"You bought her Victoria's Secret underwear?! On the first date?!" Mrs. Martin laughed and shook her head, taking a sip from the margarita she had just fixed. "That is a goddamn power move. I've never been more proud to be your mother, Randy."
Randy was sitting at his place at the dining table, face buried in his hands. Picking at her dinner across from him, Quinn had a satisfied look on her face. They had gotten home a few hours ago, and apparently the girl had been texting with Nikki since then. Why she had felt the need to blab about the underwear thing, he didn't know.
"I didn't buy it for her." he corrected, giving his sister the evil eye. She smirked back. "I just lent her the money. I owed her. And it wasn't a date, either!"
The woman sat down. "Well, when are you two gonna go on a date already? You've been hanging out with her every day."
"I don't know." Randy shrugged. "And it's only been like, a week. It's not really all that long a time."
"So you wanna go on a date with her?"
Randy's eyes moved from his mom to his sister. He had expected the former to be asking that question, but it had instead come from Quinn. Surprisingly, she didn't seem to be asking it to try and egg on his mom, or make fun of him, or anything. She seemed genuinely interested, and the shock on Randy's face hadn't missed her.
"Just asking." she said, a little more quietly. "You said 'I don't know' when Mom asked when you two were gonna go out, so... kinda sounds like you're waiting for it. Or something."
His mom perked up. "You're right!"
Randy sighed. He tapped his fork down on the edge of the table a few times, deliberately choosing his next words.
"Yeah... I do. But I don't want either of you guys trying to mess around with things, okay?" he looked from one to the other. "And I don't need any advice. I don't really even wanna talk about it. I know you guys are just trying to help, and thanks for that, but this is... this is personal stuff."
A brief beat of silence hung in the air. Mrs. Martin was the one to break it.
"Well, can I just give you one little bit of advice?"
Randy was going to shut her down, but to his surprise, Quinn stepped in.
"Come on, Mom." she casually went on eating her dinner as she spoke, as if she was trying to draw attention away from the fact that she was actually helping him out for once. "He just said he doesn't want to talk about it."
Mom rolled her eyes and took a sip from her drink. "Fine. You're welcome for the pool, by the way!"
"Thanks." Randy said. He didn't mean to come off as ungrateful. Sighing, he figured he should apologize. "I'm sorry. To be honest, I'm just stressed out about this... still, I'd rather handle it on my own."
The conversation didn't go on past that. Quinn brought up how fun the mall had been with Mom, and the two ended up talking about it up until Randy finished eating. As he headed upstairs, he thought about thanking his sister for that save, but he figured he'd just keep it for later. She didn't deserve it that bad anyways.
When he got to his room, he started to take inventory for school tomorrow. There was that metric ton of homework he had put off - he hoped he could get it all done before bed. Before he got on that, he wanted to settle his other chores.
His face felt a little dry, so he decided to apply a moisturizing mask, just to keep things smooth. Thinking back to his talk in the car with Nikki, he also decided to lay out a nice outfit in advance. It wasn't hard, now that he knew what Nikki liked. On that line, he pulled out the swim trunks he had bought and put them away in his closet. He was really happy with the pair he picked, black with faded pink roses. Pretty, but not too girly or anything. Just his style.
Maybe he'd go for a swim tomorrow, just to break them in before class. When did that start, anyways? Thursday or Friday? Friday sounded right...
Friday. Huh. Strange. Two weeks of detention sounded so long in his head, but on Friday, the whole thing would be over. Randy barely felt like a day had passed, but weirdly enough, he also felt like he had been with Nikki so much longer than a week.
He wanted to be with her so much longer than a week. But he could easily see her slipping out of his fingers, like sand in an hourglass. If he didn't ask her out by Friday, would he get another good chance? Would their friendship keep going after their shared detention ended?
Randy paused in front of his mirror. He peeled off the wet, papery mask he had put on and took a long, hard look at himself.
You're thinking crazy. Of course you'll keep hanging out after Friday. You've been hanging out every day... well, almost every day. Why would that change?
Sighing, he smoothed the mask back on over his face - he had taken the thing off prematurely, still had ten minutes to go - and sat at his desk. A history textbook laid in front of him, begging to be opened. But he couldn't do it. His thoughts were stuck on Nikki.
Soon this whole detention thing would be over. He had to ask her out. Why did that have to be so hard? He just knew the week would blow by like a blur...
Nikki sat parked in front of the Martin residence, idly scrolling through her phone. Her and Randy had gone through their usual morning routine of texts. But he was late coming out for some reason. Eventually though, Nikki caught him coming out of the door in the corner of her eye. He looked tired, but he was dressed nicely, like he was when they went out to the mall.
"Sorry." he said, as he climbed into his seat. "Had a shitload of homework to do. Got to bed at like, two."
"It's alright." she stepped on the pedal. "You know I don't care about being late. I do care that I've been asking for a week and you still haven't sent any nudes, though..."
He laughed. "Once again; you first!"
She turned her eyes from the road to look at him. Randy saw her resting stern expression soften up.
"Your face is so smooth!" they stopped at a light, and she reached out to stroke his cheek. Randy blushed, but let her do it. "How'd you get it like this?"
"I did a moisturizing face mask last night, thanks for noticing."
"You gotta hook me up with one of those..." the light turned green and she pulled away. "Your face feels like a baby's butt."
They drove for a bit, chatting about the mall and what they had on the schedule for this week. Nikki had a lot of homework this weekend too, but hadn't done any of it. She announced that with a sort of pride.
"Come on." Randy said, nudging her. There was a note of disappointment in his tone. "You know you're not doing well."
Nikki glanced at him. If anyone else had said that, she'd probably punch them... but she knew Randy really cared about her. Unable to look him in the eye, she just shrugged and looked back at the road. "Yeah. I'm stupid."
"You're not stupid. Here, what do you have to do?" he asked, shifting in his seat to better face her. "Lets see if we can get it done in detention."
"But you can't do homework in detention..."
"I don't care." Randy said. "Half the time the teacher's not paying any attention."
"Randy, you're not doing my homework for me." she sighed. "It's just too much."
Randy was way too sweet. She couldn't in good conscience make him do a bunch of homework for her right after he stayed up all night doing his own.
"We can split it." he suggested. "Sometimes I come to school without all my homework done, I just do the stuff I need for the next period the period before. I wrote a whole essay in one period once."
Nikki rolled the idea around in her head. She felt bad... but she needed to get her grades up. Randy was smart, he could probably get the stuff done all really quick. And with a good grade, too.
"Okay... well, if you insist." the girl took one hand off the wheel and gave him a friendly pat on the arm. God, she wished she could pull him in for a hug or a kiss... but sadly, they weren't there yet.
"Thank you..." she said. "Thank you a lot."
"No problem!" Randy replied. "I'm sure we can get it all done."
As she brought her hand back to the wheel, Nikki thought back to a phrase she had heard before: "my better half." People would use it when talking about their partner or significant other, and she had never really understood what it meant. But she was beginning to now.
Mr. Raymond's film class. Randy and a few of his fellow students were in the school's small studio, a room in the art department with a greenscreen against one wall and a rack of assorted clothing against the other. They were here to record next week's school news - while he got dressed for his role as anchor, the others were setting up the camera, lights, and desk.
From the rack, he first pulled a crisp white dress shirt, then a blue blazer. After getting the shirt buttoned up, he finished the outfit with a clip-on tie. He checked himself out in the mirror... well, he only looked a little bit like a tool. Better than usual.
"What are we talking about on this one, anyways?" he asked, looking around. He was friends with most of the people in this class, but there were a few he never talked to.
One of those people was a blonde girl tapping away on her phone in the corner. Victoria was her name, and she was easily the least helpful person in the whole class. "You mean you didn't read the script?" she asked, eyes still glued on her phone.
"No." he admitted. Most of the time he just read it off the little prompter they had. A friend of his, Michael, paused what he was doing to throw him a smile.
"Prom tickets are going for sale in two weeks. The planning committee asked us to do an announcement." he said. "You gonna ask Preethi to go with you?"
Preethi. That's right. His co-anchor. It seemed so long ago that he had that big crush on her... which apparently everyone knew about. He guessed he wasn't very stealthy.
"Uh, no, probably not." Randy said, grabbing a copy of the script and flicking through it casually. He hadn't really even talked to Preethi in a while. Sure, they had classes together, and they would chat a bit here and there, but he couldn't even remember any of their conversations.
"Why?" another one of his friends, Tom, was setting up a light on the other side of the room. He clicked it on and off to test it. "Got someone else you wanna ask or something?"
Victoria laughed from the corner. "Yeah, Nikki Slater."
Everyone else laughed at that too. Randy didn't get why... until he realized that it was just a joke about their fight in the hallway. He laughed along too, although it was fake. She didn't know it, but Victoria had hit the nail on the head.
Or did she?
"I'm not kidding." Victoria said, eyeing him. "Maddie said, that Emma said, that Kaylee said, that Kaylee's little sister Olivia said, that you two were like, totally a thing."
Randy scratched the back of his head, fixing his collar. God damn it, why did word have to travel so fast? He thought about how to reply... did he want to be open about his crush on Nikki that was maybe, maybe not reciprocated? No, no, that wouldn't be good. If he said anything about it, there was a chance it would spread to Nikki before he could ask her out, and that would ruin the whole thing.
"Well, uh, don't believe every rumor you hear." he coughed. Returning to the mirror, he gave his tie another look. Was it off center?
"Hey, doesn't she drive you to school every day?" Tom asked.
"Yeah, and doesn't she drive you home every day, too?" Michael added on.
"Wait, yeah, weren't you doing her homework in second period yesterday?" Tom again.
Randy sighed. "Come on, guys..."
"He bought her underwear at the mall." Victoria laughed.
Everyone in the room had their eyes on Randy. It felt like a dozen spiders on his back.
"Wait, dude, what?" Tom and Michael were both very amused. "Wow, simp!"
"That never happened!" he said firmly, turning to face Victoria. He dialed his voice down a few decibels. "Who even told you that?"
"Well, Alice Cho did, but she heard it from Becca Norbeck, who heard it from Kaylee-"
The door to the recording room opened up. In an instant, everyone went back to work, thinking it was a teacher coming in to complain about the noise. But only Preethi stepped inside, backpack over her shoulder. She already had on the dress she wore for when it was her turn to be on the news.
"Sorry I'm late." the whole room greeted her with an awkward silence. She stood paused in the doorway for a bit. "What were you guys talking about?"
"Nothin'." Michael said. Randy gave him an appreciative look for the save. "Come on, we've gotta get this segment filmed before class ends."
Lunch time. Once a week they served hamburgers, and today was the day. School cafeteria food was across the board pretty bad, but Nikki thought their burgers were great. It was hard to screw up a beef patty and fries, Nikki thought.
She plopped down at her usual table and started to eat. But there was a pit in her stomach. She still hadn't thought up a good way to ask Randy out, and it was really beginning to get to her.
They had been hanging out after school like usual, playing video games in her basement or shooting basketball outside his house. (He was actually getting pretty alright at it, though he was still nowhere near her.) It was fun and all... but her heart ached every time she looked at him. Hell, any time she even thought about him. She just wanted to be with him so bad. And every day that passed, it got worse.
It made her a little mad, honestly. Why weren't they making out right now? Teenagers made out with each other all the time on TV. It wasn't fair!
"Have any of you guys ever asked anyone out?"
The population of the jock girl table wasn't really used to a question like that, especially from the mouth of a girl like Nikki. Most just ignored her... but the same two lacrosse girls from last time decided to engage.
"No." said one of them. "My boyfriend's the one who asked me out. Honestly, I'd feel weird asking a guy out."
"Hey, it's 2020. Girls can ask guys out." the other said. She turned in her seat to face Nikki. "Who is it?"
The first girl to speak snorted. "The guy you want to ask out."
"Well, um." she didn't want to tell them it was Randy, she didn't want the word to spread. "I'm not talking about any guy."
"Hey, it's 2020." the other girl chimed in. "She could be asking out a girl, or someone who doesn't identify on the standard gender binary, who knows. Don't be so heteronormative."
The first girl let out a groan. "You need to quit taking that stupid Gender Politics course..."
"It's.. it's not any of that!" Nikki broke in. "I meant, I'm not talking about any guy in particular." she looked to the first to speak again. "When your boyfriend asked you out, what'd he do?"
"I dunno. We were at a party and we talked and eventually he asked me if I wanted to go see a movie with him."
A movie... a movie... Nikki's mind went back. Far back. An idea popped its way into her head. Yes, yes, it was perfect!
"Thank you." she said happily. "I think I know how I'm gonna do it."
The girl gave her an odd look. "Well, good luck with that. Though personally, I don't think a guy would like getting asked out all that much. Kinda weird. If he's into you, he should be asking you out..."
"Hey, it's 2020..." the other girl began.
"Oh, shut up!"
The other two girls began to squabble, but Nikki was on cloud nine. The doubtful words bounced off her like bullets off of Superman. Randy wasn't an average guy... he wasn't gonna feel emasculated being the one getting asked out. In fact, knowing him, he'd probably be into it.
At the sound of Randy's voice, she nearly jumped. Nikki turned around to see him standing behind her. There was a paper in his hand.
"Here's your algebra worksheet." he said, smiling. "Just got it done."
Oh, right. She had been having trouble with a math assignment, and he had offered to do it for her.
"Thanks, I owe you one!" Nikki said, taking the paper. She hadn't used the word "thanks" all that much before, but she was extra generous using it with him.
"See you in gym?"
"Yeah, see you!"
With that, Randy walked off back to his own table. Nikki's eyes followed him, heart pounding.
"Oh, is it that guy?" one of the girls asked.
"Wow, does your homework for you and you're not even going out?" the other was impressed. "I want a guy like that."
"Sounds like a simp to me..."
Another day of school passed, another hang out session. This time they were in Nikki's basement. Dad wasn't home, as per usual.
"It's crazy how fast the days have been going." Randy said, controller in hand. The two had gone back to classic Mario Kart. Nikki was into it, leaning forward with her butt on the very edge of the couch, nose only a foot away from the TV screen.
"You've been feeling that way too?" she asked. "Here I thought it was just me."
"Yep. I guess time flies when you're having fun."
She leaned back into the couch. Her character had fallen off the road and into a ditch, so she had to reverse. Randy thought it was so cute - she subconsciously mimicked all the movements she did in the game. Watching her, he couldn't help but let out a little laugh.
"What's so funny?" she asked, flicking her eyes off the screen.
"You're funny." he said. He was losing focus on the game, just holding down the button that kept the kart moving forward. His eyes were stuck on her.
Nikki picked up on that. She lost focus too and stared right back. "What do you mean I'm funny?"
"You're acting like you're really driving." he said, then to make his point clear, demonstrated it himself. He tilted left, then tilted right. "Vroom, vroom!"
It made Nikki giggle. "I don't make noises like that... you're making that up."
"Well, you do all the rest." he said playfully.
"No I don't." she put her hand on his shoulder like she was gonna shove him, but instead just kept it there.
"Yes you do!" unconsciously, he did the same thing, rubbing her shoulder.
"No I don't!" she laughed and dropped her controller, putting her other hand on his other shoulder.
"Yes you do!" again, he did the same.
And then, the two suddenly became aware of how close they had become. Not emotionally, but physically - they had slid so close to one another that their bodies were pressed together. Their faces were so close they could feel the other's breath on their lips.
Nikki went wallpaper white. Is he gonna kiss me? Wait, should I kiss him? She was as still as he was, but internally, she was freaking out. There were little bouncing puppies in her chest.
This is it. I should ask him now.
Her right hand drifted from Randy's broad shoulder, moving for her waist. Ever since she bought them yesterday, they were just burning a hole in her pocket...
Then, of course, something just had to ruin it. From above, there was a loud rumbling, and the sound of tires. Dad's car had pulled into the garage, and it had run over all those little bouncing puppies.
Randy suddenly snapped back, as if he had just realized how close he had been. "Oh, uh, is that your dad? Should we go?"
"Y-yeah..." Nikki mumbled. Her lips were tingling. She was so ready for it... why did they always have to get interrupted? Did she break a mirror and get seven years of bad luck or something?
Sighing, she stood up. Randy was already gathering his things together to go. Nikki shook the disappointment off quickly.
Okay, she wasn't gonna ask him today. No skin off her back. She had always planned to do it tomorrow anyways. Nothing would stop her then.
She just couldn't wait.