Chapter 1: The Competition
Whoa, fresh meat! Joey called out.
Amarea turned in his direction; sometimes you can be so immature.
Do you see her? Joey said hopefully.
Who? Amarea asked. She had already seen the girl who had caught his attention.
The blond by the door, Joey replied.
The dirty blond by the door? Amarea wrinkled her nose in disgust.
Sandy blond, Joey replied, smiling.
Dyed blond, Amarea shot back, poorly dyed at that, like a dollar store special dye job.
Whatever, do you know who she is? Joey rolled his eyes.
Never seen her before. Why? Amarea feigned disinterest. Who was this girl with the skirt that was way too short and the shirt way too tight? Who did she think she was?
She’s hot. Joey beamed.
She’s alright, nothing special, Amarea shrugged, jealousy burned bright.
Find out who she is, Joey commanded.
What? I’m not your match maker, Amarea laughed, as if.
Please? Just find out who she is, Joey begged.
Fine. Amarea turned and walked away. She could see Joey staring at the new girl. She wondered, what did she have that I don’t? She knew Joey wasn’t listening.
Did you find out yet? Joey called out. The abruptness made Amarea jump in her chair.
It’s only been three minutes from the last time you butted in. I’ll find out after homeroom, Amarea replied.
Well? Joey called out 20 seconds later.
Her name is Maddie Glethsom. She’s a freshman; moved here from Alabama; just her and her mom, Amarea replied blandly.
Thanks, Mar! You’re the best! Joey replied. Amarea could hear the excitement in his tone.
Amarea wasn’t happy when she walked into math class and saw Maddie sitting in the seat next to hers. They were definitely NOT going to be friends.
“Hi,” Maddie said, as Amarea sat down.
“Hi,” Amarea replied blandly, turning to face the front. She watched as the rest of the class filed in giving Maddie a warm welcome. Where was that welcome when she started school? All she had gotten was weird looks and whispered comments. Her favorite was from some stupid kid who whispered to a friend, “Think she’s contagious?” Maybe if she had long blondish hair and a winning personality she would have friends too.
She’s sitting beside me, Amarea said, hoping Joey wouldn’t be listening.
Who? Joey replied a nanosecond later.
Your dream girl, Amarea swooned.
Really? What’s she like? Joey replied.
She smells like oranges, Amarea smiled to herself.
Really? Joey questioned.
No, more like bananas, Amarea stifled a laugh.
Really? Joey was getting confused.
Joey what does a banana smell like? Amarea asked.
Bread, Joey replied.
Bread? Amarea questioned.
Yah, banana bread, Joey confirmed.
Well, she doesn’t smell like banana bread, Amarea shot back.
What does she smell like? Joey asked.
I don’t know, wait, I’ll ask her, Amarea said.
No! Don’t do that! Joey cried out.
If you really want I can lean over and take a sniff, Amarea laughed. Maddie turned and looked at her and smiled. As she turned her head, Amarea thought she caught the smell of strawberries. Amarea frowned. Her hair didn’t smell. She didn’t have hair. She didn’t even have shampoo.
I thought you said she smelled like oranges. Joey was really getting confused.
Who smelled like oranges? Is it smelled or smelt? And what is a smelt? Is it the fire they use when they melt iron? Amarea giggled. Maddie shot her another look, this time more annoyed.
Who melts iron? The look on Joey’s face was one of deep confusion. His teacher actually stopped talking and stared at him.
You know the melty iron guys. Amarea said seriously.
You are so confusing. Joey shook his head. His teacher re-explained how to do a problem Joey could have done in his sleep.
I try. Amarea smiled politely at Maddie.
Amarea met Joey for lunch. They sat in their usual place. No one ventured to sit with them.
You have got to be joking, Amarea rolled her eyes in disgust.
What? Joey asked innocently.
Are you serious? Amarea turned to face him.
Yes. Joey shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
There is no way I am going to do that for you! Amarea laughed and shook her head.
Why not? Joey said, flashing his puppy dog face.
Are you serious? Amarea rolled her eyes again.
You asked me that already, yes, his smile widened.
Joseph, you are such a loser, Amarea spat.
That wasn’t nice, his smile vanished.
It’s true, Amarea stated.
How so? Joey asked, pouting slightly.
You can’t even deliver a note to a girl you like, Amarea said.
So? Joey said.
You want me to do it; another girl. Don’t you find that a little loserish? Amarea frowned.
I don’t think that’s a word, Joey retorted.
No, it isn’t, and no I won’t do your dirty work. Amarea turned her back on him.
Come on Mar, I’d do it for you, Joey begged.
Really? Amarea turned to face him.
Definitely, he nodded enthusiastically.
So, if I wrote a love note to say, Dexter Rowland, you would have no trouble delivering it to him? Amarea looked into Joey’s eyes.
The senior? Joey was surprised.
Yes, Amarea replied.
The football quarterback? Joey asked.
Yes, Amarea nodded.
You like him? Joey said it slowly.
Who doesn’t? Amarea laughed.
Sure, I guess, Joey replied.
So if I had a pink note decorated with red hearts and scented perfume, you would have no trouble delivering it? Amarea smiled.
Joey gulped. I guess not.
Ok then, you deliver my note first, and then I’ll deliver yours, Amarea grinned.
Forget it; I’ll do it myself, Joey huffed. He turned away from her.
I thought so, Amarea replied.
What? Joey turned towards her.
Never mind, Amarea said.
Joey stood up, walked toward his backpack, and disappeared from view. Amarea watched Joey reappear around the corner. He had a note in hand, ready to give it to Maddie. He offered a pleading look to Amarea, but she just shook her head and looked longingly at Dexter. Joey stopped mid-step to stare at her. He shook his head and continued towards Maddie. She was sitting at a table with a couple of other freshmen girls. They were laughing about something. Joey approached the table, pretended to drop something, stooped to pick it up, threw the note in Maddie’s lap, and hurried away.
Loserish, Amarea laughed out loud.
Shut up, Joey said.
Joey went around the corner and waited for Maddie to find the letter. Unfortunately, when she stood up, the letter fell to the floor. She walked right over it, not even noticing it. Jimmy, however, had watched the entire exchange. He quickly strode over and picked up the letter.
Oh crap, Joey called out.
What? Amarea asked.
Jimmy Cho’s got the note. Joey turned pale and headed out of the cafeteria. Jimmy Cho was the school bully. He’d made more than one demeaning, stupid remark to Amarea.
What did it say? Amarea asked.
Nothing, Joey replied.
Amarea heard Jimmy laugh as he carefully folded up the note and put it in his back pocket. When he left the cafeteria, Jimmy sprinted towards the office.
What’d it say? Amarea probed.
Nothing, Joey replied.
“Attention students, the following message has been brought to you by our very own Joey Moore,” the loud speaker bellowed out.
Oh crap. Joey ran to the office.
“Dear Maddie, Roses are red, violets are blue, I’d sure like to get to know you,” Jimmy read, barely holding in his laughter.
“Turn off that microphone, Mr. Cho,” Mrs. Dane commanded, and the loud speaker went dead. Amarea heard laughter throughout the school.
“Poor Joseph,” Amarea laughed, silently happy it was over before it ever began.
“I’m going to kill him,” Joey said. Mrs. Dane stood between the two boys.
“It wouldn’t be worth it,” Mrs. Dane said, “And besides, it was a lovely poem.”
Joey tried to reach around Mrs. Dane, “That’s not what I wrote,” Joey growled, “I’m going to kill you.” Jimmy laughed.
“Not today, son,” she said. Mr. Crocket appeared around the corner, grabbed Jimmy by the elbow to escort him to the discipline office.
“Let it go, son,” Mr. Crocket said as he passed Joey.
“You have a visitor,” Mrs. Dane said, pointing to the front office chair. Maddie was sitting nervously biting her fingernail. Mrs. Dane opened the door and pushed Joey out. He was several shades of red.
“Um,” he began, “I’m sorry.”
“Hi,” Maddie said, holding out her hand for him to shake. “I’m Maddie. I heard you wanted to meet me.”
Joey reached out and shook her hand. “I’m Joey,”
“Nice to meet you, Joey,” she replied. She turned to walk away, “Next time, just write me a note or something.” She laughed. Joey couldn’t help it; he laughed too.
What a woman! Joey exclaimed.
Oh crap, Amarea replied.
What? Joey asked.
Nothing, Amarea replied quietly.
That turned out well! Amarea could hear the excitement in his thought.
So it did. Amarea knew she would have to do something to keep those two apart.
Amarea met Joey at the front of the school. You have to go; it’s the first game of the year, Amarea begged. She was practically jumping up and down.
We’re just going to lose, Joey was clearly not interested in football.
You don’t know that. I’ve been watching the practices and they seem to be doing really good! Amarea pleaded.
It’s just not something I want to do. Sorry Mar, Joey shrugged his shoulders.
Well, if you change your mind, let me know! I heard Maddie was going. Amarea didn’t really know if Maddie was going. She actually doubted Maddie would go; she didn’t seem like the school spirit kind of person.
Really? Maybe I will go. Joey’s head shot up, a smile spread across his face.
Awesome! Pick you up at seven, Amarea beamed.
Joey wasn’t into football, but he was into Maddie. Mrs. Dustin drove up right at seven. Amarea was decked out in blue and gold from head to toe. She had on a half blue and half gold jester’s hat. Her shirt screamed “Go War Eagles!” Her face had blue and gold stripes, glitter, and stars. Little eagles earrings with blue sky behind them dangled from her ears. Blue and gold beads dangled from every fray of her jeans. On her left foot was a blue sneaker and on her right was a gold sneaker. Her shoestrings had little eagles on them. She frowned when she saw Joey wearing an old t-shirt and blue jeans.
“Don’t you have any school spirit?” she asked.
“Tons,” Joey spat.
You don’t have to be rude, Amarea frowned.
I wasn’t being rude; I was being sarcastic. There’s a difference, Joey retorted.
“Joey, so nice to see you again,” Mrs. Dustin said, “Amarea talks about you all the time.” Amarea blushed. “I made you some cookies.”
“Wow,” Joey gushed, “thanks so much Mrs. D.”
Batch 488, Amarea groaned.
Joey took the cookies from Mrs. Dustin and slid into the front seat beside her. Amarea made a little noise. Joey looked back at her.
What? Joey asked, clueless. He opened the bag and began to eat the cookies.
Nothing, fasten your seat belt, Amarea said as she rolled her eyes. She flopped back onto the backseat.
We should have a party when you get to 500, Joey said cheerfully.
Sure, Amarea huffed.
“Well,” Mrs. Dustin asked, “are we ready?” She didn’t wait for an answer. She put the car in reverse, backed out of the driveway, and drove to the football stadium. “Amarea, did you bring your jacket?”
“I forgot it,” she admitted.
“Do you want me to go home and get it?” she asked.
“No, I’ll be alright. It’s not that cold,” she answered.
“I know it’s not that cold now, but it will be later. You know how you get,” she said.
“Yes, mom,” Amarea said, “I know how I get. I’ll be fine.”
“Did you bring your phone?” She asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Call if you need anything,” she said, “I’ll be around the corner shopping at Trader Joe’s.”
The whole game? Joey asked.
She loves Trader Joe’s, Amarea replied.
When they pulled up to the school, Joey hopped out, thanked Mrs. Dustin for the ride, and started walking towards the stadium. Amarea got out, told her mom not to worry and followed Joey. Amarea found a seat in the 9th grade section closest to the band. She fit right in with all the other decked out 9th graders. Joey stood out like a sore thumb as he wandered back and forth along the bleachers scanning for Maddie. During half-time, Joey had had enough of school spirit for one day.
Let’s go, Joey demanded.
What? We’re winning! We can’t leave now, Amarea replied.
This is so boring. Let’s go, Joey shot back.
I’m not going anywhere. Just sit down and enjoy the game, Amarea said.
I’m not enjoying anything; I want to go. Joey leaned back against the bleachers and stared at the stadium lights.
You big baby! Just because she isn’t here doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the game. Is she the ONLY reason you came with me to the game? Amarea spat.
Yes, what’s the point of being here if she isn’t here? Joey retorted.
You are such a jerk, Amarea replied.
Amarea stood and walked out of the stands. Joey watched her stomp out of the bleachers and across the parking lot. He followed behind until he heard someone call his name. He turned, hoping. He smiled broadly at Maddie. She smiled back. She reached out, took his hand, and led him back to the stands. Joey didn’t notice Amarea yelling for him. He didn’t see Amarea angrily looking for him, either. He was too engrossed in Maddie.
What exactly are you doing? I thought we were leaving, Amarea said.
I changed my mind. Go back to the game, Joey was smiling sweetly.
You are such a JERK! Amarea yelled.
That seems to be your opinion tonight, Joey continued to smile.
“Argh,” Amarea huffed and knocked into Joey’s shoulder as she walked past him.
“What’s her problem?” Maddie asked.
“She’s just jealous,” Joey said.
ARGH! Amarea screamed.
Amarea didn’t enjoy the rest of the game. She spent most of the time watching Joey and Maddie walk the bleachers. Every now and again, Joey would glance up at her and nod, smiling broadly. Amarea was so miserable. Even when the Eagles scored the winning touchdown, she couldn’t cheer. She waited for the stands to clear before she decided to leave. She kicked the trash along the path, not bothering to look for Joey.
“Let’s go,” Joey said as he bound up behind her. He was grinning from ear to ear. “I got her phone number!”
“Wonderful,” Amarea said half-heartedly. “I’m glad you had a good night.”
Joey put his arm around Amarea’s shoulder, “I had the best night! Thanks so much for making me come along!”
Amarea wanted to cry. She wanted to hit Joey. She wanted to scream. She wanted to do so many things, but she liked having his arm around her. They walked to the car, this time Amarea sat in the front, and Joey sat in the back. He didn’t seem to notice or care.
Saturday around noon, Joey showed up at her door; excited to talk over all the details of last night’s game.
“She’s an only child,” he began.
“Oh,” Amarea replied.
“She loves to watch CSI, though she thinks New York is better than Las Vegas,” he said.
“Trouble in paradise,” she replied.
“She’s lived in like 14 different places,” he said.
“Is she planning on moving again?” Amarea hoped.
“She seems to like it here,” he replied, oblivious to the obvious. “I think she’ll be staying here for a while.”
“Great,” she said.
“I know,” he replied, “isn’t it?”
“What’s so funny?” Joey asked.
“Just something I thought of,” Amarea replied.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Joey said.
“Were you even listening?” Amarea asked.
Joey just shrugged. He paused for a second. “It’s like your mind is blocked. Why don’t you let me in?” he said.
“It was nothing,” she frowned. “I didn’t even know I could block you out.”
Joey changed the subject, “Anyway, next week is another home game. Do you want to go?”
“I’d rather not,” Amarea said.
“Why?” he asked.
“We’re just going to lose anyway,” she replied.
“Well, think about it,” Joey said, “I’ve got to get home and call Maddie.
On Monday, Joey asked Amarea if she was going to go to the game again. She told him no. He asked every time he saw her for an entire week. Finally, on Friday she gave in.
“I’ll pick you up at seven,” she said, not at all excited to go to the game.
At 7:30, Mrs. Dustin pulled into the driveway. Joey was all decked out in school spirit. He had on an Eagle’s t-shirt and blue and gold war face paint.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” Joey asked when he saw Amarea’s white t-shirt and blue jeans.
“Yeah. So?” she snapped.
Joey ignored her remark as he climbed into the back seat with her. Amarea sat rigid; her hands folded tightly in her lap. “Tonight should be a great game,” he said. “Thanks for the ride, Mrs. D.”
Joey held the door open for Amarea; he tried to put his arm around her as they walked into the stadium, but she pulled away. “Have fun,” he said, putting his hands in his pockets as he headed to where Maddie was standing. Amarea glared at him as he walked away. She decided to sit as far away from the spirit crowd as possible. At first, she headed toward the opponents side, but decided it was too far away to keep an eye on Joey. Not that it mattered; she didn’t see Joey once during the first half.
At half time, Amarea couldn’t help it anymore. She had to leave.
Joey, I want to go home, Amarea called out.
Why? Aren’t you having fun? Joey replied.
No, not really, Amarea said.
Why not? It’s a great game, Joey tossed out.
Do you even know what the score is, or who we are playing, for that matter? Amarea said bitterly.
No, but I’m here aren’t I? Joey replied. She could tell he was grinning.
Where exactly is here? Under the bleachers making out with Maddie? Amarea asked.
Joey, I really want to go home, Amarea finally said.
Are you cold? You can have my jacket, Joey replied.
No, Joseph, I’m tired, and I really want to go home. I’ve called my mom, and she’s on her way now, so you can stay and get another ride home, or you can come with me, Amarea said.
Ok, I’ll be right there, Joey replied.
The ride home was a long, silent one. The only sounds on the ride home were the tires on the pavement and Mrs. D’s occasional comments on how cool the weather was getting. Joey sat on the far side of the back seat. He sat rigid with his hands folded in his lap. Amarea never wanted to go to another football game, ever.