For as long as I could remember, I’d had the same dream.
Other kids went through phases – one day they wanted to be a policeman, the next a fireman, then a surgeon, or a vet, or a rock star. I’d only ever wanted one thing: someday, I was going to play football for the Starlight Gnomes, the best football team of all time.
I’d been obsessed with the Gnomes since the first time my dad took me to one of their games. I was four years old at the time. When I was a kid, my favourite book was Rise of the Gnomes: The Incredible Story of the Starlight Gnomes’ Journey to Victory. Mum had a pretty hectic work life even then, so my Granddad used to read it to me every single night until the day he died.
Becoming a football star doesn’t just happen overnight; it takes hard work and dedication. Over the years, I had saved up enough allowance money to buy a treadmill and a pull-up bar for my room, and now I worked out whenever I had the chance. The previous year, when I’d started high school, I’d made it onto the football team on my first try. It was the first step in my ten-year plan for achieving my dream.
You would think that being a jock in peak physical condition would have attracted more female attention in high school. Not that it was my ultimate goal or anything (which couldn’t be said for some of my teammates) but honestly, it felt really good when girls noticed me.
So, I’m a straight, teenage guy. Sue me.
Unfortunately, being on the football team wasn’t as much of a babe magnet as the movies would have you believe. Turns out most girls were more interested in brooding artists who hadn’t the slightest interest in dating them. Enter Gabe, my very own big brother.
Every girl I’d ever had a crush on wanted him instead, and he didn’t even have to try. All he had to do was flip his hair and look mysterious, and they fell all over him. Every damn time. I was hoping today would be different, not that I had any real indication that it would be, because today was the day that I had resolved to ask out the girl of my dreams.
Her name was Adelaide, and she was beautiful.
Her seat was across the aisle and two rows ahead of mine in my afternoon Ancient History class, and I’d had a hard time concentrating on anything else all lesson. Ordinarily, my grades weren’t bad, but all I could think about when she was around was her. The way she looked, the way she smelled, the way she sounded when she laughed. Man, she was gorgeous. Like anyone could think about how beautiful Cleopatra supposedly was when her twenty-first century counterpart was sitting right before their eyes. I would start a war for you, Adelaide. Just give me the chance to prove it.
I was jolted out of my daydreaming by the piercing sound of the lunch bell, and I quickly glanced around to see if anyone had noticed the sappy look on my face. Luckily, nobody was looking at me – my classmates were all too busy packing away their things and heading out to lunch. I turned to check on Adelaide, but she had already left the room. Heart pounding, I stuffed my books into my bag and followed her.
I found her in the hallway just outside the classroom, chatting with her best friend, Stephanie. Great – another roadblock to contend with. I didn’t much mind Stephanie as a person, but right now her presence was the last thing I needed. Not only had I had to work up the courage to ask Adelaide out, but now I had to politely ask her friend to clear off while I did it.
I took a couple of deep breaths and cracked my knuckles to psych myself up, the way I usually did before a big football match. You’ve got this, Hugo. Just go right in and sweep her off her feet. Remember, confidence is sexy. Maybe, but I sure wasn’t feeling very confident at the moment.
I ran a hand nervously through my already-messy hair and forced my legs to carry me in her direction. Adelaide greeted me with a radiant smile as I approached, and I felt my legs turn to jelly. I focused my attention on Stephanie instead, hoping neither of them could see how badly my knees were shaking.
“Hey, Stephanie. Um… I’d like to talk to Adelaide alone for a minute, if that’s okay?”
Stephanie turned to me. “Sure thing… Hugo, right?” I nodded, and she grinned. “I’ll see you later, then, Addie.” She turned and walked away, throwing a wink and a knowing glance at her friend as she left. I could feel myself starting to blush, thinking that Stephanie could probably tell exactly what was going on. Could this situation get any more nerve-wracking?
“Hi, Hugo,” Adelaide said shyly, playing with her hair as she gazed up at me. My heart rate kicked up another notch. Yep, apparently it could.
“Hey,” I said breathlessly. The longer I waited to ask her, the more nervous I got. I decided to cut to the chase before I chickened out completely. “So, um, here’s the thing. I’ve really… I’ve liked you for a while now, and I- I think you’re really beautiful, and I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime? Maybe? With me?” I mentally slapped myself. For God’s sake, pull yourself together, Hugo! Was I asking her out or wasn’t I? I took a deep breath. “I mean, I’d really like to take you out to dinner next Saturday, if you’re up for it,” I amended, trying and failing to look her in the eye as I said it.
Adelaide was silent for several seconds, and my heart sank. Her gaze was downcast, as though she was afraid to look me in the eye. “I’m really sorry, Hugo,” she said at last.
Why? I wanted to ask. Why am I not good enough? But that would have made me sound like an entitled douche, not to mention desperate, so I said nothing.
As though she had read my mind, however, she added, “It’s not you. It… I kind of already like someone else.”
Double shit. That meant I had no chance. I wanted to ask who it was, so I knew who to direct my jealousy and resentment towards, but I knew that was none of my business. Instead, I shrugged and forced a grin. “Lucky guy,” I said, and she smiled.
“Thanks, Hugo. And again, I really am sorry. I want you to know I think you’re a great guy, and I’m really flattered.”
Ordinarily I might have been elated by such a compliment coming from Adelaide, but under the circumstances I could only nod mutely, before turning and walking stiffly away, suddenly eager to put as much distance between us as possible.
The rest of the day seemed to last an eternity. When the last class finally ended, I packed up my things and went straight home. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through football practice today, not with all my teammates there. I knew I’d be torturing myself the whole time wondering if the lucky bastard who Adelaide was hung up on was among them.
Still, I would have welcomed the diversion. The burn of a good, solid workout always helped to distract me from whatever was going on inside my head. And I always pushed myself hardest on days like today, when my thoughts were so loud and painful that I felt like they were going to suffocate me.
I ran for a good hour on the treadmill in my room, then switched to the wall bar and did six consecutive sets of pull-ups. By the time I had finished, it was dark outside. My arms were aching from overexertion and my heart was thudding in my chest, but I was feeling a lot better nonetheless.
I grabbed some clean shorts and headed to the bathroom for a much-needed shower. The hot water, while not as effective as the workout had been at alleviating my emotional turmoil, still felt soothing on my sore muscles. I decided I would just finish my shower, do some homework, and turn in early for the night. Some sleep would probably do me good.
I was heading back to my room when I noticed Gabe’s door was ajar. I figured I could stop by for a cursory “hey” before I went to bed. I pushed open the door-
-and stopped in my tracks.
He was not alone, as I had expected – instead I found my older brother tightly wrapped in the arms of a girl, their bodies and mouths pressed firmly against one another. Ordinarily, I would have been surprised and maybe a little embarrassed, but this wasn’t just any girl. This was…
My heart constricted painfully when I recognised her, and I momentarily forgot how to breathe. But they didn’t even notice me. I slammed the door and, with the sting of anger and betrayal coursing through my veins, made a beeline for the rec room downstairs, where Dad’s athletic equipment was set up. I couldn’t go back to my room now. And I was going to have to work out all damn night to get this one out of my system.
This chapter is the second in a series of three opening chapters for Generation 4, told from the perspectives of each of the three heirs. Gabriel’s chapter will be released tomorrow. If you somehow missed Hope’s chapter, which came out yesterday, you can read it here.
By the way, you may have noticed that I changed the theme of the blog and parts of the layout. The main reason for this was readability: the new font, smaller text and longer lines should make chapters easier to read, and also, thanks to the new theme, images now appear about twice as big as they used to!
Additionally, the Chapters Index has been given a makeover recently. If you’re interested, go check it out!