Mutual Benefits Ch. 1

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I would have traded anything in the world for another life, one where I wasn’t known by everyone as nothing but a nerd.

People kept telling me there were going to be all these benefits later on in life – “think of how easily you’ll get a job,” “you’ll get to be the boss of all those people that bullied you,” “you’ll be set for life.” What the hell kind of life was I set for? They say that high school shapes you and these four years make you who you become later in life. I was on a perfect course to become a walking stereotype – the quintessential Asian nerd who had more conversations with teachers than his own damn classmates.

‘Quintessential.’ I smirked to myself with my eyes glued to my math paper. There was a joke in there somewhere if I could think of it. Quinn Shen. Quinn-Shen-sential? Nah, that was just stupid. Then again, even my name was stupid. Quinn Shen. The bog-standard American first name, Chinese last. Short-cut dark hair, dark eyes, well-dressed (a clear sign of strict parents), and a grade of 99 in my Data Management class.

Whatever. It was Data Management. It sounded all fancy, but once you figured out what to do with a number that had an exclamation mark after it, you were guaranteed at least an 85 in that class, especially in Hazelwood High, a school not afraid to pump up its grades to look good to universities.

I sighed, looking over my answers one last time before standing up and handing my paper in to Mrs. Li. Unlike me, she wasn’t Chinese at all, hell, she looked whiter than most of the kids at Hazelwood. She just married a Chinese guy and thought it cute to talk about how ‘alike’ we were on the first day because we shared a last name.

Mrs. Li smiled at me and thanked me as I handed in the paper. As I walked back to my desk, all eyes in the room were on me. As usual, I was the first one to hand in my test. I almost wanted to tell these people, “Hey, I waited this time.” I could feel my heart rate slightly quicken from even the daring thought of wanting to say that. Instead, I quickly found my seat again and ran my hands over the back of my head.

A sound took me out of my own head. The door opened, and in walked a very frazzled Taylor Wise. Taylor flipping Wise. See, if I was the male equivalent of her or something, I’d be set.

Taylor didn’t need to be a nerd to succeed. She had the greatest gift God could have given anyone in high school – looks. And I mean looks. She was unquestionably not just the hottest girl in our grade, but the whole school. She wasn’t a cheerleader – she was the type of girl that looked so good, she didn’t even need to be a cheerleader. It was hard to describe her sheer appeal because it didn’t really begin in one place – she not only had amazing brown eyes, but the eyelashes to go with it. It was both so consistent that it seemed unlikely that the lashes were fake, and yet simultaneously so gorgeous, it was hard to believe it was actually real. And her-

I turned my head away. Jesus. What the hell was I on about? I was staring at her for longer than five seconds, which already felt creepy, but more importantly, there was absolutely no chance in hell she even knew my name. Even though some part of me knew the whole “out of your league” thing was childish, it felt wrong to even notice the hottest girl in school when I was… who I was. A nerd.

Taylor scrambled to her desk, her 5’3 frame quickly molding into her chair.

“Hello, Taylor,” Mrs. Li said with a little bit of that condescending teacher patience to her voice. “You should have come on time, you know. I already sent down the attendance.”

Taylor gave a little puppydog smile with her trademark innocent chipmunk face. At least the teacher was talking to her so I had an excuse to look at her. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Li,” she offered. “I got caught up in something, it won’t happen again.”

Mrs. Li placed a test on top of her desk and scanned the other desks until she arrived at mine. “Quinn,” she piped up, heading back to her desk. “Could you please go to the attendance office and let them know Taylor Wise showed up?”

“Yeah,” I replied with less confidence in my voice than I wanted. I guess I should have felt grateful that my voice didn’t crack. Wordlessly, I slunk out the door and made my way to the office, wishing I was anyone but me.


“‘Anyone but you?’ Sounds a bit dramatic, don’t you think?” Kevin asked me. Kevin was, possibly, the only other Asian in the whole school, and by all accounts, my closest friend. Of course, he was also considerably more popular than me, and of course, my biological twin. It was a blessing and a curse knowing that it wasn’t pure genetics that left me to my fate as a nerd – clearly I screwed up somewhere along the path in life where Kevin hadn’t.

I shrugged. “I just think that.” I sucked at speaking in lengthy sentences. I never really said much to anyone, even those I trusted.

Kevin shook his head. “So what, you’re asking for advice? It’s senior year, don’t you think you’re a bit late?”

“It’s not advice, it’s lamenting,” I clarified.

He chuckled. “You’re cheerful today.” He lay sprawled out on his bed as I sat at my desk, petting Nuo, the family cat. “Look, bro, when I get down, I look for opportunities. Even stuff where I’m maybe a bit uncomfortable, maybe it’s not my usual-”

“I already said I’m not looking for advice,” I interrupted.

He sat up and rubbed one of his eyes. “Right. Well, tell you what. If you’re telling me ‘it sucks I became a loser,’ and you’re not looking for any thoughts other than your own on the matter, why don’t I just agree? Yeah, Quinn, it sure sucks you became a loser. If only you could do something about it. If only someone was willing to suggest stuff for you.”

“You know how to operate your life. I’m not you,” I offered with a shrug.

“I get that. I know ‘try being more outgoing’ to a… well, to you is like telling a person with depression ‘just stop being sad.’ But, good

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Written by Bashful Scribe
Cargado March 2, 2021
Notes Quinn’s a nerdy nobody. Taylor’s the most popular girl in school. IN their final school year, when Taylor’s teacher gets Quinn to tutor her, the two end up teaching each other about a lot more than just math.
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