The Naughty List Ch. 01

College

All characters in sexual situations are 18 years of age and older.

Note: Be sure to read the prologue of the series before diving into this chapter.

Chapter 1: THE TATTOO

7:15 am. Alarm beeping. A terrible headache caused from mild sleep deprivation. What a great way to start the first day of my last semester of high school.

The sizzling smell of bacon, eggs and toast waft into my room from downstairs. Huh, it looks like my dad still hasn’t left for work yet, which was rare. I debate whether I should hop into the shower to wash off the drowsiness, but then my stomach grumbles. Still in my pajamas, I choose nourishment instead and head downstairs.

“Morning, dad,” I yawn, far from being completely awake.

“Morning, Q. Did you sleep well?”

“Not really,” I say, hoisting myself onto my seat at the dining table. “Waking up around noon for the past week really did a number on my sleep schedule. I feel horrible.”

My dad chuckles quietly as he carries out the breakfast, hot plates balanced on his arms like he was a skillful waiter. My dad was a tall man, well-built with broad shoulders, defined forearms and a military-style buzz cut matching his clean-trimmed beard. By traditional accounts, I’d say my dad would be considered a pretty good looking guy. He kept in shape with regular exercise, his chiseled and symmetrical facial features complementing his athletic stature. Which, of course, made him look all the more ridiculous whenever he decided to don his favorite, frilled apron whenever he cooked in the kitchen.

I mentally grumble every time I stop to think about my dad’s appearance. I mean, why couldn’t I have inherited more of the masculine parts of his DNA? The sole trait that I seemed to pick up was his height, which– partly due to my tragic lack of muscles– made me look more like an awkward giraffe rather than a human stallion. The genetic lottery can be such a cruel game of chance.

Unaware of my internal complaints lodged at him, my dad turns the dial on the radio as he grabs his fork and begins to eat. Always a man of few words, the radio was his way of comfortably filling the silence whenever we sat at the dining table. I yawn again, and grab my own fork to do the same.

… And that was the moment I caught a glimpse of the sleek, new tattoo I was now sporting on my right hand.

I slam my silverware onto the table. My dad glances up in confusion.

“Q? What’s wrong?”

Eyes wide and mouth open, I examine the tattoo more closely. What the heck? On the palm of my hand, in big, bold, gothic-style lettering, was the number “9.” Below it, on my wrist, were nine names. The names of all my crushes. It was the Naughty List. I frantically think back to the terms and conditions that were written at the very top; that weird detail about some tattoos. What the heck??

“… Q?” my dad asks again, eyes squinting.

I look up. Shit. My dad was a generally docile person, but also very disciplined and austere when it came to respecting rules. He was a real, straight-edge guy; he’d kill me if he found out I got an entire tattoo on my arm without him knowing.

“N-Nothing!” my voice cracks, as I immediately duck my right arm under the table. I try to play it cool while I continue to eat, but my dad furrows his eyebrows at my response. He’s clearly unconvinced.

“Nothing?”

“Yep. Nothing.”

“Then why are you eating with your left hand?”

I gulp. Underneath the table, I frantically scrub the ink against my pants, hoping that the friction will cause the raven-colored ink to smudge right off or something. It doesn’t. Okay, then. Maybe it’s water soluble? My dad looks at me, and sighs.

“Q, show me your arm. The one you just hid.”

“I-I said nothing’s wrong.”

He frowns this time. “Quentin. You know the house rules. No keeping secrets between you and me.”

I feel an awful, sharp pang in my heart. Firstly, because I made my dad call me by my actual name, which happens only when he’s serious about something. It was usually followed by his disappointment, which was somehow always worse than his anger. But secondly, because he reminded me about our little rule about secrets. It was a promise I haven’t exactly been able to keep since middle school, especially after realizing which half of the human population I was attracted to. Oh, dad. If only you knew.

Guilt-ridden and defeated, I hesitantly raise my arm, and place it on the table, palm-side up. My dad cranes his neck, and looks over curiously. I duck my eyes, and bite my lips.

“… So, what am I supposed to be looking at?” he asks, after a very long pause. I look up, in confusion. Our eyes lock, and he’s looking back at me with an equally puzzled expression. Uh… what? Does he not see the coal-black inking splayed across my palm and wrist?

Right then, the exact wording on the parchment crosses my mind: invisible tattoo. Last night, I had no clue what that part meant. And I still don’t, to be honest. escort izmir But after another short, awkward pause between my dad, I decide to just roll with it. “I-I told you. Nothing’s wrong,” I say, retreating my arm again.

“Hmm, I could’ve sworn you were acting a bit weird,” my dad mumbles. “It felt like you were hiding something on your arm, like a tattoo or something.”

Wow, perceptive. I guess there’s a reason why parents are parents.

My dad glances over to his watch. “Shit, I gotta go now. You done with that?” he asks, gesturing towards my near-empty plate. I nod my head. He carries the dishes to the sink, washes them swiftly, and returns to wipe the table surface with a kitchen rag. His movement is deliberate and efficient, indicative of the calm and collected comportment he’s built from years of working at the hospital. As a walking ball of anxiety, that was another quality of his that I envied.

“Have a good first day of school then Q,” my dad then says, patting my head and ruffling my hair as he leaves the table.

I let out a delayed breath once he was gone, and then shoved the remainder of my toast into my mouth. I then sprint upstairs, slamming the bathroom door behind me to hop immediately into the shower. With my arm extended out underneath the hot water, I vigorously scrub the ink on my arm… but it won’t go away. Okay, so apparently this thing isn’t water soluble, either. Fuck.

I’m not sure what to do, but I recall my dad’s strange behavior from earlier. He didn’t seem to acknowledge or register the ink on my skin at all. Invisible tattoo? Again, what the heck does that even mean?

I get out of the shower, and stand in front of the mirror, hair still wet. I place the fingertips of my right hand onto the surface, and my eyes widen. In my reflection, the tattoo that was definitely still on my right hand was nowhere to be seen. As absurd as this may sound… it was almost as if the number 9 on my palm– along with the names on my wrist– were inked in magic.

~ * ~ * ~

If ordinariness ever manifested itself as an educational institution, you would get San Nicolas Public High School.

I mentally sigh as I pull up to the school parking lot in my used 2011 Honda Civic. I’m an optimist at heart, but even then, I struggle to find anything that was particularly noteworthy or remarkable about this school. It wasn’t a terrible place to learn or anything– we were lucky to have a few teachers who were genuinely passionate about their jobs. But then, we also have our fair share of our bad apples, too. I used to really like subjects like English and History as a kid… but then I saw how miserable my 9th grade teachers looked, and that made me second guess those academic interests.

The school was also a mixed bag in terms of student body. One end of the spectrum, we had our good-natured, hardworking students who even I admired, and the other end… well, we also had the completely opposite of that. All in all, let’s just say San Nicolas High averaged out to be an okay place to be– nothing less, nothing more. It was a neutral backdrop that simply happened to frame this specific chapter of my life. A neutral backdrop that I’ll likely forget, once I leave. 9 more months, I repeat in my head.

I sigh once more while grabbing my backpack. The tattoo on my palm and wrist greets me once again, but I willingly choose to ignore it.

My very first class of the semester was Spanish, which I had twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. It’s a class I didn’t really care about beyond making sure I pass, just to fulfill my foreign language requirement… though, I suppose it has its redeeming qualities. As we gradually trickle into the classroom, our teacher, Mrs. Mendoza, greets us. “Buenos días, chicos. Bienvenidos,” she says on repeat, like a broken record.

As I walk in, a few sophomore girls sitting towards the front are chatting loudly about how their vacation went, and one of them drops their pencil case onto the floor.

“Oh. You dropped this,” I say, picking it up for her. She and her friends give me a weird look. She then grabs the pencil case without saying thanks, and resumes chatting. Wow, okay. You’re welcome too, Miss human Bratz doll. Real mature of you.

Inside my head, I’m groaning unintelligible noises. I try to be a good person to most people, to always remain positive, and to practice patience… but Jesus christ, high school can really be a place that tests your limits on all these things. Moments like these fervently convince me that high school is actually a complete garbage hole. (And it is, like 60% of the time. The other 30%, it’s mostly just okay.)





But then Ernesto Alvarez-Cruz walks in, instantly reminding me of the remaining 10% of time that I feel high school isn’t so bad after all. The sophomore Means Girls squad giggle immediately upon registering his presence.

“Hola, Ernesto. Lookin’ muy guapo as always,” they ogle, batting escort izmir their eyelashes. “Hope you had a nice break.”

The tall, broad-shouldered, walking Armani ad simply looks down, and blushes slightly. He timidly flashes the most gorgeous smile.

“Thank you, Amanda. A ti, también.”

Ugh, that damn Argentinian accent of his. The girls squeal in response, but Ernesto simply brushes past them, until he takes his usual seat right next to me. I roll my eyes.

“… That girl totally ignored me when I picked up her pencil case for her, five seconds before you walked in.”

“Who, Amanda?” Ernesto responds. “Yeah, she’s a bit… much.”

“Is she even passing this class? That was the whitest-sounding hola I’ve ever heard.”

Ernesto snorts. “She’s definitely not. Her Spanish is unbearable. I don’t think she really understood my last sentence either, to be honest…”

The two of us stifle a laugh, and I resent how this exchange alone was enough to offset my negative assessment of high school back to a neutral, perhaps even positive one.

Ernesto. Alvarez. Cruz. Where do I even start with this guy.

First off, he’s an exchange student from Argentina, attending our school for a year from our sister school over in Buenos Aires. I didn’t even know we had a sister school until Ernesto enrolled– in fact, I don’t think anyone at our school did. But when a cute international student suddenly waltzes into the hallways after summer break, it certainly gets people talking.

Second thing to know: he’s the TA of this class, and also our after-school Spanish tutor. As the school’s cultural exchange ambassador of sorts, I’ve heard the Foreign Language department asked him to take part in these roles. Knowing him, the teachers probably begged him to, and he couldn’t say no, because he was too polite.

Third thing to know: Ernesto is stupid gorgeous. I know I’ve said this a couple times already, but it bears repeating, because Jesus fucking christ. My own luck when it came to the genetic lottery made me skeptical about the existence of God, but then I saw Ernesto, and realized God does actually exist; she just has her favorites.

“How was your winter break, Quentin?” Ernesto asks me with a smile, his dark caramel eyes looking right into my own.

Ugh. My heart inadvertently flutters, because he looks like a literal angel. Some say Buenos Aires is like the “Paris of South America,” and if that city is filled with guys like him, I can easily see why that would be the case. His face was the perfect balance of handsome and cute, with the sweetest eyes and dimples that could melt anyone’s heart. And yet, the softness of his adorable smile seemed to starkly contrast the rest of his body, which was strong, masculine, and almost sculpture-like in its definition.

Ernesto seemed to have a slightly mixed heritage, and you could see the bits and pieces of his European and Andean ancestry peeking through his features. From the restrained olive tan on his porcelain-smooth skin, to the earthy browns that painted the curls of his luscious hair, he was a mosaic as equally complex and rich as the history of the region he hailed from.

“I-It was good. Did nothing. It was the best,” I stammer, in haphazardly chopped sentences. Wow, Quentin. Way to make yourself sound super exciting. I clear my throat. “How about you?”

Ernesto simply beams. “Same. I mostly just stayed home and watched telenovelas online.”

And this was the last thing you needed to know about Ernesto: despite looking like he could easily strut the runway of Milan Fashion Week, he was kind of a shy introvert, who mostly kept to himself. You’d think his good looks would inflate his ego to ungodly proportions or something, but nope; Ernesto somehow stayed down-to-earth, and was the sweetest, most thoughtful person on the planet.

Perhaps that was why we got along, somewhat. I mean, I wouldn’t call us close friends or anything– more like polite acquaintances, at best– but ever since I got lucky and ended up sharing the same table as him based on our assigned seats, the two of us engaged in frequent small talks. It was great. As a bit of an outsider visiting the community, Ernesto didn’t really seem to care too much about associating himself with the cool kids. He interacted with me the way he would with anyone. And I really appreciated that.

As Ms. Mendoza begins class, Ernesto quietly pulls out a book. It was a Hemingway novel. Please tell me: why was it not surprising that an intelligent, cultured guy like him would read Hemingway for fun? The novel was written in English, his second language, but the bookmark suggested he was almost finished with it.

As he opens the pages with the faintest smile, I could almost pinpoint the exact moment he sets up a soundproof barrier around him, comfortably nestling himself into his little poised sphere of literary imagination. At that moment, the world around him became reduced to just him and his book. He was unbothered. And immersed. And a part of me wishes I could stop the flow of time, just to be able to admire him from the side like this, forever.

I unknowingly let out a sigh. He notices and glances over, catching my gaze.

“Is there something on my face?” he whispers. Shit. I shake my head vigorously, realizing how indiscreet my actions were. Ugh. Having a crush on someone is the worst.

… Crushes. I think back to how I actually included Ernesto’s name on the Naughty List, which apparently means he’s now supposed to fall in love with me. But when I glance back over, he seems mostly absorbed in his book. Didn’t exactly get the feeling he was obsessed with me, to be honest.

To be clear, I’m not a superstitious guy. Normally, I would brush off the absurdity of the supposedly magical qualities of that list and all the things it claimed it could do. But then, how do I explain this weird tattoo on my hand that popped up out of nowhere? In addition to bathroom mirrors, it turns out this tattoo doesn’t appear on my phone camera or in photos, either– I know this because I tried it on my way to school.

Invisible tattoo. Invisible to who? Everyone besides me? Can Ernesto see it, since he was included in the list? I suppose it was worth an experiment.

The bell rings to signal the end of class. As Ernesto gets up to leave, I muster up the courage to talk to him one more time.

“Bye, Ernesto. I’ll see you around,” I say, waving the palm of my right hand towards him.

He turns around. “Ciao, Quentin. Nos vemos,” he simply smiles back, and heads off. Okay, so he’s just his usual self. Definitely not love-stricken by my existence. I also don’t think he can see the tattoo either, based on the fact that he didn’t say anything about it.

I scratch my head, realizing there were too many things that I didn’t know, or understand.

The rest of the day was uneventful, and flew by with no major hiccups or surprises. The normality of it all almost made me slip back into thinking that nothing was wrong, or out-of-place… but the prominent tattoo on my hand– which wouldn’t wash away no matter how hard I try– was a constant reminder that something wasn’t right.

That night, before crawling into my bed, I pull out the Naughty List again and spread it out on my desk, to re-examine the set of rules written at the very top.

• Any individual whose name is written on this list, will fall in love with you.

• To initiate this effect, simply wait for the invisible tattoo to appear, and then hold that individual’s hand when you’re ready.

I scratch my head. So… I suppose the invisible tattoo has already appeared. Does that mean I need to hold Ernesto’s hand, and the effect will be ‘initiated”? This sounds so weird and bizarre. But then again, so does a magical tattoo that no one else could see besides me.

I look down at my Spanish syllabus. After-school tutoring was supposedly on Tuesdays, now. Curiosity and skepticism mingled themselves in strange ways inside my mind, as I contemplated whether I should pay Ernesto a visit the next day.

~ * ~ * ~

To be clear, I’ve never stopped by for after-school tutoring until now. Mostly because I didn’t care enough about my Spanish class beyond simply getting a decent grade in it, but also because ever since the word got out that the hot international student would be the tutor for the year, it became commonplace to see hordes of girls attending these tutoring sessions, for reasons obviously unrelated to learning.

So, it was a surprise to see myself walking up to the school library after school, signing my name on the clipboard as an attendee for that evening’s session. It was also a surprise to see Ernesto sitting alone at the tutoring table. Huh, I thought there’d already be a line of girls already huddled around him. At least, that was the case every week last semester.

Ernesto was reading a new book this time, The Great Gatsby. I guess he already finished the Hemingway novel last night. He looks up when I pull up a chair.

“Quentin! What are you doing here?”

He flashes a smile. Ugh, blinding. Please stop being beautiful for just a moment, please. I clear my throat.

“N-Nothing. Just thought I’d stop by for, uh… some tutoring.”

He looks genuinely surprised. “Oh, already? I thought we hadn’t really gone over anything yet, since school just started.”

… Right. Shit. No wonder no one was here.

“I, uh–…” I start to say, unsure of the direction I should steer the conversation. The wheels in my head turn. “I wanted to go over some stuff I was confused about from last semester, actually. Grammar stuff. If that’s okay with you?”

He beams welcomingly. “Claro. What do you need help on?”

I thank him, as I pull out our workbook. Okay, phew, so I somehow managed to finesse my way out of that potentially awkward situation. I flip towards the older pages and settle upon a few exercises that I didn’t completely grasp last semester, but let slide because the final grade I got on the test was decent enough to move on and never look back.

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