"So you played all night instead of doing homework for Simms's class?" Randy said, laughing.
"Man," Jay said. "Even if you found good groups, it couldn't make up for the wrath of Old Man Simms."
"I didn't mean to," Ben said. "Every group I joined couldn't lose. I kept saying I was going to get to my homework, but all of the sudden it was after eleven."
"You should have seen it," Vince said. "Simms was in fine form. Especially since Ben was the only one who didn't finish."
His three friends laughed while Ben polished off the bag of potato chips he brought for a snack. "Glad you guys are enjoying this. It was a pretty crappy morning." He sighed. And they didn't know the half of it. In a way, he didn't mind the tongue lashing Old Man Simms gave him. It felt normal.
Jay punched Ben's arm. "Melissa says hi, by the way."
"When are you going to ask her out again?" Randy said. "She's only going to keep bugging us until you do."
Ben was about to say something about finding the right time when she caught his eye. Not Melissa, but the new girl, Mrs. Thomas's daughter. What was her name? Angie? Annie? Andi? Yes, Andi. As Mrs. Thomas said, there was no doubt who her parents were. She had long dark hair, the color of her father's, the petite, athletic frame and good looks of her mother, and…
She looked up at him, and her bright blue eyes pierced through him, like her father's. But unlike his stare, which brought intimidation, hers filled him with a sense of peace and happiness. It was unlike anything he'd ever felt before. She smiled, and he tried to smile back, hoped he did. He didn't dare look down because he was afraid he'd find himself floating a few inches off the ground.
His buddies burst out laughing.
"What?" he said, breaking eye contact. When he glanced back, she was already on her way in the opposite direction.
"Nothing," Vince said. "It was just perfect timing. We're talking about Melissa, and you're making eyes at the new girl."
"Yeah," Randy said. "That chick's pretty hot. You should've said hi, Benny."
"I don't know…"
"Sure, just like he did with Melissa last year," Jay said. "Oh, wait, that never happened. She had to finally make him ask her out."
Randy took a turn punching him in the arm. Like Jay's punch, it didn't hurt. Luckily, Ben's friends were all built like him, more for video games than physical activity. "For a guy with no game, you sure are a chick magnet."
Before he had to endure any more, the bell rang, ending break and signaling the start of third period. The guys all said bye and headed for class. Ben hurried to Language Arts, hopeful this would be the one he shared with Andi Thomas.