Mutual Benefits Chapter Eight


I thought I made a lot of progress when it comes to being able to talk to people and talking with confidence and speaking in full sentences. There was no bigger reality check for me than having to ask Taylor’s mom for a ride home that night.Credit where it’s due, she did her best to make conversation with me, but of course, any question was met with me staring at the floor and responding in as few words as possible. I didn’t feel guilty for asking her to drive me home, just… childish, I guess? There was something, but I couldn’t put it into words.“I’m home!” I called to Mother, who was in the kitchen. She knew that I had another late night, but she also knew that this was hopefully the last studying session and that I got paid for my time. In what, I wasn’t ready to disclose.“You missed supper,” she told me sourly. “This had better be the last time. Your father has already gone to bed.”“It’ll be the last time, Mother,” I reassured her. “The final is coming up soon, and I’ll make sure all of my studying sessions with Taylor will be before sundown.”Mother chuckled to herself. “Taylor.” She shook her head, laughing, moving around the kitchen. “You have to be careful with her, Quinn. What if she is your girlfriend to use your brain?”I feigned confusion. “Taylor, my girlfriend?”Mother paused. “Yes, you told me this.”“Mother, I didn’t say Taylor was my girlfriend, I said Morgan was!”Mother stared at me incredulously. “Who the hell is Morgan? You say you have feelings for Taylor and that you two are dating now!”“Mother, I never said that at all,” I countered. “Morgan is Taylor’s friend. She’s the one I have feelings for.”“I distinctly remember you saying, ‘I have a feeling for Taylor,’” Mother protested. “And now you are saying you fall for some other girl. Quinn, you are turning into a, uh… huāhuāgōngzĭ.”“Really, Mother?!” I asked exasperatedly. I guess this was my punishment for trying to solve my problems by confusing her. “I don’t recall ever having feelings for Taylor. I have feelings for her friend I met through her. Her name is Morgan, and we’re having a date on Saturday.”“A date?!” both Mother and, of course, Kevin asked in unison. I didn’t even notice he was in the living room, but at that, he paused his game and marched on over.“You have a date with Morgan?!” Kevin asked incredulously. “Morgan Jones?”I shrugged. “Do you know any other Morgans?”“But like, Morgan with the…” Kevin stealthily stepped behind Mother, who wasn’t looking in his direction, and mimed groping a pair of two huge breasts.I sighed. “Morgan with the team leader instincts? Morgan who cares about her family and friends? Morgan with the really nice smile? Or did you have another Morgan in mind?”Kevin gave me a sarcastic smile as Mother continued. “I am confused. Are you dating a girl, Quinn?”“I am going on a date with a girl on Saturday, yes.”“And is her name Taylor or Morgan?”“Her name is Morgan. Taylor is the girl I’m tutoring.”“But you told me you have feelings for Taylor. That’s why I allowed you to tutor her!” Mother protested.“The plot thickens!” Kevin practically sang.I glared at him. “I think there was a miscommunication somewhere, Mother. At any rate, what does it matter? You never met her.”“Although, if you’re wondering, Morgan is also white,” Kevin chimed in, earning another glare from me.Mother sighed in annoyance. “I could guess that,” she remarked. “Okay. You’re going on dates with Taylor, or Morgan, or Steven for all I know. You keep changing her name, Quinn. It makes things more exciting, I guess.” She turned back to doing the dishes. “There are leftovers in the fridge if you’re hungry.”Kevin and I made our way back to the living room. Mother was within eyeshot, but with the volume of the TV, we knew she wouldn’t be able to (or even care to) hear us talking with our voices low enough.“I think she’s disappointed in you,” Kevin remarked as he unpaused. “You did totally say Taylor the first time, didn’t you?”“Yes,” I admitted sourly.“Just don’t know which girl to go for, huh? Probably a good guess going for the one that actually has a crush on you.”“Jeez, you really do have connections everywhere, don’t you?” I asked, surprised.He shrugged. “It helps to care about people. But mostly I’m nosy as fuck.”“But anyway, I actually told Mother I had feelings for Taylor purely to get her off my back. I don’t have any romantic interest in Taylor. Plus she’s-”“With Joel, yeah. Kind of a boner killer to go for a girl that has, like, the alpha male at her side, huh?”“What, you believe in the alpha-beta thing now?” I asked.Kevin blew a raspberry. “No. If the conventional alpha-beta thing were true, I wouldn’t be popular. The world belongs to those that play their cards right, not who’s the leader of the Boxing Club.”There was a bit of a silence between us. “It helps though.”“Oh fuck yeah it helps,” Kevin agreed. “But I got shit going for me too.”“Are you dating anyone right now?” I asked.He shook his head. “Nope, def not. I don’t really want to, to be honest. I got something fun going on right now, and I feel like getting a girlfriend right now of all times would just tie me down.”“‘Something fun,’ huh?” I parroted. “Do I get to kn-”“Nope, you don’t,” Kevin laughed.I laughed too. “Yeah, I expected that.”“No offense or nothing. It’s just kinda complicated. And as you now know from experience, the less people who know it, the better,” kaçak iddaa Kevin reasoned.“Although you now know that I’m dating Morgan, and your rumor-mongering already got me in trouble once…”“Hey, hey,” Kevin bashfully protested. “I still maintain that I had nothing to do with that. Hell, I didn’t even hear that rumor, and I’m like the most plugged-in guy at the school, so clearly it didn’t even get far,” he retorted. “But yeah, I’ll keep my mouth shut until you’re ready to declare your love to the world or some shit.”“Thanks,” I replied. “Who knows, it may not go anywhere. It may not even happen.”“Well, I hope it does,” Kevin replied, pausing the game again to look at me. “I meant it when I said I wanted you to dig yourself out of that self-pity hole. And you seem to notice more about Morgan than her tits.”“…One might even argue that I don’t notice her ‘tits’ at all,” I rebutted.“Well, c’mon, you’re not blind. Anyway, I bet that’ll be nice for her, and who knows? She may even be nice for you.” He shifted in his seat, eyes back on the TV. “Anyway, stop thinking I’m your enemy. I didn’t do nothing wrong. Hell, I watch out for you.”“I’m not a child,” I defended myself.“Yeah, but family watches out for each other. Like, oh, I dunno, putting in a good word for each other when they’re suddenly among the popular crowd…”“I thought you said you didn’t want a girlfriend right now,” I replied, confused. “Connections, dude. Connections! Hell, you only got to Taylor in the first place through Mrs. Li. Everybody is important in some way or another. But if you never make that connection, you never get to see what could have been,” he reasoned, losing yet again to Vicar Amelia. “Son of a bitch!”***It was a week until the first final. We had four classes a semester, so finals only lasted the four days. Sometimes, they’d all take place in the same within the same week, and that was painful, but luckily, the first final was on Friday, seven days from now. Still, there was a certain frantic energy that filled the hallways. All students had different takes on finals, but there were effectively two categories – people that would pass no matter what grade, and people that wouldn’t. Even though I was firmly in the former camp, I wanted to pass with as high a grade as possible, so I was definitely among the more frenzied crowd. It was trendy, if you were a senior, to look as little like you cared about finals. Some kids, like me, didn’t really get the memo there, while other students clearly did, with Taylor’s group leading the way in terms of the trend. Every time they walked down the hallways, they did it with almost more swagger and confidence than normal, seemingly looking at everyone and yet no one as they went by. Even though I knew them as individuals, it didn’t exactly undo who they were as a group, nor the hierarchy of high school. Groups still made way for them as they walked, and a lot of people, particularly boys, would try to catch their attention as they walked by.I tried to avoid being that guy, and cheerfully waved hello to Taylor, leading the group, as they walked by. She noticed and waved back in that ‘polite yet disinterested’ way, which was fair enough. After all, in about two weeks, we were probably as good as strangers. And yet still, I couldn’t help myself after they walked by, turning around to look at Morgan. I had to admit, she did look good. I didn’t make a habit of looking at girls in the hallways – it ran the risk of looking them in the eye, which felt practically chastising to me – but since we were going on a date tomorrow, I felt like I had earned a pass.I think people saw people and latched on to their most obvious trait. Like, Morgan had a big chest, to the extent where it was even slightly noticeable from looking at her from almost purely behind, but it was like ‘big’ by high school standards. Ever since Kevin made me aware what people thought of Morgan, I listened in more on discussions in my classes surrounding her – all of the boys liked to talk about whether she had a ‘D or DD’ or something, but that metric was a mystery to me. All I knew was, she looked very pretty in her tank top, light jacket, and workout jeans. And I had to admit, her butt was… cute. Was I allowed to think that?All of this happened maybe one second after the group passed, and as if she sensed me (or maybe because she was thinking about me too) Morgan turned around while walking to look at me. Luckily, my eyes had moved up from her butt at this point. I looked straight into her eyes and froze like a deer. Morgan blushed slightly in seeing that I was looking at her, and gave me a small smile. But not a polite one. Something… different. I couldn’t help smiling back.At the point when she turned back around, and the group was out of eyeshot, one more person turned around. Milo turned to look at me, his expression remaining the same – eerily blank – the whole while. The smile was quickly wiped off my face, and I gave a quick shudder. Did I do something wrong? Did he know something? Were we fighting now? I didn’t like that I had to ask these questions.***How do you prepare for a date if you’ve never had one before? I wasn’t sure, so I covered the basics – clothes, hygiene, and asking your over-controlling family for terrible advice. “You want to know what you are getting into,” Mother continued. “Ask about genetic weaknesses. kaçak bahis See if her family has a history of disease. Cancer is the big one.”“As romantic as that sounds,” Kevin cut in, “maybe go for what she likes. You know, play to her interests. Figure out what she’s into, then try to only talk about that. Bonus points if you can make it seem like you already know a lot about it.”As I had done for the past ten or so minutes, I ignored them. “This looks silly,” I complained, staring back at my mirror image of me in a dress shirt. “Why can’t I wear what I would normally wear around her?”“You need to impress her!” Mother protested. “Let her know that you don’t come from a poor family.”In a symbolic motion that I hoped would be lost on Mother, I surveyed our relatively small apartment, then turned to Kevin. Kevin shrugged and nodded his head, understanding.Morgan would be here in a few minutes, getting a ride from… somebody. I didn’t ask. I assumed it would be a family member, since getting Taylor to drive her would be all too perfectly terrible. I straightened my hair once more, making sure it looked okay, even though I was not the person to ask.“Yeah, looks okay,” Kevin mumbled, seemingly reading my mind. As dopey as he was at giving dating advice, I could certainly count on him for knowing how to present oneself. I nodded, finally tearing my gaze away from the mirror, and headed for the front door.“Got your phone?” Kevin asked, eager to be helpful here.“Yes,” I replied.“Got a game plan?” he continued, smiling mischievously.I playfully shoved him. “Shut up,” I mumbled, before heading outside, figuring Morgan would be here soon. The last thing I wanted was for her to see the chaos that was my family’s apartment.Within minutes of me stepping outside the apartment building, a car came into the parking lot and Morgan stepped out of it. Her hair was nicely done, but apart from that, she wore the same clothes that she normally wore around school. The one upside to the idea of her coming up to the apartment is that I could have gestured to her, turned to Mother, and told her, “See?!”She waved to me when she got out of the car, then turned back to what looked like her brother and said a few things. Her brother looked older, and like he definitely would have been in the popular crowd at high school too. He gave me a gesture I could barely see through the tinted windshield of the car. I wasn’t sure if it was friendly, like a wave, or a threatening one. I started to raise my hand to wave, but second-guessed myself and retracted it. I then nodded in his direction, then realized he may not see me, so I nodded again in an exaggerated motion. He said some more things to Morgan and she smiled like he told a joke, then he rolled up his window and off he went. Morgan cheerfully waved to me again and walked up to me, clearly sizing me up. “Dress shirt, huh?” she asked.My hands flew to my pockets. “My, uh, family insisted,” I explained. “I’m wearing a normal t-shirt underneath though, because I figured… or I guess I knew… that it would be stupid.”Morgan gave a single patient laugh. “Well, you can do either. You, uh, look good in it.”“Thanks, you too!” I blurted out. “Like, in your outfit. You look really good.”She gave a small smile in acknowledgment and looked around. “So, you know the area. We’re going on a walk, right?”“Right.”“So, which direction should we go in?”“Oh. Uh…” I looked around, eventually settling on the westbound direction. “How about this way? There are a few interesting things we can pass along the way.”“Sounds like a plan!” Morgan said in her usual emotionless tone, albeit with a bit more enthusiasm than normal. I wasn’t sure if it was natural or not. With that, the date began, with the both of us walking aimlessly, and about a full meter of space between us.“You know,” I began, “Walks like these are going to be really cool once Pokemon Go launches.”“Oh yeah?” Morgan asked.“Yeah, have you heard of it?”“No, I haven’t, tell me about it.”“Well, it’s like a video game, but it’ll be on your phone, and it uses GPS to…” I turned red, not looking up from the floor when I began talking. “You know what, you probably don’t even care about this kind of thing.”“I mean, I probably won’t play it, but it seems like it matters to you,” Morgan replied. “This is a date. You’re supposed to talk about yourself to some extent.”“Yeah, but isn’t the polite thing to ask about what you’re into and go from there?”Morgan stopped where she stopped, forcing me to stop and look her in the face. She had something of a glint in her eyes. “Did Kevin tell you to do that?”I smiled in response, letting a single chuckle fly out. Seeing my smile as confirmation, Morgan smiled herself. Her smile still amazed me with how beautiful it was, and it was amazing how I knew she existed for years before even getting to see such a common thing as a smile completely transforming her face. “Yeah, thought so,” she replied, continuing to walk. “Go ahead, tell me about Pokemon Go.”“Okay, so, last year or something, Google did this April Fools Day prank,” I began, in a conversation that would last a surprisingly long time. It was kind of weird. With Taylor, I needed a few full days to be able to actually have a conversation with her. Granted, I met Morgan through Taylor, and already had a few conversations with her – a few of them unfortunately unsavory illegal bahis – but when I was with Morgan like this, I was able to open up surprisingly quickly. I didn’t know what it was, but it was nice.And it wasn’t all that one-sided. Granted, I had to push or search for it once or twice, but there were a few things Morgan was clearly interested in too. Or at least, had strong opinions on. We passed some building with a poster of a horse on it, and as we passed it, she turned to me. “Do you like horses?”“Never really experienced one. Or like, ridden one. I don’t think I’ve even seen one in person. Or, in horse,” I babbled. “I feel like every girl ever has this thing for horses. Like, ‘oh, look at this majestic thing, I wanna ride one, I wanna own one,’ but I have never even cared about horses,” she began. “Like, it just seems like a big responsibility. What can you even do with a horse? It’s like a big living motorcycle or something. I guess it’s like a pet, but I dunno, big pets seem like way more trouble than they’re worth.”“I like small pets. I’ve got a pet cat, her name is Nuo. I’ve never owned a horse, though. I don’t really care about them either.”“Aw, I love cats! Do you have a picture of her?” Morgan asked, almost giddily.“Um, yeah, probably!” I replied, fishing my phone out of my lap and going through the pictures on my phone. Almost instantly, a picture of Taylor’s pussy flew up onto the screen, prompting me to less-than-subtly angle the phone away from Morgan. She wasn’t walking behind me so there was very little chance she saw, but it was still enough to scare me to death. I coughed nervously, looking through my pictures, trying to evade the not-safe-for-work ones. Whether Morgan saw or didn’t, it was in my best interest to pull up a picture of Nuo as soon as possible.“Um, it looks like I don’t have one,” I remarked, putting my phone away, glad to have it out of my hands. “I’ll have to take one for next ti- well, I, y’know…”Morgan laughed to herself. “Sounds good,” she replied smoothly. “I love cats. And dogs. I just can’t get one as long as Cheesecake is in the house.”“…Why? Do they have allergies?” I asked dumbly.Morgan turned to look at me in a polite but still-stinging “are you serious?” look. “Cheesecake is the name of my pet rat.”“Oh! I see. That’s a cute name for a rat,” I replied.She smiled. “I’m glad you said that,” she told me. “Most people just go, like, ‘ew, rats, how gross, you should get a horse or something instead.’” She rolled her eyes and started scrolling through her phone, eventually holding it up to me. “See? Cute, right?”I looked at her phone and immediately started to blush. The picture wasn’t of a rat at all, but Morgan at the beach, with someone else clearly holding her phone for her. She was in some sort of swimsuit and posing provocatively for the camera, more in a ‘just goofing around’ way than anything explicitly erotic, but still, clearly enough to get a rise out of me.“Um… Morgan…” I could barely get out, my words caught in my throat.“What?” Morgan asked, looking back at her phone. “Oh fuck,” she immediately added, blushing a little herself. “Yeah, that was not the picture I meant.” She laughed nervously, and swiped right on her phone once. “Here we go. Sorry.”I looked at her phone to see a picture of a little grey rat in a cage, playing with some kind of toy. It looked a little silly, but definitely not gross or anything. “Yeah, it’s cute,” I replied, feeling all hot.Was that… deliberate? Did she see my picture or something, and was trying to communicate a kind of, ‘it’s okay, here’s mine’? No, probably not. She probably didn’t even see the picture, just a coincidence. Plus, even if she did, it was a horrible invasion of privacy to Taylor. It would not have been polite to either girl to show one of them her best friend’s genitals. “But, uh, the other picture… was cute too,” I awkwardly interjected, trying to alleviate the situation. Morgan chuckled, eyeing the ground. “Yeah,” she mumbled. “Thanks. I got to go to the beach a few weeks ago with Crystal when the weather was nice. It was fun.”“I haven’t been to the beach since I was a kid,” I remarked.“You should find a reason to go!” Morgan replied. “Actually, fuck that, just go. That’s your reason. You want to go. That seems like a good reason to me.”I giggled to myself. “I wish I had your worldview sometimes,” I said out loud.“My what?”“Your worldview. Like, your perspective, how you see the w-”“No, I know what it means,” she cut in. “I just wasn’t expecting that.”I shrugged. “I just like how to-the-point you are. You cut out a lot of the red tape or whatever of overthinking. If I think about the beach and want to go, I have to decide whether my desire to go is matched by the effort I put in, and then I have to figure out how to get there, and whether I’ll look like a dork or something for going alone, and when I go, and how much of my regular schedule I’ll have to miss if I am going, and…” I trailed off, looking at her expectantly. She gave me another one of her dazzling smiles. “So do I,” she told me warmly.I paused. She – huh. Okay. “Really? That’s, uh, cool,” I mumbled.“Super cool,” she echoed, her voice going back to normal. She looked around at our surroundings and turned back to me. “So, do you walk around here often?”“Not really,” I answered honestly. “I, uh, don’t leave the house much. But I’ve been here a few times. It’s not like downtown, but we’ve passed by a few shops, and I think there are a few more at a strip mall if we keep walking. There’s a pet food store, and a bubble tea place, and a-”

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