise spread across the entire expanse. It wasn’t deafening, but it was relatively intimidating. I could tell it was going to be a loud evening.

I found a spot next to the jazz band and sat down, tucking my hair behind my ears nervously. I looked around and found absolutely nobody that I recognized. I had made Margie promise me she wouldn’t show up, but now I was beginning to regret that. Maybe having her there wouldn’t have been as bad as being alone afterall…

Suddenly the voice of a teenaged boy whisked across the crowd. I thought I recognized it as a boy named Josh from my journalism class. He’s a sophomore this year, and I thought I heard something in class about him announcing at the hockey games…I guess that would make sense. I squinted my eyes and thought I saw him in the announcer’s box.

There was really no point in him talking, though. His voice could scarcely be heard over the explosion of sound filling the stands when the team stepped out on the ice. Waves of red and white were everywhere you looked. People were screaming and jumping up and down like it was a rock concert. Some people enjoyed this sport way too much.

I looked at all the players. I was pretty close, but they were on the other side of the rink, so I couldn’t see their faces. It was then that I realized I had no idea what Charlie’s number was.

I chewed a little on my lip as they gathered in their team’s area. I thought that I faintly heard the word “quack” chanted a few times over the crowd, but it stopped just as soon as it began, so I wasn’t really sure. I watched them unenthusiastically put their hands in and say something before skating out onto the ice. This is of course confused me; it was their game, and all the excitement seemed to have drained out of them.

Didn’t take long for the excitement to return, however. Soon enough they were goofing off and getting into their positions.

I heard Charlie’s name announced. Something about him being the captain, or something like that. I saw him skate by and lifted my hand to wave, giving him a small smile. He grinned and waved back before skating to the center to faceoff one of the players from the other team. 96. I’d have to remember that if I was going to even attempt to follow him in this game.

It was no more than a few moments into the game before I saw him score the first goal of the game. The place erupted into cheers again. I stood up to clap and watched as he skated by, grinning and celebrating with his teammates. Their coach yelled something at them, and while the players on the bench quieted down, the portion of the team that was still on the ice continued with high fives and such.

This trend continued on for a long time. They kept scoring, and I wondered if every game was like this. I wasn’t exactly a great judge, but from my limited knowledge and minimal following skills, they seemed to be pretty good. At least according to the scoreboard, they were good. The game wasn’t as hard to understand as I had first thought.

At one point in the game, one of Charlie’s teammates skated down the middle of the rink and shot the goal, jumping and practically hurling himself (or maybe even herself; I couldn’t exactly tell from where I was sitting) over the net and slamming into the wall. Everyone crowded around, but the player seemed to be okay. Not long after, another player played something that resembled ‘hacky-sack,’ bouncing the hockey puck on his stick as he skated along. The game was nothing if not amusing. Maybe I hadn’t been giving it enough of a chance afterall.

I was almost entranced by all the different moves they pulled out; they seemed to be having a genuinely fun time. Anytime Charlie skated by, a huge grin was on his face; his teammates were the same way. They didn’t seem to be taking it all that seriously at all. But anytime I looked at their coach, I figured he was probably being serious enough for the whole group. Surprisingly enough, he didn’t look happy…to any extent. They had a huge lead, even I knew that, and yet he had this grave, almost frustrated look on his face the whole time.

I grinned and stood up, clapping loudly as Charlie made another goal at the very last second of the period. I hated to admit it, but I was having fun.

The intensity of the game seemed to have kicked up a notch; it was last period of the game, and the other team, Blake, as I had gathered, seemed to be scrambling to save themselves from a 9-0 loss.

Suddenly, everything our team tried to do was countered by Blake. Every shot was blocked, every pass stolen; it wasn’t long before they had scored a goal on us, making our goalie work for the first time the entire game. The team wasn’t all smiles anymore. A somber and mildly frantic air seemed to have settled over them, somewhat similar to what Blake had been earlier.

Shot after shot they got further and further away from their lead. I saw Charlie race down the ice and flip around, trying to stop someone from scoring.

When the Blake player hurled the puck into the goal despite Charlie’s effort, I saw Charlie stand up and shake his head before skating over the goal and breaking his stick in half against the post. My eyes widened slightly as the ref called it and went over, obviously saying something. Charlie seemed to be yelling something back at the ref as he was taken to the box. I sighed slightly and shook my head.

I frowned, watching him throw his helmet against the wall of the box and sit down. He sure had gotten upset over something as simple as not being able to stop a goal. It was just a game, right? No reason to get that upset.

The game just continued to go downhill; Blake scored goal after goal, and our team just fell apart at the seams.

The last thirty seconds were up on the board, and Charlie got out of the box. He had the puck and was heading for the goal. I leaned forward in my seat before standing up, eyes wide as I stared. There was yelling and screaming all around, and everything seemed to go in slow motion. A player from the other team came up to him, and Charlie fell as he made his shot. The puck slid across the ice. Time seemed suspended. It looked like it was going to make it…

The puck slid to stop, just in front of the goal. Everyone stared in horror as one the Blake players took the puck and scored the final goal of the game, tying up the game. I couldn’t see Charlie’s face, but I could imagine how upset he was about this game…heck, he had broken his hockey stick on the goal. This apparently wasn’t supposed to happen.

I shook my head and looked away from the rink, unable to watch the horror resonate throughout the team.

I’m not sure how long I sat there before finally heading out to the parking lot. I had no idea where my mom was, but I didn’t really care at the moment.

I could see some of the players coming out of the locker room. Soon enough I saw Charlie step out, an agitated look on his face. I furrowed my eyebrows slightly as he walked by.

“Charlie?” I said softly. He turned at looked at me, face still slightly twisted with what I assumed was post-game frustration. “You okay?”

“Oh, I’m fantastic. Just fantastic,” he snapped back.

I then noticed his clothes were soaked. “Why’re your clothes wet?” I asked.

I saw something flash across his face, and he shook his head with an ironic and less-than-pleased-sounding laugh…if it could even count as a laugh. “Don’t ask.”

Before I had the chance to say anything else, he shook his head again. “Look, I’m sorry, but I really need to get home and get changed. Think we could discuss this later?” he asked with mild impatience.

I frowned and nodded. “Yeah…sure.”

He nodded and muttered “thanks” before walking off; I could hear his shoes make a quiet squishing sounds that is made when shoes and socks are filled with water. I wasn’t really even sure if I wanted to know why he was soaking wet. When I had looked at his teammates, they were in a similar state. Perhaps our coke would have to wait for another day…so much for that.


-Chapter 4-

Over an entire week passed, and still no word from Charlie. He showed up late to class and left as soon as the bell rang. I saw him on the bus, but he seemed pretty reclusive, and I was nervous about bringing the game up. He really didn’t seem to want to talk about it. He wasn’t being cold, but it was like his mood shifted a little ever since the game; like something kind of snapped. And it wasn’t the good kind of snapping.

I had heard rumors that Varsity had been the ones who soaked the JV’s clothes after the game…Then I heard another rumor that several of Charlie’s teammates had stolen the frozen nitrogen tank from the chemistry lab and froze the Varsity’s letter jackets in retaliation. Surely enough, on Wednesday, not a single red and white letter jacket was to be found on any of the Varsity hockey players. The story could have been mixed up, though; I could already establish that the “Eden Hall Grapevine” wasn’t always the most reliable thing in the world.

However, as I looked over at the almost ominously superior Varsity hockey team from across the lunchroom, I saw every single one of the letter jackets replaced and as good as new. Not that I was in the least bit surprised. The fact that they even went to this school meant that they were either a)rich, b)had amazing connections, c)had scholarships, or d)were really, really smart. I was willing to go with ‘a’ or ‘b’ considering names like “Riley,” “Vanderbilt,” and “Southerland” made up players on that team.

I really wanted to talk to Charlie about the game…to ask him why he had gotten so upset about everything, but I knew better. It was an extremely touchy and sensitive subject, and I didn’t want to set him off for any reason.

I saw most of, if not the entire, Varsity group around the JV’s normal table. I, of course, was sitting too far away to know what was going on, but I watched anyway…because I couldn’t seem to pry my eyes away in the first place. It simply cannot be helped.

It wasn’t until the next day before our algebra class started that I decided to actually talk to Charlie. Again, we had done small talk, but not really any actual talking. He was actually on time to class today, so I figured I’d take advantage of it.

“Hey Charlie,” I said, leaning against a desk by his. He looked like he was in kind of a sour mood, but that was okay.

He turned to me and gave me a grim smile. “Hey.”

“So…” I started out, then remembered how curious I was about the Varsity gathering around their lunch table the day before. I couldn’t help but think there was a possible truce between the two teams. “So I saw the Varsity at your lunch table yesterday. What was that about?”

I saw his mouth tighten slightly in aggravation, though it luckily didn’t seem to be directed at me.

Okay, so that threw the ‘truce’ theory out the window.

“On second thought, it doesn’t look like I wanna know,” I said somewhat quickly.

He nodded. “Probably wise. But I assure you that justice will be served.”

Before I had the chance to ask him what he meant, the bell rang and the teacher walked in. I slipped into my seat and tried not to think about it anymore, pushing as far from my mind as I could to make room for algebraic equations…which were just so much fun…

I didn’t see him waiting for the bus after school. I assumed he had another ride again…but I still couldn’t help but wonder what he had meant by “justice being served”…

---

The next day my question had been answered. I was greeted with the daily gossip; today’s topic was over the Varsity hockey team’s ant-bitten faces. The story I heard was that the Varsity pulled a stunt by taking the JV to an expensive restaurant, tricking them into thinking they weren’t paying for it, then leaving the restaurant so they had to pay for all of the meals by themselves. So then last night the ants from the library somehow mysteriously wound up in the Varsity’s dorm rooms…Varsity claims it was the JV, and all evidence points to the JV, but for some reason none of the authority figures were condemning them or blaming them for it. It was really odd…

So I could only assume that was the revenge Charlie had been referring too.

No wonder he had been so upset.

But on a completely different note…how do people figure these things out anyway? I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person in the entire school who didn’t stalk everyone, did up their dirty secrets and doings, and spread it around. After hearing the antics of the two hockey teams, I heard a rumor about some cheerleader having sex with the janitor in one of the closets yesterday after school and began to wonder the validity of all these rumors.

However, today’s Friday, and he didn’t show up at all. He wasn’t just late…he was flat out not there. I kept an eye on the door the whole class period, expecting him to burst in late and claim that a plane had crashed into the bus and that there was a mass tragedy on the way to school so that he would get out of a tardy. Nothing.

At lunch, I glanced over at their table. Usually there were two seats without people in them just left empty every day…but today there was four.

It was the day that Margie had lunch with me, and she kept asking why I was staring over at the table. That would break me of my staring for at least a few moments at a time.

I asked my mom after school if Charlie had been in class, and just as I expected, she said no.

Giving up, I went to the bus stop with Margie, who was spending the night; I would really need to stop spending so much time obsessing over Charlie. It really couldn’t be healthy at all. I was bordering on stalker, a little bit…why should I care that he wasn’t at school? Maybe he got sick. What was it to me?

“Linda? You okay?” Margie asked, waving her hand in front of my face.

I snapped to attention. “Huh?”

“You okay? Because I haven’t gotten a response from you in at least ten minutes. I was worried that you had gone into a coma or something,” she said with a quirked eyebrow.

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine. I was just thinking,” I responded quickly. I added in a smile as an afterthought.

“About…?” she probed. The now-familiar smirky grin twitched on her lips. “I bet it was about Chaaarrrllliiieee,” she taunted jokingly.

“It was not,” I denied, though my flushing face said otherwise. Why did she have to keep saying that?!

“Uh huh. Sure…you had that far off look that I haven’t seen until recently. You’re getting to be pathetic,” Margie said with a grin.

“If you would stop bringing it up, that would be lovely,” I said, standing up and gathering my things as the bus pulled up to my stop.

Margie followed suit as I got off the bus and started for my house. “I can’t help it. It’s too tempting.”

“Well, you need to learn to resist temptation.”

“I’m not strong enough, Lin. You’re just such an easy target.”

I rolled my eyes and unlocked the door. “In. Now.”

She grinned and skipped into the house, so I followed behind, shaking my head. Something had to be done about this.

---

There were times I wondered if the school was bugged or something. Was there ever a time when someone did not have something to say?

Apparently Charlie and some other player had quit the hockey team that Thursday. I’d never need to speak to another human being ever again to get information like this; all I have to do is listen.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked. Sure, I had seen how upset he was at the last game I went to, but the way he had talked about it…it was just weird. There had to be something I didn’t know about.

Granted, there was probably a reason I didn’t know it…it wasn’t like we were dating, or even really friends for that matter…I’d only known him for part of the school year. Like he’d randomly tell me what was wrong. He hadn’t even talked to me that much at all, lately…I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d done something wrong.

I wanted to know what has happened over the past few weeks. He’d started coming to class again, but he didn’t really sit with his friends at lunch anymore. He got quiet in class, and it was difficult to get a word in with him. It worried me, but I didn’t want to say anything…

“Hey, did you hear about the JV hockey team?” a voice said behind me as I sat in my English class. My ears perked a little, but I stayed facing forward.

“Yeah,” another voice answered. “I heard from Carrie that her boyfriend Sam said they were getting their scholarships revoked today after school because they weren’t winning games.”

“And two players quit on them not long ago. No skin off our nose, though. They weren’t that good anyway. Serves the school right for taking on the charity cases, I guess.”

For some reason, I couldn’t help but feel miffed at their discussion, but I kept it to myself. I made a mental decision to figure out where the revocation was taking place. My curiosity was getting the best of me, I felt compelled to see what happened, and I was kind of worried for them. If the scholarships for the JV hockey team got revoked, that meant Charlie was leaving…

---

“It’ll be in that room right there, sweetie,” the old woman told me and pointed to a room down the hall when I asked her where the meeting was being held.

“Thank you,” I said with a nod before walking to the room. I slipped in right before it started. Surprisingly enough, no one bothered to stop me from listening in on this, but I wasn’t one to complain about it. Turns out there were several other students and lots of teachers, including my mother, who decided to join in as well.

My gaze fell over all the people packed into the large conference room. It seemed that both hockey teams were in the meeting, for some odd reason. The board was at the table, the Dean at the podium, and several parents of, I assumed, the JV hockey team stood near the back by the door where I was.

The meeting wasn’t really looking up for to JV team…I bit my lip as the Dean explained why the JV’s scholarships were being revoked and the JV’s coach tried to convince him otherwise. It seemed hopeless. Charlie kept shooting small glances at the door, but it didn’t seem like he saw me. It was like he was expecting something, but maybe he just wanted to leave…

I watched with mild disgust as the Varsity snickered and muttered to themselves when the Dean practically declared that the JV had no chance.

Then, out of the blue, the JV coach said something about “their attorney.” Just at that very moment, the door to the side of and behind me opened, and a man with a briefcase walked in.

I saw a grin spread across Charlie’s face as he turned and said something to his coach. The Dean’s eyes widened significantly, and everyone turned to face the new addition to the meeting.

Within minutes, this man had completely turned the revocation to a reinstatement. The entire JV hockey team had visibly brightened when he walked in, like a light switch had been flipped on. A secret weapon unveiled…and a powerful weapon, he was.

It wasn’t until the meeting was over that I caught up with him. Something about the whole thing and how at ease he had become in a few short minutes gave me all the encouragement I needed to approach him again.

I walked up and touched his arm. “Hey Charlie.”

He turned and grinned a little at me, making my insides flutter. It was the first real smile I had seen in weeks, even if it was only a half one.

He began apologizing for practically blowing me off for a few weeks and acting so weird, but I didn’t think I could’ve stayed mad at him even if he hadn’t apologized. As much as I hated to admit it, I found it more and more difficult by the day to not think about him, and that would not be a healthy way to be mad at someone.

“…And I still owe you that coke,” he finished with a grin.

I felt a big smile tug at my lips, eventually spreading to my face. “I’m just glad you’re back.” And I was. The past day or so had been like day and night in comparison to the past few weeks.

Of course, the Varsity chose that precise moment to ruin my happy feeling. They stepped on my butterflies. They would pay. And they’re little dogs…errr…cheerleaders too. Was there really that much of a difference? Didn’t matter. Granted, I wouldn’t be the one to make them pay. I don’t exactly strike fear in their hearts, but I had faith they would have it coming to them in some way, shape, or form.

When the little tiff between JV and Varsity was over, I watched Charlie and his teammates go to start practicing. After walking a few feet, Charlie turned back around as the rest of his team continued on.

“Hey, Linda?” he said.

I raised my eyebrows a little. “Yeah, Charlie?”

“You wanna catch something for dinner tonight? I’m gonna practice for awhile with the Ducks, but I should be free by six at the latest. What do you say?”

Ducks? I didn’t ask. I’d save it for later.

I smiled and nodded, chewing the inside of my cheek a little. “Yeah, I think I’m free for the night.”

“Awesome,” he said with a grin. “So, six? I can’t drive, so picking you up is probably out of the question unless you want an embarrassing ride with my mom and/or stepdad…”

I laughed, shaking my head slightly. “That won’t be necessary. I tend to try and avoid awkward and embarrassing car rides. I’ve grown to enjoy the bus.”

“If you give me your address, then I can ride the bus over and pretend I have a car and non-public transportation,” he said with a grin, evoking an involuntary giggle from me. I was being such a girl, but I couldn’t help it. I was a girl, after all, so I had an excuse.

“That can work,” I said with a wide grin as I got a piece of Eden Hall stationary sitting out on a table in the hall and scribbled down my address. Why things like Eden Hall stationary and tables with plants on them randomly placed down hallways just sat around, I will never know…comes with going to a school with more money than they know what to do with, I suppose.

“Thank you. See you at six,” he said with a wink before jogging to catch up with his friends.

I tried to bite down a grin, but eventually gave up. I squeaked quietly and rushed home to get ready, all the wondering how slowly or quickly a few hours could possibly go.

---

I chewed nervously on my lip as I heard the doorbell rang. Giving myself one last look in the mirror and headed down the stairs to meet him before my mom-

…Too late.

“Ahh, hello Charlie. What are you doing here?” I heard my mom’s voice coming from the foyer.

“Hey Mrs. Chavez. Is Linda here?”

Before my mom had the chance to answer for me, I cut in. “Yeah, I’m here. Hey Charlie.”

“Aww, I didn’t know you two knew each other,” my mom said, smiling between us in a very embarrassing way.

“We do,” I said, walking over to him. “And we should probably be on our way.” Charlie nodded. My mom was his teacher, after all, so it had to be pretty weird.

“Well, you too have fun. Don’t be out too late,” she said with a smile as I hurried him out.

“Sorry for the parental ambush,” I said with a laugh as we walked from the house.

“No problem. The same would have happened in pretty much any situation. At least it wasn’t a dad with a shotgun,” he said a laugh, and I laughed too. It was contagious.

We soon settled on a small diner, found a booth, and ordered our food.

Small talk was exchanged until our meals arrived.

“Hey, Linda?” he said after awhile.

“Yeah?” I asked, looking up from my fries and half-eaten burger.

“…I just wanted to make sure you knew that these past few weeks…well, I’m sorry if I was ever cold or anything to you. I know I kinda dropped off for awhile, but it wasn’t anything that you did,” he said suddenly.

I nodded and raised my eyebrows a little. “It’s fine.”

“No, I should’ve worked it out sooner. It’s just been a weird year, I guess. Pretty tough.”

“What happened?” I asked, folding my arms on the table.

He shrugged. “New school. New environment. I didn’t get along with my coach, new style of hockey, new rules, was stripped of a position, temporarily lost a friend to the Varsity. The prank war. Bad excuses, but they build up. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”

A small smile formed on my face as I reached across the table, almost without thinking, to take his hand. “It’s no problem. Happens to the best of us.”

I watched as he smiled. “Thanks. I have a slight tendency to do that, so be warned. You know, just for future reference.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said with a light chuckle. “But next time, I’ll be prepared, so I’ll knock some sense into you before you get much of a chance.”

He grinned. “Thank you. I appreciate it.”

“No problem!” I said with a laugh.

The rest of the night flew by, and before I knew it, we were standing back on my porch.

“So…you coming to our game tomorrow?” he asked with a smile.

“I am,” I answered, returning the smile. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

His smiled broadened. “Awesome.” He then leaned down and placed a kiss on my forehead and backed up. “See you then.”

My heart fluttered and I forced myself to respond. “See you then.”

Once he had disappeared down the sidewalk, I leaned against the door, closing my eyes with a goofy smile on my face. Perfect.

---

I watched on the edge of my seat. My mom and I decided to sit together this game…She was getting pretty into it as well.

I chewed on my lip as the Varsity pounded into another Duck. Duck. It was nice to finally know what Charlie had been talking about.

The last few seconds were ticking away on the board. I saw Charlie get the puck again and skate for the Varsity’s goal. A slight shot of déjà vu flashed in my mind, but I pushed it down and watched, wide-eyed. It was like everyone was in a trance.

At the last second though, he turned from the goal, and suddenly it was apparent that he no longer had the puck. He had passed it to a teammate behind him who was standing there, stone stiff, as if he wasn’t used to people passing the puck to him.

After what seemed like a delayed reaction, the player shot the puck into the goal, winning the game for the Ducks at the very last moment.

Everything seemed to burst into waves of excitement…or at least, everyone who was rooting for the JV Ducks, that is. The Varsity and their supporters looked like they were at a funeral.

I saw Charlie skate over and pull his coach into a large hug after several group hugs between teammates. After a few more group hugs, I saw him skate over to the door to the stands to hug a woman that I assumed was his mom. She was a red-haired lady that I recognized from the meeting. Made sense.

My eyes caught a whole bunch of people pointing, and I heard murmurs of “hey, look!” When I followed the crowd’s gaze, I saw a large banner covering the old warrior logo. It was a duck with two hockey sticks, all done basically with our school colors. It was Charlie’s team’s logo, pre-Eden Hall. A grin spread to my face. Had the mascot been changed? Had the mascot really been changed?

As my mom continued to look at the banner and clap, I snuck down by the rink and met up with Charlie at the gate. I grinned and stepped onto the ice, standing on my toes to kiss his cheek and get his attention. “Charlie,” I said through a grin.

He turned and looked down at me with a smile.

“Thank you,” I said, knowing he knew what I meant. He knew how much the mascot change meant to me. I couldn’t help but feel that happy feeling bubble back up to the surface. I couldn’t believe I used to think he would stand in the way of our mascot change.

Standing there, staring up at him, everything around seemed to disappear. As cliché as that sounded, it was sickeningly true.

I reached up and placed my hand on his shoulder, pulling him down into a kiss. My eyes closed, and all the clichés in the world really didn’t seem so cliché. I could have sworn that my heart skipped and a million butterflies on speed were in my stomach.

When he broke the kiss and slowly skated backwards for a moment before heading back to his teammates, I couldn’t help but stare at him with a small smile. I couldn’t believe what an incredible person I had found hiding in the body of what would usually be an enemy of mine. I had fallen for a jock…no, I had fallen for Charlie Conway, who just happened to be an athlete. It was time to start looking past the stereotypes and outer shells.
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