Confessions of a Maraschino Addict

Chapter 1: Lie

"So lie to me and tell me that it's gonna be all right. So lie to me and tell me that we'll make it through the night. I don't mind if you wait before you tear me apart. So look me in the eye and lie, lie, lie."

"We'll start the bidding at, oh, twenty dollars. Do I hear twenty?"

I turn to my friends, desperately begging them for a reprieve. "Do I have to do this?" I whisper for the umpteenth time, the pathetic note in my voice quite detectable.

Jake smirks, slapping me on the shoulder. "You're the one who lost nationals for us. If you weren't the most goddamn slow quarterback in this hemisphere, we'd have won and you wouldn't have to do this."

I stare fearfully up at the auditorium stage. On stage are four girls and four boys, randomly selected by their homeroom teachers to take part in our annual school fundraiser. Only juniors and seniors were picked; the stress would probably kill anyone younger.

"And we're up to forty-five!" Sarah, the senior class president and acting auctioneer says enthusiastically. The dark-haired, lanky boy next to her averts his eyes from the babbling crowd of students.

"What if I don't have enough money?" I hiss to Jake as I stall my entrance into the bidding. The price is skyrocketing in five dollar increments, reaching sixty within a minute.

Jake snickers and pats his pocket. "You'll have plenty, Brendon. I seriously doubt he'll go for any more than what we all pitched in, anyway." He nudges me and jerks his head towards the stage, tawny hair falling in his eyes. "Now go before the bidding ends."

My fingers drum on my denim-clad thigh, and I have to fight to keep my hand down where it is. While I definitely do not want to get dragged into this bet from hell, there's something possessing my hand and nearly forcing it to raise and make an offer.

Sarah looks around the room, the same triumphant smile on her face that she's worn at the close of every other round of bidding.

"Shall we close at eighty-five? Do I hear any final offers?" she calls, her eager face inviting any last bids.

Jake nudges me, and a couple of my other friends start whispering things to me.

"Just fucking do it, Brendon," Joey mutters.

"How much should I say?" I whisper frantically.

After careful debate, my friends turn to me. Jake speaks for all of them when he confidently tells me, "Just do all of it."

My eyes widen when I hear that. "Are you fucking crazy? Do you want me to seem fucking desperate? And fuck if I'm wasting our money!"

Jake shrugs, and I decide to ignore their advice. Even I don't want to get so into the fundraiser that I'd willingly toss away two hundred dollars for a bet.

Slowly and reluctantly, I raise my hand. "Ninety."

Sarah's eyes lose their laughing gleam as the room goes silent. Several heads turn to me- I especially notice the venomous glare I get from Miranda Stevenson and her best friend Claire. Apparently Claire is the one who was about to win the prize, so to speak, while Miranda is the one who's onstage wishing I had bid on her.

Besides, who ever heard of a guy bidding on another guy at the annual school date auction?

Sarah's loud, confident voice changes to a meek stammer. "Um...okay...anyone care to raise the price?"

I force myself not to look at the boy onstage as the hushed room waits for some sort of retaliation from Claire. But nothing comes.

"O-okay," Sarah says uncertainly. "Uh, so we have Mars Watson going for ninety dollars to...Brendon Snow."

Once I'm sure I've secured him, I look up at Mars. He's staring at me, open-mouthed, his cheeks flushed with what must be embarrassment. I'm hoping that his embarrassment is just the remnants of the horror of being put up for sale in front of the whole school and not because I'm the one who won him. What would that do to my reputation if everyone found out that Mars didn't want to go on a date with me? Sure, no one's really sure of his sexuality, but I've heard whispers that he's gay, and if he doesn't want to date me, that's just sad.

When the final auctions close and several members of the student body are happily running up to plan their dates with the not-so-lucky auction items, my friends urge me to do the same. Mars is still standing dumbstruck on the stage, hints of a blush still on his face.

"Yeah, lover boy," Jake crows, giving me a shove between the shoulder blades. "Go talk to your new boyfriend. Don't be shy, now." Just as I turn around to do something along the lines of punching him in the face, he leans close and whispers, "Do everyone a favor and don't tell him it's a bet, okay? Sucks the fun out of your punishment."

My stomach churns when he says that. Honestly, I think it might be best to tell the poor kid that the whole thing was a bet and then just go on the date and leave. But that also seems kind of heartless, and I'm not that type of guy.

I'm not sure why they picked Mars- he's not a nobody, but he's not exactly someone that'll cause a stir. I personally think they picked him just because he's a guy. It's their way of trying to get their bisexual friend to do something besides hook up with the pretty girls. Everyone knows I'm bi, but I've never actually wanted to date any guys. Sure, there are hot guys out there, but, well, it's never seemed that appealing to actually get with one of them.

After a little bit more encouragement, I find myself walking up to the stage. I hop easily onto the stage and take a couple of steps until I'm standing in front of Mars.

I've never actually been this close to the kid. He's barely shorter than me, so he can't be much less than five foot eleven. He's actually pretty hot...thick, wavy black hair, pale skin that would make anyone else look albino but makes him look delicately soft...the most interesting part about him, though, is his eyes- an icy blue-gray that gives me chills. Especially with the way he's penetratingly staring at me.

Fuck. Maybe I should have made my friends choose someone else...

"Um," I finally say, smiling slightly and holding out my hand for him to shake. "Hey. I'm Brendon."

Mars' cheeks redden a little more as he finally shifts his gaze away from me- thank God. "I know," he mumbles.

"Listen, uh, I'm sorry if you, like, wanted to go out with Claire or anything," I continue, feeling like I should at least have the courtesy not to take over his life completely. "If you want, after this is done, I'll set you up with her."

The poor kid looks like he's about to faint. "N-no!" he rushes to say. "Not her. No. I'm just...surprised you bid on me." He bites his lip and barely manages to hide a note of something like fear. "I am gay, just so you know.'re not just fucking with me, right?"

A wave of relief washes over me. At least he's gay. That's a plus. Now I won't have the added task of turning him gay so I can carry out the bet.

Guilt twinges through me when I reassuringly tell him, "Nah. I mean, you know I'm bi, right? So, yeah. I just figured, I haven't ever gone out with a guy before, so why not try?"

God, I'm such an asshole...what if he actually, like, gets attached to me? And then he finds out it's a bet and I wind up breaking his heart? I can't deal with that. Maybe I should have told him it was a bet and then just asked him to play along.

Wait. That would be worse.

Besides, his eyes just lit up a little bit when I told him it was real. When I lied. This really isn't starting off as the most honest relationship.

"Okay." He hesitantly smiles at me. "So, um, what do you...want to do for this whole date thing?"

Frowning, I think for a minute. My eyes dart back to where my friends were standing, but they're gone. Damn. I thought they might be able to give me some help. What do guys do on dates?

"We could go get something to eat and then, I don't know, go to the boardwalk," I offer after a minute. "Just get to know each other. Since all I really know about you is your name, anyway." I pause, though, contemplatively looking at Mars. "Wait. Mars isn't your real name, right?"

Mars laughs, finally seeming to relax. "No. My real name's Jeremy, but my middle name is Maraschino. Like the liquor. So I just shorten that to Mars," he explains. "I like it."

"Me, too," I reply without thinking.

We awkwardly stare at each other for a moment before I laugh nervously and say, "Uh, I mean, it...suits you."

"Oh." Mars watches me with cautious eyes. "Thanks."

"Yeah." I cough and run a shaky hand through my blond hair. I'm getting uncomfortably warm in my varsity football jacket, but it's my security blanket. I can't bring myself to take it off. Besides, I think it's just the heat of guilt that's getting to me. Quickly, I try to set a time for our date so I can leave.

"How about I pick you up tonight around five?" I suggest, shoving my hands in my pockets. "Sound good?"

Mars nods, eagerly at first. He blushes again and evidently tries to get himself back in check. "That's fine," he mumbles when I raise an eyebrow. "Need my address?"

We hastily exchange phone numbers and he writes his address on my hand. As he gently touches my hand so that he can find a comfortable angle to write from, I pray that he doesn't notice how sweaty my hand is. I'm relieved to find that, as his hand rests on mine, it's just as sweaty as mine.

Although that sounds slightly weird, being relieved that he has sweaty hands.

"Hello, Brendon," a tight voice says from above me. I look up from my math homework and lock gazes with a very irritated Miranda Stevenson.

Oh, fuck.

Miranda and I used to be best friends, like, a few years ago. It was going fine until about the beginning of freshman year. Then she turned into a girl and traded the autographed football and basketball jerseys on her walls for posters of hot male celebrities and exchanged her collection of home run baseballs for makeup and jewelry. Needless to say, she lost a lot of cool points in my book. Seriously? Take down a fucking autographed Michael Jordon jersey in exchange for a picture of some guy who spends too much time in the gym trying to force himself to have a flawless six pack?

But the change in her attitude wasn't what really turned me away. It was when she started to like me.

If there's one thing I've never been able to stand, it's being friends with someone who wants to hook up with you. There are too many strings attached- you have a whole history together. In the case of Miranda and me, we've showered together, slept together, thrown mud at each other...I am physically unable to have a more than platonic relationship with someone I know inside and out. Save the intimate getting to know each other for when you're dating.

And there was no way I could make an exception for Miranda. It would be too much too handle, kissing the same girl I'd accidentally punched in the face, holding the same hands that had broken my thumb in a wrestling match. Especially when she was so different from that girl I used to know.

It was unnerving at first, to say the least. I distinctly remember the first time I noticed her extra effort to be her best for me- I walked to her house so we could walk down to school and watch her brother's water polo game. I had only woken up about ten minutes before I left to see her and was wearing some ratty old T-shirt and ripped jeans. I looked like shit and I knew it, but I was only going to see Miranda...right?

Only I swear it wasn't Miranda that I saw from that day forward. I rang the doorbell and, instead of getting tackled by my best friend, her mom let me in.

"I'm sorry Miranda's not ready to go," she apologized, though there was a twinkle in her eye that I now know was her hope that Miranda and I would start dating. "She's upstairs."

When I made to walk up the stairs and go see what was taking Miranda so long, though, Mrs. Stevenson pulled me back. "Just...wait here. She's a bit stressed."

I was confused; I wanted to ask why Miranda wasn't ready, why she was stressed. It's just a water polo game, I wanted to say. But something kept me plastered to my chair. I knew something was wrong, off. I just didn't know what to expect.

So when Miranda walked downstairs in a flowery summer dress, gold sandals strapped to her feet, honey brown hair shining even under the hallway lights, I was shocked. I'd never seen this Miranda. Was this even my Miranda?

I won't lie. Miranda is one of the prettiest girls I know. And I knew it that afternoon, too. Yet something made me shrink back.

And when Miranda flashed an embarrassed, shy smile at me, I knew. Right then, in that moment, I realized that she liked me. And it killed me inside. Lose my best friend to a petty crush? Not something I had planned on.

Although the loss didn't seem so terrible when I appraised her new look again and realized that she was already gone.

It only got worse from there- she learned how to flirt, something her big brother hated. She had half the world convinced we were dating. And then I dropped it on her. I told her I didn't feel the same way about her.

She didn't know how to react to that news. She had been so sure that we would be perfect as a couple and not just as friends that she demanded some sort of explanation. I gave her the "it's too awkward" line. She also became the first person I ever told about my bisexuality.

Of course, she's also the last person I've ever told, because she blabbed it to everyone we knew.

Eventually, though, our drama faded into the background and she became nothing more than the girl who hated me and yet still liked me just as much as she always has.

"Brendon," she says slowly, bringing me back to earth, "why did you bid on Mars?"

Oh, yeah. She was up for sale, too. So to speak. But instead of bidding on the girl who obviously wants in my pants, I dished out ninety bucks for a date with a guy I don't know.

I smile sweetly up at Miranda and reply, "I'm bi, remember? Gotta try out a guy sometime."

Miranda looks appalled when I say that. "'re actually going to go out with him? Do you like him?"

I shrug. "Sure." My attention goes back to my homework.

"But you don't even know him," Miranda hisses, slamming my textbook shut with her delicately manicured hand.

I sigh heavily and reopen the book to the correct page, jotting down another trig problem. "You of all people should know that I don't like dating people I know well."

Miranda's hard exterior softens a little. She looks like she might cry, but instead she turns on her heel and stalks away from me.

Whatever. I have more important things to worry about than a girl who won't give up on me.

A/N: I have severe, severe writer's block for my other story Just Because, and since I've had this story swimming through my mind for the past year, I figured I would post it. After three rewrites. Oh, life.

I hope you liked it...

By the way, yes, those are David Cook lyrics at the beginning. I can't help it. I'm obsessed with him. Or was. But the song. Yeah.

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