My entire body is bogged down by the weight as soon as I have pulled the sleeves of the vest over my shoulders. The gun dangles from one side of the vest, tucked into the holster only a couple inches above my hip. Adrenaline pumps through my veins from the anticipation alone. My trigger finger itches, ready to come out and play.
"Ready? Go, go, go!" The voice booms through overhead speakers.
I share a look with my partner. The second our eyes lock we are already sprinting through the double doors to the arena. It's go time.
I duck behind a pillar, taking in the view of neon colors under a black light. Colors are splattered across the walls. The pillar I find myself leaning against has green and blue splattered across the surface all the way around I can see. Little chips and cracks of black peer through the vibrant color.
"Are you ready?" August, my partner, whispers.
He's peering out at me from behind a large, black cube which occupies more space than necessary. When he flashes a grin at me, his teeth glow in the dark. So do the whites of his eyes, which have turned a strange shade of yellowed white which do little more than make him look nothing short of psychotic. With the tussle of dyed-blue hair sticking out in the middle of his head he makes one hell of an oddity.
"Ready," I whisper.
I follow his lead. I creep along behind him with just enough distance between us to keep the other safe if a sneak attack were to come up on the other. Only who would be stupid enough to jump out on the pair of us when I'm feeling a tad trigger happy and my companion looks like a glow-in-the-dark fiend.
The weight of the gun in my hand keeps me happy, keeps me soothed. There's nothing I like better to do in the afternoon than this. The only real way to make a boy happy is to blow him or take him to laser tag.
I'm hoping to get both tonight.
Skidding towards the edge of the room, I stop to peek through the doorway. At first it looks clear, devoid of any life. Only the glowing walls and floors stare back at us. But it feels wrong. No. It sounds wrong. There's the shushing in response to a hushed whisper. Ever so subtle that I may not have noticed it until it was too late.
I motion August forward.
"What is it, Andie?" He asks in a hushed tone.
I hold up three fingers, then four. I flash them back and forth before giving an iffy gesture with my hand. As far as I can tell there is a total of three to four of them. Not too bad of odds. I'm certain we've taken on worse before.
August nods, a stern look on his face. He gets this whole serious attitude about him whenever we play a game of laser tag. The loser looks at it as if we are legitimately going to battle. I bet that he even has an inner monologue going on in his head that describes everything that's going on as if he is in battle. Dork.
With his face scrunched up and contorted into the most ridiculous expression I have ever seen, he stares into the next room. He keeps his gun at the ready, darting from one side of the doorway to the other. No matter which side he is on, he presses his whole body flat against the wall. In fact, he's using the gun to block a couple of the targets on his vest by holding it up.
I can't help but grin as I watch him. That, Ladies and Gents, is my best friend. He is ridiculous. He is stern. He has blue hair. He is August Heller.
The whispering starts up again, softly. With his hand twisting in a familiar motion, we make our move. He darts immediately towards the pillar just through the doorway. I round the other way and take cover behind a makeshift wall covered in glowing graffiti.
From my vantage point I can make out the four middle schoolers at the back of the room. I make sure they won't be moving soon before I look back to August. I can barely see him from my spot, just enough to see one arm pressed against the back of the pillar. His fingers twitch. All but his wrist are in the air above the black surface. As the light catches his fingers they seem to glow like the rest of the room.
One. His index finger rises up. Two. Three. He gives a soundless knock on the pillar. Go, go, go!
As I round the end of the wall the middle schoolers stare up at me with round unblinking eyes and gaping mouths. They're more fish like than anything. They don't have time to react, or it may be they were too surprised to react. Either way with four shots plus sound effects the lights on their vests turn from bright yellow to the dull black beneath.
"You pussies are out of here!" I hoot.
"Andie, they're barely thirteen," August scolds.
"Fourteen," mutters one of the runts, his head hung low as he and his buddies take off towards the exit.
August glares at me, hands on his hips. "Do you ever watch your language around kids?"
"Uh, did we ever watch our language when we were kids? As I recall, you were quite the potty mouth when we were fourteen. You thought you were some kind of thug," I say.
"That only makes you a worse influence. Please tell me you'll never reproduce." He sighs.
"No worries there, all my potential children will end up in a tissue or a condom," I assure him.
"I'm sure it'll be much more of the first option," he says.
"Hey! I happen to be getting plenty thank you very much." I huff.
"The fact that you have a girlfriend is surprising enough, you will never convince me she'd let anyone with an ugly mug like yours do anything to her," he says.
"She lets me do plenty!"
There's a sound like a slide whistle and the light beneath my eyes disappears. Frantically, I pat my chest with my hands. The lights on my vest have dimmed, no more neon blue splashed across my chest. August and I share a look of horror. Never have we committed an act so shameful. We got so lost in our argument that we forgot to pay attention to our surroundings. This will cost us more than merely going down in the ranks, this will cost us our honor.
We hang our heads low as we walk towards the exit door. It's red glow is almost hard to make out in a room full of neon colors. But we find it, despite the continuation of dispute in a new form.
"If you hadn't been talking about your stupid girlfriend, we never would have gotten distracted, or shot," August complains.
"Stupid girlfriend? First off, I don't see you with any girlfriend ever. And second, she happens to be incredibly smart. She is much smarter than me," I retort.
"Well that isn't a hard feat to manage, your simple minded at best," he points out.
Light floods into our retinas, nearly burning them out, as the door opens. I press my hands against my eyes, squinting and blinking until I can look out at the world. August is waiting more or less patiently for me to finishing opening my eyes. He's holding the door open, scowling at me.
"Take a picture, it lasts longer." I stick my tongue out at him.
"If we're lucky, there will be no photos of you to scar future generations." He sighs.
"I resent that, I happen to find myself very pretty. There is a reason why my Instagram is only selfies." I frown.
"Much to everyone's dismay," he mumbles.
I pout at him, disregarding the path I'm walking along to put more emphasis in how far my lower lip is sticking out.
I guess I would be considered a pretty boy. There's enough lean muscle on my body to categorize me as in shape and my face is pretty nearing towards identical if you were to split it into halves. I may not have the nice masculine jawline or a rugged six pack around my navel, but I've got a face with character, I'll give myself that.
It would take a lot more than August's antics to make someone as handsome as me feel ugly. The only times he'll ever admit a true opinion of my appearance is while he is under the influence or in an emotionally sober state of mind. Those situations already hold enough shock in themselves, so I'll never forget the moments when he tells me what he really thinks of this hot bod of mine.
When I snap out of my train of thought he's still glaring at me. I glare back, doing my best imitation of his face in this state. I twist my grin into a crooked scowl, narrowing my eyes at him as if I'm a superior being. I would say I have this look of his down pat by now. I have seen it so many times it would be shocking if I were unable to replicate it.
Our heads whip around at the sound of our names. Bounding straight towards us is a curvy figure, a luscious babe with thick chocolate hair and freckled skin. When her eyes catch the light just right they go from a near black to a shade of chestnut with gold streaking through like lightning. Those perky breasts bounce with each hurried step, and her hips are hugged nicely by the skinny jeans that cling to her skin. And here, this beauty, is running straight towards us. She even knows us by name.
A wicked grin is spread across her lips. Her eyes are trained directly on me. I could get hard from the mere sight of it, but I restrain the mental hold that body has on me with only a dwindling thread keeping it from being set free.
I'm a hell of a lucky guy.
She skids to a stop in front of us. She stopped a little too late and is forced to tilt her head back to look at us.
"Hey, boys!" She grins.
"Hi, Leigh," August says begrudgingly.
"Sorry I'm late, I meant to show up sooner so I could join your game of laser tag. Instead I decided to catch you on your way out, but you emerged sooner than I expected," Leigh says.
"That would be August's fault, he distracted me with his good looks and argumentative skills after our first kills. We were so thrown into the passion that neither of us noticed the little dweebs sneak up on us," I admit.
"There would have been no arguing in the first place if it weren't for the fact that you don't know how to shut your mouth," he points out.
As soon as he shuts his mouth again I can seen the gears, or more so the teeth, grinding behind his cheeks. I had no clue he was so upset about losing the laser tag game. It wasn't so bad, we didn't even have to pay for the game today. Every third Saturday of the month is free game day. That would also be why it's so packed in here. But if he's that upset we can come back later for another game.
"You guys are ridiculous." She rolls her eyes. "Want to get pizza before the next round?"
We both agree, I do so happily while August does so with a shrug and what appears to be a nod. She immediately takes the lead towards the cafeteria, marching through the arcade as if she owns the world.
August and I fall behind, not attempting to keep up with her wild pace. But he still has that look on his face as if he tasted something sour that he was assuming would be sweet. There's the signature look again, eyes scrunched up and a deep frown that swallows up the bottom half of his face.
"Man, are you chill?" I ask.
"I'm fine, why do you ask?" He says apathetically.
"You look like you ate a sour lemon, are you that upset that we got out of the game? We can go play another round after we eat," I suggest.
"It is not that. I had no clue Leigh would be here today. Normally when we play laser tag it's just you and me," he says.
"I thought you'd be okay with it, she is my girlfriend after all." I begin to feel agitated.
"But I'm your best friend," he states.
"You are my best friend, but does that mean I'm not allowed to spend time with you and her together?" I ask.
He screws his face up into a grimace. There's no response from him, except what might be a shrug. That is, if you count what may be a shrug as an answer.
What's his problem? Is it so wrong that I like my girlfriend?