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The Dare
Author: Harley Laroux

Part I - The Game

 

A lot of things change after high school. Straight-A students become deadbeats, shy nerds are suddenly married with kids, guys who swore they were going to join the NFL end up joining the Marines instead. People make all kinds of weird decisions once they hit adulthood - like Daniel Peters, for example, decided to start inviting freaks to his parties.

It was late October, Halloween weekend to be exact. The night was cold, an icy breeze whipping up flurries of golden leaves down the quiet suburban streets. Daniel’s neighborhood was gated, requiring check-in at the gatehouse before we could even drive our car through. A list of guests had been left with the guard, and he checked it meticulously as I showed him my ID.

“Jessica Martin, hm?” he said, tapping his pen repeatedly on his clipboard. I gave him a tense, impatient smile, and glanced back at the line of cars that had begun to form behind us. Daniel was known for his massive parties - dozens if not hundreds of guests would fill his parents’ massive house, pool, and sizeable backyard. That was one thing that hadn’t changed after high school: none of us had given up partying.

“And you are…?” the guard glanced past me to the passenger in my Corolla, my best friend since Freshman year.

“Ashley Garcia,” she said, staring down at her phone as she typed. “Do you, like...need my ID or something?”

“No, no, you’re alright. So are you ladies headed to a Halloween party?” I could feel the guard’s eyes lingering on my body - at least what he could see of it through the window. Both Ashley and I had dressed up as angels - slutty, sexy angels. My sheer white bra would’ve shown off my nipple piercings if it wasn’t for the pasties I’d slapped on underneath, and if I happened to bend over in my short satin skirt people would definitely be getting a view of my thong. Our angel wings were small, made of white feathers, clipped to the back of our bras.

I was getting really tired of this old perv trying to make small talk. I had no doubt he’d already seen our names on the list and was just trying to get us to have a conversation with him. I impatiently glanced back as yet another car pulled into line. The truck right behind us was shaking and rumbling, absolute hell for my ears. Something about the ugly old beast looked familiar...

Then I saw the guy driving, and immediately remembered where I had seen the truck before.

“Fucking Manson Reed is behind us!” I blurted, as soon as the guard finally buzzed us through. Ashley immediately looked up from her phone, turned, and strained in her seat to look into the truck as we left it behind at the gate.

“You have got to be kidding,” she said. “Are you sure? I can’t see anything with those headlights.”

“I saw him. And that’s his same old shitty truck.”

“You don’t...you don’t think…” Ashley sat back in her seat, giving me a serious look. “You don’t think Daniel invited him, do you?”

“Oh God, hell no,” I winced in disgust. “Daniel wouldn’t invite that weirdo. Not after what happened.”

“Remember, Daniel has been on that whole “acceptance for everyone” kick since he took that Philosophy class,” Ashley said warningly. “And it’s not like Manson lives here. Why else would he be in this neighborhood?”

I shook my head. “No way have Daniel’s invite standards dropped that low. Besides, literally everyone from high school is freaked out over Manson. Yeah, it’s been a couple years, but no one really forgets the kid who almost stabbed someone.”

Ashley folded her arms with a little shudder and I sped up, putting the old truck further behind us. All the houses in Daniel’s neighborhood were massive, sitting on wide lawns behind tall wrought-iron gates, shaded by old trees. I could hear the music before I even turned the corner onto Daniel’s street. Cars lined the sidewalk, but I managed to find a spot just a short walk away.

"Sooo, like, not to bring up shameful moments," Ashley spoke slowly, popping her bubblegum before she went on. "But didn't you and Manson have, like, a thing?"

I sighed heavily. Why did she have to bring that up? "We made out in the bathroom once, but that's not a thing." She raised her eyebrows at me skeptically. "It's not a thing!"

She made a face. "I mean...Kyle thought it was a thing."

I scoffed. "Kyle and I weren't even together. We were so on and off."

"Oookay, but were you on, or off?"

"Apparently Kyle thought we were on," I rolled my eyes. "That's why he was such an asshole about it."

"Yeah, but I mean, Manson did pull a knife on him. What kind of freak carries a knife to high school?"

The kind of freak who anticipated my ex’s anger and came prepared for it. Kyle had always been an asshole to Manson - he’d been an asshole to everyone, but Manson in particular. He was the perfect victim: quiet, head down, usually dressed in black, with a denim jacket covered in patches. Manson had run with the Goth crowd, the skaters, even the anime kids. He’d somehow managed to get his foot in every reject group possible. He was a good punching bag for Kyle, especially once Kyle realized that Manson and I...had...

Not a thing, no. But as much as I had teased Manson - little stuck-up cheerleader that I was - Manson teased back. We had the misfortune of our lockers being next to each other, so there was no avoiding the sight of his annoying face. There were days we would bicker back and forth in the halls all the way to class, name-calling, insulting, laughing -

I wasn't really sure if it was normal to develop a crush on my nemesis, but one thing led to another and…then Kyle found out that I’d actually kissed Manson. It was social suicide for me, but it was a great way to piss off my ex.

Kyle and three friends had cornered Manson in the boy’s bathroom. They’d planned to beat him - Kyle told me some shit later about “defending my honor.” But Manson had come prepared.

He had to have known what he was getting into when he kissed me: I was Kyle’s ex, Captain of the cheerleading squad, one of the most popular girls in school. I’d tugged Manson into the bathroom, four days after Kyle and I broke up, and made out with him against the cold tile wall.

“You know it was all just to make Kyle mad anyway,” I said briskly, re-applying my lipgloss in the visor mirror. “He hated that kid. Plus Kyle had dumped me for Veronica Mills! Obviously I had to piss him off.”

“Yeah, well, it worked,” Ashley shrugged. “Kyle got mad, you got back together, and then you broke up again anyway.” She rolled her eyes. “You could’ve picked someone else to piss him off with. Manson looks like he’d be into, like...killing small animals.”

A sudden, intense urge to deny her assessment rose up in me. I'd said worse things about Manson to his face, but when someone else said it, it irritated me in a way I couldn't fully understand.

I shook it off. That was the past, petty high school drama. I was better off not dwelling on it. I reached into the backseat to grab my bag, and Ashley suddenly clutched my arm.

“Manson at twelve o’ clock,” she muttered.

I looked up slowly. Manson’s big truck had pulled over to park in front of us. Oh my god. No...no, he couldn't actually be here for the party...

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