“It’s not just the walk, stud,” she said. “It’s where the walk takes us. There’s something I want to show you. Be at my room before locks-on and we’ll snake out of here.” She pressed her palms together. “Pleeease?”
“I don’t know, Cheza.”
Her hands dropped to her sides. “What are you afraid of?”
“I don’t know, getting caught,” I told her.
“And what happens if you get caught? They dock you a few points, bring you down across the board—so what? You can’t taste life anyway with your numbers.”
“Thanks for reminding me.”
“I’m sorry, was I being mean? I thought I was just stating the obvious. I’m the only one who’s really risking anything here, and I’m doing it all for you. Come on, it’s gonna be a total mind-scramble. The least you can do is show me some gratitude and go along with all my scheming. I thought we were partners?” She doubled down with a little pouty pouty sad face and flicked her holo color over to a somber blue.
Of course I was going. I knew it. Cheza knew it. It was just a matter of me grumbling the words now. No sense in dragging this out any longer.
“O-kee-dee, I’m in.”
Her face beamed. “My door, tonight. Wear something dark and douse your holo. Got it?”
In 420 days spent with Cheza I learned it was better to just go along with whatever she had planned without asking too many questions. I was definitely not the only one under her spell. As top stud, she pretty much had her run of Fairchild and any little mischiefs we perped were quickly forgiven by the sensors because it was Cheza Gregory, after all, and an indiscretion or two was to be expected of such an active, clever mind.
They had no idea.
“So you’re just going to go with her,” my older quartersmate, Ralen, asked me as he played with the settings of his holo in the bathroom mirror to achieve the in look. “Are you totally gonzo? Tru-blues are everywhere after dark. You’ll get nibbed for sure.”
“I have to go,” I told him.
“Because if I don’t Cheza will think I’m just a dull understud and wonder why she ever wanted to jam with me in the first place.”
He dropped his head slightly, gave a low snigger, and rubbed his hands around his face. “Tig, you are a dull understud,” he said with some force. “Just admit to yourself she’s way too high for you, bestbro, before you get yourself in a heap. I mean, even you have to wonder what she sees in you.”
He was right.
From the day Cheza and I met I’ve wondered why. But it doesn’t hurt so much when I’m the one wondering.
“She sees . . . something,” I said. “Something no one else can apparently.”
“Sounds like she’s using you, Tigger. There must be some other game afoot here.” Ralen tugged at the collar of my shirt. “What is it about you anyway?”
The sense he was making was perfect, but there was ugliness in the delivery. Ugliness.
“Why is it so hard to accept that she might just like me for who I am? Cheza Gregory might just be into me. Not you, not Harris Timons and his dimples and his dreamy new holo, not Stex Rawl and all his full’s cred, not any of the other sky-high studs . . . me!”
“Listen to yourself, even you can’t believe that.”
“Well I’m gonna find out, and not you or anyone else is gonna stop me. I don’t care if she’s weird or mysterious or even a little gonzo—I’m having fun. She makes me happy. For the first time in my whole miserable life it’s not about my numbers. She doesn’t care about any of that. I don’t know why she doesn’t care, but she doesn’t. I don’t know why she wants to be with me either, but she does.” I shook my head. “And for some reason that just eats you up inside. Now why is that?”
He waved his hand at me and walked back to the mirror. “Don’t flatter yourself, I’m just saying she sounds like trouble.”
“It’s Cheza kuffing Gregory! Who cares if she’s trouble?”