Popular

Grant was never popular during his high school years. So he should have been extremely suspicious near the end of his senior year when he was invited to a party by one of the beautiful people. But he was too excited to turn down the invitation.

It all seemed innocent enough. Becky had approached him while he grabbed some books from his locker. While Grant had trouble talking to most of the popular kids, Becky was different. She was a lot nicer, for one thing. She’d never given Grant a hard time for skipping two grades. She’d never made fun of him for being so small compared to all the other kids in the senior class. She’d always seemed to make an effort to let him feel like he was actually a part of the Jefferson High student body.

“Hey, Grant! What are you up to this weekend?” she asked in that excited, bubbly voice for which she was so well known.

Grant thought for a moment. The truth was, he planned to spend a lot of his time reading. He also expected to help his mother in the yard. He was sure it would be nothing compared to the excitement that Becky would experience. Instead of the truth, he just said, “Nothing much, why?”

“There’s a party at Vanessa Duke’s house. You know her, right?”

“Yeah,” said Grant, hesitating. Of course he knew Vanessa Duke. Everyone knew Vanessa Duke. Head cheerleader. Student body president. Homecoming Queen. Yearbook editor. She was the high school girl that they made movies about. Not that Grant had a crush on her or anything. He knew that a girl like Vanessa was way out of his league, so he never wasted a second thinking about her.

Grant was confused. Why would anyone, even Becky Freeman, invite him to a party at the home of the most popular person in school?

“So does that mean you’ll go? You can even ride with me if you want,” Becky said, trying to sweeten the deal.

For some reason, Grant agreed to go. He even took Becky up on her offer to go with her. He didn’t imagine that it was a date. He just assumed Becky was being nice again. Something the other popular kids wouldn’t know how to be if someone paid them. Not that they needed the money.

Saturday night came and Grant was nervous. This was his first high school party. Being so close to graduation, it would likely be his only high school party. Maybe it would be good practice for all the college parties he was bound to not be invited to.

Becky picked him up at his house at 8, just like she said she would. “Nervous?” she asked as he climbed into the passenger seat.

“How can you tell?”

She didn’t have to say anything. She just pointed to his quickly bouncing right knee. He put his hand on his leg to make it stop. Now he was a little embarrassed. A nice addition to his anxiety.

They arrived at the party and Becky took Grant by the arm to lead him through the crowd. Soon after they got to Vanessa’s, Becky excused herself, promising she’d be right back. That was when everything went wrong.

Vanessa walked up to Grant and was sickeningly sweet to him. By this point, Grant wondered if he was dying of some disease and no one had told him about it. Vanessa had never been nice to him in his life. Here she was welcoming him to her home and offering him something to drink. Grant didn’t want to act like he was suspicious of her behavior.

“Just go on into the kitchen, I’ll be right behind you,” said Vanessa, pointing Grant in the right direction.

Grant opened the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining room. By the time he realized a bucket of water had been propped above the door it was too late. He was drenched by five gallons of water. He turned back toward the crowded dining room in time to hear the laughter and see several of the athletic guys high-fiving each other.

A part of him wanted to laugh it off. He didn’t want to show these jerks that they had gotten to him. But he wasn’t feeling that brave. He pushed his way through the laughing crowd and yanked open the front door. He didn’t bother to close it behind him as he stormed off into the night. Grant wanted to go home and that meant he had a long walk ahead of him.

He was fuming. As he walked, he plotted his revenge. He didn’t have many ideas. How could he get back at the entire senior class? He had a thought. Something that might just work. But it would take a lot of work, and he didn’t have a lot of time to prepare.

When Grant was three blocks away from Vanessa’s house, he heard footsteps behind him. “Grant!” It was Becky’s voice calling his name.

He turned on her, furious. “I thought you were different than those other guys! I never would have thought you’d set me up like that!”

“Grant, you have to believe me. I had no idea Vanessa and those guys were planning to mess with you like that,” Becky said. Grant could tell she was sincere, but he wasn’t willing to forgive her at the moment.

“Just leave me alone!” he yelled as he turned to walk away.

“At least let me take you back home,” Becky offered.

Grant didn’t stop. He didn’t respond. He just kept walking.

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