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Glitch in the Framework

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“Fuck,” Jeremy said under his breath as he struggled to open his locker.

“Hey, tall-ass!" Rich playfully shoved Jeremy.

Jeremy gave up on opening his locker and turned to Rich. They did that handshake that turns into a hug and Jeremy could see Michael smiling at him approvingly out of the corner of his eye.

Sometimes Jeremy forgot. It was easy to forget, especially when it was something like this. He never meant to leave it like this, but he was starting to like it. Jeremy's SQUIP looked like his best friend, Michael Mell, and he was starting to love it.

~~~

Later that day, Jeremy walked to play rehearsal with Christine. He had only had the SQUIP for a couple of days, but he could already feel himself improving. Or maybe that's just what he wanted to think. He still wasn't quite sure that the events of the last few days weren't all some fever dream and that the "SQUIP" wasn't actually crack.

"And then he said, 'Why would you make it with pepper when you know it makes me sneeze?' and my mom was all…" Jeremy looked over at Christine as she regaled him with the events of dinner the night before. It was moments like these, the little things, when Jeremy realized that his infatuation with her wasn't just a little crush. He knew in these moments that he would do anything to be with her.

They were the first cast members to get there, as usual, so they started to set up the chairs in a circle. They weren’t going to start on blocking until they had their lines down, Mr. Reyes said. Christine didn’t like that about their teacher, how he couldn't seem to wrap his head around the idea of them multitasking, which was a huge part of  acting, according to Christine.

That’s another thing Jeremy loved about her. She knew everything about everything, but not in the know-it-all kind of way. She was just smart like that. After Christine set up the last chair, she looked up at Jeremy.

“You confuse me, Jeremy.” She said, looking him straight in the eye, hands firmly placed on the top of the chair.

Jeremy started to stutter. “I, uh, wha–“

Stop stuttering, Jeremy. What did I tell you about the stuttering?

“Sorry,” Jeremy thought back at the SQUIP. “I’m still new to this.”

Well, you’re going to have to try harder if you ever want to be with Christine.

“Noted,” Jeremy thought, and then turned back to Christine, this time not about to stutter. “What do you mean, I confuse you?” Jeremy mirrored Christine's position, hands on the chair.

Christine exhaled deeply and looked up at the ceiling, as if thinking. “Well, for example, some days you're really quiet, and you won't say a single word to anyone, except for maybe that headphones kid.” Jeremy chuckled, thinking, “So that's how people think of Michael?”

“And then there are days,” Christine continued, “Where you’re just full of weird facts and tidbits of random knowledge. Those days are really fun.”

Mr. Reyes entered the room and sat down at his desk. “Welcome to play rehearsal, students. Thank you for setting up the chairs.”

“It’s no problem at all, Mr. Reyes.” Christine said before turning back to Jeremy. “Anyway, I just thought I’d say that.” Christine plopped down in her seat and became engrossed in her book.

Jeremy took his seat next to her and decided to mess around on his phone until rehearsal started. Slowly but surely, the rest of the cast trickled in until they were ready to start rehearsal. They ran through the entire script twice, with a hot pocket break in between. Christine already had nearly half of her lines memorized, and Jeremy was very impressed.

After rehearsal ended, the SQUIP appeared by the door of the classroom. For a second, Jeremy almost caught himself noticing that the SQUIP looked really nice today. He shook the thought away as soon as it came to his brain.

He had always meant to have the SQUIP change back to it's default mode, but a voice in the back of his head (other than the squip) told him not to. Maybe he just liked feeling that Michael was with him everywhere he went. Or maybe he was just lazy, he wasn’t really sure.

More than anything else, he trusted Michael, and would do just about anything for him. He would even help him get a SQUIP of his own one day, if he really needed it. Not that Jeremy thought that he did; Michael was already plenty cool on his own. The problem was that nobody saw it except for Jeremy.

It’s time to leave the school, Jeremy.

“Why?” Jeremy thought. “I want to talk to Christine more.”

Christine is about to become uninterested. Leave with your dignity while you can.

After the SQUIP said this, Jake appeared outside of the classroom, as if on a cruel queue.

“I gotta go, Jeremy!” Christine said to him upon seeing Jake. “See you tomorrow.” She waved goodbye and walked away. Jeremy was left standing by himself. He picked up his backpack, which still had “boyf”   written on it in sharpie.

What did I tell you, Jeremy? It’s time to go. You really need to clean that off of your backpack when you get home.

Jeremy sighed and headed out of the school, ready to walk home per the SQUIP’s orders.