THE MISADVENTURES OF MATTHEW VAN DER BOOT is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental … no matter how many times you ask.
You get up from your table and for a panicked moment you think your feet might refuse to follow your legs, but they do, and before you realize it you’ve crossed the grassy space in between and are standing next to her table. Her friend notices you first and motions to Claudia with her eyes. She turns to you. Her hair is short, Marie Osmond short.
“Hi,” you say. “Claudia?”
She smiles, but cautiously, you think. “Hi Matt,” she says. Her voice is deeper than you expected. You like it.
“Uh, I heard, uh.” You swallow and begin again. “I was wondering. Are you going to the dance tonight? I mean, do you want to go? With me?”
Her smile broadens. She has dimples. “Okay.”
“Okay? Um, Okay.” You take a tentative step back, force yourself not to turn and run. “I’ll see you there, then?”
“Okay,” she says. “Seven.”
Now you do turn, and even though you manage not to run, you’ve only taken three steps before your foot catches and you fall face down in the grass. Laughter erupts from the lunch area. Someone tripped you.
“I’m sorry,” that someone says, louder than necessary and with exaggerated sincerity.
You scramble to your feet, prepared to face your mystery bully. Except there are two of them, almost identical with the same compact builds, short, curly hair, and square, blunt features. But the smaller one, smirking at you, is clearly in charge, and he’s ready for you. Even though his hands are open in a conciliatory gesture, his heels are just off the ground, and he’s balancing on the balls of his feet.
“What the fuck?” you manage to say.
“No need to be rude about it,” he says, loud enough for his lunchtime audience to hear. “What, can’t accept my apology?”
His twin looks at you calmly with none of his brother’s bravado or posturing. For some reason this unnerves you even more. You look quickly in Claudia’s direction, not long enough to fully interpret the expression on her face. Is it embarrassment, fear, anger, or is that just you?
(A) Fuck this asshole. He may kill you but you’re not going down without a fight!
(B) Fuck all of this. He will kill you and none of this is worth it. Walk away!