The One For Me
By: Layla James
Dedicated to Greg, who is the one for me.
Chapter One
“This isn’t funny,” my dad yells.
No, no it’s not. I lean against the kitchen table and shovel in the rest of my eggs, desperate to leave the dining room and get away from my parent’s bickering. I wish I could crawl into the aquarium on the far wall and drown myself. I’m sure I would be decimated before my parents would notice.
My parents are at it again, for the seventeenth time this week. I lean up in my seat to glance over into the laundry room, watching Dad. He is standing in front of Mom, his hand clenched around a pair of frozen boxers. Mom’s face is emotionless, paying him no attention. She has one killer poker face.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mom says, laying the shirt she is holding, on the ironing board in front of her. She presses lightly, twirling the iron around in circles, slowly.
“This,” Dad says, waving the pair of frozen boxers in her face, “you froze all my boxers, Kathy.”
Mom sighs, shrugs her shoulders and smiles. She smiles. I have to look away. It’s too risky. It’s almost funny. Almost.
Dad laughs. It’s loud and hysterical. I would glance back to see if Dad’s vein in his head is popping out, but I don’t. I already know it’s there. His laughing like a coyote comes to an abrupt stop.
Time to go.
I slip out of my seat and up to my room before things get ugly. Not that it could get much worse, anyway. This has been the worst week of my life. Not only have my parents been down each other’s throats because Dad got caught doing some heavy making out, by Mom, with his receptionist, but Hayden broke up with me. We’ve been dating for the last year and I gave him all of me. He hadn’t even given me a real reason why, only that he didn’t feel the same about me. I thought everything was fine, but obviously, I have zero talent when it comes to reading people. Like my dad.
I tried so hard to get out of school every day this week but my parent’s made me go. I have to go to school and watch Hayden with Holly. Together. Touching. Like he used to do to me. That is the real reason. Holly with her huge rack and little waist. That was the real reason ‘he didn’t feel the same way about me anymore.’ Because he ‘felt’ that with someone else now, tossing me to the side like I was a piece of nothing. I shake the thoughts out of my head. I can most certainly do this. I can put on my big girl panties and get through one more day of this.
Thank God it’s Friday. I can have the weekend to myself. I can’t handle much more than one day of this.
I fight back tears that are threatening to stream down my face; grab my bag and push it over my shoulder. I don’t say bye to my parents, I don’t want to see their fake smiles. I slip outside and get into my Honda. I turn on my radio so loud I know that my mom would be giving me a disappointing head shake right about now. I head toward school. I used to love school. Not only did I get to see Hayden, but I like to learn. I like to know that I know things. Now, my grades are still great, but I don’t care about learning. All I think about it getting the Hell out of dodge.
I’m deliberately late, like I have been every morning this week. I stalk down the empty halls, not having to look at anyone. I can’t risk seeing Hayden or Holly anymore than I have to. It hurts too much. It’s like a car crash. You can’t help but look and can’t make yourself look away. It’s mentally tiring. Not only seeing them together sucks but everyone else looks at me with these pity stares. It’s aggravating and pathetic.
I walk into biology and glance at the board. SEX is written in a large cursive on the chalkboard. Oh no. I’ve dreaded this day since the beginning of the semester. The sex talk. Not only any sex talk but a sex talk in front of a class full of seniors and our teacher Mr. Fringe that is a total hottie. I fight the urge to turn around and go back home but Mr. Fringe looks up, his handsome face calm, showing a row of white teeth beneath his enthusiastic smile.
“Are you coming in, Katy?” Mr. Fringe asks, his eyes secretly hypnotizing me to walk into class. That’s the real reason Mr. Fringe got this job, he has secret super powers that with one look he can make anyone walk into class. Who doesn’t want to see that for an hour every day? This girl does.
“Um, yeah of course,” I mumble and walk back to my table where, my best friend, Jennifer sits twisting her gum around her finger.
“I see you noticed the forbidden word on the board.” She wiggles her dark eyebrows. “Let’s learn some moves,” she says, moving her hips back and forth.
“Stop being gross,” I say, taking out my books. Not that Jen has ever had sex, or wouldn’t freak out if someone tried to. But, she loves to make people think she isn’t just as scared as the next virgin. Her mother would kill her and bury her in her backyard.
“You look tired,” Jen says, tossing back her black hair from her shoulder. “I’m the Asian; I’m supposed to have squinty eyes, not you.” She smiles but it fades when I don’t return it. “Your parents again? Or is it Hayden, because you deserve better than that asswipe.”
I shrug. “Both. But my parents today. They’ve been down one another’s throats. Ever since Dad got caught, it’s been hell. She froze his underwear, Jen.” I widen my eyes. “They were fighting when I left this morning.”
Jen tries her best to hold back a laugh but it slips. She hits the table with her fist. “Damn, I love your Mom.”
“This is serious,” I whisper, giving her my best serious face. She rolls her eyes and twist her gum some more.
“No talking, ladies. Let’s get class started. Today we’re going to talk about sex.” Someone lets out a wolf whistle from the back and Mr. Fringe shakes his head. “Knock it off. This is very important science, not a two minute feel good moment for you guys in the back of your mother’s minivan.” Mr. Fringe rolls his eyes. He is only twenty six and always knows what we’re doing. Whether it be cheating, passing notes or making googly eyes at one another, he always knows. He also is never afraid to call us out on it.
“I last longer than that,” someone yells from the back.
Mr. Fringe lifts an eyebrow and smiles. “Highly doubtful.”
The class burst into laughter.
“I’d like Mr. Fringe to take a little two minute break with me,” Jennifer whispers.  I swat at her. Jeez. This girl is hopeless.
“Ms. Chang, do you have something you would like to share with the class?” Mr. Fringe asks, cocking and eyebrow.
“I just said--,”
“She said nothing,” I interrupt her, shaking my head.  “Nothing at all,” I grumble. She laughs behind her hand.
Mr. Fringe straightens out his button down shirt and leans back against his desk, crossing his arms. He eyes Jen and me suspiciously. He always knows. “Tell ya what. All of you have had the same lab partner all year. It’s time to switch it up.” Everyone groans. “I know, life is so horrible. Everyone on the left move up a seat, we need a change of venue.”
Jennifer crosses her eyes then grabs her things, scooting up to the lab station in front of us. I hear the chairs being scrapped against the tile floor. Who sits behind me? I never look back there. I keep my head down anyway, writing useless things in my notebook until I hear the stool next to me move.
I glance over. He sets his books down and looks over to me. His dark gray eyes slice into mine but he is smiling, the corner of his lips moving up slowly. Oh no. I sigh. It’s Liam. “Great,” I mumble. “Perfect. Just perfect.”
“Ouch,” Liam says his voice deep and slow like velvet. He rubs his large hand over his chest and shakes his head. “That might have hurt a little if you were anyone else, and I actually cared.”
I narrow my eyes and he lifts a black eyebrow. “Mr. Fringe,” I say, raising my hand. “Well, look who didn’t graduate Kindergarten, still raising their hand like a five year old.” Liam laughs to himself, leans back and shakes his head, his black hair swinging with each move.
Mr. Fringe turns toward me. “Yes, Ms. Taylor.”
“I need a new partner.” I give him my best please help me; Liam is a mean, horny, teenage boy look.
“No trading.” He shakes his head. “It wouldn’t be fair.”
“But, Mr. Fringe, Liam---,”
“None,” he says, sternly. He turns his back toward me and begins to write on the board. I fight the urge to throw my pen at the back of his perfectly quaffed head.
“Looks like you’re stuck with me, sweetheart.” Liam wiggles his dark eyebrows.
“Don’t call me that. In fact, don’t call me anything, just pay attention.”
“Like I would call you. You probably don’t date, anyway, too busy studying, right?” He slaps his forehead with his open palm. “Wait, no. That’s right. You date that Hayden guy, don’t you? He is an ass, toots.” Liam picks up his pencil, twisting it in-between both of his palms.
I grit my teeth. I write what Mr. Fringe is writing. “What? You don’t? Did pretty boy break up with you?”
“Shut up,” I yell, slamming my pen on the desk.
Liam throws his hands in the air in surrender. “You don’t have to be mean,” he says. “I’m very sensitive. You might hurt my feelings if you keep throwing things.”
Is this kid serious? I groan and continue to write. I’m going to stab him with that pencil.
“Okay, your assignment for the weekend is to get to know your partner. Write a list of things that you like and don’t like about the person. Monday morning you will need to have a paper stating what the other person could use to attract the sex of their choice with. Every person uses something to attract their mates, just like in animals. That is what sex is all about attraction…well and making babies, but it starts with attraction.” A few students snicker.
Are you serious? I close my eyes and shake my head. “We have to get together with our partner. Are you being serious right now?” I screech. “Because, I feel like someone is out to get me.”
Jennifer looks back at me, her small eyes widened. “Shit,” she mouths, looking over at Liam.
He winks and gives her a dark grin.
“Yes, Mrs. Taylor, I’m being very serious,” Mr. Fringe says. “Why would I not be?”
“I think that is a great idea, Mr. Fringe. Getting to know our partners, until late hours of the night,” Liam says, wiggling his eyebrows.
A few boys yell their agreements.
Mr. Fringe gives me I get it now look. “Cut the crap, Liam. The only getting to know one another that will be done is asking questions that obtain to this subject. Does anyone have any questions about the assignment?”
Yes, why the hell is this happening to me? Why him? Why my parents? Why Hayden?
“Spend the last few minutes of class asking your partners some questions to get you started on your papers.” Mr. Fringe turns around and starts looking through a stack of papers on his desk.
When I glance over, Liam is smiling at me, his arms gracefully placed on desk in front of us. “So, sweetheart, let’s get this over with.” Liam leans forward. “I know you’ve been dying to get to know me. So, ask away.”
“That’s completely untrue but whatever.” I tuck my brown hair behind my ear and look down at my notebook. “What’s your whole name?”
I feel his fingers pick up the strand of hair on my shoulder and I snatch away from him. He looks pleased. “Hands to yourself. What’s your whole name?”
“Liam Erickson.” He smiles and I see the row of white teeth below his lips. “Like you didn’t know.” I guess he is trying to be charming. It’s not working.
I do know his whole name but I’m not going to let him know that. “What do you like to do for fun?”
He strokes his chin with his long index finger. It’s covered with scruffy hair. It makes a light sound when he scratches it.  He looks way older than eighteen. Maybe he flunked a few years? “Hmmm, that depends on your answer to going out with me is?”
“The answer is no.”
“Awe, I could show you a good time, sweetheart.”
“What do you like to do, Liam? Is all of this nonsense necessary?”
“Say necessary again, your mouth looks sexy when you do.”
“Ugh.” I slam my notebook closed shoving it into my bag. “Look, I haven’t had a good week, so if you’d like to talk about the paper, you can meet me at the library tonight at seven. If not, don’t show up. I’ll make up a bunch of things about you. I don’t have time for stupid shit.”
Liam wipes the corner of his mouth with his thumb and laughs.
“What’s so funny?”
“You said shit. You don’t seem like the type, is all?” He gestures toward me. I give myself a once over. I look…normal. What is he talking about?
He holds back a laugh. Oh, I want to say more than shit right now. The bell rings and I pull the strap of my bag over my shoulder. “Well, I guess I am the type. See you at seven.” I look back at him, his dark smile crawls up his heavy jaw. “To study.” I dart out of the classroom, in a mad run for sanity. Darn you Mr. Fringe, can’t you just give me a normal partner?
“You have the worst luck,” Jennifer says, catching up with me at my locker. “Liam Erickson, the school’s own bad boy. Every school has them,” Jennifer says, opening her locker and checking her lip gloss. “Although, he is kind of--,”
“Don’t say it,” I say, stopping her with my hand. I don’t want to hear it. We both go toward class. It looks like I’m stuck with Liam. Great.
“Don’t look,” Jennifer says into my ear. I keep my eyes on my food, knowing why she doesn’t want me to look up. He is here, in the cafeteria. He must be with her.  I push my peas around my plate for a few seconds until my eyes betray me. They just flicker up without my permission. I wince. “I told you not to look,” Jennifer says.
Hayden is walking into the cafeteria with Holly. He is tall, lean and perfectly perfect. His green eyes are bright and on her full chest. I look down at mine, disappointment is an understatement. He wraps his tanned arm around Holly’s slender waist as they walk toward their lunch table. He seems so at ease, so perfect, so comfortable with her, like they’ve been together for years.
“That sucks,” I hear from behind me. “No wonder you’re so bitter.”
I look over my shoulder at Liam. He is shaking his head back and forth. “Shut up, Liam. Get away from me.”
He smiles, leans down and flutters his eyelashes. “Oh, you sure know how to sweet talk, don’t ya, sweetheart.”
Jennifer snorts beside me, almost choking on her drink. I send her my best death glare.
I sigh, turning completely toward him. “What do you want, Liam?”
He straddles the bench next to me, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “Just wanted to say that tonight isn’t great for me. I have plans. So, the lovely reading, writing and boredom will have to wait until later.”
I exhale, closing my eyes. “Liam, I have a feeling every night is going to be bad for you. Look, tonight is the only day that I can do this. Saturday I help my mother in the garden and Sunday I have church. So, that means break your plans.”
Liam laughs, it’s raw and hard. “You work in the garden? How old are you? Ninety? And why can’t it be changed, sweetheart? Is pulling weeds that important?”
I grit my teeth. He is making fun of me. “No, it can’t. What do you have that is so important tonight, then?”
He shrugs. “There is this party tonight at Aaron Mitchells. I want to go. I have to go, it’s expected.”
“A party? That seems so important, Liam.”
He rolls his eyes. “Would you like to come with me, partner? It’ll be really fun.” He wiggles his eyebrows. I scowl and throw him a yeah the hell right look. “I’ll take that as a no.”
“I’m not going and neither are you because we have plans.” I cross my arms. “I’m not getting a bad grade because of you.”
“I like the sound of that,” he whispers, leaning toward me. I catch a smell of him. He smells like sandalwood and the ocean.
“Go, Liam. I’ll see you tonight. Bring paper and a pen.” I shoo him away with my hand.
“I’ll bring ya something, sweetheart, but it won’t be pencil or paper.” I make a gagging noise. He smiles. “Maybe, if I have time to come that is.” He stands up and starts to strut off.
“Liam! Wait! You better come,” I yell, looking after him.
He waves his hand over his shoulder and continues to strut away from my table. Damn it. I look over at Jennifer and she shrugs. “Looks like he is going to be a piece of work.”
Looks like it.
“Oh. Looks like someone is a little jealous, too,” she says, pointing her fork with a green bean on it in front of her.
I look up. Hayden is staring at me from across the room, his green eyes intense on mine. His jaw is tight but I can’t help notice his arm on Holly’s shoulder. I shake my head slightly. Jerk. What’s it to him, who I talk to? I look down and continue eating.  It hurts too much to look.
Chapter Two
I tap my pencil on the wooden desk in the library. I even added to the decorations the other students left carved on the desk. It says, I hate Liam. I hope he sees it one day.
I glance down at my watch. Seven thirty. I grit my teeth and write furiously on my paper. Doesn’t show up on time, doesn’t care about his grades or his future. A butthead! Uses cheesy inappropriate lines to lure in girls, too! I slam my notebook shut and shove it in my bag. I can’t believe him! He seriously isn’t going to show up.
“Argh,” I whisper. I’m going to kill him. I can’t do the freaking paper without his help. I don’t know anything about him, other than he is a supposed man whore of Avalon High. Geesh. What did I do to deserve this kind of punishment? I glance around the library one more time. I don’t see Liam anywhere. I grab my bag and sling it over my shoulder. The library is empty besides me and the librarian who is reading some romance novel and doesn’t even see me leave. It must be pretty steamy. At least someone is enjoying themselves.
I walk out into the vacant parking lot and throw my bag into the backseat. I watch the shadows, someone could come out and murder me, I bet Liam would care then. I jump into the front seat. Furious, I reverse and start toward my house. I can already see the disappointed look on Mr. Fringe’s face Monday morning when my paper is turned in with a bunch of crappy lines about Liam’s awfulness. I hit the steering wheel and sigh. Why am I being punished? I study. I clean. I am nice to people. Why is the Heaven’s reigning down on me? I drive, passing the water until I see the school where all my problems started, being partnered up with Liam. If I can just get Mr. Fringe to change his mind.
I drive a few miles down and notice a large group of people gathered around a house settled by the water. Santa Catalina Island, California is a great place to live if you’re tanned, a surfer or have a beach body. I’m none of these.
I look closer and see the high school aged kids and remember Aaron Mitchell’s party. I smile. This is where Liam wanted to go. Should I go? Hell yeah.
I pull against the road behind a Jeep. The music is blaring and I flinch. It’s so loud; I can barely tell what song is playing. The house is beach front and large. Aaron is the son of a gynecologist and an attorney. They have stacks of money. He throws these kinds of parties at least once a month, when his parents are gone on conferences.
I haven’t been to a party like this in a while. Hayden and I went together to a party on the beach a few months back. They’re all the same. Swimming, drinking, eating and sex. It gets old.
I wade through the sand to the front door, its wide open. I fight the urge to knock but judging by the vast majority of my drunken piers, I’m sure no one would notice. It smells of smoke, ocean water and alcohol when I walk in. There are teenagers everywhere. I’m surprised they aren’t hanging from the very large and expensive chandeliers in each room. I see a few familiar faces, but not Liam. It looks like the zoo in here, during mating season. The kitchen is cluttered with beer cans, spilled drinks and teenagers in each other’s faces. I scan the room and narrow my eyes when I see Liam. He is leaned against a counter, his feet crossed and holding a beer.
I start toward him and he glances over at me. “Yikes,” he says. “You look scary, sweetheart. Want a beer,” he says, offering the beer he is holding.
“Do I look like I want a beer, Liam?” I ask, the guy standing beside Liam widens his eyes and makes his escape. I’ve seen him a few times around school; he seems to be Liam’s best friend. How he has friends, beats me.
He scoffs. “No, but you look like you need one. Ease up, sweetheart,” he says, bumping his arm into mine. He smiles down at me. “You scared off Billy. I will admit you are a little scary sometimes. When you go all ‘leave me alone,’ ‘do what I tell you.’”
“Are you ignorant, or just deliberately avoiding me? We were supposed to meet tonight, Liam. We have the project this weekend, ring any bells up there?” I ask, pointing toward his head.
He grabs my hand and squeezes it. I snatch my hand away. He smirks. “I told you that I had plans or you wouldn’t have known to show up here.” The song changes and he bobs his head up and down to the music. “Wanna’ dance?” he asks, wiggling his dark eyebrows. He grabs my waist and starts to sway us back and forth. He has the attention span of a Kindergartener.
I shove him away from me and grit my teeth. I feel the heat rushing toward my cheeks. Really? Is this guy serious? “No!” I yell. “I didn’t come to dance with you. I came to remind you that you’re not only throwing my grade away but yours, too!”
“Wow, you’re grouchy, is it your time of the month?” he leans in and whispers.
“Fine, Liam. I’ll do the project myself.” I start to turn away and he grabs my arm.
“Oh come on, I’m joking with ya. Get a sense of humor, will ya?” He smiles down at me. It actually looks semi genuine. Semi. He looks up, over my shoulder and stops moving. I look over my shoulder, following his glare and see Hayden and Holly walk into the room. Holly stops and starts talking to someone while Hayden scans the room. His eyes meet mine and my heart aches. His brows furrow and he sets his jaw. I want to run my finger over his brow and straighten out the wrinkle. “Looks like your ex is a little jealous, sweetheart,” Liam whispers in my ear. I keep still, watching him watch me. I want to run to him, for him to hold me tight. He doesn’t.
Hayden looks away and wraps his arm around Holly’s waist, bringing her closer to him. My body feels like there are pins and needles being poked into it. I think I’m going to throw up. She reaches up and kisses his jaw; he beams down at her with his admiring eyes.
I turn my head. I can’t see that. I can’t bear it.  I glance up at Liam; he has an eyebrow cocked and a smile riding on his lips. He probably feels really bad for me. That makes me even madder. So many emotions flood my brain. I can’t let Hayden affect me like this. I can’t let him win. I reach up on my toes grab Liam’s face and kiss him. I’m so shocked I can’t make myself come to my senses. It just do it. I kiss him.
At first he is still, arms to his sides probably revolted. Then he slowly loosens, wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me to him, my feet hanging helplessly.
I’m trying to imagine the look on Hayden’s face but rather I lean into Liam’s kiss a little more than I should. His lips are soft, like they look. His mouth taste like spearmint and I seem to be lost in it. Suddenly, Liam turns me around and lifts me onto the counter he was leaning against. He presses tighter to me, in between my legs. His hands know just were to touch, his lips matching the pace with my own…I jolt out of my daze and pull back from him. No, no, no, this is not happening. What. The. Hell. Katy!
My eyes are wide, heat is burning in my cheeks and I can feel Hayden’s glare on the back of my head. Liam is breathing hard, his arms on each side of my hips. What the hell did I just do?
“I---,” I mumble, words leaving me. “I--,” I jump down, my head spinning and push past Liam.
“Katy,” Liam yells, but I don’t stop, I continue through the crowd of teenagers until I’m at my car. I start it and zoom out of the driveway. I can’t believe I just kissed Liam Erickson. I’m barely able to keep my mind on driving while I go home. What will I say to him Monday? How freaking embarrassing. Of course I didn’t think this through before I went and laid a big smooth on him. Jeez, Katy. Why do you let Hayden effect you like this? It’s pathetic. I pull into my driveway, and storm toward the house.
Mom is in the kitchen when I walk in, eating ice cream out of the carton. Her dark eyes lift to mine and she smiles. It’s fake. Her eyes look a little puffy. Has she been crying? She takes a big bite of chocolate ice cream and says, “Hey, baby, are you okay? You look pale.”
“I’m fine, Mom.” You’re the one that looks bad. It must be Dad.
She frowns. “Still not back together with Hayden?” she asks, taking a second large bite of ice cream. She looks really rough.
“No,” I whisper. “Um, are you sure you’re okay, Mom?”
“Yes, sweetie,” she says through another bite.
“Okay, well, I guess I’m headed off to bed. I’m tired.”
“Sweetie, about your dad and me, look I’m sorry---,”
“Mom, please. I don’t want to talk about Dad, you, Hayden or Holly. I want to go to bed, please. I’m tired.”
Mom nods. “I was just going to tell you, he left,” she says.
My heart stops. Left? As in already left? No, no, no. “Left, without saying goodbye? He moved out already? He wasn’t going to wait on me or anything?”
“He told me to tell you he would be back tomorrow to get his things. He will see you then.”
I close my eyes and fight back the tears. “This sucks.” I hate him.
She looks up, eyes sad. “Yeah, it does. I’m sorry, Katy…”she keeps talking but my head is spinning too much to try and handle the excuses.
Mom reaches for my hand. “I’m going to bed,” I say, biting back to the painful lump growing in my throat.
Mom retracts her hand, nods and pushes her long hair from her shoulder. “Okay, baby. Get some sleep; it’s been a long week.”
You have no idea.
“Katy, get up. Someone is here for you,” I hear Mom say.
At first I think I’m dreaming. Because, Jennifer knows not to come this early to see me on a Saturday and I don’t know anyone else who would want to. I slightly open one sleepy eye and glance up at her. I’m not dreaming. She is staring down at me, an eyebrow raised. I feel the effects of my staying up late and crying. My eyes feel swollen and they are tender. “Tell them I’m asleep. Is it Jennifer?” I rub my eyes.
Mom shakes her head. “No. It’s a gentlemen caller,” she says, very Southern, with a drawl and everything.
I set up in the bed. “Who?” My heart thuds. Hayden?
“His name is Liam.” What. The. Hell. “He is waiting down stairs, you better get up.” She smiles. This. Is. Not. Happening. “He is cute, Katy--,”
“No, Mom. Don’t even go there.”
She throws her hands up in surrender, rolls her dark eyes and leaves my room. Flustered, I jump out of my bed, and grab a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I pull my hair into a low ponytail and rush downstairs. Liam is sitting on the couch across from my mom, talking. I wince. I blink twice. He is still there. My nightmare is real.
Mom’s eyes flicker up to mine. “Katy, nice of you to get up and join us.” Liam turns around and his eyes meet mine. Embarrassment swarms me and I feel my cheeks heating. I could cook an egg on them.
“Liam, can I have a word with you?” I ask, narrowing my eyes. My fingers tap nervously along my forearm.
Liam smiles and I hate that my stomach flutters when he does. “Sure thing, partner. I was just explaining to your mom how you needed today off so we could go to the library. She said you could miss helping her in the garden.”
I look over at my mom who is smiling. I narrow my eyes and her smile flattens. “My dad is coming today, to pick up his things.”
“About that--,” Mom says, standing up. “He won’t be here until tonight. He is going to stay for dinner. We have to try and talk all of this out, Katy.”
I shudder. Talking with Mom and Dad would end in boxing match. When I look up Liam is staring at me, eyes steady. “Okay, let’s talk, Liam. Mom would you excuse us?”
She nods and walks into the kitchen, out of hearing distance. As soon as I know that she can’t hear us anymore, I step off the bottom stair and walk toward him. He has an amused look on his face. I push his shoulder. “What the hell are you doing at my house, Liam?”
He stands up, a smile curling on his lips. His long arms cross over his chest and he laughs. “We have a project to do, don’t we? That is why you came to the party last night.” He grins, it’s dark and greedy. He is hinting at it. My entire body is shivering. I’m not sure why.
I throw my arms in the air. “Go ahead and say it, Liam.”
He shrugs his shoulders and leans back on his heels. “Whatever do you mean, Katy?” He asks, wide eyed.
The image flashes in my head. Liam’s lips on mine, placing me on the counter and widening his mouth to touch his tongue to my bottom lip. I clench my fist and fight the urge to slap him. I can’t believe I kissed him. “I kissed you, Liam.”
A smile crawls up his face. “Indeed you did, Katy. It was quite a kiss, too. Didn’t know you had it in you.” He scoffs when I place my head in my hands. “Oh, stop it. I know you were just trying to make that asswipe jealous. It’s not a big deal.”
I sigh. “Sorry, he just makes me so mad.” Liam cocks an eyebrow. “Anyway, let’s get this done. I have plans.”
“Are we going to the library?” he asks.
“No, I have a laptop. Let me go get it.” I turn to go get it.
“Should we go to your room?” he asks. He is smiling. Yeah, like I want you in my room, alone with me.
My stomach flips and turns. “Hell n--,
“Of course you should,” Mom says. “I’ll bring you both some lunch soon.” What! What kind of mother suggests we go to our room?
“Mom, we can just stay down here--,”
“Nonsense,” she says, waving me off. “There isn’t enough space on the living room table and your desk is huge. Get up there and do your work. It’ll be just fine. Now, get on up there,” she says, pointing her finger toward my room.
“Thanks, ma’am,” Liam says. He starts toward the stairs and it’s the first time I’ve really looked at him since I got up. His high tops are unlaced and his jeans are ripped. I can see his skin between the fringed jeans. His white t-shirt is tight to his chest and he is smiling when my glare gets to his face. “See something ya like, Katy?”
“No. Just go,” I say, pointing up the stairs. I pass Liam once we get to my room and open the door. My bed is unmade, I have clothes scattered around my floor and books are open all over the place.
“Yikes, Katy, I thought you’d be cleaner than this? Ms. Perfect Grades, Goody Goody,” Liam says, closing the door behind me. He is standing close and I’m aware of his every move. I have Liam Erickson in my room. I never thought this would happen. This shouldn’t happen. This is how he uses his trickery on girls to get them in bed.
“I was woken up by my mother in my face because someone doesn’t know how to come to someone’s house at a descent hour. I came right down. Let me get things cleaned up really quick.”
Liam bends and picks up a purple lace bra. “Need some help? Believe me, I don’t mind.”
I snatch it from him and point to my desk chair. “No, no help. I can get it.”
I hurry and pick up my clothes and make my bed. I never realize how many embarrassing things I have lying around. It’s ridiculous. I really need to start putting my underwear up. “Okay, let’s get started,” I say, placing my notebook on my desk and turning in my chair toward Liam. He is leaned against my desk, smiling. “So, what are your goals in life?” I ask.
Liam purses his lips and then lets out a snort. “Wow, going for the nitty gritty, huh? Let’s see,” he says, stroking his chin with his long index finger. “I want to own my own bar when I get out of school.”
I write Bar down on my list. “So, you’ll go to business school to do this?”
“Do I look like the college type, Katy?”
Hell  no. “Um, miracles happen. You are going to go into it blind then?”
He rolls his eyes. “My uncle owns a bar. Next question,” he says, crossing his arms.
“Any siblings?”
He shrugs.
Oh. “How do you not know?” I ask.
Liam shakes his head. “Next question,” he snaps.
“Liam, you have to answer some of these questions, so I will have something to work with.”
“I did last night,” he whispers, his voice low. “I think you enjoyed it.”
“Shut up you--,”
“Katy! Oh my God, is it true---,” Jennifer runs into my room and abruptly stops. “It is,” she gasps. “You were making out with Liam at the party and went home with him.” She leans in closer, her small eyes wide. “You did the nasty.”
“What!” I yell, standing up. “The nasty? You have got to be freaking kidding me!”
Jennifer nods and places her small hand on her slender hip. “That is what everyone is saying. I was defending you, but...” she trails off shaking her head. “Brenda Ling called me, said that Tommy Cho had called her.”
“You’re the center of the Asian gossip train,” Liam says, smiling.
“Jesus,” I mumble into my hand. “Why me?” I shout up toward the ceiling.
Liam snorts. “You’re a drama Queen. I’m not that bad, Katy. You could do so much worse. You already have,” he mumbles.
I look up at him. “We have to stop this, Liam. I cannot let people think I slept with you. That’s crazy. I can’t let my reputation go down like this. What will people say?”
“Hoe,” Jennifer says. “Rebound. Boy toy.” She shrugs. “Just some random words I’ve picked up.”
My head hits the desk and I muffle a cry into it. “Oh my God. I’m ready for Justin Bieber to run our and yell you’ve been Punk’d!”
“Well, you did kiss me, sweetheart. Take it from experience, rumors start from one ounce of truth.”
Jennifer gasps. “What? Katy? You kissed him?” She is smiling and I want to knock it off her face. This is not a laughing matter.
“I was just trying to make Hayden jealous. He kept staring at us and rubbing on Holly. It made me sick. What was I supposed to do?”
“Leave? Why were you there anyways? Why didn’t you invite me?” Jen places her hands on her hips. She told me it makes her look more serious.
“I wasn’t going, Jen. I was trying to get Liam to come and do his project with me. That’s what’s we are doing now.”
“Sure,” she mumbles.  “If that’s the story you’re going with.” Jen jumps when her phone alarm goes off, “Shoot, my ten minutes is up. I’m outie. I have to get back; I told my mom that I was walking the dog. She will come looking for me if I don’t hurry. You know how she is, study, study. You’re Asian, you have to do well. Show the American’s we’re smart. We will rule. You know the norm.”
“Where is your dog?”
“I put him in a kennel behind a bush in front of my window, smart right?”
“Doesn’t your dog bark at everything?”
“Shit,” she says. “See you later.” Jennifer slams the door and I hear her small footsteps running down the stairs.
“Well, well. What do you want to do, Katy? Your boy toy is bored.” He smiles and flutters his eyelashes.
I sigh. “Let’s just do this stupid project,” I mumble.
Fifteen minutes later after beating the answers out of Liam, my mom knocks on the door. “Brought you guys some sandwiches, and chips.” Mom sets the food down on my chest of drawers. “What was Jennifer freaking out about?” she asks.
Liam looks over at me and chews on the end of his pen and smiles.
“Some guy asked her out,” I lie.
She smiles. “That’s great. Maybe you two could double date?”
“Mom!” I yell. “We aren’t dating! He is my partner, please stop.” I shake my head and get up to grab our food. “Thanks Mom, we’re going to finish up soon. Goodbye,” I say, pushing her out, and then shutting the door.
Liam is biting on his lip when I turn around. I place his food in front of him. “Eat,” I say.
“Hmm,” he says his voice low. “I could get used to this, serving me food like my ol’ lady.”
“Shut up, Liam. Just eat. Don’t make this any weirder than it already is,” I say, taking a big bite out of my sandwich.
We eat in silence for a few minutes. It’s awkward.
“You got enough information?” Liam asks.
I nod and open my bag of chips. “Yeah, you?”
“Yep. So, your dad is moving out, huh?”
My face heats. This still doesn’t seem real. He is going to be gone, forever, leaving me here with Mom, like I was nothing. “Yeah, he cheated on my momma.” I don’t know why I say this, but I just feel I should. I know what Dad did was wrong, but people make mistakes, right?
“Well, your mom seems great. He is stupid,” he says and smiles. It seems like a real smile.
“Yeah, she is.” I sigh. “What are we going to do, Liam? Everyone thinks I slept with you? This can’t happen.”
He rolls his eyes. “It will be over quick. You know how the rumor mill goes at school. By the time Monday hits, everyone would have forgotten about it.”
Maybe. But not before everyone makes a judgment about me. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“Well, Katy,” he says, standing up. “I guess I’ll see ya Monday. Have fun pulling weeds,” he smiles, hand on the door. “Do you want a goodbye kiss for ol’ times sake?”
“I’d rather gag,” I say,
“That can be arranged.”
“Bye, Liam.”
“Moving? Like moving towns, states or what?” I ask, my mouth open gaping at my dad. His salt and pepper hair is messy, his eyes look tired and his mouth is in a hard straight line. “Moving where? What the hell, Dad?”
“Language, Katy. I don’t want you giving your mom a hard time once I’m gone.” Yeah, like you care. “I’m moving to Florida. You can come and stay the summers with me. It will be fun. Like having two homes.”
Two homes? “Yeah, two broken ones. What the hell is the matter with you two? One thing happens and both of you are acting like you aren’t married? It’s like it’s not a big deal that you’re moving. Oh  bye wife and daughter. I’m going to start my life over. What the hell!”
Mom averts her eyes toward mine, tears whelming in them. “Your dad and I haven’t felt the same about each other in a long time, Katy. It has nothing to do with you, it’s us. We’ve grown apart--,”
“Shut up!” I yell, my fist hitting the table. “This is stupid. I don’t’ want to hear anymore of it. I want to go to sleep. Farewell, Dad. Have a nice life in Florida. Find you a nice beach bunny to screw this time!”
“Katy!” Dad yells, but I run upstairs and lock my door. I don’t get up when I hear my mom’s light taps against my door; I lay there until I fall asleep. My mind is racing and everything’s seems to have gone to hell quick.
I just hope school is better.
Chapter Three
“That’s her,” I hear a whisper from behind me. I turn and look at two girls a few lockers down. Their heads are close together, whispering to one another. They look like geeky freshman and I want to remind them that I’m a senior, but with the rumor mill churning, that doesn’t matter much. They both look the other way and pretend to look in their lockers.
This is how it’s been all morning. I’ve past so many people that stop and stare, giggle or make rude comments. I feel like a witch in Salem. Everyone is preparing my execution. What the hell.
“Good news or bad news?” Jennifer, asks, her eyes wide.
I look over at her and frown. Not only because the sweater vest she has on is hideous but I’m not sure if I want any more news for a while.
“Okay, good news is that Hayden knows the rumors. Bad news, there are rumors,” she says, rubbing my shoulder.
I slam my head against the locker door and close my eyes. “Why is this happening? It was just a freaking kiss,” I say.
“I thought it was more than a kiss, sweetheart,” Liam says, leaning against the locker beside me. “It was pretty magical, with you just trying to make your ex jealous and all. You’re a natural romantic, Katy.”
“Shut up,” I whisper and glare at him. “You’re the reason this is happening in the first place. If you would have just come to the library like I asked, this wouldn’t have happened. We could just be having a normal day at school, but no, I’m the new class whore.”
Liam leans in closer to me, his breath so close to mine. “I didn’t kiss you, sweetheart. You kissed me.” His lips are just as soft looking as they felt. He shrugs. “And plus, who says it wouldn’t have happened at the library. I hear lots of people get in on in there. There are so many rows of books. Shady places, hiding spots, soft bean bags.”
I open my mouth but I hear, “Katy,” I pull away from Liam. Hayden is standing in front of me, his eyes examining the situation between Liam and me. He clears his throat. “Can I talk to you really quick?”
I bite my lip and nod my head. “Yeah…um…sure.”
Liam laughs a small laugh and wraps his arm around my shoulder. “See ya later, sweetheart.” I pull away from him and avoid his grey eyes that are beaming at me.
I follow in step with Hayden and he steps into the back hallway no one uses anymore. Once the school built the new classrooms that are technologically advanced, they pushed the old ones to the side for storage. My heart thuds an extra beat. We used to come back here to make out and skip class. Now I’m sure he does that with Holly.
We stop by an empty classroom and he glares down at me. His green eyes look dark and stormy. “What the hell is going on, Katy? What is up with you and that…Liam guy,” he says, disgusted.
I shrug my shoulders and play with the end of my hair. “What’s it to you,” I whisper.
He laughs. “Absolutely nothing, Katy. But people are talking. They’re saying you’re nasty.
Do you know what that looks like for me? That I dated someone like that for the last year?”
My mouth drops open. He isn’t asking because he is jealous or concerned. He is worried about himself! I want to hit him in his handsomely perfect face, maybe break his slender nose.
“We both know you’re nothing like that, so stop seeing him, doing him or whatever it is you’re doing with him. It’s giving you and me a bad name.” He crosses his arms over his chest and narrows his eyes.
My mind is spinning. He did not just say that. I clench my fist. “Shut the hell up,” I blurt out. His eyes widen and he steps back. “It’s none of your damn business, screw off.”
I walk away and stomp my feet. My body is shaking and I can’t seem to make it stop. I’ve never been this mad. Well, except when Jen told the entire fifth grade class I laughed so hard I peed in my pants. But, this was almost worse.
The warning bell rings. I run to class. I swing open the door, my mind is racing, my face hot. The entire class glances up at me. Just like in the movies, every single person is staring. Heat runs toward my face. Liam is sitting in our lab station and his eyes are steady on mine. This is your fault! I bite my tongue to keep from screaming at him.
The whispers start when I sit down in my seat. “You okay,” he leans in and whispers.
I shake my head. “No, I want to go home.”
He opens his mouth like he wants to say something but closes it quickly.
“Okay, class,” Mr. Fringe says. “Let’s get this started. Brett and Kathy, first.” I bite my nail as I hear them whispering to one another.
“Pass,” they say.
Mr. Fringe narrows his eyes. “Donovan and Melissa,” he says.
They pretend to pick at the fringe on their notebooks.
He huffs. He always does when he gets mad. “Guys, seriously?” Mr. Fringe sighs and shakes his head. “You have until tomorrow, no longer. That’s it. Or you all are getting zeros. Do you work? Jeez.”
I sigh. I have my paper but another day for the rumor mill to die down would be great. Maybe everyone will forget by tomorrow? Liam rests his hand on mine, but I pull away. I don’t need anything to affirm the rumor was true. Liam stares at me for a few minutes until he finally glances down at his notebook. He doesn’t write anything, but I’m not surprised. Mr. Fringe goes on about his lesson about sex and I zone out. Sex is the last thing on my mind right now, contrary to what everyone is thinking.
When the bell rings after class, I grab my things quickly.
“You want to talk, are you okay?” Liam asks. I don’t answer. “Come on, Katy, are you alright?” He grabs my elbow and stops me. I look up at him and he is not blinking. “Look, I know there have been a few people talking but I’m sorry. It will die down. This is high school, no one has anything better to do than talk.”
I shake my head. “I really hope so, Liam.”
I don’t give him a chance to say anything, I run outside. I don’t want to be stared at anymore. I want to lie down and wallow in my self-pity. I get into my car and drive straight home. The house is quit when I get there. Mom is at work and Dad is gone. Just gone. Forever. He is probably scheduling out a date for every night his first week. Probably watching beach bunnies with binoculars from his new beach side house.
I fight the tears thinking about Dad leaving. Get a grip, Katy.
I dump my bag on the kitchen counter and grab a drink from the refrigerator. My phone buzzes against the counter. It’s Jennifer.
I answer. “Where the hell are you?” she whispers.
“At my house, I don’t feel good.”
“Liar. Do you want me to come over?”
“Nah, I’m just going to go to sleep. I’m feeling crummy.”
“Whatever, Katy. You’re going to have to get over the rumors. You know that you didn’t do it, why should it matter?”
“It doesn’t…got to go…love you…bye,” I say and press the End button.
Ugh. I don’t want to hear Jennifer’s mouth about the situation. She has no idea how it feels to be considered the class hoe. Hell, her strict parents won’t even let her date at all. She will never have to worry about these things. If her mother keeps putting her in those ugly sweaters she will never ever have to worry about that at all. Plaid and animal faces never go together. Unless you’re two years old or eighty. Only ‘maybe’ then.
I lie back down on the couch and try to remember the girl’s people have called hoes in the past. Heather Jenkins, Lauren Harrod…Brittany Ferrell. Those girls didn’t care. They flung themselves at every descent looking senior that came in the two double doors of the school. The problem is I do care. I don’t want that label; I’ve worked too hard for my grades and life.
I bite my lip and close my eyes. How did these girls get out of being called names? Most graduated and everyone forgot about them and others got boyfriends.
I shoot up. A boyfriend. That’s what I need. I need everyone to think I have a boyfriend. Which is a bust, because everyone is talking about me. I wouldn’t want to date me, like this. I roll my eyes. Shut up, Katy. You can’t just go get a boyfriend. They have to like you. And no one will like you now, not because of all the rumors.
I lie back down and close my eyes again. There has to be a way to fix this problem. That Jose kid always stares at me in class, maybe he would go out with me? Gross, Katy. I slam my head back into the pillow. This is ridiculous. Why is everyone so worried about my love life? It’s not like every girl in the senior class hasn’t already given up their v card, besides Jen. Although, she lies and said it was taken at Asian camp. I don’t even know if there is an Asian camp.
The fact is that if I were with Liam and we ‘slept’ together it wouldn’t even be a big deal. Besides the fact that he is a delinquent.
My words ring through my ears. If I was with Liam... A light bulb comes on in my head. Liam and I together seems like an idea that would go terribly wrong. He is…Liam. He is a self-centered jerk that thinks every girl wants him. It’s ridiculous. It’s a ridiculous idea. I lie back down. A ridiculous idea that just might work.
“Ah shit,” I say and grab my phone. I start to dial Jennifer’s number but then stop. Do I really want to do this? What could it hurt right? Everyone thinks I’m a hoe now; why not let them think Liam and I are dating?
I finish dialing Jen’s number. She picks up on the fourth ring. “I’m in class, what is it?”
“I need you to get me Liam’s cell number, stat It’s important.”
“You wanting to relive your smooch the other night,” she whispers, then makes a loud kissing sound. Good grief.
“Ms. Chang, get off the phone!” I hear someone yell. The phone cuts off and I shake my head. Maybe…maybe this could work out...right? I pace my living room floor waiting on Jennifer to get me his number. She is taking forever.
Thirty minutes later I get a text with his number and ‘get it on,’ written below it. Yea, right. I dial his number, my hands suddenly shaking. Can I do this? I have to do this.
The phone rings a few times and I’m about to hang up when I hear him answer. “Hello.”
“Hey. This is Katy. Um…your partner.” Silence. “From Science class.”
He laughs, low and raw. “Yes, Katy. I know who you are. Why are you calling me at school?”
“Because, I need you to come to my house. We need to talk.”
Is he ignoring me on purpose? “Liam.”
“You’re home alone?”
“Don’t get any ideas. It’s nothing like that; believe me, over my dead body. This is much more serious. Can you come now?”
“Katy…are you asking me to skip class to come to your house? I’m appalled. Someone is living out their rebel side today.”
“Get your ass over here.”
Fifteen minutes later there is a knock on my door. I breathe in a calm breath and try to calm my nerves. Just ask him, the worse he can say is no. Oh God, what if he does say no? My life will be ruined. Liam knocks again, louder this time.
Liam is standing close to me when I open the door. His hands are resting on the doorframe and a smile creeping up his face.
“You’re blushing, what’s the matter?” Liam asks.
I bite my lip. “I’m not blushing. Just come in. We have to talk.” Liam cocks a dark eyebrow and walks in, going straight for the couch.
“So, what’s up, sweetheart? What is the emergency? Need some emergency sugar from Daddy?”
“Everyone is talking about us,” I blurt out.
“I thought we established that? What else happened?” I don’t answer. He looks over to me and purses his lips. “What did Hayden say to you?”
I gulp. “He said my nasty reputation is making him look bad.”
Hayden narrows his eyes and pops his knuckles. “That so? Well, screw him, Katy. Who cares?”
“Me,” I whisper helplessly. “And I think you can help me. Well, at least, I hope you can.”
Liam stands up and comes in front of me, placing his hands on my shoulders. “What is that evil mind thinking, Katy?”
“I want you to be my boyfriend.” There I said it.
Liam steps back, his eyebrows furrowed and a crazy look on his face. I think he is secretly searching for the door, but then he laughs. Its borderline insane. Okay, so it’s not that funny.
“That’s funny, Katy.” He leans over and coughs, he is laughing so hard. I fight the urge to kick him while he is down. “You called me out of school for this?” he asks, crossing his arms over his chest.
I close my eyes. “You wouldn’t really be my boyfriend, we would be pretending, Liam. Like a deal or an agreement.”
He cocks an eyebrow. “I don’t do girlfriends, Katy. That’s not my thing.”
I grit my teeth. “Exactly. You don’t do that, you screw. That is why I’m in this predicament. People are saying we had sex, so everything is okay with you. Your reputation is fine…it’s mine that has gone to hell. I’m the one that looks like a rebounding whore.”
Liam stops smiling and looks down at me, his eyes narrowed. “What do I get out of this? This just might hurt my reputation.”
I close my eyes and try to look like I’m annoyed when I’m really panicking.
“Teachers will look at you differently? They will think better of you. It will alter your reputation, but make it better at the same time.”
Liam narrows his eyes and strokes his chin. Please answer! That look is driving me crazy. “Look…I’ll think about it, is that okay?”
I bite my tongue. “How long would it take for you to think about it?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know…a couple of days.”
“Liam, I don’t have a couple of days. Please,” I beg, stepping closer to him, I place my hand on his bicep and they flex beneath my touch. “Please, we don’t have to do anything, just make an appearance at school. Hold my hand. It can’t be that awful.”
Liam swallows and his Adam’s apple moves. He takes a step forward and I bump against the living room wall. He places his hands on each side of my head and smiles. “I said, I would think about it.” His breath is minty and cool against my face.
I let out a slow breath and steady my nerves. He is doing this on purpose. Smiling up at him, I lean up on my toes. “Make it fast; my reputation is on the line.” His lips are close to mine, I lean just enough to let him think I’m going to kiss him, then I stand back and push past him. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Liam.” I smile and walk up to my room. Please, God make him say yes.
Chapter Four
“I have my own car,” I say and gape at Liam. He is grinning, leaning against his Jeep in my driveway. He dusts off his hands on his jeans and opens the door for me. What alternative universe have I woken up to?
“Well, you are my girlfriend now, so we have to do this right. You’ll ride with me to school and I’ll take you home.” He smiles, ruffles his hair and gestures for me to get into the car. “That is what boyfriends do, right?”
I open my mouth. “You’re saying you’ll be my boyfriend?” Wow, I never thought I would say that.
He rolls his eyes. “Yes, that’s what I’m saying, Katy. But, you have to get your ass in the car first. Or we’ll never get to school to show people our new relationship. Fake or not, this is a big…huge…gigantic step for me.”
Thank God.  “What made you change your mind?”
He pushes his hand in his jean pocket and tilts his head to the side. “Well, not including your charming personality, begging me to be your boyfriend just to make your ex jealous, I would say it was because all my teachers would give me a little break. I need it.”
I smile. “I’m not doing this to make Hayden jealous.” Not entirely. “I’m doing this to save my reputation.” I smile again. “Thank you, Liam.” I start to hug him but I decide against it.
“Okay, enough with the crap now get in.”
“Thank you but no to the car. I have my own.” I jingle the keys in front of me.
He cocks an eyebrow. “Would you like me to pick you up, I’ve done it before. That’s what a boyfriend would do, isn’t it? Sweep his girlfriend off of her feet, literally?” My face heats. I’ve been desperately trying to push our exchanging of salvia out of my head.
“Fine, just today,” I say and march to his Jeep. He helps me up.
“We’ll see about that,” he mumbles before shutting the door. He walks around and gets into the driver’s seat. His Jeep is all leather, and clean. One thing I know about boys, is that they keep their most prized possession clean. This is clearly his. He grins. “Well, how is my girlfriend this morning, doing okay?”
“Stop calling me that,” I say, buckling my seatbelt. “Katy, will do. And thank you, I’m doing swell. Didn’t you hear, I’m the new class whore?”
He turns and reverses out of my driveway. “Okay, Katy will do, the new class whore. I’m glad you’re doing well.”
Smartass. I click my tongue against the top of my mouth and wonder how he is so calm, rested against the seat, legs sprawled. “So, you finish and type your essay for science?”
He nods. “Yep,” he gestures toward his backpack in the floorboard. “Red folder, you can take a look if ya want. I figured I better try a little harder than usual, Mr. Fringe seemed a little pissed no one had done it.”
I had done it.
I hesitate, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to see what he wrote about me. What the hell, I can’t wait. I dig through his bag until I pull it out.
“Anxious? Got to know what your fake boyfriend thinks about you?” He laughs and turns up the music a bit.
I scan the paper. Antsy. Self-centered. Nice Rack.
I gape at the paper. “What the hell, Liam! These aren’t things that would attract the opposite sex; these are things that will have them running. I am not antsy or self-centered.” I’m not going to mention nice rack.
He waves me off and runs his fingers through his hair. “Calm down, I should have put worrier on there, too.” He turns left on the road toward school. “Those are good things, they attracted me, I am your boyfriend now.” He smiles at his own sarcasm.
I narrow my eyes at him. “Rewrite this,” I demand. “We cannot read this to the class.”
“Hell no, do you know how long it took me to write that damn thing? I am not rewriting it. You won’t have to read it, I will. Jeez. I said you had a nice rack. That’s good enough.” His eyes dart toward my breast and I cross my arms over them. “Speaking of, you could dress to impress, ya know. You have to keep my interest. That’s not an easy thing to do.”
“I’m not dressing like a slut, Liam. I’m not one of your old hoochies.”
He rolls his eyes and looks down at me. “Showing a little cleavage isn’t that big of a deal. It’s normal.”
“Not for me.” I scowl.
“Shut up.”
Liam laughs and turns into the school parking lot. I swallow a hard lump that is forming in my throat. My hands are shaking and my head spinning. “Someone is nervous?”
“Yeah, I am.” I turn to him. “I’m not sure I can do this,” I say. I turn back to the school and watch all the teenagers walk around. It’s Liam Erickson. The school’s bad boy, the boy that doesn’t hear the word no very often. The man whore or Avalon.
“It’s going to be easy. Just let yourself love me, like you know you do. We’re going to rock their worlds, Katy. Let’s go make some more gossip, shall we?” I look over and he gives me an encouraging nod. I swallow and reach for the door. “Wait,” he shrugs out of his leather jacket, “you should wear this. Ya know, to show its official. I guess that’s boyfriend do, right?”
I shrug, even though I know it is. I take the jacket and glance over at him. He rolls his eyes. “Don’t get attached to it, this is just pretending remember? It was your idea.”
“I know,” I say and put the jacket on. It smells like him. I try not to smell it where he can see, that might freak him out, or give him more reason to make fun of me. I don’t need anymore of those.
I nod. “As I’ll ever be.”
“Let’s do this, honey.” He smirks and gets out of the Jeep. When I step out I feel small and a bit stupid. His jacket is heavy on me and my heart is pounding against my rib cage. I can barely see straight. This is nuts, why did I think of this?
I feel Liam’s arm around my waist and I stiffen. “For effects, sweetheart. Loosen up or we’re never going to pull this off.”
“You’re right,” I say and nod. I try and relax the best I can but it’s hard when everyone in the school is staring at us. Not to mention I really don’t feel comfortable with Liam this close to me. Last time, I stuck my tongue down his throat. That’s not going to happen again.
Liam pulls me closer to him and we walk toward my locker. I hear whispers beside us and Liam laughs lowly. He leans down and I feel his lips touch my ear. “This is going to be fun. Everyone is already talking.” The rumor mill has begun to churn.
I groan. “God.”
Jennifer is at my locker when I get there. Her mouth is open and I give her a look. She doesn’t catch it. Please don’t make a scene. Her face twist into an angry scowl. Ah, hell.
“What in the living hell---,”
“Hey, Jennifer,” Liam says, reaching over and giving her a pat on the shoulder. “How are you? Good weather, huh?”
“Good. What the hell is going on?” she asks, voice low, her hand on her hip.
“What do you mean?” I ask, opening my locker.
She narrows her eyes and snorts. “This,” she says, pointing toward Liam. She crinkles her nose up.
“You’re hurting my feelings,” Liam says. “Baby, tell Jen to stop hurting my feelings.”
Her mouth is wide open. “Baby?” she squeals out. “This is not happening. I’ve fallen and hit my head.”
“Open your eyes, Jen, you’re not dreaming.” Liam wiggles his eyebrows.
“Okay, that’s enough. I can’t take this ridiculousness this early in the morning. I’m going to class.” She turns on her heel and stalks out of the hallway.
“Touchy,” Liam says. “She took it well.” He smiles. “So, we caused enough attention, or you want a smooch, too?”
I grab my books from my locker and shut the door. “I think that is what got us into this mess. Lay off, Jen. I’m already going to have to do damage control with her. Asian’s sure can hold a grudge.”
“Okay, Momma.”
“Don’t call me that,” I say, shutting my locker door.
Liam smiles and grabs my waist, sliding his hand down. My eyes widen and I jerk back. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Testing my boundaries. Now, I know where I stand.” He smiles. “See ya at lunch, sweetheart.” He kisses me on the cheek, before jumping out of hitting distance.
I sigh and walk toward class.
“Psst,” I hear.  I look up from my notebook and glance around the room. Nothing. Only students pretending to pay attention. “Over here,” I hear again. I look over to my left and see Hayden staring at me. His jaw is set and his green eyes narrowed. I give him a what the hell do you want look. He starts to write something on his paper. I roll my eyes and continue to write.
I’m just about to ask Mrs. Johns a question about Abraham Lincoln when I feel a paper wad hit my head. Ouch. Not like it really hurt, but hell, grow up. I look up and Hayden is staring at me again. ‘What?” I belt out. “What the hell do you want?”
The entire class turns toward me and then back to Hayden. “Ms. Katy, is there a problem?” Mrs. Johns looks over her thick framed glasses at me.
“Yes, Hayden hit me with a paper wad and he won’t leave me alone.” I don’t know why but I feel proud to get him in trouble. A little pathetic I know, but I can’t help it. The shocked look on his face makes me feel good. It makes me feel better for the things he said to me.
She narrows her eyes and looks over at Hayden, whose mouth has almost dropped to the floor. “Hayden, is there anything you would like to tell Ms. Katy since you’re throwing things at her head.”
Hayden’s Adam’s apple moves in his throat and he shakes his head, disapprovingly. He looks really mad. “Yeah. I’m ashamed of the last year of my life.”
A pressure that I’ve never felt before presses down on my chest. It hurts like salt to a wound. My vision is cloudy and I hear several people snickering around me.
“Hayden, stop throwing things and pay attention,” Mrs. Jones snaps and turns toward the board.
I can’t make myself pay attention the rest of the period. My head is spinning and my heart is pounding. Those few words hurt worse than anything Hayden has ever said to me. I try not to cry in front of anyone. I cannot let Hayden see me cry. I’ve cried too many tears because of him.
When the bell rings I’m the first person out of the room. I’m trying to hold back my tears but they’re burning at my eyes and making my throat burn. A few students start to stare at me so I dash down the boy’s hallway and into the back of the school, where Hayden had first told me why he didn’t want me with Liam.
I shake the door handles until I come to one door that was unlocked. I shut the door behind me and sit at the empty teacher’s desk. There are boxes everywhere. I wonder if I can hide in one and disappear. I rest my hands on the desk and try to make myself calm down. Hayden is…such an ass. I can’t believe he is that worried about himself. I regret the last year of my life. Those words sink into me like nothing ever has. He regrets all the laughter, touching, kissing, holding, making love. I gave myself to him. A sob is riding on my tongue. How can he just forget an entire year with someone? How can he act as if I’m vapor to him? I close my eyes and I all I see is our first time together. I gave myself to him, something I could never get back. He doesn’t even give a damn. He never did. He tossed me aside for the first piece of ass that paid him any attention. I am trying not to cry when I hear the door open.
“I told you’d she would be in here,” Jennifer says, pushing Liam out of the way. She stands in front of the desk and glances down at me. “I heard. I’m sorry. He is an asswipe.”
I nod and wipe at my eyes. I glance at Liam and he is stoned face. Probably one hundred shades of uncomfortable right about now. He didn’t sign up for this. I clear my throat. “I am fine. I just needed to get out of there for a while.”
Jennifer nods and looks at Liam. She nudges his side and he rolls his eyes. “Would you get out of here, Jennifer? I need to talk to my girlfriend.” He sounds robotic.
That word sounds foreign on his tongue. Jennifer makes a face and I’m surprised she has believed us this long. “Whatever, I’ll see you in Science,” she says and like a bullet shoots out of the classroom.
When I look up Liam is staring at me, grey eyes wide an eyebrow rose. “So, what’s the damage?” He leans on the desk, staring down at me.
I sigh and run my fingers through my hair. “Don’t worry about it,” I stand up. “Let’s just go to class, get this over with.”
Liam walks around the desk and grabs my elbow. His fingers wrap around my arm and slide down to my wrist. I’m oddly aware of how calloused and warm his hand is on me. “Hey,” he whispers, his voice is low, it’s the lowest and most serious I’ve ever heard it. “You really okay? What exactly happened? Do I need to whoop some ass? I’m kind of a badass around here, ya know?”
I smile. “He…” don’t you dare cry; I push the tears back down, “he threw a paper wad at my head. Then he said that he was ashamed of the last year of his life in front of the class,” I say.
Liam groans and rolls his eyes. “He is stupid, Katy. He wants you to feel like this. You shouldn’t. You have enough to worry about; don’t let him knock you down.”
“I know…” I say, drifting off into silence. I know  but I can’t seem to make myself ignore him.
Liam finally let’s go of my arm. He jabs his finger toward the door. “Hey, let’s go to class, okay?” he asks.
I nod. “Yeah, let’s go.”
When we get to Science, Jen is sitting with her new partner Samantha. She gives me an are you okay look. No I want to shout, but I nod instead.
Liam and I sit down. I sling my backpack over the table and pull out my things. I hear whispers from behind me, but I ignore them. I open my folder and pull out my essay. I feel something kick the back of my lab stool. I turn my ear to the left and try to hear what their saying.
“They are doing it. I never knew she was such a whore,” I hear. My body goes cold. I turn my head back and try to ignore them but it sounds like their suddenly talking louder than ever.
“I know right. I knew she probably gave it up to Hayden, but now she is going around throwing herself at everybody.”
The tears are threatening to come down but I push them back. I watch the back of Jen’s head as she bobs it back and forth, talking to Samantha. I wish I was sitting in Samantha’s seat, anything to get away from the two girls behind me. I close my eyes and pray that Liam isn’t hearing this. My face it hot. I can barely hear anything, my ears seem stopped up. Please, don’t let him hear this.
“Hey,” I hear Liam say. Shit, he heard it, too.
I look over at him; he is turned toward the two girls sitting behind us. His eyebrows are furrowed and his hands tightened into fists. I reach over to touch his hand but he snatches it up, pointing at the two girls. “Remember last year when you both tried to get me to fuck you? Huh? Didn’t want to be virgins anymore? What’s wrong, don’t want everybody knowing that, now do we?” He laughs, it’s bitter. “So, shut the hell up before I tell everyone just how slutty you both are.” He huffs.
They go silent. It’s the best silence I’ve ever heard. Liam sighs and opens his red folder. I suddenly don’t care he is going to tell everyone that he likes my rack. I want to say something but my mouth is dry and hanging open. I want to tell him thank you, but I keep my head down. I can’t believe he just said that.
“Now,” Mr. Fringe says, walking toward his desk. “I pray to the good God above you delinquent of students done your work. I really hate giving zeros. It depresses me.” He runs his fingers through his hair. “Brett? Kathy?” He looks back at the table. They both get up and move toward the podium. “Call the press!” Mr. Fringe yells.
Brett and Kathy both start in on their essays. I zone out on the first paragraph. “Thanks,” I say, leaning toward Liam. “You didn’t have to do that, ya know. I can handle it.”
Liam snorts. “You looked like you were about to cry.”
I shrug and pick at the edge of my notebook. “No, I wasn’t. It just pisses me off. We haven’t even done anything. I don’t understand.”
Liam looks over at me. “This is high school, people are stupid. We’re doing the only thing either of us can think of to make them stop talking. Date. Well, pretend, but you get the picture.”
I nod. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Liam and Katy,” Mr. Fringe says. “Since you have so much to talk about, why don’t you present next.”
Great. I stand up and someone lets out a wolf whistle. My cheeks heat. “Shut it,” Mr. Fringe says, pointing toward the back of the room.
Liam and I walk up to the podium. My hands are shaking erratically. I can’t make them stop. Liam takes my paper. “Mr. Fringe, can I read Katy’s for her. Her throat is sore.”
“What from?” someone in the back of the room yells.
“You better shut the fu--,”
“Stop it,” Mr. Fringe interrupts Liam. “Next person besides Katy or Liam that says something is getting expelled. Grow up,” he says. He nods at me. God, I hope he doesn’t know what’s going on.
My cheeks are hot. I’m looking down at the podium. I place my hand on the outside to steady myself. Liam steps next to me and places the paper over my hand, then holds my hand underneath it. I gasp. It’s the first time he has really tried to comfort me. It’s very comforting. I smile to myself.
Liam clears his throat and adjusts his shirt. He starts to read my paper. He stops mid-way and glances over at me. “Arrogant, uses lame pickup lines and is always late.” He laughs. “Thanks, Katy,” he says. “That’s a confidence booster.”
I shrug. “I vowed to tell the truth.”
  Liam finishes my essay and then starts his. Mr. Fringe shakes his head throughout the entire paper. Nice rack is in there at least five times. I’m really glad the podium is blocking everyone’s view of my boobs.
“Thank you, guys, you can have a seat.” Liam lets go of my hand and I follow him back to our seats. I don’t look up; I lock my eyes onto the floor. “Melissa and Donovan,” Mr. Fringe says.
Liam looks over at me. “My lines aren’t that lame,” he says.
I shrug. “That’s up for debate.”
“Hey,” he whispers. “Don’t worry about that jackass. It’s just Justin; he is a dickwad to everyone.”
I nod, but I can’t help but to think about it. “Okay,” I whisper.
The rest of the period goes by quickly. I’m glad we’re out of the spotlight. Liam laughs under his breath at everyone’s essays. They obviously just made up a bunch of random things.
Mr. Fringe’s clap brings me back to the present. “Okay, everyone. Nicely done. That wasn’t so hard, now was it?”
Everyone mumbles.
He smirks. “Okay, so we will have our next test, this Friday. Be ready, it’s over chapter fifteen.” He turns around and writes down our homework on the board when the bell rings.
I grab my books and step out into the aisle. Something hits my back and my books scatter along the floor. “Oops, sorry,” Justin says. I look up at him. It’s the first time I’ve glanced at him all period. His dark eyes are right on me. He has a letterman jacket on, a smirk on his face and his books in his hands. I want to cry, everyone passing by is staring at me, no one stops to help.
He is laughing at me. Really laughing. He shakes his head, and then his books go flying toward the floor. He glances back at Liam. “Oops,” Liam says. “Better pick up your books.” Liam bends down and helps me gather my books.
“You better watch yourself, asshole,” Justin says, kicking on of my books across the floor, before walking off.
“You don’t have to--,”
“Yeah, I do. You’re my girlfriend remember, gotta act the part.” It makes me think if he would help me if he wasn’t pretending to be my girlfriend. He helps me up and we walk out of class. Jen is waiting by the door.
“Way to go, new boyfriend. I think I might need to hire me one,” she says.
“What?” I yell out.
Liam is frozen beside me, looking down at Jen.
“Jeez,” Jen says, “I need protecting too. I don’t see any guys lined up to date me. I would have to hire one. Why are you guys so antsy,” she says, shaking her head.
I smile. Wow. That was close. “Haha,” I blurt out as Jen walks away.
Liam looks down at me, and then laughs. “We have got to relax,” he says. “I’ve had more drama today then my entire life put together.”
“Welcome to the land of high school girls.”
“Do you have to listen to that music?” I ask on the way home from school. I plug my fingers inside my ears.
Liam smiles and turns up the music. “What’s wrong with Shinedown?”
“It’s loud and rude.”
“What do you listen to Taylor Swift?”
Yes. “No!” I screech. I cross my arms over my chest and still when I see Dad’s SUV in the driveway.
“You okay, over there?” Liam asks, pulling along the curb in front of my house. I hear the doors unlock but I’m still staring. Am I ready to see him after what he said Saturday night? He is packing his things to move. Move away from Mom and me. He is uprooting his family, like we’re nothing to him. Like an entire family and twenty years with someone is replaceable and garbage.
“Hey, you okay?” Liam asks again. I feel him nudge my arm, I glance back at him and away from my house.
“No, my dad is home.”
He lifts an eyebrow. “You don’t want to see him, I’m guessing?”
“No,” I say. “I don’t think I can.”
“You want to go somewhere else?” he asks.
“Yes,” I whisper.
“Okay,” he says, putting his Jeep into gear, “to my house it is.” Liam doesn’t ask a bunch of questions on the way to his house. It’s a comfortable silence that helps me erase the situation with my dad away. At least for a little while.
I didn’t know his house was so…big. I’d always thought Liam come from a single mother and they didn’t have a lot. That’s me and my ‘judging a book by its cover,’ mind set. Even though he dressed decent and had a car, he just had that bad boy lonely boy look. “So, this is the pad,” Liam says, throwing his backpack on a white leather couch, that looks like it cost as much as my house.
“This is your house?” I glance around, it’s like a museum. It doesn’t look lived in at all.
Liam walks into what I assume is the kitchen. “Nope, I snuck us in.” I roll my eyes. “Want a Coke, you can come in here,” he yells, disappearing behind the wall. I slip my shoes off; because I’m scared I’ll scuff up his floor. I slide by the perfect furniture into a completely red and black kitchen.
“Ah!” I scream, jumping backwards. Liam turns around, cocks an eyebrow and his attention draws to the lady in the far corner.
“Oh, sorry. Melinda this is Katy my… girlfriend.” He tries not to smile. “Katy this is Melinda, our house keeper.”
Melinda waves, brushing her brown hair off her shoulder. She says something in Spanish but I’m not sure what. Liam says something back to her in Spanish and she leaves.
“You speak Spanish?” I ask.
“Don’t look so surprised,” Liam says.
I laugh. I am surprised. “Well, you could have warned me,” I say and grab the Coke Liam if holding out for me.
He shrugs. “I forget she is here. She is always here. Been here since I was little.”
“Where are your parents?”
“Dad is at work and my stepmom is probably out screwing around.”
I choke on my Coke. Okay, I feel a little hostility. I cock an eyebrow and look up at him. He shrugs and takes a large drink of his Coke. “What? It’s the truth. She is old enough to be my big sister.”
“Where is your biological Mom?”
He shrugged. “Have no idea. She took off one day while I was at school.”
What. The. Hell. What kind of mother leaves her son? I bite my lip and try to think of something to say that wouldn’t sound irritating like ‘are you okay,’ or ‘it will be okay.’
“Her loss,” I say, and take another drink of my Coke. Liam is staring at me and the hurt that was in his eyes disappear. He smirks and shuts the fridge. He walks out of the kitchen toward a set of stairs.
He turns around, cocking an eyebrow. “You coming?”
“Where?” I ask, even though I know where he is going.
“My room. Is that a problem?”
I freeze and my stomach flips. “I--,”
Liam sighs and rolls his eyes. “I’m not going to rape you, scouts honor.” He holds up two fingers to his forehead. “Come on, girlfriend.” He starts up the stairs and I wait until he has disappeared from my view to take a breath. It comes out heavy and ragged. It’s not that I think Liam will try anything with me; it’s just that he makes me…nervous.
I walk up the stairs, and try to focus on my steps rather than being alone in his room with him. Get a grip, Katy. It’s just Liam. It’s just your…boyfriend…fake boyfriend. When I turn the corner Liam jumps out and I scream. When I realize it’s him I stop and narrow my eyes in irritation. Really?
He is still laughing when I push him. “What were you doing down there, making sure your breath smells alright? Fixing your hair in the mirror?”
I straighten my shoulders and tilt my head to the side. “No. I was just admiring your house,” I lie.
“Whatever,” he whispers and rolls his eyes. “Come this way. I want to make you birth my children. You have great child birthing hips.”
I roll my eyes and follow him down the long hallway. I can imagine a little Liam standing at the end, watching the empty hall after his mother left. What would a child think? My mom has disappeared without me? How would a kid deal with that?
“You coming in or what?” Liam asks, waving his hand in front of my face. I gaze back at him and nod. His room is...not what I expected.
First off, it’s clean. Secondly, there are no naked pictures of girls on the walls. Thirdly, it’s clean.
“Pick up your jaw, Melinda cleans it for me.” He kicks off his shoes. “If it were up to me, I would have clothes everywhere, like you. Well, I wouldn’t have the opened books but I would have the clothes.” He plops down on his bed and turns on his TV. He looks up at me. “You can sit down, I was just joking about the birthing hips.” He eyes my hips. “You are actually a little on the skinny side.”
I ignore his comment. “Your parents won’t be home soon?” I ask, sitting on the edge of his bed. It’s soft. I’m pretty sure his comforter probably cost more than my entire room, with everything in it. I’ve never wanted to sink into material before.
He shrugs and leans back against his pillow. “Don’t know. They come and go as they please. Their never home, really. They are adults, ya know.”
I pick at a piece of fringe on my jeans. “They don’t tell you where their going or anything? They just leave?”
He sighs. I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but sometimes, ya just gotta ask. “I don’t know, I don’t ask and I don’t care. Why are you so worried about when they are coming home, anyway? It’s not like we’re really doing anything, even though that can be arranged.” He wiggles his eyebrows.
Because, I feel sad for you. I shrug. “Just asking, Liam.” Liam rolls over onto his back. “So, what do you do for fun?”
Liam props himself up on his elbow. “You ever play tennis?”
“I have before, why?”
Liam stands up. “Well, that’s what I do. We’re gonna play tennis, come on.” Liam gets up, grabs my arm and pulls me downstairs.
“Are we going up town to the courts?”
Liam opens the back door for me. I stop in my tracks. What.  The. Hell. “No, we have our own.” My jaw is open.
“Wowza,” I say.
Liam shrugs and motions for me to follow him. “My dad built it for me when I was young. I guess it was his way of buying me love. Just like the pool,” he says, tossing his head toward the pool to the left. Jeez. The backyard is huge. Liam opens the door to a small building and brings two tennis rackets out, with a packet of tennis balls. “Ready to get schooled?” he asks.
I grab a tennis racket. “I’d like to see you try.”
“Gotta warn ya hot stuff, I’m pretty good,” Liam shouts, while running to his side of the net.
He isn’t lying. He hands me my ass the entire time. We play six games, six of that I lost utterly. I want to crawl into the pool and hide forever. Sweat is dripping off my forehead. “Stop, can’t….breathe.”
Liam smiles and run towards me, hopping over the net. He pats my back hard. “Oh, suck it up ya big baby. I warned you completely.”
“Water,” I croak out. “Dying of thirst. Tell my mom I love her.”
He laughs. “Get up, girlfriend.” He grabs my shoulder and pulls me back into the house. He hands me a glass of water from the fridge. I inhale it.
“Oh, that’s the best water I’ve ever tasted.”
Liam nods and finishes off his bottle. “It’s still early; you ready to go home yet?” I bite my lip. Not really. I look up at Liam. I try to tell myself I want to stay because he is alone, but I really just don’t want to leave at all.
“Well, my dad could still be home,” I twirl my finger along the kitchen cabinet.
“Okay,” Liam says. I can hear the smile in his voice. “You like Jackie Chan?”
We spend the next two hours lying on his bed, watching Rush Hour. When I said I’d never seen it, he almost had a heart attack. They movie was about over when someone barged into Liam’s room. I jumped up. I’m not sure why, it wasn’t like we were actually doing anything other than watching TV. It’s just a natural reaction.
“Can’t you knock?” Liam asks, sitting up on his elbows. I glance at the door where a tall, skinny, blonde haired woman stands.
Her hands are on her slender hip; her long perfectly painted nails are tapping along her waist. “I don’t have to, it’s my house.”
Ouch. Must be step-mom young enough to be older sister. More like last year she was a senior in high school young.
“Well, this is my room, so get the hell out. I am busy.”
She glances in my direction, her blue eyes narrows. I want to evaporate, but as much as I will it, it never happens. “And who must you be?”
“My name is Katy,” I whisper. I avert my eyes. I hear you’re not supposed to look at mean people too long in the face. You’ll turn to stone.
He cocks an eyebrow at me. “She is my girlfriend.”
“Very surprising, I didn’t think you’d ever meet someone that would like you,” she says, pushing her long blonde hair off her shoulder. “Your dad is going to be late tonight. He wanted me to tell you. You can order a pizza for dinner.” She smiles. It’s fake. Then walks out of the room. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding.
She didn’t even officially introduce herself to me. Not that I want to fake a ‘nice to meet you,’ because obviously it was anything but that. Although, it’s normally required for the parents to at least pretend they give a damn.
“Ugh,” he says, slamming his head into the pillow. “She never cooks like Mom used to.”
Something sad runs across his eyes before he closes them. She never cooks? How awful.  “Tell ya what. Get up.” I pat his knee.
“Why?” he asks, and barely opens one eye.
“To have a home-cooked meal, my mom always cooks.”
Twenty minutes later, we’re at my house in the kitchen. The smell of food is heavy. I wonder when the last time Liam smelled a home cooked meal in his kitchen.
“You’ve never had Oreo balls?” my mom asks, holding out a plate in front of Liam. “That’s blasphemy.”
“It looks like dirt,” he says, smiling.
“And taste like Heaven,” I say, sprinkling some pepper over the mashed potatoes. “You should try one. They’re great.”
Mom waves the plate in his face and smiles.
He laughs. “Shouldn’t you be encouraging me to wait until after dinner to eat desert, Mrs. Taylor? I’ll spoil my dinner.”
Mom snorts and rolls her eyes. “I’m not like most mothers. It’s just one, take one.” She sounds like a drug pusher.
Liam glances over at me and smiles. My stomach flutters and I pretend to be interested in the potatoes. Jeez, when did his smile get so pretty? “Okay, here it goes.” He reaches over and takes one. He puts it in his mouth and I hate that I watch his mouth when he does. His full lips devour the chocolate goodness. Stop it, Katy.
“These are…” he pauses for effect, his eyes directing back and forth between my mother and me, “awesome.”
Mom hollers and thrusts her fist in the air, with a fist pump. “Another one converted, my dear.” She smiles. “Call the others!”
I laugh. My mother is too embarrassing sometimes.
When dinner is ready I set the table and we all sit down to eat. It’s surprisingly normal. We chatted about our project and non-important things.
“So,” Mom says, clearing her throat, “are you two official now?”
I try not to choke on my chicken. I didn’t even really think about how this would look to my mother. Everyone else knows, we have to try and pull it off, so I have to tell her right?
“Yes,” I say, taking a sip of my drink.
She smirks and I see she is trying to hide it. Heat rises to my cheeks and I pretend to really enjoy my mashed potatoes.
“You’re blushing,” Liam blurts out. I glance up at him and give him the death glare.
Mom smiles. “She is a blusher, she always has been.”
“I caught that quickly,” Liam winks.
Kill me now.
After dinner Mom basically pushes us out and says she can handle the dishes. That’s a first. She normally asks me to help while she ‘pretends’ to wash the stove. It’s never as dirty as she says it is.
Liam walks to our swing in the back yard and sits down. I follow him and sit down next to him.
He wraps his arms over the back of the swing. “Thanks, Katy,” he says.
“For what?” I ask.
“For inviting me over. It was nice. My family hasn’t been like this in a long, long time. I miss it. This was…nice.”
I bite my lip. How freaking sad. I’m determined not to think about a small child watching the empty house and wondering what he done wrong. I never think about having dinner with Dad or Mom. It is always just normal. Now that Dad’s gone it’s gonna sting, but Mom will never stop having dinner with me. I hope. “Well, you have a Jeep. You know where I live. You can come over anytime you want for dinner.”
Liam looks down at me and I watch the confusion dance in his eyes. Uncomfortable, I push my shoulder into his. “You are my boyfriend now, remember?”
He shakes his head and smiles. “How could I forget? You’ve totally altered my reputation. I actually had a teacher give me a half smile today.”
“Things are really looking up. I’m sure that never happens.” I smile.
Chapter Five
“What is up with you?” Jennifer asks, waving her hand in front of my face.
I jolt out of my daze, shaking my head. “What are you talking about?”
Jennifer throws down her half eaten chicken nuggets, narrowing her eyes. “Something isn’t right with the two of you. Something is weird. I can feel it.”
I take a sip of my drink to distract myself from her glare. “What do you mean, Jennifer? What are you like a Private Investigator or something?”
“Call it my incredible Asian instincts.” She cocks an eyebrow.
I roll my eyes. “Okay, well give it to me. What’s wrong with us?”
“You two don’t touch,” she says so matter of fact.
“Hey!” I lift my hand. “We hold hands all the time--,”
“No,” she cuts me off, waving her finger in my face, “you don’t kiss. You just hug or hold hands. And correct me if I’m wrong but Liam is always lip locked with some girl. He isn’t ashamed of P.D.A. And neither are you, you and Hayden missed class all the time to go get it on in the back hallway. So, it’s rather fishy to me.”
I blushed, and bite on my straw. “We’ve only been together a few days, Nancy Drew. Is it okay for to move slowly into this?” Slowly into our imaginary relationship? “Give us a break, damn.”
“Give who a break?” Liam says, placing his tray beside mine.
“Nothing,” I blurt out.
“I think something is up with the two of you,” Jennifer says, crossing her arms over her heinous sweater.
Liam cocks an eyebrow, and takes a bite of his pizza. “Good investigating there, Ms. Chang. I would say you figured out we’re dating after everyone else in the school.”
She narrows her eyes. “No. I mean you two don’t touch or kiss. You barely hug each other; it’s just a lot of talking and flirting.” She thinks we flirt? I smile to myself. “Which by your reputation I wouldn’t think you would mind giving your girlfriend a big smooch. Not to mention, but neither one of you have said anything about the Homecoming Dance this weekend. It’s all every couple have been talking about. Why haven’t you two?” She leans forward, watching our every move. “I’m waiting for an answer.”
Liam is quiet for a minute. He glances over at me, grey eyes serious. “We’ll give you a show Miss. Chang. Let me eat my food first, and then freshen my breath. I wouldn’t want my girlfriend to have to taste my nasty pizza breath.” He smiles. “And if Katy wants to go to the dance, we can go. I don’t mind. It’s up to her all the way.”
Jennifer smiles and lifts her eyebrow. She loves this.
“Um…sure,” I say, digging my fork around in my corn. I hate dances. She knows that. I’m going to kill Jennifer. I grab my fork; I want to stab her in her Asian eyes.
I eat my food in silence. I’m not sure what to say. I feel totally uncomfortable. Not that I haven’t kissed him before, but it was once and out of spite. We’re pretending, this wasn’t in the deal. Damn you, Jennifer. When the bell rings, Jennifer gets up to throw away her food.
Liam grabs my elbow and looks down at me. “We don’t have to kiss if you don’t want to. You can fake sick or something. Maybe pretend to throw up some pizza? I know we’re pretending and everything.”
I sigh. I feel the heat rushing to my face. “I mean…” I scratch my neck, “what will it hurt, I guess it would be okay…if you wanted to…”
Liam is smiling when I glance up at him. I had been staring down at his combat boots and how scruffy they looked but he was too quiet so I glanced back up at him. “What are you smiling at, Liam?”
He leans toward me, overwhelming me with his scent and smiles. “You’re nervous, it’s awfully adorable.” He pinches my cheek and I snatch away from him.
“Stop it,” I hiss lowly.
Jennifer returns, crosses her arms over her chest. “Come on, give ‘em a smooch.”
Oh, shit. “I--,”
“Not here, Jennifer. If we’re going to prove to you that we want each other, we have to do it in the hallway. Let’s make this interesting.” He is joking with me now, right?
Oh God. Who the hell wants to punish me? Liam wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me to him. “Come on, girlfriend. If we’re gonna make everyone believe we’re together we need to have at least one make out session a day.”
A day! I was thinking more like every two weeks or month!
The hallways are flooded when we get there. My heart is beating ninety to nothing. I glance from student to student. Everyone just evacuate the hallway, I want to scream. Fire!
Jennifer is at her locker, eyes locked on us. I’m going to kill her.
Liam pushes me up against the end of a locker and the start of a wall. He is close to me, too close. His breath is minty; he must have popped in some gum. My hands are shaking and Liam is smiling. “Why so nervous, little bear?”
“Don’t call me that.” I roll my eyes.
“You know why I call you that? You look like a little squeezable stuffed bear.”
Very flattering. “Very romantic, Liam.”
“You’re nervous,” he whispers.
“I’m not nervous, I’m ready to get this over with,” I say, it comes out weakly.
He smiles and places each hand on either side of my face. “I think you’re anxious,” he breathes in my ear. I shiver. “Ready for me to kiss you. You’ve been waiting on it haven’t you?”
“No,” I whisper.
I can see someone staring at us from the opposite wall and it’s not Jennifer, but don’t care. I’m too busy staring at Liam’s face. His grey eyes melting me with one glare, his full lips parted and his heavy jaw line. Not to mention the sexy as hell way his black hair falls over his forehead.
“Liar, but that’s okay. You’re pretend boyfriend knows the truth. You ready to turn some heads, little bear?”
“Uh huh,” I say and try to focus my mind. It’s spinning.
Liam lowers his mouth to mine and I’m holding my breath. His lips touch mine. I relax into the softness of them. Liam is hesitate, his hands on either side of my head. Liam’s tongue glides across my lower lip and I offer him access to my mouth. He makes a low sound in his chest. It makes heat waves swallow me in pure desire. I reach up and pull on his shirt until he has me pinned against the locker, without any space between us. Liam runs his hands down my sides to my hips and holsters me up, wrapping my legs around his waist.
I’m not breathing. My heart is pumping so hard against my ribs I think it might bust from my chest. I feel a hard bump against my shoulder and I snap out of my daze. Liam leans his head down by my ear and laughs. It’s low and sexy. But it doesn’t seem like it’s very friendly.
I ease my legs off of Liam’s waist, down to the ground. I look back and see Hayden walking through the crowd glaring back at me. I smile. Haha, sucker. When I turn around Liam is straight faced.
I open my mouth to say something but I’m not sure what I’m going to say. “Well,” Jennifer says, clearing her throat. “That was pretty believable.” She won’t look us in the eyes. She believes it. A hint of pink is on her cheeks.
Liam shakes his head, smiling down at me. “Yeah, girlfriend. We’re believable now.”
“Guess so,” I mumble.
“See ya after school?” he asks, not waiting for an answer, just walking off. His combat boots scuffing up the floor as he goes.
I don’t know what’s going on but something feels weird. My chest hurts and it’s not heartburn.
Liam isn’t waiting at my locker when the final bell rings. I stand for a minute, unsure what to do. Where is he? Did he leave without me? Did his teacher keep him long? I grab the books I need and walk outside. I search the parking lot until I see Liam’s Jeep at the far end. He seems kind of angry when he left after lunch. Maybe he is mad? Why do I care? It’s just a pretend relationship anyways, right? When I round the Jeep Liam is leaned up against the door and a giggling girl is beside him. My jaw drops.
My blood starts to boil. I try to calm down before I speak but it doesn’t really work at all. “What the hell, Liam?” I yell.
The girl jumps, dropping her books, scurrying to pick them up. Liam never stops looking at me. “What is it?”
What is it? Are you serious? “You know good and damned well what it is.” I point to the girl that is picking up her books. She stares up at me, with big blue eyes. Ugh. They start to water. “Could you excuse us, please?”
“Sure,” she says. She nods and darts off back toward the school. She looks relieved.
Liam rolls his eyes and kicks off of his Jeep. “Well, look who is a cock blocker.”
Anger is starting to become my favorite emotion of the day. “Liam, we talked about this. You can’t just go and hit on girls…we’re supposed to be together. That makes me look slutty, still, you look like an asshole and teachers like you even less than they already do.”
Liam steps closer, his scent overwhelming me. I step back against his Jeep and stiffen. “Yeah, we are supposed to be together. So, why is it that you get pleasure out of making Hayden jealous, huh? That’s not very believable.” Liam’s jaw is set. It’s a little scary.
So this is about Hayden? I bite my lip and shake my head. “Look, you know it’s just a plus to make him angry,” I say, my voice small. “It makes me feel better.” Wow, I didn’t realize how awful that was until I said it.
Liam clenches his fist, leans closer to me and smiles. “Well, I’m not going to be your rebound or your puppet. I’m here to help us both out. You don’t want to look like a slut and I need the teachers to give me a damn break.”
Ouch. I hate that that hurt.
“Okay, so no more talking to other girls in public and I won’t smile at Hayden.” I scoff and walk around to get in his Jeep.
“That’s not it Katy--,” Liam says, slamming the door, running his fingers through his hair. “Never mind. Just forget it. It’s not important.”
We don’t speak on the way home. I don’t know what to say and I assume he is mad at me. Oh well. It was nice seeing Hayden jealous. I don’t regret making him jealous. He deserves it and much worse.
I bite my lip and wonder back to Jennifer’s blushing face after our make out session. She seemed to believe us. That’s good news. I didn’t even have to act like I liked it, because I did. I liked it a little too much. I’m going to have to learn how to control my emotions.
I find my own cheeks heating. Good thing Liam isn’t looking or giving a shit about me right now.
When we pull up to my house, my dad’s SUV is in the driveway. I watch my dad walk out of the house, two boxes balances on one another. My heart thumps hard against my ribs. Dad opens his door and shoves the boxes in.
“Are you getting out?” Liam asks. It doesn’t look like Liam is going to invite me to his house today, or to play tennis.
“Yeah,” I say, snapping out of my daze. “Um, yeah, I’ll see ya tomorrow.” I open the door and stalk toward my dad. He is adjusting boxes in the backseat when I get to the car door.
“Hey,” I whisper.
Dad pulls back, his salt and pepper hair hanging over his eyes. “Sweetheart,” he says, hugging me. “How are you?”
I ignore his question. “Um, when are you moving,” I ask.
He runs his fingers through his hair, closing his eyes. “Next week. Katy, listen. I know you’re upset--,”
“Could you just try and work it out, Dad?” My lip trembles. “Please, stay for dinner, just try and talk to Mom---,”
“Katy, please,” Dad says, resting his hands on my shoulder. “It’s not going to happen with us, we’ve been trying for years. It’s just time, you have to understand that.”
I close my eyes, twisting my face, trying not to cry. “Dad, you can’t just abandon us, please!” I beg. I grab his arms, pulling on him. “Please, don’t leave.” I’m crying now, hysterically.
Dad closes his eyes, shaking his head back and forth. “Katy!” he screams. “I can’t. This is not your fault. I swear. It’s not. Just please understand that it can’t work out anymore. I love you and your mom. But, it just can’t.”
My hands fall from his shoulders, I stumble back like I’ve been slapped. I turn toward the road, walking away from him. I hear him screaming after me, but I break out into a run, throwing my backpack onto the ground. Tears are streaming down my face. I wipe at them but they keep coming.
I don’t know how long I run before I hear my name being called from behind me. I try to run faster but someone’s arm wrap around my lower waist.
“Katy, Katy, please, calm down, it’s me.” Liam is holding me, pulling me against his chest. “Katy,” he coos into my ear.
I take a few deeps breaths to try and calm myself. “What are you doing here?” I ask, between gasp.
Liam reaches for my hair, running his fingers through it slowly. I stiffen. “Um…you left your wallet. I was coming back to give it to you. Your dad said you took off, so I come to get you. He said to please come home.”
I shake my head and lean into Liam’s shoulder. “No, I don’t want to see him. It’s not a home, anyway.”
Liam nods. “Tell ya what. Come with me.” Liam pulls back and looks at me. His grey eyes piercing into mine.
“Go where, Liam? I don’t know…”
“It’ll be fine, Katy. Just relax. Trust me for once,” he says.
I sigh. “Okay, anything to get away from here,” I say.
“Come on,” Liam says, pulling me to his Jeep parked behind us. I get in the Jeep and press my head to the cool window. I don’t want to think about my dad. He is a traitor. He is an abandoner. My chest starts to hurt; I close my eyes and hold back the tears. This can’t be happening. He is my dad. Always.
“Are you okay?” Liam asks.
I shake my head. “It hurts,” I blurt out. “So, bad. He is just leaving like we’re nothing.”
I feel Liam’s hand on mine, I open my eyes. “I know it hurts, Katy. But, I swear, everything will turn out fine. Your dad loves you; he just isn’t in love with your mom anymore. That happens everyday. You know that.”
I squeeze Liam’s hand. I do know that. I loved Hayden, but one day he just didn’t love me. As simple as a light switch being turned off. This happened to my dad. He no longer loves my mom. He no longer cares to stay with us.
“Where are we going?” I ask, changing the subject.
“To relax, you look like you need it,” he says, giving me the once over. “Very badly. You look like you need some fun time.” He wiggles his eyebrow up and down. I pretend not to see him, I don’t want to know what he means.
I’m too tired to care; I just rest my head against the leather seat and let my eyes close. It feels great.
Liam is shaking my shoulders. I open my eyes. He is smiling. “We’re here, get ya ass up, little bear.”
“I’m not a bear,” I yawn, “stop calling me that.” I run both eyes with my fist, I blink twice. I look up and out the window. “We’re at the beach. Why?”
“To relax. It’s still hot, not enough to go swimming but to lie in the sun. Come on,” he says. I open the door and get out of his Jeep. He rummages around in the backseat while I watch the waves hit the sand. It is a nice day. The sky is blue, the water bluer. Relaxing sounds like a great idea.
“Follow me, little bear,” he says, throwing a blanket over his shoulder. I cock an eyebrow but he doesn’t see. Liam walks down the beach and stops in a random spot. There are a few people out, running, walking their dogs. No one is swimming.
Liam unfolds the blankets, tossing it up, spreading it out and laying it on the sand.
“Now,” he says, to himself. He sits down, leaning back on his hands. “You gonna sit down and make yourself at home, sweetheart.”
I smile to myself. I nod, sitting down beside him, lying back. A warm breeze blows past me. I close my eyes, taking in the ocean air.
“Someone is enjoying themselves already,” Liam says, lying back with me. “I come out here sometimes, it’s so relaxing.”
Does he come here to think about his mom? I want to ask but I’m afraid to bring up that memory. I can imagine how badly that hurts.
“Why don’t you normally have girlfriends,” I blurt out. It’s not what is really on my mind, but I am curious.
Liam sighs, shrugging his shoulder. “I’m a busy guy. Don’t have the time.”
I laugh. “Because, obviously, you’re so busy, soaking in the sun and relaxing.”
He smirks. “My relaxing time is very time consuming. It takes a lot out of me to do the things I do.”
“Why couldn’t she come with you? I’m here, am I bothering you?”
“No,” he whispers. There is a silence. “You’re…you,” he says. I’m not sure what to think about that. I don’t say anything. “Katy, why Hayden?”
“What?” I ask.
“Why Hayden? Why did you date him?”
I bite my lip. I try not to think about it. “He did used to be charming, Liam. He wasn’t always an ass.” I sigh. “I thought he was so…dreamy. I’d liked him for so long. Then he asked me out. I couldn’t wait to say yes. I’d been planning our wedding for years.” I laugh.
Liam smirks. “How many kids did you have planned out?”
I giggle. “After our New York wedding, we were on our feet, we would have four children. Two boys and two girls. Because, everyone can plan what gender their children are.” I laugh.
Liam whistles. “That is a lot of kids.” Another silence. “Did he live up to what you thought he would?”
I twist a piece of a dark brown curl on my shoulder. “At first, yes. It was perfect. He would walk me to class; bring an umbrella out to my car when it was raining. He took me to meet his parents. Then…” I trail off.
Liam rolls over on his side, facing me. His dark hair falling into his grey eyes. “Then what?”
“It happened.”
He shrugs his shoulders. “What’s it? The break up?”
“No,” I whisper, ashamed. “I kind of…gave it up.”
Liam is quiet. “Gave what up?” he asks. I know he knows.
“It, my v-card.” My face feels like someone set fire to it.
“Oh,” Liam finally says.
Oh? Is that all he is going to say? Oh? “Yeah,” I say, twiddling my fingers together. “Then the break up happened. Not but a few weeks later.”
“What a hot dog?” Liam sets up, quickly, looking anywhere but at my face.
“Um…sure,” I say.
Liam jumps up, all too quickly, walking toward a hot dog stand on the pier behind us. I sink into the blanket. Jeez, Liam can be so weird sometimes. I’m sure he is just as uncomfortable talking about that as I am.
I try to relax but all I’m seeing are pictures of Hayden and me. His touch, his lips, all of him. I shake my head. I shouldn’t have told Liam that.  He jumped up like I set fire to his pants.
“Here ya go, one dog for the lady.” Liam sits down, handing me a hot dog.
We sit in silence for a few minutes eating. “Your dad seemed upset today.”
I scoff. “Yeah, right.” I pick a piece of the napkin holding my hot dog off, throwing it to the ground. “He doesn’t care about us. He is an abandoner.”
Liam is staring at me when I glance up. “You don’t really believe that, do you?”
I nod. “Sure, I do. He is just leaving me,” I whisper. “Like I’m nothing. He doesn’t care anymore.”
“At least he told you bye,” Liam whispers.
My heart thumps an extra beat. Like Liam’s mom done him. “Um…I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about that.”
Liam bumps his shoulder into mine. “It’s okay; it was a long time ago. I barely remember it.”
“It still hurts,” I say. I mean it as a question but I already know the answer.
“It does.”
“Have you…have you tried to contact her?”
“Don’t know how,” he takes a bite of hot dog, “don’t know her address, where she went, her cell phone or anything. I don’t even really know if she is alive.”
“You know her name, right?”
“Yeah, Mary Beth.”
“Last name?”
“Well, it was Erickson, but I’m not sure if her and my dad are even officially divorced or not. I guess they would have to if Dad married the Barbie Clone. He never talks about her. He never told me why she left or where he thought she might have gone.”
“You asked him anything about her?” I take the last bite of my hot dog.
He shakes his head. “Nope, I did when I was younger. He ignored me. Now, he is never home and bitch queen is always there. So, I just stopped asking.”
“She is kind of a bitch,” I say. “Just saying.”
“Talking dirty today,” Liam says, smiling.
“I cuss sometimes.”
“I said shit that one time.”
Liam throws his head back and laughs. “When you can count on your fingers how many times you’ve cussed, you cannot say you cuss.”
I laugh. “I’m not as good as you think.”
“How do you know I think you’re good?”
“You wouldn’t have agreed to this. You know being with me will give you a break with your teachers. Someone like you just doesn’t date someone like me.”
Liam makes a small sound in his throat that I don’t know what it means. “That’s not true…” he stops. I am hanging on his words. I want to shake them out of him. But his lips are shut tight.
“What is true?” I ask.
He closes his eyes, shaking his head. “Nothing.”
Agh! I look out over the ocean. I can’t look at him. What was he going to say? I change the subject. “I think we should try and find your Mom.”
Liam is too quiet. I look over at him. He is staring at me. His grey eyes so…beautiful. “No,” he says, shaking his head back and forth.
“No? Why not?”
“I don’t want to,” he says, trying to stand up. I grab his arm, pulling him back down. He stiffens at my touch.
“I know it’s scary, but just think about it. We might find something. We might find her. That would be great right?”
“Yeah, but what if she doesn’t want to see me?” he whispers.
That’s the reason. He is scared. “Look at you,” I say; poking a finger at his chest, “you’re awesome. There is no way she would not want to see you.”
He smirks, bringing a dimple up on his cheek. “I am pretty awesome, aren’t I?”
“Don’t push it.”He laughs. “Maybe,” he says, hesitantly. “Maybe.”
“That’s a start.”
He throws a piece of napkin at my face. “So, little bear, about this dance…”
I throw the napkin back at him. “We don’t have to go to that thing,” I say. “Jen just wants to live out her dreams through me. Her parents are like drill sergeants.”
“But, little bear, what would people say if Avalon High School’s newest couple didn’t show up for the Homecoming dance?”
I smile. “You want to go?”
“Never been, first time for everything, right?” He digs his fingers into the sand.
“Right.” I know I’m smiling like a Chester cat but I can’t help it.
Liam rolls his eyes, reaching up and pouring sand on my hair. “Hey!” I yell. I pick up a hand full and sprinkle it on his head.
He looks back up at me, shaking his hair, sand flying everywhere. “You better run,” he says.
I yelp out, jumping up running away from him. The sand is weighing me down, but I dig harder anyway. I get to the water, when Liam wraps his arms around my waist, swinging me around. He is moving toward the water. “No,” I yell. “Please.” I’m laughing so it’s coming out in gasp. “No!”
Liam walks knee deep and tosses me into the water, my head dunking under. “Shit!” I yell. “It’s cold.”
Liam is smiling. “Well, not such a goody-goody, today, are we? You are getting close to counting on two hands now.” He wiggles his fingers in front of him before offering me his hand. I try to pull him down with me, but he laughs, pulling me out, effortlessly.
My clothes are drenched. I look down. My shirt is stuck to me and I’m freezing. Liam’s eyes meet mine. “Um,” he says, shaking his head. “Here,” he takes off his shirt, handing it to me. I take it. I turn my back to him; slip my wet shirt off and into his warm one.
He is standing behind me, hands in his pockets. My eyes travel down his chest. Oh, shit. I want to run my fingers down his wash board abs. He is tan, hard and…I’ll say it, sexy as hell. I will myself to stop checking him out right in front of him.
“See something you like?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say.
Liam cocks an eyebrow.
I step toward him, mouth close to his. When he reaches for my waist, I push him down into the water.
“I’m gonna’ beat your ass,” he yells, as I run toward the blanket.
I lie down on the blanket and laugh. It feels good. Liam’s pants are soaking wet when he gets to me. He looks down at me, smiling. “You asked for it,” I say.
He tilts his head to the side, dropping to his knees. I sit up, but he pushes me back down. He reaches for my ribs. I start to laugh. “No, stop,” I say, laughing. He digs his fingers into my side, tickling me. My dad use to tickle me so hard, I would laugh until I cried.
“Say you’re sorry,” he says, smiling.
“No!” I yell. “Stop.”
“Say it,” he says.
“Sorry! Mercy! Uncle!”
He stops, looking down at me. I’m still out of breath. Liam is laughing along with me. “You asked for it,” he says.
I suddenly realize how this looks. Liam is sitting so close to me, his legs touching mine. His face turns serious. Liam’s lips part. I want to kiss him. I want him to kiss me. I just want him. He leans down a few inches, until he is hovering over me. Ah, hell. His fingers brush against my jaw. It sends shivers down my body. I moan. I don’t know where it comes from, but it just happens. Loudly. I know he hears it.
Liam snatches his hand back, shaking his head. “Um, I’m going to go throw away our trash. I’ll meet you at the Jeep.” Liam grabs the remains of our napkins and walks toward the trashcan.
I can barely make myself move. What just happened? Was Liam going to kiss me? Was he going to hold me? I sit up and look over toward him; he isn’t looking back, only walking quickly toward a trash barrel. I close my eyes. Don’t let yourself care Katy. Suck it up. I chased him away. Jeez, way to go, Katy.
I grab the blanket and fold it up. I walk back to the Jeep alone. Try to act normal. I wait by the passenger side door, leaning against it. Liam walks toward the Jeep, hands in his wet jeans pocket. He doesn’t look right at me. It’s like he is afraid I’ll turn him to stone.
“Ready to go?” Liam asks, unlocking the door. I nod, pulling myself up into the Jeep. Liam’s eyes are wide, his shirt still off, and his pants soaked. I want to say something. I want to make him talk to me. Had he wanted to kiss me? Was it just in the moment? Did my dang moaning like an idiot scare him?
God, I hope it’s none of that.
I give Liam a sideways glance. He is staring forward. He doesn’t look at me. I bite my lip, looking out the passenger side window. This is awkward.
The ride home is silent. Liam turns up the radio, but it doesn’t seem like he is even paying attention to it. He just stares forward. I sigh. I’ve never known Liam to stay quiet this long.
When we pull into the driveway, Dad’s SUV isn’t there. I’m half relieved. “Um, so, I had fun. Thank you,” I say, lowly.
Liam looks over at me. “I’m glad you did. You needed a break.”
I nod. “Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?” I have my hand on the door handle. He doesn’t stop me.
“Tomorrow is school,” he says.
“Well, see ya then,” he says, looking out his window. I want to grab him, hug him or touch him. But he is looking the other way. He wants me to leave. I do. I get out, waving at him, while he drives away. I walk over to my bag sitting in the grass. Mom didn’t pick it up? Something must be wrong.
I hesitantly open the door. Mom is sitting at the kitchen table when I walk in. Her eyes are glazed over. Her face emotionless. Her hair looks like a bird’s nest.
“Momma?” I ask.
She glances up at me. “Katy, you’re home…where have you been?”
“With Liam. We went to the beach for a little while.”
She glances down at my shirt. “Is that your shirt?”
I shake my head. “Liam’s, I got mine wet, he let me have his.” She nods, staring into space. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”
She places her hands over her face. She lets out a small sob. I walk toward her, wrapping my arms around her shoulders. They’re shaking. “Momma,” I say.
“He is leaving. Really leaving. I knew he would some day. I knew we didn’t love each other like we should, but it…it’s happening. I’m going to be alone. I won’t wake up to him anymore. ”
I squeeze my mom tighter. God, I’ve been so selfish. I haven’t even considered my mom’s feelings. It’s all about me. She is losing her husband. She is losing twenty years of her life.
“I just don’t know where everything went wrong. It just happened. He didn’t care, I didn’t care. We barely spent time together. It became routine being together.”
I clear my throat and run my fingers through my mom’s hair. “This happens every day. People fall in and out of love. It’s as simple as turning a switch on and off. I know Daddy and you love each other, but sometimes it’s easier to love someone and not be with them. Does that make any sense?”
She smiles into my shoulder. “Yes and no. It just hurts, that’s all. He said you ran off today.” She pulls back to look at me. “I know this is probably going to be hard for you, but we can handle it. We can get through this all by ourselves. We will have each other. `”
I nod. “I know we can. We just have to believe that we can.”
She nods, pulls me down onto her lap and strokes her fingers through my hair. “I’m the one supposed to be giving you advice, not the other way around.” She smiles. “When did you get so smart on relationships?”
I shrug. “I’m not, believe me.” I have a pretend relationship right now, I do not need to give anyone advice.
Mom wipes her eyes. “How are things at school? With Jennifer, Hayden…Liam?”
I twist in her lap. I desperately want to get away from her now. The mother daughter moment seems to have gone from lovey to uncomfortable. “Um, things are fine. Hayden is jealous.”
Mom lifts an eyebrow. “You aren’t trying to make him jealous are you? Because, as your Mom I have to tell you that is never a good idea.”
Yes. “No. It’s just kind of a perk that comes along with it. He even bumped into Liam and me today when we were…” I trail off. Shit. Mom doesn’t need to know the gory details.
“When you were what?” she asks.
“Talking in the hallway…hey, I guess I’m going to head on upstairs to work on some homework.” That does not exist.
She lifts an eyebrow. “I told you he was cute,” she says. “I knew you two liked each other. I can tell by the way he looks at you.”
Looks at…me? He doesn’t, does he? My heart flips in my chest. My stomach feels like bees are swarming inside of it. “How does he…look at me?”
Mom smiles. “He is your boyfriend. You see how he looks at you.”
But, it’s just pretend. “Yeah, I guess sometimes, it just happens.”
“Oh,” Mom says, standing up. She rummages around in her purse. “Jennifer called and told Dad about the dance this Friday.” She pulls out a wad of cash. “Dad left this for you. Jennifer explained how extremely important it is for you to have the ultimately perfect, sexy dress for homecoming. Her words not mine.”
I grab the money. “Thanks Mom.”
“Thank your Dad.”
Maybe later. “Talk to you later.”

Chapter Six
“Come on, try the one with the sides out,” Jennifer says, pushing me into the dressing room.
I groan. She is really bossy. “I’ll look like a baby prostitute,” I whine.
“You’ll look hot. Believe me I know fashion.” She twirls around showing off her kitten sweater. “You may not be able to tell because my mother still dresses me, but one day…” she says.
I laugh and lock the dressing room door. I slip into the dress, zipping myself up. “So, what are you wearing?” I ask through the door.
“Oh, I’m not going,” Jennifer says.
What? “What? You’re making me go and you’re not even going? Why aren’t you going?” I ask, stepping out of the dressing room. Jennifer gasps.
“First off, my mother would have a stroke. Secondly, no one asked me. Thirdly, if they did my mother would make me say no.” She puts her hand on her hip. “You know this, now spin.” I spin a circle. “Until then, I will live my dreams through you, my young child.” Jennifer is smiling. “You look amazing. Stunning.”
“I feel like a prostitute.” This is a little bit of a lie. The dress fits to me perfectly. It’s to the knee, well fitted and a hole cut out of each side. I swirl to each side, looking at myself.
“You look hot. Stop being so damn dramatic. Liam is going to love you in this.”
There that name is again…Liam. He has barely talked to me since our ‘moment’ at the beach. He walks beside me, talks to me, picks me up, but something isn’t right. He is being quiet. Too quiet. It makes me want to look as hot as I can. Maybe that will get him talking?
“Yeah, he will, won’t he?” I ask.
She nods, smiling like a lunatic. “So, I talked to him and told him to get a wrist corsage with black ribbon,” she says.
“I haven’t even bought the dress yet, Jennifer,” I say, admiring the way it barely hits my knee.
“Yes, but I hid this dress in the back just for you. I knew you’d get it.” Jen smiles.
I laugh. “That’s why you’re my best friend.”
“Honey, I got this. This Asian knows what she is doing.”
After I pay, we go to the food court. We sit down with our Chick Fillet at a table in the center. I glance around and make sure there aren’t any angry gay people. I don’t have anything against gay people but I sure do love me some chicken. “So,” Jennifer says.
“So,” I say, tearing my chicken strip apart to cool.
“Have you guys done it yet?”
“What?” I bark out. “Who?”
Jen rolls her eyes. “You and Taylor Lautner? Liam, duh!”
“No! Of course not. We’ve only been dating a freaking week.” We’re just pretending! You can’t pretend to do that, it’s either do it or don’t!
She holds her hands up in surrender. “Okay. Okay. I’m just curious. Damn. Can’t blame a girl for fantasying over him. He’s hot. Anybody with eyes can see that.”
Something tingles in my belly. You can’t be jealous of your pretend boyfriend, Katy. “Yeah, he is,” I snap.
“Do you plan on doing it?” she asks, over her chicken strip.
“I don’t know, we haven’t even been going out a week, like I said. That’s a big step for anybody. It took me and Logan seven months before we done it.”
“I hear the second person is easier.”
I roll my eyes. “Jennifer, you’ve never done it, you don’t know.”
“You don’t know if I have, there was a rumor I gave it up at Asian camp,” Jen says.
“You started that rumor.”
She smiles. “It was still a rumor.”
I cock an eyebrow. “New subject, this is making me nervous.”
“What’s making you nervous,” I hear from beside me. Liam is standing above me, his lip curled up into a smile.
“Doing it,” Jennifer blurts out. “You know, shaking the chandelier, getting ya groove on, making babies.”
“I think he got it the first time,” I say.
Liam laughs and sits down beside me. He grabs one of my fries. “Yeah, I knew what you meant. What about it?”
“I asked if you two had done it yet,” Jen says. “Katy went to freaking out like always.”
Liam chocks on my fry. He is probably repulsed. “What?”
“I know ridiculous,” I say.
Liam stares at me and cocks an eyebrow. He grabs my thigh and I shiver. He leans in close to my ear, pressing a soft kiss to my neck. All the heat in my body pulls to that one spot. “We just haven’t found the right moment yet. Not ready.”
Jennifer is wide eyed. When Liam pulls back, I’m quaking. “So, who won that game last Friday?”
“What game?” Jen ask.
“You know the game,” I bite through my teeth.
“There wasn’t a game,” Liam says. “It’s not even a season.”
I grab my chicken and shove it in my mouth. I can tell they are both about to laugh, but they hold it back.
After the embarrassment of talking about sex dies down, Liam offers to take me home. I would rather ride with Jennifer since Liam has been acting strange but what girlfriend wouldn’t jump at the chance to be alone with her boyfriend. So, I get in the Jeep with Liam.
“So,” Liam says, tapping his fingers along his steering wheel. “Homecoming dance tomorrow. Is that your dress in there,” he asks, eyeing the sack in the floorboard.
“Yep, it’s black. I like it.”
“Can I take a peak?” he asks.
I shake my head. “Bad luck.”
“I thought that was a wedding not a dance.”
“Close enough.” I wave him off.
“Getting married and going to a dance is close? Do I get a honeymoon stage afterwards?” He wiggles his eyebrows.
Ugh, here we go again. “Stop,” I say.
He throws his head back then laughs. “Why were you so embarrassed to talk about that today?”
“Who wants to talk about sex? It’s humiliating.”
“Only if you let it be.” You’re the one that freaked out about it at the beach. “Why is Jennifer so worried about it anyway?”
“She is fascinated with it, because her mother won’t let her date at all. She won’t get any until she goes away to college. Which is sad.”
“What a bummer. That’s sucks.”
I nod, glancing out the window. Since he is in a good mood I decide to go in for the kill. “Given any thought to searching for your mother?”
Liam ignores me. “Oh look, we’re at your house, time to get out.” He pulls over to the cull de sac and parks.
“It’s your lucky day,” I say, opening the door.
“It’s always my lucky day, see ya tomorrow, little bear.” He says before speeding off.
Jen calls me ten minutes later, reminding me we have the stupid Science test in the morning. She invites me to her house. I hate her house. I say my mom won’t let me out; she will have to come over. Her parents watch us through the doorway the entire time, making sure we’re not watching porn or looking at Taylor Lautner with his shirt off. She was grounded for a week for looking at him. I told them I done it, then they said I had to go home because I was a bad influence. Jeez, since when did Taylor Lautner bring anything other than pure joy?
Two hours later I hear a knock on the door. “I brought cookies,” Jen says, when I open the door. I stop mid step and look behind her.
“And Liam,” I say, glancing back at him.
“I brought the booze.” He smiles. “Just playing, I brought Cokes,” he says, pushing his way through the living room. “Hey,” he says to my mom who smiles at him.
“Hey, sweetheart. How are you?”
“Great now,” he says, glancing at me. I give him a small smile. He plays his part at being a boyfriend great for a guy that has never been one.
Jen walks up to my room like it’s her house. “We’re just going to study, Mom,” I say.
She nods, sipping on her cup of coffee. “That’s fine, sweetie, go ahead.” I will never understand why she never cares if I’m alone in my room with Liam. I’m trying to send my mom telepathically, messages to say we need to study downstairs. “What’s wrong, are you feeling okay?” she asks, touching the back of her hand to my forehead.
Useless. “Yes,” I say and walk up the stairs. Liam is behind me and I hope that he isn’t looking at my butt.
“Liking the view, girlfriend,” he says, when I get to the top. I flip him the bird behind my back. “Dirty birdie,” he whispers.
Jen is laid out on my bed, cookies open, books opened and a smile on her face. “Can I speak with you real quick?” I ask.
“I’m kind of busy, Katy.”
“Now,” I grumble.
Jen rolls her eyes and follows me into the hallway. “Why didn’t you tell me Liam was coming?”
Jen sighs and rolls her eyes. “I didn’t think it mattered, since he is your boyfriend and all.” She crossed her arms across her chest.
“It doesn’t, but normally ya warn somebody, ya know.”
“You’re super weird, ya know that?”
Says the girl in a reindeer sweater. That’s only okay when Rachel does it.
“I would die to be able to spend time with a boy. The only boy I see is my dad and our mail man.”
“Yeah, I guess I kind of am.” I point for her to go back inside. She does.
“So, ladies, let’s get to studying,” Liam says, kicking off his boots and placing his feet on my bed. “I’m trying this new thing…actually try and pass my classes.”
“That’s a start,” I mumble.
We study for an hour before Jennifer gets a call from her Mom. “I have to let your mom talk to my mom. Ugh, Asian people,” she mumbles jumping off the bed and running downstairs.
Liam is quiet for a few minutes. “Katy, I wanted to talk to you about the other day.”
“What day?” I ask, picking at a string at my bed.
“At the beach,” he says. I feel his warm hand on my thigh. “Look at me, this is serious.”
I look up and smile. “Serious? Liam Erickson is being serious? What is happening to the world? Our fake relationship has taken a toll on you.”
“It has, in more ways than you would understand.”
My body freezes. I can’t make myself move. Liam licks his lips. I envy them. I wish he would put his mouth on mine. I’m not sure why I feel the need to jump him but it is running through me. Liam clears his throat and moves closer to me. “Katy,” he whispers. My name coming off his lips is memorizing. His calloused hand spans over the back of my neck, pulling me closer. “I really…”
“Damn, Momma asked about everything but your mom’s social security number,” Jen says, bursting through the door.
Liam and I jump back. I straighten my papers; he scratches his non itchy neck. I can barely feel mine; the heat from his hand is still lingering on my skin. “Let’s study this stuff people,” Jen says, grinning.
I nod and glance at Liam. He is staring at me. I focus on my paper. You have got to get a grip.
Jen and Liam leave around seven. I sit in my room and study more after they leave. I take a long bath, then play Angry Birds, until my mom tells me I have to go to sleep. When I am about to doze off, after hours of trying to force my eyes close, I hear a peck on my window. I sit up in my bed. I’ve never been one to like the dark, or anything in it. So I jump up and grab my baseball bat. I can’t see through my window for the green curtains, so I peek outside. Someone is hanging on to the trellis for dear life.
“Who is it?” I whisper, my voice cracking.
“Your sexy, pretend, boyfriend coming to make you bear his children, get back woman,” he whispers back.
Ugh. I step back and open the window, letting Liam in. “What are you doing here?” I ask, shutting the window behind him.
“What? Can’t a boyfriend pull a Romeo for his girl?” I’m almost awake enough to consider how romantic that is. Almost. “I thought girls were supposed to be the romantic ones, jeez.” Liam pushes his hands inside of his hoodie.
“I know, I’m super unromantic, now what is going on? It’s,” I look at the clock, “one thirty in the morning.”
Liam sighs, kicks at my carpet. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“So, you come make it where I can’t sleep?” I ask, crossing my arms. I’m suddenly reminded; I’m in sleeping shorts and a shirt with no bra.
Liam runs his fingers through his hair. “I don’t know. I thought we could talk.”
I know he wants to finish his conversation from earlier, but I’m scared. I bite my lip and try to think of a way out of this. This is pretend! I want to shout. “Um, okay,” I say shakily. I eye my bed, but I know we shouldn’t talk there. It’s too tempting.
Liam looks down at me. “There is a hammock in the back yard, right? Why don’t we go there? Since you don’t want to sit on the bed.”
“Why would you think--,”
“I know you better than you think, Katy. Come on,” he says, tossing his head toward my door. I open my door gently, walking down slowly; we tiptoe outside toward the hammock. The sky is dark, but there are streetlights positioned around the back of my house.
I sit down on the hammock, awkwardly; swinging when Liam sits down beside me. “So,” I whisper.
“I want to find my mom,” he says.
Oh. This isn’t what I’m expecting. “Well, we should do it.”
“No, it’s one in the morning. In the next few days. I’ll help you look.”
“I’m scared,” he whispers. “She might be dead…or hate me…or not want to see me. What if she has an entire new family somewhere?”
I touch his hand, he doesn’t move. “I’ll help you. We’ll find her, I promise,” I say. He nods and lies back on his back. I lay beside him. I don’t know how long we lie there.
“Katy,” he mumbles.
“Thank you.”
“That’s what girlfriends do. Pretend or not.” I don’t remember falling asleep, but soon I’m deep in a Liam filled sleep.
When I wake up, Liam is gone. I have his hoodie draped over my legs and I’m grateful. It has to be around six in the morning. The sun is barely shining over our little house. The light in the kitchen isn’t on, so I race upstairs to my bedroom before Mom gets up.
“Mom do I look okay?” I ask.
She smiles, her eyes crinkling around the corners. “Of course you do, sweetheart. You look, beautiful.” She pushes my long curl behind my shoulder. “Liam is a lucky guy.”
Too bad we’re pretending. Last night has been replaying in my mind all day today. Liam didn’t act any different today at school. He picked me up, ate lunch with me, but didn’t mention the ‘bed’ incident or the hammock. He did say I snored, but that was it.
“Here stand over there; I promised your father I would take pictures.”
I try to smile. She shouldn’t have to take pictures, he should be here. “Okay,” I say. I stand next to the front door and smile. Mom takes several different pictures before the doorbell rings. My hands begin to sweat. I wipe them on the bottom of my dress. Jeez, get a grip, Katy. It’s just Liam.
Mom giggles like a school girl. I fight the urge to roll my eyes at her. She seems more excited than I am. “I’ll get it,” she yells. I hurry to the living room and take a deep breath. “You look great, Liam.” I head Mom shut the door. I hear Liam mumble something to Mom, but I can’t make it out. She giggles.
I take a few steps and watch as Liam walks into the living room. My breath catches. Liam is always so grungy, with combat boots, t-shirts and ripped jeans. This is…different. A greatly hottish different. The dance is semi casual. The girls wear suitable dresses and the boys dress up, no suites. I feel a blush riding on my cheeks, I look down, determined not to let Liam see me blush. It’s the first time I’ve seen him dressed up and it makes my stomach tingle. All the distance that he had at the beginning of the week has vanished. He seems so close to me even standing a few feet away.
He clears his throat. “You look…great,” he says, his eyes travel down to my bare legs, then back up to the skin of my side. “Beautiful.”
I watch him tug on his button down black shirt. “So, do you,” I say. “Um,” I shake my head, “I mean handsome, you look handsome.”
Liam takes a step closer and smiles. “I knew what you meant.”
“Picture time! Pictures, pictures!” Mom yells. “Get together,” she says, motioning us together. I walk carefully, not to fall in my heels that Jen insisted I wear, over toward Logan.
He is warm. All the heat in the world transports to the one spot where his hand rest on my side. I regret getting this dress, with any other one; I wouldn’t be able to feel his calloused hand on my bare waist. I stiffen. He is smiling. “You look good enough to eat,” he mumbles at my ear. There is the real Liam. He’s back. I’m more than happy to welcome him back.
“Okay, Hannibal Lecture, let’s keep this PG-13, at least in front of my mother.”
He laughs and smiles for my mother. He turns toward me, rest his mouth above my ear. “If your mother was smart, she would have locked you in your room, dressed like that. I might have to pretend to take you home with me.”
Shivers runs up my back. I smile up at him. I try to pretend I don’t like that.
“Okay, these are great,” Mom says. “You guys go and have a great time.”
“What time should I have her home?” Liam asks, locking eyes with me. Something is written all over his face, while he waits for my mom’s answer. I’m not sure what it is. Eagerness? I want to kiss him, but I don’t. Pretending, remember, Katy?
Mom strokes her chin then throws her arms up in the air. “No later than two,” she says.
Two? She’s never let me out passed twelve? Mom must be smoking the pipe while I’ve been at school. My mouth is open but I close it. I don’t want her to think she is wrong. Let her believe I’m mature enough to come home at two. The truth is, being with Liam, I’m probably not.
Liam cocks an eyebrow. “Very trustworthy, Mrs. Taylor.”
Mom puts the camera down. “Should I not be, Liam?”
“Of course you should,” I interrupt.
She rolls her eyes. “Get out of here before I change my mind.” Liam wraps my arm around the crook of his elbow and escorts me out.
When we get outside, I feel giddy. “Well, my pretend girlfriend, you ready to go get jiggy with it?”
“If you don’t say that ever again, I am.”
He laughs. He holds his hand out and helps me into his Jeep.
“A gentleman,” I say.
“Tell me that at the end of the night.” He smiles and shuts the door. He walks around the Jeep to the driver’s side. I intertwine my fingers and squeeze. I’m nervous. I hate dances, but getting dressed up makes me feel…pretty…wanted.
“Nervous?” Liam asks, starting the engine.
I nod. “I’ve never been. I normally wouldn’t even think about going, but we have to be believable, right?”
“You never went with Hayden and you dated for how long?”
I shake my head. “A while and no I never went.”
This makes him smile. “Did he never ask you?”
I look out the window. “Yeah, but I’m just not a big dancer.”
“So,” Liam coughs, “you told him no?”
I nod. “Pretty much. I faked sick for Homecoming last year, and said I was cramping for prom.” I laugh.
“So, I should feel privileged?” Liam asks, eyebrow rose. His dimple is dented in his cheek. It’s adorable.
“Oh, most surely. It’s a rare gem to get me in a dress, let alone a dance. Write this date down.”
Liam smiles. I feel the warmth of his hand on mine. “No one is watching,” I whisper.
He turns toward me. “It’s good practice.”
When we get to the dance, the entire place is swamped. Oh, shit. It’s like a mad house outside. There are teenagers, taking pictures, strutting around and fixing their dresses.
“Wow, didn’t know so many people come to this,” I say.
“It is homecoming week. Tomorrow is the big game, ya know. It’s kind of a big deal. This is high school. The only good thing that ever happens in high school is the games and dances.”
Yeah, I know. “Oh, God,” I say, breathing in and out.
Liam laughs, reaching over to pat my leg. “Calm down, it’s going to be fine, I swear. Come one.” Liam gets out, comes around and helps me down. I watch all the other couples walk in, whispering in one another ears. “Would you like me to whisper sweet lines in your ear, little bear?”
Yes. “It’s not necessary,” I say.
Liam wraps his arm around my waist. “But, this is right?” His breath is warm on my neck.
“Yes,” I say, breathless. I wonder if he can tell he is making my heart beat like crazy against my ribcage.
He pretends to bow. “Shall we?”
“We shall.”
We walk up to the ticket booth. “I need two tickets,” Liam says, pulling out his wallet. A tall, dark haired boy is sitting behind the desk staring at me. A slow grin crawls up his face.
“You’re Katy, right?”
Liam looks down at me. I nod. “Yes.”
Tall boy laughs.
Ah hell. “What’s so damn funny,” Liam says, snatching the tickets out of his hands.
He raises his hands in surrender. “Nothing, bro. Just joking. Nothing is funny.”
“I didn’t think so,” Liam says, grabbing my hip and pulling me into the gym. “People are never going to grow the hell up are they?” he asks.
I shake my head. Probably not. I don’t even want to know what he was laughing about. I can only imagine.
There are tables full of punch, finger sandwiches, chips and cookies, when we get into the gym. I want to crawl underneath one and hide. The middle of the gym has been transformed into a dance floor, where most of our classmates are grinding on one another.
Liam pulls at the collar of his shirt, his grey eyes darting down to me. “Want some punch,” he asks. “I promise not to spike it.”
“Yes,” I say. “My throat is suddenly very dry. And maybe you should spike it.”
He laughs. “I know exactly what you mean. You grab us some seats and I’ll grab us something to drink.”
I nod. I push my way through the cluster of kids, while my head pounds to the rap music that’s blaring through the gym. No one seems to even know I’m pushing through them, they barely move to let me through. I spot a table and walk quickly, then sit down. I face the dance floor and watch as everyone starts jumping up and down to the ‘shots’ song.
“Well, it was a mad house but I finally got you something to drink,” Liam says.  He hands me my punch and I take a large gulp. “Wow,” Liam says. I look up; he is staring at the group of swaying kids. “It’s like a zoo when everyone is in heat.”
I laugh, spilling some drink on the table. “Stop, I’m gonna spill this all over me.”
Liam laughs. “Better not, I don’t think my shirt would go good with that dress.”
“Definitely not.”
I glance up and over the dance floor when I notice Holly dancing. She is swaying her hips, then I meet eyes with Hayden, who is staring at me. His green eyes look like The Green Goblin’s. His jaw is set, hands on Holly’s waist and crotch against her ass.
I look away. I don’t want another replay of Liam getting upset because I’m looking and getting pleasure out of making Hayden mad. Which makes me wonder why he would be mad in the first place? This is just a pretend relationship right? We only kiss and hold hands for show? Liam picks me up for school because it’s the right thing to do? He doesn’t really care about me, does he? Do I care about him?
“Katy,” Liam says, waving his hand in front of my face. “You all here today?”
“Yes.” I lean back in my chair. No, hell no.
He leans back in his chair. “What you thinking about over there, little bear.”
I shake my head. If you really like me or not. If you want this to be more than a ‘pretend’ relationship. “Nothing important.”
“Well, little bear, we’ve been antisocial long enough.” Liam stands up and offers me his hand. “Would you like to dance?”
“Oh,” I say, fluttering my eye lashes. “I’ve been waiting all night for a gentle caller. Hooray.”
Liam helps me up and wraps his arms around my waist. “I’m no gentlemen, Katy.” He winks and leads me out to the dance floor. I never truly thought he was. I think that is what I like about him.
Liam pushes through the kids like their rag dolls. No one says anything to him. The song is fast. I look around me, there are so many kids dancing. Where was my class on dancing? Everyone else seemed to have one? We have gone to the same school most of our lives!
“I really don’t know how to dance,” I yell up at him.
He smirks, turns me around and presses my back to his front. “Just move with me, I’ll show you,” he says. “It’s very simple.” I feel his breath on my neck; it seeps down to my toes. Shit. He wraps his arms around my waist, the flesh of his arms, touching my bare skin. He moves us to a steady beat with the music. My heart is beating in my throat. I can’t breathe. Liam squeezes me tighter, running his mouth close to my ear. I gasp. It’s Heaven.
I vaguely see kids around us start to slow down, change positions. I feel Liam turn me around but my head is still spinning. He pulls me into him, wrapping his hand around my waist, the other holding my hand out to the side. I didn’t even realize the song had changed. My head is too far gone. “You’re not as bad as you think,” he whispers. I feel his smile against my hair.
“I’m terrible,” I whisper up at him.
“Not a chance,” he says.
“Where did you learn to dance?” I ask.
He shrugs. “My grandma taught me. She goes dancing all the time. Very promiscuous, that ol’ gale.”
I smile. “Dancing with grandma, must be fun.”
Liam rolls his eyes. “Dancing with you is much more fun.” I watch his lips as he says this, I want to kiss him. Scratch that, I want to jump him. “While we’re talking about dancing, I was wondering if you would go to Feed The Children benefit that my dad is hosting next Thursday. We get dressed up in dresses and suites, eat, dance and the adults get drunk. Basically parade around like a bunch of rich idiots.”
I smile up at him. “Can we steal some liquor?”
Liam gasps. “Little bear, I’m both appalled and turned on by that statement. Of course we can. Believe me when I say no one will even notice.”
I throw my head back and laugh. “Well, of course I will then.”
Liam glances down at me, smiling. “It’s a date then.”
“I’ll be there.”
Liam sighs, running his fingers along my side. “Katy,” he mumbles, leaning closer to my lips. I lean up, hoping he will remove the distance, it’s driving me crazy. He glances down at me, asking permission.
I nod, slightly.
He exhales, breathing cinnamon breath on me. His top lip touches my bottom and I melt in his hands. His fingers grip at my sides, bringing me as close as I can get. His mouth covers mine. His full lips take mine, desire is running through my veins.
“Can I cut in?” I hear. I’m still standing eyes closed, mouth open, like a horny teenager, when Liam grips me tighter. I open one eye and look over to see Hayden standing, hands in his pockets, staring at me. I grit my teeth. I’ve never wanted to knock the hell out of him more.
“No,” Liam says. “You can’t.”
I widen my eyes. Ah, shit. Hayden clenches his jaw. “Why the hell not?” he asks.
“Because, I’m dancing with my girlfriend.” Liam pushes me to the side, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “You don’t get to cut in.”
Hayden looks to me for help. Don’t look at me. As if reading my mind Liam says, “Don’t look at her. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. You had your chance, not tuck your tail and walk away.”
Hayden clenches his fist. “I just want to talk to her, move out of the way.” He tries to walk around Liam, but he blocks his way.
“I said no, get lost.”
“No, move. You’re just trying to get some ass anyway. You don’t care about her.” Hayden shouts, this draws a few other students’ attention.
Liam looks angry, it’s incredibly sexy. “Me? You’re the one that dumped her for slut face Holly. She’s slept with the entire school.”
Hayden’s face reddens.
This is getting good.
“Well, as long as she hasn’t slept with your nasty ass, I don’t give a damn.” Hayden turns to me. “You can do better, you look amazing by the way---,” Liam punches him.
Just punches him, right in the jaw. It all seems in slow motion. Liam chuckles, then reaches back and punches the hell out of him. Hayden falls backwards into a group of kids, dancing. They all scream, scattering like cock roaches. Hayden lays on the floor for a minute. I’m standing mouth wide open. I can’t believe he just done that.
Hayden gets up, staggering, then throws a punch at Liam. Liam ducks, missing the jab by an inch.
Liam jumps on top of Hayden, fist slinging everywhere. Hayden rolls on top of Liam; they do this for only a few seconds before the coaches come over and pull them off of each other.
“Both of you out now,” Coach Cunner yells, yanking them both toward the door. I follow, heels clicking against the floor. Liam snatches away from Coach Cunner when we get outside and stalks toward his Jeep.
I can hear Holly yelling at Hayden from across the yard. “You stupid asshole,” she yells.
You got that right.
Liam has the Jeep started before I get in. He screeches out of the school parking lot. I sit quietly for a few minutes.
“Thank you,” I whisper.
Liam doesn’t answer; he just keeps driving, hands on the wheel, face serious. I want to reach over and touch him. I want to grab his face and make him look at me, but I don’t, I just look forward.
Liam pulls up to my house. He stops, runs his fingers through his hair and then covers his face with his hands.
“I’m sorry--,” I mumble, pressing my hands together.
He laughs, without humor. “Katy-,” he starts but then trails off. “I’ll see you Monday, okay? I just need to go home. You understand that right?”
I swallow the lump that’s growing in my throat. No, not really. “Okay, um…yeah, of course, see ya then.”
I get out of his Jeep and walk to my door. It’s only ten. What a loser.
Liam screeches his tires, and flies down the road. I watch the empty street and listen to the roar of his engine disappear. I want to curl into a ball and die. I still have four hours before my curfew. Scratch that…I’m a freaking loser.
My mom is sitting in her recliner when I walk in. She glances up. When I see her face, I begin to cry. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“Hayden,” I say through sobs. “I hate him. He ruined everything.”
“What happened,” she says, pulling me to her and down into her lap. “Shhh, sweetie. Tell me what happened.”
“He punched him...,” sob,” Hayden tried to cut in…,” sob,” I hate him.” I try to get my story out a little more hearable this time. Mom makes us Oreos and milk.
Mom gasps at the right places, dunks her Oreo in her milk and smiles when she needs to.
“Sounds to me like you have a good one on your hands. Beating up people for you. Always a good sign.”
I shrug and take my Oreo apart. “He won’t talk to me; he just told me he would see me Monday. He seemed so…different. You think he is mad at me?”
Mom smiles, runs her fingers through my hair. “No. Sweetie,” she coos, “give him some time. He had a hard night. Beating people up is tough business.”
I laugh. I guess that’s true. I wouldn’t know. I probably couldn’t beat up a puppy if I had to. I’d get attacked. “I guess so,” I say. “Any news from Dad?”
“I sent him the pictures, he said you looked beautiful.”
I shake my head. “Not about me, about you two.”
Mom sighs. “We went over this, Katy. Your dad and I--,”
I stop her with my hand. “I know, I just thought maybe you guys changed your minds. It could happen, right? Hayden seems to have changed his mind. He is jealous.”
Mom smiles. “It could happen, but please don’t worry about that. You have enough to worry about. Just worry about yourself. I’m a big girl. I have a wonderful life with or without your dad. You understand that right? You’re my life. I have a wonderful daughter.”
Do I understand? We’re no longer a happy family. We’re no longer the happy threesome. We’re two separate broken home. I want to scream. I should have never brought it up. “I think I’m going to hit the sack early, Mom.”
She nods. “Yeah, I’m going to finish my milk and turn in, too.” I lean over and give her a kiss before I walk up to my room and strip out of my clothes. I pull on a t-shirt and boxers. I crawl into my bed and stare at the ceiling. I close my eyes and push past all of the problems running a marathon in my mind. I finally find sleep, drifting off with the hope of change in grasp.
Chapter Seven
I crane my neck around the cafeteria. Still not here. I pull out my phone and check my texts. Nothing. Nada. Well, only a text from Jen that says, “Mr. Fringe looks super yummy today.”
I shove my phone back into my pocket. If her mother finds those texts, her ass is grass.
I fiddle with the strap of my bag, grab my lunch and sit down at our usual table. It’s empty; Jen is standing in line, making googly eyes at Mr. Fringe from across the room. I roll my eyes. I pick at my chicken nuggets. He is going to file sexual harassment charges against her, and I’m going to say I told you so.
“Why so blue, Charlie Brown,” Jen says, sitting down across from me. “Oh,” she smiles, “you’re missing your boo thang. How did it go? You ignored my calls all weekend. What’s up with that shiznit?”
I shake my head. “Hayden and Liam got into a fight,” I say.
Jen’s mouth drops open. “No, freaking way. That’s why Hayden has that big shiner; he is trying to cover it up with his hair, but it’s so totally not working. Why in the Hades didn’t you tell me! This is important information. You should be put in jail for withholding information.”
I almost smile. He deserves it. He has only ruined everything.
“Where is Liam?” she asks.
I shrug. “I have no idea. He won’t text me back. He kind of just left me at the house, he was mad.”
Jen cocks an eyebrow. “This is so juicy, two guys fighting over you,” she says, smiling. “Dreams do come true, huh?”
I dunk my chicken nugget in a big puddle of Ketchup. “Well, it would be if Liam would answer my phone calls,” I whisper.
Jen sighs, and then sits up, quickly. “Hottie alert,” Jen, says, fluffing her hair. “He is coming over here,” she whispers.
I glance over my shoulder at Mr. Fringe walking toward me. “Katy,” he says, smiling. He really is handsome, but about ten years too old for us. “How are you?”
“Good.” Liar.
“I wanted to come by and thank you for dealing with Liam.” I’m doing more than dealing with him. “You’ve done great for him. His grades have improved. I’m very thrilled to say that I’m happy I paired you to up.”
“Yeah, well he did it; I just gave him a push that he needed.”
Mr. Fringe smiles at me, and then he glances over at Jen. “Hello, Jennifer.”
She smiles. “Hello.”
“I see you in class,” he says, cocking an eyebrow. She tilts her head to the side. “You know what I mean.” He smiles and walks away.
A blush rides along Jen’s cheeks. “How humiliating.”
“What do you do in class?”
She laughs. “I fan myself when he walks past me. Blow him kisses behind his back and secretly wish he would give me two minutes of his time.” She wiggles her eyebrows.
“That is humiliating. I bet he feels like he is naked on stage at Chip-n-dales.”
“That sounds yummy.”
“That sounds like rape.”
When I open my locker, after lunch, I feel a hand on my shoulder. I relax into the touch. Finally. I turn expecting to see Liam, but Hayden is standing behind me. A purple-ish bruise barely hides behind his shaggy brown hair.
“Can we talk?” he asks.
“No,” I say, shutting my locker. I start to walk to class when Hayden grips my elbow.
“Please, two minutes, Katy.”
I shrug him off, then gesture for him to go. “You have two minutes, go.”
He exhales. “I’m sorry about Friday. I…I don’t know why I done that. I just wanted to dance with you…I wanted you so bad. You looked so…good.” He glances up at me, his green eyes dark.
I remember why I liked him. Why I liked to look at him, he always has such a likeable expression on his face. Always smiling, the way his eyes sparkled. He smirks. “You don’t get to have me again, Hayden. You don’t. You wanted Holly and you have her. I am with Liam now,” I say, and for the first time it feels like the truth. I. Am. With. Liam.
Hayden’s lips turn down at the corners. “Holly broke up with me. I just thought…”
Oh. “You thought you could come back on your knees after she breaks up with you? How romantic,” I say, turning to walk away.
“No, she broke up with me because of the dance. She said I couldn’t stop staring at you. That I needed to get over you...,” he steps forward, “I can’t. You’re all I think about.”
I’ve dreamed about this moment. The moment Hayden realizes that he was an idiot and wants me back. I pictured him on a white horse, not in jeans in the hallway at school. I dreamed he would grab me, dunk me and kiss me. Like on those 80s movies. Hell, I even dreamed of him holding a boom box over his head. I pictured how perfect I would feel, how I would jump into his arms, let him carry me away into the sunset.
I don’t feel any of that. I glance up at Hayden’s green eyes and smile. “That’s nice, but I’m not interested. I’m with Liam now. I like him…a lot.”
“You can’t be serious?” he asks, grabbing a hold to my shoulders.
“I’m dead serious,” I say, snatching my shoulders out from underneath his hands. “He wouldn’t leave me for the first girl that comes his way. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go see about my boyfriend.”
I walk away from Hayden, a smile on my face.
I haven’t heard from Hayden since Friday and its Wednesday. I’ve gotten into my car several times to go see him, but always chicken out. I’m not sure what I should say. So, after I got out of school, I decide to go to his house. I’m a little nervous when I pull up into his driveway. His Jeep is parked in the driveway and I’m thankful no other vehicles are. Is he okay? Is he sick?
I sit in my car for several minutes. It feels weird to actually be in my car. I haven’t driven it since Liam and I started dating. Well, pretending to date, close enough. Maybe I should just go home? Maybe I should stop caring so much? Maybe I should stop being a pansy ass and get out of the car. Taking a deep breath, I get out and walk toward the door. I knock on the door and wait. I feel like I’ve been standing here for hours when finally the door opens.
Liam is standing on the other side. His black hair messy, no shirt, his eyes wide and only his toes are showing from underneath his long grey sweat pants, they make his eyes sparkle. “What…what are you doing here?”
I shift from one foot to the other. “Um, well, you didn’t show up to school, I got worried. I was just checking on you. I can leave,” I say, turning to leave.
Liam grabs my elbow. “Wait, I didn’t mean it like that. Sorry. Just…come in.” He pulls me toward the door and shuts it behind me.
“Are you sick?” I ask, kicking the hardwood floor with the tip of my shoe.
Liam scratches his stomach and it draws my eyes down to that one spot where he scratches. I look back up. Do not stare at him. “No,” he says. But, it’s really hard not to.
“Did someone die?” I ask.
“No.” He shakes his head. “Just follow me.” I follow him up the stairs to his room. He points for me to sit on his bed. I sit down. I watch while he digs around in his drawer. What the hell is going on? He pulls out a stack of opened envelopes and hands them to me. “They’re from my mom. My real Mom.”
I look up at him. He is frowning. “Where did you find them?” I ask, looking through them. She lives in Tampa, Florida.
“In the spare bedroom. I went to get a tennis racket out of there, cuz I broke the one from the other day and found them shoved in the bag. I know my step-mom hid them. Stupid bitch.”
I wince. There has to be over two hundred letters. I pick up the envelopes and hold them out to the side. “Have you asked her about them?”
He shakes his head. “No. I need to calm down first. I want to kill her.” It’s been five days. I don’t think it’s going to get any easier.
“Does it say why she left?”
He nods. “She has muscular dystrophy. She thought it would be easier if I didn’t know her. Easier for her to die.” His voice cracks. “She has seizures. She just keeps getting worse.” He buries his face in his hands.
I bite my lower lip, stand up and hug him. “I’m so sorry. God, Liam.”
He hugs me, burying his face into my neck. “It just hurts. I could have built a relationship with her. I could have called her, emailed her, talked to her. I could have loved her.” He steps back, wiping his nose. “I’m going to write her back. Will you help me?”
I smile. “Of course I will.”
We sit at his desk for an hour trying to figure out what to say. What do you say in a situation like this? We decided to let her know what Liam’s step mom done. She needs to know that. The rest was a catch up on Liam’s life. He told her about everything…not about me being a pretend girlfriend though; we didn’t want her to think he was a weirdo.
“You sure it looks good? It doesn’t have any of those grammatical mistakes does it? I don’t want her to know I’m stupid.” Liam says.
“You’re not stupid, Liam. It looks fine. She’ll love it.”
He seals the envelope and tosses it on his desk. “Thank you for helping. I appreciate it.”
I shrug. “No problem. Oh, I almost forgot. Hayden has a big shiner on his eye. Looks like somebody’s new name should be Rocky.”
Liam smirks. “Well, that’s what he gets for messing with my girl. I should have beaten his ass a little more.”
I try to push away the words ‘my girl.’ It makes me giddy. “He kind of come up to me today wanting to get back together.” I intertwine my fingers and look at the ground.
Liam is deathly quiet. Its torture, I finally look up at him. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him I was with you,” I whisper. I told him the truth. I am with you.
Liam clears his throat. “Katy---,” Liam says, standing up. His mouth is opened, hand running through his hair.
Tears build in my eyes. “No, it’s okay. I know we’re just pretending,” I chock out. I turn on my heel. “I think I’m going to go, okay?” I can’t stand staying her knowing he doesn’t care about me, like I care about him.
I’m to the door when Liam wraps his hand around my waist and pushes me against the door. He’s breath is hot on my face. “Katy,” he whispers. I can’t look away from his lips. They’re parted and close to my mouth.
“Hmm,” I say, finally looking up at him.
“Tell me you want me to,” he says, leaning close to my mouth. “Tell me it’s not pretend, please. Just tell me.”
Oh, God. “I--I want you to,” I say. “I want you to kiss me. I don’t want it to be pretend.”  It hasn’t been pretending for a long time, for me.
Liam smiles, leaning down until his lips rest on mine. I melt within myself. Of course I’ve kissed Liam before, but this time is different. I feel it’s real. It is real. He said it was real, sort of.
I open my mouth, allowing him access, when his tongue brushes my bottom lip. He pushes me harder against the door, one hand on the small of my back the other tangled in my hair. He kisses me and I can’t seem to get enough. I push harder against him. Liam sighs, reaches behind me and holsters me up, encircling my legs around his waist. He is walking but I’m too enthralled with his mouth to open my eyes and see.
I feel the bed placed below me and I sink into the soft comforter. Liam rest on top of me, his hard body Heaven on mine.
“Jesus, Katy,” Liam breaks from my lips and whispers in my hair. “I don’t know how Hayden ever gave this up. What an idiot.”
I close my eyes and sigh. All I’ve wanted is to feel wanted by him. He is the only thing that matters. Liam pulls himself off of me, wrapping his arms around my stomach and pulling me toward him.
We lay quietly for a few minutes. “What does this mean?” I whisper.
“What do you want it to mean?” He nuzzles into my hair. God, he smells good.
I shrug and pick at the fuzz on his comforter. “I’m not sure.”
He laughs, and turns me to face him. “I like you,” he says. “A lot.”
“I like you, too.” So…?
“Well…” he trails off for a moment, “I think that means we really like each other, we’re not pretending anymore. At least I hope it means that.”
I hear the Heavenly chorus. “I think that’s what that means, too.”
He smirks. “I always knew you wanted me,” he says.
I roll my eyes. “Liking you less by the second.”
“Sure.” He winks.
Chapter Eight
My head is still spinning when I get to my house. Liam kissed me because he wanted to and not because he was required to. I’m still smiling when I go upstairs to my room. I lay on my bed, looking up at the ceiling. It’s like a dream. A stress less surreal dream. I’m smiling like an idiot when I hear the floor creak.
“Katy,” I hear, softly. The voice sounds familiar but far away. Wait, I know that voice.
I sit straight up in my bed. Hayden is standing at the door, hands shoved in his pockets. “How did you get in?”
He smirks. “I know where the spare key is. I didn’t just forget, ya know.” I’m not going to look into what he exactly means by that sentence.
I mentally groan. What the hell is he doing here? Why is he here to mess up my perfect dream life, I have going. He looks so innocent, a small smile on his face, his green eyes large. I used to would have died to see him look at me like that just one more time. But now, I can’t make myself want him. It makes me angry. I want to punch him in the throat.
“You have to leave, Hayden. I’m busy. You shouldn’t be here. You’re making things more complicated than they have to be.”
“Yeah, really looks like it. Daydreaming and all. Heavy stuff.”
I roll my eyes. Smartass.
“Were you with Liam just now? I’ve been waiting for hours.” Hayden walks toward me. “Come on, you can’t tell me that you like him more than you like me. You love me, I love you, that outweighs liking somebody, right?” Dumb. “It should. If you’re smart you’ll realize that.”
Guess I’m dumb. I shake my head. “Hayden, listen, I’ve wanted you to come back to me, crawling on your knees-.”
“’I’ll do it,” he says, squatting down on his knees. “Please, baby. I’ll crawl, beg, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.”
I close my eyes. I slap his hands away when he tries to touch me. “Hayden, you killed me. On the week my dad left, too. I felt like my entire world was falling into a million pieces. He hasn’t even called me. He is gone, you were gone. It just made it all worse.”
“Your dad…oh God, Katy. I’m so sorry.” I push him away at first, I don’t want him to touch me. “Katy, shhh,” Hayden says,
I cry. I’m not sure why I can’t make is stop, but the tears just fall hard. “Everything just went to Hell, Hayden. You just left, like I wasn’t anything. You took all of me and left. My dad took my entire being, my soul, and is moving to Florida with it.”
Hayden frowns, reaches up and pulls me down to him. He wraps me in his arms and rocks me back and forth. I want to pull away, I want to tell him to get out, to get out of my life, I want to punch him, but I don’t. I let him hold me. “I’m so sorry, Katy. I had no idea. I can’t believe he left.” Of course he didn’t. I didn’t tell him, because I didn’t want his pity.
I sob harder. Everyone lately has been sorry. I press my head in the crook of Hayden’s neck and smell his cologne. I used to love it, now I wish it was Liam’s ocean scent. I wipe my face and try to control myself. “Hayden, I think I want to be alone.”
He frowns and hugs me tighter. “I will hold you all night if you want me to, I don’t have to leave. I’m here for you, always.”
“Yeah, you do, you need to leave,” I hear from the door.
I freeze. Pins and needles shutter down my body. I glance over Hayden’s shoulder at Liam. His eyes are narrowed, cold and he has my cell phone in his hand. “You left this at my house, when we were making out on my bed. Or did you forget?”
My face heats. Damn it, Liam. I stand up and wrap my arms around my waist. Liam is glaring at Hayden, it’s ferocious. “Liam, calm down, it’s not--,”
“Get out of my girlfriend’s room, right now. I want say it again.”
“Dude, she doesn’t want me to go,” Hayden says.
“Yeah, I kind of--,”
“Get out, before I beat your ass again,” Liam is yelling. Liam turns to me. “Did you invite him, Katy? Huh, did you?”
“No! He just barged into my room!” I throw my hands in the air. “I wouldn’t invite him, you know it.”
“How the hell did you get in?” Liam asks.
“I did date her for a year; I know where the spare key is.” Hayden leans in, cupping a hand over his mouth and whispers, “it’s under the potted plant on the back porch.” I’m surprised Liam doesn’t knock him out. I’m actually kind of waiting on it.
Liam grits his teeth and takes a step forward. “I’m not going to say it again, get the hell out of here now.”
Hayden looks at me, rubbing his hand on my shoulder. “If you need anything, just call, you know my number.”
“She won’t need anything,” Liam says, before I get a chance to answer. “Now, get the fuck out.”
Hayden smiles down at me, then looks at Liam and smirks. I feel like throwing up. When Hayden is out of the door, Liam finally looks back up at me. “Liam,” I say. “He just walked in; I didn’t even know he was coming.”
He shakes his head, his face twisting into a painful sneer. “Katy, did he make you hug him? Did he make you cry on his shoulder? Because it didn’t look to forced to me.”
“Liam no, I--,”
“Just stop,” Liam interrupts me. “I should have known this is what you were doing all along. Still trying to make him jealous. Well,” he throws his hands up in the air, “you have successfully ruined our relationship; the douche bag wants you back now. You can have him. He is all yours.”
Tears are rushing down my face. “No, please, stop, don’t go. Liam, please.” I pull at his shirt, but he snatches his arm away from me.
“There is no need in pretending anymore, Katy. It’s over.” He tosses my cell phone on the bed. I watch his face, hoping there is one ounce of compassion in it. If there is, he’s hidden it well.
Liam turns and leaves. Walks away from me.
Chapter Nine
Liam won’t answer my phone calls. I sit on my bed the rest of the night crying. I tell Mom that I’m cramping. She believes me, she goes back down stairs.
I cry until I can’t cry anymore. My eyes hurt, my chest hurts worse. I don’t know what time it is before I drift to sleep but my alarm wakes me a seven. I lay in my bed looking at the ceiling.
“Sweetie, are you---oh Katy, what’s wrong with you, baby?” Mom barges into my room. She sits beside me, resting the back of her palm on my forehead. “You don’t have a fever. What’s going on? Do you feel sick?”
“Liam, he broke up with me,” I whisper. “Just like that, broke up with me.”
“Ah, honey,” Momma says. “What happened?”
“Hayden came over, he just let himself in and then Liam saw him in my room and thought that something was going on. It wasn’t. I don’t want to make Hayden jealous, anymore. I really like Liam. I just want to be with him. Why can’t he understand that?”
“I know, baby. But, you need to get up and go to school, okay? Sitting in your room won’t make it any better, I promise. Go have a fun day at school with Jen.”
Fun? At school? Has she missed the last two weeks of my life? I want to scream. “Alright Momma, I’ll go,” I say, only because I know she won’t let me stay.
After I drag myself through my morning ritual, I drive myself to school. Liam’s Jeep isn’t in the parking lot. He has missed almost all this week of school and my mom won’t let me miss one freaking day. I guess that’s a perk of having parents that don’t care; you get to do what you want to do.
“You look terrible,” Jen says when I open my car door. “Terrible, what happened? I heard Holly broke up with Hayden? That’s what he gets,” she says. “Now he is probably scouting for the next girl that will give him any attention.”
I nod.
“Okay, tell me, what’s going on?” she asks, turning me to face her. “You haven’t said anything and I know you’re doing a happy dance on the inside about Hayden. How could you not?”
“Liam broke up with me.”
“What?” Jen yells. “Why? I thought everything was going good? You want me to call my Asian cousins in L.A? They can whoop some serious ass. Even though my mom would whoop my ass if I even tried to call them. Last time she made me sit in my room in the corner all day. She said she wouldn’t have me associating with those hooligans, even if they were her sister’s children.”
I force a smile. “No, it’s okay. No need to sit and face the wall again. Hayden bursts into my room and then Liam came in. It was so stupid. I tried to get him to listen to me, but he won’t.”
“And it doesn’t look like he’s showed up for school, either.” She glances around before opening the school’s front door. “That sucks. Maybe he is just running late. Maybe you will see him today. And talk it out? Yeah, maybe he has cooled down and you can talk it all out.”
I nod. “Yeah, maybe” Maybe not.
When I get to class I see Hayden sitting across the room. I avoid eye contact. It’s thirty minutes into class and I’ve felt five paper wads hit my head and my phone has buzzed eight times.
“Mr. Hayden,” the teacher finally yells, slamming her fist down on the table. “Could you please leave this poor girl alone?”
Hayden’s face is red when I finally look over at him. I kind of feel bad. His girlfriend did dump him and know he gets called out in front of the class. But, that’s no worse than him worrying about my reputation because it affects him, not to mention him dumping me  like I’m a sack of potatoes.
“Um, yes ma’am, sure. Sorry to interrupt.”
She rolls her eyes and goes back to writing on the board.
Hayden doesn’t bother me for the rest of the period.
Time is dragging on. There is still no sign of Liam. He hasn’t text me back, called or even emailed me. I was hoping for any of them. By the time Science gets here I’m completely tired and sick of the day.
“Still no sign of him?” Jen leans back and asks.
“Nope, no sign of him,” I whisper.
She shrugs her shoulders. “I bet he is just cooling off. He probably just needs some time. I think so.”
“Probably so,” I say.
Mr. Fringe starts to call the roll. I say my name and give him a little shrug when he calls Liam’s. I don’t really hear what Mr. Fringe is saying. I can’t make myself care. I’m halfway through the lesson when I hear some whisper my name. I turn back and Justin is smiling at me.
“Guess since Hayden is single now, you’re gonna jump back to him?” Justin says.
My face heats. I flip him the bird. “No thanks, heard everyone has already had it.”
“Fuck off,” I yell, standing up. “I’m so sick of you. I don’t know why you insist on being mean to me. I’ve never done anything to you.”
“Just telling the truth, sweet cakes. Everyone is thinking it, just too scared to say anything.”
“Sit down, Katy. And shut up Justin. I don’t want to hear a word from either of you two again.”
Anger roars in me. I ignore Mr. Fringe. His voice is fading out. I just want to hit him. Without thinking this through, I pick up my Science book and hurl it at his head. It hits the tip of his eyebrow. “Shit! Stupid bitch.”
“Out! Both of you now!” Mr. Fringe is pointing his finger toward the door. His face is red and I think he is on the verge of screaming. I turn on my heel and stomp toward the principal’s office.
Mr. Fringe is in there a while with Justin. I hope that means bad for him. He starts it every time. Thirty minutes later Justin walks out, a scowl on his lips. He stops in front of me. I look around him, begging someone to help me. He looks like he wants to punch me. I’m pretty sure he’d take me out too. “I’m sorry,” he blurts out.
“What?” I ask.
“Sorry, I won’t say it again.” Mr. Fringe walks up behind Justin and nudges him. He groans. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have called you those names.” He turns around and gives Mr. Fringe the fakest smile I’ve ever seen.
“Okay, good enough, go,” he says, pointing down the hall.
When Justin leaves I suddenly wish he would come back and block me from Mr. Fringe’s disappointed stare. “Katy, what has gotten into you?” he asks, shaking his head.
I guess it’s a rhetorical question because he sends me in the principal’s office. I’ve only ever been in here when I received the honor roll and got an award. I’m not a trouble maker.
Mrs. Shaw is a very manly woman. Her dark eyebrows are heavy, her lips are full and she has a wide set nose. “Katy Taylor take a sit, dear.”
I sit down, feeling small compared to her and her huge desk. Who needs a desk that big? “So, Mr. Fringe tells me that you threw a book at Justin, Katy?” She looks down at me. It’s very intimidating.
“Um,” I whisper, looking over at Mr. Fringe. If he wasn’t here I might try to cry or lie. But, I don’t dare risk it. “Yes, ma’am, I threw my book at Justin.”
“You made him bleed.”
I did? Damn I wish I would have gotten to see it. “I guess, I didn’t see it.”
“Hmmm,” she says, intertwining her fingers that look like white tootsie rolls. It’s weird that her hands are so large and her fingers so small. “Did you hear me, Katy?”
“Um, no ma’am.”
She sighs. “You’ve never been in trouble. I hate to let you go with a harsher punishment that you deserve. So…I’m going to have you go back to class and apologize to the students. Then after lunch you have to go home for the rest of the day. Cool off.”
Whoever told teachers, sending a child home is punishment was seriously high. I smile. “Thank you Mrs. Shaw. I appreciate it.”
“I won’t see you back here again, will I?”
I shake my head. “No, ma’am.”
She nods. “Okay, then you’re dismissed.”
I nod and walk out of the office. Mr. Fringe follows me out. He walks beside me in silence. I wish he would say something. When we get to the classroom, Mr. Fringe grabs my shoulder. “Katy, I know you were sticking up for yourself. You understand I had to send you to the principal’s office don’t you?”
“I understand, Mr. Fringe.”
He smiles. “Well, off the record, I’m glad you threw that at him. He deserved it.” I laugh. “Now, get in there and apologize to the class. Since I’m sure they’re all so torn up that they got out of learning about sex.”
“Do I have to?” I whisper.
“Yes, now get in there.”
I walk into the class and everyone stops talking. Jen thrusts her fist in the air and mouths victory. I roll my eyes. I walk to the podium and stop. “Okay, guys, I just wanted to tell everyone I was sorry for the disturbance.”
A few people snicker. “And that I will never hit someone in the head with a book again,” I say.
More laughter. “Okay, okay, class, that’s enough. You can have your seat, Katy.” Mr Fringe pushes me toward my seat. I get a few high fives and winks. When I sit down in my seat I glance to my left. The empty chair seems emptier than before.
Jen hasn’t stopped talking since we got out of Science. She has showed me her best fighting stance at least eight times, I push my food around on my plate and pretend to watch her.  I hear the chair next to me scoot across the floor. I look to my left. Hayden glances down at me, smiling.
Good, God.
“I heard about you throwing that book,” Hayden says. “Justin better be glad that I wasn’t in there.”
What the hell. Jen opens her mouth and moves her index finger around her temple in a slow motion. “What are you doing?” I ask, sitting up straighter.
“Eating lunch, like we used to.” His eyes avert to Jen. “What’s up, Jen?”
She shrugs her shoulders and pretends to eat.
“Okay,” I say, “let me rephrase that, why are you sitting with me like we used to? Nothing has changed. We. Are. Not. Getting. Back. Together. Did you not get the hint in class today? You’ve messed up enough, I don’t want to be near you.”
Hayden closes his eyes and shakes his head. “It has changed. You’re single and I’m single. We still love each other. I don’t get you. You moped around after we broke up. I miss you and I know you miss me, too.”
“Speak for yourself, Hayden. I love someone else,” I blurt out. I don’t mean to say it. Because I’m not one hundred percent sure myself, but it slips out. Like vomit. I might as well have vomited on Hayden’s lunch.
“You don’t love him,” he says. “You don’t even know him.”
“You don’t know him either. But, I do know that I’m not a disposable rag that you can just toss out and come back to get. Get over yourself, Hayden. I don’t want to get back together with you now, nor ever.” When I glance up the few tables surrounding us are all staring at me, mouths opened wide, eyes bulging out of their skulls.
Hayden makes this weird sound in his throat and places his hand on mine. “You don’t mean that, you’re just upset because Liam broke up with you. You will get over it,” he says.
Is he delusional? “Hayden,” I say, “no, I won’t. I won’t get over this. Just take a hint and take a hike. I’m serious. I’ll go get the principal. I just want you to leave me alone.”
Hayden stands up, slamming his fist down on the table. I jump. Jeez. “This is your last chance to come with me. If you don’t now, I’m leaving for good.”
Where you gonna go? You have to finish the rest of the year. I smile to myself. “Okay, then, go. Shoo,” I say, waving him off.
I turn my back to him. Jen is smiling ear to ear. “Is he still standing behind me,” I lean over and whisper.
“Yes,” she says lightly. “He looks like a fire hydrant he is so red. It’s kind of funny,” she says.
I bite back a laugh. “Well, he’ll just have to get over it.”
Chapter Nine
“Sam is my favorite,” I say and grab a hand full of popcorn.
“How predictable,” Jen says.
“What, why? Finn or Puck would be predictable. Who do you like Jane and Henry?”
“Gasp, that’s racist,” she says, smiling. “Thank you very much I like Artie. Look at those big glasses…swoon.”
I roll my eyes. “I still like Sam.”
“Of course you do,” Jen says. “He only looks just like Liam in the face.”
“What no he…oh my gosh, he looks just like him.” I smile to myself. “I didn’t even realize it till now. The hair and eyes are completely different, but the lips, the face, its…”
“The same, duh,” Jen says, popping a cheery into her mouth. “Sometimes I don’t know where your head is, sweetheart.”
I know exactly where it is. Focused on Liam. I’ve texted him all day, and about twenty times since school let out. Nothing. I keep glancing at my phone. It’s Thursday and I know they’re having the banquet at his house tonight. I’m sure he is there getting ready without me.
“Maybe you should just show up over there, Katy. What could it hurt?”
“Uh, he could slam the door in my face?” I say. “Get the townspeople to chase me with pitch forks.”
“You’re dramatic. He wouldn’t do any of those things.”
“He just won’t talk to me,” I whine. “I hate my life.”
“Will you shut up already?” Jen says.
“What?” I ask, sitting up.
“I’m sick of your whining. I know that your life hasn’t been fairy tale perfect lately, but Katy, it’s not that bad. At least you get to date. At least you get to go out with guys. I have to wait until after college to date. And if he isn’t Asian and acceptable my parents will disown me. Your parents are happy if you’re happy. You’re luckier than you think.” Jen stands up. “It makes me mad that you think everything is over. Get your ass up and do something about it. It’s that simple.” She grabs her bowl of cherries. “I’m out. I guess I will see you later.”
I watch Jen walk out of my room. My mouth is hung open. Did she really just say that? What the hell kind of friend is that?
“Ugh,” I groan, rolling over, looking at the screen. “Ah, Glee. What do I do?”
I don’t know how long I lie in my bed, staring at the ceiling.
“Katy, you awake,” Mom asks through the door.
“Unfortunately,” I mumble.
“Can I come in?”
I’d rather you not. “Sure, Mom.”
The door creaks open and I feel the bed move from Mom sitting down. “Sweetie, your dad and I are worried about you.”
I snort. “Yeah, he seems very worried,” I mumble.
“He is baby. What was all the commotion with Jen and you earlier? She left before Glee was over. I knew something was up then.”
I shrug and look up at my mom. She is staring down at me. “She told me she was sick of my whining that my life was too good to be complaining about. Then she kind of just walked out.”
“You ever think she is right?” Mom asks, brushing my hair back.
“I think I know she is. I’m just not okay enough to understand all of this. Dad is gone, Liam is gone, and the entire school is talking about me. I can’t imagine things getting any worse.”
Mom laughs.
“What’s so funny?”
“I was just the same way at your age…dramatic. Sweetie, I know your dad and I getting divorced is a lot for you, but it will be just fine. I know you don’t want to hear that right now but it will.” She stands up, and then kisses my forehead. “Just be glad you grew up and have both of your parents. I love you, baby.”
I know my mother is right. I know that she means well, but this is too much. I bite back my tears. I’m so tired of crying. I’m so tired of being mad at my Dad. It hurts too much. I roll over and notice a picture of Mom, Dad and me on the wall at Niagara Falls. All of us together. Liam’s face flashes through my mind. He doesn’t have this. He doesn’t have a memory of a picture perfect family…his is broken like mine is now. The poor little guy waiting on his mother to come back, only for her to never come back again. I just wish he could find her. I push past the throbbing pain in my chest; this is how he has felt his entire life. Broken.
I sit up in the bed. I could try and track her down? I doubt I find anything, but I could try. I grab my laptop and pull up Google. “I can only try,” I whisper.
Two hours later I have a number. I’m not sure if it’s the right number. But after being hung up on fifty times, I pray this is right. I had to sneak my mom’s yearbook and look for any Mary Beth I could. There were three. One still lived here and the other passed away. So, it left me with Mary Beth Johns.
I dial the number. “Hello,” a boy says.
“Um, I was wondering if there was a Mary Beth there?”
Silence. “Who is this?” he asks.
“My name is Katy Taylor. I…I’m Liam Erickson’s…friend. Is she there?” I ask.
“Who did you say you were friends with?” the boy asks. I hear a few people talking in the background.
“Liam Erickson,” I whisper, my voice cracks. Saying his name again makes my stomach churn. Should I go behind his back? Should I even be doing this?
“Can you hold a moment, please?”
“Sure.” I haven’t noticed but I’m pacing the room, my nail in my mouth. There are a few whispers on the other end and a ruffling sound. My heart is beating loudly. I flop on my bed and nibble on the remainder of my cookie.
“Hello,” I hear.
I toss my cookie to the side and sit up. “Hi…um…is this Mary Beth?”
“Yes, it is. You know my son? Liam,” she says. Her voice is smooth like honey. I smile into the phone. I wonder if Liam looks like her. I’ve never saw his Dad so I really wouldn’t know.
“Yes, I know him.” Very well. “Did you get the letter we sent?” I ask.
“Um, no honey I didn’t. What…where is he? Does he know you’re calling me? Is he there with you?”
“Um, no. He doesn’t exactly know I’m calling. I’m not even sure he would want me to. I just know that he found the letters. His step-mom was hiding them. We wrote you one back; he said he was going to send it. I figured it would be back to you by now.”
I hear a sob. “Is there any way you could get in touch with him for me?”
“I have his phone number; he isn’t talking to me right now. But, I’d be willing to give it to you. He wants to see you. He really does. Do you want to call him?”
She sniffles. “I think I have a better idea. Would you be willing to help me out?”
I nod then realize she can’t see me. “Of course I would,” I say. “Anything for Liam.”
Chapter Ten
My hands are shaking. I glance around the airport lounge. I don’t know who I’m looking for. Only that she is in her forties and she has a son. Liam won’t answer my phone calls or texts. I’m not sure how the hell I’m going to pull this off. Liam won’t agree to meet me anywhere.  He doesn’t even answer me. So, here I am at the airport meeting his mother and younger brother. My leg is tapping nervously on the concrete floor. Their plane has landed. I jump up and stand on my tip-toes.
“Jeez, where are they?” I ask.
I step onto one the seats and look out over the crowd of people. I cup my palm over my eyebrows to block out the light. Maybe I should make a sign? No, how lame.
I sigh, bringing my hand down to check my phone. No new messages. That has been the only thing my phone can tell me for the past three weeks. It’s kind of depressing. I turn to my right and do a double take. A boy with dark black hair is looking around. I frown. Now I’m seeing Liam everywhere. His eye catches mine. They’re grey. I lift and eyebrow and he smiles.
Am I flirting with a stranger that looks like Liam…wait could that be his brother? I notice a small dark haired woman staring at me. I wave. I hope that’s them.
“Katy?” she mouths over the sea of people.
I nod. “That’s me,” I yell. I jump down off the chair and wade my way through the people. “Hi,” I say, when I get close enough they can hear me. “It’s so nice to meet you two.” I bite back a smile.
“You, too, sweetie.” His mom hugs me.
“I’m Brian,” the Liam look alike says.
“You look so much like Liam it’s scary. Except,” I look down at his nicely washed Nike shoes. “You’re much more preppy than he is.”
He waves me off and flashes a smile. “Mom made me wear this, this is so totally not what I would pick out to wear.”
I laugh.
“No, he would wear those grungy ugly boots.”
Boots. Something inside of me hurts.
“So, where is Liam?” she asks.
“Well, about that. He doesn’t know you’re here.”
“He still isn’t answering?” she asks. “What should we do then?”
I slap my sides. “Well, I know where he lives. That’s our best bet.”
His mom looks worried. “Well, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. I mean Luke…will Luke, I mean his dad be there?”
I see the worried look in her eyes. They are grey. Liam must get his looks from his Mom. “He is never there. We should go,” I say.
Brian looks down at his mom. “Yeah, Mom, we didn’t travel all this way to not see him. We should totally go.” He waits on her answer. She nods. “Lead the way.”
We get into my Honda and I’m suddenly glad I vacuumed. “They still live on Houston street?” she whisper.
I nod. “Yeah, it’s still there. It’s improved. They built Liam a tennis court and swimming pool.”
“Wow, Mom, we should move back in,” Brian says from the back seat.
She shoots him a death glare. “I hope he is okay to see us. I hope he doesn’t get mad or anything like that.”
Me, too. I frown when we get to the driveway. Liam’s Jeep is in the driveway and my heart is hammering in my ears. I stop the car and Brian lets out a long whistle. “Really nice pad. They must be loaded.”
“Shut it, Brian.”
I laugh. He is only thinking the same thing I thought. “Well, I guess we should get out,” I say, slowly. “It’s probably best you both come with me. He is less likely to slam the door in my face this way.”
“He is that made at you?” Brian asks. “What did you do? Kill his puppy?”
“That’s none of your business, Brian. Leave the girl alone.” Mary Beth taps her fingers along her purse. She is more nervous than I am. She should be. My and Liam’s problem shouldn’t have a place in this. I open the door, and pop the seat so Brian can get out.
“Let’s go,” I say, motioning for them to follow me.
We all three walk up to the doorsteps. I feel like the Beast is going to come out from behind the closed doors and shun me. I knock gently, and step to the side. I don’t want him to look through the peep hole and see me. He might not answer.
After a few minutes, I hear the shuffling of feet along the hardwood floor. My heart thumps. Please don’t shut the door in my face. Please.
The door creaks open and Liam is standing on the other side. His eyes go straight to me. They stay there for a few long unspoken seconds. I feel everyone staring at me. I can’t stand it. “Um, hey, Liam,” I whisper.
“What are you doing here?” he asks, his eyes flickering to the two beside me. “And what’s going on, who are these people?” He crossed his arms across his chest. I notice how good his long sleeves shirt fits his arms. I want to wrap my arms around his waist, hold him and kiss him. I want him to talk to me. I want him to love me, like I love him.
“This is Mary Beth Johns and Brian Johns,” I mumble.
His face is pale. I know he knows who they are but he asks anyway. “Who are they, Katy?” My name sounds foreign on his tongue. I wish he would call me little bear, even though I hate it.
“This is your mother and your brother, Liam,” I blurt out.
Liam’s eyes dart toward his mothers. “Mom?” he asks, low.
“Yes,” she blurts out. She is sobbing when she pulls him into a hug. I feel awkward standing here watching them but I can’t help it. Liam is…smiling. Hugely, I might add. Brian takes a step toward them, wrapping them both in a hug.
“I have a younger brother? How old are you?” he asks.
“You look like me,” Liam says. “We all look alike.”
His mom sobs harder. “I’m so sorry…so so sorry. Katy explained what happened. Why you didn’t write back. She told me everything. She found me. I thought you didn’t want to speak to me. I couldn’t blame you. It was everything for me to stay away from you.”
She hugs him again but he is staring at me over her shoulder. “Maybe we should go inside,” he says, laughing.
“Yes, that would be lovely,” she says, wrapping her cardigan around her slender waist. “That would be great.”
He gestures for Brian and Mary Beth to go inside. He stands at the doorway for en entirely long minute. “Thank you, Katy,” he says, his voice cracking.
God, I want to touch him. To touch the scruff growing along his jaw. To kiss his lips. But I don’t. Because he doesn’t make a move toward me at all. He stands still, hands in his pockets.
“You’re welcome. It was the least I could do,” I say.
He nods. “Well, I better get inside.” His eyes catch mine. I nod.
“Of course. Go mingle, get to know your family.”
He nods. “Yeah…guess I’ll see you later.”
“Bye,” I say, as he shuts the door. I stare at the wooden door for five minutes. My heart is screaming for me to beat on it. To bang until he opens, to throw my arms around him and never let go. But, I don’t. My brain tells me to give up. That he doesn’t want to make it work. He is through with me.
So I turn around and leave, desperately waiting to hear the door open and him run out into my arms. It doesn’t. The only sound is the cars passing by and my heavy breathing.
I start my engine and reverse down the road. As much as it pains me, I know I done the right thing. Whether Liam ever talks to me again or not. I know that he got to meet his mom and brother. I know that that is something no one else has ever given him. The one thing he wanted so badly. I gave him what he deserves.
Chapter Eleven
It’s not that I thought Liam would suddenly forgive me and forget about Hayden. But I had hoped. My mom is out in the garden when I get home. She is in her blue jeans shirt, bandana and water proof boots. I smile. Our Saturday tradition. Pulling weeds and watering the garden. I haven’t helped her lately. I’ve been too worried about Liam and our ‘pretend’ relationship.
“How did it go?” Mom asks, taking off her dirty gloves, shoving them into the pocket of her shirt.
I shake my head. “It didn’t go very well,” I say. “He was happy to see them, but not me. I don’t know what to do. I’ve done all that I can think of. He just left me outside,” I whisper. “He didn’t forgive me.”
Mom wraps her arms around me, stroking my hair. “He will come around, sweetheart. He will realize how great you are, I promise.” She pulls me back and looks at me. “In the meantime, let’s go inside real quick. I have something to show you.”
I wipe my eyes and take a deep breath. “Okay.”
I follow my mom into the house and stop short. My dad is standing in the doorway, his hand on the doorframe. He runs his hand through his hair and gives me a smile. I’m glad he has something to smile about. “What are you doing here?” I ask. Did I miss his vehicle in the driveway?
I’m contemplating my escape methods when Dad clears his throat. “I parked out back,” he says. “I knew you wouldn’t come home if you knew I was here. Like you wish you were anywhere else but here right now,” he says.
“You got that right,” I snap, crossing my arms over my chest. I’d rather be sitting in a room with Liam and him ignoring me.
“Sweetie,” Dad says, stepping forward, “I know you’re mad at me and I can’t blame you. I messed up and I know it hurt you and your mom. The harm is done. But, this move is for the best. The best for your mom, you and me. You might not see it now, but it is. It’s a good thing.” His eye averts to my mom’s. “Well, your mother and I have been talking. She told me about Liam…”
I groan. “Thanks Mom, thanks a lot.”
Mom shrugs her shoulders. “I’m worried about you, baby.”
“There is nothing to worry about. We just aren’t together anymore? Neither are you two, should I worry about you?”
“No, we’re adults. You’re sulking around the house like a child. What you done for Liam was nice, baby. But, you’re upset. Your dad and I decided that you need to go spend a few days with your dad. We already talked to your teachers; this will be good for you. You would leave today and spend until Wednesday, then be back in school by Thursday,” Mom says, biting her lip. I notice she has been doing that lately when she is nervous.
“You can’t be serious. I’m not going anywhere with him,” I spit. “I can’t run away from my problems like Dad does.”
“Now, you wait one freaking second, Katy. I may have messed up but I am still an adult and your father and I always will be. You will treat me with respect.” He looks at Mom who gives him a little nod. “And this isn’t debatable. You’re coming to stay with me for a few days. It will help you get your mind off things. There are plenty of things to do in Florida. It’s gorgeous. There are malls and beaches.”
   “I don’t want to go,” I say.
“Well, you’re going, babe,” Mom says, pointing to my suitcase leaned up against the hallway door. “Your bag is already packed.”
This is not happening. This has to be a terrible bad dream. I close my eyes and reopen them. Both of my parents are still staring at me. “I hope you’re happy, Dad.” I turn on my heel and march up to my room. I dig my cell out of my pocket but realize I have no one to call. My best friend thinks I’m a self-centered drama queen, my ‘pretend’ boyfriend, doesn’t want to see me, and even my ex-boyfriend that wants to get back to together is mad because I humiliated him.
I shove my phone back into my pocket and finally let the tears that have been fighting me all day, down my face. Maybe a weekend away from everyone will help? Maybe I’ll get back and everyone will talk to me again? Maybe some of them will realize they give a damn about me.
I sit on my bed until my dad knocks on the door. It’s loud and heavy. “Come in,” I whisper. I’m not even sure if my dad hears me.
He must, because he opens the door, peaking through the crack until I look up at him.
“You ready to go?” he asks. “Our plane leaves in an hour. We need to head out,” he says.
“Yeah, I guess,” I whisper. “If we have to.”
Dad smiles. “It’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be, I promise. Come on, let’s go.” I stand up and follow Dad downstairs. Mom is standing with my suitcase. She is smiling but I can tell it’s just for show. It looks like the smile she gives my grandma when she comes down to visit. The thought makes my stomach hurt. It won’t be the same. Will Grandpa and Grandma still come down for Christmas, even if Dad’s not here?
I fight back the tears, they’re threatening to fall. Mom reaches out for me, kisses my check and hugs me. “I love ya, baby girl. I’ll see you Wednesday, okay? You need a few days off. Go have fun on the beach.”
I nod even though it’s way too chilly to be on the beach. I can go to the beach here. Why is it they’re making it out to be so much better in Florida? I fight the urge to stomp my foot. I don’t want to go. I want to stay and wallow in my self pity in my own room. “Okay, Momma.”
She gives me another kiss, walking Dad and I out the door. I walk slowly, waiting for something to happen. For Mom to change her mind, for Jen to run down the road, for Hayden to beat on my window, kiss me and keep me in his arms forever. Nothing happens. Dad packs my suitcase into the back, and then shuts the truck. I watch my dad give my mom a hug. I doubt he means it, but the gesture is nice.
Dad opens his door and digs his keys out of his pocket. “This is going to be fun, Katy. Just wait.”
I’m waiting…
We load the plane. I don’t give Dad a chance to talk. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I plug my earphones in my ears and close my eyes. Hopefully when I open my eyes again this will all have been a terrible nightmare.
I wake up with Dad shaking my shoulders. “Katy, get up, we’re in Florida. Get up, babe,” he says, low in my ear.
I peak one eye open and see Dad leaning down in my face, his scruffy beard mostly all I can see. “Okay, I’m up, Dad. Jeez,” I say, rubbing my head. It seems like it was hit with a three ton hammer.
Dad rolls his eyes and stands up to get our carry-ons. He stands up and tugs at his white t-shirt. I shift my leg that’s tucked under me and stand up. My eye catches a woman in the aisle behind Dad, staring at him. Blankly staring at him, not trying to hide it or anything. She has long legs, auburn hair and white teeth. Not to mention a ginormous rack. She looks vaguely familiar.
“Danny?” she asks. It takes me a second to realize she is talking to my dad. His name is Danny.
He turns and gets this whitish ghost look on his face. “Beth?”
Beth? Beth the sectary at dad’s office, the one Mom caught him with. Heat spreads up my neck when I look at her.
“How are you?” she whispers, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“Fine, I’m fine. I’ve moved here.”
“To Florida? Moved? For good? I knew that’s what they were saying around the office, but I wasn’t sure.” Her blue eyes flicker to mine.
I give her the best I’m a badass look I can conjure up.
“Oh, how rude. This is my daughter, Katy. Katy this is Beth.” Dad gestures toward her. I see the please don’t embarrass me look in her eyes. Too bad, Dad. You made your bed.
Beth stretches her hand out toward me. I look down at her hand and push my way through Dad and her. “I hope you’re happy, Beth. My dad and mom are no longer together because you couldn’t keep your legs close. Good for you,” I say, turn on my heel and walk off the airplane.
I know it wasn’t the right thing to do, but man do I feel a hell of a lot better. I keep walking even though I hear my dad calling my name. The airport is cramped and I shove people to get through to the doors. By the time I get to the double doors, my Dad has caught up with me, his hand wrapping around my elbow.
“Katy,” he says, snatching me toward him. I turn to look at him, his eyes are watering. He doesn’t say anything else. He pulls me behind him. He leads us back toward the conveyer belt, where he gets out baggage. I don’t say or do anything. The tears in his eyes were enough to silence me for a decade. He doesn’t make sure I’m following him when he starts toward the doorway, but I do.
He throws his hand out for a Taxi. We wait in silence until a Taxi pulls up to the sidewalk. I get in silently, watching my dad load our baggage. “7th Street Beach Front, number 11,” Dad says. He leans back and closes his eyes.
I see a tear fall down his disgruntled face. I turn the other way; I can’t make myself look at him. I’ve only seen my dad cry once. It was when my mom and I had a car crash on the way to school one morning. He came running toward our vehicle that was lying upside down. He was hysterical then, pain covered his face. Here he is sad. He is sad that our lives have come to this. I am, too.
The taxi driver pulls over to the side of the road and parks. I glance up and see a small beach front house. It’s wooden, porch swing, sand everywhere. The view is a lot like Aaron’s Michelle’s house was like. I step out and look around. There are a row of houses down the street, volley ball nets, basketball goals, the normal family homes. I look at Dad’s house. A family won’t live here. At least not for a while.
“This way,” Dad says, walking past me toward the house. I take step behind him, my feet weighing down in the sand. Dad drops our suitcases and unlocks the door. It’s an open floor plan, lots of space. The floors are wooden, there are sliding glass doors that lead straight to the beach.
Dad disappears into a hallway to the right. I follow behind him, taking in the house as I go. “This will be your room when you ever come down,” Dad says, dropping my suitcase. I feel like he knows I don’t want to come down. In fact, I’m sure he knows that.
“It’s nice,” I say. It’s a nice queen bed, a TV, dresser and bathroom attached. But, it’s not comfy. It’s foreign.
He nods. “I’m going to get a shower, you can go check out the beach if you want to.” He doesn’t wait for me to say anything, he just leaves.
My phone buzzes and I dig it out of my pocket. My heart is racing, I half way expect to see Jen or Liam’s name on the screen, when Mom’s name pops up it disappoints me. “Hey, Mom,” I say, clearing my throat.
“You make it okay?” she asks.
“Yes, we did.”
“What’s wrong?”
I almost tell her. But I figure she has hurt enough. “Just tired. I’m going to take a nap, I think.”
“Okay, baby, just call me if you need…anything.”
“Bye, babe.” I hang up the phone and shove it in my jeans pocket. I hear Dad’s shower running, so I walk out the sliding doors to the back porch. There are a few people walking down the beach, some holding hands others running. Sighing, I walk down, slipping out of my shoes. I wade through the cool sand and flop down on my back in a random spot. My body is gritty from the sand and my hair is tangled against it. I don’t care.
I close my eyes and picture my life before. My perfect life. My life where someone loved me, where everyone in my life loved me. It made so much more sense. It helped me through each day. Now, everything is gone to hell in a hand basket.
I grip the sand between my fingers. Liam’s face, pouring sand on my hair runs through my mind. He was so easy to give up on me, to not forgive me. It burns so much. How can he hate me so much? I apologized…my mind slowed down. I apologized just like my dad did to me and my mom. My mom seems to have forgiven my dad, easily, they separated but they’re nice to one another. Jen’s face when she told me I was self-centered and ungrateful was so...honest. Jen has always been honest with me.
Who am I to judge Liam for not forgiving me when I won’t forgive my dad? My stomach starts to hurt and I sit up. I look toward my dad’s beach house. My dad still loves me; I’ve known he still does. He still loves my mom, but he messed up. He fell out of love with her like Hayden did me. They will both move on with their lives. They will both find new people. They will both continue to love me like they always have.
I stand up in the sand and wipe my jeans off. I look back at the beach so peaceful. No wonder Liam spends all his time here relaxing and thinking. The beach brings out the good thoughts in everyone it seems like.
Dad is still in the shower when I get back to the house. I figure he is wallowing in his self pity, like me. That is probably where I got it from. I walk to the kitchen and start pulling out food. I can make dinner. I think.
When Dad walks out, I have the hamburger meat frying. “What are you doing, Katy?” he asks, drying off his wet hair.
“Making dinner,” I say matter of fact. “Are you not hungry?”
He blinks twice. “Um, yeah, but…never mind,” he says, holding his hands up in surrender. “I’m not complaining about someone cooking.”
He comes around and sits at the bar, staring at me. I know he wants to ask something but doesn’t know how to ask it.
“Look Dad,” I turn toward him, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to get so out of hand. I just…this sucks ya know? I’m used to coming home and seeing my dad every day. I’m used to having the normal parents, the normal family. The family that isn’t divorced. Now, I’m…Katy that has no boyfriend. Katy that doesn’t have any friends…Katy that doesn’t have two parents. It seems nothing is right anymore. Nothing makes any sense. It sucks. It sucks big time. I shouldn’t have said what I did to Beth. But, it felt so good, that I didn’t care. I’m sorry for that.” I bite my lip and look my dad in the eye. He is staring seriously at me. “You’re not the only one that done something because it felt good, Katy. That’s why we’re in this mess right now. Because I done something that felt right at the time. It was wrong and I regret it. But, your mom and I wouldn’t have worked anyway. We haven’t been in love for a long time now. I hate that we put you through this. I hate that you’ve suffered this way…but I can tell you right now that everything is really going to be okay. No matter how bad life gets either one of us down. It’s going to be okay.”
Dad leans on his hands and stares at me, while I pour the Hamburger Helper mix into the pan. It’s the only thing I know how to cook well. For the first time in a while, I smile at my dad and mean it. Because, this time. I know everything really is going to be okay.
Chapter Twelve
The week went better than planned. I spent most of my time on the beach, lying on the sand watching the waves and relaxing. It was calming. Dad took me out to different places to eat; we went to Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, and shopping.
He bought me a few things. I think it’s just because of the situation; he isn’t normally that big of a shopper. Or a money spender for that matter.
“You ready?” Dad asks, standing in my doorway. I zip up my suitcase and nod.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” I laugh. “I didn’t think I would be saying this, but I’m kind of bummed that I’m not staying. It was fun, I can’t wait to come back.”
Dad smiles. “You only have a few months to graduation, you could think about coming to college down here? Visiting during the holidays. Take another break after graduation and spend the summer here.”
That sounds great, actually. “Yeah, I’ll definitely have to look into doing that.”
Dad walks toward me, and then wraps me in a hug. It feels like it used to, before the separation. It is the same. “You just needed a break. You feel better, right?”
I nod into his shoulder, smelling his Ralph Lauren cologne. “I do.” A little. “I feel better, Dad.”
“That a girl.” He pulls back. “Let’s get going, we don’t want to miss your flight.” He grabs my suitcase and I follow him to his SUV. We ride listening to music and signing on the way to the airport. Dad has the windows rolled down and is tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. I will miss this. I’ll miss my dad. He looks over at me, smiling. He is a great Dad. He just made a mistake.
I blush remembering what I said to Beth. “Will you tell Beth I’m sorry,” I whisper.
He smiles. “I really don’t talk to her. I won’t see her anymore, but if I do I’ll let her know for you.”
“She is the one that you…um, ya know with, right?”
“Yes,” Dad says.
“And you don’t talk to her?” I ask.
“No. Your mom walked in during the only time I’ve ever kissed another woman. But, it’s the fact that I let myself do it”
I bite my lip and twirl my fingers around a piece of string on my jeans. “I know you’re sorry and I forgive you,” I say. “Is that okay to say? I know you didn’t cheat on me but…“I did. I did cheat on you, you’re my daughter and I cheated on my family. It’s a terrible thing I done and I’m glad you have forgiven me.”
“Mom has, too,” I say.
“I know. I’ll always appreciate her forgiveness, because I didn’t deserve it.”
“Everyone makes mistakes,” I say.  I just wish Liam would forgive mine. He forgave his mom for leaving him. Why not me?
Dad pulls up to the airport and helps me get my baggage through the system. I stand by the door and look up at my dad. He smiles down at me, running his finger through my hair. “I’ll miss you, Katy bug.”
I hold back a sob. “I’ll miss you, too, Daddy.” I squeeze him into a hug and stand there holding my dad like I’m five years old until they call over the intercom that our plan is going to leave soon.
“Better get going, I’ll see you soon. Call me when you land, okay? I love you.”
“I love you, too,” I whisper. I grab my carryon and walk into the terminal.
I fall asleep on the plane. I can never stay awake on those things. It’s terrible. When I wake up a little kid is staring at me. “That girl is drooling, Momma.”
“Shhh,” her mother says, pushing him along and giving me an I’m sorry look. I groan and wipe the drool off my mouth.
“Great, “I mumble. I just hope I don’t look half as bad as I feel. I exit the plane, get my suitcase. My phone vibrates. “Hey, Mom,” I answer.
“Where are you?” she asks.
“By the bathrooms.”
“Be there in a second,” she says, hanging up. I lean against the wall and close my eyes. I really need a nap.
“Sweetie,” my mom yells. I look up and over at my mom. I stop. Jen is walking beside her. A huge smile on her face.
I grin ear to ear and run toward them. Jen wraps her arms around me. “Your mom let you out of the house,” I ask. She squeezes me tight. I know I’ve only been gone a few days, but it feel so good to talk to Jen.
“Your mom talked her into it,” she says. She pulls back and furrows her brow. “I’m sorry, Katy. I shouldn’t have said--,”
“No,” I stop her. “You were right. I was being selfish and overly dramatic. I’m sorry I was acting like that. I have a great life,” I say.
Mom sniffles and I look up at her. “No waterworks,” I say and hug her. She hugs me back, tightly.
“Well,” she says. “Let’s get home. You want to have a Glee marathon or The Vampire Diaries.”
“That is the hardest question you’ve ever asked me,” I say. I stroke my chin. “Damon or Sam?”
“What the hell, Sam!”  I yell.
We all laugh and walk toward the Exit.
We spend the rest of the night piled up in the living room, eating chocolate, watching and singing along to Glee. When Jen’s mom calls for the fiftieth time, she finally leaves. “I’m so glad we’re talking again,” she says at the door. “I thought I was going to explode.”
“Me, too.”
“So, nothing from Liam?” she asks.
I shake my head. “Nope, haven’t talked to him since I took his Mom to his house. And only then for a quick second.” I shrug my shoulders and fight back the urge to scream. “It will be, okay.”
She nods. Her phone starts ringing. “Ugh, my mom. I have to go. See ya at school.” She gives me a quick hug before she walks off yelling at her mother in Chinese.
I shut the door behind her and glance at my mom. “Ready to watch some more Sam?”
I nod. “Always ready for that,” I say, before plopping down beside her.
Chapter Thirteen
My hands are shaking when I walk into the hallway Friday morning. I’m a little tired from staying up and watching Glee reruns all night long with my mom. But, I’m so nervous it outweighs my lack of sleep. Not to mention I could barely eat any of my breakfast.
Jen is waiting for me by my locker when I walk up. “Hey, darling. Brought you a coffee,” she says, handing me a cup of goodness. “I figured with your lack of self-control you stayed up late watching Glee.”
“You’re right, I sure did. It was awesome.”
She smiles and it falters when she looks over my shoulder. “You need something?” she asks.
I glance back and stop short. “Brian?” I ask.
“What’s up, Katy? I’ve been looking for you all week long. Where ya been?” he asks, grabbing my shoulder and hugging me.
“I’ve been in Florida with my dad, he just moved. The better question is what in the hell are you doing here?”
He laughs. “Mom and I moved here. She wanted to be closer to Liam.”
Jen coughs, causing me to smile. “Oh,” I gesture toward Jen, “Brian this is my best friend Jen. Jen this is Liam’s brother Brian.”
Jen flutters her eyelashes and offers him her hand. I roll my eyes. She is nuts.
“Nice to meet you,” she says.
“You, too.” The bell cuts us short and Brian holsters his backpack up his back. “I guess I need to get to class, I’ll see you two later?”
“Yeah, sure,” I say, before he darts down the hallway.
“Why didn’t you tell me he was a hottie,” she squeals.
“Because, I wasn’t really checking him out, Jen. Jeez. Not to mention he is only fourteen,” I say, shutting my locker. “He does look like Liam though.”
“Ya think, you need to start having me on your mind when you see these boys. Age ain’t anything but a number.” She scoffs. “Gah, Katy, stop being so selfish,” she says. She winks and runs toward class.
I don’t see Liam all day. Brian sits with us during lunch and I almost ask but I don’t. I don’t want to say his name. A large lump grows in my throat when I think about it. So I don’t ask. When the bell rings I go straight home. Jen asks me to come to her house for a Vampire Dairies up-date on Hulu, since we have neglected it because of Glee but I decline. I just want to go into my room and read or relax. Mom isn’t home yet, she won’t be back from the office until five or six. I’m not complaining, I like the time alone.
I go to the kitchen and pull out some lunch meat and bread. I fix a sandwich and walk up to my room. I stop short when I open my door. A little bear is sitting in the center of my bed, a rose fastened to it. I nervously glance around my room. Please, don’t let Hayden be here again.
I set my sandwich down on my desk and walk to the bear. I untie the rose and hold it in my hand. I wait for something to happen. Maybe Mom thought this would make me feel better? But that’s kind of a romantic gift for a mother/daughter relationship.
“You know,” I hear and I turn toward the door. Liam is leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over his chest, his big grey eyes wide, a dangerous smile crawling up his face. “If I ever thank Hayden for anything, it’s going to be pointing out where the extra key is hidden.”
I try not to smile but I do anyway. It sends a few tears down my face. I look down at the bear and pick it up. “Little bear,” he whispers, kicking off the doorframe. I wait patiently for him to make it to me. I smell him first, that salty sea water and mellow sandalwood. His fingers tilt my chin up toward him. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.
I bite my lip and nod. I can’t risk saying anything; a sob is riding on my lips.
“I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I overdramatized the situation; I know you were hurting; it just hurt me to see you with him. It hurt worse than anything else I’ve ever felt.”
I nod.
“I’ve missed you, Katy,” he whispers, moving his mouth closer to mine. “I’ve missed you so damn much.”
“Brian is here,” I mumble out.
He grins. “He is, so is my mom. She wants me to bring you by their new house. Thank you, Katy,” he coos. I lick my lips and nod. “Little bear,” he whispers. “I want you back. I want you back with me. I’m not pretending anymore, I haven’t been for a long time. I want you to be with me, because I want you. Not to stop some rumor.”
I let the sob out of my throat and smile helplessly at the sound. “I’ve missed you, too,” I whisper.
Liam lowers his mouth toward mine and kisses me. It feels like the first real thing I’ve felt in weeks. It feels like he really is kissing me, for me, not for an agreement. Liam lifts me up and places me on the bed, showering me with kisses.
“I don’t want to let go,” he whispers.
“Then don’t.”
He sighs into my hair and whispers, “I think it’s time to give Avalon High more things to talk about.”
I gasp. “Liam, you wouldn’t be suggesting anything our parents wouldn’t approve of.”
“I am little bear.”
“I’m both appalled and turned on,” I whisper.
He laughs and pulls me closer to him. “Come here, we have some rumors to start,” he says, before bringing his lips back down to mine.
The End.

Dedicated to Greg, who is the one for me.

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