Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: The Bet
Why did I let Sarah get me into this? Our basketball team sucked, but anyone can have a good day. That was what they’d had, squeaking out a win against the evil Weevils from Weasley High, 64-60. Sarah had been so sure that they would lose, that she had set up a bet with her friend and forward Jack Dawson. If the team lost, as we all expected they would, he and his captain, the totally sexy Harry MacDonald, would show up for school in speedos. They’d don shirts and shorts for classes, but those would have to come off again at lunch. Didn’t seem much cost to them, being ogled by a bunch of girls. Whatever.
Sarah, my former friend, had said she and I would dress as clowns if they won, a nearly impossible task, complete with big floppy shoes. Mine were currently in the bag, though she was having fun flopping around in hers. I had slept over last night so we could put our make-up on together. Her mom wouldn’t stop laughing.
“You’d think it was Halloween instead of February. Okay, girls, smile!” Sarah pulled out her pigtails and puffed up her cheeks, but I just couldn’t manage it. Sarah was cute, friend to everyone, just closest to me, and although she would be teased today, no one would mention this again until the yearbooks came out.
Oh My God. There will be a picture of clown me in the yearbook.
“Jessie? What’s wrong?” Sarah asked as I put my painted face in my hands. “You’re going to smudge it.” She pulled them down carefully, but I kept shaking, my light brown tails whipping from side to side.
“I can’t do this! Everyone will remember me like this!” I tried to pull away, but Sarah held my hands tight.
“Jess. Relax. It’s just a prank. No one is going to remember this next week.” She tossed her head. “Well, maybe a week, but no longer. Come on. Trust me. This will be fun! Here. Give it a squeeze.”
She set a rubber ball in my hand that was attached to a horn. I squeezed it, expecting a honk. I nearly fell off her bed when it let out a loud ‘ahooooga!’
I couldn’t help but laugh. Sarah giggled too, pulling out her own. It sounded like an elephant trumpet.
“Aren’t they great? My aunt bought them for Mickey’s costume at Halloween.” Mickey was her 5 year old cousin. “There’s one more, here.” She put the last ball in my hand, and I squeezed and flinched, almost afraid what sound might come out. It was a loud train whistle.
“There,” Sarah said, brushing my hair out of my makeup. “Now let’s get dressed.”
We were both still in pajama tops and shorts, but Sarah had hit a thrift store and gotten us a pair of mumus. A bit of wiring in the skirt and we were giant, floral bells with our skirts standing out from our legs.
“How are we going to sit in these?” I asked.
“Carefully,” Sarah answered. “They’ll bend a little. It’ll be fine.”
She was awfully sure of that. I followed in her shadow for most of the day, trying not to notice the staring and pointing. At lunch, Sarah ran up to Jack and rubbed her face on his, getting makeup all over him. “Congratulations!” she said. Then she pulled out her horn and an elephant cheered.
He was almost laughing too hard to answer. “Thanks, Sarah. God, I never thought you’d go through with it.”
“A bet’s a bet. You would have come in that speedo, wouldn’t you?” He nodded before shaking his head again at our outfits.
“You make a pretty cute clown.” I froze, unsure who was behind me. One of my pigtails was brushed forward off my shoulder, and I felt breath on the back of my neck. “Cutest one since my cousin. She was three, though, so that’s hard to beat.” The hand on my shoulder drifted down to my waist and Harry moved around to stand next to Jack. His hand didn’t let go.
“I’m glad we paid those guys to throw the game last night, aren’t you?” he asked Jack.
My jaw dropped. Sarah and Jack both laughed.
“He’s kidding,” Sarah assured me. Then she stopped laughing. “You are kidding, I hope. If you were going to bribe teams to throw games, you should have started earlier in the season.”
Jack laughed harder. “Definitely. So, shall we see how many we can squeeze into your clown car?” Jack asked, heading to the parking lot. Sarah laughed in agreement following. Harry looked at me and cocked his head. Pressing my lips together, I dug down for courage. Then I nodded and walked with him to the car.
“Nice nose!” someone shouted. Sarah beamed and waved.
“Getting drafts under that dress?” someone else asked. I pushed mine down in front which made it flare out in back. I let go quickly, embarrassed. Harry’s hand tightened on my waist as he laughed. It made me blush but feel a little better, too.
“Uh, Sarah,” I asked. “How are we going to get in the car? We took these off to come in this morning.”
She shrugged. “We’ll manage. If not, we’ve done half the day. No one can blame us for changing now.”
“Nuh-uh,” Jack said, waiting for Sarah to open the doors. “All day, Mitchell. That was the deal.”
Sarah rolled her eyes and moved around to the passenger door where Jack was standing. “Well, go on. I can’t get behind the wheel in this thing.”
Jack chuckled and walked around the car. Harry held the door for me. I climbed in and my skirt was immediately in my face.
“Sarah, what’s going on?”
She shrugged. “Dunno. Something’s up though.”
“Why is Harry-?” I didn’t get to finish as the boys opened the other doors.
Harry coughed and turned red. It took a moment, but I realized that he could see right up my hooped skirt. I was wearing shorts underneath, but still.
“Oh my god,” I breathed, ripping open the door and running.
“Wait!” Harry called after me. I’d run to the end of the lot before stopping to catch my breath.
“Wait, Jess. Hey. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare.”
I covered my face in my hands as hot tears spilled over. “I’m a freak,” I murmured.
“What?” Harry asked. “No, Jess, it was my fault. Please don’t cry?”
I slid my hands down, not sure.
“Oh no, you ruined the make up. I’m sorry.” He rubbed his thumb under my eye, sweeping away a last tear.
“You’re going to remember me as a clown aren’t you? I bet you never even saw me before today.”
Harry looked away. I started to walk away, but he grabbed my hand. “Jess, I’m...I’m not good around girls.”
“What do you mean? You’re always surrounded by girls.”
He shook his head. “Not the same thing. I have lots of girls who are friends, I have admirers and girls with crushes, but I’ve never...” He still wouldn’t look at me and I couldn’t blame him. Who could take me seriously in this get up?
“I can be a friend,” I said, pulling my hand back. “How’s that?”
“Not good enough,” he muttered, not looking up from his shoes. “What would you have done if we’d lost? What would you be doing right now?”
“Staring,” I said without thinking.
He smiled and looked up. “Like I was?”
I looked away this time, embarrassed again. “I suppose. Look, Harry, I should probably eat lunch before class starts again.”
“Yeah, just one more thing.” He kissed my painted cheek. “You really are cute, clown or not.”
I was left dumbstruck as he walked away.
Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege and the upcoming Thickness of Blood. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including Kimmydonn.com