It was about 10 o’clock that Dylan started feeling he’d bitten off more than he could chew with this whole waiting in line overnight thing.

He’d never done it before, and as he had rocked up outside the Apple Store just after dinner that evening, around 6pm, he’d seen all the hardcore techy geeks already camping out there, and he was given the distinct impression that he was packing rather light for the night’s wait.

But it was the summer, school was out for good – until they headed off to college in the autumn – so where was the need to stress about anything? He had his kindle packed full of books he could quiet happily bury his head in for hours and hours on end, it was wonderfully warm out, without a cloud in the sky.

What did he need sleeping bags or tents or camping stoves for?

He got quite a good position in the line, considering – just around the corner from the store entrance, and the speed the line was forming, in no time he could consider himself toward the front of the queue.

He settled down just behind a gaggle of lively, talkative girls, and ahead of a gloomy bunch of black-haired emo types.

The girls all seemed to be close friends that had overlooked the possibility of one of them waiting in line for all of their purchasing needs when the next iPad officially went on sale. Well, on the news that morning they’d been saying there would be limited supplies – the Apple guys would probably restrict it to one iPad per buyer.

It wasn’t the most comfortable place to hang out – sitting cross-legged with only a backpack holding a paltry few snacks and drinks to keep him comfortable. But hey, he’d waited in airports in worse places for longer periods before. And having the gentle scent of perfume wafting past his nose every now and again from a group of undeniably attractive girls was mildly pleasant.

Gazing back on the great long line, it seemed that those waiting there were all circling into their own little cliques to wait out the night. It made Dylan feel very much on his own.

He found some distraction in flicking surreptitious glances over to the girls if he started feeling solitary. There were five of them – two blondes, an Asian girl and two brunettes – all pretty and smiley and bouncy and perky. Behind, the emo crowd was less entertaining – sullen, moody, and difficult to tell even what gender many of them were. Those nearest to him turned their backs on him as they focused on their own little world of depressing ipod tracks, black clothing and random piercings.

Each to their own, however. Dylan had always been a little envious of those students who’d found their own sense of identity – he was just an average guy who really had nothing special to write home about.

Perhaps college would be a chance to shine.

Sure, he did regret failing to check whether any of his friends might have wanted to come along, keep him company in the line. Isaac was never going to vacate a warm bed for even one night, of course, but Clyde and Justin were always able to find a hint of adventure in even the most unfortunate of circumstances.

But, they’d probably cackle at him for being a big geek, waiting all night just to get his hands on a new iPad. Why can’t you just wait until the next day, or the next week, when the rush will be over? They’d probably say something similar, anyway. Even if he told them it was his sister’s birthday was the following day, and it was seriously important that he get her desperately-desired tablet before then, they probably wouldn’t understand.

For the first couple of hours he tried to focus on his book – a chunky Stephen King tome he hadn’t gotten around to reading yet, even though it had been out for a while.

“Hey, how’s it going?” his mom called at about eight o’clock, worried about her little man.

“Oh, fine, yeah. I got a good place in line.”

“Are you warm enough? Do you want me to bring some more clothing?”

“It’s sunny out.”

“It won’t be for much longer. It gets cold at night when there’s no clouds, Dylan.”

“I’ll be fine.”

He talked quietly into his iPhone, not wanting to be overheard, especially by the girls up ahead. He didn’t think they’d be listening in – they had their own constant stream of conversation about this album or that album or the latest relationship status of friends not currently present to protect themselves from gossip. Even so, he didn’t want them knowing the only person who knew he was here was his mother.

A little later, as the sun started to drop rapidly drop the other stores of this open-air mall, and the breeze took on a slight chill, he started to regret not asking his mother to bring something warm. He had a thin sweatshirt he could put on – but he’d been using that as a cushion the past couple of hours, after his butt went to sleep on that hard concrete sidewalk, and he was loathed to go back to bare ground.

But seriously, when he glanced over and saw how attractive those girls were, and how much more stylishly they were dressed – and clearly more popular than him at whichever school they attended, you could tell from their bounding self-confidence levels – there was no way he could have faced a visit from his mom in front of them. How humiliating that would be.

So he’d suffer in silence.

The light faded, and the light of his kindle came on. Stephen King was always good for passing time – his conversational style had never failed to comfort Constant Reader Dylan, even if it was supposed to be horror fiction.

While he did his best to respect their privacy, some of the girls’ conversation did catch his ears from time to time.

About 10 o’clock, a group of three guys turned up to say hello to the girls, and Dylan found himself trying to work out if any of them were actually dating. The girls were batting their eyelids like crazy as the guys were standing above them, hurling out gentle taunts about waiting in line all night with a bunch of tech geeks, the guys pushing out their chests like big pidgeons to flaunt their athleticism, and Dylan had no doubt the three of them had been on the school football team or whatever. Probably had sports scholarships to somewhere impressive.

Dylan had never had particular ambitions in the field of sports, but he did find himself envious of the easy way in which the guys just walked on over here and started up a conversation with these girls.

He’d been sitting here for hours, and hadn’t even introduced himself. Well, their backs were facing him. They hadn’t exactly invited it. Probably would have thought it pretty weird.

The guys weren’t going to stick around too long, however, after they discovered that nothing they could say would persuade the girls to bring their queueing ambitions to a halt and come hang out. They certainly weren’t going to join the girls and risk being mistaken for geeks – as if that could ever happen.

What made Dylan actively stop reading was the conversation after the guys withdrew.

The girls started gossiping about one of the guys having dated a girl they knew from Spanish class, and how he supposedly had the biggest cock, like, ever. Dylan was mildly shocked at how dirty the conversation went all of a sudden. He was a little surprised at how easily the girls discussed such things, that they were so apparently involved with sex, that it was so easy to talk about for them. Well, they were college girls now, pretty much.

A few of them seemed to be envious of the girl from Spanish class, but then the brunette in the turquoise top caught Dylan’s attention when she dismissed all of the guys out of hand.

“You’re insane!” her friends were of the same opinion about her.

“Are you kidding? They’re so much hard work!” she laughed. “Give me a vibrator and a pack of double-A batteries any day.”

The whole group had a good squealing laugh about that.

“Guys are so useless,” the brunette said. Dylan had already figured out from earlier conversation that she was called Noelle. There was something about her that made his heart tighten a little when he laid eyes on her, his breath catch, his pulse quicken a little.

“But they’re so nice-looking,” countered one of her friends – a blonde named Chrissy.

“Sure, but they just lie there and look nice and expect you to get all hot and sweaty until they’re ready to fuck – and then they’re in and out so quick. Where’s the reward?”

The other of her blonde friends, Sasha, added: “Yeah, and when they’re done, they really aren’t interested in anything. Except maybe sleep or a cigarette.”

“You just need to learn to get yourself going while you’re getting all hot and sweaty with them,” the Asian girl, Ellie, said.

“I guess so,” Noelle flashed her eyes. “But that kind of gets me back to the point that you’re better off with a Pocket Rocket.”

Dylan found himself gasping, blushing furiously, actually shocked at what these girls were talking about – especially Noelle. He couldn’t help but find himself heating up inside at their startling frankness, particularly when the pretty brunette in the turquoise top was talking about her own desires and experiences.

It did make him feel like a bit of a loser that he’d never really done anything with a girl before. Strange – he’d never been bothered by that before, figuring he was young, there was plenty of time at college to go looking for that kind of thing.

He found himself envious of whichever boys had been lucky enough to be with Noelle – and actually baffled that they wouldn’t want to be more careful about making sure she was satisfied in bed. God, if it was Dylan, he’d want to spend hours exploring her, finding out how to make her moan and shake and come like crazy. Putting his illicit after-dark reading into practice.

“Josie Bannister said she had an orgasm when she slept with her piano teacher,” Ellie said.

“Yeah, but he’s like 42. I mean, ewww.”

“35, she said.”

“Still. I’ve seen him – he looks like he’s 50.”

“So you’re gonna wait until you’re 35 to get an orgasm?” Sasha nudged Noelle with an elbow.

“Did you not hear me when I said I’m quite happy with my little Rocket?” Noelle replied.

Oh God, the thought of Noelle lying back in some bed, touching herself with some little piece of vibrating magic – Dylan had to change his position a little to give himself some room inside his pants.

He shook his head, knowing he was only setting himself up for disappointment by listening into their conversation. He fixed his eyes back on the continuing narrative of Stephen King, and the tale of a small town in Maine that is cut off from the outside world by a strange invisible forcefield.

But then Noelle’s words just cut through the air, “They’re all just lazy – they don’t care. They know as soon as they’re inside you, that’s it, they’ve scored another notch on their bedpost, and they don’t need to worry about anything else.”

Dylan ducked down, trying to stop himself from eavesdropping. Yet he was beginning to feel like sticking up for his gender – or at least, the members of his gender that attractive girls like these would never ever think to date.

“So you’re not going to ask Bobby Marrs out, then? You know he’s after you.” Another voice – Marie, one of the brunettes.

Noelle said: “I guess we can hang out before college. He’s probably just as pathetic as the rest of them.”

“He can bench 400 pounds apparently. You don’t want a piece of that?”

Noelle sighed. “I don’t really have any choice, huh?”

“If you don’t, people will say you’re frigid…” Ellie with a sing-song warning.

“I guess. He’s going to suck just like the rest of them.”

Dylan was again surprised. That someone as attractive as Noelle should have no other option than to go for the gym rat who was pursuing her, because otherwise her peers would think her some kind of loser.

He said: “Why don’t you just tell him how to make you feel good?”

Silence. Dylan felt his insides go into total nuclear meltdown. His inner temperature must have soared into the millions of degrees, his stomach was bubbling as the flesh boiled, his kidneys were merging with his liver and his heart was having seizures. Any moment the President was going to have to call FEMA, evacuate the area, declare a state of emergency.

Had he really just said that out loud?

Had he really said it loud enough for them to hear?

Oh. My. God.


He felt five pairs of female eyes slowly descend on his slight, cowering form. The air was thick with the tension of unrestrained anger and venom. How dare this stranger listen in on their conversation? How dare this loser geek infringe on their own private gathering! What a complete freak for butting in!

He could imagine all the insults flying his way, the squeals of horror, the cutting criticism.

But there was only silence.

Then Noelle said: “Uh… I don’t think so. Guys do not want to hear a girl telling them what to do. Especially when it comes to that.”

It was as though being right was far more important to Noelle than pointing out what a complete loser Dylan was for eavesdropping and butting in.

Dylan again found his mouth betraying him. “You ever try it?” he asked.

Having been sitting side-on to him, the pretty brunette turned her head to him now, her gaze fixing right on him. He felt a burst of searing energy jolt through his heart as her stunning blue eyes latched on his face, and she was actually looking at him.

“I don’t need to try it to know they can’t handle it,” she said.

“And you can’t force them to deal with it? To do what you want?”

“Uh, no. I do want to have a social life.”

“What’s the point in sleeping with them if they don’t satisfy you?”

He could not believe he was talking to such a gorgeous girl about sleeping with someone.

“Because let’s face it, we’re not going to get better elsewhere,” she said.

Her friends were silent, not quite knowing what was going on. Who was this stranger? Why was he arguing with Noelle? Was he nuts? Was he drunk? Was he abusing his prescription?

“Sure you are,” Dylan said, then felt his mouth really running out of control again as the words just seemed to fall out: “Someone as attractive as you could get better anywhere.”

He saw Noelle’s cheeks flush slightly, and suddenly felt bad, that he’d embarrassed her in front of her friends. He didn’t mean to do that, not at all.

But she seemed to brush past it, re-asserting herself to regain the high ground, insisting: “If a girl tells a guy what to do, it’s like demeaning his masculinity.”

“And that’s based on what evidence? Gossip Girl?”

Noelle rolled her eyes, and Dylan heard one of her friends chuckle. She said: “You have no idea.”

He felt his insides cooling down a little, but they were still fluttering full of butterflies. Jeez, he was being bold. This was actually fun. Talking back to a member of the opposite sex like this – who would have thought?

Dylan got the feeling he’d never see these girls again – so what the hell if he made a fool out of himself in front of them?

He said: “Because I’m a guy, I have no idea what guys think?”

“That’s not what I said,” she huffed.

“That’s what it sounded like.”

She rolled her eyes. “Now you’re just pissed because you know you’re completely replaceable in the bedroom by a piece of vibrating plastic you can get for $9.99 on Amazon.”

“Oh, I can do more than just vibrate,” he said, surprising himself again with his own boldness.

He heard Noelle quietly gasp at that, and look away mild outrage at one of her friends. It made him feel all tingly inside to provoke her – had he really meant to sound quite that dirty and suggestive?

Noelle tried to conceal her reaction by taking the argument back a point or two. She said: “Guys feel all small and pathetic if girls tell them what to do. They can’t handle girls who know what they want.”

“You’re obviously not hanging out with the right guys,” Dylan said.

She shook her head, insisting she had it right. She said: “We shouldn’t even have to tell guys how to do it. They should know. Girls spend all their time reading magazines and stuff about how to please their man – and guys just look at the pictures and jack off.”

“That’s not true – plenty of guys read up on how to do it.”

“I’ve never met any.”

“You have now.”

Noelle sniffed, and then turned away from him, back to her circle of friends, ignoring him again. Somehow, he could tell he’d irritated her, that he’d infuriated her, that she hated not having the last word. Dylan felt a little pang of regret that he hadn’t done better at keeping her onside. It had made him feel all warm and creamy inside when he was talking with her.

But now her friends were talking about going to get food, and Noelle seemed just as eager to get something to eat.

Dylan felt his stomach rumble – the thought of the packet of chips and can of diet Coke in his backpack, along with a measly Hershey bar, did not particularly appeal to him. The girls looked as though they were preparing to leave the line entirely to go hit the McDonalds around the corner. Surely they wouldn’t risk losing their spot in the line?

Somebody piped up – he didn’t hear who – about the very issue he was currently pondering, and there was a discussion about one of them needing to stay behind to protect their precious place in the queue.

Dylan felt his chest warm up a degree or two as Noelle volunteered for the job, so long as they brought her back a Chicken McNugget meal. For however long those girls spent getting their fast food, Dylan would be sitting alone with Noelle. Why had it been her that volunteered to stay behind?

Nerves flickered in his belly, but he tried to settle them by telling himself he’d got it wrong – there was no way Noelle had volunteered to wait in line for everyone else.

Yet the other girls all stood and gathered their things and at their leisure departed, leaving the feisty brunette there sitting no more than five feet away from him, all cute and curvy.

He tried not to look, tried to focus on his Kindle. She’d think he was some kind of pervert if he stared now that her friends weren’t around to shield his gaze from her. Oh, but she was so sweet on the eye, with those big blue eyes, flowing figure and long legs revealed by her summery skirt.

“So who are you, anyway?”

He almost missed it – almost dismissed it as his imagination. She was looking at him. She’d said something to him. She’d asked him who he was.

“I’ve never seen you around school,” she added, and Dylan felt his heart do a little somersault.

“Dylan Winfield. I go to St Joseph’s,” he said. “You guys are from Marchmont, right?”

She nodded. “But you live around here?”

“My Mom does. She split from my Dad maybe six, seven years ago?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, and sounded genuine.

He shrugged. “Best thing that could have happened to them – now they’re actually kind of friends again.”

“But you live with your Dad most of the time?”

“They didn’t want me to change schools.”

She nodded. “Sometimes I wonder if my parents will split up some day – they seem to argue all the time.”

There was a slight pause, Dylan didn’t know what to say about Noelle’s parental strife. Oh, but he didn’t want the pause becoming awkward. He was talking to an attractive girl one-on-one! Okay, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal for someone of his age, but he had to concede that he was shy, that was his nature. Now he was worried she was going to think he was dull, he’d run out of things to say.

He opened his mouth and just said the first thing that came to his mind: “Hey, look, I’m sorry I interrupted your conversation with your friends.”

“Oh, no, that’s okay,” Noelle said, and actually smiled. “Oh, I’m Noelle, by the way. Noelle Shaw.”

And then he nearly jumped out of his skin as she suddenly picked herself up and moved closer to him, so she was sitting right next to him, leaning up against the wall of the store as he was.