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I, Tom Branson, was a seventeen year old slacker, interested mostly in watching soccer and following after girls in the hopes that we would notice me.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t much to look at, with shaggy, sandy blond hair and murky blue eyes. I wasn’t very tall, maybe just over five and a half feet, and my limbs merely hung off my shoulders, giving me a slumped appearance when I walked.

But that didn’t stop me from attempting to get with every girl I set my eyes on, though “getting with” us mostly consisted of me ogling girls in silence until it was too late to do move any further in the relationship with us, past maybe strained friendship.

That was part of the reason why I had decided to get a job over the summer at Coolie’s Ice Cream Parlor.

I had never had a job before, and certainly not one working in scooping ice cream out for screaming, snot-nosed little kids, but Coolie’s had one thing that no other ice cream parlor in town had: Marissa Jacobs.

Marissa Jacobs, you see, was one of the cutest girls in my class; with long brown hair and golden, natural highlights, Marissa seemed to shimmer wherever she went. Her green eyes appeared to stare through you like you didn’t exist, and she was tall.

At least 5’8”, I had noted to myself one day, with lean muscles from years of swimming and volleyball. I had a major crush on her, as did most of the other boys in my class.

In fact, Marissa Jacobs had become sort of a bet between my friends and me. We were somewhat of social “outcasts” at school, being the sort of boys who never went to spirit rallies or bonfire parties, but after three years of high school, we had finally had enough.

I could still remember the conversation that we had had on the last day of school, the five of us packed into Ricky’s car as we drove home.

“Man, next year’s   our last year, isn’t it?” Scottie suddenly shouted as Ricky pulled up to a stoplight somewhat abruptly. (He had never been a very good driver, and none of us were very sure how Ricky had even succeeded in getting his license last semester.)

“Very good, Scottie, I’m glad you can tell time now,” Ricky replied somewhat sarcastically, to which Scottie gave him a scowl and the middle finger.

Scottie and Ricky hadn’t really liked each other very much, since Scottie was the newest member to the “group”, having only moved to Helmsdale sophomore year. Ricky thought Scottie was a wuss and Scottie thought Ricky picked on him too much.

(Both of these things were, of course, true, but that didn’t meant that Ricky and Scottie weren’t a couple of testosterone-filled morons.)

Of course, it didn’t help that Scottie was barely five foot four, with big owl-like eyes and a voice that sounded like it had no goddamn clue what puberty was; in contrast, Ricky was not quite six feet tall, somewhat muscled from years of martial arts that he had practiced ever since Ricky was about seven years old.

“Shut the hell up, Larson, I could always tell time, and certainly a lot fucking better than you can drive,” Scottie grumbled, but Ricky only grinned and jerked away from the stopping point as the light turned green, so that Scottie hit the back of my seat. “Fuck you, moron!”

“Scott’s got a point, though,” Luke pointed out.

Luke was the tallest out of the five of us at six foot two inches, with inky dark hair and an olive complexion. He might have been the closest thing we had to a leader in our little group, except that Luke was incredibly soft-spoken and you usually had to lean in to hear anything he said.

 “We’ve only got the one year left, and we’re still as huge nerds as we were freshmen year. Whatever happened to our goal of becoming the big men on campus, of shoving our popularity in all those dumb jock’s faces, especially Josh Pointer,” Luke continued.

(Ah, Josh Pointer. I could write entire novels about why we all hate the jerk, but let me just sum it up with this quick statement: he’s the captain of both the football and the wrestling team.)

“So?” Ricky asked, taking a sharp turn around the corner so that we all slid against the window, and Ricky’s cigarette accidentally slipped from his fingers and landed on my leg.

“Shit! Oh, fuck!” I yelled, swiping the fag off of me and inspecting the burn carefully. “Goddamit, Rick, you’re such a fucking moron.”

 My skin puckered red where the cigarette had landed, and I scowled at the sight of it, dropping the damn fag out the window as we sped down the road.

“Fuck you, too, Tommy boy, but I still haven’t heard a reason why we’re talking about the wet dream of every freshmen this side of the equator. I mean, yeah we wanted to be popular, who fucking didn’t? But with only one year left, I think that just might not happen, you dig?” Rick leaned over towards his stash of cigarettes, lighting another as he drove.

“Well, I just think we should give it one last chance, don’t you?” Luke asked, and Scottie nodded in approval. “You know, see if we can get invited to at least one party this year, or possibly make out with a chick or two? Maybe even score with someone like, oh I don’t know, Marissa Jacobs?

“Well now we really are fantasizing some freshman’s wet dream, aren’t we?” joked Paul, who had been the closest thing I had to a best friend ever since he punched me in the face the first day of second grade because I stole his juice box.

Paul was lean, like I was, but he was also 5’11”, with reddish hair that he wore kind of long, bound together in a ponytail. He also wore an earring shaped like an eagle in flight, and Paul might have been a hit with the ladies, had it not been for the fact that he insisted on hanging out with the socially inept like the other four of us.

In fact, Paul had been the first of any of us to get a girlfriend, back in the summer before sophomore year, when Emily Cartwright (also a very popular girl at school) had invited him to go bowling. They had dated until school started, because Emily kept trying to talk Paul into ditching the rest of us and start hanging out with all of the more athletic guys at school.

(Rumor has it she’s still very bitter about being dumped by a so-called “nerd”, and I believe it, to be honest. I mean, why else would her new boyfriend, Will Nelson, and all of his basketball buddies seek us out at school each day otherwise?)

“What?” Luke asked, crossing his arms as he turned to frown at Paul. “You trying to say that I’m not good enough for the likes of Marissa Jacobs? That she wouldn’t go for me? For any of us? Is that what you’re insinuating here, Mr. Hotshot?”

“Man, I don’t even know what in-sin-u-at-ing means. But I can tell you that girls like Marissa Jacobs don’t date putzes like us. She likes sporty guys, muscular guys. Popular guys.” Paul rolled his eyes at the affronted look on Luke’s face as he shrugged. “It’s only the truth. I mean, I bet she doesn’t even know that…that Tom here exists, and the dude’s been lusting after her since sixth grade!”

“I have not!” I demand, but Ricky turned to grin at me. It was a feral grin, and it made me shiver. Ricky and Paul shared a knowing look and nodded before turning to smile at me once more.

“We have an idea of how to make this the best summer ever and get the popular kids to notice us for once,” Paul said to me, and I immediately knew right then and there that I should get the fuck out of that car, because whenever Paul used that tone, things never worked out well for me.

But I didn’t move, instead remaining glued to my seat by the tempting possibility to be able to talk to Marissa Jacobs.

(Because, yeah, let’s face it, I had been wanting to kiss her, or maybe more, ever since I looked up at her one day and noticed she had boobs.)

“You know how she works at Coolie’s over the summer, right, to pay for swim camp or something?” Paul said, and I nodded. “Well, I know for a fact that Dirk Spangler no longer works at Coolie’s. He moved away, I think, but that’s not important. What is important is that there is an open spot for someone to work with Marissa all damn day. You guys would even be stuck in the same area together, because I know for a fact that there’s special bathrooms back there for the employees.”

“I don’t know…” I muttered, looking around at all my friend’s excited face. “I’ve never scooped ice cream or anything like that. What if I don’t even get the job?”

“Oh come on, Mr. Summer Job! You’ve got a great resume from all those years at the neighborhood pool and at your stepmom’s restaurant, and Coolie would be an idiot for not firing you!” Ricky yelled as we took another sharp turn, my face smacking the window once more. “And besides, how hard can it be to scoop ice cream? I bet even I could do it!”

And so here I was, working side by side with the hottest girl in Helmsdale, scooping up little balls of ice cream and handing it to whiny children who complained that I didn’t give them enough or that I gave them the wrong flavor.

And all of this just because my idiot friends thought that by locking me in a cold, enclosed area for eight hours every day will the girl of my dreams finally notice me?

But, so far, after a week and a half of working here, Marissa hadn’t said much to me. Mostly, it had just been a quick “hello” when I come in and a “see ya tomorrow” when I leave.

If it weren’t for the nametag on my shirt, I don’t think Marissa would even know my name, and considering how many times she’s paused when directing her attention to me, I get the feeling she still doesn’t really know who I am.

Which was, all in all, very disappointing, considering the fact that I shared no less than three classes with her just this year, but oh well.

Paul was always saying I have to give it time, so that Marissa will get the full “Tom Branson” experience, but I was starting to think they were just trying to egg me on.

After all, why would Marissa Jacobs want anything to do with me of all people? I’m sure she just about praised the lord the second I walked out of here each day, and cursed my name whenever I came back the next morning.

On one particular day, Monday I think, I came scrambling into Coolie’s a few minutes into my shift, much to my boss’ annoyance. His official name was Wayne Coulson, but everyone called him Coolie, since he had been running the parlor for almost forty-two years.

(Well, I say running…)

“You’re late, Branson,” he grumbled to me as I jumped the barrier keeping us separated from the customers. “You’re always late.”

“No car, Cools,” I replied, and it was true. I didn’t have a car, just a pair of skates that were peeling. It was, right now, all I could really afford. A job at Coolie’s was certainly never going to be getting me anything nice to drive, and my mom probably wouldn’t let me buy it anyway.

Marissa was already behind the counter, cleaning off the machines from last night, flipping switches so that they hummed, beginning to churn the cream and whistle every few seconds. Marissa was always on time-no, she was always early, which was just another thing that I loved about her.

She was always so punctual.

“Everything under control?” Coolie asked the two of us, and Marissa nodded, tucking her hair into a net as she gave Coolie a confident smile.

“Shouldn’t be too much trouble, Wayne,” Marissa said. She was the only person that I know of who called Coolie by his actual name, but I think Coolie had a bit of a crush on Marissa, so he didn’t seem to mind too much. “I’m sure that…Tommy and I can handle it.”

“Thanks, angel,” Coolie said, and I could practically hear his heart pumping in his chest, which was kind of gross, considering Marissa is seventeen and Coolie is, like, at least sixty. “If you need me, I’ll be upstairs.”

Upstairs was where Coolie spent most of his time nowadays, either sleeping or running his side business of pushing some of the weirdest drugs under the sun. Sure, Coolie has the normal stuff, like pot and shit, but he’s also got some things he won’t even talk about, only looking over his shoulder nervously like he thinks there are cops everywhere.

As soon as Coolie shuffled out of sight, Marissa flopped into one of the chairs set in the back just for us and pulled out one of her gossip magazines, sighing as she landed on the seat.

I couldn’t help but watch the way her chest moved when she sat, or the way her feet shifted as she tried to get comfortable. Marissa was beautiful, and I couldn’t make myself stop staring, even if I knew it was kind of creepy.

This early in the day, Coolie’s Ice Cream Parlor was usually pretty slow, and today was no exception. Over the next hour, the only people to stop by was a trio of giggling middle school girls who all ordered plain vanilla, one scoop, with nothing on it.

As I scooped out their orders, I couldn’t help but continue to peek back at Marissa, who was still sitting in her chair, though she had now shifted into such a position that I could nearly see her underwear under her skirt, if I just bent my head a little bit…

“Are you looking at me, Branson?” Marissa asked me sharply as the giggly girls left, and I jumped, surprised at being caught. My eyes had been unconsciously drawn back to her, even when I tried to force myself to look away. “Like what you see, do you, Branson?”

Oh, great. Now she remembers my name?

“I-I-I wasn’t looking,” I stutter, blushing and looking away, but Marissa only laughed, making me nervous. I had thought she would be the sort to start yelling at any guy who tried to take a peek up her skirt.

“No need to be shy to me, Tommy, I know just what you were looking at. You wouldn’t be the first boy who’s wanted to take a look up my skirt, and I doubt you’ll be the last. At first, that sort of thing might have annoyed me, you know. I mean, guys are such perverts, honestly, and they all want the same thing: a nice, tight hole to shove their dicks in. But now? I don’t mind if you stare, Tommy, not at all. Stare all you like, that’s totally fine.”

I gave Marissa a suspicious look, caught off guard by how flippant she was. After all, wasn’t this the same girl who had send another girl to the hospital just for looking at her boyfriend? The same girl who had managed to make at least three different students suddenly transfer out of the state?

Or maybe Marissa enjoyed the attention. Maybe she got off on being stared at, content with the fact that if anyone tried anything too far, she had a big football player for a boyfriend, and a daddy who made more in a week than my dad made in a year.

“I’ve seen you looking at me, Tom. At school, in here. Do you think I didn’t notice how often you seemed to come to my swim meets? My own boyfriend doesn’t show up as often as you do, which means you’re either stalking me, or little Tommy Branson has a crush.” She giggled.

“I’m sorry, Marissa, it won’t happen again,” I told her in a quavering voice, wishing someone else would come into the store so I could get away from her icy green stare. She wasn’t blinking or looking away from me, and I was starting to get the creeps. “Really, Marissa, I didn’t mean it. Honest. I’m sorry, I’ll stop looking at you.”

“Oh, no, Tommy, please, I insist. In fact, since I think you’re so interested that you’d be willing to get a job just to be near me, because, hello, how weird is that? Oh, you poor dear, you’re sweating so fretfully. Would you like a drink?” she was grinning now as she offered a small bottle of what appeared to be cherry Kool-Aid, shaking it slightly so that the red mixture swirled through the plastic bottle in an enticing manner.

“U-um, no thanks, Marissa, I’m good,” I gave the drink a suspicious glance, not certain that it wasn’t potentially laced with some sort of narcotic. After all, if Marissa knew about how I hung around her swim meets, it was entirely possible she knew about the time that Ricky and I had…

“You know, it took me a while to totally realise what was up with you, Tom. The swim meets, I figured, was probably just your desperately nerdy way of trying to show me that you cared. The times you skated by my house were a little weird, though. I mean, first of all, why did you bother learning where I lived? But I put that aside, figuring, hey, we’ve all got weird hobbies, right?”

Her voice had taken on a menacing tone as she stood up, still shaking the bottle in my face, though now it was in more of a threatening manner, as though she was insisting that I drink her weird punch. And now I was absolutely sure that I shouldn’t be drinking it at all.

“But you know what the cincher was, Tommy? You know what finally tipped me off that you’re some kind of perverted psycho who is willing to do anything to get into my pants?”

“Marissa, please, let me explain-“I started to beg, but now she was pushing me against the counter top, beginning to unscrew the plastic cap.

“I caught you and your little pervert friends under my window. Oh, sure, I never said anything, but we could hear you. Remember that, Tommy, at my birthday party back in April? It was Chloe who tipped me off, saying something about weird noises outside, and so I went to go check our security cameras-oh, didn’t know about those did you, Tommy?” My face burnt as red as the drink in her hand in embarrassment, “and when we went to go check, we saw five little perverts staring up at me while I undressed, watching me. I mean, really, Tommy, was all the porn on the internet not enough for you? You had to go gawk at a pair of real boobs as well?”

The lid was completely off of the bottle now, and she was giving me a wild grin, pushing my head back and putting pressure on my neck so that I was forced to open my mouth to take a gasping breath.

“You know what’s so great about having Wayne for a boss? I mean, yeah, he’s a total peep show freak as well, but he’s also useful. All sorts of weird bits and ends up there in his apartment. All sorts of drugs and…and other things. And all I had to do was give him a little kiss. Right. Here.”

She squeezed the now bulging crotch of my pants, making me groan, my mouth opening wider, and suddenly, Marissa was pouring the strange liquid down my throat. It burnt, causing me to gasp and cough, but Marissa only clamped her hand around my jaw, shutting my mouth with a small snapping noise.

“Make sure to swallow, Tommy. Make sure to swallow every last drop.” Marissa said, grinning at me, her green eyes so wide that I couldn’t see the white parts. She was watching as I struggled to keep the liquid in my mouth, but it burnt too much, and I was forced to swallow. “You know, when you were busy with those lovely little girls, I borrowed your phone really fast, hope you don’t mind.”

She held it up to show me a group text to Ricky, Scottie, Paul, and Luke. All of whom had been “hidden” outside of Marissa’s window that night back in April.

It showed a message from me, reading H3y dud35, c0m3 0n 0v3r, n0 b055 r19ht n0w.

“Do you know how much power I have over Wayne now? And how glad I was when it was you that applied for this job? I thought I was going to have to hunt the five of you down, but now? This will be so easy. And delicious, too.”

As my head begun to spin, I could have sworn that Marissa was growing taller. Which was crazy, of course. I mean, I knew she was already about an inch taller than me, but now it seemed like that gap was almost a foot.

“Don’t get hurt on the way down, Tommy,” Marissa said, laughing, and I could have sworn that she was nearly two feet above my head, even though she was only wearing flip flops.

I heard a buzz, and looked at the phone in her hand, which now seemed to be eye level with me, an alarming thought. There were four messages, one from each of my friends:

Sure, man, be right there-Paul.

The fuck? Fine, whatever-Ricky

OMW (that means on my way, Tom)-Scottie

Wat 4? R we meetg up, or wat? Cmg-Luke

“No! Leave them out of this, please, Marissa!” I begged her, but in the next instance, everything was dark, and I was left to slump against the counter where we counted out change for customers. 


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