Chapter 1:

Boy Meets Girl

Don't Miss The Target♥


She had a small face and large round eyes. Her shoulder-length hair was tied neatly on her left shoulder, which gave her a simple yet cute appearance. She was slim and her stature was short. Cute still, even if she was just wearing some old track pants and a loose shirt. Bookmark here

By fate has it, cute and petite was well within the Boy’s strike zone. Wide eyed and mouth agape, it seemed that his heart pumped a heavy beat the moment he laid eyes on her. If this were a cartoon, his heart would have jumped right out of his chest.Bookmark here

The girl, while she did not have the same reaction as the Boy, did think he was cute at least.Bookmark here

He’s a head taller than her, but he’s not lanky. He’s not the type who builds muscles, but he’s fit. Though not really boy band material, he had a decent face. Having a clean haircut makes him look fresh and approachable, too.Bookmark here

His appearance made a good impression on the girl that if he had asked her out on a date then and there, she might have agreed. Then maybe this wouldn’t be such a long story.Bookmark here

But unfortunately, the Boy was not much of a risk taker. He was not the type to go for goal in the first minute. He’s the kind of guy who likes to build foundations first, lay the bricks by his own two hands, so the relationship would be sturdy during tremors.Bookmark here

“I’ll just start by being friends with her”, he declares when asked what he intends to do with this new found romance.Bookmark here

At least, that’s what he convinced himself to believe, and that’s what he thought would be the best plan of action.Bookmark here

In truth, he was an extremely shy boy who had not experienced any real romance yet. Seventeen years of age, and he has only viewed it in television and movies, so he doesn’t really know how to go on about things. Bookmark here

Yes, they’ve been acquainted, but days pass and they’ve barely talked to each other. They weren’t in the same class, so opportunities to meet each other are rare.Bookmark here

But again, that was just an excuse. You’ve got no guts, Boy! You don’t need a good reason to go see her! If you really need one, then make something up no matter how stupid it sounds!Bookmark here

Weeks pass, and still nothing. There were encounters and hellos in the school hallway, but the Boy never made them count. His excuse each time was he did not want to delay her to where she was going.Bookmark here

That doesn’t matter! Make small talk, that doesn’t take much time! Talk about the weather, maybe complain about the heat or the rain, whatever it is on the day! Talk about the episode from last night’s drama, maybe she’s seen it! Talk about celebrities! Talk about crappy teachers and make fun of their quirks! Gossip about your classmates! Maybe talk about that tree you keep hiding behind whenever you try to sneak a peek into her classroom during PE class! Anything!Bookmark here

This went on until summer came around. The last few weeks before summer break, the Boy was nervous and worried that he had lost his chance, and that the Girl might find a boyfriend while school is out.Bookmark here

His worries were not unfounded. After all, she is pretty cute. She had no lack of admirers. It’s a wonder why she’s not dating anyone at the moment. But, the magic of summer break may change that soon, or so the cliche goes.Bookmark here

He’s had this idea of asking her out on a trip during the break, but he’s worried that since they were no more than acquaintances, she would find it creepy.Bookmark here

He was right. She would find him creepy if he did exactly that.Bookmark here

He was right, but if he had made a move a long time ago, he would not have to worry about looking like a creep when trying to ask her out for a summer outing.Bookmark here

Even if they were just friends, it wouldn’t be weird to talk about summer plans or getaways involving friends.Bookmark here

But, he hasn’t made that first step like he said he would, so there he was – just a creep.Bookmark here

Luckily for him, they had mutual friends. One of the Girl’s girl friends is coincidentally dating one of the Boy’s guy friends, but they’re not important right now.Bookmark here

The narrator, yours truly, is actually well acquainted with the Girl as we live in the same neighborhood. We even went to the same elementary school, so I’ve known her for quite a while.Bookmark here

Oh, I forgot to mention that I’m part of the story, didn’t I?Bookmark here

The two actually met through me. Bookmark here

Some time around spring, I invited the Boy to my house because I wanted to brag about the games I’ve been playing and my progress in them. It didn’t have to be him; he just happened to be the most enthusiastic in seeing my games in person. Fate had it that he would also find love during this quick after school stop.Bookmark here

Although I say they have met through me, it was really only by pure chance they came across each other. Once the Boy called it a day and decided to go home from me and my bragging, the Girl just happened to be walking by from a trip to the convenience store, carrying a bag of snacks and all. They basically met right in front of my house.Bookmark here

Of course, by this time, they didn’t know each other yet. They go to the same high school as me, but they haven’t had the opportunity to meet. Pretty understandable when we’re in a school in the city where your grade alone has more than three hundred kids in them. You can’t just know everyone. Even among us second years, there isn’t anyone who knows each face in every classroom.Bookmark here

The Girl called out a friendly hello to me. Bookmark here

I greeted back. But I wasn’t expecting her to start a conversation when I had somebody in my front gate.Bookmark here

“Who’s your friend?” she asked.Bookmark here

That is when I introduced the two to each other.Bookmark here

And of course, that is how I knew what her impression is of the Boy. It was not because I’m some all-knowing narrator or anything. She and I have some friendly neighborly chats from time to time, and it was during one of this small encounters that she mentioned it to me.Bookmark here

Actually, it was the day after. Or to be more precise, it was on the morning after their first meeting.Bookmark here

It was garbage collection day, and as soon as I got down from my room after waking up, my mother asked me to take the trash out. I went to my smelly task and found the Girl was out early to go to school for some reason I forget. It wasn’t morning practice for sure as she was not part of an athletic club. Regardless, we had a short chat outside with the stink of fresh garbage in the air, and that was when she told me.Bookmark here

She thought the Boy was cute.Bookmark here

Now that I’ve revealed myself as one of the characters, what is my role in all this?Bookmark here

As much as I want to be a mere observer, I unfortunately could not. I was given a task with regards to this, and I do not have a choice but to accept it whether I agree with it or not.Bookmark here

At least, if I don’t want to lose something important...Bookmark here

Anyway, back in my room as I was getting ready for school, I received an email. This wasn’t the normal kind of email where my smartphone can receive it, so it was not something I could simply glance at my phone’s screen to find out what the message is about. It was the kind where it can only be viewed in my computer. Regardless if it’s on or not, and I already have turned it off as I was about to head out (my mom nags me to turn it off when I’m at school to save on the electricity bill), a heavenly chime, a chorus of angels will sound from my speakers informing me of this incoming email.Bookmark here

I know that is kind of cheesy and hard to believe, but hear me out for a moment.Bookmark here

The reason why my computer can magically receive emails is, well, I somehow got involved with the supernatural.Bookmark here

It was the start of this year’s spring break. I planned on spending most of it gaming to catch up on the backlog of games that I have been piling up for a while. My computer was glitching at random moments prior, but I stupidly paid it no mind. In hindsight, that was a sign of what was to come, and what came was my monitor completely blacking out.Bookmark here

The computer was still on. The fans were still spinning, and the case was still emitting red and blue lights. But, the screen remained black. I won’t go into boring detail in how I diagnosed the problem, but more or less, my video card had died and I can’t play my games anymore.Bookmark here

I was a broke kid. I do save some of my allowance, but I already spent it all on new games that I planned to play during the break. There were only two things I could do to replace that part. Beg to my parents, or get a part-time job. Bookmark here

The first one was impossible. My mom had too tight a grip on our family’s purse.Bookmark here

While the next option could work, spring break will be over by the time I get enough money to buy the replacement part.Bookmark here

So I did what any desperate and sensible kid would do: I prayed to every god I know to give me a new video card. Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, and so on. I even prayed to Santa Claus in case he decided to celebrate Christmas early, but I was not sure if that was how it works.Bookmark here

Although to be honest, I was not very religious. Obviously, I don’t believe in most of the other gods, and I no longer believe in Santa Claus. I did not believe for one second that would work. That was merely an act to vent out my frustrations. Yet, just as I finished my prayers, I was surprised to find that it had been answered almost immediately.Bookmark here

I was in my room, still in prayer position kneeling beside my bed, deciding whether I should spend the rest of the day lazing around the living room and watch TV or just stay and sleep when the doorbell rang. I was not the one to answer the door, but my mother did. She called for me, shouting that I have a package delivery. I found it strange because I haven’t ordered anything online recently, but sure enough it was addressed to me. It had no return address either, which was suspicious, but I took it up to my room all the same.Bookmark here

The box was small, but big enough to fit a video card, I thought. To my shock, it did contain a video card!Bookmark here

I could not believe my eyes. I jumped up and down my room in excitement.Bookmark here

“The gods have answered my prayers! The gods have answered my prayers!”, I screamed like a lunatic. Or I guess, more like someone who has received a miracle.Bookmark here

I had thought it was the multiple gods that had answered my prayer, but I would soon find it was actually just the one god who did once I installed my new video card and booted up my computer.Bookmark here

I heard the heavenly chime I described earlier for the first time as soon as the operating system was ready, and in the notifications area, it said that I got mail. I checked it out and found an invite to some shady-looking video chat service named HeavenMeet. Bookmark here

“Aphrodite wants to chat with you”, it said.Bookmark here

I thought it was spam mail from some lewd chat bot, so I marked it as such and deleted it.Bookmark here

As soon as I did that, however, another notification for a new email came. It had the words “Urgent! Do not ignore!” in it this time. But apart from those, the email had the same content, so I again marked it as spam and deleted. Bookmark here

Then a third came. I proceeded to mark the sender as a spammer instead so my email client will block them for me.Bookmark here

But for some reason, that didn’t work, so a fourth notification came. I deleted it without opening this time.Bookmark here

Then a fifth.Bookmark here

Then a sixth.Bookmark here

By the seventh, I opted to shut down my computer to make it stop. I started wondering if the new video card installed something which is making me receive all those spam emails.Bookmark here

Then it chimed an eight time while the computer was turned off. My speakers were also off as its power was connected to the computer, but the sound definitely came from them. My monitor should not be displaying anything, but there it was showing a “You got mail!” notification.Bookmark here

I started becoming scared. That was not natural. But just as I was about to flee my room, the computer turned on by itself. It also opened an unfamiliar application. Half scared but half curious, I cautiously looked to see what it was trying to run.Bookmark here

It was the program for HeavenMeet, and it was connecting to someone... or something.Bookmark here

As soon as it connected, what greeted me was a young woman with long golden curly hair shouting “DO NOT JUST MARK ME AS SPAM, DAMN IT!”.Bookmark here

I recoiled back in surprise.Bookmark here

“How dare you ignore a goddess?”, she complained. “Especially after granting the wish you’ve desired for so dearly”.Bookmark here

“Wait, what?” I was genuinely confused. Bookmark here

Goddess? Bookmark here

What? Bookmark here

She claimed to have granted my wish, but I did not recall praying to a goddess. I mostly called to the chief gods of every religion I was familiar with so I was sure of that.Bookmark here

Is this some sort of play from a lewd chat bot?Bookmark here

“What? I cannot hear you”, she said. “Put on your headset.”Bookmark here

Scared and confused, I hesitantly reached out for my headset.Bookmark here

“Put it on now!”, she barked.Bookmark here

I stopped hesitating and quickly did as she said.Bookmark here

“H-hello?”Bookmark here

“Did you not read the note that came with your package?”Bookmark here

“Note? What note?”Bookmark here

She groaned. “Look inside the parcel.”Bookmark here

I complied, and I did find a note.Bookmark here

“Read it”, the woman commanded.Bookmark here

And so I did.Bookmark here

It would be a bit long to dictate word for word, but basically its contents is some sort of terms and conditions for using the video card that came with the package. It was not the normal kind with all the legalese though. Instead, it says that I’m agreeing to a certain condition once I start using the item. That condition is I would be working for someone called Aphrodite for an undefined period of time.Bookmark here

I was in disbelief. “Aphrodite? As in the goddess of love? I don’t believe it.”Bookmark here

“It would do you well to believe, mortal”, the woman declared. “I am the goddess Aphrodite.”Bookmark here

For my sanity, I wanted to contest what she said, but the other half of my brain is saying that was the only explanation for the weird happenings and I should accept it.Bookmark here

“Now that you have started using the device I granted you, it is now your duty to fulfill tasks that I will be charging you with.”Bookmark here

“What? But I did not agree to this!”Bookmark here

“You have started using the device, did you not?”Bookmark here

“I mean, I did, but can I not just return it? I barely used it!”Bookmark here

“Continue reading, the last section especially.”Bookmark here

I scanned through the note up to the part she mentioned.Bookmark here

“In the event that the beneficiary wishes to terminate this agreement, they must provide a sacrifice of equal value to exchange for the item.”Bookmark here

“Well mortal, what will you exchange for the item?”, the woman claiming herself as Aphrodite asked.Bookmark here

“I haven’t got the money. Can’t I just return it to you?”Bookmark here

“Nay, I do not have use for human currency nor does the item I bestowed upon you.”Bookmark here

“Is this even legally binding? I’m still a minor, you know?”Bookmark here

“The laws of men does not concern me.”Bookmark here

“Well, I’m not giving you anything.”Bookmark here

“If you have nothing to give willingly, then I will forcefully take something from you.”Bookmark here

By this time, the half of my brain that wanted to stay grounded started thinking this was all just a scammer trying to strong-arm me. Feeling a bit safe behind a screen and forgetting the fact that she knew where I lived, I taunted her. “I would like to see you try.”Bookmark here

“I see then. I will now be claiming what is due to me.”Bookmark here

“Wha-?”Bookmark here

She actually didn’t need to come to my place to follow through with her threats. She was quick to put her words to action. Before I could complete one word, I felt something leave from my body. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, then I noticed something felt lonely between my legs. That’s when I realized what was missing.Bookmark here

I could hear loud laughter coming from the woman. As I was reaching at the area with the missing part, searching for what was supposed to be there, she started describing the very thing I was looking for.Bookmark here

“Oh, so squishy. Small and cute as well. The shaft prettily bends a little to the right. Would you like to see what I have here with me now?”Bookmark here

“NO PLEASE DON’T PUT IT ON CAMERA. I BELIEVE YOU, SO GIVE IT BACK PLEASE!”Bookmark here

There really was no need to argue that she was a genuine deity anymore. Otherwise, there would be no explanation on what just transpired.Bookmark here

“I take it you now agree to my terms?”Bookmark here

“YES! YES! I’LL DO WHAT YOU SAY JUST GIVE IT BACK!”Bookmark here

And as soon as I said that, I could feel the missing part back to the place where it belonged.Bookmark here

“I hope this means you now know the consequences of breaking our pact, mortal.”Bookmark here

I vigorously nodded in response.Bookmark here

Afterwards, Aphrodite explained to me what she needed me for. Cupid has been shirking his duties. He had gone from Olympus without informing anyone, and nobody knows where he is. He was probably just out to woo some random lady, or so Aphrodite says. It happens every now and then, and this was one of those times. So what she wants me to do is become a stand-in for him and make people fall in love, bow and arrow and all that.Bookmark here

Except I didn’t have any bows and arrows with me.Bookmark here

“You cannot carry such weaponry in this modern times, hence the method is now different”, she explained. “You will receive your equipment once we are through with our talk.”Bookmark here

I assumed it will be through another package delivery.Bookmark here

I was also concerned of the scope because I, a mere mortal, could not possibly go from place to place at a snap of a finger. I cannot possibly do the job if I have to cover the entire world! Bookmark here

Fortunately, it seems that Aphrodite was aware of the limitations of humans, so she has employed plenty of people in exchange for a wish to cover for only a specific area. I was the one in charge of my immediate surroundings, as vague as that sounds. At least it was not the whole city.Bookmark here

The video chat ended with Aphrodite telling me she will contact me again. Afterwards, as she had promised, I received another package from her. This time the box was small that it could almost fit in my hand. Bookmark here

It was not large enough for a bow. I guess they really phased out the bow and the arrow. Bookmark here

Then again, Aphrodite seems to be used to modern technology as we talked over the internet, so the ancient gods appear to be keeping up to date at least.Bookmark here

I brought the box to my room and opened it. It contained a laser pointer. It may not be a bow, but at least I can still do some shooting, so to speak, from range.Bookmark here

It was kind of an underwhelming alternative though. It was practical and easy to hide, but it was so mundane and boring that it lacked romance and excitement.Bookmark here

I wish I had a bow instead.Bookmark here

Anyway, going back to my role in this story, I received my first email from Aphrodite in weeks. I was surprised because I haven’t heard from her since spring break. I was already starting to think that I dreamed up my encounter with her. I had her taken off my email blacklist, so I’m certain she wasn’t being automatically blocked in my inbox. Not like it mattered anyway as she’s proven before, but I did it just in case.Bookmark here

“Your Mission”, the subject of the email says.Bookmark here

The message contained two names. Arty Mutch and Tabitha Best, which to my surprise, both I knew very well.Bookmark here

They were the Boy and the Girl that I have been talking about.Bookmark here

“Bring each of their love to fruition”, the message continued.Bookmark here

And that was my fist mission from Aphrodite.Bookmark here

Lucky me, I already know how the two think of each other! I just have to hit at both of their hearts to make them fall in love, right?Bookmark here

Wrong.Bookmark here

It seems like being a cupid isn’t as straightforward as popular culture makes it out to be. I cannot simply just hit their hearts with an arrow, or in my case, a laser pointer, to cause the two to conveniently fall madly in love and become lovers until death do them part. It was not a device that can bend free will, but more like an amplifier of emotions.Bookmark here

I knew this because I read the notes that came with the device this time before using it in case there were more conditions attached. That was pretty much the first thing it said. Bookmark here

I’ve also tried it out on strangers. The pairs moved on without as much as one of them inviting the other for a cup of coffee, confirming that part of the notes.Bookmark here

There is some kind of condition for this love item to have an effect, but I haven’t tested for it yet as I haven’t encountered that specific situation for it to work. That condition is when the feelings of two people for each other are at a certain point, but just needing that push for them to become lovers.Bookmark here

Some people can take that extra step on their own, so the note says. But for the rest, it was Cupid’s job to magically make them want to take the relationship to the next level. Or rather that was now my job.Bookmark here

There is just one problem with that part, and it’s that it doesn’t say at what state the feelings of two people are where the device can take effect. I wasn’t sure if I can make two people who are friends fall in love by shooting at their hearts, or if it is needed that they at least find each other attractive, or if their relationship needs to already have some form of bond that surpasses attraction. Tabitha only finding Arty cute would likely be a concern for this mission.Bookmark here

Furthermore, I don’t have a device to gauge the feelings of two people for each other. I wanted to ask Aphrodite if there was another device to check it, but I was afraid of asking any more things from her or any of the gods for anything else so I decided not to.Bookmark here

Another condition is I have to fire at their hearts in quick succession, otherwise it would not take any effect. Basically, I can’t use the device on the two people I want to pair up when they are apart. For example, if I shoot at Arty during recess, then walk up to Tabitha’s room to shoot at her, then there would be no effect.Bookmark here

There are other items in the note, but they are warnings. “Do not use on two people who are already lovers” and “Do not modify the device”. Bookmark here

I would gladly obey the first one. If it came as a warning, I figured that something bad is probably going to happen if I didn’t follow it. I wouldn’t want to get in trouble with Aphrodite. Bookmark here

The second one is something I could afford not worrying about. I don’t know how to modify a laser pointer in the first place, and I don’t intend to learn how.Bookmark here

Lastly, the notes also state that I was the only one able to see the laser. I thought that was convenient because I did not have to worry about people getting annoyed by the light, but the device was still visible to anyone so I had to be careful in showing it to others.Bookmark here

Anyway, in short, I still have to get Arty and Tabitha together the old-fashioned way by setting them up.Bookmark here

Unfortunately for me, Arty is a bit of a wuss. It had become a daily annoyance that he would ask if he could come visit my home in hopes of coincidentally meeting Tabitha again. Bookmark here

I was egging him on, giving encouragements, but for some reason that was the first bright idea that he had.Bookmark here

Of course, each time he begged, I had to remind him how stupid that plan is when she’s only a couple rooms away and he can meet her every weekday with certainty if he just took his wimpy ass off his seat.Bookmark here

At some point, I wanted to drag him by the collar to Tabitha’s classroom so things could finally go into motion, but I figured that was not the best plan of action. He might develop a trauma or something for being thrown into the lion’s den and make him want to come out of his shell even less. Or, Tabitha might get the wrong impression and lose interest in him. Either could cause me failing my mission, so I decided against forceful action.Bookmark here

There is no time limit given, however, so I could probably afford to work on my tasks slowly.Bookmark here

Luckily, I didn’t have to take drastic measures. Arty got the message after a while. He started saying he would go meet Tabitha in her classroom, but he wanted me to come with him and pretend I was the one who wanted to visit her. Naturally, I turned him down again and again, explaining to him that it will only cause misunderstandings. Just applying a bit of foresight in that plan would lead to thinking that I was the one interested in her instead of Lover Boy. It had to be him wanting to meet her!Bookmark here

Thankfully, he eventually learned what it is he really needed to do. Even if it took weeks of the same stupid back and forth arguments between the two of us, he finally understood that I cannot be the bridge connecting them and it had to be him that should build the connection. I was just a helping hand.Bookmark here

But still, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, he’s a wimp. Inherently so, I began to suspect. I would not be surprised if a physician took a look at his back and find him lacking a spine. Neither would it surprise me if a scientist analyzed his DNA and find chicken genes.Bookmark here

He still begged me to come with him to meet Tabitha though. I was hesitant because, first, I would be an awkward third wheel. Secondly, I can’t sneakily shoot lasers at them when I’m close by. I really don’t want to answer questions about why I have it, and why I’ve been pointing the device at them when we’re face to face.Bookmark here

I do have to go with him though, because if I didn’t then I would not be able to complete my mission, so we compromised that I only come with him until the outside of Tabitha’s classroom. I would not be going in with him, but I will be watching him from the outside like some sort of guardian angel – his words. Bookmark here

More like a parent with a kid scared of being left at kindergarten, I thought.Bookmark here

Though to be fair, he’s technically not wrong. Cupid was an angel, right? At least in some depictions of him he was a sweet little cherub. Not like I know what he actually looks like, but if Aphrodite’s appearance was to go on, he probably looks like another guy you’d see in the street, just more good looking than the average handsome man. If that makes any sense.Bookmark here

Anyway, back to Arty. Bookmark here

If you had been paying attention, you may have guessed from all my prior ramblings that he only went as far as outside Tabitha’s classroom. He never went in, or at least called out to her. Most of their encounters in the hallways was because he was rooted to that one spot near her classroom, but that only ever happens when she needs to do something somewhere else.Bookmark here

One thing I got from this encounters, however, is it confirmed what I feared. I managed to get a few sneak shots at them, but nothing was happening. Tabitha especially as it was business as usual for her each time. Just seeing someone as cute is not enough. I’ve concluded she was not at the point of being in love with him yet.Bookmark here

It was a pain, but at least I knew what I needed to do from then on, and it was to make Tabitha fall in love with Arty.Bookmark here

Unfortunately, Arty’s tendency for inaction wasn’t helping.Bookmark here

There was no deadline given, but it still felt like I was running out of time. I have no idea what will happen if I failed a mission from Aphrodite, but I was sure I didn’t want to find out. Summer break was a month away. By then, there will be limited opportunities for the two to meet. Less meetings means whatever feelings they have for each other may cool, making it more difficult to get them together once school starts back again.Bookmark here

Fortunately, one odd thing that has happened is that the aforementioned spot somehow became a hangout for him, me, and some friends from other classes. I even got to reconnect with some old friends from previous grades just by hanging around Arty in that same place almost daily.Bookmark here

Coincidentally enough, this is why I say Arty is lucky.Bookmark here

Even if he had been a wuss. Even if he had been stuck at inaction. One result of his wasted efforts is that he can go on a summer trip with Tabitha. All thanks to him and me haunting the same spot outside her classroom almost daily.Bookmark here

Now going back, she and him had mutual friends. There’s the aforementioned couple, but they play no part in this yet. Then there’s me, Arty’s cupid, though I’m starting loathe that fact.Bookmark here

As I have known Tabitha for quite a while, it was only natural that I would have met some of her friends. Some of them I were in good terms with during grade school, but haven’t had the chance to hang out with after graduating for varying reasons. One of which is a girl that I’ve reconnected with because Arty and I had been haunting the hallway.Bookmark here

Through this renewed friendship I had with this particular girl named Beth, I found out that she and her friends, which most importantly – for Arty at least, includes Tabitha, is planning a summer retreat. Best of all – again for Arty, they plan to bring boys with them.Bookmark here

“A chance for some romance and free labor”, Beth jokingly explained.Bookmark here

I laughed with her out of camaraderie, but deep inside I know free labor is the real reason for bringing boys. Bookmark here

Regardless, I thought it was a good chance for Tabitha to get to know Arty a little bit better, so I asked Beth if the free labor position was still open.Bookmark here

Apart from the aforementioned friend of Arty, who has a girlfriend which was friends with Tabitha and Beth, they haven’t asked anyone yet. Aside from Tabitha and Beth’s friend, who has a boyfriend which was friends with Arty...Bookmark here

...Okay, their names are Charlie and Dana. They’re the couple I keep mentioning about.Bookmark here

Anyway, Dana was the only one among their group of friends who had a boyfriend, Charlie, so there weren’t many boys they can ask to go on this trip. Basically, the head count was still just the four girls and that one guy.Bookmark here

Hearing this, I immediately volunteered along with Arty without consulting him first. I saw that he wanted to protest, but Beth spoke first to tease me. Bookmark here

“Ooh tell me, who are you after?”.Bookmark here

I chuckled. Bookmark here

“No one”, I replied. “I also just want to get away for the summer.”Bookmark here

“Ha!”, she exclaimed heartily with a hint of sarcasm. “I guess we’ll leave it at that for now.”Bookmark here

It was an obvious taunt. I only responded with a shrug and a chuckle.Bookmark here

Beth started walking back to her classroom, but left some positive parting words. “I’ll talk to the girls first.”Bookmark here

It was not a one hundred percent yes, but it was not a definitive no. I was confident that it was on. Bookmark here

It was all but confirmed later that day when I happened to run into Tabitha on the way home. She told me that they want all of the willing participants to meet up somewhere and plan for the trip, and that I’m free to invite another guy to even out the numbers.Bookmark here

“It is, after all, a chance for romance”, she explained, parroting what Beth had told me earlier. “It wouldn’t make sense if we weren’t in pairs.”Bookmark here

I took it that Tabitha was also looking for romance. Bookmark here

Arty was right to be scared of the coming summer break. Bookmark here

I also told all of this to Arty that same night over an online game. Bookmark here

It somehow became a sort of ritual for us to play games at night and talk about romance.Bookmark here

Rather, he talks about romance; I drown him out with the game.Bookmark here

Some kind of cupid I am, right?Bookmark here

Well, you try listening to him daily about all the excuses he’s making on why he hasn’t made a move yet. Also, try listening to it for a whole month.Bookmark here

I tried. I got sick of the same weird explanations he’s giving me. He’s not even saying them to convince me. It was obvious he’s only saying them out loud to convince himself that whatever it is he is saying is the truth.Bookmark here

It was also painful watching a friend demean himself on a daily basis. It was toxic and depressing, especially when you have to listen to it early in the school day before classes start. Bookmark here

So I came up with this solution: we only talk about his problems about love – or lack of – while gaming.Bookmark here

He gets an outlet, I don’t get to absorb his worries, and we get to enjoy our down time with some gaming. Maybe not everyone wins, but nobody definitely loses.Bookmark here

Anyway, I told him not because I wanted him to be thankful to me, but so he would stop whining over what happened earlier that day with the conversation with Beth. It was one of those rare interactions we have where I don’t just mindlessly say “uh-huh” and “nuh-uh” to every word he says, but it was because this time he was making excuses on why he couldn’t come. Bookmark here

I also needed him to come. I did not really care if he ends up alone for the rest of his life, but I have a mission to fulfill.Bookmark here

Hearing Tabitha is looking for romance made him want to go, which is the reaction I expected from him. The surprising part was he said “Okay, I’ll go”, and nothing more. No excuses or any need for further convincing.Bookmark here

He even sounded excited when I mentioned to him that he now has a reason to go meet Tabitha in her classroom any time he wanted.Bookmark here

But then the topic of who to invite for that last guy slot came up, and he started whining again.Bookmark here

“What if the other guy falls in love with her?”Bookmark here

“What if she finds the other guy attractive?”Bookmark here

“What if the other guy is a playboy?”Bookmark here

I’ve never heard of the same three sentences told in quick succession under different words and phrases before. I had to calm Arty down by saying we’re getting the least attractive friend who has as much self-confidence as him that we know. Basically, ugly and no confidence.Bookmark here

Although, it was a bit of a challenge because he and I could not think of one person among our friends and classmates that fit the criteria. The ugly ones I knew have at least a couple more balls than Arty. Surprisingly enough, some of them even have girlfriends way above their league!Bookmark here

Naturally, the conversation started including Charlie. Not only was he going to be part of the trip, he was also our classmate. It was inevitable that we were going to meet him the following morning, so he, Arty and I had the talk about the upcoming summer trip, and eventually the topic of who that extra boy we can invite came up. Bookmark here

Of course, I had to explain the situation and our intentions because he might just start inviting whoever. Bookmark here

He was not really aware of Arty’s crush until then, so that part was a surprise to him. Bookmark here

Actually, it was a very well-kept secret for some odd reason. Arty has never told anyone else, and somehow no one has connected his being out in the hallway a few rooms away from his homeroom during lunch to a crush. Some people thought it was because I just dragged him along to hang out when in truth it was the opposite. Maybe it was because, during those periods, he was mostly surrounded by guys from the other classes, I don’t know.Bookmark here

Fortunately, Charlie was agreeable. “Everyone deserves to love”, he explained.Bookmark here

He was the sappy type. Or at least, he has started spewing out cheesy lines ever since he started dating Dana the year before. He was already the cheerful type of fellow prior to being in a relationship, but having a girlfriend has certainly given him a high of a sort.Bookmark here

He was also very cooperative. Not only did he promise not to tell a soul about Arty’s crush, he even nominated a good candidate for the fourth guy to go on the trip. There was actually one person in our class that Arty and I completely overlooked, and it was the guy sitting alone in the front row with his nose buried in a thick book.Bookmark here

His name was Eric.Bookmark here

He wasn’t ugly, however. Maybe average looking, wears thick glasses, and he certainly doesn’t stand out.Bookmark here

He also likes to keep to himself. He doesn’t seem like the type to start conversations, so chances are low he would try anything with one of the girls.Bookmark here

But more importantly, his appearance isn’t very similar to the Arty’s.Bookmark here

Eric was only probably a few inches shorter than Arty, but he was lean and lanky. He also was sporting long bangs. While not unkempt, the combination of wearing glasses make him nerdy, and it was something that some girls may not find attractive.Bookmark here

Or at the least, Tabitha may not find Eric as a potential love interest going by her ideal type of guy.Bookmark here

Well, it’s not like I asked Tabitha what her type is, so I can’t say for certain. In fact, I haven’t asked her that question since probably grade school. But, I at least know what she considers cute, and that was Arty’s appearance.Bookmark here

Eric wasn’t what we were looking for, but his traits were something we can compromise with. Bookmark here

Or at least, that is what I explained to Arty before he could launch any protest. I’ve been hanging out with him for so long, that I knew he was going to. Bookmark here

He seemed to have accepted it without complaints, thankfully enough.Bookmark here

Anyway, Eric accepted our invitation to my surprise. I or Arty have barely talked to the guy, but Charlie seems to be close to him, which probably played a part in his decision. I also had the impression he was the introverted type, so I wasn’t expecting him to have a taste for summer outings.Bookmark here

So now there were four guys for the trip. All that was left was the planning with the girls. But before that, there was also informing them that they now have all positions filled for their heavy lifting.Bookmark here

Thinking it was a good chance for Arty to talk to Tabitha, I forced the task to go to the classroom where the all girls are to him. Bookmark here

Charlie almost ruined the opportunity by mailing Dana, but luckily, he announced it first before typing anything in which I promptly asked him to not do it.Bookmark here

So on Arty went with his quest during the morning recess, until he stopped at his usual spot.Bookmark here

I was expecting it, but I was still disappointed.Bookmark here

He accomplished the task I gave him, however. Beth just happened to be coming out of their classroom and noticed him. They chatted a bit, and that’s where he told her that there are now four boys for the trip. Then he returned to our classroom.Bookmark here

Mission accomplished, but not why I made you do it in the first place.Bookmark here

Oh well, there are still a few chances for him after this at least. One of which was the day we all meet up to plan for the trip.Bookmark here

That almost didn’t happen, by the way. Eric and his big mouth suggested we would be better organized if we just did it over Lime, the most common chat app people use in their phones. Charlie thought it was a good idea since some of us had part time jobs and may not be available. Not to mention, one of the girls had strict parents, and with the end of term exams coming in a few weeks, she was probably not going to be allowed to go out. Bookmark here

So Charlie proceeded to create a chat group with everyone in it. The girls thought it was a good idea, too. I had to do some convincing in that very chat group so we could meet in person.Bookmark here

“Wouldn’t it be fun if we just hung out a bit before the exams? This could also serve that.”Bookmark here

“We could also show the meeting place to the people who aren’t familiar with the area so they don’t get lost on the day.”Bookmark here

Beth even threw shots at me in the chat. “Are you sure you’re not just wanting to go out with a certain somebody? LOL”Bookmark here

There were also a few other messages along those lines, but I just ignored her when I did not feel like dealing with her teasing.Bookmark here

I tried getting Arty to convince the others, too, maybe even privately chat with Tabitha since he now knew her Lime account, but as you would expect, he did nothing.Bookmark here

I continued to pester the group chat to the point that I appeared needy.Bookmark here

“Come on, it’s lonely doing stuff like this on Lime!”Bookmark here

“I wanna go to McWombat’s with everyone!”Bookmark here

But whatever, I was a man on a mission.Bookmark here

Somehow, it worked. At least, I think it worked. Bookmark here

The next Sunday at ten in the morning, we met up not to plan for the summer getaway as they were already drawn up in the chat group, but to gather information if the food we wanted to bring fit the budget we pooled for the trip. We met up for a quick trip to a supermarket chain, which has a branch close by our destination.Bookmark here

The task really only needed one or two persons who were used to buying groceries, but somehow we went as a group. It was also something that could have been done a day or two before the event since it’s not like we were going immediately after school lets us off. The trip wouldn’t be until the fifth day of the summer break.Bookmark here

That is why I think my badgering had the intended effect.Bookmark here

As Charlie predicted, however, our schedules conflicted so it was not all the eight people who were going on the trip who had come for this short errand. Charlie, Dana and Eric had part time jobs to go to, so they hadn’t come. The girl who had strict parents was also not present. Bookmark here

I haven’t met her yet, but her name was Francine, or Fran for short. She was a transfer student, only enrolling to our school this year so I haven’t had much opportunity to meet her in person. I already have talked to her on Lime in the group chat though, but I still don’t have much of an impression of her or even know what she looks like yet.Bookmark here

Anyway, so it was just me, Arty, Tabitha, and Beth. It was a “double date”, as the latter teases.Bookmark here

We all laugh it off, except for one guy who has been quietly grinning by himself the entire outing – as you’ve guessed, it was Arty.Bookmark here

I don’t think he has said more than a handful of words since the four of us convened. Actually, I don’t think he has said anything more than a “hi” and a “hello”. Tabitha and I went to the meeting place together, so I witnessed each interaction Arty had with her – if you can even call it that – during the day. Bookmark here

I understood he was starstruck seeing Tabitha dressed up in plain clothes for the first time. She was dressed in a chic one piece dress. A very fresh look from the school uniform we see her daily in. I also think this is the first time Arty has seen her with her hair down as she usually has it tied up. It goes without saying, but she was infinitely prettier than the first time they’ve met when she was in her lounge wear. Bookmark here

But, I do not understand why he never made conversation – not once – during the trip to the supermarket even when he was directly asked for his opinions and preferences by that very Tabitha He just nodded in agreement when he was talked to, even to questions that did not have a yes or a no for an answer!Bookmark here

I was starting to worry if I will complete the mission as Arty seemed hopeless.Bookmark here

Beth also started jokingly calling him my shadow.Bookmark here

“He only ever seem to follow you around without saying anything, and he only acts something out when you force him”, she explained.Bookmark here

I couldn’t agree more.Bookmark here

The trip to the supermarket was over, and Arty still have not made conversation with Tabitha. Lucky for him, the three of us decided to stop over a fast food joint for a quick lunch before going home, so it wasn’t all over yet.Bookmark here

I volunteered taking everyone’s orders. I also dragged Arty with me to carry the food.Bookmark here

“What gentlemen!”, Beth teased again.Bookmark here

She never seem to let something go without a comment, but that’s the type of person she is.Bookmark here

The restaurant was a bit busy as it was already close to noon, so there was a line. It was the perfect opportunity to speak my mind to Arty.Bookmark here

“You really need to make a move right now, you’ve already wasted most of this trip even when the chance keeps showing itself to you.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, it’s just that I don’t know what to talk about.”Bookmark here

“You could have talked to her about onions of all things!”Bookmark here

He clammed up. He knew I was right.Bookmark here

“Look, you’re both ordering onion rings.”Bookmark here

“But I’m not-”, he tried interjecting, but I cut him off.Bookmark here

“You’re ordering onion rings, and talk to her about it. If she can talk to you about onions, you can talk to her about onion rings!”Bookmark here

Obediently, he got the onion rings.Bookmark here

I also instructed him to go ahead of me and sit across Tabitha. Just in case, I also told him to ignore Beth, who was sitting beside Tabitha, when she makes a joke.Bookmark here

What followed was and will probably be the most awkward conversation about onion rings I’ve witnessed and ever will witness in my entire life.Bookmark here

“So we both got onion rings”, Arty said as he distributes the food from the tray he carried.Bookmark here

I could see that Beth wanted to make a comment, likely about how this is the first time Arty has uttered a full sentence the entire outing, but she seem to have resisted.Bookmark here

“And so we do”, Tabitha replied. “I guess you really do like onions.”Bookmark here

She was pertaining to one of the myriad questions she has thrown to Arty, where he only sheepishly nodded to every query. One of which was asking whether he liked onions or not. Odd as it is.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I wonder if we can cook them for the trip.”Bookmark here

“Maybe we could.”Bookmark here

Then the conversation died there as Arty seemed to have ran out of ideas on how to continue from her answer. He simply clammed up again, but this time with a weird grin on his face. Bookmark here

Thinking that he can finally make some form of small talk, I tried picking it back up again in hopes that he would join in whenever he feels like he’s got something to say. Bookmark here

“I’d rather have calamari”, I declared.Bookmark here

Beth finally had a retort. “Sure, if you buy it yourself”, she said.Bookmark here

“Yeah, didn’t you see how expensive the squid is when we looked at the prices earlier?”, Tabitha followed.Bookmark here

I nudged at Arty, signaling that it was an opportunity for him to speak, but he was silent.Bookmark here

Unfortunately, that was it for him for the day. He hasn’t said anything else apart from “yes” and “no” until we finished our meals and said our goodbyes before going home. At least he stopped with the stupid nods.Bookmark here

One silver lining at least is that he finally took a few steps. Well, baby steps, but it was something. This could be the event where he finally starts building his confidence. I just have to make sure he gets opportunities to add to that.Bookmark here

I could have taken solace with that if Arty was the only one I needed to worry about, but there was still Tabitha. I also needed to get her to develop a more romantic feeling for Arty rather than just finding him cute. But first, I needed to know if she still had the same impression after months of just being acquaintances, so I would know where their relationship is at the moment and take appropriate action.Bookmark here

Naturally, as we live close by each other, I was with her on the commute home from the supermarket trip. I thought that was a good time to ask what she currently thought of Arty.
Bookmark here

“He seemed nice”, she replied, giving me a bit of hope, but then she let me down with the follow-up. “But also kind of weird. I wish he wasn’t so silent.”Bookmark here

That is how I know I still have a lot of work to do.Bookmark here

-june-
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