“Jeremy, now that we’re here, I’ve decided to make you my new project!” Chloe beamed. They were at the mall shopping.
“You really don’t have to do that.” Jeremy raised an eyebrow.
“I know. That’s what makes me so nice!” She beamed.
“Have I heard this somewhere before?”
“Whenever I see someone less fortunate than I!” Chloe started. “And let’s face it, who isn’t? Less fortunate than I!” She dragged Jeremy to the men’s section. “Your back-to-school look is going to be so fire. Especially now that your dad is a CEO, congratulations to him, by the way!”
“Thank you, and you sure I won’t look like I’m trying too hard?” Jeremy wondered.
“You won’t. My tender heart tends to start to bleed for poor, unfortunate souls.”
Chloe wondered how he recognized that reference, but not the obvious one. “And when someone needs a makeover, I simply have to take over-”
Jeremy moved to open his mouth, but Chloe held up a finger.
“I know, I know, exactly what they need!” She promised. “And even in your case…” Chloe trailed off. She looked at Jeremy’s outfit, and then his face. “Though it’s the toughest case I’ve yet to face… don’t worry! I’m determined to succeed.”
“Follow my lead, and yes indeed. You. Will.” She snapped her fingers and made him stand near a collection of nice shirts. “Be. Popular,” Chloe grinned. “You’re going to be popular! I’ll teach you the proper ploys when you talk to boys, little ways to flirt and flounce, ooh!” She realized something.
“Wait, I’m bisex-"
“I’ll show you what shoes to wear-” she pointed to the shoe section. “How to fix your hair!” She messed it up. Jeremy fixed it. “Everything that really counts to be popular. I’ll help you be popular. You’ll hang with the right cohorts, and you’ll be good at sports-” Chloe stopped herself. “You’ll hang with the right cohorts, and simply avoid the sports! Know the slang you’ve got to know!”
“Uh, that sounds lit,” Jeremy tried.
“Good first effort!” Chloe praised him. “So let’s S T A R T causeyou’vegotanawfullylongwaytogo…” She realized.
Jeremy pursed his lips. He looked like he really wanted to say something.
“Don’t be offended by my frank analysis. Just think of it as personality dialysis!” She shook Jeremy’s shoulders. “That I’ve chosen to become a pal, a sister, and an advisor, there’s nobody wiser when it comes to popular.” She bumped butts with Jeremy. “I know about popular~” she said in a sexy tone.
“Jesus Christ, popularity is scary-”
“And with an assist from me to be who you’ll be, instead of dreary who you were-” she looked at Jeremy again. “Well, are. There’s nothing that can stop you from becoming popular… lar!”
“Why did you add in the l-”
“LA LA LA LA.” Chloe danced around and quickly picked out three sets of outfits for Jeremy to try along with two pairs of shoes. “These are going to make you. Pop-U-Lar!”
“Are you su-”
“When I see depressing creatures with unprepossessing features...” Chloe dragged him to the register. They payed for the clothes and Chloe speeded the way back to her house. She practically threw Jeremy into her makeup chair.
“Why did you never finish your sente-”
“I remind them on their own behalf to think of celebrated head of states or especially great comm-u-ni-ca-tors! Did they have brains or knowledge? Don’t make me laugh, they were popular. Please, it’s all about popular! It’s not about aptitude, it’s the way you’re viewed, so it’s very shrewd to be very very popular. Like. Me!”
“Oh, are you making a reference to the popular song by Mika and Ariana Grande?” Jeremy realized.
“Oh my God, I thought Christine made you listen to musicals,” Chloe muttered. “Whatever, go get changed in the bathroom.”
Jeremy listened. He changed into a pair of dark dress pants which felt more like sweatpants, surprisingly, and into a leather jacket with a white t-shirt.
“I still look like roadkill,” Jeremy pointed to his entire face.
“Okay, I’m going to teach you how to put on makeup for men.” Chloe hid her search history for makeup on men. Give her a break, it wasn’t like guys asked her to look cooler very often!
“Okay… is it expensive?”
“You can afford this stuff. This-” she pointed to a circular pad of sorts. “Is foundation. You put it on your face. Then-” she got out a jar. “Put on balm. It’s so you don’t get made fun of for putting on obvious makeup.”
Jeremy listened and applied that stuff onto his face. It was a little cold.
“Next, we’re going to use concealer and you’re going to rub it in until it matches your skin tone,” Chloe said. Jeremy listened.
“You sure this is-”
“This is powder foundation. You use it to reduce shine,” Chloe explained. Jeremy gulped and worked at his face until it stopped looking greasy.
“For this final part, you’re going to contour. You’re basically going to draw on your face to give yourself the illusion of angles,” Chloe really hoped that she wasn’t screwing over Jeremy. If it looked ugly, she wasn’t a hundred percent sure she could tell him the truth and crush his dreams of looking cooler.
Oh, who was she kidding, she totally would crush his dreams if they were unreasonable.
Jeremy awkwardly drew lines and used more powder to blend it into his skin. He listened to Chloe’s instructions, but when she told him to stop, he wasn’t sure he could look into the mirror. What if he looked uglier than before?
“Let me work on your eyebrows. You have really nice brows, so I just need to touch them up, at best,” Chloe said. She got out a pair of tweezers and a pencil of sorts. She pulled out individual hairs and drew on his eyebrows every so often. “Okay… now look!”
Jeremy opened his eyes and stared at his appearance in the full length mirror. Jesus Christ, he had no acne or red marks! His hair wasn’t greasy or messy, but it was actually, dare he say it, cool! For once, he felt okay with his appearance.
Even after all that, a new epiphany came to mind.
He realized that all it took was completely changing his wardrobe and covering his face. He looked at his makeup like it was a paper bag, as inconspicuous as it was. Sure, he looked clean for once, but it weighed on his consciousness.
Chloe’s makeover reminded him of the Squip and how it changed him so much that he could barely recognize himself as, well, himself.
“I… I have to go.” Jeremy stood up. “Thank you, Chloe, but…”
“Take the stuff. As a gift.” Chloe dropped into his bag.
He ran past her and went home.
“You’re welcome!” She shouted from her room.
When he was home, he washed off his face and used one of those makeup removers that Chloe slipped into his bag. He took a shower, finished his homework, played video games, and ignored any messages or notifications that came to his phone. He didn’t want to talk to Chloe about why he ran out like that.
Exhaustion hit him full force when his head hit the pillow.
“And he just left! I thought I was being clever by literally saying the entire song, but he didn’t get it! Also, he ran out after seeing himself in the mirror. He actually looked pretty cute, and I’m sure he thought the same, but… I just don’t get males,” Chloe sighed. She and Brooke were standing at Chloe’s locker.
“Oh, Chloe, I totally know what happened now,” Brooke realized. “I bet he felt insecure about changing himself so much because of the Squip’s influence!” She nearly shouted.
Chloe blinked twice. That sounded ridiculous. Then, after a few moments, she thought on it seriously and…
“Oh, fuck me gently with a chainsaw,” she murmured. “I’m retarded.”
“No, you’re not.” Brooke shook her head. “You were trying to help him out. I doubt that he would blame you,” she said.
Chloe’s eyes widened as she nearly shoved Brooke out of the way. Jeremy came in with a more confident walk, a straighter spine, a spotless face, and a muscle t-shirt with a pair of quality jeans.
“Hey…” He smiled a meek smile.
“Jeremy, for once, I actually feel bad and that’s because I tried changing you like the Squip did!” She hissed ‘Squip’ under her breath.
“I came in like this to tell you it’s okay, and that your help was really… nice. I thought on it for a while this morning, but I ultimately decided that changing myself like this was my own choice. No one else’s. So… what do you think?” He extended his arms.
“You look fresh! And cool!” Brooke beamed.
“You really did the makeup right…” Chloe harped over him, looking for a flaw. Did Wikihow seriously make Jeremy that much more attractive? Well, there was a reason why all the rich people looked good. They could afford to be less ugly.
“I’m glad I did. Maybe this first day of school will go right?” Jeremy knocked on wood as soon as he finished that sentence.
“Jeremy, the school will bow down to you,” Brooke promised. Jeremy chuckled.
He really thought she was kidding.
It was lunchtime, and Jeremy opened his locker. He read online that looking forward and putting purpose into every step gave him an aura of confidence he really didn’t have. There was only one person he was trying to impress, anyway.
It was a really hot Filipino man who loved video games as much as he did.
Michael and Jeremy were completely fine with each other. Jeremy liked it like that. There was no awkwardness when Jeremy shoved him and no tension when Michael made a joke at Jeremy’s expense.
But he would love it if there were a few sessions of making out in between those moments.
Unfortunately for Jeremy, he hadn’t seen Michael all day. Was he avoiding him? Was he sick? They didn’t have any classes together until the afternoon, so that would be a definite answer to that question.
The three letters in his locker interrupted his thought process. They fell on the floor and he hurriedly picked them up. One of them had his name in block letters, one of them was in script, and the other was normal print except that it had hearts on them.
Even Jeremy wasn’t oblivious enough to not figure out what the letters meant.
He unfolded the blocked paper and found that the letter was typed.
‘Jeremy, I know that we don’t know each other very well, but I think it would be killer to hang out sometime. Will you go out with me, Lucinda?’ It read.
Lucinda was a blonde girl with long hair. She was a few inches taller than him which was surprising considering that only the jocks, the occasional random Junior, and Michael were taller than him. She was super into theatre like Christine, but she wasn’t very bright in school.
He opened the next letter with cursive lettering.
‘Jeremy, you are really fucking hot. If you ever want to hookup, I will gladly show you a good time.’ It read. It was from a guy named Don Giovanni, and he was probably the biggest player in history. He probably fucked every hot girl (and occasional guy) in school, to be frank. He and Brooke genuinely went out for about two weeks before he cheated on her. Two weeks became the largest record, however.
He ripped that letter up and felt no qualms about throwing it in the trash.
With an annoyed gaze, he opened the letter with hearts on it. It better not be a booty call.
‘Jeremy, I’ve liked you for a long time. Like, a really long time. Like, years. I never confessed you to because I was always scared that you would think I was lying and I was also scared that people would make fun of us. Now that it’s senior year, I feel brave enough to ask because it’s not like they’ll bother me or you after this year since we’re both guys. If you want to know who I am, wait at your locker after school.’ It read.
That letter made his heart flutter a little. He wasn’t sure why, but it was just… genuine sounding. It actually made him fold up the letter and stick it into his pocket. He put Lucinda’s letter in the back of his locker and kept a hand on his pocket.
“Brooke, Chloe, you were right!” Jeremy sat down in between Christine and Brooke. He looked around for Michael. Where was the Reggae man?
“Right about wha’?” Brooke wondered.
“Three… two people wrote me letters. One was from Don that I threw away, one was from Lucinda, and the other was from a secret admirer.” Jeremy turned a little red on that last one.
“Ew, Don,” everyone cringed.
“Even I never wanted him,” Rich said.
“Anyway, that’s great, Jeremy! Is there a certain someone that you want a letter from?” Christine nudged him.
“So what if there is? Maybe my secret admirer is that certain someone,” Jeremy hoped. He didn’t want to get his hopes up, especially since he hadn’t seen Michael all day, but maybe there was a sliver of a chance…
“Hey dudes!” Michael came in with a slushie. He sipped it as he took the seat opposite of Jeremy.
“Where have you been all day?” Jeremy asked. “I thought that you finally overdosed in an alley, and you got my hopes up for nothing!”
“Look, I’ll die when I want to.”
“You always want to die.”
“Michael, Michael, did you hear? Did you hear? Jeremy got love letters!” Christine kicked him under the table. His face betrayed nothing though, so no one noticed.
“Really? From whom?” He smirked. “Did they say that they wanted to suck your dong?”
“Only Don Giovanni’s. I got one from Lucinda and a mystery person.” Jeremy passed around the secret admirer letter.
After gazing through the words, Michael looked back at Jeremy. “You going to wait?”
“I’m definitely curious,” Jeremy admitted.
Michael hissed in pain out of the blue.
“Did those crabs in your vagina bite?” Jeremy asked.
“No. Christine kicked me,” Michael huffed.
“Sorry. I wasn’t watching where my feet were,” she apologized.
“Jeremy?” Dustin Kropp cleared his throat.
“Yeah?” Jeremy responded awkwardly. He still had no idea how to talk to anyone outside of his friend group.
“I’d be willing to go see the new Mission Impossible with you if you’d… want to,” Dustin admitted. “Just the two of us?”
Jeremy’s face turned red as everyone else began murmuring among themselves.
“I, uh, I’m flattered, but-”
“Oh, come on, dude! It’s going to be fine!” Dustin insisted. “Look, I’m staking part of my rep for this, so just-” his voice got lower.
“What? No!” Jeremy furrowed his brows. “I’m n-not going to go out with you because your rep or whatever is at risk! Is this a d-dare?”
“No, it’s just that no one rejects me and this won’t be the first!” He said a bit louder.
“Hey, Kropp, leave him alone.” Jake stood up.
“I will literally end your family tree here if you keep that up,” Rich promised. He was still five foot five inches of teenage bully, but he only bullied those who truly needed it. Like Dustin.
Jeremy sunk a little in his seat. He was a bit embarrassed that he couldn’t fight his own battle, but then he realized that if Dustin was going to go up to him when he was surrounded by his friends, they would join in.
So it was his fault.
“Dustin, leave before I ruin your future.” Jenna said without even looking up at him.
“What do you have on m-”
“First of all, I recorded this interaction,” Jenna said. “Next, I know that you’re the one who drew swastikas on Jeremy’s locker in eighth grade.”
“What the hell? That was you?” Jeremy’s shyness flicked off. He fucking hated people who made Nazi jokes in front of him. “Get the fuck out of my face!”
Dustin stomped away like an indignant child. Jeremy caught the word ‘cunt’ under his breath.
Jeremy took big bites out of his sandwich as he had no other outlet. He wanted to punch something despite his noodle arms, but that would end in disaster.
“Don’t worry, Jeremy. I’ll upload the stuff on Twitter later in the year, so he’ll think he’s safe,” Jenna promised.
“Seeing those things were mortifying. There were swastikas on everything I had, and he was never caught…” Jeremy buried his face in his arm.
Michael switched sides to rub Jeremy’s back. “Don’t worry, dude. He’ll be nothing more than a memory when we get out of this deathtrap.”
Jeremy didn’t move from his spot, and no one bothered him about it.
Jeremy opened his locker at the end of the day. He found another letter in it. It was in a different handwriting than the others. It was very clean, yet it was still in print.
‘Send nudes?’ Was all it said.
“Fucking-” Jeremy ripped up the letter again. He threw it in the garbage and threw his books in his locker.
“Hey, dude,” Michael said. “Why are you ripping things out of your locker?”
“Because people asking me for sex and think that the only perk in dating me is that they think I’m hot. At least Lucinda’s letter is somewhat nice!” Jeremy grabbed at his hair and huffed. “I just want to go home,” he walked away.
“Hey, Jeremy? You forgot something in your locker!” Michael shouted.
“Just forget it,” Jeremy yelled back.
“No, it’s our math homework!”
“Just give it, then,” Jeremy said in a more calm tone. “Please?” He added in an irritated tone.
Michael came out holding two pieces of paper. Jeremy took the first one and almost forgot about the second paper. “What is that, more math?” He pointed. His tone had calmed down a little since Michael hadn’t done anything to him.
“No. It’s who you were supposed to wait for,” Michael answered.
Jeremy stared at him with ‘What?’ on his face. He took the letter and stared at the words on it.
‘Jeremy, I like you a whole lot and I will take you to 7-11 for our first date if you say yes. I pinky-swear.’ It read.
Jeremy stared at Michael. “Is this a joke?”
He spluttered, an indignant look on his face. “Of course not! It’s, frankly, offensive to me that you thi-” Jeremy’s lips on his shut him up.
Jeremy pulled away first. Should he have asked first? He dated Brooke, sure, but now, he was with Michael, so did he do it right?
“What?” Michael stared at him. His glasses were askew. Jeremy fixed them.
“I like you, too. For about eight months?”
“Try five years.”
Jeremy gulped. He made Michael wait a long time, didn’t he? He wrapped his arms around his neck and kissed his cheek awkwardly. As if turning a dial, Michael wrapped his arms around Jeremy and started laughing with glee.
“I want to be with you.” Michael asked absent-mindedly. No one else was around to question their PDA, so they held onto each other.
“Shut up, JD,” Jeremy responded. “No quoting Heathers at me.”
“I guess this relationship won’t work out, then,” Michael sighed. “We had a good minute going, but I think this is over. You having an android, doesn’t help, either.”
Jeremy swatted his arm. “You’re not breaking up with me over this. You’re stuck with my stupid ass until I do something so dumb that I’ll die. You won’t have to wait long.”
“Jeremy, you’re dying when I’m dying. You kidding me? Whenever you do dumb shit, I’m there helping you with it! We’re going to end up in holding together or we’re going to end up in the same coffin. No buts about it,” Michael promised. Jeremy took his hand and tugged it along.
“Let’s go back to my place, okay? We’ll make a stop at SEVEN ELEVEn since you promised to give me a slushie.” Jeremy squeezed it.
“You’re going to eat into my funds, you furry. I don’t care how hot you look. I don’t want to starve to death.”
“Shut the fuck up and kiss me, you stupid cunt.”