top of page

Sucker Punch

Updated: Sep 15

So, I'm not a big short story person. I have a very all-or-nothing personality, and that applies to my writing. Either I'm going to work on "War and Peace", or I'm writing nothing. Middle ground? Never heard of it. However, I was browsing Reedsy a few months ago, and one prompt in particular caught my attention: "Write a story about two characters who have been fighting for so long, they can’t remember what started it." Naturally, I just had to write a story about that. And naturally, it had to be YA Romance. Hope somebody out there enjoys this.


I couldn’t remember why Elliot Gonzales was my mortal enemy, but one thing was certain. He’d started it. “Morning, Olivia,” he whispered as he slipped into the desk behind mine. “Nice hair. Did you wake up this morning and decide to channel your inner Medusa?” I didn’t give him the satisfaction of looking up from my chemistry notes. My hair was always a frizzy, auburn mess—a combination of genetics and the insane Texas heat. “Wow, a mythology-inspired insult. Someone’s getting creative.” “I was going to call you Hermione Granger, but I think you would’ve taken that as a compliment.” I could hear the smile in his voice. The same one that had charmed half of Kennedy High. I was pretty sure I was one of the only people who was immune. “You actually might know me slightly better than I thought.” “How else do you think I get under your skin?” “You do realize you just compared yourself to a parasite, right?” “Yup. I’m like a spider.” “A spider isn’t a parasite. It’s an arachnid. Technically, ticks are part of the Arachnida family, and they’re considered parasites, so you probably should have gone with that if you were trying to make an insect analogy.” “Look at you—using big, fancy, scientific words to prove how smart you are. Not like you’re trying to compensate for your lack of a likable personality or anything.” My pencil broke with a snap as I tightened my fingers around it. Dang it. Another writing utensil doomed to the trash, thanks to Elliot Gonzales and his incredible talent for getting under my skin. He’d made me break way more pencils than I cared to admit. I opened my mouth to tell him off when my teacher leveled me with one of her no-nonsense stares. I was one of Mrs. Park’s favorites, but she wouldn’t hesitate to call me out in front of everyone. A fight-and-lecture double whammy would be a horrible way to start my morning. I grabbed a new pencil and only entertained the idea of shoving it into Elliot’s eye socket for two seconds before I turned my attention to the whiteboard. Progress.


“Maybe Elliot insulted your mom,” my best friend said as we stood in the lunch line a few hours later. “Really? You think that’s what started our feud?” Willow shrugged and picked at her chipped black nail polish. She’d gone through four different style changes in the last year, and right now, she was in a Goth phase she insisted was permanent. I kind of hoped it was. She rocked choppy bangs and black lipstick like nobody’s business. “I don’t know. I’m just spit balling ideas.” “Pretty sure I wouldn’t hold a grudge for five years over a joke. Something else had to start it.” I’d known Elliot Gonzales since kindergarten, like most of the people at my high school. He’d always been at the periphery of my consciousness, a background character in most of my school memories. He was the kid I passed in the hall a thousand times but never actually talked to. The kid I rolled my eyes at when I saw him acting like an idiot with his friends. The kid I prayed the teacher wouldn’t pick to read aloud because I knew it would take him ten minutes to get through one paragraph. It wasn’t until middle school that we’d become sparring partners. Pretty much everything he did drove me up the wall, and the feeling was quite obviously mutual. Willow blew air through her lips. “I’m stumped.” “Me too. But it doesn’t really matter. I don’t need to know why Elliot and I hate each other.” “Aren’t you even a little bit curious?” “Nope.” I shoved my hands into the pockets of my secondhand shorts. “Well, yes. But if I can’t remember why, Elliot probably doesn’t, either. Besides, I’m not going to ask him.” Willow’s green eyes glinted with mischief. “What if I ask him?” “Because that’s not obvious at all.” “He might not even know I’m your best friend. Two weeks ago, I was into everything pink and sparkly.” She made a face, as if her girly phase was already a distant and unpalatable memory. My gaze strayed across the crowded cafeteria. Elliot sat at a table a few yards away with some fellow soccer players. His friend tossed a grape at him, and he caught it in his mouth like a trained seal. “So, where did we land on the whole asking Elliot why you all hate each other issue?” Willow asked. “Ask him.” I grabbed her arm as she headed that way. “Actually, don’t.” “I’m going.” “Wait. Willow! I said don’t ask him.” “Too late,” she called over her shoulder. I stood frozen in horror as she made a beeline for Elliot. He smiled and raised his chin in greeting. Willow placed her hands on her hips and said something that was lost in the hum of cafeteria chatter. His smile faded, making his dark eyes even darker. It was like his game face, only a thousand times more intense. “Well? What did he say?” I asked. “He said something happened between you, and it was apparently your fault.” She drew her brows together. “What did you do to him, Olivia?” I stared at his profile, my stomach twisting tighter than a fisherman’s knot. “I have no idea.”


I couldn’t remember why Elliot Gonzales was my mortal enemy, but one thing was certain. I’d started it. Elliot leaned down and took a long drink from the water fountain. I’d been racking my brain since lunch, trying to figure out what I’d done to start the feud. Had I said something offensive to Elliot? Had he caught me rolling my eyes one of the many times his stupidity had prompted such a response? I couldn’t produce a single shred of concrete evidence. Not a memory or incident where I’d been a jerk of feud-making proportions. All I knew was that one day he’d been the annoying kid I never talked to, and the next, he’d been my own personal pain in the butt. Elliot stood and wiped his hand across his mouth. He turned his head, and our eyes met. My heart stuttered in surprise. Did I confront him or just let this whole thing go? I stepped forward. “What are you doing?” “Making sure I stay hydrated.” He pointed to me. “See? I can use big words sometimes, too.” “I was wondering if I could talk to you about something.” “Depends. Is this the kind of conversation that’s going to end with us insulting each other?” “I’m curious about something you said to my friend Willow.” I searched his eyes. “She asked you why you hated me, and you told her I should know the reason.” “Yeah, you should.” “But I don’t. I’m sorry.” “Wow, you have that huge, 4.0 GPA brain, and it didn’t even bother to remember why we hate each other.” “Can you at least give me a hint?” “Sure—since you obviously don’t care enough to remember.” He cleared his throat. “The Outsiders.” With that, he pushed off the wall and left me standing there with a confused frown. What did S.E. Hinton have to do with our feud?


I flipped through my dog-eared copy of The Outsiders. I’d read this book cover to cover so many times almost every page had a crease from where I’d folded it to save my place. I set the book down with a sigh. I had no idea how The Outsiders and Elliot Gonzales were related. I sent a text to Willow. Me: Did we ever read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton in middle school? Willow: Yes, and we watched the movie. Young Rob Lowe, BTW. She sent several heart face emojis. Me: You’re simping for a guy who’s old enough to be your father. Maybe even your grandfather at this point. Willow: Hello? Parks and Rec? Proof the man’s still got it. Why are you asking me about The Outsiders, anyway? Me: Elliot mentioned it earlier. Apparently, our feud is related to it. Do you have any idea why? Willow: Nope. Sorry. I was about to text her a follow-up question when a memory twisted through my mind. Eighth grade. We’d dedicated a whole semester to The Outsiders in English. Every day, my teacher would read a couple chapters aloud to the class. Sometimes, when her voice got tired, she’d call on a student to finish reading for her. During one of these marathon reading sessions, she appointed Elliot as her surrogate reader. He’d always been a terrible reader, the kind who paused often and stumbled his way through paragraphs. I sat in my seat and resisted the urge to correct his mistakes. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. “Can I read for him?” I burst out. Elliot paused mid-sentence and stared at me. “If you want a turn, you can read next, Miss Danes,” my teacher said. “Can my turn be now? No offense, but it’s hard to follow along when Elliot is reading.” A few people laughed. I frowned. I hadn’t meant for that to be funny. “It’s Elliot’s turn right now.” She pointed to him. “Please continue.” He dropped his head. “No, that’s okay. She’s right. I suck at reading. Go ahead and give someone else a turn.” “Are you sure?” He nodded and slumped in his seat, like he was trying to disappear. He didn’t look up for the rest of the period. As the memory faded, I slapped my forehead and groaned. Here I’d been thinking I was the awkward, science-obsessed freak who didn’t deserve any of Elliot’s rude comments. But no. I was no hero—I was the villain. Not only had I started the feud, but I’d probably destroyed Elliot’s confidence in the process. No wonder he’d told me I had an unlikable personality. From his perspective, I wasn’t likable at all. Well, I was going to change his mind about me and end our feud. Olivia Danes would have her redemption arc.


“I know.” This was how I greeted Elliot when I met him next to his locker the next morning. He faced me. “You know what?” “Why you hate me. I’m a huge jerk, and I’m so sorry.” “Then you remember embarrassing me in front of the class.” I nodded. “I’m the villain in your story. And I deserve to be.” He pushed his fingers through his wavy, black hair. “People like you are a reminder of everything I’m not.” “And people like you are a reminder of everything I’m not. You’re nice and friendly, and everyone likes you. I’ve been going to this school for almost four years, and I only have one friend. Every time I see you, you’re surrounded by people.” “Like right now?” I shoved his shoulder. “Well, usually. This is a rare occasion.” “Wanna know the real reason why you calling me out in front of everyone bugged me so much?” “Aside from the fact I was an annoying know-it-all? Sure.” He cleared his throat and tapped his closed fist against the locker. “I had a thing for you when we were younger.” “A thing, as in…” “A huge crush.” He dragged his hand along the side of his neck. “To the point that everybody in my family knew and always teased me about it. I tried so hard to get your attention, but nothing worked.” “Oh, I noticed. I just thought you were an idiot.” He grinned, his cheeks dimpling in the most adorable way. Maybe I could understand how so many people at Kennedy High had fallen under his spell. “Does this mean we’re okay?” I asked. “I think we’re on the road to okay. Now that I know you’re not a horrible person who doesn’t even remember traumatizing me.” I smiled. “That’s all I could ever ask for.”


“Morning, Olivia,” Elliot said as he slipped into his desk, late as ever. “Nice outfit.” I waited for his usual insult. “Wait. You’re actually complimenting me?” “Yes, I am. Yellow is your color.” I spun in my chair to flash him a smile. “If I’d known making up with you meant you’d compliment me instead of calling me Medusa, I would’ve ended our feud a long time ago.” “Really? You’d end our feud for purely selfish reasons?” “Of course.” He trailed the eraser-end of his pencil along the back of my chair. “Remember when I told you I used to have a thing for you?” “You mean yesterday? My memory isn’t that bad.” “I think that thing I had for you might be back.” I stared at him, so shocked that I didn’t know what to say. “So, if you wanted—maybe we could get some food this weekend or something. Or see a movie. I’m not picky.” “Are you asking me out?” “Nah, I just want to copy your chemistry notes so I don’t have to study.” He laughed. “Yes, Olivia, I’m asking you out.” I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “In that case, I accept.” “See? I told you I’m like a parasite. I’m great at getting under people’s skin.” “You can be my spider anytime.” My cheeks heated at how flirty that sounded, but I didn’t try to take it back. “A spider isn’t a parasite. It’s part of the Arachnida family. Gosh, Olivia, you’re so dumb.” I let out a single laugh, and Mrs. Park shot me a look. I doubted one of her public humiliations could bring down my mood, but that was a theory I had no desire to test. I grabbed my pencil and turned my attention to the whiteboard, smiling for the rest of the period. Progress.

22 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page