“We are,” Samson replied. “If you let it leak out, the whole point would get muddled. You know how these things work. Everyone would misunderstand what we’re trying to do. They’d have a zillion questions and they’d make up their own answers. They’d decide it was a bad idea before they even had the facts, and that would negate all our work.”
“Right. Right. Okay. All we’ve got to do is make it to eighth,” Drew said with a nod.
“Exactly. With any serendipity, by tonight, this school will finally be unified,” Samson agreed.
Drew took a deep breath in an attempt to calm his frayed nerves. “You want to go up there?” he asked, nodding toward the food line. “I’m parched.”
“Yeah, man.” Samson slapped him on the back as they stood and they walked together along the far wall toward the line. Drew felt as if every single pair of eyes was on him and Samson, looking at them like they were a couple of traitors. All he wanted to do was tell them off, but he wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of seeing him riled. Besides, if he got into a fight today it would jeopardize everything. The school board was counting on him to set an example, and he was not going to let them down. He stared obstinately ahead and got in line.
“I hope they have pizza today,” Drew said, making a lame attempt at small talk.
“Dude, the pizza here rocks,” Samson replied with forced jollity.
A couple of girls looked at them like they were on something, and Drew laughed, but before he could even reply, one of the many truculent people in line finally snapped.
“Hey! I was next!” a Corinth girl shouted loudly.
The Washingtonville guy who had cut in line said something that Drew couldn’t hear, but from the gasps of the crowd, it was rather scurrilous.
“What did you just say to her?” Tank Langford asked, stepping out of line.
“Oh, God. Here we go,” Drew said.
“We better neutralize this fast,” Samson added.
They ran over and Samson grabbed Tank’s arm, pulling him back. Austin Harrow, the Washingtonville guy who had started it, was all red in the face and primed for a fight, but was also about one-tenth Tank’s size. Drew got right in his face and pushed him back.
“Walk away, Harrow,” he said through his teeth. “It’s not worth getting pulverized over.”
Harrow looked Drew up and down, noting his non-Washingtonville wardrobe, and sneered. “Some captain you are,” he spat. But he, at least, took Drew’s advice and strode off.
He had barely made it halfway across the room when another fight broke out among the freshmen. Samson turned away from Tank, whom he was still talking into submission, and glanced at Drew.
“Still think we can make it to eighth?” Drew asked in frustration, jogging to break up yet another fight.
“I don’t know, man, but if they rescind the deal and the football team goes under, maybe you and me should go partners in a bodyguard business,” Samson joked.
And Drew actually managed a laugh as they jumped into the fracas.