His name was Cody, and everyone wanted him. He was kind, funny, and always went out of his way to help anyone. He always stood up for the kids who got bullied. He was also really smart, but rarely ever did he let anyone see that side of him. Cody was very much down to earth, in every sense. He had zero idea that every girl in school was drooling over him.
In addition to being a wonderful human, with an optimistic disposition, he was drop dead gorgeous. He was five feet and eleven inches tall, and Irish and Italian. His skin was an olive tone, and his hair was a chocolate brown that he always wore very short. His dad was a marine, so the crew cut was all he knew. His eyes were a cross between green and light brown and were warm and inviting. He worked out and was on the high school soccer team. So, his build, needless to say, was very sexy. Sculpted to perfection.
We lived in a very small mid-western town. Goughdale. Founded by a German family and is now a predominately white town. This made growing up as a Latino boy quite interesting. Very much a fishbowl kind of vibe. Oh, that and being the only gay kid in town definitely made for a challenging experience too.
Cody always had a way of saying just the right thing to my bullies to make me feel completely safe. One time in fact, Cody was walking by as I was getting shoved into the lockers. He just calmly said,
“Sometimes what we hate in others, is what we fear in ourselves.”
It was enough to make them stop, turn around and size him up. His sinew clearly intimidated them as they just walked away. Cody even followed through by walking me to class to make sure the group of jerks didn’t try anything.
That was also when I started to develop a crush on him. How could I not? I mean I had always admired him from afar, but that act of kindness and being that close to him just took over my poor little heart.
He had never dated anyone, at least not from school. So my mind raced with speculation that maybe he could be gay or gay leaning. So, I decided to put it to the test.
I was talking with my girlfriends in the cafeteria. We called our little group, “The CAT Club”. CAT stood for, Confident, Attitude, and Tenacious. We were a sassy bunch. It was me, Alexandria, Andrea, Allison, and Amber. It was complete coincidence that our names all started with A, but it did give us just the right powerful flair.
We were all gathered for an emergency CAT club meeting in the cafeteria.
“Okay ladies, the time has come. Your gay best friend needs you!”
Andrea and Amber leaned in almost too closely to hear what this could be. Alexandria and Allison just looked at me with quiet intrigue.
“Well, I think I want to try and find out if Cody could be gay.”
I didn’t even get the whole sentence out and Amber just about spat out her milk.
“Arnaldo! Too far! He’s off limits!”
I just kind of shot a look at her and said,
“Why? it’s not like he’s yours!”
To this Amber just stood up and walked away. This was pretty out of character given that any other time I expressed interest in a guy at school she was the first to offer her help.
Amber was a pretty out-there kind of girl. She always wore long denim skirts with crop tops and purses that were made of canvas. Her family was actually from Romania. She had an olive complexion similar to Cody’s. Amber’s eyes were brown, and her hair was black. She was pretty skinny and very short. I don’t think she quite reached five feet. She was always sewing little dolls. She sold most of them at music festivals. She was pretty good at it, but it was kind of an odd hobby. She said that her dolls were supposed to be for the people in her life that needed the most help.
So, the other girls just hyper focused on me and were instantly fascinated to also find out if Cody could be gay.
“Well,” Alexandria began,
“We need a plan!”
“So, definitely we need to make you more noticeable to him, like in a cute way,” offered Allison.
“Oh, for sure! Okay, my house, makeover tonight!” declared Andrea.
“Okay, but somebody text Amber, she should be here for this. We’re always there for her!” Alexandria stated.
We all then ran off to our respective classes and eagerly awaited the final bell of the day to release us from our exposed brick prison of education.
Amber reluctantly showed up to Andrea’s house as the rest of us were also arriving. She had her bag of doll supplies.
Allison looked at Amber’s bag,
“What’s all that for Amber?” she asked with a glaring side-eye.
“I told you all before, I make dolls for people who need my help.”
“Who needs your help Amber?” I asked already suspecting that I knew the answer.
“You,” She replied looking me in the eye with a look of artificial pity.
“Look Amber,” began Andrea,
“Arnaldo has just as much claim to Cody as any of us. And if Cody turns out to not be gay, at least we can say that we put in the hard work to find out!”
“And just think Amber,” interjected Alexandria
“If one of us, any of us ended up with Cody, think of the limitless power that could give the CAT club.”
We all just laughed and walked into the house.
Amber began making the doll, and the rest of us just put our bags down and rolled our eyes.
“Okay CAT club! It’s not a meeting without???”
The rest of us joined in unison,
Andrea had prepared us virgin cosmos. Her mom always let us use the party martini glasses. Andrea’s parents’ house was pretty incredible.
It was a ten-bedroom house with an indoor pool and sat on about eight acres of land. The whole house had a very chic and modern decor. Andrea’s bedroom was super girly though. Pink everything, with a touch of leopard print in honor of the CAT club.
We all discussed how to approach this very delicate situation. I brought three suitcases of my clothes, shoes, and accessories for the girls to help me with.
“Well, first things first Arnaldo, how’s your walk?”
“You’ve seen me walk a thousand times Andrea.”
“Ugh no! Your walk when you’re walking to class is NOT the walk you want whilst attracting a man’s attention.”
“Oh, you mean like my sassy swish?”
The girls laughed out loud, and Alexandria just had to ask.
“What in God’s name is a sassy swish.”
“Well, it’s my come-hither walk.”
“Okay, okay, let’s see it. Show us your sassy swish!” Andrea couldn’t even say it without laughing.
So, I walked to the other side of her bedroom and demonstrated my strut. The strut had just the right touch of hip sway. My shoulders were back my chest was slightly puffed out, nothing too gay. And I did my thing. The girls just sat there sipping their cosmos and when I walked my walk, they were all shook.
“I’m DEAD!” exclaimed Andrea.
“YAAASS QUEEEN!” shouted Allison as she held her glass to the air.
“Okay but why can you strut better than a girl?” asked Alexandria.
I simply shrugged. We all looked to Amber to get her response and she was simply sewing away making her doll.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening mixing and matching my clothes to make the perfect outfit. The plan was to have the girls coax Cody into the cafeteria and invite him to sit with us for lunch. Then at the perfect moment I would come in, fashionably late, and strut on over. The girls would then carefully calculate his reaction, before, during, and after my sassy swish.
We all spent the night, and when we woke up. Amber was gone.
“Maybe she forgot something at her house?” offered Alexandria.
Andrea’s mom made us an amazing breakfast and complimented my outfit.
I wore a loose fitting long-sleeved black t-shirt with a swooping neckline, and tight skinny jeans with frays and rips down the front. I wore my black leather combat boots that had just the right amount of heel. I styled my medium length hair off to one side to give me some more edge. I completed the look with a sterling silver chain with a solid silver pendant, mirrored sunglasses, and a single plain silver ring on my index finger on my right hand.
With my tan skin, black hair, and small frame, the look was wicked adorable, and very sassy swish ready.
So, there I was, at the end of math class, right before lunch. I looked down at my phone and the group chat labelled CAT Chat read simply.
“Everything is in place.”
I was super nervous my left leg could not stop shaking. The bell rang and I was out of there! I had to remember to be late, so I went to the bathroom and made sure the look was still fire.
Then I walked down the stairs towards the cafeteria, and a group of my bullies were walking by me. I simply looked at them and shook my finger as to say,
“Not now boys, I got somewhere to be.”
A teacher was right behind them, so they knew not to try anything anyway.
I walked closer and closer to the cafeteria entrance, and my heart was pounding. I started my sassy swish, and it felt super empowering!
I swished my way into the cafeteria and there he was, sitting with my girls at the furthest table. Giving me the perfect amount of space.
I did, I strutted for my life, and I could see him looking at me. He was smiling at me. My belly was filled with butterflies, but I kept those abs engaged honey! Then out of the lower corner of my eye I saw something. Catastrophe.
It looked like it appeared out of thin air, but that’s impossible, right?
A frickin banana peel!
Do you think I saw it in time to not step directly on it and thereby avoid experiencing pure humiliation? Would that I were that fortunate.
I did, I stepped my sassy swishing combat boot right onto that sucker. Down I went. I was flat on my back with pain in my spine and utter debilitating humiliation everywhere!
All of the girls ran over to me, and the rest of the cafeteria’s population was laughing hysterically at me.
My CAT club faithfully sheltered me as I stood up. Cody however was slightly distracted. He was at the table with Amber. She was placing her newly made doll into her purse as she leaned in to talk to Cody.
I was furious at myself for falling like that. Alexandria and Allison helped me escape, while Andrea went back to keep Amber from making matters worse.
I got a text in last period, saying,
“I hope you didn’t hurt yourself. Maybe now you understand that you shouldn’t tempt fate.”
The message sender was blocked, but I had a sinking feeling that Amber sent the text. Clearly the banana peel was a coincidence. There was no way that she could have planted it there without anyone seeing her.
I got another text, but from Andrea,
“Come over to my house again, the girls and I want to treat you to mani’s and pedi’s. You’ve had a rough day.”
I felt so touched and warm inside to have such amazing girls by my side. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the strange text.
To my shock, Amber was with the rest of us at Andrea’s house. I showed everyone the text, and she offered.
“Well Arnaldo, I did tell you that Cody was off limits, and I’m sure I’m not the only girl at school who thinks so.”
“Okay Amber, what is your deal?” demanded Allison.
“Cody and I had a moment! Okay!?!” Amber shouted out.
“What kind of moment?” Allison shouted back.
“Last year, Cody saw me making a doll and he said. ‘That looks really cool’ “.
“That’s it?!? Did he buy it from you, did he say anything else or follow up with taking any more interest?” Allison was pretty pissed and annoyed at Amber. We all were.
“Not in words, but I think he and I have a connection that transcends words!” Amber shot back in a dreamy voice.
“Amber! you’re delusional! Everyone in our school has a crush on Cody, and we all owe it to ourselves and each other to find out if we have a shot! And to champion anyone who does have a shot!” Allison preached as she stood up.
Andrea stood up and joined,
“All of us have exchanged a quick conversation in passing with Cody. That’s the guy he is! He loves to reach out and say nice things! But Arnaldo got walked to class by him, like classic chivalrous stuff! For all we know, Cody could be gay in which case we have to be supportive!”
Amber simply stood up, grabbed her bag and left.
“Okay, forget Amber guys, we have to focus on another plan!” Andrea said encouragingly.
“Tomorrow is Saturday, and Cody’s team is playing against Albert Lea High, we have to go support him!” she said conclusively.
The rest of the night was a well needed CAT party. Virgin daiquiris, manicures and pedicures all the way! We popped in a movie, and snuggled up in our jammies, and feasted on popcorn and ice cream. We fell asleep with smiles on our faces.
The next day we all woke up and decided on a strategic plan. The girls would dress in matching tank tops and jeans. They each wore the same pink tank top, with skinny jeans and cute sneakers. Allison wore a beige cardigan, Andrea wore a black one, and Alexandria wore a navy blue one. To complete their CAT looks, they each wore our club leopard print belts.
I was to wear the stand-out outfit. Our school colors were maroon and white, and Cody’s team number was 4. So, I wore a white loose-fitting tank top, that we spent all morning glitter-gluing the number 4 in maroon. I wore maroon pants with white sneakers with maroon laces. I then wore a cute light blue denim jacket over the tank top. I also had a baseball hat from our school store. It was our school colors and said GDH on the front for Goughdale High.
Andrea’s mom agreed to drive us in her van to the game. We got there and sure enough, Amber was already sitting in her lawn chair front and center.
We decided to ignore Amber, and all sat closer where the team sat when they took breaks.
Cody saw us and waved, and we all squealed like little piglets. I had my eye on Amber and she reached into her bag and took out her doll.
We just sat down and enjoyed the game. WE WON!
At the end of the game I decided to be brave and invite Cody out for burgers and shakes at the local diner to celebrate.
I told the girls and they said that they would give me some space to walk up to him.
“Sassy swish it queen,” said Andrea as she hugged me.
I laughed and turned to walk over to Cody. There was always something so swoon-worthy of him in his soccer uniform. I felt so funny in the tummy.
I caught his eye, and he flashed me a wide smile. Like he was happy to see me. I was smitten. So, the sassy swish got more intense, and I just felt the grass turn into mud under my feet. Like, legit, it was perfectly normal green grass, and then as I looked down my foot was caught in a random puddle of mud. Well as you guessed it, I fell. This time right on my face. Cody came running over to me.
“Are you alright Arnaldo?”
Okay, so I knew he knew I existed, but I had no idea he knew my name.
“Oh my god, I’m fine! I’ll be okay, what’s a little mud, right?” I was humiliated once again.
“Well, you sure can take a hit and keep on going! Maybe you should try out for the team.”
I looked up at him surprised that he was still talking to me.
“Oh, umm well, I think I’m more meant to cheer you on.”
He just looked at me with gentile eyes and then down to my shirt.
“Aww! did you make that shirt for my team number?”
“Its stupid right? ugh I let the girls talk me into it? Its weird right? I’ll take it off.” I couldn’t stop myself from babbling.
“No! It’s very sweet. Are you hungry by any chance?”
My God! Was he about to ask me to get food with him? He sure was.
“I could eat.” I said so as to not appear desperate.
“The diner, tonight at 7? Meet me there? Bring your friends if you want, or not, whatever.”
As I looked at Cody his face was flushed. I couldn’t tell if he was blushing or if he was still like that from playing a whole game of soccer.
“I’ll be there.” I said as I shrugged.
“Cool,” he said finally as he smiled at me again before getting called away by his teammates.
I stood there in disbelief. As I turned around, a soccer ball hit me right in the head and the next thing I knew I was waking up on Andrea’s couch.
“What happened?” I asked. I was super confused, and my head hurt.
Andrea’s mom was a doctor and was sitting on the couch next to me.
“Looks like a concussion. Knocked you right out. You’ll be fine, just get plenty of fluids in you and rest. Your parents are on their way to come pick you up. You gave us a bit if a scare for a second.”
“Mrs. Clancy, I can’t go home! I have dinner plans with Cody!”
Andrea, Allison, and Alexandria all gasped loudly.
“WHAT!?!” they all shouted in unison.
“YAH! He invited me to the diner for tonight at seven!”
Their faces fell immediately into sadness.
Andrea then said with worry in her voice.
“It’s nine now honey.”
“NO!” I groaned as I tried to sit up too quickly.
“Sshhh, here’s your phone honey just give him a call and explain what happened.” Mrs. Clancy was very sweet but clearly does not know that one does not simply call the cutest boy in school period. Especially not to say,
“Hey, I got knocked out at your game directly after slipping on mud the day after I slipped on a banana!”
I unlocked my phone to see that a picture had been sent to me. It was from a blocked number, and the picture was of me getting hit in the head. The text read,
“You’ve been warned.”
I showed the text to the girls and Andrea said,
“You know what? That’s enough from her. Amber is clearly super jealous and trying to make it seem like she can scare you!”
“Amber is doing what?” Mrs. Clancy asked.
“Ugh Mom, she seems to think that she owns Cody and is completely acting crazy because Arnaldo is into him.”
“Okay, girls, Arnaldo, what do you know about Amber’s family?” Mrs. Clancy asked whispering and looking around the room to make sure no one could hear her.
“Her family is from Romania and her parents work with natural medicine.”
“Girls, Amber is a lovely girl. But I was afraid of this.” Mrs. Clancy was never afraid of anything; she was a doctor for goodness sake!
“Amber’s family,” Mrs. Clancy continued,
“Are Romanian Gypsies. It was all fun and magical when they had everyone over at their house and would read our tarot cards, and our palms, and had candles and crystals everywhere. But if someone didn’t agree with something they wanted, or if someone’s kid were bullying Amber in school, things would happen. People would get hurt; others would disappear.”
The girls and I were officially creeped out.
“Does this have to do with those creepy dolls Amber is always making?”
“What creepy dolls?” Mrs. Clancy demanded.
“Well she makes these little dolls from scraps of fabric and says that they are for people who need her help,” Andrea said as she began to notice how creepy it sounded just to say.
“Stay away from Amber, and honestly let this Cody boy be. You have no reason to put yourselves or him in danger.”
The doorbell rang, and we all jumped.
My parents had arrived. They came in and helped me out to their car. I looked back to the girls who were quiet and wringing their knuckles in anxious anticipation.
Sunday came and went as I rested alone in my room. Monday came and my headache was completely gone, and I got a text from Allison.
“The girls and I are skipping first period to raid Amber’s stuff and get that doll she made. It has to be dangerous to you, she has to be stopped.”
In American History class, Amber was sitting in the far back of the class. I took my seat in the second row by the window, and Cody walked in a few minutes late and sat next to me.
“I hope you’re feeling alright, I saw you get taken off the field by your friends. I guess Albert Lea players were sore about losing, they shot their ball at me, but you got hit instead. I’m sorry about that.”
Cody’s eyes searched me to ensure I was okay. I felt so over the moon. His expression was of pure worry. I placed my hand on my desk and he placed his hand on top.
“Can I make it up to you tonight? Dinner?”
I could not believe my ears in the slightest. I just looked over to Amber who shook her head and bit her lower lip in furry.
“I don’t know,” I said too afraid of what Amber would do if I said yes.
“Okay, I understand.” Cody’s face fell and he looked so sad. I couldn’t take that! I didn’t care what Amber thought, clearly Cody had taken an interest in me. If he were gay or not, he was still trying to show me that he cared.
“Yes, Cody I’d love to have dinner with you tonight.”
“Really? Cool,” Cody just smiled and then realized that his hand had not moved from on top of mine. He could only smile wider, and evade eye contact bashfully.
I could feel my face turn red as I smiled a big dumb smile of my own.
I didn’t even bother to turn back to see Amber’s reaction.
“Miss Amber?” began Mr. Scott the teacher.
“Is that doll relevant to American History? Class has begun, please put that away.”
I looked back at Amber and she had a needle hovering over her doll. The crazy bitch was doing Vudu!
I sent a text to Allison telling her that Amber still had her doll.
Lunch time rolled around, and Cody sat with us. In fact, he walked up to me after math class and walked with me to lunch.
I was walking on clouds.
As we sat the girls were looking at us with complete glee and shock over their faces. It was adorable. They didn’t say anything but,
“Hey Cody,” but their faces said the rest.
Cody ate with us and I felt super elated.
Then the worst happened. I took a bite of my burger, and bit into something hard and sharp. I turned my head to spit whatever it was into my napkin, but all that came out what burger meet and my own blood.
Then Cody, and the girls all looked at me with terror in their eyes.
The girls all screamed and caused me to fear what I looked like. Cody said directly and clearly,
“Arnaldo, you’re bleeding really badly.”
That’s when I felt the warm blood leave my mouth and I saw it pouring onto my shirt. I looked around as Cody handed me paper towels and called over the lunch lady.
I saw Amber at a distant table huddled over her doll as she repeatedly plunged her needle into the doll’s face.
I tugged on Andrea’s shirt and pointed over to Amber.
The girls all saw what I gestured to and ran over to Amber and attacked her to the ground.
Allison grabbed the doll and through it across the floor. The needle was still in the doll’s face. Cody picked up the doll. Looked at me and removed the needle from the doll’s face.
Immediately the bleeding stopped, and all the pain went away. I wiped away the blood and my mouth didn’t even have any open cuts.
Cody looked at the doll and made the connection in his head. He plucked a piece of jewelry off of the doll. And handed it to me.
It was the golden letter A, that my mom gave to me when the girls and I formed the CAT club.
“Is this yours?” Cody asked as his eyes searched me again.
“It is,” I said as I inspected it and felt nothing but terror in my stomach.
Amber then screamed out,
“No! He’s MINE!”
Cody then walked slowly over to Amber as the girls held her down.
“Amber, I will never be yours. Not only because you’re cruel, dangerous, and crazy, but because I am as gay as ever.”
Absolutely everyone in the cafeteria who witnessed this unbelievable showdown gasped!
Cody walked over to me, took a clean paper towel, and wiped off some of the blood that I missed. He took my hand, and said,
“Come on, let’s get you a clean change of clothes.”
Then he placed a kiss on my hand.
Amber was reported to the police for harassment. Even though Vudu can’t be proven as a crime, the intent of doing harm is a little illegal.
By the end of the week, Cody and I had dinner every night, and the girls could not have been happier.
Amber’s family was discovered as illegal immigrants and were deported back to Romania.
So moral of the story, if you’re going to play with dolls, play responsibly.