The first day of school was not something that Luke Bennet ever anticipated. School was just a distraction from all the things he wished he be doing, so was unimportant in his mind.
But, for the first day back of each year, he tried to keep a straight record. Each year, his parents would lecture him about making a fresh start and trying to do better in school, even though they knew it was unlikely.
So, the first day back was a bit of a tradition for Luke.
As he pushed his way through the front doors into the over-crowded hallway, Luke smiled. The buzz of everyone meeting up after the summer always made him smile; he’d always been the quiet type who sat on the edges of conversations. Watching through the cracks but not getting directly involved.
Then the gasps and stares came. As with most outsiders, Luke did not have a direct friendship group to hang out with, so people had a bit of tendency to make up stories about him. In his all black outfits, they gossiped about him beating people up who looked at him weirdly. Being a drug-dealer. Having had a stint in juvie. He supposed it went with the typical image of a bad-boy.
None of it was true though. Yeah, he skipped school from time to time, but he wasn’t a bad person really. But he let the rumours fly; they didn’t hurt him. Honestly, they just made people leave him alone, which he was grateful for.
The only guy who really knew what Luke was like stood up against the lockers, chatting up a giggly girl with blonde hair. Luke rolled his eyes; if there was one person in school who had a reputation with the ladies, it was Jamie Dawson.
A typical jock in high school, Jamie Dawson was a tall and muscly boy, with immaculately styled honey brown hair, bright blue eyes and a winning smile. It was no wonder that all the ladies swooned over him; everyone saw him as the catch of the school.
Which is why no one understood his friendship with Luke. In all honesty, Luke himself didn’t understand it. Sure, they’d been to pre-school together, but usually a guy like Jamie would have dumped a guy like Luke years ago.
‘Hey.’ Luke called out to him.
Jamie looked up from the girl that he had started to kiss. ‘Hey Luke, didn’t see you there.’
‘Clearly.’ Luke smirked, looking at the girl.
Jamie smiled. ‘Alright honey, I think it’s time you go to class.’ He gently extricated himself from the girl’s grasp, lightly pushing her down the hallway.
‘You don’t waste your time, do you?’ Luke laughed.
Jamie shrugged. ‘It’s easy with her. Give her a few kind words and she’s all mine.’
Luke shook his head. ‘I don’t like your attitude towards women. I mean, they have feelings just like the rest of us. You should have more respect.’
‘Hey Mr High-and-Mighty, when did you get morals?’ Jamie looked at Luke with an arched eyebrow.
‘I’m just saying.’ Luke shrugged.
‘Yeah well, stay out of it.’ Jamie turned to his locker. ‘It’s my business.’
‘No need to get irritated. I’m just trying to be nice.’ Luke opened his own locker. ‘I know you’ve not been the same since you and Ellie broke up…’
‘I’m fine.’ Jamie interjected firmly.
‘You cared about her dude, it’s not a crime. I’m just saying you don’t need to sleep with everyone in a mile radius to make yourself feel better.’
‘Like I said, stay out of it.’ Jamie’s tone was icy.
Luke raised his hands up in defence. ‘Fine, I can take the hint.’
There was a brief pause whilst the tension diffused.
‘How was your summer?’ Jamie asked.
‘Uneventful.’ Luke sighed. ‘It’s so boring around here in this town. I wish there was something to do.’
‘Well, I’m sure you’ll welcome my yearly challenge then.’ Jamie grinned.
The yearly challenge, thought Luke. Great.
Ever since Luke and Jamie had been kids, on the first day of each school year they gave each other a challenge to complete before the end of the year. At first, it had been things like steal the teacher’s pencil and see if they notice. Harmless stuff.
But now, the stakes were higher. Last year, Luke had challenged Jamie to ask out Ellie… and after how well that had went, Luke was dreading this year’s challenge.
‘So, what’s my challenge?’ Jamie asked.
Luke considered; he wanted to do something good for Jamie. ‘I challenge you to… to…’ He stopped, a great idea coming to him. ‘I challenge you to celibacy, for a whole month.’
‘Celibacy?’ Jamie asked. ‘I can’t do that. I mean, why the hell would I want to?’
Luke shrugged with a smile. ‘It’s my challenge. If you don’t take it, you know what the forfeit is.’
Pour a bowl of soup over yourself in the middle of the busy school cafeteria. Dumb, but not something that would be lived down easily. And there would have to be an explanation about the bet. Not good.
Luke could see Jamie’s internal debate. Even though Jamie didn’t know it at that point, Luke knew that if Jamie could do the challenge, it would be good for him. It would get him out of the harmful cycle of sleeping with anything in a dress in order to fill the void in his life.
Jamie rolled his eyes with a sigh. ‘Fine, but my challenge is going to be super hard because you did that.’
‘Alright, what is it then?’
‘I challenge you to get a girl to sleep with you in the space of a month.’
Luke laughed. ‘Easy. I’ll just play on the bad-boy reputation and I’ll have girls swooning.’
‘Ah, it’s not that simple.’ Jamie smiled. ‘I get to pick the girl.’
‘Ok, no big deal. Just no ugly ones, please.’
‘I thought you were the one who was all about respecting women.’ Jamie smirked.
Luke elbowed him in the ribs. ‘You know what I meant.’
Jamie looked up and down the hallway, assessing all the girls who walked by. Then, his eyes locked on one girl, and a satisfied smile came onto his face.
‘Her.’ He pointed.
Luke followed his gaze to the lockers opposite where they were standing.
Beatrice King stood by her open locker, her school bag rested up against the block of lockers as she reached up to transfer her files into her bag. Her light brown hair was firmly secured back in a middle height ponytail, with her no-nonsense round copper glasses pushed up the bridge of her nose, and the spattering of freckles that decorated her cheeks on full display due to the absence of foundation.
Luke assessed her. If he could get her to take her hair down, ditch the specs and wear something slightly more flattering than her blue jeans and polo neck, she had the potential to be quite pretty. Prettier than his last attachment.
Glancing at Jamie, Luke nodded. ‘Yeah, why not. She’s not that bad looking.’
Jamie laughed. ‘I think she’s quite pretty actually. You finding her attractive wasn’t the problem; if you can get her to sleep with you within a month, I’ll be amazed.’
Luke shrugged. ‘Why?’
Jamie gestured over to Beatrice, who was still filling her rucksack full of files. ‘She’s so busy, I doubt she’d be able to fit dating you into her schedule. Plus, as far as I’ve heard, she’s the type of girl who wouldn’t… you know, until she thinks he’s like “the perfect guy”.’
‘Well, I’ll just have to be her perfect guy then, won’t I?’ Luke smiled.
Jamie laughed. ‘Over confident as usual. One day it’ll shoot you in the foot.’
‘How do you know so much about her?’ Luke asked.
Jamie frowned, looking down. ‘She’s Ellie’s best friend.’
Luke looked over to Beatrice as he heard her laugh. On cue, Ellie had appeared at her elbow and was pulling a funny face, clearly relating a story of some sort. Her auburn hair framing her perfectly made up face, Ellie Maxwell was definitely a looker. She always had been.
Luke looked back at Jamie, who had turned back to his locker and appeared to be studying his biology file intently. He always reacted that way when he saw Ellie; he had been heartbroken when they had broken up, and Luke knew that Jamie still wanted her back.
‘Are you sure she’s the right girl then?’ Luke asked Jamie gently.
Jamie coughed. ‘Of course, she’ll be a challenge.’
‘How I feel about it doesn’t matter.’ Jamie looked up to Luke solemnly. ‘Ellie and I can behave like mature adults; there is nothing between us now.’
Diverting Luke’s attention, Bea laughed lightly and smiled a crooked smile that scrunched up her nose adorably. Yes, this would be a fun challenge, Luke thought.
Someway or another, Luke found himself drifting across the hallway until he was stood beside Bea. Both girls turned to face him as he leaned against the lockers.
‘What are you girls laughing about?’