You doesn't understand all the hype.

He's never gotten straight A's and been top of the class like Hoagie Gilligan. He's never won a school election and been crowned class president like Rachel McKenzie. And no matter what the silly girls at school say, he's not nearly as charismatic as golden boy Chad Dickson. So what if he took the football team to States? Patton Drilovsky was just a boy and stupid one at that. The fact that he's holding your hair back while you blow chunks in Joe Balooka's bathroom does little to change your opinion.

"Tequila shots, huh?" Even through your retching you can hear the smugness in his voice and you'd give anything to rip that cocky smirk straight from his face. "This is very unladylike of you, Fulbright."

You lift your head off Balooka's toilet with a pointed fuck you ready tumble from your quivering lips, but another wave of nausea keeps you keeled over. Patton's fingers are haphazardly tangled in your red curls and every so often you feel him tug lightly to readjust. Okay, in your defense you didn't even want to go to Balooka's party in the first place. He buys cheap liquor and the beer is always watered down.

It's just that Kuki dragged you to Balooka's house because no one should be alone after a breakup! Especially not staying home alone on a Friday night with a tub of Mint Oreo ice cream and watching weepy romcoms. You lost each other pretty early on in the party, but halfway through the night you remember seeing Kuki huddled together with a blonde boy who looked suspiciously like Wallabee Beetles. Figures.

You were having fun until your phone started dinging constantly with notifications from him. You don't like the way your stomach drops when his name lights up the screen, because how are you supposed to get over your ex if he keeps texting you?

Newsflash: you don't.

To read Ricky's poetic words, tempting even through text, is to fall all over again and you're no longer that stumbling, lovestruck girl anymore. You even made a game of it, trading each notification for a shot. So, one shot turns into two, then four and then your dancing on Balooka's kitchen table with Muffy Jenkins. It's the next shot that does it, because suddenly you're staring down into Balooka's toilet and a pair of strong arms are lowering you onto the cool tile floor. Your stomach finally settles and you collapse backwards, exhausted from the whole ordeal. Patton's standing over you with an amused look.

"Not to be a dick—"

"Then don't be."

"—but you got a little throw up on my shoes. Your aim could use some work."

"Shut up, Drilovsky."

"What would your dad think? His baby girl going wild at house parties." You don't respond this time, just groan and stubbornly stick your hands out for him to grab. He's snickering as he pulls you, propping you up like a rag doll against his larger frame. You catch bits and pieces of what Patton's saying, but you're so out of it you let him carry you to his car parked outside.

Wally's going to make sure Kuki gets home…can you please use your legs? You're dead weight here…watch out for the step.

You don't watch out for the step and nearly face plant trying to get into Patton's jeep. He's laughing again, but you don't have it in you to cause a fuss. He's buckling the seatbelt around you and a gust of wind makes you involuntarily shiver. Truthfully, it's too cold in Cleveland to be wearing your favorite light sweater-miniskirt combo, but you wore it to spite Ricky. He thought it made you seem trashy, but who cared what he thought anymore, right?

Suddenly Patton's tugging his football hoody over you like a warm blanket, helping you find all the right holes and making sure it covers part of your exposed legs. It's the alcohol that makes you care, but he smells like pine leaves and vanilla. You don't remember much after that. Just waking up the next morning in your bed, tucked away in Drilovksy's jacket and breathing in the scent.

XXX

It's not nearly as big a deal as Kuki makes it out to be and you tell her as much when she comes by your house Saturday afternoon. She breezes into your room a whirlwind of giggles, excitedly going on about her night with Wally and how he was such a babe. She's talking about how his eyes are, apparently, the prettiest shade of green ever made when she notices your outfit and practically hums with mischief.

"So, when were you going to tell me?

You huff. "Tell you what?"

"That you joined the varsity football team," she sniggers, playfully tugging on Patton's hoody. "Or maybe you were having your own fun without me last night?

"Trust me, fun's not the word."

"Then what is? Tell me!"

You grab a bag of chips to share and flip on your favorite Housewives show before you retell all the fuzzy details. Kuki finds the whole thing hilarious of course, nearly chocking when you tell her about busting your ass getting into Patton's jeep.

"Okay, but why are you still wearing it though?" she asks in a way that sounds harmless, but you doubt it.

"It's comfy," and it really is, but the look Kuki gives you makes you want to justify the whole thing even if it means nothing. "And I don't have his number. I'll just give it back Monday."

"Do you want it? I still have it from when the cheer squad did that car wash with the football team."

You gag dramatically. "No way, I get enough of him as it is."

"True," Kuki nods, quietly munching on a chip before turning to you. "But you have to admit, that was awfully nice of him." You chuckle, shaking your head frantically.

"Oh no, he just wanted a laugh. He's never going to let me live it down, the jerk."

Kuki squints at you and scrunches her nose, a telltale sign she thinks you're bullshitting. She's about to say something but you beat her to it and ask her to tell you more about her night with Wally. Whatever she was about to say is quickly forgotten because his smile could make any girl absolutely melt, and you're glad she drops the issue. Of course it doesn't mean anything. Patton is just a boy and it was just a jacket. You snuggle deeper into the hoody and the scent of faded vanilla drifts by.

XXX

He smells nice, so what? It wasn't impressive when you woke up this morning cuddled in its warmth and it isn't now as you march into McClintock High School with it twisted in your hands. You're determined to return the damn thing, except you can't seem to find him anywhere. For moment you wonder if you'll have to keep the thing for another night. It's not until after school that you finally find him at your locker. He's leaning calmly against the cold metal, an aura of confidence oozing off of him and that stupid, "I-know-I'm-the-shit" smirk in full affect. It turns into a full grin when he sees you walking over.

"Ladies and gentlemen, she's alive!" Patton teases, clapping his hands in mock celebration. A few heads turn at his booming voice and your cheeks instinctively flush.

"Can you not? You're such an idiot."

"A simple 'thank you' would suffice, Fulbright. I mean I basically saved your life."

You scoff at Patton. "That's quite an exaggeration. I don't remember it that way."

"I'm surprised you remember anything at all." He barely winces when you swat him on the arm, just looks down at you with a waiting stare. You don't expect for your breath to hitch the way it does and you don't really want to think about why, so you do the one thing you've been trying to do all day.

"Here's your jacket. Thanks…I guess." You shove the soft material at him, but he jumps back with his hands in the air.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold it up for me. I have to check for puke spots." Patton easily catches the jacket when you chuck it at his head. "You were a bit of a loose cannon, Fulbright. Have to check the damage."

You flush with embarrassment, but you'd rather be annoyed so you dramatically roll your eyes and begin pulling books from your locker.

"The only damage is in your head," you say, stuffing your math notebook away and shutting the metal door. He's staring at you again with an odd expression, mouth fixed in a lopsided half grin. Your breath chokes again and what the hell is going on?

He doesn't break eye contact as he raises his hoody, shaking it a bit. "Be honest, should I get this dry cleaned?" You growl, turning on you heel to leave.

"Grow up, Drilovsky."

XXX

You've just finished braiding your hair when a loud honk outside sets a wide smile on your face. Taking one last look in the mirror, you bound down the stairs and are almost out the front down when you hear your father's thundering voice.

"Where are you off to, Fanny-pants?" he asks, lounging on his leather recliner while an old football game plays on the TV.

"The fall festival with Kuki, remember?"

He quirks an eyebrow at you and examines your outfit. "Will there be boys?"

"Daddy—"

"Ew," Paddy says as he plops down on the couch with a smirk, "as if guys would talk to man hands over there". He's still laughing when you flip him off and your dad just rolls his eyes.

"Just be home by curfew. And no boys!", dad shouts as you shut the front door and practically launch into Kuki's Nissan. You're barely buckled before Kuki speeds away from the curb and into the night. Even with her face focused on the traffic ahead, there's a mysterious glint in her eyes and you know one thing for sure: Kuki's up to no good.

"Alright, what is it?" You ask, noticing Kuki's poorly concealed excitement.

"It's a surprise, silly!" You send her a look that she happily ignores and instead begins to sing along to the radio. You've forgotten all about Kuki's little secret by the time she pulls into the fairgrounds. Arm in arm, the two of you giddily stroll into the festival and marvel at all the twinkling decorations. Your eyes immediately dart towards the tilt-a-whirl, but Kuki abruptly stops and you stumble forward a few steps.

"Okay, don't freak out," she says, standing on her tip toes and scanning the bustling crowd.

"Why would I—"

"Promise!"

"No?"

"Great!" Kuki begins to wave her hands like a mad woman and you take a few steps back, trying to not get smacked. It's only when you spot a familiar blonde bowl cut weaving through the crowd that you understand.

Snickering, you turn towards Kuki. "Why would I be mad that Wally's here? He is your boyfriend."

"Not yet!" Kuki whisper yells, her head whipping frantically towards Wally. "Besides," Kuki starts, shaking her head, "that's not the surprise."

"Then what is—"

"Hey Fulbright, long time no see."

Your heart skips a beat when you hear a deep baritone voice behind you. You stop yourself from jolting and turn around as smoothly as possible. Patton's appears next to Wally, hair combed back and wearing a dark green bomber jacket. Not that you care, but it makes his eyes pop.

"It wasn't nearly long enough, Drilovsky."

"Ouch," Patton says, dramatically placing his hand over his heart, "feisty as always."

"What can I say? You bring it out of me," you retort. He chuckles a bit and nudges your shoulder lightly. Next to you, Kuki and Wally have fallen into their own conversation, giggling and shyly staring at each other.

"Maybe let the love birds have some time?" Patton suggests, watching the scene unfold. The four of you decide to split up for the first part of the night, you with Patton and Kuki with Wally, promising to meet up later.

It's quiet for a few moments as the two of you walk aimlessly through the festival. You don't know why there are nervous butterflies fluttering around your stomach and you send him a quick glance. At least a head taller than you, he was all muscle and hard edges. His body had an athletic build and even his jawline was strong, flexing slightly as he chewed on a piece of gum. You've always been attracted to softer boys like Ricky, but you get why girls fawn over Patton. He was attractive in that annoying, conventional way. Even now, girls unabashedly eye him before settling on you, practically willing themselves to trade places. Little did they know it doesn't matter. Patton is just a boy and this isn't a date.

You're lost in thought when he swiftly rushes in front and stops you in your tracks. Holding up his hands, he looks at you with a boyish smile. "Pick a number: one or two?"

"What do you mean?"

"It's a simple question, Fulbright. One or two?" Patton asked, shrugging up his hands in show.

You contemplate, twisting a loose curl around your finger before staring Patton straight in the eyes. "Two. Do your worst, Drilovsky." He smirks, winking before placing his hand on the small of your back and steering you to the left. "Haunted house it is!"

At the entrance of the haunted house, Patton looks at her with a wicked smile. "You can hold me if you if you get scared."

Scoffing, you walk past him and into the carnival house. "As if! Try and keep up, ya stupid boy."

The haunted house is much scarier than you thought and each twist makes you bounce back in shock. When a man jumps from behind a corner you jerk back into Patton's chest and his strong arm wraps around your shoulders. Neither of you mention it, but Patton doesn't move his arm until long after the haunted house. The next few hours are a blur of stomach dropping tilt-a-whirls and body whipping bumper cars, but things get interesting when you stumble onto the carnival games.

"You can't step over the line! That's cheating!

"You're just mad that I'm winning," you say, laughing at the disgruntled look on Patton's face. A game of balloon darts shouldn't be this high stakes, but Patton matches your competitiveness tit for tat.

"Go again? First to hit three balloons is the balloon dart champ," he asks, already fishing into his jean pocket for two more tickets.

"Only if you enjoy losing." Patton scrunches his nose at you, but his dimples make him look less intimidating than he thinks. Grabbing a handful of darts and flicking your braid over your shoulder, you get in position. "On my go. Ready, set, shoot!"

Darts begin flying everywhere and the poor booth attendant looks terrified. Patton pops the first balloon, but you get two in a row so you're feeling especially good. A loud pop sounds off to your left and you know the two of you are neck and neck. Darts begin sailing with no direction, the two of you desperately trying to make a hit. When a dart you throw pops a purple balloon you squeal in excitement. You curtsy in the most dramatic way possible and face him. "Crown me queen!"

Patton groans, matching your dramatics and dropping to a knee. "Queen Fanny. Master of darts and nothing else, has won the battle. All hail Queen Fanny!" You laugh when Patton takes your hand, spinning you around before he gives an exaggerated bow.

The next game is Patton's choice and, of course, it involves football. "You just wanted to show off," you tease, watching him pay three tickets to the booth attendee and getting six mini footballs in return.

"What can I say?" he says with a smug grin. "You bring it out of me." Patton picks up a football and, like the quarterback he is, sends it flying through a hanging hoop. He continues to throw the footballs through the targets, not missing a single one and it's actually impressive. You don't tell him this, of course. His ego doesn't need any more stroking, so you settle on simply watching him play. This seems to be enough for Patton because halfway through he gives you a toothy grin, clearly proud of himself. Your back pocket buzzes and you think it's going to be Kuki checking in. Instead, it's him again.

Ricky: What are you up to?

Ricky: I miss you

Rolling your eyes, you shove your phone back in the pocket. What a buzzkill. At that moment Patton throws the final football and it soars seamlessly through the hoop.

"You got all six," the booth attendant exclaimed. "You can pick a prize!" Patton turns towards you, so pleased with himself that you smile back.

"What do you want?" Patton asks. You scan over the rows of hanging stuffed animals and trinkets. "That one," you say, pointing towards the top of the wall.

"You heard the lady," Patton tells the attendant. "One pink rainbow monkey, please." When the attendant hands you the stuffed animal you hug it tightly and can't help but laugh at Patton's prideful face. Afterwards, the two of you reunite with Kuki and Wally near the strongman game. Immediately the two boys challenge each other, betting who can make the bell ding. Holding a wooden hammer, Wally slings it over his shoulder and makes the first hit.

Next to you, Kuki eyes the rainbow monkey in your hands with a knowing smile and you can only scoff in retaliation. Kuki suggest you go home with Patton so she can drive Wally home.

"So, you're supposed to be my ride?" you say, walking towards Patton's jeep.

"I don't know why you're so surprised. I'd say I'm uniquely qualified for the job," he adds with a wink. You send him a look before walking past him to the passenger side. "I know we had trouble with this before, so watch out for the step, Fulbright."

You climb into the jeep as gracefully as possible just to prove him wrong. "Ha, ha, ha, Drilovsky. Are you ever going to let it go?"

"I don't know, ask me in a week," he says plopping into the driver's seat and revving the engine to life.

XXX

Not to be dramatic, but you've spent more time with Patton in the last two weeks than you've spent with both of your little brothers combined. Ever since the fall festival it's become impossible to tell where Kuki ends and Wally begins. The two of them are constantly orbiting around each other, never drifting too far away while getting lost in their own little galaxy. Back in the real world, this somehow equals you and Patton becoming what you'll only agree to call "acquaintances".

That's the only reason you let Patton hoist you in the air after he sinks the winning ping pong into a red solo cup. That, and the two beers you had beforehand. The rowdy crowd of teenagers surrounding the beer pong table explode in cheers and Patton drunkenly spins you around while his opponent, Bartie Stork, claps genially.

"Put me down, Patton!" Your cheeks are furiously blushing as his arms tighten around your waist. He's a bit clumsy, but manages to not drop you and begins high fiving the crowd. Rolling your eyes, you slip in between sweaty bodies towards the kitchen. Small pockets of people are scattered throughout the room and you're almost at the makeshift bar when someone calls your name. Rachel is standing by the keg, waving you over.

"Hey captain, what's up?"

"Did you get my text about try outs?" Rachel asks. The two of you are on the varsity soccer team and the season was gearing up in about a month.

"Yeah, I'm so out of shape. Coach is going to kill me," you say, already wincing at the inevitable soreness.

Slowly sipping a beer, Rachel not so subtly eyes you. "You know, ever since Julie graduated last year Coach has been looking for a new co-captain…"

"Nope!"

"Fanny!" Rachel whines, throwing her head back.

"Me? Co-captain? No way!"

"Please? You're already bossy." You send her a look that she returns two fold. She sighs, "Come on, it'll be fun! Plus I refuse to work with know-it-all Anna Worthington!"

"Takes one to know one," Virginia Sims snickers, walking over and playfully bumping hips with Rachel. Rachel pokes her tongue out and the three of you laugh. Pointing her amber eyes at you, Virginia looks expectant.

"So, when did it happen?"

"I wish I knew what you were talking about Gin," you answer, reaching towards the keg to refill your cup.

"You and Patton, obviously."

"Yeah Fanny, tell us about Mr. All American," Rachel says, clearly getting way too much enjoyment out of making you squirm.

"Nothing happened," you say, willing yourself not to stutter. "Kuki started dating Wally and they're like a package deal." Rachel looks unconvinced and Virginia is staring off into the distance.

"Good," Virginia says with a frown, "because if Henrietta was all over my Bartie like that…" Rachel and you both crane towards the beer pong table where low and behold Henrietta von Marzipan has practically glued herself to Patton.

In the place where you had been, Henrietta now stood in a pair of tight jeans and a thin camisole that left little the imagination. You usually don't care that your body was more svelte than the hourglass figure boys always geeked about, but next to girls like Henrietta you wish you owned a bombshell bra. When Patton sinks a ping pong ball into Bartie's cup, Henrietta squeals and squeezes onto Patton's free arm. You can't hear what they're saying, but by the way she caresses his arm it's probably not PG.

"It's whatever," you say, forcing yourself to look away. "We're not dating or anything."

"I guess..." Virginia trails off. There's a beat of awkward silence before Rachel saves the day.

"So, Nigel asked me out yesterday." You and Virginia gasp, and began furiously peppering the blushing blonde with questions. The three of you talk for a while longer before you wonder further into the party and get roped into a game Never Have I Ever by the Doblemitz twins. After having to down a few shots, you stumble away and immediately feel squished in a sea of kids.

The last few hours are blurry, but it must be past midnight and the party was at full capacity. The body heat alone makes your white windbreaker cling to a thin layer of sweat and you need some air, pronto. Managing to work through the buzzing crowd, you slip out onto the back patio and the starless night greets you. A cool breeze rushes by and you lift your thick hair off you neck, relishing the way it sends shivers down your spine. You're about to check your phone when a familiar voice rings out.

"I just don't get it, baby."

You have to squint your eyes, but the moon overhead gives just enough light that you can barely make out Henrietta. She's standing in the backyard with a prominent pout aimed at the shadowy person next to her.

"What's there to get?" your stomach tightens uncomfortably and you don't need a light to know who she's with.

"Why're you hanging out with her," Henrietta sneers, her accent echoing across the empty yard. "She's not even pretty. She's a little bitch—"

"Don't be rude," Patton says stiffly, shoving his hands deep inside his jacket pockets. You press back against the wall, hiding in the porch's darkness. You're barely breathing, just shallow breaths making brief, white tuffs in the cold air.

Henrietta's unfazed, instead stepping closer until she's almost flush against his front. "You two just…don't make sense."

"And what do you know? You haven't had a boyfriend, ever."

"No," she says, "but I was thinking maybe I should."

Patton's silent. Henrietta's fingers trail up his chest before resting on his shoulders. "You need someone who's good for you. Someone who knows you." Someone like me.

You squeeze your eyes shut, hoping this is all some sort of drunk hallucination. When you open them, you know it's not. Henrietta's hands are curled around Patton's jaw and she's pulls him down, kissing him thoroughly.

She bites his lip and a small, unexpectedly fragile part of you breaks. Your heart is pounding in your ears so loud the noise from the party goes deaf. Taking a shaky breath, a sudden urge to run away surges through you and your legs are carrying you home before you can wrap your head around everything. You don't bother to wipe away the tears that streaks down your cheek.

At home, you're hiding under a mountain of blankets and the rainbow monkey Patton gave you is thrown across the room. Your sniffles are the only sound you allow yourself to make, especially over him. You'd been so sure, so positive, that he had no effect on you at all. Wasn't he just Wally's tag along friend? That annoying kid who liked to mercilessly tease you and poke all your buttons. The guy you rolled your eyes at and called childish? Then why the fuck are you crying over Henrietta kissing him like he was already hers?

Because Patton is just a boy and maybe you like him a teensy bit.

Your cellphone dings and lights up the otherwise dark room. Reaching over, you pull it off the charger and open your messages.

Ricky: Are you up?

Ricky: I know you're ignoring me, but I want to hear from you

Ricky: Please darling?

.

.

.

Fanny: Hey


I did this story to practice a different style of writing (2nd person) and it was a nice exercise. Is it good? Eh, but I had fun writing it. xoxo