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A Dare MAG
To the casual observer, it might seem like a typical day in Mrs. Gold’s third-period study hall. But to the trained eye, it is possible to determine that a real-life drama is unfolding its tentative petals to the world. Of course, it all has to be done quite quietly under Mrs. Gold’s watchful eye, for no sounds above a whisper are ever allowed.
It begins in a back corner, unnoticeable at first, a slight shuffle of cramped limbs, a muffled snicker. Someone laughs only to be quickly silenced. Then the whispered words begin to carry.
“Nah, he won’t do it.”
“Go for it. I want to see what she’d say …”
A fifth boy replies unintelligibly, except for the bravado in his voice. Then someone says a bit too loudly, “He’s afraid.”
“Shh!” says the teacher disapprovingly.
“Yeah, man. Quiet down!” in a high-pitched, nasal tone mocking the teacher. Then it is quiet again.
“I dare you,” says the first boy. He is not as loud as the rest. The challenge is in his eyes, along with the belief that this boy does not have the courage to go through with it. “Her.” He points across the room to a girl studiously reading at her desk.
“Her?” says the fifth boy. The others begin to nudge each other and grin. Nobody moves.
“Now,” says the first boy.
“Now?” There is a touch of fear in his voice.
“Right now. Right here.”
“Fine,” says the fifth, unflinchingly. He stands up, conscious that the entire back of the room is watching him, and makes his way over to where the girl sits bent over her book. There is an empty desk next to her, and he slides into it, his long legs stretched out in the aisle.
“Hey,” he whispers, trying not to hear the sounds of laughter drifting across the rows of desks. The girl does not move; her straight brown hair shields her face as she continues to look down at her book.
“Hey,” he says again, a little louder. This time she responds, pulling herself from the story reluctantly and raising her head to meet his gaze. Her eyes are a soft grey, and the kind that look as though they could easily fill with tears at any injustice. He is surprised by those eyes. She blinks at him slowly as if coming back from another world and is confused at the sight of another human being.
“Hi,” she says softly. It is the first time he has heard her speak. Unexpectedly he finds himself to be shy.
“What’re you reading?” She holds up the object of her attention, and he silently reads the title, moving his lips with the words. “Nice,” he says. “Is it good?” She doesn’t reply at first. Then she nods,“Yes,” very softly. They are silent for a moment. He glances uncomfortably at his desk, fingering the initials carved in the front, aware that she is staring at him and suddenly curious about what she is thinking.
“So, I was wondering if you were doing anything Saturday night?” he asks, looking over very carefully.
“I’m not,” she says shyly without facing him.
“You wanna go out then?” It is quiet for a while. He finds he cannot look at her.
“Sure,” she says in a whisper so the teacher won’t hear. He looks up startled to find her smiling, and at that moment he feels like smiling, too.
In the back of the room, there is a silent uproar.
“Look, he’s going through with it!”
“No, he’s not, he’s just faking it.”
“Looks like he’s askin’ her out to me.”
“Shh! See if you can hear ’em.” They all strain, listening. The forced silence doesn’t last long and soon they are laughing again.
“He sure is taking a long time,” says one boy.
“Shut up,” the others say almost in unison.
Finally the bell rings, and they storm out, shoving each other and shouting as they force their way into the hall, where they wait until their friend emerges. He is the last one out.
“D’ya do it?” asks one of them.
“Yeah. I did it.” This sends them into a storm of raucous laughter.
“I can’t believe the kid. He actually went through with it.” They grin and punch him as they walk toward their next class.
“We gotta celebrate,” someone says. “This Saturday night, my old man’s gonna be out. He won’t notice the missing beers.” This puts them into a wonderfully spirited mood, picturing the weekend ahead.
“Wait a minute,” says the fifth boy.
“What about the girl?”
They all stop in their tracks to turn and look at him. Then they laugh. “It’s over. You won the bet. You don’t have to do anything else.”
“Oh,” says the fifth boy, a little uncomfortably. Seeing the problem, the boys eye each other warily.
“You just had to ask her out, man. You don’t have to go through with it.”
“I knew that,” he says, trying to understand the sudden feeling of disappointment.
“So, we’ll see you Saturday night?”
“… I can’t. There’s something I gotta do,” says the fifth, looking at the floor. The other boy shrugs.
“Whatever. It’s your loss.”
The drama over, the boys walk into the classroom, all except for the last. Instead he takes a moment to look over his shoulder and smile at the timid, grey-eyed girl standing at the far end of the hallway.