alternate stan: *He's sitting at a table near a window, glasses resting on his nose. He has a coke can and a bag of chips next to him. He's buried in the book, elbows on the table. He's completely oblivious to the rest of the library, not to mention the library.*
fshionableNblack: *I'm in the stacks, which isn't unusual. I go in every week, looking around for something to flip through during lunch or study hall, but usually always end up in the same section. My fingers trace the worn, familiar bindings. Someone walks past me, their bookbag slugging me in the shoulder, and I scowl at the back of their head (football jersey wearing mother fucker) as they walk away.
fshionableNblack: *I'm in the stacks, which isn't unusual. I go in every week, looking around for something to flip through during lunch or study hall, but usually always end up in the same section. My fingers trace the worn, familiar bindings. Someone walks past me, their bookbag slugging me in the shoulder. I fall back a step, knocking into a bookcase behind me, and books go crash bang boom to the ground. I scowl at the back of their head (football jersey wearing mother fucker) as they walk away. Sighing, I turn to look at the damage done, when I see that you're sitting almost directly in front of me. I fall to my knees, picking up books, hoping you hadn't caught sight of me.*
alternate stan: *The noise startles me and I almost lose my place in the book. I close the book, my thumb holding my place and look up. I notice you kneeling over a pile of books. I pull a scrap of paper out from under my bag of chips and stick in the book. I slide my chair back and turn around so I'm facing you.* Want help? *I ask quietly.*
fshionableNblack: *I duck my head, hair falling into my face as I bite my lip and mumble,* Yeah. Okay. *I absently run my hand over the cover of the book I'm holding, not meeting your eyes. Of all the times...*
alternate stan: *I slip off my chair and squat down, facing you. I resist the urge to brush your hair out of your eyes. I pick up some of the books and hold them out for you to take.* Uh. Here. *I say, biting my lip. I find it hard not to stare.*
fshionableNblack: Thanks. *My voice is a little gruff, and I think, I know, under any other circumstance I would clear my throat (woke up with a tickle, isn't that fucking great?), but I can't, won't, fathom the idea doing it right now. Here. Instead I just lean up, placing the books to where they're standing up on top of the bookcase, proudly showing the cheesy titles and even cheesier pictures on front. My fingers brush yours briefly, and I cough softly, risking a glance at your hand, your arm, your neck*
alternate stan: *I watch her fingers brush my hand and notice, for the first time, that she's wearing black nail polish. I think about Delilah and I'm certain she wore nail polish, but I couldn't even begin to remember what color. I look up, wondering what else I've missed, and notice that she's wearing make up. It's black, and if she was anyone else, it wouldn't look so ... Sexy. But it does and I find myself flushing. I look away and hurriedly gather the rest of the books into a pile in front of me.* No problem. I was here and. Uh. *I'm mumbling.*
fshionableNblack: Yeah... yeahit'scool. *I bite back a sigh, and think that I should say something about the weather. Or the team. Or maybe the fact that I've been dreaming about football helmets and underground cities recently, but no. I reach for the last of the books, eyes meeting yours, and smile with the barest twitch of my lips* Just. Been one of those days. Y'know?
alternate stan: I do. I mean. I know. *It has. Long and tiresome. And not nearly over. I look at you, meeting your gaze, trying not to stare and the black lines around your eyes. The lines that make your eyes stand out, than make my stomach do flip flops I'd forgotten it could do.* I haven't quit yet. *I say, suddenly, not sure why.*
fshionableNblack: *My brow furrows, and I chuckle softly at you, knots untying themselves in my gut. So trusting. You're so trusting.* Well. Thanks for the update. *I steady my bookbag over my shoulder, and stand up, straightening from the waist up. I offer you my hand before I have enough time to second guess it.*
alternate stan: *I look at you for a moment, then reach out and let you pull me up. I look from you to my table, and back at you again.* I'm just. I mean. You could join me. *I say, feeling stupid. I always knew what to say to make Delilah smile, until we stopped caring -- well, whatever it was -- for each other.*
fshionableNblack: I. *I look around, and it isn't as if the library is crowded, but there is a fair number of people around. People will be people, and I'm sure they know you, and they know about me, and isn't that all that matters?* Don't know if that'll be. I mean. *I shrug my shoulders slightly at you, and then remember (shoulders attached to arms attached to...) that you're still holding my hand in yours. Warm. I look down helplessly at them connected.*
alternate stan: *Without thinking -- or maybe without caring what people think -- I squeeze you hand before dropping it.* You said. I mean. *I shrug.* I'm reading. And. Who cares? *I hope I sound confident. Not nervous, like I feel inside.*
fshionableNblack: *I speak softly, and it's not that I don't want other people to hear, it's that I want you to know that I mean it, because fuck knows what you could be thinking, or what I'm thinking, or what anyone else is thinking at any given time?* Don't you care?
alternate stan: *I look at you, surprised, glasses sliding down.* I've decided to. Uh. Try something different. *I say, pushing my glasses up on nose.*
fshionableNblack: Funny, *I smile, teeth showing for the briefest of moments.* That's probably the most perfect thing you could've said.
alternate stan: *I blink. I don't know what to say, I duck my head down, almost shyly. My glasses slide down my nose, I really should get them adjusted.* I wasn't. I mean. I didn't just say it. *I don't know why I'm defending myself. I just ... I don't want you to think that I'm trying to take advantage of. Of you.*
fshionableNblack: I didn't know you wore glasses. *I smile again, wanting to take the attention away from your flushed cheeks, your shuffling feet, your gaze that has switched away from mine.* Not too shabby.
alternate stan: *I blush more, but look at her.* They're just for reading. *I sigh.* For now, anyway. I watch you and with my index finger, push my glasses back up. I wonder, for a moment, if you look different through these lens.*
fshionableNblack: It's... different. Makes you look less the pigskin-type. More the college-kind. *I hesitate for a split second before I even know before I plan to say it, and add on,* I like it.
alternate stan: *I try not to stare and then try to ignore the warmth in the pit of my stomach. The way your words made me feel.* I. Thank you. They're new.
fshionableNblack: You. *Someone laughs shrilly from the other side of the library, and I recoil unconsciously, shoulders hunching, head ducking. The sound dies away slowly, and I straighten up bit by bit, waiting a few seconds before I look up at you again, your eyes magnified slightly behind the glasses, and what color are your eyes, exactly, anyway?* You, ah. Wanna get out of here?
alternate stan: *I look around for a split second, then back at you.* Yes. *I say, more forcefully than I intended. I turn and dump my unopened coke and chips into my bag. I slip my backpack on and clutch my book to my chest.* Where to?
fshionableNblack: Bleachers? No gym this period. Security guard might be patrolling the parking lot... *I eye your book for moment, but can't make anything out about it. I cock my head toward the door of the room, and take a step back*
alternate stan: Okay. *I say, for lack of anything else. I found that I liked the library, mostly because people didn't look up from their reading. I was getting used to not being Delilah's boyfriend. And the lack of attention being paid to me was something I found I liked. The fact that people were staring at us was starting to annoy me.* Let's go. *I said, and took at step toward you.*
fshionableNblack: *I walk past people with my shoulders hunched slightly, not meeting anyone's eyes, and it's the fact that you're behind me, right behind me, that doesn't make me break into a run. I open the door and hold it open for you, and we're in the hallway, our shoes slapping and smacking against the floor. I fall back a little, falling into step with you, and push the hair away from my face so that I can see you from the corner of my eye. I smile.*
alternate stan: *I still have my glasses on, I know I should take them off, but I don't. I walk next to you and try to not to think about walking down the hall with Delilah, because you're not her. And you're better than her. But I compare you to her because a year and a half is a long time. I look at you, catch your gaze, and smile. There's something about you, I don't know what it is, that makes me like you more than I've ever liked Delilah -- as girlfriend or just a friend.*
fshionableNblack : *I smile back, readjusting my pack on my shoulder, and even give a short, soft little laugh as we reach the door. The sunlight is going in and out, dodging behind the clouds, and for a moment a bright, spotlight-like shaft falls on the both of us, washing out your face, and making your glasses look almost metallic. Like something out of a movie. I squint my eyes and duck my head, reaching for the door at the same time as you.*
alternate stan: *My hand lands on yours, instead of on the handle. For a moment I like the way my hand fits over yours and I run my finger over your knuckles before dropping my hand with an odd and strangled laugh. I look at you, your hair falling in your eyes again and I want to brush it away, but I don't.*
fshionableNblack: *Strange. Strange, because I think that under any other circumstance I would have jumped back, shoved my hand in my pocket, grumbled a 'sorry, er, yeah', or maybe just... walked away. But I don't. I look back at you, smile at your uneasy laugh, and push my hair behind my ear. I push open the door, and the sun dips behind the clouds again. I hold the door open for you as I step out, and revel in the thought that I could touch any part of you from where we stand right now. I don't, but rather, I wait for you to join me, and begin to walk toward the bleachers, covered in shadow.*
alternate stan: *I stand in the doorway, the door gently hitting my back. I take a step toward you and wonder what would happen if I took your hand. But I don't, instead I just look at you. The way your hair is tucked behind your ear now. I walk slowly after you. Not next to you, but it's easy enough for people to tell that we're together. Walking together. Not that they would.*
fshionableNblack: *I like the silence. I like the fact that we can walk as we are now, together, but not really together, and not have to fill the void with any sort of nonsense chatter. Maybe I should be saying something clever, witty. Something about the way your glasses keep sliding ever so slightly down the bridge of your nose, and how kind of sort of endearing it is. Or maybe about the book you're still holding. What is it? It's dog-eared, have you read it before? Is it one of your favorites? Tell me about it. Sometimes silence is better, and so I just walk comfortably, thinking that I don't exactly need to go to fifth period, anyway...*
alternate stan: *I pushes my glasses up and take a few steps to catch up with you, clutching my book to my chest. I look at you as we walk, trying to think of something to say, something that doesn't sound stupid. But I can't think of anything, so I don't talk. I just watch you and try not to trip. Finally we reach the bleachers. I look at the slowly rusting metal seats.* We really sit on these? *I ask, and wonder when my brain decided to take a vacation.*
fshionableNblack: Hope you have your tetanus shot up to date. *I heft myself up the first big step, and then a couple more. I turn around, raising an eyebrow up at you.* Coming?
alternate stan: *I stand there for a moment, looking at the bleachers, and then at you.* Yes. *I say, to both really. And I take a step.* I remember when these were new. I mean. I -- we were little. My dad took me to football games here. I thought it was stupid. *I take a few more steps until I'm even with you.*
fshionableNblack: You were right. *I mentally kick myself in the forehead, sighing, remembering that thinking and saying are two completely different things. I touch your arm gently, and my bookbag slips off of my shoulder.* Sorry. I didn't mean... you know.
alternate stan: *I grin at you.* No, it's okay. No offense. It is stupid. I liked playing. I mean. Until ... Watching the Bucks is better than playing anyway. You don't get hurt. *I cover your hand with mine and I'm not sure why, but I do it.* Plus, *I shrug* if I want to stay in shape, I can always start running again.
fshionableNblack: Not as much of a risk of getting your head smashed in while running. *I nod solemnly, hand slipping from underneath yours, slower than what is probably acceptable. I like the feeling of the rough pads of your fingers against the back of my hand. I let my hand fall to my side.*
alternate stan: *I cross my arms over my chest, the book between my wrist and my shirt.* No more trips to the hospital. *I almost shudder.* Last year ... *I shake my head.* Never again. *I take a few steps up and pick a seat in the middle. I sit, still hugging my arms close to my chest.*
fshionableNblack: Fuck. I heard about that. *I sling my backpack off of my shoulder, sitting down beside you, a couple inches of buffer space between us. I rest my elbows on my knees, chin in my hands, turned towards you* What, um. Happened? Any gory details?
alternate stan: *I tilt my head and look at you. I shrug slightly.* I got knocked on. And broke my wrist in three places when I fell. At least, that's what they told me. Can't remember. *I give a little laugh. I remember waking up sacred shitless. I remember crying and asking for my mom. I remember I didn't want to see anyone, not even Delilah, except my mom.* Nothing serious, really. *I say, but I know my voice gives me away.*
fshionableNblack: Shit. *I blink, think that any other girl would have went 'awww!' and maybe opened their arms open to you. I could do that. I could coo and stroke your hair (kind of weird, now that I think about it...) and maybe, like. Whatever. But I'm not like that, and part of me wants to say that. Just square my shoulders and say, I'm not that kind of person.* But you kept going. Broken bones... weren't you. Well. Angry?
alternate stan: Later. *I say, trying to play it off. But I can't. Because thinking about it kind of freaks me out still. I turn my head, I don't want to look at you when I tell you this. Mostly because only the doctor and my mom know.* I was angry later. At Coach for making me playing when I was sick. For Gabe for not playing the right play. But mostly at myself for getting hurt. But. Really. I was scared. Everything just went black. And then I was in the hospital. *I grip the book, my hand is shaking. I don't talk about this. Ever.*
fshionableNblack: Shit. *I'm at a loss for words. Now I think I can touch you. Now I think I can smooth a palm over your brow, worry lines showing, and maybe say 'shh, that's in the past.' But I can't move from my spot. I reach forward, and gently rest a couple fingers on the hand over your book. I murmur softly,* What's this?
alternate stan: *I look at the book in my hand and then shake my head, clearing it.* Book my dad gave me a few years ago. Neuromancer. *I say, quietly. I look at her hand on mine and feel myself relax.* I really don't need to read it anymore. I mean. I know it. By heart. *I look at her and try for a smile.*
fshionableNblack: *My eyes widen and I'm quite aware that I'm staring at you. I think I can hear the bell sounding inside the school, but fuck it, I can't believe it...* I. I love... that book.
alternate stan: *I want to laugh, maybe throw my arms around you. But I don't. Instead I try to smile again and this time I know it works.* You. You do, huh? I mean. No one else here ... Most people wouldn't know William Gibson if he walked over to him and told him he was responsible for a whole movement in science fiction. *I know I'm rambling on, but I don't care. Because you know who Gibson is. You've read the book. And I can't stop smiling about it.*
fshionableNblack: People are fucking dense. Gibson is a god of sci-fi. Without him there would be no cyberspace. *I lean forward, touching your hand touching the book, my own fingers touching the book, all like it's some sort of sacred relic. I think I'm starry-eyed, now.* Fuck... I can't believe you... fuck, Stan. Wow.
alternate stan: *I blink, not sure what to say, at first. Before I can stop myself ...* What? Surprised I can read? *I bite my lip.* No. I mean. Sorry. That's not what I mean. *I say immediately after.* I'm just. People usually scoff at me.
fshionableNblack: No! No, it's not like that. It's just... well. Football and sci-fi doesn't exactly mesh. Wouldn't have... pegged you for the type. *I shake my head, smiling assuredly* Which is a good thing. Just in case you were wondering. I like surprises.
alternate stan: *I half smile again.* Why do you think I never told anyone? *I ask, then go on.* But. It doesn't matter now. *I bite my lip, still looking at you.* I'm ... Glad. That it was a good thing. *I finally say, softly.*
fshionableNblack: A very good thing, *I reply just as softly, meeting your steady gaze. I slowly break out into a grin, losing my nerve, falling back on what I know I can count on; wit.* Next you'll be telling me you read Plath... and then I'll just have to roll over and die right here.
alternate stan: *I laugh.* No. Mom wanted me to but. I just never did. One of those things, I suppose. *I glance down and my hand, the book, and your hand on top of both. I was to hold your hand, but I don't. I don't even move it.*
fshionableNblack: Pity. *I chuckle, eyes following yours down to the hand on hand on book. My face flushes slightly; I'd forgotten all about... er, yeah. I slowly move my hand away, turning away to glance back at the school, knowing that instead of just wasting lunch, we're wasting class. It's comforting.*
alternate stan: *I watch you, then look at my watch, and finally back at you again.* You didn't. Have a test or anything. Did you? *I ask and wonder if anyone would miss me if I just left now.*
fshionableNblack: Hell no. English. I think we were going to discuss Byron today or some useless, romantic shit like that. *I roll my eyes and sit back against the row behind us, elbows supporting my weight.* Did you?
alternate stan: No. Calculus test yesterday. Free day today. *I shrug.* That class is surprisingly easy sometimes. *I set my book on the bench between us and lean back, elbows resting on the seat behind me. I look at you.* You don't like romantic shit? *I grin at her.*
fshionableNblack: I'd rather suck waxed fruit that read that 'she walks in beauty like the night'... my ass. *I scoff, grinning back despite myself.* Romance is dead. That's why they only teach it in school.
alternate stan: *I arch an eyebrow, still smiling at her.* So you say, but there still are a few people who go for that kind of stuff. Shakespeare, tragic love stories and all that. *I tilt my head, thinking for a moment.* But then again, those romantic comedies don't do anything for me.
fshionableNblack: *I hold my nose pointedly* Hurl. Give me Terry Gilliam any day... now there's a man who knows how to write romantic comedies. Dark, sure. But still romantic comedies.
alternate stan: *I look at her blankly.* You'll have to .. Educate me. *I feel myself blush slightly, not used to asking for ... Well, anything.*
fshionableNblack: *I'm not surprised, because, hey.* I think I can handle that. *I laugh, but it's nowhere near mocking, just. Pleased* I'm used to being misunderstood, remember?
alternate stan: *I almost laugh, but I don't. Because that's the person I don't want to be anymore.* I remember. *And I want to say that I'm sorry for treating you like shit all these years. But I think that maybe it's too early for that, or at least it's a discussion I want to have somewhere other than on the bleachers of a school neither of us really care about. So I don't. Instead, I try for something I can talking about.* Contrary to what most people think, I do like learning.
fshionableNblack: Well, good. *I shrug, head tipping back so that I'm semi-studying the sky.* Sometimes I happen to like teaching. When it doesn't induce migraine-headaches, that is.
alternate stan: *I don't know what to say. I want to tell you that you'd be great, but I can't. Because even though I think -- maybe even know -- you would, I can't explain why. So I just nod.* I have to re-evaluate everything now. Sometimes I want to teach, maybe history. Sometimes I curse my poor football skill. But usually ... *I shrug.* I suppose it will all work out.
fshionableNblack: You have your whole life ahead of you. *I catch a yawn behind my hand, eyes watering a little, shaking my head slightly to clear it. I look up at you sheepishly, tucking hair behind my ear.* You're, um. Not boring me. I swear.
alternate stan: I bet you say that to all the boys. *I say, teasing you.* As for my life? Not everyone will see it that way.
fshionableNblack: *Rolling my eyes, I make as if to swat you on the shoulder.* Boys... *I chuckle softly.*
fshionableNblack: What do you mean? ...not everyone will see it what way?
alternate stan: *I laugh, almost uneasily. But I find that you're so easy to be around.* I don't think ... I don't think people will understand why I'm quitting.
fshionableNblack: Isn't it obvious? It's not right for you. *I shake my head, brow furrowing slightly.* Be glad that this is happening to you now and not five years down the line. Why should they "understand," *Quote, unquote...* It's your fucking life.
alternate stan: It's not my life! *I frown at you.* Ever since I became captain, ever since I started dating Delilah, it ceased to be my life. I've been living a lie. Well, maybe not so much a lie as a pretend life. Sometimes I get so caught up in things. I end up feeling like I've forgotten that I actually know how to study for tests and do homework. *I hold the book up, almost waving it around.* Sometimes I forget this. That there's more to life than just this sorry excuse for a town.
fshionableNblack: Whoa. Oh, whoa. *I shift so that I'm facing you, steadying your shoulders with my hands.* People hold you back, sure. But they don't own you. You... WE'LL be out of here soon, as far away as money can buy, and these assholes are still going to be rotting away in this sorry ass place. *I crane my neck until I'm directly in your field of vision.* You don't owe them a damned thing. Especially not your life.
alternate stan: *I don't look at you right away. I look past you, at something that isn't there. I swallow.* I never really wanted to be that kind of person. I never wanted to date the head of the cheerleading team, or even be captain of the football team. *I swallow and finally meet your gaze.* I know I don't owe them anything. But when I tell Gabe, when I tell Coach ... The guilt will be strong. I know what they'll say, what they'll think. And I'll try explain that it's not about football and that it's about me. But it won't matter. That part of my life is ending. And I don't know what to expect. *My hands are curled in fists on my knees. knuckles white.*
fshionableNblack: *It's strange, because I can feel my face reddening. And it's not because I'm sitting close to you. It's not because my hands are on your shoulders, and I'm looking directly into your eyes. It's because what you are saying is so very... serious. Your disappointment in yourself, your worry, your concern. It makes me want to smash Gabe's face into his locker like I've seen him do to Casey. It makes me want to scream for you.* High school's not the end of the line, Stan. Trust me. *I tighten my hold on your shoulders.* I've been reminding myself of that for years.
alternate stan: *I shut my eyes for a moment and sigh. My shoulders are tight under your hands, I'm tense and on edge. I open them after a few seconds and look straight at you.* It sounds bad when I think about it. But ... It's almost as if I'd forgotten that there was more than football. Then this summer all those dreams were shattered. *I stop. I cried a lot that week. Maybe some I'll tell her how I crawled into bed next to my mom and cried. How I wanted to call Delilah because I was lonely, but couldn't do it because I knew she wouldn't understand. But I don't tell her that, not yet.* And I didn't know what to do with myself. Then school started again. And I remembered the book. And that there were other books. And ... then I was playing football again. And I had to give something up. *My voice is shaking and I know if I released my hands from their fists, they'd be shaking too.* It was either football or the book. *I wonder when the book began representing my future.*
fshionableNblack: You made the choice that was... IS... right for you. Hey. *My right hand drops from your shoulder, falling onto your left fist. I curl my fingers as far as they will go around, which isn't far, seeing as how large your hands are in comparison. Strong. I squeeze as hard as I am capable of, not once taking my gaze away from your face.* You're the kind of person that never screams. Never kicks out. Fuck, I know I sound like a shitty therapist, but. You know... We can't all be calm and cool and collected. We can't all be drones. You're human. You can let it out.
alternate stan: *I'm close. I could just let go. But I can't.* No. *Your hand is on my fist and slowly I uncurl my fingers, my hand flattening onto my knee.* Not here. *It's too public, too many people who don't need to see me fall apart.* I'm not ready. *I need to keep up pretences. I need to pretend to be stronger than I am. I need to wait until I've really quit.*
fshionableNblack: Oh. *It shouldn't feel like a slap in the face, but it does, and it stings ever so lightly. My face burns. Oh, of course. Stupid. Should have. Yeah, okay. I pull away slowly from you, hands dropping away, between my knees which press together.* I, um. Forgot where we were... for a second, there.
alternate stan: No. *I grab your hands, gently pulling you close again.* I mean. I've got to fake it. Until I quit. Otherwise ... I don't know if I'd be strong enough to do it.
fshionableNblack: *I screw my face up, studying my hands in yours.* You think pretending it isn't there will make it go away?
alternate stan: *I shake my head.* I don't know. I just know that I'm afraid. *I can't look at her.*
fshionableNblack: *I pause. Seconds tick by. I look at the book in your lap, our hands, and then finally at your face. I take a deep breath.* Let's get out of here.
alternate stan: *I squeeze your hands. I don't want to let go. I know I should. But I don't.* Okay.