Xiao Dan had never smelled anything worse than the boy’s locker room.
She stopped herself from gagging and sucked in a breath. She had to focus. She needed to find the papers.
Xiao Dan always knew there was something wrong with this town. She knew that from when she was harassed about eating cats and dogs on the elementary school playground. From overhearing people in math class saying that they should ask Xiao Dan about the answers. From their shocked faces when
Xiao Dan told them that she flunked the latest quizzes.
But this? A bet?
That’s something Xiao Dan never saw coming.
Xiao Dan sifted through the blue lockers filled with backpacks, crinkled notebooks, and sneakers. She tore through the dog-eared textbooks and ripped jeans for hints. But all she found was herself coughing at the stench of clothing drenched in sweat and cologne.
Nothing in the lockers.
Xiao Dan put her hands on her hips.
If she were a book used to keep a tally of girls, where would she be?
If she were a vile teenage boy, where would she hide evidence?
“And this is the boy’s locker room. We renovated it last summer. Our boy’s kept winning championships, so we figured they should at least have a nicer place to keep their stuff.”
Xiao Dan’s hands balled into fists.
Xiao Dan ran into one of the showers and locked the door. She leaned against the white wall, squeezing her eyes shut and steadying her breath.
“Yikes,” Principal Gagnon said. “I apologize for the smell. You know how teenage boys are.”
“Oh, it is not an issue Dave,” a male voice said. “It’s only marginally better at the college level.”
Principal Gagnon laughed. “Well, I am glad to know it’s not just us.”
Xiao Dan rolled her eyes.
Principal Gagnon was talking to a scout.
She could picture Principal Gagnon now: his sweaty bald head, thinning eyebrows, and fake smile. He was forcing laughter and probably using too many hand gestures.
“This is a great school you’ve built, Dave. I’m impressed,” the man said. “The numbers are incredible. Both varsity football and hockey winning the state championship for the past five years? And baseball and lacrosse the past three? You’re not giving other schools a chance.”
“What can I say? Our kids have real talent. Have you looked at our test scores? We’re number one in the region and number four in the state. What’s fostered here is very special.”
The man clicked his pen. “Yes, it is. But, Dave, you know that professionalism and attitude–”
“Gregory, you don’t need to worry. The kids here are good. Everyone is friends. You know our town. The parents are working class people.”
Xiao Dan stopped herself from laughing. Working class? Only a small percentage of families here were actually working class. In middle school, Xiao Dan got made fun of over the fact her parents owned a Chinese restaurant. Almost everyone in her school were children of CEOs, big real estate agents, doctors, and lawyers.
“This is a very nice town, indeed,” the scout agreed.
“Exactly,” Principal Gagnon said. “This isn’t like the city. We pride ourselves on our good behavior.
Everyone has excellent manners. I can prove it to you. This Friday is homecoming. You and some other scouts can observe the school and then come to the game. You’ll see what I mean.”
Did Principal Gagnon know he was kidding himself?
Would the scouts believe that if they knew the truth?
“Okay,” the scout said. “I’ll be here.”
Principal Gagnon clapped. “Great! Now let’s go to the weight rooms. The varsity hockey team is spending their off-season training. They’re very dedicated.”
The man chuckled as Principal Gagnon walked out of the locker room. The door slammed shut and Xiao Dan’s shoulders relaxed.
Principal Gagnon was ready to suspend Xiao Dan after he found out she overheard conversation from the locker room. She didn’t want to imagine his reaction if he found her in here.
Xiao Dan checked the time and swore.
The boys would be coming back in ten minutes.
Where the Hell was this book?
She swung the door open and stepped forward.
A tile cracked.
Xiao Dan paused.
She looked down.
The tile was loose.
Xiao Dan knelt. Her hands traced around the white and blue floor. She dug her nails under the ceramic tile and lifted it up.
Inside were folded papers stapled together.
Xiao Dan carefully opened them and smoothed out the crinkles.
The first page was the contract.
This year, the varsity boy’s hockey team will compete to see who can sleep with the most ethnic minority girls in school.
The winner will get a $100 gift card to a place of their choice.
The following pages were the team roster.
Beside each boy were tally marks and the name of each girl.
Xiao Dan pulled out her phone and called Matilda.
Matilda answered after one ring.
A tear slipped down Xiao Dan’s cheek.
“I found the papers.”
“Are you sure we’re allowed to use this much paper?” Xiao Dan asked.
Matilda pressed the green button on her printer. “My parents barely use the home printer,” she said. “I’ll buy new paper tomorrow.”
Matilda sat at her dad’s desk. In front of were two stacks of paper: one for the team’s text chain, and the other had the contract and tally marks.
“Okay,” Xiao Dan said. “I made the social media pages. Everything will go public tomorrow.”
Matilda grabbed the last chunk of printed paper. She sorted through it, unable to stop herself from reading through one of the text chains.
I got with jasmine AND sophea at last night’s party
Bro I bagged them ages ago
says the guy who took a month to get dominique
It paid off
The shy one’s always do
You guys are stupid
Says the one who started DATING matilda
Ur losing sight of the game
Gfs werent part of the contract
It’s not that deep dude
matilda’s fun to hang out with
I still got mi-sook in my pocket too
I’m setting my sights on xiao dan next
Bro just wants to get with all the asian girls
They’re the prettiest imo
U guys are crazy
This is crazy
I haven’t had this much fun in a loooong time
Deep down, Matilda knew that Isaac liked her because of her convenience. That’s why he didn’t disregard her like he did to Xiao Dan or the other’s. He liked doing homework with someone in his empty house. He liked exchanging pastries and holding hands. He liked having someone to watch his favorite movies with him and listen to his dissections. He liked dating someone who was also busy— the low commitment of seeing someone only a few times a week.
Matilda was easy.
Matilda didn’t make him feel so alone.
Matilda made him feel wanted.
And Matilda played along because she also liked feeling wanted. She liked laying her head on someone’s neck while watching movies. She liked being walked home after school. She liked dressing up to go out for dinner.
She just liked having someone.
Even though it was at the expense of herself.
“Hey,” Xiao Dan’s voice snapped Matilda out of her thoughts. “I’m sorry about all this.”
Matilda shrugged. “It’s not your fault.”
“Yeah, but it still sucks.” Xiao Dan picked at her nail polish. “It’s a lot to process. I mean, we’ve grown up with these people. We went to each other’s birthday parties in elementary school.”
“It proves that we never really know what goes on behind closed doors,” Matilda said.
Last year, Matilda tutored Trent’s little sister in math. He was so grateful that, one evening, he bought dinner for Matilda and her family.
So much for gratitude.
“I’m sorry,” Xiao Dan. “You and Isaac dated for a while. I know it must hurt.”
Matilda waved a hand in dismissal. “Something had to be wrong.”
“That doesn’t mean everythings always has to be,” Xiao Dan replied. “I really don’t want this to make me stop believing in good people.”
“You don’t have to stop believing in good people,” Matilda said. “You just have to protect yourself first.”
Xiao Dan nodded. “Well, we’re protecting ourselves now.”
“That we are,” Matilda said. She stood and grabbed the last printed papers. “The team isn’t going to know what hit them.”
“And they can say goodbye to their athletics scholarships,” Xiao Dan smiled.
The first genuine smile Matilda saw from her.
Xiao Dan slid several pages of text messages under a math classroom door.
She taped the contract and tally marks along the white walls and spread them across the blue floors. She shoved them into lockers, posted them on bathroom mirrors, and put them in the teacher’s lounge.
She tossed them down the main stairwell and watched them float down the third floor and to the first.
Xiao Dan’s phone buzzed.
First and second floor done.
Just finished third floor
Posting everything on social media now!
Xiao Dan logged onto the specially made, anonymous social media accounts. She had followed everyone in town, and now she switched the account from private to public.
If people didn’t see this in school, they would online.
Xiao Dan walked down the stairwell. She taped the last photos on the railings and entered the first floor. She passed the Principal's office and peered inside the glass. His secretary was holding up the papers and he was red-faced and yelling. Xiao Dan giggled and skipped down the hallway.
Matilda had covered the walls, the doors, and the floors. She didn’t leave an inch of this school unscathed. Finally, Xiao Dan saw her standing in the main hallway. The hallway that connected to the exit for student parking, the cafeteria, the library, and the gymnasium.
The hallway that got the most traffic.
“You did a good job,” Xiao Dan said.
Matilda winked at her. “So did you.”
Then, the bell rang.
The school was still as students packed their backpacks in the classroom but, when the doors opened, people picked up the papers. They stopped in the middle of the hallway to read them. They handed them to their friends. They opened their phones to look at the social media pages.
They shouted at each other to look at the papers. “What is this?” and “Is this for real?” were repeated amongst friend groups. Teachers tried to snatch everything off the walls and out of the students' hands.
“Did you see this?” A scout asked another.
“So much for good behavior,” one scout remarked.
“Just wait until the news gets a hold of this,” another scout said. “Goodbye to this school’s reputation.”
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS,” Bryson Price boomed. He walked out of the gymnasium and to Kayden, who was tearing the papers into pieces. “How did this get out?”
“Bro, I don’t know!” Kayden shouted.
“Was it you? Our shit went missing a few days ago. Did you do this?”
“No, you idiot!”
“Well it had to be one of us.” Bryson shoved Kayden. “I’m not going down for this.”
Someone tapped on Bryson’s shoulder. He turned around to see Jasmine Rajavi behind him, holding a cup of ice coffee.
“You already have,” Jasmine said, and poured the coffee all over Bryson.
“Where the fuck is the rest of the hockey team?” Tamiko Kobayashi asked.
“Tammy, baby, calm down,” Kayden said, stroking her hair.
Tamiko hit him in the face with a textbook.
“What the Tell, Tammy?”
“My name is TAMIKO!” She yelled.
“Kayden, you asshole, you’re making this worse.” Jonah stomped over and grabbed Kayden and Bryson. “We have to get out of here.”
“Oh, was this you?” Bryson asked. He puffed out his chest and stood face-to-face with Jonah. “You were the one most opposed.”
“Stop fighting! You’re making a scene,” Jonah said. “Kayden’s right, we need to get the rest of the team and we need to leave.”
Bryson glared at Trent.
And then punched him in the face.
Dominique Murphy pulled out her phone to record. “Smile, you boys are gonna go viral!”
“This is some fucked up shit,” one guy said.
“The hockey guys have always been jerks,” a girl replied. “It was only a matter of time until someone exposed them.”
Xiao Dan was delighted at the sight in front of her:
The hockey team shoving and yelling at one another to figure out who did this, the girl’s standing up for themselves, the student body reading the papers and watching the team destroy themselves, and the scouts shaking their heads and walking away.
Principal Gagnon trying to decide between breaking up the team, or going to the scouts.
Someone tugged on Xiao Dan’s arm. She and Matilda turned around to see Isaac.
He was shaking.
“Was this you two?” He asked, his eyes wide and veins popping out of his neck. “Did you guys do this?”
“In case you haven’t figured it out,” Matilda said. “We’re done.”
Hurt flashed across his face. “But I loved you. I really did.” He looked at Xiao Dan. “And I did have feelings for you! I swear. It’s just– this is a really complicated situation, okay?”
Xiao Dan and Matilda looked at one another, then at him, and then at one another again.
“Do you want to get ice cream?” Matilda asked.
Xiao Dan smiled. “I would love ice cream.”
Matilda hooked her arm around Xiao Dan’s. They waved goodbye to Isaac and walked out of school, leaving it in chaos.
Editors: Katie Truong, Hailey Hua