Authors: Sarah Adams
Crushing on the Geek
Copyright © 2013 Blue Ribbon Books
All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
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The last bell of the day echoed its high pitched squeal through the halls of Central Glade High School. Tamara hung back, walking slowly, contemplating each step she took. Other students passed her in a collage of blurs. She didn't know where they were headed, but it had to be better than room five eighty five.
“It's only for two hours,” Amber said patting Tamara on the shoulder.
“You sure you don’t want to come with me?” Tamara said managing a small giggle.
“Some BFF you are!”
Tamara wouldn’t be going to room five eighty five either if it was up to her, but the choice had been made for her. She rubbed her temples and then pinched the bridge of her nose.
“I’ll be with you in spirit,” Amber said and bumped her shoulder playfully.
“Ready?” Josh called out, waving to Amber.
“Almost!” Amber called back and turned to Tamara, “Sorry, we have tickets for a four-fifteen movie. If we don’t leave now we’ll miss the beginning.”
“Have fun,” Tamara said and leaned back against her locker.
“Thanks, call me tonight, okay? Like eight-ish?” Amber said, walking backwards away from her.
“Talk to you then.”
Tamara slung her backpack over her shoulder and headed for the stairs. Why was Chess Club held on the top floor? What sort of school made students walk up four flights of stairs to get to a classroom? Central Glade
School, that’s what school.
Step by step Tamara made her way up the staircases. Her feet moved as if she had a bag of bricks tied to either ankle. Her usually swift feet dug their heels into the ground and would not move. This time last Friday Tamara was sprinting off to volleyball practice.
“Time machine, please.”
Mrs. Bailey, the school’s only volleyball coach, broke her leg while rock climbing the previous weekend. After a few days of unsuccessful searching the school board had given up on finding a replacement and disbanded the team. Their decision left Tamara facing the possibility of losing her scholarship. Her father worked for a large law firm that offered a scholarship program to the children of their employees. To remain eligible for the funding Tamara had to remain active in at least one extracurricular activity all four years of her high school career.
The clause had meant very little to Tamara when she signed up with the program at the beginning of the previous school year, because she had planned to play volleyball throughout her high school career. Upon hearing the news of the team’s disbanding Tamara and her teammates had swarmed the principal’s office and even attended a PTA meeting. In the end, the girls were reluctantly forced to accept that volleyball was over for the year.
Not sure what new club or team she should join Tamara spent many hours talking it over with Amber, but almost a week later when she was still undecided her mother put her foot down: Tamara would be joining the Chess Club. The resulting argument had lasted three days, but in the end her mother won.
Tamara’s grandfather had been an expert chess player and Mrs. Kelly, the school’s English teacher and the sponsor of the Chess Club, had been her grandfather’s student. The team needed one more person in order to compete in an upcoming tournament.
“It solves everyone’s problem,” her mom told her.
“And it kills my social life. I’m never going to get a date to prom,” Tamara groaned.
“Prom’s not for another two years, young lady, you can worry about it when it’s closer. Right now you need to worry about your scholarship.”
Tamara took a deep breath and pushed the classroom’s heavy wooden door open. The room was expansive making Tamara wonder what teacher needed such space to teach. What the heck were they teaching? Her eyes darted around the room searching for Mrs. Kelly, but she hadn’t arrived yet.
“Hey, Tamara,” Greg waved to her.
Greg was the captain of the Chess Club who had spent most of freshman year flirting with Amber. It took Tamara months to convince Amber to tell him very bluntly that she was never going to date him.
“Hey, Greg,” Tamara said and sat down her backpack.
Across the room stood a large scale replica of a black knight piece with gleaming eyes that followed Tamara’s gaze as she tried to look away.
“That thing’s creepy!” she said rubbing her arms to rid herself of the goose bumps that were rising on her skin.
“Don’t insult, Sir Bedivere,” Greg laughed, “He’s our good luck charm. We owe him big time. He's the reason our team has never lost a tournament.”
“It’s a little big to carry around isn’t it?” Tamara laughed.
“We don’t carry him around. He lives here. The story goes that he showed up the day the town opened the school.”
“Do you really believe that?” Tamara asked, crossing her arms.
“No one knows where Sir Bedivere came from or who brought him here, but he is our good luck charm so no insulting him. It’s our first rule.”
“Okay, don’t be so touchy!” Tamara said, leaning back against a desk.
The rest of the club began to trickle in one at a time. It was already four o’clock and the meeting was supposed to begin at three forty five. Tamara hoped Mrs. Kelly wouldn’t make them stay late because of the late start. After all, she had arrived on time.
Greg fell into conversation with his friends and Tamara sank into the background. It felt odd to stand outside of a group and look in. Most of the people in the club were guys, but two girls were in the mix too. One hung from Greg’s arm and Tamara had to bite her lip to keep from smiling. Tamara arched an eyebrow. Even nerds dated.
Tamara ran her fingers through her hair extensions and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She just wanted to get it all over with: the meeting, the being compared to her grandfather, and having to admit to a room packed with nerds that she couldn't even play chess. Okay, so that wasn’t totally true. Tamara knew what the pieces were called, that knights moved in an L shape, and the queen had to protect the king.
That wasn’t much to go on. Her stomach flip-flopped just thinking about the laughter that was sure to follow her words. At least the others were here because they wanted to be here and not because their mom’s had forced them into it. Tamara crossed her arms and watched a small murder of crows flying by, trying not to think about how lame she felt. In fact she couldn’t think of another time she had felt
“When are we going to get started?” Tamara asked.
“Our other new member should be here soon. Mrs. Kelly has a dentist appointment so she won’t be here.”
Tamara nodded and turned her attention back to the crows, but they were gone. Even they didn’t want to stick around and watch her reputation fall to pieces. The door swung open and Tamara looked up, drawing in a sharp breath. The guy entering the room was taller than her by at least a head and looked like he engaged in exercise that didn’t include moving pawns around a chess board.
The newcomer was a stark contrast to Greg and the other guys in the room. Their arms were skinny and Tamara was pretty sure she could bench press most of them. The newest arrival on the other hand, looked like he could easily pick up Tara. His thick brown hair was cropped short making the gaze of his dark brown eyes even more intense. A grin tugged on the corners of Tamara’s mouth. What the hell was a guy like him doing
“Hey, Hayden!” Greg called out.
“Sorry, I’m late,” Hayden said dropping into a chair. Tamara’s eyes followed him as he leaned back resting on arm on the chair’s back and stretched his legs out.
“Not a problem. We’re just glad to have enough people for the tournament,” Greg said.
Murmurs of agreement sounded here and there reminding Tamara that she was standing in room five eighty five.
“Okay guys,” Greg said turning towards the larger groups, “Most of you know Tamara Page and some of you have already met Hayden Bradley. Even if you haven’t you haven’t, you have now.”
The group laughed and Tamara rolled her eyes.
“With them we have enough people for the tournament which will take place one week from tomorrow. Hayden participated in Chess Club at his old school, but Tamara hasn’t played before. We have two weeks to whip her into shape so let’s get started,” Greg said and turned Tamara and Hayden, “I thought I’d watch you guys play a game. That way I can see where you are and give you pointers if you need it. We don’t expect you to be an expert by next Saturday, but we would like it if you knew the basics at least.”
Hayden crossed the room and retrieved a chess set. Tamara's eyes followed him as he moved. Was he here as a joke? He carried the chess set close to his body and traced the box’s design with his finger tips.
“It’s not as hard as it looks,” Greg told Tamara who was still holding her breath. It was odd that no one cared that she didn't know how to play. The volleyball team wouldn’t even accept girls who hadn’t played at least one year in middle school. That's why chess wasn’t considered a sport.
“Well, I don’t know much.”
“That’s okay. Everyone has to start somewhere,” Greg said, sliding into a chair, “What do you know?”
Tamara quickly recounted her limited knowledge of the game as Hayden rejoined them and set up the board one piece at a time. His fingers traced the contour of each piece as if he were committing it to memory. Tamara felt heat creeping up her neck onto her cheeks. She wished she had paid more attention when her grandfather had tried to teach her to play.
“At least you know to protect the king,” Hayden chuckled.
Tamara crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes.
“No, seriously, I’ve met people who don’t even know that.”
“Sucks to be them,” Greg said, leaning back in his chair.
“You’re playing white so you go first,” Hayden said.
“Are you going to take your turn? You can only move a pawn to start with. They normally only move one, but on the first turn….” Hayden began to explain.
“I know that!” Tamara said and moved a pawn forward two spaces.
“If it were me I would have moved the pawn to the left of that one,” Greg said.
“Well, it was me, not you!”
“No, it's okay, just remember for the next game.”
“No, not that piece! If you move it there he could capture it in like three moves, maybe even two!”
“Then let him have it, if he's going to go through all that trouble for one little pawn!”
“Don't move that one either!”
“Greg! Please! Shut up! I can't think!”
Greg fell into silence, but out of the corner of her eye Tamara could see him covering his eyes and making pained faces with every piece she moved.
“Greg, quit making faces every time I try to make a move! I can’t concentrate with you doing that! You're acting like I'm about to cut the wrong wire and blow us all up. It's just a game!”
“Sorry, I know it’s a bad habit. You’ve passed up a lot of good moves though. I can't help it! It's too painful to watch you surrender pieces like that. Some of them could have gone on for six or seven turns, maybe more. It's hard to watch pieces get captured too early in the game.”
“Maybe I would have seen them if you weren’t looking like I was about to murder a kitten!” Tamara said.
“I think I’ll go see how everyone else is doing. Maybe play Cindy or something,” Greg said and left the table.
“What? How did you do that?”
“Let’s start again,” Tamara sighed, “If we have time.”
“We have plenty of time. That whole game only took six minutes.”