Math & Malls (& Mom)

Submitted into Contest #216 in response to: Include dialogue that shows that a character is socially awkward.... view prompt


Coming of Age Funny High School

Nick couldn’t believe his mom was driving him to his first date. Not just with Molly, his hugest crush, but his first date…ever. And his own mother had to be the one to get him there. Fourteen was a rough age for socializing, but Nick figured he should probably be grateful he had a mom who’d even allow him to go on a date in the first place. Ryan Swindall, from their neighborhood, said his parents forbade him based on religious reasons so yeah, Nick knew it could be worse. 

His mom was ecstatic when he asked for advice on asking a girl out last week. She could hardly contain her excitement, as Nick had never shown any outward interest before, mostly because he was terrified of them. Girls were scary, pretty ones especially. And Nick thought Molly was really pretty. So following his mom’s wise advice of just saying something…anything to Molly was a great start. 

That had gone horribly, as Nick always knew it would. Of course, right at that moment, his brain decided to replay that conversation once more, as it had been doing all morning…and afternoon. It was like he was strapped into the theater of his own mind, unable to look away from a moment he wished he could forget. And yet…

Nick was on his way to an actual, real life date now, so maybe it wasn’t that bad? No, he knew better. A realist in the most practical sense. It was that bad. 

“Math,” he’d said suddenly as she was opening her locker after Geometry. Molly clearly wasn’t expecting it, and her flinch immediately made Nick feel guilty, but he had to press on. He’d already committed. 

“Huh?” she’d said, trying to hear better in the crowded hall. Maybe Nick could’ve picked a better time to try this. 

“Math!” he repeated, feeling sweat start to form on his forehead. He had to hurry. “It’s just like…so dumb, right? Like, is it numbers or is it shapes? Haha make up your mind, geez!”

To Nick’s relief, she let out the tiniest giggle. “Actually, I really like math.”

“Oh! Oh, yeah, totally. Me too. I was just kidding. I love uhh…subtraction. That’s my favorite math term.”

Another laugh. Another win for Nick. Nothing about this felt right, but somehow she hadn’t run away from him yet. Could his mom have possibly been right? 

Molly scrunched her face in thought for a moment, a habit she’d had since middle school and one of Nick’s top three favorite things about her. No, he didn’t have an actual list or anything. He wasn’t a freak. He kept it in his head like a gentleman. Also safer that way.

“I’ve never thought about that before, actually,” she said, pushing her glasses up her nose as she still looked upwards in thought. “It’s a good question. I think my favorite math thing might be imaginary numbers.” 

Great. She was messing with him now. How should he play this? 

“You mean like…wait, you’re kidding, right? Is that a meme or something I missed?”

“No, I’m serious! It’s a real thing. We just haven’t learned about them yet. I think it’ll be like junior or senior year. But the concept is really…cool? God, I can’t believe I just described something math related as cool. You must think I’m the biggest geek ever.”

This was unexpected. A real surprise. Nick knew that he held that title himself, having been told as much repeatedly by his older brother and also Todd Giselle, the mean lacrosse player whose locker was right next to his. How could Molly ever consider herself on Nick’s level? The gears in his brain slowly began to process this news as he remembered that he still needed to speak. 

“I’m such a loser,” Nick said suddenly, reaching for the first thing at the top of his mind. 

“What?” she asked with a bit of genuine concern, which in retrospect was kind of adorable. 

He felt his face go red with embarrassment as he realized what he said. “No! I mean, uh, you’re definitely not a geek at all, that’s me. I’m the geek here, and there’s only room for one of us in this…hallway.”

Nick then felt his hands do the dreaded finger guns. He couldn’t stop them, almost as if a puppeteer was controlling his limbs. 

Molly fidgeted with her binder, clearly unsure of how to respond. 

Anyway,” Nick continued. “Sorry. Don’t know why I did that. Sorry. I wanted to ask if you…maybe were interested in seeing that new superhero movie? The one about-”

“Puma-Man?” she said with some excitement. “My sister said it was fun!”

Again, Molly surprised Nick. Suddenly, the bell rang overhead. Just a minute to get to class.

As she turned to head to her class, which Nick shamefully knew was American Lit despite it not being his next class, he spoke up. 

“Would you be interested in maybe going to see it this weekend? With…me? You definitely don’t have to, if you’re busy. I totally get-”

Molly smiled at him. Clear as day. Unmistakable. “I gotta get to class,” she said. “But I do actually want to see it! And none of my friends are interested. I’ll DM you! See ya.”

And that was it. She turned and headed to class, leaving Nick standing in the nearly empty hallway. Did he black out for that entire conversation? What did he just say? Wait, did she say yes? 

Nick couldn’t even let himself be happy, knowing that he’d be checking his phone every minute out of anxiety, useless in class. Plus, he hated that his mom had been completely right. She’d rub it in his face. 100 percent. 

“I told you!” she told him that afternoon when Nick gave her the news. “Kids are so predictable these days. It’s like nothing’s changed! Except…pretty much everything. But dang, it feels good to be right for once.”

The direct message didn’t come until that night. Molly was really sorry it had come so late, she got held up at cross country practice, so Nick lied and let her know that he didn’t even notice since he’d been super busy all night too, definitely not checking his phone every few seconds and even feeling the occasional phantom vibration in his pocket. 

But Molly confirmed what she’d said earlier, she did actually want to go see the movie! And was ok with the idea of his presence there with her! That was a win-win in Nick’s book, but he tried to play it cool. He had no choice, having never exchanged more than a single text or two with a girl. 

Should Nick tell her how excited he was? That felt wrong, for some reason. Nobody in a movie would do it like that. So yeah, he stayed distant and hopefully mysterious despite knowing exactly what his mom would say, and didn’t sleep a wink that night. 

Now, two endlessly long days later, Nick sat in the front seat of his mom’s Pacifica on the way to see Puma-Man at Northview Mall with Molly. His stomach bounced around in knots, almost like the butterflies inside had somehow acquired bazookas. 

“So,” his mom began. “Have you and Molly been talking since you asked her out?”

“Don’t say it like that!” Nick said defensively, squirming in his seat. 

“What? You did! You asked her out and she said yes and that’s awesome! Saying it out loud won’t make it any less real, you know that right? So, what’s the deal? You two chat it up in the hallway between classes? Maybe even eat lunch together?”

Nick’s stomach dropped. Should he have been doing all those things this whole time?? He thought back through the blur of the last 48 hours, and remembered high fiving her in the hallway once without any words actually exchanged. Looking back, that felt like a missed opportunity. 

His mom must’ve noticed Nick’s head drop with his stomach, because she quickly kept moving. “I mean, it’s all good if you haven’t! That’s what tonight is for, right? You guys can totally talk during the movie in between making out and whatever.” 

She lightly elbowed him. 

“Mom! Stop! I’m not gonna…we’re not even…errrrggh!” 

With a smirk, she flipped on her turn signal. “Looks like we’re here. How ya feeling?”

“Not great, to be honest!” Nick said, feeling his pulse begin to quicken. “Is it better to barf in here or wait until the previews start?”

“First off, please do not barf on these leather seats. Second, just take a deep breath! You’re not going to be sick. It’s just a movie! You’ve seen lots of these. And yeah, I get it, this one is with the girl you have a little crush on. But she’s probably just as nervous as you are. When I was your age, a guy asked me out to a movie and I had to get up and pee four times. Four times! And guess what, I had to go a fifth time too, but I refused to get back up and decided to just pee my pants. Thankfully, I didn’t have much left in my bladder at that point, but still! Do you know how embarrassing that was?”

“That…yeah, that does sound pretty embarrassing,” Nick said as he rolled his window down. 

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, just in case I have to barf. You said not to do it on the leather seats.”

She lightly touched him on the shoulder, knowing that Nick didn’t necessarily love physical contact, but she also couldn’t help herself. He was her baby. “Sweetie. Listen, this will be great and I can’t wait to hear all about it. And y’know what, even if it doesn’t go great, I’ll still be out here to pick you up either way and we can go get some ice cream or something. How’s that sound?”

Nick gave a non-committal shrug, followed by a grunt. 

“Whatever you do,” she said, pulling into a parking spot far away from the entrance. “Just don’t pee your pants. Anything else is a win.”

“I’ll try,” he said with a chuckle as he opened the door. “But no promises. Hey…thanks for taking me. I know the mall isn’t really close and you probably have a lot better things to do tonight.” 

“Anytime, kid. Well, at least until you get your license. Then you can be your own chauffeur. Tell Molly I said hi.”

A non-verbal nod was all she’d get as Nick walked away towards the entrance of the mall. She’d done all she could. The rest was up to him. 

Nick took that recommended deep breath as he pulled the doors open to see Molly waiting for him on a nearby bench. She waved with a smile. 

“Sorry, I got here early,” she said. “My mom wanted to do some shopping so I had to ride with her. I think she’s getting a Cinnabon now or something. I don’t actually know. Malls are so weird, aren’t they? Like, are they for shopping or movies? Make up your mind, geez!”

For a brief moment, Nick was completely speechless. Was she…flirting? Inconceivable. 

“Yeah, haha,” he finally replied. “Who would’ve guessed that malls and math would have so much in common, right? So indecisive. You ready to head in?”

“Yep! I’m excited,” Molly said. “I’ve been wondering one thing though.”

“What thing?” Nick asked. 

“Why call the guy Puma-Man? It sounds so dumb. Doesn’t even roll off the tongue at all. His name should be-”

“Puman!” they both said at the same time, eyes wide, shocked at their brain symmetry. 

As Nick launched into his way too detailed thoughts of why Puman was a better name than Puma-Man, all of his anxiety seemed to melt away without even realizing it. 

Maybe, Nick figured, this first date might not turn out so bad. 

Just maybe. 


September 21, 2023 13:34

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07:27 Sep 25, 2023

This was super cute and relatable!


Colby McHugh
18:31 Sep 25, 2023

Thank you!! I like to think that everyone can relate to being an awkward fourteen year old! We've truly all been there.


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Tricia Shulist
15:39 Sep 24, 2023

Ha! Fun story. Early teenage angst — you want to be grown up, but you need your mom. You want to ask a girl out, but you need you mom. So cute! Thanks for sharing.


Colby McHugh
18:29 Sep 25, 2023

Thank you so much for reading! I love writing dialogue like this so this prompt was a blast for me!


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