Becoming friends with Ophelia Gray was like stepping out of one world and into another. Everything about Ophelia was hard, from her love for hard rock music to the hard black boots she wore, to her sharp, cynical opinions about life.
“Of course she broke up with you, dummy,” she told Ari. “I mean come on – you live in the Flats. Garbage City. Dumpsville, remember? Your girlfriend was a goddamned spoiled princess from the richest part of Apple Springs, where even the apples don’t have holes. Did you really expect her to fall in love with you? Get real!” Her words sliced through Ari like a razor. He wanted to hate Ophelia, but the thing was, he knew that she was right. Isabelle’s life was like a fairy tale, and Ari was no prince. Still, his heart still ached for Isabelle. One day, she actually called him. Ari’s heart hammered so hard that he could barely hear her excited voice.
“Come on,” said Isabelle. “I know just the thing to get your mind off of that bitch.” She dragged him into the living room and began to teach Ari how to play the guitar. Ari didn’t go to the wedding. He wanted to block Isabelle and her stupid new husband out of his mind forever. He spent most of his free time hanging out with Ophelia, playing guitar and listening to rock music. Ophelia introduced him to Metallica, AC/DC, and Slayer. He introduced her to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. Then Ophelia took him out to some of her favorite hangouts – a dark, gritty underground rave, where the drinks blazed with fire, and it was not unusual to see wanna-be vampires strolling around, baring their plastic fangs. If that wasn’t weird enough, Ari visited Ophelia’s church – a tiny neopagan chapel, dedicated to the worship of Goddess Sarasvati.
Ari began to realize that he and Ophelia were very, very different. He really didn’t like metal rock, underground raves, or neopaganism. He wasn’t crazy about Ophelia’s political views, or the way she laughed, or her wild, punk-goth style of dressing. They didn’t even have sex to bind them together – the one time Ari asked Ophelia to have sex with him, she had laughed in his face. “Are you crazy? Have sex with you? You’re on the rebound, idiot! You won’t get in my pants while Isabelle Shores is still in your head.”
Ari decided that he had had enough. Enough of women. Enough of being poor, living in the Flats. Enough of not knowing who he was or where he was going in life. He had received a late offer of an athletic scholarship to attend Grand Rock University, and made up his mind to accept it. He was going to college. He was going to become what he had always dreamed of being: a football star.