Faris you comin?

Id rather die

K Im in ur driveway

Avery no!!!

Ready when u r :)

Faris sighed and chucked his phone at his bed. Then his mother’s swift knock came at the door. 

“Faris, are you almost ready?”

He could have screamed just then. Did “no” mean nothing to these people?

“Mom, I don’t want to go.”

“Well that’s fine, but Avery’s in the driveway, and you gotta tell him yourself.”

Great. Like that would go well. 

Fine. You know what? Fine. He would accept his fate for now.

With the anticipation of a slug, Faris pulled on a casual button-down and gelled his hair into a stiff mess. He’d suffer this one time for Avery. He’d said no so many times before, and his friend would only keep persisting until he said yes.

On his way out of his room and to the door, Faris tried his best to avoid eye contact. 

“Oh, so you’re going after all?” his mom asked. 

“Yes,” he conceded curtly, and pulled a jacket on.

“Does this mean you’re going to soccer camp?”

“No. I’ll be back before ten.”

“Stay safe!”

Outside, Avery was biking circles on the driveway, and scrolling through his phone. Like Faris, he was tall and skinny, but while Faris looked like an awkward goat not ready for such long extremities, Avery somehow had the grace and swagger of a buck. 

“You keep doing that, and you’ll run into something,” Faris warned him. Avery glanced up and stopped the bike, but not before bumping into the mailbox. 

Okay maybe not so graceful. 

He grinned. “I knew I could get your sorry butt to go with me, Pill Bug!”

“You’ll be the sorry butt if you keep calling me that!” he laughed, and pulled his bike from the garage. 

It was eight when they left, and about halfway there they had to switch on their bike lights to fight the dark. Or, more accurately, Faris switched the flashlight duct taped to his bike, and Avery depended on that.

“So, can I get you to come to soccer camp?”


“Faris, c’mon, the whole point of this dance is so that you don’t have to pay as much to go!”

“So? I can support you.”

“And what about you? Whose gonna play soccer with you while I’m gone?”

Faris Shrugged, “I’ll practice by myself.”

“I know how much you love soccer. And trust me, I’ve been to this camp three times, ok, you’ll love it.”

“You can’t force me to do anything.”

Faris could hear the music as soon as they turned the last corner. The soccer field he’d dreamed of playing at was now pumping with music, and color, and laughing. Faris felt his blood run cold, and would have turned around, had Avery not paid for the tickets already. 

Somehow, this dance made the soccer field feel like a suffocating container packed with people. All the body heat was making Faris sweat, and he hadn’t even moved yet. The music from the speakers thrummed in his ears like a fist. He jumped when Avery’s hand clapped his shoulder. 

“C’mon, we gotta give them our tickets.”

“This was a terrible idea.”

“What, is your ex here, or something?”


“Don’t tell me- she’s the one with the purple dress.”

“Who? I’ve never even-”

“Nasty breakup I heard. You should probably go over there and apologize.”

“Avery, you know I’ve never had a girlfriend in my life!”

“Oh? Then why’s she staring at you like that?”


“Ha! Made ya look.”

“I hate you.”

“I love you too man, but listen, these tickets aren’t gonna turn in themselves. While I’m gone, you should settle matters with your ex.”

“She’s not-”

But Avery had already merged into the crowd, leaving Faris to fend for himself.

Well no use standing here looking like an idiot. That’s what the snack bar was for. Faris walked to the table with a slouch and hands in his pockets. The goal was to look casual, but he felt more like a drug dealer. All the more reason for people to keep their distance, he mused, and surveyed the table. The plate of frosted brownies caught his attention first. He reached for the one with the most frosting.

But, by some bizzare twist of fate, someone else had the same idea at the same time.

On instinct, Faris jerked his hand away from the other person’s. 

“Whoa- chill!” The girl laughed as she took the brownie. Oh geez. It was the purple dress girl. Now that he was actually looking at her, he could see that she was lanky, dark, and her raven bangs barely touched her eyelashes. Something about her - maybe it was the cat leggings, eyeliner, or black nail polish, (though it was more likely the squidward tattoo on the side of her neck)- triggered Faris’s fight or flight response. Before he knew what he was doing, he’d already turned around and started running.

“What th-”

The girl’s voice was quickly drowned in the throbbing speakers, and shouting people. Faris dodged them as best he could (although he may or may not have spilled someone’s punch just as they were kissing) until he came to a mercifully empty spot in the field and plopped to the wet grass, hugging his knees. 

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, staring at the grass, heart pounding, but at some point, a pair of chunky combat boots appeared in front of him. 

“Hey, you’re the brownie kid, right?” Dangit. She was back. “Oh, and you’d make a great soccer ball if that’s what you were going for there.”

Faris chuckled nervously and shook his head. “Social anxiety,” he managed to get out. Looking at her might make this less awkward, he thought, but remembered the tattoo and thought better of it. The girl squatted. 

“Oh. Well, uh, you can have the brownie if you want.”

Well now he had to look up. 

“It’s not the same one, is it?”

“Of course not! What, do you want me to barf it back up for you?”

“That would not be ideal.” Faris took the brownie. “Thanks.”


There was a heavy pause, during which Faris tried to eat his brownie and ignore the girl, which was about as easy as ignoring a sharp rock in your shoe on a hike. 

“You’re trying not to look at the tattoo, aren’t you.” 

The statement was so out of nowhere Faris spewed bits of his brownie over the grass. He cleared his throat as the girl flicked a peice off of her knee. 

“Among other things,” he admitted. The girl just smiled. 

“Wanna know a secret? I got it when I was high.”

“You wanna know a secret? I don’t care.” Faris surprised even himself with that one.

“Really?” she said, “My sins don’t fascinate you?”

Faris took another bite of the brownie. Why was she still here? 

“So do you usually become a soccer ball when threatened?”

Sweet mercy this girl was strange.

“Yeah, kinda. My friend calls me a pill bug.”

She laughed. “That’s cute. I’m Mal btw.”

Faris blinked. “Did you just say ‘btw’?”

“Yeah, now tell me your name.”

“Isn’t it way easier to just say ‘by the way’?”

“Dude, if you don’t tell me your name, I will literally be calling you ‘Pill Bug’ all through soccer camp.”

“Well that’s good, cuz I’m not going to soccer camp.”

“Not much into soccer?”

“No, I love soccer.”

Mal stood up and glared down at him, hands on hips. Faris curled tighter.

“So you’re scared.”

Faris stood up beside her with an indignant look. 

“No. I just know better than to make myself look like an idiot.”

Mal raised a skeptical eyebrow, and crossed her arms. Faris swallowed the last of the brownie with an anxious gulp.

“Do you think soccer camp is just where all the elites go to show off to each other? If you’re not confident in your skills, this is the perfect camp for you.”

“Yeah, great idea,” Faris felt his voice getting louder. To anyone else, it might have sounded like normal talking volume, but for Faris, he might as well have been shouting. “Just you talking to me gave me a heart-attack. I’d be a ball for two weeks!”

“Well that’s good, because clearly we need more balls around here!” 

Faris opened his mouth to retort, but as he did so he noticed Avery standing wide-eyed just behind Mal. He laughed, and threw his arms around their shoulders.

“Well hey Pill Bug, glad to see you’re making amends.” 

Mal shrugged his shoulder off. 

“Look idk who you are, but since you know this kid, tell him to go to soccer camp.”

“What do you think I’ve been doing all month?”

“Did you really just say ‘idk’?”

Just then, an Ed Sheeran song began with the first few chords on the speakers. Faris cringed as Avery bowed dramatically to Mal, and offered his hand. “Shall we dance?”

Mal gave the boy a once-over, then glanced back at Faris. 

“Can I trust this guy?”

“Probably not.” Faris said. Avery scowled at him. Then, an idea coming to mind, he straightened, and grinned.

“He’s right.” Avery agreed, “I’m a very shifty character. Pill Bug here, though, he’d be selling bibles right now, if he remembered to bring them.”

Now Faris took a turn to scowl. 

“Oh?” Mal turned to him with a teasing look. “Would you like to dance, Pill Bug?”

Faris shook his head vigorously. 

“Of course he does,” Avery assured her, “Faris is a great dancer, he’s just too modest.”

“Please don’t make me dance,” Faris muttered to Mal. Mal shrugged. 

“Fine with me,” she said. “We could just stand in the middle of the dance floor and talk.”

“Good plan.”

Avery grimaced. “Sheesh, you guys are lame. Imma go find someone else to flirt with.” And with that, he was gone.

Faris and Mal shuffled slowly to the middle of the dancing area and stood in silence, watching everyone else dance.

“I could really go for a vape rn.”

Faris winced. And she was worried about Avery’s character?

“So why are you going to a soccer camp?” Faris asked, “Wouldn’t you rather spend a week at a rave, or something?”

“No,” she said quickly, “I’d rather die than go back to my old life. I was messed up, Pill. You don’t want to know.”

“Then why do you tell me these things?”

“Well, for starters, I never hide anything from anyone. New rule for me. I was a big liar. Second, I was kinda hoping you could give me some advice.”


“I don’t know if I really want to go to this dumb camp. I mean, love soccer, for real, but with my background… I don’t know. I don’t belong in such a wholesome environment.”

“That’s kind of stupid.”


“Soccer camp can help you get out of your old life, I think.”

“Oh? Spend a whole two weeks surrounded by people who will judge me, and make me feel like trash? I don’t think so. I’m used to this garbage life, so that’s where I belong.”

Faris wanted to slap her. The way she stood there with her hip popped, staring at everyone like they were a different race. 

“So you’re just gonna settle for this? Alcohol, vape, and squidward tattoos? Is that what you want your life to be?”

“Of course not. Soccer is the only thing keeping me from nicotine besides vape. But I told you, it’s where I belong.”

Was Faris imagining it, or was she getting closer to smiling every time he got closer to blowing up?

“Then change, dangit! If you want a better life, you’re supposed to work for it, or you’ll turn into that dog lady from the trailer park! Besides, you love soccer, and if that’s what you want, take it! Life doesn’t hand opportunities like that to you everyday.”

Mal was fully smiling now, and staring at him with piercing blue eyes.

“Say that again, Pill Bug,” she nodded, arms crossed again. “I want you to say that whole thing one more time.”

It was 9:59 when Faris finally succeeded in dragging Avery back to where they parked the bikes. 

“Ten?” Avery kept saying, “What kind of a curfew is that? I didn’t think your mom was that strict.”

“She didn’t give me that curfew, I did.”

Avery shook his head and mounted his bike. 

“You got no chill, Pill.”

Faris clicked his flashlight on and strapped on the helmet. It was a relief to finally cover up his messy hair. He should have brought a hat.

“At least I can tell the difference between raspberries and strawberries,” he said, and sped off down the street.

“Whoa, hey now, that was one time!” Avery pedalled after him. 

The sky was deep, and scattered with stars. Faris felt the wind against his face, and the promise of something new, something thrilling. It was strange, as he’d never looked forward to something thrilling before, unless you counted books. But part of him was learning, and discovering that maybe adventures weren’t solely for the outgoing, and charismatic. 

“So, how did it go? Did you dance with anyone?” his mother asked when he dragged his feet inside.

“No, he told her, and his mother’s soft eyes looked downward with disappointment. “But-” he continued, “Do you think it’s too late to sign up for soccer camp?”

April 03, 2020 04:51

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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