Chapter 2:

Chapter Two: Afraid of Witchcraft and Magic

Perfect World


CHAPTER TWO: AFRAID OF WITCHCRAFT AND MAGIC

“Good morning!” said Laura as I reached the bottom of the stairs. “I’m about to make some bacon and eggs.”

She was in the living room, sorting through some catalogs. Another long night, another morning started with Laura. Normally, breakfast was the thing I looked forward to in the morning. However, this time I was more excited about my friends coming to see me.

“My friends are coming back today,” I told Laura as she was walking into the kitchen with her catalogs.

Her face lit up. “That’s nice, dear! Just as long as you stay out of trouble.”

“I will,” I said.

After breakfast, I went out to the backyard by the pool again. Standing inches away from the water, I looked at the sunlight reflecting off its surface. A breeze came through the trees and rustled my hair a bit. I sat down on the edge of the pool and gently splashed my feet in the water, watching the ripples spread slowly outward. The water reminded me of the ocean I saw the day before.

Another quick vision flashed in front of me. Blinking it away, I tried to make out what it was, but no luck. Puberty was so weird.

I heard the sliding glass door open, and I turned to see Laura step through it.

“Ever think you’ll get in it?” she asked, nodding toward the pool.

“I don’t know,” I replied flatly.

“Feel free to take a dip at any time,” she said. “I came out to tell you that your friends are here.”

I quickly stood up, feeling excited to see Gary and James appear behind Laura.

“Hey, Krystal!” said James. “Whoa, I didn’t know you guys had a pool!”

“Come on out, boys,” said Laura. “Krystal, I’ll be in the kitchen with Jack getting our things together for work, okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

As soon as Laura was out of the way, James burst through the doorway and started checking out the pool with wild excitement in his eyes. Gary followed him slowly, took a quick look around, and then looked at me, smiling.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” I repeated. My face started to feel warmer, and I immediately looked away. James continued to check out every inch of the pool as Gary and I spoke.

“So,” he said, “how are you doing?”

“Good,” I replied, “How about you?”

“Oh, I’m doing fine,” he told me. There was a short pause. “Nice day, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Um … where’s Abby?”

“She’s back home. Yesterday was really the only day she spent with us. All she wanted to do was get to know you. It’s usually just me and James always hanging out.”

“Yo, Krystal!” James had finished scoping out the pool area and came rushing up to us. “What’re we gonna do today? We’ll let you choose.”

“She might want to go back to the antique store,” said Gary.

“Oh.” James didn’t look very motivated at first, but that quickly changed. “Alright, then we can go to the arcade after that!”

The thought of being in a video game environment sparked something in my enthusiasm department.

“Cool. Let’s go, then!” Gary opened the sliding glass door open for me (and James), then closed it behind us. We saw Jack and Laura walking out the front door to go to work just as we came in.

“Bye, sweetie!” said Laura.

“We have stuff in there for you to make if you get hungry,” Jack told me. “See you tonight. Have fun.”

“Okay,” I said. “Bye.”

Once outside, I saw our car heading down the road into town. Jack and Laura had to go through the town to get to work in the city Gary and James had told me about.

“Man, it’s hot out today,” said James. “It’s definitely summer now!”

“After we go to the antique store and arcade,” Gary told me on our way to town, “we’ll get some lunch at the Shady Palm Café. Then me and James were going back to his house for a while. You can come if you want.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’d like to meet your family, James.”

“Actually,” said James, “my parents will be at work.”

“You don’t have a brother or sister?” I asked.

“Nope,” he replied delightedly. “When the parents are gone, it’s just me!”

“Same with me,” I said. “Jack and Laura are hardly home on weekdays.”

“Who?” James asked.

“My parents,” I said.

“Why aren’t they ever home?” Gary asked. “Are they that busy?”

“Yeah,” I said dully. “They always have these business meetings and trips. I only see them a lot on weekends.”

“Must be nice,” James muttered. “I wish my parents would go on a trip and leave me behind. I’d throw a party or something! Have you ever done that?”

“Done what?” I asked.

“Thrown a party when your parents aren’t home?”

“No,” I replied. “I never had enough friends to have a party.”

“You’ve never had a party?” James was in total awe. “Have you ever been to someone else’s party?”

“No.” James was beginning to make me feel unhappy with his questions.

“You don’t know what you’re missing!” he said. “What about a sleepover?”

“We could invite her to one of our birthday parties,” said Gary before I could answer, which was going to be another no. I started to feel a little bit better after he said that.

“Yeah, that’d be cool!” said James.

All the way into town, the two of them goofed off and joked around. They made me feel very comfortable to be with. Something about James’s childlike behavior and Gary’s tactful attitude drew me like a magnet to them. Before long, we were in front of the antique store.

“We’re here,” said Gary, peering in through the window. “They’re open, too.”

“Let’s make this quick,” said James, sounding bored.

Gary pushed the door open and James and I followed right behind him. I looked around at all of the old items up for sale. There were shelves full of old books and countless trinkets. I walked behind Gary as he slowly made his way down the aisles. Shortly after, an old man walked out of the backroom. He was tall and skinny, but had the appearance of a strong war veteran.

“Hello there!” he called from behind the counter. “I don’t see too many of you kids in here often.”

“Ya don’t say,” James muttered quietly.

“We were just looking around,” said Gary. “Our new friend wanted to check the place out.”

“Oh, is that so?” the old man said. “Well, have a look around!”

“Hey, what’s in here?” James walked up to the glass display case next to the counter where the old man was standing. “Whoa, hey guys! Come check this out!”

Gary and I walked over to James to see what he was looking at. Inside the display case was an assortment of glistening swords. Each one was polished and looked brand new.

“You like those, eh?” The old man chuckled. “Some of those are hundreds of years old. Would you care to take a closer look?”

“Uh, sure,” said Gary.

The old man opened the display case and removed one of them, then handed it to Gary.

“Ever held one of these before?” he asked as Gary grabbed it.

“I don’t think so,” said Gary.

Those words were the last things I heard just before another quick vision popped in front of me. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it certainly made me jump a little. For some reason, that particular vision hit me more forcefully than the others.

I looked at Gary’s face as he examined the sword. He seemed surprised about something. Perhaps the sword was so interesting to him that words failed him. After looking at it for bit longer, he said, “Pretty cool.”

James was looking at him eagerly.

“Hey, let me see it,” he said impatiently.

Gary handed the weapon over to him, and as soon as James’s fingers touched it, another quick vision flashed in front of me. This second one was just as forceful as the first, and I started to get a little worried. Two visions had never occurred so close together before.
James had the same reaction as Gary. He looked at it for a few moments.

“It’s … neat. I wish I had one. Do you want to see it, Krystal?”

I hesitated a little. “Sure.”

When I touched the sword, I was expecting another vision. Nothing happened. The other two were watching me closely. I examined the blade and hilt closely, looking at the curves and angles as I ran my finger along it. Just as I was about to say how much I liked it, a third vision flashed in front of me.

“Hey, don’t we have somewhere to go now?” said James quickly.

“Uh, yeah,” Gary replied. Maybe it was just my imagination, but they both sounded a little nervous.

I squeezed the grip tightly. I squeezed it so tightly that my knuckles cracked. The thought of letting go of the sword was gruesomely mournful, as if giving up my own arm. Staring at the sharp tip of the blade as I handed the sword back to the old man, I imagined my shoulder socket coming apart, my skin stretching and tearing, my muscles and tendons snapping, and the sounds it would all make.

“Thank you for stopping in,” the old man told us happily. He put the sword back into the glass case. “The name’s Tyler. Feel free to stop by whenever.”

The three of us quickly gave him our names. Something wasn’t feeling right at all. We walked out of the store, trying to look as casual as possible. The funny part was that I had no clue as to why we were acting so strange. As soon as we made it outside, James immediately opened his mouth.

“Did you two notice anything when you touched that thing?” he asked almost in a whisper.

“Actually, I did,” Gary replied just as quietly. “Have I ever held a sword before? I can’t remember.”

“Do you think he jinxed us?” James asked, sounding really worried.

“What?” said Gary loudly. “No … I … maybe. But why would he?”

“I don’t know. Just to be mean, or have a little fun.”

Gary and I gave James a puzzled look. When Gary started to laugh, James obviously wasn’t sharing the humor.

“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of witchcraft and magic,” Gary told him.

“You never know!” said James. “It might exist!”

A strange feeling boiled in my stomach. For a moment, I was actually going to agree with him. Those visions ….

“What, now you’re going to say aliens live in your attic,” said Gary. “Come on! We aren’t cursed or jinxed or whatever. Let’s just get to the arcade. Maybe the heat is getting to us, or something.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” said James. “Let’s go.”

The walk to the arcade was much quieter than the one to the antique store. We didn’t say much, but continued silently. I was still trying to figure out what had just happened at the antique store. After a while, I began to concentrate more on the heat than anything else. It’s hard to concentrate on something while your brains are being baked.

“Finally,” said James tiredly as we approached the arcade, “we made it!”

When we walked in, the cool air conditioning blasted me in the face, instantly refreshing me. The sounds of video games swarmed around me, and I quickly felt better. Kids of all ages filled the room as they excitedly played around.

“Isn’t this place sweet?” James asked me. “Here, we got you some quarters.”

“Thanks,” I replied as he handed them to me, which I stuffed into my pocket.

“Hey, it’s Nick.” Gary pointed across the room at a tall boy with dark hair. When the boy saw us, he came over to greet us.

“What’s happening, guys?” he said in a laid-back voice. “Hey, who’s this?”

“This is Krystal,” said Gary. “She moved here a couple days ago.”

“I’m Nick,” the boy said, shaking my hand. His grip was firm and gentle at the same time. “Hope you like it here.” I felt really flattered and smiled as he spoke. “Where are you from?”

“Michigan,” I replied.

“Really? I heard it was really nice up there.” I could tell right off the bat that Nick was a romanticist, a kind word for a player.

“We’re in charge of watching out for her,” James told him, sounding important.

“That’s cool, man,” Nick replied. “You three wanna hang with me a bit?”

“Yeah,” said James. “I wanted to show her my favorite game!”

“Nobody can beat his score,” Nick told me. “James is the best at it.”

We followed James over to his favorite game, located near the back of the arcade. Determined on defending his high score, he put some quarters into it and started blasting alien after alien. A small crowd had already gathered as kids watched their high scores get knocked off the charts. While James was busy blowing up aliens, I was having a conversation with Gary and Nick.

“Well,” said Nick as he watched James, “I see that some people just never change.”

“Heh, it’s the coolest thing he can do,” said Gary. “I’ve never seen anything like it. So, what have you been up to, Nick?”

“I was on my way to see my dad at work. It’s his birthday, so I’m going to swing by the sports store and pick him up some new golf balls later on.”

“Oh, that’s cool,” said Gary. “Yeah, we brought Krystal here to show her around. She said she liked video games.”

“Is that so?” Nick replied, sounding interested. “A girl gamer, huh?”

I giggled a little. “Yup!”

We continued to talk until James interrupted.

“Oh yeah!” James pumped his fist into the air. “A new record, baby!”

The small group of people around us cheered. Others who were in the arcade looked curiously over to see what the commotion was about.

“Hey, Nick. I bet you can’t beat my high score!” James boasted.

“What are you, crazy?” Nick laughed. “No way, dude. You’re too good.”

“Can I try?” I asked.

“Go ahead,” Gary told me. I took some change from my pocket and dropped the coins into the slot.

“Use this to move your spaceship,” said James, pointing out the controls, “and use this button to shoot the aliens. Just don’t get hit, and you’ll be fine.”

James stood and watched over my shoulder. Gary and Nick continued talking.

“So,” said Nick, “how’s your summer been?”

“Oh, it’s awesome!” said Gary.

“Any luck with … well, you know who I’m talking about, right?”

“Well … uh … I ….”

“Don’t worry about her,” said Nick. “I’m sure things will go okay.”

“Yeah,” said Gary hopefully.

“Hey, you’re pretty good,” James told me.

“I wonder how school’s going to be next year,” said Gary to Nick. “Man, I hope it’s not too hard.”

“You know,” said Nick, “it shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t be much different than last year. Just new stuff, ya know?”

“Hey, guys!” A kid watching me playing the game called his friends over. “Look at this!”

I didn’t even notice how good I was doing. Everything on the screen was being blown up. Not only that, I hadn’t lost a single life. Another group gathered around the game to watch me get closer and closer to James’s high score.

“She’s doing better than I thought!” said James, scratching his head. He seemed a little nervous that his high score was in danger.

Several minutes passed, and a large crowd had already gathered around me as I made my way up the ranks. Not long after, my final life was taken just as I broke the high score. Everyone cheered and applauded as James looked completely dumbfounded.

“Holy crap!” he yelled. “You must have played this game a lot!”

I smiled weakly. “I’ve never played it before.”

James looked as if he had just swallowed a bug, but didn’t want to make a face.

“Nice shooting!” said Nick. “No one’s ever beaten him before. I can’t believe you actually did it!”

“Wow,” said Gary, “that was crazy!”

“Uh, yeah,” said James quietly. “You’re really good.”

“It’s nothing,” I said, giving a small smile. “Really.”

“What are you talking about?” said Nick. “That was sweet! You’ve got skill.” Nick glanced at his watch. “Okay, I think I’ve spent enough time around here already. Catch y’all later! Nice meeting you, Krystal!”

We all said goodbye as he hurried out of the arcade, removed his bike from the rack, and took off. The three of us stayed in the arcade for about another two and a half hours or so. When it got close to lunch, we started to get hungry.

“So,” said Gary, “what now?”

James shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m out of money.”

“Me too.” Gary dug through his pockets. “I only have change for here. I guess we’ll just go to your place now. We shouldn’t have spent all of our money for lunch.”

“Yeah, okay,” said James. “That way we can hang out there until … uh, what time was your thing?”

“Three,” Gary replied. “Yeah, we can do that.”

“Alright!” said James excitedly. “Let’s go!”

As we reached the edge of the town, curiosity was getting the best of me. Not much later, as we were walking up the road into the neighborhood, I had to ask.

“Gary,” I said, “what do you have at three o’clock?”

“Uh, well,” he said, looking away.

“He’s got a date!” James announced.

“You do?” I became all ears. “With who?”

“Her name’s Stephanie,” said James before Gary could answer. “He had a crush on her since last year. Isn’t that right?”

Gary looked embarrassed. “Do you have to go around telling people that?”

“That’s nice,” I said happily.

“I think that I should go along with you two,” James told Gary.

“No!” said Gary. “It’s only going to be the two of us. You’ll mess it up!”

“Oh, get real,” said James. “Wait, I thought she had a boyfriend. That Brandon guy. Did she dump him?”

“Who cares?” said Gary. “I’m going out with Stephanie. And that is that!”

“Maybe I should tag along, just in case,” James suggested.

“Just in case WHAT?” Gary asked confidently. “What could go wrong?”

“You could say something stupid,” said James, “or witchcraft or magic could happen!” He laughed.

“Funny.”

“I’ll be fine,” Gary assured. “Don’t worry.”

“Are you gonna kiss her?” James asked, looking directly at Gary.

“No! Well … maybe ….”

“Since I can’t come along,” said James, “good luck, then.”

“Nothing should go wrong,” Gary argued. I could tell that Gary was getting aggravated.

“Just remember this,” said James. He put one hand on his hip and the other behind his head, then made some kind of little dance move. Gary just looked at him like James was on drugs.

“What was that?” he asked.

“You know,” said James, doing it again, “make a move.”

“Make a move?” Gary squinted his eyes. “I’m not doing some stupid dance like that!”

“No, not like that,” said James. “You gotta make a move on her!”

“I’ll do whatever I feel like,” said Gary. “Let’s just get back to your house.”

When we got to James’s house, I was really hungry. There was a box of cereal sitting on the coffee table in the living room. James hurried over to it, picked it up, and poured the rest of the cereal into his mouth.

“I’m hungry,” said Gary. “What do you have to eat?”

“I just ate the last of the cereal,” said James as he tipped the box upside down. A few crumbs fell out and bounced off the table. “You might find something in the kitchen. Mom won’t be back from shopping until after work this evening. Just make yourself at home!”

The three of us snacked on cheddar-flavored chips and microwaved popcorn while watching TV for nearly two hours. It was quite relaxing and enjoyable. After a few brainless reality shows, Gary looked at the clock.

“Well, it’s almost three o’clock,” he said, standing up. “I guess I should be going. I need to stop at home and get some more money on the way.”

“Okay,” said James. “Good luck.”

“What’re you going to do, Krystal?” Gary asked.

“I think I’ll stay here a little longer,” I replied.

“Yeah, that’s it!” James cheered. “Ahem, I mean, uh, cool. We’ll just chill here.”

Shortly after Gary left, James looked over at me with a mischievous look.

“Wanna follow him?”

I felt a little mischievous myself as I cracked a small smile.

“Sure.”

James grabbed some money from his piggy bank, saying it was good to be prepared. We went to the door and slowly pushed it open. James peeked out to see if Gary was far enough down the road. He crept outside with me right behind him. I could see Gary, who was about a good fifty yards away.

“Follow me!” James whispered excitedly.

After closing the door as silently as possible, the two of us scurried down the street, making sure not to be too loud or Gary would discover us and blow our cover. I felt kind of like a spy sneaking around, and it felt pretty good.

Gary stopped by his house to get more money before venturing deeper into the suburbs, and we stayed as close behind him as we dared. He was completely oblivious to us as our pursuit continued. After turning a few corners, Gary stopped in front of a house. I slammed into James as he came to an abrupt halt. We ducked behind a car parked on the side of the street in front of the neighboring house. Both of us watched Gary through the car’s windows as he slowly made his way up to the house’s front door. James was trying to force back a laugh and had to bite his hand to prevent himself from making any noise.

A few seconds after ringing the doorbell, Gary was greeted by a girl with hair almost as dark as his. From where I was watching, I could see that she was very pretty. James and I were just in range of earshot and I could hear what they were saying.

“Hi!” the girl said, smiling brightly. “Ready?”

“Uh, yeah,” Gary responded. “So, where do you, uh … want to go, Stephanie?” He sounded a little nervous.

“I don’t know,” Stephanie replied. “Where do YOU want to go?”

“Well, how about the Shady Palm Café?” he suggested.

“Yeah, okay!” said Stephanie.

“The Shady Palm, eh?” James whispered. “Heh, he’s a natural! Oh, there they go!”

Gary and Stephanie walked back to the street, so James and I moved around the car to make sure that we were still hidden. They turned their backs to us and started walking in the direction toward town. We came out from hiding and followed some more.

At last, we made it all the way to the restaurant without giving ourselves away. We stood on the opposite corner of the intersection and watched Gary open the door for Stephanie. James chuckled when he saw it.

“Such a gentleman,” he said mockingly. “Let’s go pay ‘em a visit now!”

“Okay,” I replied.

Both of us casually walked through the doors of the Shady Palm Café as Gary and Stephanie were ordering. We stood right behind them in line, acting as if they knew we were there.

“You can find us a table,” Gary told Stephanie, “and I’ll get the drinks and food. You want a root beer, right?”

“Yes,” said Stephanie. She turned around to head for a table and saw us behind them. “Hi, James!” she greeted as she kept going.

Gary whirled around. His face instantly turned white, and then quickly to red.

“What’re you doing here?” he hissed quietly.

“Just having lunch,” James answered, trying to sound falsely innocent on purpose. “Ain’t that right, Krystal?”

I giggled quietly. Gary looked exasperated more than ever.

“Did James drag you into this?” he asked me coolly.

“Hey, don’t pin this all on me!” said James. “Besides, I had to make sure that you didn’t screw up.”

“Man,” Gary groaned, “you’re gonna blow this whole thing! Why don’t you just let me be?”

“I had to come just to make sure,” he said. “I was worried.”

“What about Krystal?” Gary glanced at me. “What’s her role in your scheme?”

“Just company,” James replied bluntly.

Gary’s expression went from angry to puzzled.

“Is everything all right?” Stephanie was standing right behind James. She was probably wondering what the commotion was about.

“Everything’s fine,” said James.

Gary’s order came up, which he grabbed and took to the soda machine to get the drinks, mumbling something the whole time while James continued talking to Stephanie.

“This is Krystal, our new friend. She just moved here, and we’re in charge of watching out for her!”

“Nice to meet you,” she said to me with a smile.

“Thanks,” I said quietly while smiling back, “same here.”

“Let’s go sit down,” said Gary when he came back with their food.

“I’ll get us something,” James told me. “You want that mega meal you had last time?”

“Yeah,” I said.

After getting our food, James and I sat down with Gary and Stephanie. During the entire meal, James kept talking to Stephanie about sports, who found it interesting. Gary quietly sat and ate, and I could tell that he was mad at James for ruining his date. I began to feel bad for going along with James.

On the way back to the neighborhood, James kept talking to Stephanie. When we reached her house, James finally shut up.

“I had a good time,” she said. “We should do that again.”

“Yeah,” Gary replied.

“Oh, you bet!” said James. “Catch ya later!”

“Bye,” she said. “Hope you like it here, Krystal.”

“I do,” I replied.

“See you later, Stephanie,” said Gary.

“Bye, Gary.” She gave him another big smile, and it looked as if Gary had forgotten James was on the same planet. As soon as Stephanie closed the door to her house, Gary turned and glared at James.

“What?” he asked defensively.

“You know what!” Gary barked. “I told you not to come, but you had to! You ruined it!”

“I was just making sure nothing went wrong,” said James. “That’s all.”

“The only thing that went wrong was you,” Gary muttered. “Oh well, I guess you didn’t screw things up that badly.”

“I didn’t screw things up at all!” said James. “What’s the big deal?”

“You’re missing the concept,” said Gary. “The idea of a date is for two people to spend quality time together and try and get to know each other. You messed up that concept.”

“I was just trying to help,” said James. “I didn’t mean to make such a big deal out of everything. I’m sorry.”

“I know,” said Gary, cooling off. “I was just a little pissed off, that’s all. It doesn’t matter that much, I guess.”

“Yeah, no hard feelings!” James put his arm around Gary and pulled him close. “We’re buds, after all!”

“Hey, get off me!”

“Yo, is it okay if I hang out at your place for a while?” James asked Gary. “I don’t want to go back home yet.”

“That’s fine with me,” Gary replied. “We’ll just ask my parents.”

“Is your sister home?” James asked.

“Abby’s at her friend’s house,” Gary answered.

“Which one?”

“Jessica.”

“Ooh!” James got a bright gleam in his eye. “The hot one!”

“Humph.” Gary looked a little disgusted.

“Oh yeah,” said James, “you don’t like her, do you?”

“Not really,” Gary told him. “She’s annoying.”

James chuckled. “Isn’t she the one who almost ran you over with her bike a few years ago?”

“That’s the one,” said Gary flatly. “It wasn’t just one time she tried doing that, either.”

Thinking about what James had just said, I suddenly realized something.

“Don’t you two have bikes?” I asked.

“We did,” said Gary, “but a few months ago, this kid named Brandon stole James’s and tossed it into a trash compactor. Actually, it was the same Brandon who used to be Stephanie’s boyfriend.”

“I still want to beat his face in for that!” James blurt angrily.

“In order to buy him a new bike,” Gary continued, “the two of us started doing odd jobs around the neighborhood, trying to collect enough money for one.”

“And being the awesome guy Gary is,” said James, “he promised not to ride his bike at all until I got my new one. That way I wouldn’t have to suffer alone, right, pal?”

“You bet,” said Gary. “Too bad we usually end up spending our earnings on food and the arcade, though.”

We made it to Gary’s house while James was still talking about how he would get his revenge on Brandon. The front door was locked, so Gary had to lift up the welcome mat to get the key underneath it.

“Such a clichéd hiding place for a key,” he said as he put the key into his pocket. He looked at me and smiled, making me smile. When he pushed the door open, I followed him in with James. Once inside, we took off our shoes and placed them aside.

“I’ll go get the game set up!” said James excitedly, taking off through the living room and up the stairs.

“There’s stuff in the fridge if you want anything,” Gary told me.

“Okay,” I replied.

I went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, then browsed its contents. A sandwich sounded good, so I took out all the different deli meats I could find and made my sandwich. Then I decided to make another one. Then I made a third one, just for the heck of it.

“You’re an eating machine,” I heard Gary say from behind. “Let’s go up to my room. I know James is getting impatient.”

I put my three sandwiches on a paper plate and followed Gary up the stairs to his room where James was waiting for us. We sat down on Gary’s bed as James handed us each a controller.

“Round one is racing!” James announced. “Alright, Krystal. You and me, one-on-one! This is to avenge my high score at the arcade!”

James and I both chose the same car to make it fair, then he chose the most technical track he could find. When the race started, we were alongside each other, but I passed him on the first turn. He never managed to make it back into first place.

“Hey, James,” said Gary when I finished the final lap, “I think you lost.”

“Whoa ….” James stared at the screen for a few seconds with his mouth open. “You’re the coolest chick I ever met!”

I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so I just smiled a little.

“Nobody’s ever come close to beating me!” said James, his eyes bugging out with excitement. “And you smoked me! First in the arcade, and now here! I can’t believe that I actually met a girl like you!”

“Getting a little crazed, aren’t we?” said Gary with a grin.

James started to speak faster. “I mean, I can’t find too many chicks who play video games and are actually good at them! This is some kinda breakthrough! I bet that if she continues to do this, then —”

“Okay!” said Gary loudly. “I think we get the picture.”

After that, James kept going on and on about how I’d be the world’s best female gamer, and he didn’t stop until I left to go back home later that evening.


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