The Bet - Rachel Van Dyken
1997 Portland, Oregon
“Kacey, wait up!” Travis ran after her, tears streaming down his face from laughing so hard. Kacey was his best friend, but only in his heart. In real life, she hated him, he just didn’t know why. At eight years old he did the best he could to show her he liked her, but she always ended up getting her feelings hurt.
Girls were dumb.
His younger brother Jake finally caught up to them. “Why’d you do that, Travis?” He shoved him in the side.
Travis’s tongue suddenly felt thick in his mouth. He wanted to explain the reasons behind tripping Kacey, really he did, but words wouldn’t come. He hated his stutter. It made it so hard to talk, and it only happened when he was either trying really hard or in front of Kacey.
“Ugh!” Jake kicked the dirt with his foot. “Now she won’t even kiss me!”
“Kiss you?” Travis yelled, horrified that his brother would even say the word kiss, let alone think about doing something like that with Kacey. Besides, why would his six-year-old brother get a kiss over him? “She doesn’t even like you like that.” He crossed his arms.
Travis at least knew that much — girls didn’t like boys. They liked men, and he was well on his way to being a man. In fact, he had just found a hair on his chin. He’d most likely be shaving by the end of the week. He puffed up his chest and scowled at his brother.
“Oh yeah? Well, she hates you.” Jake stuck out his tongue. “She told me so, plus…” He shoved his hands into his pockets and took a deep breath. “I’m gonna marry her.”
“Are not!” Travis pushed his brother to the ground. “I’m older. She’s going to marry me.”
Jake stuck out his tongue then brushed the dirt off his pants. “Wanna bet?”
“Yeah!” Travis sneered. “I do. A million dollars!”
“Fine!” Jake spit on his hand and held it out. “Shake on it. Blood oath.”
“But there’s no blood,” Travis pointed out.
“Duh! Mom would kill us if we used blood. It’s just as good. Kacey said so.”
“Fine.” Travis spit on his hand and smacked it against his little brother’s.
Jake grimaced. “Gross.”
“Grow up.” Travis rolled his eyes and searched the backyard for Kacey. He hadn’t meant to trip her. Well, actually he had, but he had a really good reason for it.
He knew for a fact Kacey loved princess stories. She would talk about how girls are supposed to be treated like princesses, and boys are supposed to be princes.
But how was he supposed to be a prince when there were no dragons to slay?
How could he prove himself when there were no monsters?
Good thing he was the smartest kid in his class. He knew just what to do. All he had to do was cause the trouble and then save her from it.
First, he set her doll on fire, but that didn’t work out as planned. In fact, the doll was now sitting in the garbage can. How was it his fault that the fire extinguisher didn’t work?
Next, he put a snake in her sleeping bag. When she woke up screaming, he rushed to her side to grab the snake but then couldn’t find it! Jake ratted him out, and Kacey was so angry she cried.
In one last final attempt to impress her, he tied her shoelaces together so she would fall, and then knelt down on his knees to help her.
But she was so mad she slapped his hands away, threw off her shoes, and ran away crying.
He would never understand them.
After all, he was trying to help her every time.
And every time she just pushed him away more.
Which meant only one thing. In order to win the bet, he would just have to try harder. And he knew just how to do it.
“Hey, Jake? Do you know where any rocks are?”
Kacey searched his eyes for any hint of amusement. He couldn’t be serious, not Jake. Jake never took anything seriously. She quickly raised her hand to feel his forehead and inwardly shuddered. Why God had blessed such an arrogant man with the face of a movie star was seriously beyond her realm of understanding.
But there he was, a regular Adonis, staring back at her as if his eyes didn’t make mortal women uncomfortable.
“Are you drunk?” she whispered, leaning in closer, all the while cursing the expensive aftershave floating off him.
Jake slapped her hand away. “No, I’m not drunk. Geez, Kacey, you’re acting