Chapter 37 - Aaron
I don’t even know why I bothered turning up to class today. I don’t know why I decided to torture myself like this. Do I stand to gain anything from sitting around here all day, hour after hour? Of course I don’t. Stares, that’s what I get. Everyone staring me – students, those assholes in front of the building, even the goddamn teachers. I can see what they’re thinking – there goes Aaron Baines Bellamy, the great loser. As though any of these people have room to talk. I didn’t think I could despise this place any more than I already did, but this is nothing short of a waking nightmare.
It’s not like it was my fault. Who the hell would have guessed that he was Jerry Mara’s kid? Everyone knows that the Maras are a pack of mutants. If I’d have known that this was coming, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time on Paul. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence, me squaring off against that hellspawn in the semis. Obviously, the administrators knew who Leon Mara was, they had all his background info. I bet one of them arranged for this – set up the schedule just like this so I’d get blindsided right before my moment of glory. This has all the markings of a conspiracy.
And yet they keep staring, all of them. All those judging eyes on me. Especially in fifth period. Almost no one turned up, so Ms. Gaynor dropped the lesson and let us do whatever. Of course, all those idiots wanted to do was talk about Trivia Master. Just chat away their lives, throwing me little glances every now and then. And I tried to keep my cool, as hard as it was. I poured every ounce of myself into fighting back the urge to tell them all exactly what they could do with those neural spasms they called their opinions.
But then they started talking to me. And asking me things. Very, very stupid things. Just gallons of ignorance and foolishness being poured out for me.
“What was it like being up there with Mara?”
“Is he faster than Paul Liston? It’s hard to tell from that far back.”
“I read somewhere that Jerry Mara had some kind of special buzzer technique. You notice anything weird about the way Leon hit the button?”
“It must be weird being out of it like this. I figured you’d win it all.”
“So the Nerds are getting their asses kicked, right? How many points do you think they’ll even get?”
Finally, I couldn’t take any more. The chair skittered across the floor behind me as I jumped clear of my seat. “All right, you vultures! Listen up and listen good. I’m sure that all of you dipshits are getting a real kick out of this. I’m sure you’ve been waiting for years and years for the chance to watch Aaron Bellamy squirm. Well, you ain’t getting it. I’m not giving you imbeciles the satisfaction of watching me panic, not for one goddamn second! And the next one of you who comes out with a stupid little question or remark will suffer, this much I promise!”
That shut them up, although it didn’t stop the staring. Then I saw that weasel Davis Racossi step towards me. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, you got it all wrong.”
I leaned in close to him. “So it’s blackmail from you now?”
Davis shook his head. “I think what they want to know, the reason for all the questions, is that this an interesting situation. Am I right?” There were heads nodding all around him. “Because all of us, everyone here? We know you have problems with Paul, right?”
“That’s a pretty flippant way of putting it, but all right.”
“Sure. So you don’t like Paul, but it was Leon who beat you, so you have two enemies facing off against each other here.”
How had I overlooked that? I must have been so deep in shock that I actually forgot that Paul was still in the running. No matter what’s going to happen this afternoon, one nemesis succeeds while the other fails dismally. Which means that I stand to both lose and win. No matter what happens, it will end in equal parts shame and glory.
“So with that going on,” continued Davis, “we all want to know who you think is going to win it all. Paul, or Leon.”
“I’ll have to get back to you about that.”
“Cool. And hey, now that you’re out of the running...” Davis leaned in close again. “...maybe you’d like to put a few bucks on it? I can cover your bet.”