Alysa threw the ball with a confident smile on her face. It went higher and higher, seemed to hang in the air for a second before coming down and…
It bounced off the ring and shot to the right. She stared at it with her mouth open, stunned. The girls behind her gave a collective gasp. No one could believe it.
No one but Janet. “Lost,” She cried triumphantly. “Oh yeah, you lost, I won.”
Alysa turned around and glared at her. “That was nothing but luck.” She snapped at her team mate. In her heart she knew there was a little more to it than that. Alysa had been the school team’s star basketball player for so long, she had gotten lazy. And Janet was eager to take her place and had been working her ass off. She should not have taken this stupid bet. But she had been so sure she could beat the girl.
“I don’t care.” Janet said with a smug grin “I beat you fair and square. And now you must do what I say.”
Alysa knew she had to keep her word to save some of her standing among the girls in the team. To lose and back out of the bet would be social suicide. “Fine. What do you want me to do?”
Her team huddled together. Alysa waited as the girls whispered and snickered. When they were done Janet turned to her with a mean glint in her eyes. “You have to ask Frog to the dance”
“No…” Alysa exclaimed horrified.
“Yes.” replied Janet. The girl was obviously enjoying herself. “You have to. But not just the dance. You have to post a selfie with him having dinner before the dance to your Instagram. On public setting. You have to dance with him. On the middle of the dance floor. And…” Janet paused for dramatic effect. Some of the girls were giggling. “…you have to kiss him. In front of everybody.”
Alysa shivered at the thought. She was about to scream and storm off, but then thought better of it. None of this would matter. Soon after the dance she would go to Paris for summer break. Her Instagram would fill up with pictures that would turn the girls green with envy. The story of the bet would make the rounds in her absence. By the time school started again no one would remember anyway. She could do this. “Fine. Whatever.” She said as nonchalant as she could manage.
“Are you really going to ask Frog to the dance?” The disapproval was clear in Dianne’s voice. They were hanging around in the hallway before class.
Alysa shrugged. “Yeah. I don’t see how I could get out of it.”
“It’s really mean,” Dianne said accusingly.
Alysa nodded, “I think that’s why Janet came up with it.”
Dianne shot her an angry look. “Not to you! To him. You know he likes you, right?” Alysa didn’t answer. She had heard people mention it, but she had always thought they were just teasing her. She hadn’t thought about how Frog would feel about it at all. She looked past her friend, too embarrassed to make eye contact. That’s how she noticed Frog turning the corner coming towards them. Dianne followed her gaze “If you’re going to do this, at least have the decency to be honest with him. He doesn’t deserve to have his heart broken for the sake of your pride.”
Alysa didn’t pay attention to her friend walking off. She was looking at the boy everyone in school called ‘Frog’. It was the first time she really looked at him. The first thing anyone noticed about Frog were the huge, thick glasses that magnified his eyes, making them look like they were bulging out of his face. She was pretty sure that’s where the nickname came from. The glasses were just under a huge mess of light brown curls. His skin had red patches and some bumps, but then, so did the skin of over half the boys at school. He was walking with the sort of scrunched up, bad posture of a kid trying to be as invisible as possible. Alysa decided that if it hadn’t been for those unfortunate glasses and the perpetual bad hair day, Frog would even be decent looking. Once the adolescent acne cleared up a little. She took a deep breath and walked up to him.
“Hey, Fr…” She stopped for a moment as she realized she had been about to call the boy ‘Frog’ to his face, but was quick to recover, “Frank, right?”
He stopped, looked at her in surprise and nodded.
“I was wondering, would you like to go to the dance with me?”
Frog’s reaction was almost comical to watch. His eyes got bigger still in shock and confusion. His mouth dropped open. For a couple of seconds he just stared at Alysa, too stunned to do anything. Then suddenly his eyes narrowed a bit as his gaze turned suspicious. “Why?” he finally asked.
Alysa opened her mouth to feed him some empty flattery, but then she heard Dianne’s words in her mind and she closed it again. Her friend was right. It would not be fair to lead him on. It wouldn’t do to insult his intelligence either. She took a deep breath. “To be honest, I lost a bet.”
He made a sound somewhere between a snort and a laugh. It sounded very bitter. “That doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time,” Alysa added quickly. “But I totally understand if you say no.”
He seemed to think things over and then said: “Sure, why not?”
Now it was Alysa’s turn to be stunned. “Really?”
“Yeah. A fake date still beats no date. I’ve been to enough dances alone. It sucks. So, should I pick you up at eight?”
Alysa smiled. “Seven. We’re going to dinner first. My treat.”
Frog nodded, “See you then.”
She watched him make his way to his next class. She thought she saw him walk a little straighter. She had to snicker. Boys were so weird sometimes. A girl would have made a huge scene. She would have made a huge scene, probably. Then the bell rang and she had to hurry to her own class.
Going on a fake date turned out to be fun. For once Alysa didn’t worry about what her date would think about the food she ordered and just got what she felt like eating. Which happened to be a bloody steak this evening. She also didn’t worry about making a good impression. She could chat carelessly about whatever came to mind. Frog turned out to be really funny. She snorted with laughter a couple of times during dinner and wasn’t even horrified about sounding like a pig.
When she remembered she should be uploading selfies to Instagram, they ended up taking a bunch and even had fun with that. They made faces to the camera. They tried to look as solemn as they could and put a sepia toned filter over that one. She shot a picture of them laughing until tears from trying to be serious. By the time she put her phone away she had posted not one, but seven pictures online.
“I wasn’t expecting to have such a great time,” Alysa remarked mostly to herself. Frog nodded in agreement. “Who would have thought we’d have so much in common? You’re also the first person to call me ‘Frog’ without sounding mean about it.”
Alysa turned bright red. “I did? I’m so sorry.”
Frog shrugged it off. “Don’t worry about it. I know they call me that at school. And when you said it, it sounded like a nickname. Not mean at all.”
Alysa reached across the table, grabbed Frog’s hand and gave it a little squeeze. It felt like they were becoming friends. She didn’t want anyone to be mean to Fr…Frank.
The dance was just as much fun as dinner. Frank was a great dancer. He said he had been practicing with the help of YouTube videos but Alysa doubted anyone could get this good with just a few days practice. She wondered out loud how he would do on the basketball court.
“I don’t know, I’ve never played basketball” Frank admitted.
“But,” she replied, confused, “I see you at every game. I thought you were a fan.”
Frank blushed a little. “I’m a fan of one of the girls playing…”
Alysa smiled. She felt a little flutter in her stomach at the compliment. It was an emotion she hadn’t been expecting to feel tonight. Not for Frank, not in a million years. But there it was. The whole evening was a little confusing.
“I could teach you.” She said to Frank, trying to hide being a little flustered.
“To play basketball?” he asked. Alysa nodded. “That does mean you would have to hang out with me more though,” Frank warned.
“That wouldn’t be the worse thing in the world,” Alysa responded, blushing a little herself.
They looked into each other’s eyes and suddenly they were both feeling awkward. Alysa’s stomach was acting up again. If there ever was going to be a cue to kiss, this was it. She knew it, but somehow she couldn’t make herself kiss Frank. Not because she didn’t want to, but because she realized she did.
“I’m supposed to kiss you in front of everybody,” she whispered.
Frank cleared his throat and then whispered back: “Do you want to?”
She didn’t have to think about it, “Yes.”
Frank leaned in closer to her. Alysa leaned in too and closed her eyes. He smelled great. Their lips touched. His were warm and soft. A heat spread through her body. After a few seconds, Frank pulled back.
“Do you think everyone saw us?” he whispered to her. There was a twinkle in his eyes.
Alysa quickly looked around for show. “I’m not sure they did. Maybe we should kiss again?”
Frank pulled her against him with a big grin. She wrapped her arms around his neck. When their lips locked this time, he carefully slipped his tongue between her lips. She eagerly kissed him back.
Frank pulled away startled when he felt someone tap him on the back.
“Break it up you two” said the dance chaperone with good humor, “You’ll get me in trouble for making out on the dance floor.”
Frank wanted to reply something but could only manage to stutter. Alysa started giggling. They had somehow forgotten about the other people in the room. “Sorry sir,” she said, and to Frank, “Let’s go outside.”
She hooked her arm through his and started towards the door. On their way, they passed Janet, who shot the couple a dirty look. “Having fun?” she asked bitterly.
Alysa flashed a sweet smile “Oh, yes,” she replied, “You should really learn not to judge people on their appearance, Janet,” she called back as they walked by. “But I’m so glad you did.”
It would be six weeks before they saw each other again. Alysa went to Paris and Frank went on a working vacation on his uncle’s farm. They did text every day. Although Alysa was having fun, she missed spending time with Frank and couldn’t wait to get back home. She also texted with Dianne a lot, who thought the relationship between Frank and Alysa was the best thing to ever come out of high school. She kept likening it to a fairy tale. She had also invited herself to their next date, which Dianna insisted was not really a date since it was supposed to take place at a basketball court where Alysa was going to teach Frank to play. Alysa finally stopped objecting after Dianne promised to only stay for a little while. Alysa had a feeling Dianne only wanted to be there to make sure Alysa wasn’t playing some prank on her.
Both Dianne and Alysa were early at the basketball court. Alysa was amused to see Dianne seemed as nervous and excited as she was. They sat next to each other, talking about the summer to pass the time. Alysa was playing with her basketball, spinning it on her finger, not really paying much attention to anything else. That’s how Dianne saw Frank walking towards them first. She grabbed Alysa’s shoulder, hard. “Holy crap! Alysa!” Dianne tried to whisper. In her surprise it came out much louder than intended.
Alysa looked up and let her ball drop out of her hands. There was Frank, tanned from working outside all summer, with a new haircut and without his glasses. She almost didn’t recognize him. He looked fantastic.
“You kissed a frog and turned him into a prince,” Dianne whispered. “Didn’t I tell you? Fairy tale.”