Disclaimer: Futurama is not mine, though I desperately wish it were.
Leela prepared herself. She couldn’t stop shaking. Even
though she’d had a week to prepare herself, she couldn’t
get her head wrapped around the idea that she was going on her first
date with Tim. Going through every outfit imaginable each night with
Teresa as judge seemed to have become a kind of ritual. Try one on,
criticize, toss it aside, start again. At the moment, Leela had
tried a quarter-sleeve belly shirt with caprees and sneakers. Leela
felt strange wearing sneakers. It had been a long time since she’d
made the switch to boots. Examining herself in the mirror, she felt
that she was showing too much skin to be going to dinner at an
Italian restaurant. Teresa seemed to think so, too.
“Too much skin,” she said in a dull tone. She’d
apparently gotten bored in the past hour.
Leela stripped off the clothes and rooted around for something else.
Was it her, or did she feel a bit interested in showing skin? Was
she really that trampy? Of course, she’d considered
getting a rise out of him that way before. Was this normal? Did
girls often spontaneously decide not to wear a bra just to see if
their boyfriends would act differently, as she had? Leela didn’t
see him glance at her once the other day, but she could have sworn he
had been acting a bit more uppity around her.
Leela pulled on a denim skirt, T-shirt and a hoodie sweatshirt. She
presented herself to Teresa.
“It’s okay,” she said. “If you’re
going to the drive-in.”
Leela sighed and started to change again.
“What do you recommend?” she aksed, more out of desire to
talk than anything.
“I already told you. This is an Italian restaurant. You’ve
got to be classier.”
“But how far can I go without being too classy?” Leela
pleaded. “I don’t even know what classy is
supposed to look like.”
Teresa hung her head down over the end of the bed and sighed. “I
keep telling you to let me help you.”
“And I keep telling you not to. If I’m going to get used
to this, I have to do things on my own.”
“You guys have liked each other for months. You shouldn’t
take this so seriously.”
“How can I not take this seriously?” Leela said as she
searched through the countless hangers. “Not only am I dating,
I’m dating Tim! I can’t make a fool of myself.”
“Leela, if Tim is willing to date someone, despite the fact
that almost everyone stares and makes fun of her, I think he can
handle a little weird attire.”
Leela giggled. “Yeah, he is amazing isn’t he?”
“You really are lucky.”
Leela smiled brightly as she pulled on a navy dress and pulled her
hair back into its usual pony tail.
“You think I should try something new with my hair?”
Leela aksed as she looked into the mirror.
“I don’t think so. Tim’s a great guy and all, but
he’s still human. People can’t handle too much change at
once. Better to just stick with the new clothes for now.”
“That was one hell of a trip to the mall, wasn’t it?”
“My wallet wants to kill you.”
Leela presented herself to Teresa yet again, hoping to get a good
response. Teresa took a moment to consider.
“I’d say we have a winner.” She said brightly.
Leela promptly removed the dress and stepped into the shower. She
was extremely careful about how thoroughly she cleaned herself these
days. It was a peculiar habit to think about, but she just took it
right in stride. It was part of being a girl. Afterwards, she put a
little extra something in her hair to give a bit of accent to her
bangs. It twisted a bit more next to her ears, which went well with
the small golden earrings Teresa had loaned her.
Leela waited for Tim by the security booth on the other side of
campus, near the ramshackle and deserted teachers’ quarters
from back in the college days. Leela shivered slightly in the white
cardigan she had taken to keep out the January cold. It wasn’t
as effective as her winter coat, but it looked a lot better. Leela
kept reminding herself what Teresa had said: “Beauty is pain.”
Tim arrived a minute after she had. He looked extremely handsome in
a turtleneck sweater and suit jacket. It was the George Harrison
look, a style that seemed to have survived many centuries of
invasions and destruction just for her to see it on him. However,
one look told Leela that Tim had gotten the suit jacket from the
costume room in the auditorium. While Leela was unbearably nervous
and excited, Tim looked utterly calm, as if he’d done this a
million times before.
They stood face to face for a moment, taking each other in.
“You look great.” Tim said. “You weren’t
waiting long, were you?”
“No, of course not,” Leela said, her stomach fluttering
at the compliment. “I only just got here.”
“Well, why don’t we get going, then?” Tim said,
checking his watch.
“Better than standing out in the cold.”
The two walked in silence toward the restaurant. Leela didn’t
know if she should speak to him or not. Tim was smiling, but he
seemed to be lost in thought. Wasn’t he supposed to be
focusing on her? It was their date, after all. Or what if he was
feeling uncertain, like her? Was he wondering if he should talk or
Before Leela could find an answer to any of her questions, they
arrived at the restaurant, two streets away from school. They had to
keep their dates close by in the evening, or else they’d be
locked out of the dorms.
The couple placed their orders and sipped their drinks.
“Hey, I just remembered,” Tim said. “What were we
assigned in English today?”
“I think we had to read Chapter 13 of A World without
Collisions.” Leela said. Was this really the best
conversation he could make tonight? Maybe he was just as nervous as
she was. For his benefit, she decided to go with it.
“It’s quite an interesting book, in my opinion,”
she said. “The characters’ personalities seem so deep.
And the way the plot keeps twisting around!”
Tim laughed. “You sounded just like this in class today.
You’re analyzing these books like you’re dissecting
something in biology class.”
“Don’t remind me,” Leela said, trying to push
images of fetal pigs and pregnant cats out of her mind.
“Seriously though,” Tim persisted. “If you tried,
you could actually write a book or a screenplay.”
It was Leela’s turn to laugh. “It would probably just
end up in the toilet.”
“Only if you think it will.” Tim said. “If you
doubt yourself, you’re going to get what you expect.”
Leela found these words interesting, but didn’t dwell on them
too long, because the food finally arrived. They immediately dug in.
“You actually said that in one of Phnog’s classes, I
think.” Leela said, setting her fork down. “I didn’t
want to listen to you back then, but you just reminded me of that
day. You were cute then.”
Tim actually blushed. “Yeah, I was cute when I was barking out
orders and sweating from working out.”
“You know, the next Black Belt test is coming up soon.”
“Is it that time of year already?”
“It sure is. And this time, I’m finally going to take
“How did you get Phnog to let you in?”
“I reminded him that you still had that tape from when you
Tim laughed. “Looks like you did my fighting for me.”
“That’s right. But I still have to pay the test fee. He
doesn’t care if he is shut down, he wants that money.”
“But how are you gonna come up with $300?”
“I’m still working on it.”
There was a bit of a silence between the two.
“By the way,” Leela said. “Ivan is taking classes
at Phnog’s now. I saw him come inside while I was leaving the
Tim frowned. “That explains why I saw him outside when I left
that place for good.”
“Have you got a problem with him?” Leela aksed.
“No, he just creeps me out. You gotta wonder what he’s
got in mind, trying to learn kung-fu.” Tim said, thinking back
to what Ivan had said to him on X-mas.
“Maybe I could get a job?” Leela said.
“What?” Tim aksed.
“To pay for the test. I could get a job.”
“That could work. You’ve got a month before the test, so
even with minimum wage you could easily pay the fee in half that
“But where should I work?”
“How about an animal shelter?”
“The one in Central Park?”
“Yeah. I heard they’ve got a few openings. You could
feed the animals and stuff.”
The rest of dinner was spent discussing the possibilities available
to Leela and picking at food. Their waiter, whose name was Smitty,
kept coming by to check up on them every few minutes, which got
annoying after a while. The food wasn’t that great, but Leela
had had a great time. Still, she thought as the two of them walked
home hand-in-hand, something had been bothering her the whole way
through. But what?
Classes had started again, and Leela was being extra careful to be on
time for every single one of them. Her adventure with Skinner had
taught her something, after all. It was a bit difficult, however, to
maneuver between hundreds of other students on a large campus with
only four minutes to switch buildings and climb stairs. Still, she
was determined to manage.
The day after her date, in biology class, Leela was taking notes on
the process of fast-fossilization, when she felt a nudge in the small
of her back. She turned around to face Sean, who was holding a
newspaper clipping up for her. She quickly took it from him and put
it down on her notebook. Being careful not to look too conspicuous,
she glanced down at the ad: Dr. Zoidberg’s Free Breast
Leela whipped her head around and cast a shocked and scathing look at
Sean. Sean made a flipping motion with his fingers. Leela turned
the clipping over. It said: Help Wanted at Central Park Zoo.
Leela held her hand behind her back, palm-up. Sean slap-fived her,
and the two pounded fists. Leela decided to check the place out
Leela popped out of the tube at the edge of Central Park. As Teresa
popped out behind her, Leela looked around and realized that they
were nearby where she and Tim had been before they’d gone to
the mall together. She giggled at the thought of that happy memory.
“What’s so funny?” Teresa aksed as she brushed off
her skirt. Leela had brought her along for support, and just for
“You remember that so-called date I had with Tim?”
“The one to the mall? How could I forget?”
“We were right around here before we went.”
“What were you doing out here?”
Leela tensed. She’d almost given away what they’d done
to get the equipment. “Uh, kung-fu.”
She quickly started walking into the park. It was against city
regulations to put tubes in or over the park. Something about
disturbing people’s views. That meant that she and Teresa were
in for a bit of a long walk. The two walked for ages, passing sports
arenas and Blurnsball fields and hot-dog carts. The ground was
covered in snow, and the walkways were barely ploughed. There were
hardly any people walking around.
Leela was lost in thought about her trip to the mall with Tim when
Teresa said something.
“What?” Leela aksed.
“Have you started studying for midterms, yet?” she aksed.
“Not intensely.” Leela said.
“You’d better get started. I hear they’re doing
something to make the tests harder.”
“Like what?” Leela aksed nervously.
“I don’t know. Maybe there’ll be more questions.
It’s because of that new principal guy. He read about
something called No Child Left Behind, and immediately boosted
the test standards.”
“What kind of dumbass would come up with something like that?”
“We can only imagine,” Teresa said as they approached the
The Central Park Zoo had been rebuilt several times in the past
thousand years. It was now a closed-in building, with a thin roof
that let in light but not cold. There were several enclosures
containing all sorts of animals.
One hour later, Leela walked out of the zoo massaging her wrist.
“I had no idea getting a job meant signing so many papers!”
she cried as the two walked back toward the tubes.
“Yeah, but it was well worth it.” Teresa commented. “Now
you can pay for that kung-fu test.”
Leela smiled. She couldn’t wait to impress Tim with that black
belt. “I’m still just doing small stuff.”
“Sorry, I didn’t really catch many of the details. Your
boss looks like a pretty boring guy.”
“When I’m not working the register in the gift shop, I’ll
be feeding the less harmful animals and cleaning up after them.”
Teresa looked disgusted. “Don’t they have robots to do
that kind of stuff?”
Leela shook her head. “Too expensive.”
“Well, at least they pay you for doing it.”
“That’s one good side of the job.”
Teresa smiled. “Another is that cute guy you’ll be
working with.” She said. “What did he say his name was?”
Leela rolled her eye. “Bolt Rollands,” she said. “And
don’t talk about him that way, Teresa. I’ve only got an
eye for Tim.”
“Yeah, but tell me he didn’t look at you at least once.”
“Are you saying he was checking me out?”
“Of course. Didn’t you see the look in his eyes when we
walked up to the desk?”
Leela glanced nervously at the ground as Teresa stepped into the tube
to go back to school. As she zipped through the tube, she felt
strangely elated about what Teresa had said. But this was soon
followed by guilt. How could she be happy that she was receiving
looks from a guy who wasn’t her boyfriend? But then again, it
was just a look, right? That just meant that Bolt was
attracted to her. It was bound to boost her confidence.
Leela figured that as long as she had feelings for Tim, it didn’t
matter if Bolt wanted to feel her up. Leela reentered the school
grounds feeling better, knowing that Tim was the only one for her.
Meanwhile, Tim sat at the bar of the Metal Keg, feeling extremely
nervous. Even the Slurm he was downing couldn’t calm the
butterflies in his stomach. Actually, the wild amounts of carbon
dioxide gas in the liquid were probably intensifying them. He placed
the can down on its coaster and turned to survey the room. There
were a few people doing homework, although they seemed distracted by
the music emitting from the jukebox. A couple was playing pool.
There was a relaxed air about the mostly-empty room, but Tim took no
notice of it. He couldn’t stop thinking about what he had in
mind. He turned to the student body’s number one counselor for
support: the bartender. Sean, sensing Tim’s desire to talk,
stopped wiping out a glass and leaned in to listen.
“I don’t get it, Sean.” Tim said as he ran a hand
through his brown hair. “I’ve liked Leela for ages. Why
am I so nervous?”
Sean, who wasn’t much of a counselor, but a really good people
person, knew how to sound extremely wise when he gave advice, no
matter how stupid it was. For the most part, however, he made pretty
“Well, she is your girlfriend, Tim. It’s perfectly
normal to feel nervous around someone you like.”
“But this isn’t just someone. It’s Leela. She’s
not like most girls, and not just cause of the eye thing. How is she
going to take this?”
Tim felt a bulge in his jacket pocket anxiously.
Sean smiled at Tim. “Tim, if there’s one thing I know
about girls, it’s that they like getting attention. If you
give that to her, she will love you all the more.”
“But you know how reluctant she was to agree to go out with me.
What if she rejects my gift for the same reasons?”
“You’ve got her converted, man. If you can win her
heart, I don’t think giving her that thing is gonna do any
Sean turned to take another person’s order. Tim smiled and
downed the last of the Slurm. As he pulled out his wallet and
searched for a five, he saw Ivan standing at the other end of the
room, staring at him. Tim froze for a moment. The room seemed to
become slightly colder. Eventually, the blonde boy turned and left.
Tim let out his breath and placed the bill down on the counter and
left via the back exit.
As he stood in the hallway that led to the boiler room, Tim took a
deep, calming breath. He couldn’t let thoughts of Ivan stress
him out right now. He pulled the bulge out of his pocket. He’d
wrapped the small box in brown paper, but knew that its contents were
still intact. He took several more deep breaths, working up the
nerve for what he was about to do. Ivan’s face swam into his
mind. Tim shook his head violently. No matter how hard he tried,
that grinning face kept invading his mind like a plague of locusts.
With one final breath, Tim reassured himself that everything would be
okay, and went back through the Metal Keg.
As he passed the bar, Sean called out: “Tim, what gives? No
Tim smiled and turned around. “Here’s a tip: study hard
for those midterms.”
The two of them laughed, and Tim left the Keg.
He checked his watch. Leela said she’d be back by four. He
decided to take a shortcut to the dorms. He took a seldom-used exit
from the concrete courtyard, through a stone archway. As he walked
through, a man in a black mask and huge boots jumped out at him
brandishing a knife!
Tim jumped into a fighting stance, but for some reason couldn’t
stop himself from trembling.
The man spoke. “You’re gonna pay for what you did to
Joshua Lazarus, boy!” he said in a base gravelly tone. “No
one in my family goes to prison without justice being done!”
Tim dropped his fists and clutched his head in fear. Something
terrible was happening inside his mind. The man took a step closer
to him. Tim crouched on the ground, his eyes bulging wide as shock
overtook him. Images flashed through his mind. Dark alleyways,
people falling to the ground, blood and blood and blood. Guns fired
and sirens wailed. Faces swam back and forth, and two people were
running into a car. CRASH!!
Tim fell to his knees and screamed. The man swung his knife around.
Tim blocked him and beat the tar out of him. The man sat groaning on
the ground. Nothing serious had been done to him. Tim stared at him
in terror as he remembered the things he saw. He ran for it. The
man stood up and limped away.
Leela didn’t see Tim at all for the rest of the day, nor did he
turn up at dinner that night. She didn’t see him again until
the following day in history class. When Leela entered the classroom
with two minutes to spare, she sat next to him and smiled over at
him. Something didn’t seem right. Tim was staring straight
ahead, his expression blank and his eyes unmoving. He seemed as if
he’d been hypnotized. He hadn’t even taken notice of her
“Tim? You okay?” Leela aksed. Tim didn’t respond.
Tim snapped out of his reverie. He looked over at Leela and forced a
smile. “Oh, hey Leela,” he said in a hollow tone.
Leela was slightly put off by Tim’s behavior, but chose to
ignore it. “Nothing much.” She said. “I’m a
bit nervous about the midterms, but that’s about it.” She
got right to the point. “By the way, what was it you wanted to
talk about yesterday? I called your room, but you didn’t
Tim hung his head and sighed. “Sorry. I guess I just spaced
“Why? Did something important happen?”
Tim paused. “No, not really.”
Leela stopped talking when the teacher came in. She tried talking to
Tim again after class, but he just hurried off to his next class
without a word. Leela couldn’t understand what was wrong with
Later, at lunch, Tim looked and acted a lot better. He was smiling,
and talked a bit more cheerfully.
“Sorry I was such an ass, today,” he said over his tray
of spaghetti. “I just felt a bit stressful from the impending
“It’s no big,” Leela said.
As Tim looked downcast at his food, Leela could tell that there was
still something wrong.
Things were pretty mundane over the next few weeks. Leela went to
classes with Teresa, Tim and Sean. The only time they were all
together was when they had lunch together, or when they spent the
evening in the Metal Keg. At these times, it was more obvious than
ever to Leela that something was wrong with Tim. He had become
strangely distant with his friends, and always seemed to be thinking
about something troubling. He hardly ever smiled, and barely spoke.
It especially troubled Leela, who, being his girlfriend, enjoyed
talking to him. What was bothering him? And why couldn’t he
tell her about it?
On top of all that, Leela also had also taken to studying hard every
night for the impending midterms. If the rumors about No Child
Left Behind were true, the tests would be more brutal than she
was used to. So, for one hour each night at least, Leela abandoned
writing in her diary and started hitting the books. It was difficult
work, and she sometimes spent hours with just one subject.
On a Thursday in late January, Leela set off for kung-fu class. She
was heading down the street toward the studio when she felt eyes on
the back of her head. She turned around and saw Ivan walking just a
few paces behind her. A strange feeling of uneasiness came over her.
What was he doing here? They were eight ranks apart, so they didn’t
have the same class.
“What are you doing here, Ivan?” she aksed politely.
Although she wouldn’t admit it, something about the blonde boy
didn’t seem right.
Ivan stared at her dreamily. “Oh, nothing.” He said. “I
just thought I’d head out early. My class is the one after
“Didn’t want to sit around the dorms waiting to leave?”
Leela was puzzled. “Well, why not study? We’ve got
midterms coming up, and they’re supposed to be terrible from
what I’ve heard.”
Ivan shook his head. “I have nothing to worry about. I have
straight A’s in all my classes. I hardly spend any time at all
The two of them started walking on together, Leela failing to hide
her surprise. Was this kid some kind of genius? Walking up the
stairs to the studio, Leela’s nerves mounted. Something was
wrong with Ivan, she could feel it.
Phnog had taken complete control over Leela’s class, during
which he took several opportunities to point out how much better he
was at teaching than Tim. He had also taken measures to make the
class tougher on Leela, such as increasing the workout they did.
Leela was not bothered by this today, however. Her thoughts were on
Ivan. Though she refused to look at him, even in the mirror, she
knew that he wasn’t taking his eyes off her for even a second.
The thought almost filled her with fear.
Leela practically ran out of class, but not without promising Phnog
that she would indeed be paying the test fee. Once outside, she
caught her breath, one hand clutching her chest. She’d felt
slightly suffocated around Ivan. Her apprehension around him had
caused her to breathe slower and with slight difficulty. She’d
often felt these same symptoms around Tim, but this was different.
There was something dangerous about Ivan. Leela ran back to the
tubes, and for the first time, she felt like they couldn’t get
her back to school fast enough.
Friday rolled around, and Leela went off to her job at the Zoo.
She’d gotten about four hours of sleep from all that studying,
and wasn’t looking forward to working until eleven. She
clocked in with her thumbprint like they’d shown her last week,
and immediately stepped behind the counter in the gift shop. Bolt
was waiting for her, and immediately began showing her how to work
the register. Leela was slow to learn. She could barely keep her
eye open, she was so tired.
“So once you know that, all you gotta do is smile at the
customer and you’ll do just fine.”
Bolt didn’t leave. Leela looked at him puzzlingly.
“Don’t worry. Boss told me to stick around for awhile to
keep an –.” He stopped in mid-sentence.
Leela rolled her eye. “It’s okay,” she said. “You
can say it.”
“To watch out for you.”
Leela smiled at the boy. It was nice of him to be so tactful. The
phrase “keep an eye out” really annoyed her, though she
had tolerated hearing it throughout her life. Bolt was one of the
first people to refrain from saying it, apart from Tim.
Now that Leela was closer to Bolt, she sized him up. He was about
three inches taller than Tim, with a deeper voice and much more
muscle mass in all the right places. That probably wouldn’t
have helped him in a fight against Tim, though, him being a black
belt and all.
Leela spent the rest of the evening greeting and serving customers at
the gift shop, sometimes shifting around with other employees to feed
or clean up after the animals. Bolt followed her around, showing her
the ropes and giving her pointers where she needed improvement.
Leela was beginning to have fun on the job with Bolt to talk to. She
soon forgot her tiredness altogether.
At eleven, she punched out and left the zoo. Patrons were still
going in, even at this hour. She was wondering why people would want
to come here at this time of night, with or without kids, when Bolt
came running up behind her.
“What’s up, Bolt?” Leela aksed.
“Just wanted to congratulate you on a job well done, Leela.”
The boy said. “Not many pick up so quickly.”
“Well, I can’t take all the credit, what with my guardian
angel following me everywhere I go.” Leela laughed.
“Yeah. I was also wondering, how’d you like to catch a
Leela was surprised that he’d said it with such ease.
“Sorry Bolt, but…I have a boyfriend, so…”
“I see.” Bolt’s smile didn’t waver. “It’s
okay. I understand. See you tomorrow, then.”
With a small wave he turned around and headed back. Leela hurried
off in the opposite direction. It felt odd the way he’d aksed
her out, so soon after she’d finally hooked up with Tim.
Though she was hardly aware of it, Leela had felt a slight hesitancy
in turning Bolt down. It wasn’t that she wasn’t
unfaithful to Tim, but Tim’s recent change in behavior had made
Leela wonder if they were really meant for each other. Something was
wrong with Tim, and he wouldn’t tell her. She needed to find
out if he could really trust her.
She stepped into the tube and took off. Inside the park, a shiny
blonde head emerged from the brush, gazing at the spot she’d
just been with steely grey eyes.
“Guardian angel, indeed.” Ivan said.
Leela went to work the next day with anticipation. She looked
forward to working again, but after what had happened between her and
Bolt the previous night would undoubtedly make things awkward between
them. Zooming through the tubes, Leela forced herself to show some
grit, and try to act civil. Phnog and Tim had spent hours telling
her class about self-control. If there was any time to put their
lessons into play, this was it.
Upon seeing Bolt in the back room behind the register, Leela was
surprised to see that he was acting as if nothing had happened at
all. For the first few hours, everything seemed to go okay. Leela
went about her business, and Bolt kept watch over her. Eventually,
during a particularly dreary hour of business in which few customers
were present, Leela got bored and suddenly became aware of how
unbearably tired she was. The previous night, instead of going to
bed, she’d started studying again, and hadn’t fallen
asleep at her desk until three.
Leela began to feel faint. She swayed on the spot, her eye
half-closed. Bolt looked up from the book he was reading.
“Leela?” he aksed.
Leela gave a sigh as she fell unconscious to the floor. Bolt dropped
his book and managed to catch Leela just in time, her body leaning
into his. For a moment he froze, and then he wrapped his arms around
Outside, Teresa gaped through the window in shock. She had merely
come to see how Leela was doing on the job and wish her luck, and
quite possibly to get a rise out of that Bolt, and here she found
them in a tight embrace! A few cameras flashed by one of the
animal enclosures, causing Teresa’s vision to be whited out for
a minute. When at last she could see properly, Leela and Bolt had
parted, Leela rubbing her head. Teresa ran away to sit on a nearby
Inside, Leela had come around inside Bolt’s arms, and had to
give a slight push against his chest to free herself. She couldn’t
really tell, but she could have sworn he’d been hugging her.
She quickly assured Bolt that she was okay, and hastily returned to
Outside, Teresa sat on a bench, biting her knuckle fretfully. What
should she do? She’d just seen Leela in the arms of another
guy; and so soon after she’d hooked up with Tim! How long had
it been since New Year’s Eve? Nearly a month! Was Leela that
fickle? How could she do that to Tim? Especially after all they’d
been through together? And now she’d been pulled into it, all
because she’d looked through a window. What should she do?
“Tell Tim.” Said a voice nearby.
Teresa jumped. There stood Ivan. Teresa hadn’t seen much of
him since the thing with Skinner, so she was surprised to see him
here, talking to her about what she’d just seen.
“Did you--?” she aksed, pointing.
“Yes,” the small boy said. “I saw them. And I am
not pleased with Leela at all.”
Ivan sat down beside Teresa and gazed into her eyes.
“I know it would be betraying your friend, but you’ve got
to tell Tim.”
Teresa was shocked at what she was hearing. “I can’t do
that. Leela’s my best friend.”
Ivan pushed the camera around his neck out of the way and pressed on.
“I understand that, Teresa. But Tim is being victimized by
this whole thing, and he doesn’t even realize it. He deserves
to know about this. He doesn’t deserve to be lied to.”
Teresa stared at her hands, which were clasped in her lap. Could she
really do it? Could she do the right thing, even if that meant
destroying Leela’s first ever real relationship? She could
barely stand to decide. She picked up her purse and hurried off
toward the tubes.
Teresa arrived at Maddick’s High with determination set on her
face. It was not enough, however, to hide the tears brimming in her
eyes. She knew that what she was doing was right, but she couldn’t
stand it. Tim didn’t answer when she knocked on his dormitory
door on the opposite wing of the dormitory building, and he wasn’t
in the concrete corridor. Teresa went inside the Metal Keg, where
she knew Sean worked double duty, since it was a weekend.
“Have you seen Tim?” she aksed, not letting him see her
“Not recently.” Sean replied. “He was in here a
while ago, but he left after a few Slurms. He went through the back
Teresa went through the door, through the back room, and into the
hallway. She looked in the boiler room, but it was deserted. She
left through the back entrance to the sidewalk in defeat, and was
walking back toward the dorms when she spotted Tim walking into the
concrete courtyard through the stone archway. He sat down on the
edge of the stone fountain and buried his face in his hands. Teresa
stalked into the courtyard, bracing herself for the worst.
Tim looked up at her.
“Look, there’s something I need to--.”
“There’s something I need to tell you, too.” He
Teresa felt numb all over. Did he already know? Was this what had
been bothering him?
“What is it?” she aksed, sitting down beside him.
As the two talked, Teresa was overcome with emotion, and placed a
comforting hand on his shoulder. From within one of the windows on
the upper story of one of the surrounding buildings, a camera
“And that’s the story.” Tim concluded.
Teresa was aghast.
“So what did you want to say?” Tim aksed.
“Oh, it’s not important anymore.” Teresa said. She
couldn’t tell him. Not after what she’d just heard.
Sunday was February 1st, and Valentine’s Day was in
the air. On Monday, everywhere Leela looked, couples were walking
hand-in-hand, just as she and Tim were doing. For some reason,
whenever they did this, Teresa looked and acted rather annoyed. She
couldn’t blame her. Tim’s standoffish behavior was
starting to wear on her nerves. Several times over the next week,
and the week after, she tried to talk to him about it, but every time
he’d either say it was nothing, or deny acting strangely at
On Friday the 13th, Leela went to work as usual. Bolt
came out of the back room excitedly. “One of the penguin eggs
is hatching!” he said.
Leela cried joyfully and immediately ran out toward the Intensive
Care Unit, or ICU, where all the eggs were taken to hatch in an
incubator. Just as Bolt was about to follow her, he felt a tug at
his elbow. He turned to see a scrawny-looking kid with blonde hair
and grey eyes staring up at him, a wide grin on his thin face.
“Can I help you, kid?” Bolt aksed.
“I have something here you need to see.” The boy said.
“I can’t stick around. I’ve got to go to the-.”
“It’s about Leela’s boyfriend.” The boy
Bolt’s full attention was on the boy now. “What about
her boyfriend?” he aksed, suddenly serious.
The boy reached into his pants pocket and withdrew a Polaroid camera
picture. It showed two people sitting extremely close to each other
on the edge of a stone fountain, one with brown hair, the other
“Is that her boyfriend?” Bolt aksed.
“Yes. I took this earlier this week. It would appear that
Leela doesn’t know everything about her Prince Charming.”
Bolt straightened up. “Wait, who are you? How do you know all
this? And why are you showing me this?”
The boy smiled. “Does any of that really matter?” he
said. “All you need to know is that Leela’s boyfriend is
cheating on her. That leaves her wide open for you.”
Bolt opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Leela calling
him to join her in the ICU. Bolt turned toward the open back door to
“Be there in a minute.”
When Bolt turned back, however, the boy was gone.
Tim lay on the top bunk in his dormitory, feeling slightly bored
about not having anyone to talk to. Sean was working at the Metal
Keg again, taking yet another chance to rake in the dollars like
leaves. He’d become quite popular as the new bartender. There
wasn’t a single student who didn’t know him.
Tim’s thoughts, however, were not on Sean, but elsewhere, in
the deep recesses of his mind, mulling over and combing through
everything that had happened to him. It was difficult to believe
that such an insignificant occurrence could bring about such an
onslaught of mental activity.
He tried to distract himself by thinking of Leela. Leela, so
beautiful and amazing. She was one of a kind, and the best kind of
person he could dream up, human or not. He felt guilty for his cold
shoulder in the recent weeks, but how could he explain himself to
her? What had happened to him was worse than anything she’d
known. Thinking about it made him want to curl up and make
His thoughts were interrupted by an envelope flitting across the
carpet, having been shoved under the door. Tim jumped down to the
floor and on one knee opened the envelope and read the typed letter
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell you this earlier, but
after what you told me, I couldn’t put you through any more
hell. I don’t like having to tell you this, but I know that
you deserve to know. I just hope you don’t hate me for it.
Tim was utterly confused by Teresa’s letter. What could be so
bad that she couldn’t tell him in person? But one look at the
photograph inside the envelope told him everything. He crumpled the
photo and the letter angrily in his hand as tears streamed down his
Meanwhile, Leela was holding a newborn penguin chick to her own cheek
in delight. With its feathers dry, the tiny bird, about the size of
her fist, was cuter than a puppy and a kitten trying to squeeze into
one slipper. She was placing the little bird into the cage with its
parents when Bolt came up behind her, a wide grin on his face.
“You did pretty well back there, Leela.” He said.
“Oh, it was nothing,” Leela said, still gazing at the
penguin family. “I guess those maternal instincts just started
kicking in. But this little guy actually spent hours pushing his way
out of his shell! He’ll be an extremely strong bird someday.
No matter what, if he trusts in himself, he’ll be okay…”
Leela’s voice died out as she realized what she was saying.
She felt her eye begin to water slightly, and immediately blinked the
tears away. She smiled at Bolt.
“Yeah, I’d say it was a pretty productive day.”
Bolt smiled back and put an arm around her. “Yeah,” he
said. “You know, I couldn’t help but notice that you
looked rather troubled when you came in today.”
Leela reached up to shoo his hand away, but he just lowered it to her
waist. Bolt pulled Leela a bit closer to him, and Leela felt a
little uncomfortable. She pushed against his chest and he let go.
“Well,” she said as they walked back toward the gift
shop, “there’s just been a lot on my mind lately.”
Bolt tried to hold her hand, which she avoided.
“Like what?” he aksed.
“My boyfriend has been acting really strange lately.” She
Bolt smiled. Maybe the kid was right. He leaned against the counter
across from Leela, who was at the register.
“Like he’s been really distant?” he guessed.
Leela looked at him strangely. “How did you know that?”
Bolt smiled again. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure
out where this is going,” he said to her. “It sounds to
me like he’s not into you anymore.”
“But how can that be? We’ve only been going out for a
“And how many dates have you been on?” Bolt questioned.
Leela thought back to the restaurant. “One.”
“Well,” Leela said. “We see each other at school a
lot. That’s got to count for something, right?” She
could not keep the plea out of her voice.
Bolt shook his head. “It’s not looking good for you
guys, I’m afraid.”
Leela hung her head.
Bolt put his hand over hers. “So why not let him go?” he
suggested. “Go out with me instead. It can’t hurt to
Leela tried to pull her hand away, but Bolt squeezed it.
“I can’t do that,” Leela cried, still trying to
free her hand. “I’ve got to figure out what’s
“Don’t you get it?” Bolt said, raising his voice.
“If he wanted to tell you, he’d have done so by now.
He’s cheating on you! It’s over!”
“Let go of me!”
“Go out with me!”
People were starting to stare.
“I said, LET GO!!”
Leela wound up and punched Bolt square in the nose. Blood gushed
forth as he fell to the floor. Leela ran out of the gift shop toward
the tubes, tears of fear and sadness streaming from her eye.
Tim was leaning against the edge of the stone fountain when Leela
found him. He did not look happy. Leela ran up to him and put her
hands on her knees to support herself as she tried to regain her
breath. She had run all the way to the tubes, and then all the way
to school. The five minutes in between hadn’t been enough to
calm her. She was incredibly distraught. As she heaved breaths, Tim
remained leaning against the fountain, his arms folded, staring down
at her with a strange look in his eye.
“Tim! Thank God I found you.” Leela gasped.
Tim’s stern expression didn’t falter. “Why?”
“Something just happened with Bolt!”
“I bet I can guess what!” Tim said with a roll of his
“He tried to hurt me! He aksed me out and I said no, and he
grabbed my arm. He yelled, Tim! He said you were cheating on me!”
“Well, I certainly don’t cheat.”
“I know, but—“
“And I certainly am not surprised by this at all.”
Leela, who had by now caught her breath, looked horrified. “What?”
“Oh please. I may be crazy Leela, but don’t play me for
a fool. I know all about you and Bolt.”
Leela was shuddering in fear. It was not because of what Tim said,
but because of how he looked: angry and cruel, like on X-mas.
“Did you really think you could hide it from me?” Tim
said, raising his voice and advancing on the cyclops. “It was
only a matter of time before someone told me.”
“But I’m not—“
“I even have proof!”
Tim pulled the photograph from the letter out of his pocket and threw
it at Leela. It hit her in the eye. Leela looked at it in horror.
There she was, in Bolt’s arms. It did not look good.
“Tim,” she said, trying not to cry. “This isn’t—“
“Oh, don’t give me that ‘it’s not how it
looks’ bull crap! Someone like you doesn’t put their
arms around someone for nothing!”
Leela stepped closer to Tim and put her hands on his shoulders.
“Tim, I’m not cheating on you! I’d never cheat on
you! This is all—“
Tim wrenched Leela’s hands from his shoulders and shoved her
away. Leela stumbled backwards, barely managing not to fall.
“HOW COULD YOU?!” Tim shouted. “I TRUSTED YOU!
YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MY FRIEND!”
Leela started to cry. She couldn’t take much more. First Bolt
and now Tim. It was all too much.
Tim grabbed the collar of Leela’s shirt and pulled her close so
that only she could hear him.
“Listen to me you filthy lowlife. Do what you will with the
rest of your miserable existence. Wherever you end up, I’m
sure it’s exactly where you’ll belong. But stay the hell
away from me. You’re nothing but a-.”
Tim couldn’t finish it. He let go of Leela and ran. Even as
he approached the dorms he could hear her crying. He wiped a tear
away from his eye. Despite his fury, he couldn’t stop himself
from loving Leela. One thing was for sure, he thought as he climbed
into bed. Things would never be the same.
As if obeying Tim’s thoughts, the flow of the universe bent to
his predictions exactly. Things were not the same after Tim and
Leela’s fight. Overnight, a dark cloud of melancholy had
fallen over Leela like a thick wool blanket. The very weather itself
had taken a negative turn, filling the skies with grayish clouds. It
was not a very happy Valentine’s Day.
Instead of going to lunch, Leela wandered up to her dorm and lay down
in her bed. A dull gray light filtered through the curtains, giving
the room a dreary atmosphere. Leela became extremely sleepy.
Whether it was reliving a memory or a dream Leela didn’t know.
All she knew was that Tim was once again shouting at her, telling her
what a horrible person she was and that it was only a matter of time
before someone told him-
Leela jolted awake and hit her head on the ceiling. Someone had told
Tim that she’d cheated on him! Thinking back on it, Leela
realized that someone had to have taken that picture of her
and Bolt. She’d been framed! But who did it?
Teresa walked through the door. She smelled like spaghetti. Leela
didn’t know why, but she suddenly found herself jumping down to
the floor and looking Teresa straight in the face.
“Did you tell Tim that I cheated on him?” she said.
Teresa’s jaw dropped. “But I…but…that is…I
Leela narrowed her eye in anger. That was all she needed. It had
“You bitch! How could you do that! I thought you were my
“Leela, I didn’t--!”
“Shut up! I understand perfectly! You just had to have Tim,
so you framed me with that phony photo!”
“Don’t play dumb, Zinthrop! I now see who you really
are! Believe me; you haven’t seen the end of this!”
Leela ran out the door and down the hall. She ran into Ivan, who had
a half-empty laundry basket under his arm. The basket and all its
contents went flying, and Ivan looked on as Leela sprinted toward the
Leela sat on the roof of the dormitory building, crying her eye out.
This was it; everything was back to normal; she had no friends, no
boyfriend, and everything in the world was against her once more.
This was how it would always be. She was meant to be alone.
Just as she was trying to think of what to do next, the roof door
opened. There was Ivan. The air became slightly colder, although
Leela barely noticed. A raindrop fell on her forearm. Ivan
approached her slowly, a somber look on his face.
“I’m sorry about what happened, Leela.”
Leela looked at Ivan questioningly.
“Yes, I heard. Kinda hard not to.” Ivan sat down. “You
know, I feel kinda bad about how things have been going for you
Leela sniffed and looked out over the campus.
“If you want to talk about it, I’m all ears.”
Leela smiled. “Thanks, Ivan. But I don’t think I’m
ready to talk right now.”
Ivan stood up with a smile crossing his face. “Okay. Just
remember that there’s always someone you can talk to.”
Ivan left. Leela shivered. In reality, she’d have given
anything to talk to someone. She just didn’t want to talk to
Ivan. He was too creepy. Instead, Leela pulled out her phone. Ivan
had been right; there was someone she could talk to; someone
who hadn’t done anything to hurt her. Yet.
She dialed in Sean’s number.
Sean finished a saxophone solo on stage. It was Valentine’s
Day, after all, and even if there were romances that weren’t
working out, he had to set the mood for the couples in the Metal Keg.
The crowd applauded as he hit the last note and stepped down. The
music from the juke box took over, and Sean returned to his post. He
took a couple orders and prepared the drinks.
After about five minutes of mixing sodas with ice cubes, his cell
phone rang. Sean handed the drinks over to the customers and put
their money in the cash register. He picked up the phone. It was
“Hey, Sean,” he said gloomily. “Got a
Sean looked over at the customers. They’d all been given their
drinks, and wouldn’t be done for a while.
“I think I’ve actually got five minutes.” He said
truthfully. “What’s up?”
What Tim said next made Sean do a double take. “Dude, are you
“Seriously. And, on top of that, I learned from a letter
from Teresa that Leela has been cheating on me with some stiff from
Sean leaned against the bar. “Wow. That’s—“
Sean was cut off by a beep from the phone. He had another call.
“Can you hang on a sec, Tim?”
Sean answered his other call. It was Teresa.
“Hi there, Sean.” She said. “Can you
spare a minute?”
“Of course,” Sean said, checking his watch.
“I’m just in a really tight fix right now. Leela
hates me, because somehow she thinks I gave Tim a photograph of Leela
cheating on him.”
“Didn’t you?” Sean aksed, remembering what Tim had
“No! I almost told Tim about what I saw, but I never had a
Sean was about to answer when his phone beeped yet again.
“I’m sorry Teresa, can you hold on?
Teresa sighed. “I guess so.”
Sean hooked up to the third line. It was Leela.
“Hey, Sean,” she said. “Got a sec?”
“God, I hope so.” Sean said, rolling his eyes.
“I can’t believe what just happened to me!”
Leela said. “First Tim dumps me and tells me he got
photographs of me cheating on him, and then I just found out that
Teresa gave them to him! It’s impossible!”
“I think you’re right,” Sean said cautiously.
Leela’s story didn’t match up with Teresa’s and
“Leela, can you hold on a minute?”
Sean switched back to Tim. “Tim. I need you to meet me in the
back room of the Keg…Yeah, it’s important.”
Sean switched over to Teresa. “Hey, Teresa. Can you meet me
in the back room of the Keg?...No, not like that…Okay, good.”
Sean switched over to Leela. She had hung up. Sean hung up and
dialed another number.
“Hey, it’s Sean…no, it’s nothing big…yeah,
it’s about Leela…can you come over to the
Leela hung up the phone after a few moments of waiting. She’d
decided that she couldn’t wait any longer. She needed to get
rid of her pain. She went back downstairs to her dorm. Fortunately,
Teresa had left already.
Leela took deep breaths in preparation for what she was about to do.
It would not be easy for her at all, but she had to do it. She
opened her diary. It was new. She’d barely even gotten
halfway through it. She’d bought it just before Teresa had
started being nice to her. She looked down at the first entry: I
think I have a friend.
Not anymore, Leela thought. She grabbed the top of the page and
ripped it out. Every happy entry she’d made, from making
friends, to X-mas, to kissing Tim, to last week. All of them she
tore out violently, tears streaming from her eye. Finally, she was
destroying them. This was how she could start anew. She picked up
all the pages. They were crumpled and smudged and shredded. Holding
them in one fist, Leela walked into the bathroom and one by one
flushed her diary pages down the toilet.
When she was finished, Leela grabbed her coat. After everything
she’d done, she needed to run for a long way. Just for awhile,
she needed to go to a place to escape it all. She slammed the door
on the way out.
Sean waited in anticipation for what was coming up next. If this
didn’t work, life would never be the same for him and his
friends. Or rather, they would go back to the way they’d been
Tim arrived first, followed shortly by Teresa. The two waited in the
back room. They were just starting to get impatient when Sean
entered the back room with another boy. It was Bolt Rollands.
Tim jumped up. “YOU BASTARD!!”
Tim ran to punch Bolt out cold, but Sean pushed him away.
“Don’t lose control, Tim!” Sean said. “I’ve
brought you all here because something bad has happened and it
doesn’t make sense.”
Teresa spoke up as Tim sat back down at the table. “How did
you know to get ahold of Bolt?” she aksed.
Teresa’s and Tim’s jaws dropped.
“Yeah,” Sean said. “It’s true.”
Tim noticed that Sean’s and Bolt’s hair colors were very
similar shades of reddish-brown. “So now what?” he
“Tim, you said that Teresa gave you a letter with a photograph
of Leela cheating on you.” Sean said.
“No I didn’t.” Teresa cried.
Tim looked puzzled. “But then who gave me this?” he
aksed, pulling out the letter and photograph. Bolt looked closely at
“She wasn’t cheating on you,” he said. “She
just fainted because she was tired.”
“Are you telling me she just happened to fall into your
arms?” Tim said nastily.
Bolt leaned in, his voice just as acidic. “That’s
exactly what I’m saying. Leela would never cheat on
someone. It’s you who’s been cheating on her.”
Tim stood up. “I did not cheat on her!”
Bolt ripped something out of his pocket. “Then what do you
Tim looked at the photograph Bolt had shown him. It showed him and
Teresa at the stone fountain, her hand on his shoulder.
“He wasn’t cheating on her.” Teresa said. “That
was when he was telling me about—“
Teresa didn’t let herself finish.
“It’s okay,” Sean said. “He told me, too.”
Teresa sighed in relief.
Sean stared hard at the photograph. “I wonder who took this?”
“Probably the kid who gave it to me,” Bolt said with a
“Kid?” Tim was wide-eyed and sweating now.
“Yeah, some short kid with blond hair.”
Teresa gasped. “I remember now! Ivan told me to tell Tim
about Leela cheating!”
“Then you did give me the letter?”
“No! How could I say anything bad after what you told me at
the fountain?” Teresa pointed at the picture.
Tim thought for a minute. “Then Ivan sent the letter.”
“You know, Ivan did have a camera with him when he saw Leela
and Bolt.” Teresa added.
Bolt scratched his head. “So what you guys are saying is
Sean looked each one of them in the eyes. “It means that Ivan
has been using us to ruin Tim and Leela’s relationship!”
Someone clapped from within the shadows. Everyone turned to look at
Ivan. He was leaning against the wall, a wide grin stretching from
ear to ear. He looked hungry.
“Nicely done, Sean.” Ivan said. “I must
congratulate you. Although, I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t
counted on this happening. When I told Leela she could talk to
someone, I did not mean for her to take it to mean you.”
Ivan walked around the table, glaring at every single person, who
glared right back. “You may not understand this, in fact I
don’t expect you to, but the mere fact that you have been
through all this is a wonderful thing. As my father always told me,
it’s the bad things that make us who we are. And that’s
exactly what I gave you.”
Before Ivan could say anything else, Tim stood up and punched him in
the stomach. Sean tried to stop him, but Tim managed to land several
more punches in Ivan’s face and chest. Once again, Tim looked
angrier than a monster.
Ivan now lay unconscious on the floor, blood flowing freely from both
nostrils, his smile as wide as ever.
Tim didn’t let go of his temper, even after he’d let Sean
pull him off Ivan. “Where’s Leela?” he demanded.
Teresa hung up her cell phone. “She’s not answering at
the dorm, or on her wrist thing.”
Tim looked worried. He had to find her immediately. He had to
apologize and make everything okay before it was too late.
“Did Leela ever talk about some place she might go to for
“I don’t know, maybe her old home or—“
Tim bolted out the door and ran for the tubes. He stepped inside and
practically shouted: “Cookieville Minimum Security
Leela left the Orphanarium. The gates were closed, and there weren’t
any children playing outside. Though she did not relish the idea of
returning to this place for the summer, the sight of such a familiar
place granted a bit of comfort. She began walking south, away from
the closed grounds of her memories. The clouds had cleared, but the
sun had started to set, and the dying light matched Leela’s
mood perfectly. Shredding her diary had not made her feel any
A few blocks down, Leela passed the abandoned amusement park that had
made Coney Island so famous. She passed a few people on the wooden
boardwalk and took a flight of stairs down to the beach.
Tim jumped out of the tubes. His feet slammed down on the pavement
and he immediately took off running toward the Orphanarium. He was
about to take a left when he saw a flash of violet amongst the people
on the distant boardwalk. He changed direction. He jumped over a
hovercar and nearly got flattened by another as he ran. He slipped
on whitefish and banana peels, but he refused to stop. He ran into
the railing and looked out over the beach. It was deserted, except
for a beautiful girl with one eye…
Leela turned around and saw Tim jump over the railing and fall twenty
feet onto the sand below. He ran at her with such force and
determination Leela thought he was going to knock her over. Instead,
he kissed her.
Tim let go of Leela and gazed at her for a moment. A gentle breeze
blew a few strands of hair across her face, and even with her eye red
and puffy, Tim thought Leela couldn’t have looked more radiant.
Small waves washed up and splashed water around their feet.
“Leela, I’m sorry about what I said. I was such a jerk.
It was all Ivan’s fault. And Sean helped us and we—“
Leela silenced him. “You had me at hello.”
They embraced again.
Note: With a new enemy, Tim and Leela’s relationship has been
put to the test, and with the help of friends they’ve
triumphed. But will that be enough the next time around? New
elements are thrown across the lovers’ paths, and their lives
take even greater twists and turns in Part 4, soon to come.