Mutual Benefits Ch. 1
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I would have traded anything in the world for another life, one where I wasn’t known by everyone as nothing but a nerd.
People kept telling me there were going to be all these benefits later on in life – “think of how easily you’ll get a job,” “you’ll get to be the boss of all those people that bullied you,” “you’ll be set for life.” What the hell kind of life was I set for? They say that high school shapes you and these four years make you who you become later in life. I was on a perfect course to become a walking stereotype – the quintessential Asian nerd who had more conversations with teachers than his own damn classmates.
‘Quintessential.’ I smirked to myself with my eyes glued to my math paper. There was a joke in there somewhere if I could think of it. Quinn Shen. Quinn-Shen-sential? Nah, that was just stupid. Then again, even my name was stupid. Quinn Shen. The bog-standard American first name, Chinese last. Short-cut dark hair, dark eyes, well-dressed (a clear sign of strict parents), and a grade of 99 in my Data Management class.
Whatever. It was Data Management. It sounded all fancy, but once you figured out what to do with a number that had an exclamation mark after it, you were guaranteed at least an 85 in that class, especially in Hazelwood High, a school not afraid to pump up its grades to look good to universities.
I sighed, looking over my answers one last time before standing up and handing my paper in to Mrs. Li. Unlike me, she wasn’t Chinese at all, hell, she looked whiter than most of the kids at Hazelwood. She just married a Chinese guy and thought it cute to talk about how ‘alike’ we were on the first day because we shared a last name.
Mrs. Li smiled at me and thanked me as I handed in the paper. As I walked back to my desk, all eyes in the room were on me. As usual, I was the first one to hand in my test. I almost wanted to tell these people, “Hey, I waited this time.” I could feel my heart rate slightly quicken from even the daring thought of wanting to say that. Instead, I quickly found my seat again and ran my hands over the back of my head.
A sound took me out of my own head. The door opened, and in walked a very frazzled Taylor Wise. Taylor flipping Wise. See, if I was the male equivalent of her or something, I’d be set.
Taylor didn’t need to be a nerd to succeed. She had the greatest gift God could have given anyone in high school – looks. And I mean looks. She was unquestionably not just the hottest girl in our grade, but the whole school. She wasn’t a cheerleader – she was the type of girl that looked so good, she didn’t even need to be a cheerleader. It was hard to describe her sheer appeal because it didn’t really begin in one place – she not only had amazing brown eyes, but the eyelashes to go with it. It was both so consistent that it seemed unlikely that the lashes were fake, and yet simultaneously so gorgeous, it was hard to believe it was actually real. And her-
I turned my head away. Jesus. What the hell was I on about? I was staring at her for longer than five seconds, which already felt creepy, but more importantly, there was absolutely no chance in hell she even knew my name. Even though some part of me knew the whole “out of your league” thing was childish, it felt wrong to even notice the hottest girl in school when I was… who I was. A nerd.
Taylor scrambled to her desk, her 5’3 frame quickly molding into her chair.
“Hello, Taylor,” Mrs. Li said with a little bit of that condescending teacher patience to her voice. “You should have come on time, you know. I already sent down the attendance.”
Taylor gave a little puppydog smile with her trademark innocent chipmunk face. At least the teacher was talking to her so I had an excuse to look at her. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Li,” she offered. “I got caught up in something, it won’t happen again.”
Mrs. Li placed a test on top of her desk and scanned the other desks until she arrived at mine. “Quinn,” she piped up, heading back to her desk. “Could you please go to the attendance office and let them know Taylor Wise showed up?”
“Yeah,” I replied with less confidence in my voice than I wanted. I guess I should have felt grateful that my voice didn’t crack. Wordlessly, I slunk out the door and made my way to the office, wishing I was anyone but me.
“‘Anyone but you?’ Sounds a bit dramatic, don’t you think?” Kevin asked me. Kevin was, possibly, the only other Asian in the whole school, and by all accounts, my closest friend. Of course, he was also considerably more popular than me, and of course, my biological twin. It was a blessing and a curse knowing that it wasn’t pure genetics that left me to my fate as a nerd – clearly I screwed up somewhere along the path in life where Kevin hadn’t.
I shrugged. “I just think that.” I sucked at speaking in lengthy sentences. I never really said much to anyone, even those I trusted.
Kevin shook his head. “So what, you’re asking for advice? It’s senior year, don’t you think you’re a bit late?”
“It’s not advice, it’s lamenting,” I clarified.
He chuckled. “You’re cheerful today.” He lay sprawled out on his bed as I sat at my desk, petting Nuo, the family cat. “Look, bro, when I get down, I look for opportunities. Even stuff where I’m maybe a bit uncomfortable, maybe it’s not my usual-”
“I already said I’m not looking for advice,” I interrupted.
He sat up and rubbed one of his eyes. “Right. Well, tell you what. If you’re telling me ‘it sucks I became a loser,’ and you’re not looking for any thoughts other than your own on the matter, why don’t I just agree? Yeah, Quinn, it sure sucks you became a loser. If only you could do something about it. If only someone was willing to suggest stuff for you.”
“You know how to operate your life. I’m not you,” I offered with a shrug.
“I get that. I know ‘try being more outgoing’ to a… well, to you is like telling a person with depression ‘just stop being sad.’ But, good news, feeling like life is boring is not a friggin’ mental disorder.” He got up off the bed and left the room, presumably to get a snack or something.
I huffed and looked down at Nuo, who just looked back up at me, content and purring. Maybe it was time for a change, but what the heck was I going to do about that? If I had the power to actively change my life and go from a nerd to a jock who had control of my life, I would have done that in my freshman year. Besides, was a ‘jock’ really what I aspired to be? I enjoyed my own feelings of deduction. I didn’t actually want to be someone else, I just wanted to be… recognized. Respected. Something like that.
It would have been nice to walk down the halls with my shoulders out as opposed to in. It would have been nice to have anyone say “Hey, Quinn!” when they saw me walking. Kevin occasionally did that, but we were family. If we weren’t family, would he have cared? Probably not. Hell, if he were more popular, he might have felt I could be a danger to his reputation and not said hi to me at all. I guess there were worse fates than mine. I could have been gay. Being gay wasn’t bad, but being gay in high school was, even if it was at Hazelwood, if you wanted to remain out of sight of any of the school bullies.
Well, ‘bullies.’ The biggest thing you had to worry about at Hazelwood was the fact that everyone looked out for their own interests and no one else’s. Friend circles could eat each other in seconds, or so I was told. After the Double Down incident, the entirety of the Student Council inner circle collapsed and they had to remake their circle from the ground up. Even my own circle, ‘the gifted students,’ had a fight in sophomore year and now half of the group didn’t speak to each other.
Maybe I could wait until college and reinvent myself or something… I sighed and picked up my PS4 controller, booting up Bloodborne and shooing Nuo off my lap. Who knew what could happen? Maybe an opportunity would just come my way. And if nothing else, I’d at least owe it to Kevin to consider it.
Data Management was easy, but it could get kind of annoying. We had some variety of quiz or test (I never knew what the difference between quizzes and tests were) every two weeks. I would always get to class ten minutes early regardless so even if I forgot, there was plenty of time to open my textbook and go over, let’s face it, what I already knew. I wasn’t a supercomputer of a human, so it was nice to get the refresher, but I was never worried.
One thing about patterns – once they’re established, you never really notice they’re there until they’re pointed out to you. If you had pointed out to me that Taylor wasn’t there once the quiz started, I would have wanted to tell you, “Well, duh, she’s never on time for class,” but it still came as a shock when the door burst open and she entered.
Upon seeing her enter, Mrs. Li got up from her desk and placed a quiz down on her desk. Taylor looked at the quiz in slight confusion, then slight panic. “The quiz was today?” she whispered to Mrs. Li as the others worked.
Mrs. Li patiently nodded.
Taylor responded by playing with her hands nervously. “I’ve been really busy lately and I was wondering if maybe I could, like, take the quiz another time.” She was really good at selling her look, whatever the look was. The innocent girl look, complete with doe eyes and the pleading yet not pathetic look.
“I’m sorry, but you need to talk to me about those things in advance,” Mrs. Li pointed out. “Now, if you could take your seat please…”
“But Mrs. Li,” Taylor pleaded, “I’m already behind in this class and, I’m not gonna lie, I have no clue what unit we’re even on. With my job I’ve been so busy and-”
“We can talk about this later. For now, please take the quiz,” Mrs. Li insisted.
I guess Taylor noticed she really had no leverage in that moment, because that’s when the tears started. I didn’t know if they were real or if she had trained herself to cry on command, but I was willing to bet money that it was the latter. At first I was kind of surprised, more so when I looked around and realized no one else was looking at this conversation like I was. Was this a normal occurrence for them..? Did Taylor do this in all of her classes, was this her way of getting what she wanted?
Whatever it was, it sure as hell worked. Mrs. Li sighed and conceded. “C’mon, let’s go into the hallways and talk it over,” she insisted, and the two promptly left.
So, the classroom had two doors – the front and back doors, both on the left side of the room, both leaving into the ‘second story’ hallway. The pair left out of the front door, but had walked to the section in the hallway in front of the back door, and it was ajar, enough at least for me to see the full effect of their conversation. I hated to admit it, but I felt sorry for Taylor. Either she was good at acting beyond whatever Salvador could teach, or she was genuinely going through some struggles right now.
I tried to focus mainly on my test, but I could see her tearfully explain how burnt out she was with her job as well as all of her classes, and the fact that the course material was clearly not sinking in. As a less popular nerd, I feel like I was conditioned by my nerdier friend group to kinda hate the preppier more popular kids, but I did feel for her situation. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she was the hottest girls in school and I was just another guy that fell for her charms and wanted to see her do well as long as she’d notice me, who knows.
I finished my test by the time the two had returned, clearly with an understanding, given Taylor sat down at a desk with no quiz on it, and Li just walked back to her desk sighing and shaking her head. No sniffles came from Taylor after that – clearly she either was faking it, or the two had reached some kind of deal that made her immediately happier.
Not that it was any of my business. I got up from my desk and handed my quiz to Li, giving her a polite half-smile before making my way back to my desk. She stared at my quiz after I placed it on her desk, and when I had sat back down, she was now staring at me.
Finally, after a few more seconds of staring, she cleared her throat. “Quinn, could you come to my desk please?” she whispered to me. Everyone else, save for Taylor, was still taking their tests. Diligently, I walked up and walked over to her desk.
She paused, formulating her words for a few moments. “Quinn, would it be okay with you if I asked you to tutor one of the students in this class?” she asked. Immediately, I shot a look at Taylor, who met my eyes with hers. For the first time, I looked at someone and didn’t look away when they were looking back. Her eyes were a deep, enticing shade of brown, her face cute and innocent, even though it was clear that with her just figuring out now what Mrs. Li was planning, she wasn’t sure she was on board with this.
Mrs. Li continued. “Of course, this depends on your schedule after school,” she thought to herself. “You see, Taylor… Taylor Wise, I’m sure you’ve met… she feels as though she may benefit from exterior resources to my class and, well, since you have such a strong grasp on the material…”
I broke my gaze away from Taylor and looked back at Mrs. Li. “My schedule is open,” I told her.
Li took that as my consent and motioned for Taylor to come to the desk. Hesitantly, Taylor walked over to the desk and joined us. “Taylor, this is Quinn Shen. He’s agreed to help tutor you for this class and according to him, he’s got an open schedule.”
Taylor was hot, but I had to be honest, the idea of me spending God knows how long to re-enact Million Dollar Baby but with the exciting theme of boxing replaced with math wasn’t exactly exciting for me. I didn’t recall saying I’d do it, Mrs. Li just assumed. Of course, I had my own awkwardness to thank for me not piping up to correct the record.
Taylor didn’t exactly jump for joy either. “I, uh, I guess that could work,” she stumbled over her words. “Quinn, right? Hi.”
I nodded at her, not saying a single word. God, this was awkward.
After no one said anything for a stupidly long time, Mrs. Li gave one of those polite teacher smiles. “So! Maybe you two could figure out where it works best in both of your schedules to meet up and go over the course material.” She turned to me. “Thank you for this, Quinn. This can count towards your community hours, by the way.”
I guess that was nice. Every student needed to put in about forty or so hours of community service to graduate at Hazelwood. Some kind of hippie ‘help the community’ initiative. Either that, or it was the case for all high schools in Massachusetts, or at least the area. I had no clue.
“Okay, thank you,” I replied, thankful to not have stuttered, before making my way back to my seat. I sat there, going over my notes and trying to not think about the fact that somehow, I was asked to spend one-on-one time with the hottest girl at school. Me. The loseriest of losers.
I guess that was what made it okay. After all, the most surefire form of birth control was abstinence, or so the gym teacher drilled into us. In the same way, the best person to spend one-on-one time with the popular girl and not have her be in danger is the one kid who couldn’t talk to girls if he tried.
Eventually, the quiz had finished its runtime, and Mrs. Li gave the class a small lesson, and assigned us a few textbook questions. I had mine finished before the bell rang. When it rang, everyone started filing out, myself included.
“Hey! Uh… Quinn!”
I froze. Someone called my name. Someone was asking for me. As stupid as it was, I didn’t know how to react. Awkwardly, I spun around on my heels to face Taylor, who was at her desk.
“So, uh… what day works best for you?” she asked. She had some kind of day planner open.
My mouth went dry. I nervously coughed. I tried opening my mouth to speak once or twice, but nothing came out.
My fellow nerds had prepared me for this. This was the moment where the popular bitchy girl would lower an eyebrow, and call me a creep, or a loser for not being able to talk to her. I’m sure I was not being subtle – it was very clear I was nervous being around her because she was very pretty. Her beauty, after all, was downright intimidating – and I bet she could be intimidating herself when she wanted to be.
I was shocked when a smile began to appear on her face. Not even a smile of amusement, either… one of understanding. “Hey, it’s alright,” she coaxed. A genuine, dazzling smile danced across her face. It didn’t even feel forced, it felt… understanding. “If you want, you can, like, point to the day that works best instead, you don’t have to speak.”
“I… s-should speak,” I managed to get out.
“Fair enough,” she replied. “So, what day works best?”
“The, uh… I…” I ended up just shaking my head, and pointing to Thursday on her planner.
“Um, okay, sounds good,” she replied. “Do you have, like, a cell phone? We could just text the details if you want.”
I nodded and reached for my phone.
It might seem pathetic to someone who talked to a girl growing up, but I never said a word to her the rest of that entire conversation. Kevin had talked to girls before, though he never dated, probably due to our parents. If I fit the stereotype well, my parents fit the stereotype like gloves.
After Kevin and I were born (and of course Kevin was born slightly before me), they stopped talking in Mandarin to set some kind of American example for us. I could speak the language well enough, even though there wasn’t anyone to speak it with aside from Kevin.
Then again, that was the case in English too.
“You’re shitting me,” Kevin said in disbelief as we walked home. “Taylor?! Like, Wise. Taylor Wise.”
“It’s no big deal,” I mumbled. “I’m tutoring her. It’s just like a… it’s just that.”
“Holy shit, do you know how many guys in class would kill to get to be alone in a room with her?” Kevin asked, practically to the sky.
“I think that probably has something to do with why I’m tutoring her and they’re not,” I pointed out. “Why, did you want to date her?”
Kevin chuckled nervously. “You know me, I don’t date.”
“Why not, anyway?” I asked. “You’re popular. If I were you, I’d want to, even if it’s just to… know what it feels like.”
“Wow, Quinn. Sad,” Kevin laughed.
“Stop,” I replied uncomfortably. “You’re luckier than me.”
“I stick my neck out more than you. You should try it sometime. I’m amazed you said enough words to her to actually get her number,” Kevin fired back.
I could only sigh angrily and eye the ground. Kevin picked up on it immediately. “You couldn’t say anything and she just gave you her number so you could make plans over text, huh?”
“Yes,” I feebly replied.
Kevin mimed shooting a basketball. “Sunk the three,” he celebrated. “Hey, that’s still a step up for you. You have Taylor’s number. Do I have Taylor’s number, bro? No, huh? Whatcha think of that?”
“It’s not like I can ask her out based on that,” I replied.
“Yeah, she’d probably turn you down real easy.”
“Do you want me to share her number with you? Wanna show me up?” I asked with a heat of annoyance to my voice.
Kevin laughed. “We already follow each other on Instagram. Plus, I don’t date. Plus plus, if I did, I wouldn’t try starting with Taylor. At that point, you have nowhere to go but downhill.”
“Getting to talk to people would be uphill for me,” I admitted as we neared our apartment building.
Kevin chuckled. “Well, if you end up dating Taylor, presuming she doesn’t already think you’re the world’s biggest fuckin’ creep, people are absolutely gonna talk to you. Mostly to ask how the hell you pulled it off, but, you know.”
We walked in silence the rest of the way to our place, his words lingering on me. As soon as I was in my own room, I shut the door and pulled out my phone, thinking about impressions. I found her text – hey this is taylor :) – that she sent me while we were still in the classroom together. I began to reply.
Hey Taylor. This is Quinn. I wanted to
Wait. Why the fuck was I telling her it was Quinn when she could easily deduce that?
Hey Taylor. I just wanted to let you know that I am sorry for the situation earlier. I didn’t mean to not speak in front of you, and I will put my best effort into not letting it happen again. I do not have much experience speaking in front of girls, or people, or
Nope. Too real. Tone it down.
Hey Taylor. Sorry for being silent earlier. I don’t have too much experience talking to people. I’ll try to get better. This is weird for both of us, right? I didn’t want it to come across like I don’t care. We’re going to make sure you pass data management, I promise.
I stared at the message for a minute solid before shrugging. Absolute worst-case scenario, she’d think I’m weird, call it off, and I’d be back to where I was. I hit send, then walked to the kitchen, where Kevin and Mother were busy making dinner.
“Quinn! How was school?” my Mother asked, expecting a report.
“I’m doing well,” I answered. “I’m tutoring another student in math class. Data management. I guess that’s neat.”
“Tutoring? Are you getting pay?” Mother asked me.
“No, I don’t think so. It’s just an incentive thing.”
“You’re not getting pay?”
Here we go. “No, Mother, I’m not getting paid for it.”
She turned around. “If you’re not getting pay, that is you saying your skills are not worth money, not worth value. How many time have I asked you, are you going to get a job? I don’t ask you because I want an empty house, you know. I ask because this is the best you can be.”
“I know, Mother. I’m sorry. I don’t think I can ask for pay for tutoring, though. It… was kind of put upon me. I didn’t get a chance to say n-”
“If you want to say no, you say no,” Mother practically barked at me. Kevin was trying to hide his grin. “Then you use that time and print out a resume and you get a job. A job that gives pay.” She turned back to her cooking. “Go clean the table.”
I quickly went to clear the table, even though it was probably a good hour before dinner. Mother switched to Mandarin, still addressing me. “Do you want to earn yourself a good life? Do you want a good job, a good family, a good life?”
I sighed. “Yes, mother, I do.”
“Don’t sigh at me. I ask because you are making the wrong choices. You need to make the right choices.”
Everyone has this weird stereotype about Asian parents that they expect their kids to be doctors or lawyers and get perfect As. That wasn’t really true, just almost true. My parents were actually really supportive of me getting the job I wanted and they knew that if I ever got poor grades, that was more reflective of my dumb ‘whitey’ teachers (their words, not mine) than of my own skill. But at the same time, after they set the standard for me, I could never go home empty-handed, or else… well, what just happened would happen.
After supper, I went back to my room and drew for a while. After an hour or so I felt my phone vibrate – it completely startled me. I pulled out my phone to see a message from Taylor – ok :)
I smiled to myself at the irony.
“You don’t have to speak,” Taylor told me with a smile when we met after school Thursday. It was the first thing she told me. Honestly, it kind of stung. I didn’t want me to be this hard to talk to either.
Instead of protesting though, I shrugged and nodded. Taylor continued. “I was thinking that maybe we could go to the local library. The one at school closes around four. Is that okay?”
Again, I shrugged.
Taylor beamed. “Great, let’s go! I’ll drive.” With that, she started walking down the hallway, the perfect preppy schoolgirl. Even her walk oozed that teenage sexiness that made every guy either turn his head or have to think very hard about not turning his head. I slunk behind her, trying not to seem like I was going with her – either to help her reputation, or to avoid the trope of some jock going, “Hey, is he following you? Is he harassing you?” and beating me up or something.
The only person that stopped to talk to her was one of her friends. I didn’t recognize her, but of course, Taylor did. They chatted for a few minutes, then Taylor offered her a ride home, which I figured was on the way to the library. Hey, I wasn’t even in a position to talk – what was I going to do, complain?
It was still relatively early in the semester so we were met with brisk, cool air when we went outside. Taylor and her friend – I think her name was Morgan – chatted about something or other as we approached her car.
Of course it was a convertible. Of course it was red. Of course there was an empty Starbucks cup where I was going to sit – it was already clear I was going in the back seat.
“Why’s he coming along?” Morgan asked, insultingly only noticing me when I was waiting outside the car.
“Oh, he’s my new tutor. He’s Quinn Shen, Kevin’s brother.”
“Oh, hi, Quinn! Nice to meet you.”
I smiled and nodded. That was good enough for Morgan. Soon everyone was seated, and off we went. Surprisingly, Morgan’s place was actually fairly past the library, so we ran a good chunk of time behind schedule. By the time we even got to the library, it was around the time the school library would be closing.
The timing issue didn’t seem to bother Taylor. Once we got to the library, she wordlessly hopped out and I meekly followed, and she found us a table at which to study.
“Okay, so, data management,” she began. “How long do you think it’ll take to catch me up?”
I had rehearsed for this. I looked down at the table and formed a pyramid with my hands at my forehead so I wouldn’t see a hint of Taylor. For good measure, I covered my eyes. “Th-that all depends on how much you’d say you know right now.”
“Oh hey, he talks,” she quipped.
“My brother bet me ten bucks I couldn’t talk to you,” I quipped back. Kevin and I made no such bet.
“Really? Why?” she asked, oblivious.
“Never mind. So, how much do you know?”
“Um…” I heard the sounds of her book opening. “I… fuck… I don’t know. This whole thing just kinda, like, confuses me.”
I removed the pyramid and looking up, my eyes scanning her book. Introduction. Oh boy.
“And that’s all a factorial is. Just take the number and multiply it from all numbers that came before it. So, five factorial is five times four times three times two times one. But, see, any number times one is just… that exact number. So, really, it’s five times four times three times two. Five times four is twenty, times three is sixty, times two, one-twenty.”
Taylor nodded along, her brow furrowed.
“Your turn. What’s four factorial?”
She thought for a second. Okay, so it’s just the same thing, right?”
“The same formula.”
“So, it would be… four times three times two times one.”
“Good! Now try to solve it.”
“Four times three… that’s… twelve, right? Okay, so, like, twelve times two. …Twenty-four. Times one is… is still twenty-four, right?”
“So what’s four factorial?”
“You got it!” I replied, looking up at Taylor with a smile. As soon as she met my smile with her own, my eyes immediately darted away.
A beat of silence passed. “…No offense, but am I doing something wrong?” she asked. “Like, I get you don’t talk to people much, but I feel like I’m doing something wrong, like I’m hurting you.”
I didn’t like to admit it, but looking Taylor in the eye made me hard. I was eighteen, but still a teeanger; a teenager that didn’t have any kind of experience to boot. I shifted uncomfortably before doing the hand-pyramid-looking-down thing again. “No, you’re okay. This is just a lot to adjust to. I’m sorry if this is – I – I’m sorry if this is weird.”
“I mean, it’s a change of pace so that’s neat,” she managed. I could still feel her eyelashed brown eyes on me, her confused chipmunk smile probably still on her face. “But that’s probably enough for today. Do you wanna maybe, like, do this weekly, or…?”
“That’s up to you,” I immediately and flatly replied. “I’m your tutor. We can do this as often or… not often as you wish.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to cut into any plans you have, or like if you wanted to hang out with someone or something.” I remained silent, and she caught my drift. “Oh, come on. I know you said you don’t talk to people much, but there’s no way you don’t hang out with friends occasionally or at least do something.”
“I don’t. Apart from school, my schedule is fully open.”
“Really? You don’t do even, like, a chess club or a book club or kung fu or something?”
After the smile I gave her earlier, that was my second instance of emotion I showed with her. My gaze slowly shot up to her, eyebrows raised yet eyelids lowered, a sarcastic smile on my face. “Kung fu? Really?”
“Ah, shit,” she cursed, dragging a hand down her face, looking guilty. “Sorry, first thing I said. I mean, first thing I could think of. I mean…”
“I get it, I get it,” I soothed her.
“I didn’t mean to get all… I mean, I didn’t…” She put her head in her hands and put both elbows on the table. “…yeah,” she finished.
“I have never taken a martial art class in my life. Nor piano, nor book club or chess club. Oh, and my parents aren’t expecting me to become a doctor.” I added the last part with a chuckle.
She joined in, albeit guiltily. “Yeah, sorry,” she repeated. “So wait, what do you, like… do after school?”
“Go home, do chores, then whatever. Sometimes I draw, I play video games… whatever every other high school student does after school, minus the hanging out part, apparently.”
“I bet minus the homework thing too, unless that’s another stereotype,” she replied humorously, pushing the envelope.
I was still looking at the table, but I let a smile slip. “Some stereotypes have truth to them,” I admitted.
“For someone who couldn’t, like, talk an hour ago, you’re adopting well,” Taylor observed warmly.
“Practice helps,” I admitted. “If I’m going to spend an hour with anyone I’m going to say at least some words by the end of it. This is tutoring for you, not speech therapy for me.”
Taylor thought to herself. “…Wouldn’t speech therapy mean you are going to be better at talking by the end of it?”
“…Huh. Okay, you got me.” I hadn’t noticed it yet, but I was looking at her now, albeit not in the eye. “Either way, you’re easier to talk to than I thought.”
“‘Than you thought?’ What’s that mean?” Taylor challenged me.
My gaze fell back to the table again. “No, c’mon,” Taylor coaxed. “What, am I, like, scary or something?”
I didn’t say anything for a while and could feel my mouth drying up again. After a bit, Taylor cleared my throat. “I won’t be offended. I just want to hear the truth.”
I gave a long sigh. “It’s just… it’s like we live in different worlds. I feel like the way you think and see the world is almost… alien to me. I’ve also been taught for years now that’s we’re in different leagues, and different worlds, and that if I so much as talk to – not just you, anyone popular – it would only be embarrassing or dangerous.”
Taylor laughed. “What, you think I’m gonna get a jock to beat you up or something?” she asked incredulously.
As much effort as it took, I met her eyes with mine and gave her a serious expression in answer. “Wait, like, really? That wasn’t a joke?” she asked in disbelief.
“I told you. Different worlds. And some of my beliefs are found on my own experiences.”
“Jesus fuck. Okay, look, I’m not going to get some jock to beat you up. I’m not this stuck-up little princess, and if you talked to me in class or something I wasn’t just going to see you as, like, some peasant or something. I don’t get why I have to-”
“It’s not you specifically,” I interrupted. “It’s just, that’s the world of where I belong and what I feel like others see me as.”
“So, like, because I’m popular, you’re in a different… section of people?”
“If you like.” I shrugged.
“Alright, well, if we’re being honest, I always thought the nerds saw themselves as superior to me, and were, like, laughing at how they could easily get 90s and I actually had to try. And, hey, a lot of that comes from my own experience too.”
I didn’t consider that, but I wasn’t actually surprised. A good number of the nerds I had hung out with definitely did have that smug reactionary ‘what do the jocks even know’ kind of attitude to them. It was definitely made in retaliation to a lot of bullying, but it still was a prejudice we carried too.
“Sounds like we both need to show each other that we’re not our stereotypes,” I thought out loud.
“Yeah, sounds like we do,” Taylor replied. My perception of social cues still needed, work, because I only clued into something at this point.
“Did I offend you?”
“Kinda,” she answered honestly. “It’s okay, but like… I don’t want to do this every week if you’re just assuming I’m waiting for the, like, perfect moment to hit you or something. It’s not fair.”
“I don’t think you’re going to hit me. I’m just so used to jocks – well, all popular people – being bullies and not liking people like… people like me even associating with them. And I’m sure you know you’re popular.”
“Um… I know people know me, but…”
“Don’t be modest,” I chuckled. “Tell you what, I give you my word that anything you say about your popularity, I’m not going to use it against you and I’m not going to use it to argue you’re inferior or whatever the other nerds did. I just want to hear it from your mouth.”
“Weird way of saying that,” she muttered. “Okay, yes, I’m popular. But that doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can become popular, especially in, like, high school.”
“I think it’s too late for me,” I pointed out.
“You probably also thought it was too late for you to talk to girls, and you’ve been looking into my eyes while we’ve talked for the past, like, minute.”
I tore my eyes away again and she chuckled. “Hey, I don’t mind it. As long as you don’t stare or whatever, you can look at my eyes when you talk all you want, okay?”
Teen brain, activate. When she said that, there was this invisible intimacy to her words and I could feel myself reacting again, which of course, included my erection. I ended up not responding beyond a nervous chuckle.
“So, should we get out of here?” Taylor asked after a bit.
“Um, uh, gimme a bit,” I stammered, grabbing the textbook and pretending to look over it, attempting to wish my erection away. “There’s just one thing I gotta check, and then we can go.”
“Okay,” she replied. I looked over the book for a few more seconds before she spoke up again. “Did you think I was going to be embarrassed to be seen with you?”
I looked up and didn’t answer. She took my silence as one. “Because I’m not,” she continued. “And even if you don’t believe that for my sake, you should believe it for yours.”
I never watched porn before senior year. I knew what naked people looked like, so seeing it for the first time wasn’t this huge shock to my system, but I thought there was this disgrace to watching it. Something inside of me had told me, “Do you want to be the type of person that watches porn?”
But something about what Taylor said to me yesterday really resonated in me. That thing about the nerds thinking they’re superior to jocks and popular kids. I always thought of it as a one-way system, but in my mind, where I’d never have to say out loud that I was wrong, I knew that in some way, she was telling the truth. There were a lot of things about me that I either did or didn’t do out of ceremony, out of this belief that if I did or didn’t do those things, that’s what kept me feeling like, at least in some way, I was better than a jock.
My door was locked, my lights off, headphones in, and several tabs open. At first I thought I could ease my way into it with some kind of online erotica instead of pictures and movies, but that went nowhere – the first story I found took over seven thousand words to even get to a vaguely sexual place, and that wasn’t promising. After a bit, I had found a website hosting videos for free, and clicked on one of them.
One of the first videos I found was of a petit, cute yet busty white girl with an innocent face slowly stripping before the camera. It wasn’t exact, but it was enough to make me think of Taylor. Swallowing my nervousness, I lowered my pants as I watched this cute girl stripping, smiling at the camera.
I had experimented with masturbation before, but nothing really serious with an end goal in mind. Here, it was intentful. As I started moving my hand up and down, I found myself throwing my head back, my eyes closed and my mouth open, really only listening to the video, and picturing Taylor.
Taylor was in front of me, stripping like this girl, her cute chipmunk smile getting bigger as she was preparing to take her bra off. “Hey, I don’t mind,” her voice echoed. “As long as you’re not a creep about it, you can, like, stare at my tits all you want,” she purred.
With that, her bra came off, teasingly slowly. Her tits were a good size, but on her small frame, they looked pretty darn big. Her small nipples crowned each tit perfectly, and as she rubbed her hands up and down those tits, her nipples began responding in kind, growing hard and sensitive.
“I really like rubbing them, is that okay? Can you keep a secret like that, Quinn?” Taylor moaned. “I bet you haven’t seen tits like mine before, do you like them? I really like showing them off to a guy like you.”
She began pinching a nipple with one hand, sliding her other hand down to her panties and rubbing herself over her clothing. “Mmm, you’ve only just barely gotten used to talking to a girl, so I bet you’ve never seen a girl do this before. It’s, like, really hot that I’m corrupting you like this.”
“Are you ready to see my cute little pussy now, Quinn? I really want to show it to you so badly,” she moaned as she took both thumbs and hooked them into her panties, sliding them slowly down as she moved her hips hypnotically. I could start to see her pubic hair emerge above her sinking panty line, and then, slowly, her little slit came into view. “It’s small and tight,” Taylor commented, biting her lip. “And I think I want something inside it right now. Can you think of anything, Quinn?”
Now fully naked, Taylor kept grabbing at her boobs and swaying her hips, occasionally looking a little lower than my eyes and eyeing my cock. “Is that for me, Quinn? Are you doing that for me? It seems like someone likes what he sees.” She slowly started turning around. “But I’m being unfair. You haven’t even seen my ass yet, and I want you to see it, Quinn.” She arched her back as she turned fully around. Her perfect ass was on full display, angled so well that I could see her pussy without her even needing to bend over. “I know you like this ass, Quinn, and I know you want it. Jack off to me. Stroke yourself to this ass. I want you to shoot your load all over it.”
She was looking back over her shoulder at me in a sultry way, and bit her lip sexily as she saw me pick up speed. “Ooh, it seems like someone really likes what he sees. What do you want to touch first, Quinn? My beautiful tits or my round, ready ass? Or maybe you’d like to get to feel your first pussy? So many choices.”
“All of you,” I whisper-growled out loud. “I want all of you.”
Taylor smiled satisfactorily. “That’s what I thought,” she told me. She turned back around, sliding a hand down between her legs again – this time, there were no panties in the way. Giving me a cute puppy-dog expression, she was playing with her pussy right there in front of me, watching what I was doing and breathing heavier and heavier. Over time those breaths turned into whimpers, then small moans, qand pretty soon she was just as invested in me as I was in her.
“Oh Quinn, I want that inside me, so bad,” she whimpered, eyeing my shaft as she slipped a finger inside herself. “Don’t tease me. I want you to take me and let me experience that soon. Don’t make me wait, don’t make me beg for it. Just stick it inside of me. Make me feel what I’ve been missing all this time.” She started quaking on the spot, moving around as she played with herself, her knees buckling. “Oh Quinn…”
Her eyes closed slowly as her breathing quickened. One of her hands rose up to her chest to frantically grab at one of her tits. She fondled her breast as she shuddered and shook, a clear orgasm taking hold over her. “Oh my god…” she moaned out loud, her climax taking over her like a tidal wave. She remained in her bliss for a while, then slowly opened her eyes… and promptly vanished.
My eyes shot open. The video was long over, a blank screen cutting into the darkness. I looked down at myself and cursed myself for not removing my shirt before I started this. Gross. Oh well, I thought to myself. It was, at least… fun? I liked it. I felt a bit guilty and like a creep afterwards, but it was still fun. And hey, apparently almost every boy in high school had been doing this for years, so even if it was depraved, I had years of depravity to catch up on.
It turned out the fact that I was unable to talk to Taylor much beforehand was really handy, seeing as the next time I saw her, I found myself unable to speak to her for different reasons. That said, it was clear that something I said during our first study session had affected her too, because on Monday, when data management class started, Taylor got there right before the bell, and one of the first things she did was chipperly say, “Hey, Quinn,” before sitting down.
Maybe I’d heard too many stereotypes or watched too many shitty high school movies, because I expected the class to be abuzz. “Why would she say hello to Quinn of all people, what’s going on between them?” But, it turned out, the class really didn’t give a shit. Hell, the most they were probably thinking was, “Huh, that’s what his name is.” Maybe Taylor was smarter than I thought and was trying to demonstrate exactly how wrong I was about the school’s class divide.
After the lesson was over and the class was given its homework, we still had about half an hour to the class. Mrs. Li called both of us over and asked for an update given the new week, and luckily for me, Taylor did most of the talking. It was framed around what she knew more than what I taught her, which I was cool with – this was for her, after all – and at the end of it Mrs. Li nodded.
“Thank you both for working so hard on this. However, you are still behind, Taylor. Quinn, you two are still two units behind and if she doesn’t know how to calculate a permutation, she’s in danger of falling severely behind.”
Wow, Mrs. Li. Fascinating. After all, it was my sole responsibility to take care of both Taylor and myself, and even if she was improving, if she wasn’t improving fast enough, it was my fault, huh? Neat. “Okay, Mrs. Li. The next time we study, I’ll be sure to get… I’ll be sure to, uh… she’ll know how to do it.”
With that, we were dismissed back to our seats, where I finished up the last of the assigned questions. Halfway through, my phone buzzed in my pocket, making me jump again.
I pulled out my phone to see a text from Taylor. It read, how behind am I? :/
I looked up and saw her still on her phone. I thought to myself and typed out my answer. As Mrs. Li said, you’re two units behind, so we still have a lot of work to do. But I think you can do it.
thx Quinn <3 popped up on my phone, and I couldn’t help but smile. Something about it was cute and comforting. I could tell that there was clearly nothing happening between us, and that clearly nothing would, but it had only been one study session and already it felt like I had a bit of a new outlook – not just on the popular kids, on a lot of things. I was excited to see what else was down the road for me, even if my hormones were making things a bit more complicated. Maybe senior year was going to be different after all.