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Summary

Samantha Spade: the quiet, witty, extremely sarcastic one. She's sweet and smart and has a
shoulder for anyone to cry on. A big romantic and severely lacking in the guy department.
Though that might change this year if she can learn to get past first impressions, that is.

David Weston: the rich, arrogant playboy who thinks the world revolves around him. He's smart,
sexy, and can charm any girl with a pulse. Any girl except Sam, that is. When they're made to
work together for the school fundraiser, he'll make her see that there's a fine line between love
and hate. And maybe he'll make her cross it.

Madison Harper: the school golden girl. She's got everything money, looks, smarts,
personality. But this year, her friends will find out that there's much more than meets the eye to
Madison. Perhaps she doesn't have everything. Perhaps there's more darkness in her life that
people thought.

Ian Hart: the hottie next door. Laid-back and laconic, Ian is one of Sam's closest friends, and
she is one of the most precious people in his life. But when Ian makes a startling discovery, his
friendship with Sam is put to the test. Does it stand a chance?

Scott Manning: the badass player. Also Sam's overprotective stepbrother. Scott's used to being
shifted off to the side, to being second-string. He's used to temporary, not permanent. Then he
starts having some intense not-so-platonic feelings for the one person he can't have. Or so he
thinks.

It's their final year at Maple Ridge Academy. As they near closer and closer to graduation,
hormones go into overdrive, friendships are tested, bonds are formed, and ties are severed.
They will learn that family isn't just blood. It's much more than that.

Prologue

If a duck quacks, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Yeah, normally this question involves a tree, I'm aware of that. But ducks sound so much more
interesting than trees. At least, in this case.
Okay, first off, no, I'm not insane (though a certain track star would beg to differ, but he's an ass,
so really, who gives a damn what he says?). I'm just quirky. Quirky and eccentric. I think that
beats the hell out of being boring and predictable, though, two things of which I'm also often
accused of being.

I am nothing if not a paradox.

My name? Samantha Spade. Yeah, I know. My name sounds kinda cool, especially when I say
it in the whole James Bond kind of voice.

Spade... Sam Spade.

I'll stop now.

So, who am I? One of the many students at Maple Ridge Academy. What is Maple Ridge, you
ask? Well, as the student body so lovingly refers to it as, Maple Ridge is the school for the rich
and unwanted. See, time was, you used to have to have some kick-ass talent to get into MR.
Now, you just have to have a shitload of money to be able to pay the extortionist-like tuition fees
(seriously, I could live off one year's tuition for the rest of my natural-born days). No longer is it a
school for the exceptionally gifted and talented. Now, it's just a giant daycare for spoiled, rich
teenagers.

Well, mostly. In my three-going-on-four years at MR, I've managed to meet a few exceptions to
the rich-equals-snob stereotype.
There's Madison Harper, my roommate of three years so far, and one of my best friends.
Madison, well, what can I say about her? She's perfection personified, in my opinion. She's
incredibly kind, she's incredibly intelligent, she's incredibly beautiful in the classic sense (think
killer long legs, beautiful sky blue eyes, bright blonde hair, and impeccably flawless skin she's
been named one of the top five most gorgeous people on campus three years in a row already),
and she's the Student Council President, co-captain of the cheerleading team, and a proud
member of the Science Club. Plus she's got the adoration of dozens of guys in this school.

And she's been my roommate since I first came to this school.

I feel a 'nyah-nyah nyah nyah-nyah' is in order.

Then there's Ian Hart. He's our resident basketball star. In fact, basketball's how he got to come
to MR. See, unlike ninety-two-percent of the school population, Ian came on a scholarship. His
dad passed away when he was eight, and his mother had to work two jobs to support him and
his younger brother. He was able to get a full scholarship to Maple Ridge, and of course, he
took it. After all, MR is the only school in Canada that's prestigious enough to ensure you go off
to any university you want, and Ian won't have any trouble getting a scholarship to his choice
university.

And have I mentioned what a cutie he is? He's, what, six-foot-five? Yeah, he's mad tall. He's got
thick, wavy hair that's the most interesting shade of brown. It's so cool; if the light hits it just
right, you can see strands of gold. His eyes are the most captivating shade of blue; Madison
once said the exact shade was cerulean. And when he gets excited or something, you can see
little slivers of navy or light blue. He has, by far, the nicest eyes I've ever seen. Yes, Ian Hart
makes up another fifth of the campus hotties.

And stepbrother dearest adds to our list. Scott Manning is the son of Adam Manning, my
stepfather whom I so adore.

Yes, that was my sarcastic voice.

To tell the truth, I don't particularly like my stepfather all that much (I guess that's not really
uncommon), and I don't particularly like the kind of person my mother turned into. See, for as
long as I could remember, it was Alan, Amanda, I, and Mom. We weren't exactly poor, but Mom
had to work her ass off like, twenty-four-seven. It didn't help that Amanda is about the most
materialistic and shallow person to ever grace this earth. When Mom got engaged to Adam, I
have to admit, even I got sucked in by the whole luxury lifestyle. I got over it quickly, though,
and so did Alan.

But Amanda? She's milking it for all it's worth. And Adam seems to genuinely enjoy spoiling her;
I guess she's the little princess he never had. Mom and Adam got married the May that I was in
the eighth grade, so by the end of the summer, they figured it would be less hassle (on them) if
they just sent me to MR for my high school years, like Adam did with Scott. I think part of the
reason the parentals shipped me off without a second thought is because Scott and I are so
much alike, you can easily mistake us for blood.

We both have the same skin tone (whereas mine is natural parents are Guyanese, holla
Scott's comes from a tan made by years and years spent vacationing in Maui or the Dominican,
wherever the happening vacation spot for the rich is these days), the same thick dark hair, the
same dark eyes we even have the same sort of build, only I'm more, ah, feminine. But
physical similarities aside, we're both highly opinionated (we have many a debate together),
passionate about the things we love, have bad tempers (it takes a lot to really piss me off, but
when I get mad), and love chocolate chip ice cream. But above all, there is the mutual
obsession for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Our mutual love for the show is what actually brought us together (it's so corny, I know). Scott
used to detest me (he met Amanda first, and pretty much assumed I was as bitchy as my
younger sister), and I wasn't exactly fond of him, either. Trust me, you wouldn't exactly be best
friends with a guy whose boxers and other unmentionables you found all over your living room
one Saturday morning. But then when we discovered the other liked BtVS as much as we each
did, Tuesday night at eight became our time, and we gradually shed our judgments and
stereotypes of one another. Now, we're as close as blood siblings, which just goes to show that
blood ties don't matter any more than emotional ones.
So where was I, again? Oh, right. Sorry, got a little sidetracked. I do that often. So I got sent
off to Maple at the beginning of ninth grade, and I pretty much lost contact with all of my friends,
except for my lifelong best, Leah Green. Alan got shipped off the year after me, when I was
beginning tenth grade; he was starting seventh grade.

Dear, dear Amanda got to stay at home in Toronto and continue to go to public school. You
would think she'd be upset that her twin and older sister (who practically raised her, while Mom
was at work) got booted off to boarding school. But no. Her exact words were, and I quote, "So
that means I get a bigger allowance, then, right?"

How I miss her so.

And there's that sarcasm again.

I'm just kind of sad for Alan, since this is my and Scott's last year at Maple (last year was
supposed to be Scott's last year, but the idiot had to go and skip half his classes and fail the
year, so the school faculty so graciously allowed him to repeat his senior year with me after
Adam 'donated' a couple hundred grand, of course). Alan's still got another three years after
this, and I know it'll be weird for him without me around. I'll miss him, too. I'm glad he's managed
to make genuine friends, though, like I have. There have been a couple of girls who tried to
befriend me, just to get a date with Scott or Ian, but that was back in tenth grade, when I was
young and nave. Thank goodness I know better, now. Besides, no one would dare to mess with
Alan, not when he's got five seniors on his side.

Yes, five. There's myself, Scott, Ian, Madison, and David Nicholas Weston the First makes five.

Let me make it clear right now: I abhor David. I detest him. I loathe him. I despise him about as
much as I love Buffy. That is how much I do not like him. But alas, I'm constantly forced to see
him, since he's been Maddy's friend since they were in diapers, and he's pretty cool with Alan,
too. He and Scott are like brothers though, which irks me to no end. How my brother can be so
close with the Son of the Devil is beyond me. The time he came 'round when Leah was visiting,
even she liked him. Weston's on thin ice with Ian though, so I'm comforted that at least one of
my friends has some shred of sanity.

Perhaps I would have actually liked Weston if we'd got off on a better foot even I can admit
that excluding the way he behaves toward me, he has some qualities that aren't completely
suckish.
See, my first day at school, he hit on me (I'd barely stepped foot out of the taxi). I'd never been
hit on before, so naturally, it was a little shocking. And, I'm not afraid to admit this (because all it
means, really, is that I have eyes), but David was is handsome. I would even go as far as to
say he's a hottie. Of course, I'd have to be drunk to say that in mixed company, but you get what
I mean. See, unlike the public schools in Toronto, which are pleasantly diverse, you could count
the amount of non-Caucasian people with both hands. Besides myself, my brother, and David,
there's I think one or two more Guyanese people. I think the official school census had results
that showed that seventeen-point-three-percent of the school's population was not white.

Anyways, I'm off-topic again. I'd rather be off-topic, though, if I'm going to have to describe
David Weston's physical features. Okay, we've got thick black hair that always looks tousled,
though I guess on him, it works. He's got nice eyes, too, I suppose. They're a deep shade of
brown, almost black, and sometimes you can see flecks of golden brown. I see it a lot when we
argue, so I guess it's when he's pissed that his eyes go like that. He's got a strong jaw, and he's
built, but not overly so. He's, well, I guess you could say he's got the body of a track star and a
football star combined. That may be because he is both a track star and a football star. Or it
could be coincidence, I don't know.

My ever-present sarcasm, people. It seems to appear more often when Weston is the subject of
talk.

Point is, I can see why girls think he's so hot (he's another one of the campus hotties, by the
way). He's pretty cute, I guess if you go for that whole tall, dark, and handsome thing. And
really, who does?

Okay, not counting Buffy and any other girl (read: me) who thought Angel was the hottest of the
hottest.

David Weston is definitely no Angel, in any sense of the word.


Just thought I should make that clear.

Okay. And now back to why we don't get along. After he (rather crudely) hit on me, I (rather
loudly) told him off. Then he insulted me, so I insulted him back (I may be quiet a lot of the time,
but like I said, when I get mad, I give as good as I get). Thus began our three-year-long feud. I
try to cool it around Maddy and Scott, but he gets under my skin every single time.

Which brings me to the day I went back to school, the weekend before classes began. Scott,
Alan, and I usually make the three-hour-long drive up north as soon as we can, because we
really don't like being at home with the parents and Mandy. But this year, we all went on a
vacation to the Big Apple to spend some 'quality time' together, seeing as we apparently never
do that anymore. I pointed out that we would spend more time together as a family, if only the
boys and I weren't thought of as the family disgrace and sent off to boarding school.

Yeah, I got my allowance suspended for the rest of the summer because of that.

But is it not the truth? (It is.)

Right. So, the first day back at Maple. We helped Scott move into his single room, then we
helped Alan move his bags into his dorm, then the boys so graciously helped me bring my bags
into my room.

"Knock knock."

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, and continued packing away my clothes into my closet.
Madison, who had arrived the day before me, had already finished settling in, and was lying on
her stomach on her plush queen-sized bed, leafing through the latest issue of Teen People that
I'd gotten the other day. Yes, we may be the unwanted, but we're highly compensated for it.
Read: money apparently makes up for lack of love.

Gotta love that logic.

Madison grinned and leapt off the bed, rushing towards the window to open it up. There's only
one person that we know who comes to the window when he visits us. That is the one and only
(thank God if there was more than one, I think I'd have an aneurism), David Nicholas Weston
the First.

Yes, I know. Now you see why I wished we didn't have a room on the ground floor.
"David!"

I poked a finger into my ear. When Madison screams, I temporarily lose my hearing.

"Sunshine," he smiled warmly, climbing through the window and giving her a big hug. "I haven't
seen you all summer."

"I know. We went to Aspen and I skied and everything. It was great," she gushed.

"I'm so glad you had fun," he said, sitting down on my bed (and he knows it's my bed, too, the
ass). "Tell me all about it."

I sighed, not exactly happy about the idea of Weston spending the next hour in my room, on my
bed. Keeping silent, I moved out from the closet, and began to pack away my books. I have a
whole trunk of them. Books, that is. At the end of every year, I have to empty my shelves, and
then I have to repack them in September. I'm one of the few students who actually use their
bookshelves for books. In fact, I have so many books, that Maddy graciously gave me her shelf
space. It usually takes me a couple of hours to pack everything back, if I have help. Usually, I
do. But since Weston was (purposely, I bet) monopolizing Maddy's attention, I started to work by
myself.
"Oh, it was so fun. I have presents and souvenirs galore for you, by the way. I fell so many
times, but I never got hurt or anything, and it was all good. But, oh! David, you should have seen
Sam!" I winced at the mentioning of my name. I could just imagine Weston's face. I sneaked a
peek, and sure enough, he had that hard look in his eye, and he visibly stiffened.

Thank you, Maddy, I silently groaned. He's going to start in on me any time now.

See, contrary to what people think, I don't enjoy arguing with Weston. I'm not the sadist of the
two of us. I just retaliate, because hell if I'm going to take his crap lying down.

"Spade went with you?" His voice sounded oddly strained. "You didn't say she was going with
you."

Madison's eyes widened. "Oh! Crap, David, I'm sorry! Daddy was asking for you, but Mum
wanted to meet Sam, so she told me to bring her along, and you know if I could have, I would
have brought you, too."

Remember how I said those two have been friends since diapers? Well, whenever one goes on
vacation, the other one tags along. This year, I guess I kind of broke their tradition. I guess I do
that a lot. Not that I particularly like Weston to think that I'm trying to steal his best friend away.
Not that I even care what he thinks. It's just, I know how hard it is when it feels like your friends
are abandoning you. Then again, Weston should grow up and realize that Madison needs a
friend of her own gender, too.

Ass.

"Maddy, I think if you'd brought us both, we'd all be in little white rooms with no doors and
padded walls," I cracked, frowning when I realized that the book in my hand belonged on the
topmost shelf. At five-foot-seven, I was used to being tall. Up until the end of tenth grade, that is.
After that, it seemed that everyone suddenly shot up, and now, I'm actually thought of as short.

Me, short!

"You guys," Madison sighed, exasperated. "You two are my best friends."

"Thanks, Maddy," we replied in unison, before trading wary looks.


"And not that I'm looking to force you guys into being friends okay, not anymore," she added
hastily, off our looks. "But if you two could at least tolerate each other, it would make my life
and Scott's and Alan's and Ian's a hell of a lot easier. I mean, come on, guys. It's senior year!
Who has time for pissing each other off?"

"Hey, I try to be nice," I replied indignantly, biting my bottom lip.

If I jump, could I stick the book on the top shelf?

Weston snorted. "Like hell you do."

"Like hell I don't," I retorted absently, trying to push the book on the shelf while jumping.

"Oh, for God's sake," he muttered darkly under his breath, coming over to stand beside me.
"Gimme." He held out his hand for the book.

"'Gimme, gimme' never gets. Don't you know your manners yet?" I asked sweetly.

"Never mind. Look who it is I'm talking to."

"Give me the damn book, Sam."


"Say please."

"Fuck you." He grabbed the book out of my hand. "Where do I put this?"

"Top shelf, right above the Harry Potter books. Thanks, Weston," I said, for once too tired to
be snarky.

"You're welcome, Shorty," he replied, lying down on my bed.

"See, you can be civil to each other!" Madison beamed, giving us both proud looks. A knock
sounded at the door, before Scott came in.

"Sam, Buffy marathon? I just unpacked my DVDs. Oh, hey, Maddy. You look gorgeous. David,
man, what's up?"

"Nothing much. Just came round, wanted to see if any of you losers showed up yet," His
Unholiness grinned. The cocky bastard.

"Cool." My brother turned to me. "Sammy?"

"After I'm done packing away my stuff. I mean, the room's a mess right now, I can't just leave it
like that. Speaking of which, Weston, get your ass off my bed," I said, not bothering to turn
around.

"How about you get in with me?"

Madison groaned. "You guys-"

"How about you go fuck yourself?" Scott burst out laughing. I don't usually swear, but he always
finds it so funny when I do. Madison gave him a reproachful look.

"Don't encourage them!"

"How about I fuck you?" Weston raised an eyebrow suggestively. I clenched my teeth. When
the arrogant asshole couldn't get me pissed off one way, he always did the sexual innuendo
thing. He knew how much it pissed me off.

Bastard.
I focused all my attention on the half-packed bookshelf.

"Sam? C'mon, what do you say? We'll kick out Mads and Scott, turn down the lights, close the
blinds unless you want them to stay open. Whatever turns you on."

Antidisestablishmentarianism. Spell it. A-N-T-I-D-I-S-

"But we should probably make sure the windows are locked. And the door, too. We don't want
anyone barging in."

-E-S-T-A-B-L-I-S-H-

"And maybe we should do some soundproofing, 'cause baby, I'm gonna make you scream."

That did it. I grabbed the nearest thing the 300 page hardcover thesaurus I'd gotten the
previous year for school and threw it at His Unholiness.

A string of loud curses flew from his mouth. I smiled, satisfied. "I'll see you guys later," I chirped.
My eyes flicked over to Weston's bruised temple. "And David?" I added, my voice laced with
mock-concern. "You should really get
that looked at. It looks absolutely painful." I shrieked and pulled the door shut as he bolted from
the bed, his eyes filled with fury. Locking the door, I shook my head, startled as I felt his body
collide with the thick slab of wood.

What an asshole.

Chapter One: The Bitch From Hell

Do you know what's worse than having to sneak into your own bedroom? Having to sneak into
your own bedroom, only to find your books completely rearranged (after you'd spent hours
making sure they were perfectly alphabetized), your bed short-sheeted, and your uniform all
rumpled up, among other things.

God, how I hate David Weston.

See, after I brained David, I pretty much spent the rest of the weekend crashing in Scott's room
he got a single room, and we avoided security guards like the plague. Technically speaking,
girls weren't allowed to be in the boys' dorms (and vice versa) after hours, let alone spending
the night. We had this massive Buffy-slash-Angel-athon ("The Life and Times of Faith"), and we
just hung out. Why, do you ask, did I spend the entire weekend with my brother? The answer's
quite simple: I was deathly afraid to go back to my room.

I'd thrown many an object at Weston before, in a fit of temper. However, I'd never actually
managed to hit him.

And therein lays the problem.

I did hit him, and not only did my conscience decide to make an unfortunate appearance, but I
knew I just knew he was waiting for me back in my room, with some nefarious scheme in his
twisted, perverted little mind. So I didn't go back until midnight Sunday, the night before classes
began. And when I did come back, what did I find?

Chaos. Complete and utter chaos.

I had to spend an hour alone ironing out my uniform, then another hour trying to fix my bed, and
then I had to spend another two hours reorganizing my backpack (yes, he even messed with my
backpack, the jerk).
Have I mentioned as of late how much I do not like David Weston?

So anyway, I only got about three and a half hours of sleep, before Madison was shaking me
awake to get ready for breakfast. After she suggested that I might want to get down to the
Dining Hall before David messed with my food, too, I shot out of bed.

Like I really needed to tell you that.

It took me all of fifteen minutes to pull on my uniform after I showered, and I liked the feel of the
fabric. Maple Ridge had gotten new uniforms this year, and they were pretty hot. The shirts
were a simple white button-down, with a collar and the school crest on the left breast pocket,
and the tie was red-and-yellow plaid to match the skirt. The skirt itself (yes, we still have that
ancient tradition of the girls wearing skirts and the guys wearing pants) was pleated and came
up to within an inch of my knees. Or at least, it was supposed to. My mother must have mixed
up my measurements with Amanda's when she ordered my uniform (Mandy's at least two
inches shorter than me), because my skirt was about two inches too short.

Madison whistled as I pulled on my white knee-high socks.

"What was that for?" I asked, pulling my hair into a messy bun.

"I knew you'd kick that good-girl look sooner or later," she grinned, pulling her own blonde locks
into a ponytail.

"My mom messed up the skirt measurements!"


"Sure she did."

I slipped on my black flats and glared at her. "I think Weston's beginning to rub off on you. You
never used to get so much pleasure out of annoying me."

"Speaking of dear David" Madison paused, slinging her own bag over her shoulder. "I wonder
what he and the others will say when they see all that leg?"

I groaned. If Weston can turn perfectly nice people like Maddy into sadists like himself, God
forbid the day he decides to procreate.

"Morning, Maddy. So, what's your schedule?" Scott asked, taking a seat beside me.

"Good morning to you, too," I teased, tugging on his sleeve. He shook his head and pulled the
scrunchie out of my hair. Sticking my tongue out at him, I combed a hand through my loose hair.

"Morning, Sam. So, Mads, how about it?"

"I forgot to pick up my schedule when I got my key," she replied, taking a sip of coffee. "I was
planning to go after breakfast. You?"

"I haven't gotten mine yet, either. Want some company?"

"Sure."

I frowned in confusion; the first thing we did when we got to the campus was go to the main
office to get our schedules and room keys. "Scott"

"Yeah?" He gave me his innocent look. And if you know my brother like I do, you will know that
he is anything but innocent.

"Scott, you already-"

"Sammy!"

Upon hearing the disembodied voice, I grinned. Scott, you lucky bastard, I thought. "Ian!" He sat
on my other side, and I gave him a one-armed hug. "When did you get here?"

"Saturday night. Sam, you look good." I blushed. "Don't be modest."


"There's nothing for her to be modest about."

I stuck out my tongue at David, who'd made his unwanted appearance. He returned the gesture.

"First class, David?" Madison asked desperately, trying to diffuse the tension.

"Advanced Functions," he replied promptly. I groaned inwardly.

"How about you, Sam?"

"Dunno." She gave me a Look. It was a well-known fact that I memorized my timetable the
second I got it.
"Pop-Tarts? You're having Pop-Tarts for breakfast?" Ian eyed the chocolate chip pastry in my
hand with distaste. The guy was a health-food freak. Or at least, he'd turned into one this year.
Alas, I was now the lone chocoholic of our little group.

"I need the sugar," I replied defensively, taking a sip of my milk. Especially if I'm going to be
sharing first period with the King of Cretins. "Of course," I added aloud, "I wouldn't need the
extra sugar to stay awake if someone hadn't fucked up my room last night." I ignored the juice
coming out of Scott's nose, and glared pointedly at the person across from me.

"Well, someone wouldn't have fucked up your room if someone else hadn't chucked a five-
hundred-pound dictionary at him," David replied shortly, returning the look. The bruise on his
temple had turned into a magnificent amalgamation of purples and blues. Not to mention it was
about the size of my fist. I frowned.

Damned conscience. It had to appear at the most unwanted times.

"It wasn't a dictionary, it was a thesaurus," I said tartly. "And it didn't weigh five hundred pounds.
Maybe ten."

Ian laughed into his Cheerios. "You threw a thesaurus at him? You actually hit him?" He asked
incredulously, his spoonful of cereal halfway to his lips.

So I'm notoriously known for my bad aim. But it's a statistical impossibility for me to miss all of
the time. I kindly informed my friend of this fact.

"No, but you hit him. I heard a different story from a couple of tenth-grade girls when I was
coming in."

"Oh?" This caught my interest. "What did you hear?"

"He heard nothing," David interjected, sending pointed looks at Ian.

I grinned. "I don't believe I was talking to you. Ian, darling, continue."

He obliged. But of course he did. Ian, much to Maddy's disappointment, often encourages the
little verbal spars between Weston and me. Sometimes I wonder about that boy.
"I just heard the girls talking about how it was such a miracle that David got jumped by three
Hell's Angels and only got that bruise."

I actually choked on my Pop-Tart. While I was spending a weekend hiding out when I could
have otherwise been enjoying the last few days before school started, His Unholiness was
going around telling people he'd been jumped by three biker dudes.

Well, I guess it beat the alternative of saying he'd been hit in the head with a ten-pound
thesaurus by a girl who was half a foot shorter than he was and who couldn't aim to save her
life.

"Well at least I wasn't hiding the entire weekend," David muttered.

"I was not hiding!" I replied hotly. A couple of people from the nearby tables were giving me
strange looks. I lowered my voice. "I wasn't."

"Right. Which was why you avoided your own bedroom all weekend long like the plague."

I glared at him. How I longed to mess up his thick, dark hair. If, you know, it wasn't already
perfectly-tousled.

Jerk.
"Yes, well, I didn't lie to everyone and said I got jumped when I got hit in the head by a
dictionary," I retorted, my voice loud and clear. By this time, more than just a few people were
looking. People began to giggle and snicker, shooting David amused looks.

"It wasn't a dictionary. It was a thesaurus," he mumbled.

"Right you are," I chirped, starting on my third Pop-Tart. David just glared.

My day didn't get any better. I'd left breakfast early to go to the main office, so I could get a new
timetable. I'd be damned if I was going to stick with a schedule that had me seeing Weston first
thing in the morning every other day. But, alas, the fates were once again against me. The
secretary, tiny, frail little thing, yelled at me for five minutes, because I had the audacity to ask
her what the time was.

Honestly, what ever was I thinking, asking such a daring question?

Senile old woman.

Needless to say, I decided to forego the timetable change.

But oh, that's not all. As I was coming out of the office, I bumped into Maddy and Scott, and
brother dearest decided I was spying on him.

Conceited ass.

I have much better things to do with my precious time, thanks.

And of course, it started to rain when I was crossing the quad. Good thing I had a jacket on me.
White shirts and rain do not a happy Sammy make. Especially when my skirt was already short,
and half the guys at school were on permanent hormone overdrive.

Little perverts.

Oh, but my personal favourite incident throughout the day happened at lunch, when some
annoying little slut-wannabe threw her macaroni-and-meatloaf combo at me, because I
apparently ruined her 'chance' with David.

What? All I did was kindly ask Weston if he wanted to get arrested for statutory rape, since said
girl wasn't a junior like she told him, but was in fact in the eighth grade.
Yeah, he kind of walked off (asshole) and left me to deal with Little Miss Horny, who then
proceeded to dump her lunch on me, causing me to miss my own meal, on account of the fact
that I had to run back to my room and change my clothes.

But that's not the worst of it, by far. The worst of it came when I was going to my fourth-period
class. Headmaster Quinn caught me during the change of classes and roped me into organizing
this year's school fundraiser. After I promised I'd come up with a really kick-ass idea, I had to
sprint across the quad (yep, my last two classes were on opposite sides of the campus) and up
three flights of stairs.

I got to the classroom (sweaty, starving, and out of breath) just in time to see the door closing
on me. I stuck my foot out, wincing slightly as the door slammed against my boot. I got a
particularly nasty look from a head of shiny brown hair and dark green eyes.

That, my friends, was my first meeting with the new AP World History teacher at Maple Ridge
Academy. Or, as I now fondly refer to her as, the Bitch from Hell.

But I digress.
She slowly opened the door, and gave me this really evil glare. I mean, are teachers even
allowed to look at you like that?

"Sorry for the lateness," I apologized in between gasps of air. "The headmaster pulled me
aside during the transition between classes, and my last class was all the way on the
other end of the-"

"Save it," she interrupted me. "I don't condone lateness, and I don't care for excuses."

I kind of half-listened to that last part, since I was too busy concentrating on the smirking boy
who sat behind the only empty desk in the room.

Yes, I had the unfortunate luck to see Weston in both my first and last class of the day.

It's times like these I lose faith in a higher power.

"I'm usually not late," I continued, taking the empty seat and ignoring His Unholiness. "It won't
happen again, I assure you."

"You're right. It won't. Detention this evening for your tardiness, Miss" She checked the
attendance list. "Ms. Spade. Oh, and detention tomorrow evening as well, for your inappropriate
uniform." She stared pointedly at the skirt.

"Yeah, about that," I muttered, as le idiot behind me gave a loud wolf-whistle, which cued the
other red-blooded males in the room to laugh at my expense.

Asshole.

"My mom mixed up my measurements" I trailed off at her look. "No excuses. Right." I let out a
weak laugh. "So when's that detention, again?" Normally, I'd be outraged, but I was too
exhausted to do anything.

"We'll speak after class, Ms. Spade. You've wasted enough of my time already."

"Right. Sorry."

"Sorry, Ms. Davalos," she corrected, her lips set in a thin, disapproving line.
"Right," I said again, losing all semblance of composure that I'd regained. "I didn't know your
name, though."

"You would have, had you been here on time," she replied frostily.

Yeesh, is it just me, or did the temperature in this room just drop about forty degrees?

"Ms. D, cut her some slack." I groaned inwardly and buried my head. David Weston was
speaking on my behalf. I was never going to live this down. "She was only late by a couple of
minutes, and it really does take a long time to cross the quad."

"Perhaps you're right, Mr. Weston,' Ms. Davalos agreed.

Wait, what?

I swear, Davalos had a split personality or something. It was the only way to explain how her
voice went from ice-cold to honey-sweet as soon as she turned her attention from me to David.
Actually, there was another way to explain it, but I didn't want to go there yet.
"Ms. Spade, you will only serve the detention for your uniform. The next time I see you, you had
better be wearing school-sanctioned attire."

"I've already placed an order for new uniforms," I assured her.

"I don't care. You can thank Mr. Weston for my sudden leniency towards you. I assure you, it
won't happen again." She turned to the chalkboard.

Biatch.

I inclined my head ever-so-slightly. "Thanks," I whispered reluctantly out of the corner of my


mouth.

"You're welcome," he murmured back. "But you know, actions speak louder than words. If you
really wanted to show me how grateful you are stop by my room after class today. I guarantee
you, we'll both have fun." I clenched my hands into fists. David chuckled. "Sam, you're too easy.
Well, if only you were easy."

He actually sounded wistful, the bastard.

"Ms. Spade." Ms. Davalos' voice rang through the room. "If you continue to distract my students,
I shall be forced to remove you."

Distraction? Moi? What is she, high? Can she not see that the root of all evil is the distraction?

Stupid lady.

"Right. I'll try my best to stop Weston from trying to bed me," I snorted. "Of course, in the last
three years, that hasn't really stopped him from hitting on me, but you know what they say.
Persistence, persistence, persistence." Several people chuckled. Ms. Davalos was not one of
those people, surprise surprise.

"Strike two, young lady."

What the hell? Not even my mother called me 'young lady'.

Bi-atch.
"Now, if Ms. Spade can control her hormones-" David let out a particularly loud laugh at that
"I'll start the class. Finally. I'd like all of us to get know each other a little better." She gave David
this Look, and me sitting in front of him, I happened to see it.

Was it normal for teachers to give their students seductive looks?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

"I want to know you all on a more intimate level." Another Look, which earned a grinning David
jealous glares from the rest of the guys. This was like "Teacher's Pet", happening right before
my very eyes. Only this she-mantis chose the wrong victim. I highly doubted David was still
innocent. Hell, half the senior girls could attest to that.

Can you say 'statutory rape'? I thought disgustedly. Davalos had to be at least ten years our
senior. The law student in me knew that she could get in serious shit if she tried anything with
David or any other student, and the sadist in me prayed that she would.

What? Was it that wrong to want to kick her out of the school after knowing her for a grand total
of fifteen minutes?

"Of course," she continued, "there are some students who have no such depth." A look my way.
"But we can always make allowances for their narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness."
What the hell is this woman playing at? I thought angrily. Did she not realize that she was the
teacher, more specifically, the adult?

Normally, I am calm, composed, and completely in control. That day, however, was not my day.

"Ms. Spade, how about you start us off? A few words about yourself."

I smiled brightly. "Sure thing, Ms. D." She looked slightly taken aback. I bet that was because
she thought I was going to refuse or throw a tantrum, or something.

She obviously did not know who she was dealing with.

"Okay, well, my name's Samantha, like you guys already know. I've been coming to Maple
Ridge since ninth grade. I've got two brothers who also go here, and a sister who goes to public
school back home in Toronto, which is where I was born and raised. Um, I like to swim and play
badminton and soccer, and occasionally I'll bike, but there aren't a lot of places to do that on
campus. My favourite colour is black, mainly just 'cause it goes with anything, but also because
it's got a sort of mystery to it. My favourite flavour of ice cream is chocolate chip cookie dough,
and my best friends are Madison Harper, Ian Hart, and Leah Green, a friend back in the city. In
my humble opinion, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the best show to ever grace the small screen.
Oh. And I love books. A lot. I go through them faster than Weston goes through girlfriends."

That last one got me chuckles and giggles from the whole class.

Call me the class comedienne.

Ms. Davalos gave me this tight-lipped smile. "Black is a shade, not a colour, like any child learns
in third-grade art class."

Whoa. Me-ow.

"And this show, this Buffy. It tells me a lot about your personality, Ms. Spade, that you would
consider such a trivial show about vampires and the like to be worthy of watching. There's
nothing wrong with indulging yourself now and again, but making a hobby out of something like
this you are a senior student, Ms. Spade. I suggest that you grow up and stop living in a
dream world. You're off to university next year, provided you make it through my class, and you
can't live with your head in the clouds when you've got reality to contend with."
I just sat there, blinking at her. The room got really quiet, but either she was too dense to realize
it, or to ignorant to care.

Come on. It's like, elementary teaching to know that when the room sounds like death,
someone's gonna get cussed out.

Three guesses who that someone would be in this case.

"Mr. Weston, would you like to go next?" There was that simpering smile again.

Honestly.

"I would, but I think Sam has something else to say," he drawled.

"Mr. Weston, how ever would you know that? Her back is to you."

Yes, how ever would you know that, David darling? I thought sarcastically, getting pissed at
being talked about like I wasn't there. The woman insulted me, and then she insulted Buffy. No
way was I going to take that lying down.
"I just know," he replied simply.

"Well bloody good for you, Weston. Give yourself cookie," I muttered, unable to take it any
longer. Amusement sparkled in his dark chocolate eyes.

"Ms. Spade, watch your mouth," Ms. Davalos said coldly.

"No, you watch yours. I've been sitting here for the past half an hour, only to get bitched at and
talked down to. So what if I was late? Am I not allowed to be late? Will the world end if, for once
in my life, I am late? No, it damn well won't! You have no right to single me out and treat me like
like like how you've been treating me," I finished lamely, my mental thesaurus taking a
vacation in my anger.

"To the office, Ms. Spade. I assume that by now, you would know where it is, what with that foul
temper of yours." Davalos crossed her arms over her chest and gave me this smirk. I swear.
She was actually happy to see me lose my cool like that.

What the hell. Only one person ever made me get that pissed off that quickly, and he was
currently hiding his laughter behind his textbook.

Effing asshole.

"No," I replied, picking up my bag. "I know where it is because contrary to what you believe, I
am not some sort of delinquent. I help out around the school, I get good grades, I'm-"

"An ass-kisser?" David supplied, immediately looking as though he regretted his little slip-of-the-
tongue. Even he knew that pushing me past a certain point meant the fun and games ended.

"Do not make me start with you," I muttered, glaring at him. I stalked towards the door. "And for
your information, Buffy, like the other works of Joss Whedon, is packed with philosophical and
societal issues, not to mention various mythologies and world legends, which incidentally tie
quite well into this class," I replied primly, before slamming the door behind me.

And that was how I got my second in-school suspension on my first day of twelfth grade, by
none other than the Bitch from Hell.

Chapter Two: Happy Birthday, Big Mouth


You ever have one of those days, where it feels like the entire universe is conspiring against
you? Yeah, that's like my life now. No lie. Doesn't everyone say that your senior year is
supposed to be your best year? Well, guess what?

They lie.

The in-school suspension on my second day was bad enough. Besides the fact that it
completely marred my record (okay, I had one other in-school suspension and a detention, but
both of those were totally not my fault), all my Day Two teachers now think I'm a delinquent.
Well, except for Ms. Conway, my Psychology teacher. She taught me in the ninth and tenth
grades, so she knows that trouble, I am not. But yeah, her aside, I've now got three other
teachers who think I'm trouble with a capital 'T'.

Not the best of ways to start your year, when half your teachers expect to catch you smoking in
the girls' room. Yes, Ms. Davalos actually tried to catch me smoking not that I smoke when I
went to use the bathroom in between classes. Honestly, between trying to make me slip up and
making moon eyes at darling David, I'd say that that woman has no life.

But then I'd be just reiterating the obvious, now wouldn't I?


And then, my uniform order got mixed up, so the skirts that arrived were ankle-length. I am five-
foot-seven, not seven-foot-five. Try to work with me here, people.

But my most favourite thing happened the first couple of weeks into the school year. It was a
Friday, and I was on my Day Two schedule, which meant (yippee) no Ms. Davalos until
Monday. It was the best birthday present I could ask for. Or, pre-birthday present, at any rate.
My Law and World Issues class had been cancelled for that day, because Mr. Cutter got called
away on a family emergency, so I had that period free. I decided to hang out in the cafeteria for
the next hour, because it was nice and quiet, since practically everyone was in class. There
were only a few freshman who were being all 'bad' and skipping class (losers), and Ms. Conway
who was supervising, because she had a spare. I'd pulled on my earphones and gotten into a
nice pattern of alternately mouthing the words to the song I was listening to and the words of the
book I was re-reading (JK Rowling is a genius), when I was oh-so-kindly brought back to reality.

By a Cheerio, nonetheless.

"David, you ass, leave me alone," I said, picking up the Cheerio that landed on my book and
flicking it back at him. I took off my earphones and let them hang around my neck.

"No, sorry, can't." More came my way. One actually hit me in the eye. I turned to David and
glared at him. He had this wicked smile and this evil glint in his eyes, and an entire bag of cereal
was in his lap.

"Why can't you?" I asked wearily.

"Because this is fun." He threw another handful of cereal at me. I gaped at him, then scooped
up some Cheerios and threw them back. Then he threw some more at me, so I threw it back.

Yes, I am quite aware that we were acting more like seven-year-olds, instead of seventeen-
year-olds, but since David's never quite matured beyond the age of fourteen, he tends to make
me act just as childish as he.

Taking a calculated risk (which is a paradox, isn't it, because if it was calculated, then you're not
really risking anything, now are you?), I dove for his bag of Cheerios, shrieking as he caught me
around the waist and pinned me to the table. He held my wrists together over my head, the bag
of Cheerios held tight in my fist.
"David. Let me go. Please?" I added for good measure.

"Nope," he replied, leaning over me. He smelled vaguely of mint and aftershave; I decided it
wasn't a particularly bad scent. "Will you give me back my Cheerios?"

"Will you actually eat them instead of throwing them at me?" I asked.

"Hell no," he laughed.

"Well then, I'm not giving you back your Cheerios."

"Then I'm not letting go of you."

"Well, fine. I can stay here all okay, well, no, I can't stay here all day, because unlike you, I
care about my future, and I refuse to skip class just to be pinned down to a table by you of all
people, so here you go, you can have your damn Cheerios." I unclenched my fist, and he took
the bag and set it aside.

"Thanks."

"See, this is the part where you're supposed to back up off me, and yet, you haven't." He felt
really warm. Maybe I was just really cold. At any rate, him being over me like that was making
me kind of uncomfortable, in the not-
exactly-bad way, but that not-exactly-bad feeling was making me uncomfortable in the bad way,
so he needed to get off.

"I've noticed."

"Why?"

"Well I'm generally an observant person, and observant people notice things."

"No, dumbass. I meant, why aren't you letting me go?"

"Because I like you in this position." His eyes sparkled wickedly.

I narrowed my eyes. "David Weston, you're-"

"Brilliant? Devilishly handsome? The star of your nightly erotic dreams?" My mouth hung open,
eliciting a laugh from him.

"Hell no," I replied vehemently. "You're the most perverted, sex-crazed person I've ever met,
and if you don't let me go right now, I'll-"

"Spade, Weston, detention."

I sighed deeply. I didn't even need to turn around to know who that was. I'd heard my name and
the word 'detention' in one sentence too many times in that grating voice from her over-
lipsticked lips. David moved off from on top of me and let me back up.

I do not sound disappointed.

"But Ms. D, why?" He asked innocently, draping an arm around my shoulder. I shrugged him off.

"Food fights are not allowed, nor are public displays of affection." Ms. Davalos looked like she
wanted to murder someone. "Also, you're both skipping class."

"One, that wasn't a food fight," I began defensively.

"Yeah. Sam just threw Cheerios at me, so I threw some back, and then we started this whole
Cheerio War." David filled in. I gave him a look that plainly said, 'You're not helping'. He
shrugged and smiled.
Ass.

"Actually, he threw the first Cheerio. And second, that wasn't a public display of affection."

"Right. More like public display of lust," he supplied, poking me in the side.

"More like public display of revulsion," I corrected, giving him a 'What the hell?' look. All I got
was another smile. "And third, I'm not skipping. David is, though. He should be in Visual Arts," I
added helpfully.

What? So I have a good memory. Sue me.

"Yeah, her class just got cancelled, so she just came here instead of to the library like all the
other kids in her class did."

Again with the not helping, I thought unhappily. Wait, what? How did he know that? Stalker
much?
"Detention. Both of you. Tomorrow morning." Her dark green eyes looked more like black with a
green tint, and her lips were set in a thin, straight line.

Wow, if looks could kill my grandchildren would be dead and buried.

"B-but tomorrow's Saturday," I said, aghast. It's my birthday tomorrow, I added silently. Not
that Davalos would care, mind you. She'd probably make me spend the whole day doing
something excruciatingly gruelling.

Biatch.

"Good to know you learned something in first grade, Ms. Spade," Ms. Davalos replied icily. "You
will both meet me on the football field at five."

"In the morning?" This time, it was David's turn to be outraged.

"Yes, in the morning, Mr. Weston," she replied, seemingly amused.

Yeesh, bipolar much?

She gave him an once-over. "You look like you know the way there, Mr. Weston. Perhaps you
can show Ms. Spade the way. She obviously doesn't."

Okay, that was low, even for her. The football field, for those of you who aren't up to speed on
your Maple Ridge campus geography, is located behind the Athletics Building. In which the
school gym is located.

Bi-atch.

Excuse me for not shoving my finger down my throat after every meal.

"Wow, I think she's jealous of you," David murmured into my ear, as Ms. Davalos walked away.
The light bulb in my head clicked on. And here I was, actually having less-than-murderous-
more-than-platonic thoughts about David. Well, about his, um, body, at any rate. And all he
wanted to do was use the student his favourite teacher so utterly disliked for no good reason to
make said teacher jealous. Ugh.

God, I hate hormones.


"Well then," I began frostily, gathering my things as the bell rang, "mission accomplished then,
huh?" I walked off. No way was I letting David get the last word after all of that.

When classes were finally over, I took my time in making it back to my dorm. Madison, to my
dismay, was nowhere to be seen. I'd really wanted to bitch about David to her; even she would
have to agree that what he did was low. Then again, she'd probably psychoanalyze me and ask
me why I cared so much, and I didn't want to get into that with her at that moment, mostly
because I myself didn't know why it annoyed the hell out of me. After I took a long bath, I got
dressed in my comfy jeans and my old white tank top, which all my friends had signed before I'd
left to come to Maple Ridge. There was so much writing on it, but it looked pretty cool, with all
the colours and symbols and stuff unless you decided to stop and actually read the words.
Thank God Madison already had her little chuckle over it.

I booted up my laptop and logged on to MSN Messenger, in the hopes of talking to Leah.
Surprisingly, she wasn't online. I logged off, and picking up my cell, I decided to call her,
instead. The long-distance charge would be sky high on my bill, but I didn't really care at that
moment. I had a lot of things I needed to sort out, and I needed the kind of help you could only
get by someone who knows you better than you know yourself.

I sighed, disappointed, when I got her voice mail. "Hey, Leah, it's me. Um yeah. No, don't
worry, I'm not running up my phone bill to leave you some stupid prank message. Believe me; I
got hell from my mom for it last time. She
was all bitching at me, like, 'Oh, you have no sense of responsibilities, blah blah blah', like we
can't afford to pay the damn bill, which we so can, and it's not like I make these calls often
anyways. And I have no sense of responsibility? Excuse me, but who raised the twins? Exactly.
Not that I really care right now if I get yelled at, but-" The loud beep cut me off, and impatient, I
dialled her number again.

"Right, where was I? Oh, yeah. So I really need to talk to you. Some stuff happened today, with,
um, with Weston, and it's really confusing, because one minute we're throwing Cheerios at each
other and the next he's on me and he's pinning me to the table, and he has the nerve to say I
have erotic dreams about him! I mean, God, how egotistical can a person get? And a couple of
dreams that I had all those months ago means nothing at all whatsoever-" A strangled cry of
frustration escaped my lips, and I dialled her number one more time.

"And I had the first dream only after that weird chocolate sauce fight me and him had in the
kitchen that night, which, granted, was a little erotic, so there were circumstances, you know?
And the second kind happened only after Scott broke into Adam's liquor cabinet and passed off
the beer as apple juice, and you and me and Mads got drunk after one glass, and you guys
promised me you wouldn't mention anything to anyone. I mean, was it my fault he walked
around my house without his shirt on after the three of us watched The Notebook? No, it damn
well wasn't! And, okay, him and Ian were in their swimming shorts, and I didn't have any dreams
about Ian, but that means nothing, do you hear me? Nothing! And God, Leah, just call me back
or message me or something, because I'm going out of my mind here!" I finished hurriedly,
throwing the small silver cell onto my bed in frustration.

"Sam, you were out of your mind a long time ago," a voice dripping with laughter drawled.

Oh fucking hell.

I stopped pacing around the room and looked towards the open window near my bed, through
which David was leaning. Speechless for a moment, I said the first words that popped into my
head: "Damn, we really need to get a lock for that thing."

"You already have a lock for it. I just picked it."

I stared at him, then closed my eyes and willed him to leave.

Would it surprise you to know that he didn't?


"It would be too much to hope for that you only heard that last sentence, wouldn't it?" I asked
quietly, putting a hand to my forehead. I felt warm. I wondered if I was running a fever. It felt like
I was running a fever. I mean, I felt hot all over and the room was starting to spin a little.

"Samantha, it would be too much to hope for that the entire floor didn't hear you, with your big
mouth," he smirked, hoisting the rest of his body through the window.

"What I said what you heard me say that does not leave this room." God, I hated how my
voice sounded, like I was pleading with him or something.

"Aw, Sam, don't worry. I won't tell anyone that you dream about me screwing you till you're too
hoarse to scream my name anymore." I gaped at him. It was starting to become something of a
habit with me when I was in his presence. "It'll be our little secret," he assured me, laughing at
the look on my face.

"You you you-" I stuttered, unable to form a coherent thought.

"You know, Sam, dreams can become reality." He looked from me to my bed, and then back to
me. "Well, what do you think? Want me to make this the best birthday you've ever had?"

"I I I-" I stuttered, making him chuckle. "Tomorrow is my birthday," I managed to spit out,
sinking down onto the floor. Yeah, I had to be running a fever; my body felt warm enough. The
room was definitely starting to spin now.
"You make it sound like we'd actually be stopping anytime in the next twenty-four hours. Well,
maybe a break now and then for you. I wouldn't want to hurt you too much. But you'd be
begging me not to stop, and I wouldn't want to disappoint."

Normally, I'd come back with some witty retort like, 'Yeah? That's not what every other girl you
screwed said. In fact, 'disappointment' would be an understatement to your performance.'

But alas, I was tongue-tied. David laughed again, and picked up my phone, taking a seat on my
bed.

"Put that down," I ordered; my voice sounded weak even to my own ears.

"Make me," was his oh-so-mature response.

"Who are you calling?" I asked, as he went through my phone book.

"Hmmm oh, I am in here." He grinned, punched in a number, then put my cell on


speakerphone.

"Sam, what's up?" It might have been my imagination, but Scott's cheeriness sounded kind of
forced.

"Scott, man, it's me."

He had something planned. Oh God, I wanted to kill him.

"David? What are you doing with Sam's phone?"

"Oh, it rang before and it was your number. She asked me to call you back, on account of she
went to take a shower. I'm actually supposed to join her in a few."

I looked up at him in horror, the words catching in my throat.

Scott laughed. "You know she's going to kick your ass if she even heard you say that." Damn
right I was.

"I don't think it'd be much of a problem, considering she just had the best sex of her life." David
disconnected the line and stared at me expectantly.
He didn't have to wait long.

"Weston, you jerk!" I shrieked, throwing the tennis ball lying on my desk at him in frustration.

"Gotta go," he winked, then crossed the room and ran out the door. I was frozen for a few
seconds, until sense snapped into me. I pulled on a pair of black flats and slid out the window,
running around to the other side of the building. Sure enough, David came sprinting out the front
door seconds later.

"David, I'm going to kill you!" I yelled, chasing after him. "There won't even be enough of you left
for them to identify! You are dead, you hear me? Dead!" Most of the people we passed didn't
even bother to look our way; Samantha Spade chasing down a laughing David Weston and
screaming death threats at him was nothing new.

"That all depends on if you can catch me," he called over his shoulder.

See, if I was thinking clearly, I would have realized something. I was only a few steps behind
him, and David did track, meaning he could run much faster than that. So why did he only have
a slight lead on me?

But, like I said, I wasn't thinking clearly, so the thought of David leading me somewhere didn't
really occur to me.
Silly, silly me.

David led me to one of the main campus buildings in the dark, I couldn't really tell which
building it was and he barrelled through a pair of swinging doors. Again, I didn't give much
thought as to why the doors were unlocked, or even how David knew that they would be.

"Weston, you are so fucking dead," I muttered, wondering where he could have disappeared to
in the darkness. A light flicked on and I froze in my tracks, temporarily blinded by the light. "Wh-
what?"

"Surprise!"

Chapter Three: Hidden in Plain Sight

'Everybody, everybody, let's get into it. Get stupid. Get it started, get it started, get it started.
Let's get it started (ha), let's get it started in here. Let's get it started (ha), let's get it started in
here'

I shook my head in amazement. "Holy shit," I breathed. It should be said right now that no one
and I mean no one has ever succeeded in throwing me a surprise party. Well, until now. My
mom tried once when I was nine, but I'd found out about it two weeks before the party. When I
turned thirteen, she and Adam tried again. I found out the day after they began the planning.
Scott was probably the closest I didn't figure it out until three days before the day of the party.
Leah used to say that I unconsciously channelled my namesake, Sam Spade, PI. She even
gave me a trench coat and a pipe for Christmas once, when we were twelve. The pipe blew
bubbles. I named it Jake.

The pipe, I mean. Not the bubbles.

I mean, honestly, who names bubbles?

But I digress.

"Unbelievable," I muttered in awe. "Unbe-frickin'-lievable." A mere six hours ago, the cafeteria
looked like any other cafeteria and I was being pinned against a table because of a bag of
Cheerios. Now, the place looked completely transformed. There were three large speakers set
up on either side of the room, giving the place surround sound capabilities. The skylight above
showed a perfect star-filled sky. There were bunches of colourful transparent balloons filled with
glitter all around the room, and large banners hung from the skylight and read 'Happy 17th
Birthday, Sam!' When I had a look at the walls, however, I nearly had a heart attack.

Every single school picture that had ever been taken of me had been blown up to large-poster-
size and tacked onto the wall. There were also pictures of me with friends and family over the
years. From when I was a wee little toddler to the first-day-of-school pictures we always took
after classes had ended the day back. I even spied one depicting me in my pink Power Ranger
costume.

I was nine. Stop laughing.

"Milady," Ian said dramatically, bowing low. I laughed as he placed a sparkly silver plastic tiara
on my head. "For the birthday girl."

"You guys are incredible. How you managed to do all this without me figuring out is beyond me."

"Well, it was kind of easy since all you've been concentrating on in the last couple of weeks is
how to survive your History class," Scott shrugged, coming up and giving me a hug.

"Yeah, it was even easier since we didn't do this," Madison added, giving Scott a Look.
"Say what now?" I asked, puzzled.

"Well I mean, we helped, of course. But we were just planning to do a small thing, since you're
not exactly High-Maintenance Girl."

"So who-?"

"I mean, once the idea was suggested, we actually kind of shrugged it off, because of your track
record with surprise parties." She continued, oblivious to my trying to get a word in.

"Okay, but who-?"

"But he was actually serious about it. A couple days later, we realized he was actually planning
the thing, so we pitched in."

'Lose control, of body and soul. Don't move too fast, people, just take it slow. Don't get ahead,
just jump into it. Ya'll here a body, two pieces to it. Get stutted, get stupid. You'll want me body
people will walk you through it. Step by step, like you're into new kid. Inch by inch with the new
solution. Transmit hits, with no delusion. The feeling's irresistible and that's how we movin''

"Madison," I began firmly, "before I chop off all that pretty blonde hair, for the love of God, tell
me who."

"'Who'?" She repeated blankly, ushering me towards the crowd.

"Yes. Who. If you guys didn't plan this, then who did?"

"Oh. That who." She let out a nervous little giggle.

"Yes," I replied, starting to become annoyed. Scott and Ian were giving her weird looks and
shaking their heads. "That who."

"Well, um, oh look who's here!" Madison reached into the crowd and pulled out a hand.
Attached to the hand was a very familiar head of shiny black hair.

I shrieked. I don't normally shriek or emit any type of high-pitched girly scream, but I did then.

Why?
Very simple.

"Leah! Leah! You're - Leah!"

"I'm aware of who I am, thanks," she smirked, laughing at my reaction.

"No, I mean you're here. Like here!"

Leah shook her head, her short dark hair swaying with the movement. "For someone so smart,
how can you be so slow? Of course I'm here!" She gave me her brightest smile. "This is your
birthday party, loser. How can I not be here?"
"But but but it's like a three-hour drive up here! You would've had to have left-"

"Pretty damn early today," she agreed.

"But but but you skipped school for my birthday party?" Leah never skipped. Leah never
even called in sick.

"I would've, if school hadn't closed due to a mysterious virus circulating around the halls," she
grinned. Scott took this moment to stop laughing at me stutter to whistle innocently.

I gaped at him. "You didn't."

"Well, how else would Leah and all the rest of your old friends have gotten here?" He shrugged
indifferently. "You'd be surprised what a call to the school board by the right people will do."

"You guys are amazing," I grinned, reaching up to give Leah a hug.

"Finally I'm taller than you," she chuckled. At five-foot-four, Leah had always been the short one
of the two of us.

"Only 'cause you're wearing four-inch heels. I'm so glad you came."

"Why?"

"Because they can't call me 'Shorty' anymore, of course. Okay, ow, you're not supposed to
abuse the birthday girl," I muttered, rubbing my forearm where she punched me.

"Birthday's not till tomorrow," she reminded me. "Don't get gassed."

"You and your weird slang. Say something normal for once."

"Right. Like you don't sound weird when you go into your Buffy-speak."

"But of course I don't," I grinned. "I sound trendy." I noticed that Madison, Scott, and Ian had
diverted their attention elsewhere for the moment. I took advantage of the opportunity. "So, um,
who threw this whole thing again? Scott was about to tell me, but then Madison pulled you up
here and I got sidetracked."

"Um" she gave me a hesitant look. "You like the party so far, right?"
"Hell yeah. Music's great, the place looks amazing, and the food smells really good. I'm so
starved right now."

"Okay, good. You like it. You can't take that back after."

"Why would I?" I gave her a puzzled look.

"Well, I mean-" Ian had come up behind her and clamped a hand over her mouth.

"No fair, Sam," he scolded. "Trying to get Leah to tell you when we're not paying attention."

Leah pulled away his hand. "See, I knew she wasn't allowed to know." She gave me a dirty look.
"Scott was about to tell you, right?"

'Let's get ill, that's the deal. At the gate, we'll bring the bud top drill. (Just) Lose your mind this
is the time, Ya'll test this drill, Just and bang your spine. (Just)
Bob your head like me APL de, up inside your club or in your Bentley. Get messy, loud and sick.
Ya'll mount past slow mo in another head trip. (So) Come then now do not correct it, let's get
ignant let's get hectic'

I smiled weakly. "Possibly." Then I got indignant. "Excuse me, but why am I not allowed to know
who threw me a party? What if I just wanted to thank this person?"

Ian snorted derisively. "Uh huh. And has hell frozen over yet?"

"What? You don't think I'd be grateful?"

Ian and Leah looked at each other, then chorused: "Not really."

"Hey, I'm not some spoiled, unappreciative little rich girl, you know," I replied petulantly.

"Not what we mean," Leah began, trying to pacify me.

I took a breath and waved my hand dismissively. I could get the information I wanted from
someone else. I mean, with a guest list of over a hundred people, someone had to know who
threw me the party, right?

Speaking of a someone

'Everybody, everybody, let's get into it. Get stupid. (Come on) Get it started (come one), get it
started (yeah), get it started. Let's get it started (ha), let's get it started in here. Let's get it started
(ha), let's get it started in here. Let's get it started (ha), let's get it started in here'

Ian, Leah, and I began to move to the music, forming a small triangle. Obviously, I couldn't be
facing every direction at once, so I didn't see David sneak up behind me. He popped a balloon
over me, making me jump. Glitter rained down onto me, and he laughed loudly.

"Nice to see you again, David," Leah drawled, giving him a very blatant once-over.

"Oh, the pleasure's all mine, Ms. Green," he smiled, giving her a wink. "How's life in Toronto?
God, how I miss the city."

"It's all right. By the way, thanks for arranging for me to come here for the weekend. It's been a
good couple of years since I got to celebrate birthday with my one and only best," she grinned,
looping an arm around my shoulder. Yes, the gesture was an act of friendship, but it also served
an alternative purpose. She was in a prime position to inconspicuously poke me in the side.

"Thank you for bringing Leah here," I told him, being sincere. Also, a little shocked that he
would.

"You're welcome," he replied, giving me a crooked grin. "Although, I have to say that the best
part about this whole affair was how I got you to come here."

"How did that happen?" Ian asked, raising an eyebrow. David told the story omitting, to my
surprise and gratitude, the very beginning of it and got the pair of them laughing.

"Which reminds me," I said grimly, fixing him with a deadly stare.
Yeah, I chased him. Again. You'd think I'd have learned from the last time. He stopped and
turned around so suddenly, that I crashed into him.

Yes. If I only possessed the gift of foresight.

Or, you know, common sense.

"Why, Sam, I'd love to dance with you," he grinned, putting an arm around my waist, as the
song changed.

'To all the ladies in the dance I lose all control when I see you Standing there in front of me Your
style, your clothes, your hair You fair woman, you look so sexy'

"I huh what?" Goddamn him. "Oh, yeah, Sam. Just run blindly wherever he leads you," I
muttered to myself, making David chuckle.

"You're a little odd, you know that?"

"I prefer quirky and eccentric," I replied absently, too focused on watching Scott over David's
shoulder. Brother dearest was hitting on a girl I remembered from the eighth grade. I'd never
liked Ms. Falling Out Of Her Shirt; it figured that she'd get invited, though, especially if they
planned the invite list by going through my eighth-grade yearbook.

"Whatcha lookin' at?"

"Behind you." I tentatively placed a hand on his shoulder, swaying my hips to the beat, trying
adamantly to concentrate on something else besides the fact that I was dancing with David to
that song, of all songs. It wasn't like I'd never danced with a guy before unless Ian and Scott
don't count but this was different. For one, David wasn't my stepbrother, or one of my best
friends. For another, there was that whole 'I violently dislike you' thing that we had going on. Or
rather, the apparent absence of it during this moment.

He spun us around so he could see who I was looking at, and ended up pulling me closer to
him. "What am I looking for?"

"The girl that Scott's hitting on," I mumbled, feeling my heart start to beat faster.
'De way you wine and, de way you dance And de way that you twist and turn your waist Leaves
me wanting, leaves me yearning Leaves me feelin' for a taste'

"Didn't know you had an eye for the ladies, Sam. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered for the
last three years."

I rolled my eyes. "Loser. I remember her from way back when, and I don't like her."

"Why? What'd she do to you?" He asked, his brow furrowing in puzzlement.

"Dumped her chocolate milkshake on me when I made the cheer squad over her," I replied,
shaking my head at the memory.

"You were a cheerleader?" He grinned wickedly. "You had the pom-poms and everything?"

"Not the itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny little skirts, thankfully."


"But those are the best part," he replied innocently, laughing at the expression on my face.

'Before the end of the night I wanna hold you so tight You know I want you so much And I'm so
tempted to touch Tempted to touch, tempted to touch Little woman, man I need you so much'

"You're so voyeuristic," I muttered.

"You're just too easy to piss off. It's so easy, it's almost not worth it."

"Then hey, here's an idea? Why don't you stop?"

"I said it's almost not worth it." He smiled. "You're quite entertaining when you're upset."

"You're such a sadist."

"And you're very cute, too," he added with a wink. I flushed slightly. "Are you blushing?" He
asked incredulously, raising an eyebrow.

"No. David, you'd never make me blush." He lowered his head and whispered some er,
inappropriate things into my ear.

And I blushed.

'Tempted to touch, tempted to touch Little woman, man I'm inside your clutch Tempted to
touch, tempted to touch Little woman, man I need you so much Tempted to touch, tempted to
touch Little woman, man I'm inside your clutch'

He smiled, satisfied. "Never say 'never', Sam. I just might want to prove you wrong."

I kind of only noticed just then that he'd completely closed the gap between us.

Huh.

"You know you can hold a grudge for long?" He said absently, playing with my hair.

"Can I, now?" I asked, my voice shaking just the slightest. I noticed he was a good dancer. Well,
more like felt it, since we were so close together.

Cripes.
"Yeah." His eyes were really pretty. "There's Ms. Second-String Cheerleader, there's me,
there's-"

"You?" I asked, puzzled. "I don't have a grudge against you. Lord knows I probably should,
though."

"You're telling me in all honesty that you're not still mad about how we, ah, met?"

'To all ma ladies in the dance I don't even know your name
Little woman I don't even know your age But there's something about you girl When I see you
wining in front the stage'

"No. It's actually kind of funny, when you look back on it." I shook my head. "But no, I'm Non-
Grudge-Holding Girl. I mean, you were what, fourteen? Not your fault exactly if you thought
with down there instead of up here." I lightly tapped my knuckles on his forehead, my hand
grazing his hairline.

He has soft hair. Oh goodness, what the hell is wrong with me tonight?

You're just getting caught up in the moment. You can't be completely faulted there's dim lights
and seductive music, and his cologne smells really nice. But stop. Just stop. No more getting
caught up. Gotta stick with a clear head, slugger.

"Oh, I just thought you still did, because-"

"Of course, you're still thinking with the wrong part of your anatomy, so" He scowled. I smiled
sweetly. "Why? You care if I was mad at you 'cause of that?" I cocked my head to one side and
studied him.

"I was just wondering why you're always riding me."

"Gee, it couldn't have anything to do with the way you act now, could it?" I said sarcastically,
shaking my head.

'Please forgive me, please excuse me But there's nothing else that a man can do I can't help
myself little woman I just need to be next to you'

"Is it my fault if you're so amusing?"

"Is it my fault you're such a jackass?"

He scowled. "You're very ungrateful, you know that?"

"Excuse me?" I was incensed. "I'll have you know that I'm plenty grateful. Did I not tell you thank
you for fixing it so Leah could come here? Didn't I thank you?"

He opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it.


"No, say it," I challenged. "Whatever it is you were gonna say, say it."

He stared at me for a while, his eyes glinting with gold. He took a deep breath, and shook his
head. "Forget it. Just forget it. You know, someone obviously likes you a lot to do all this for
you." He gestured to the whole room.

Meet the master of topic-changing, ladies and gentlemen.

"You, ah, wouldn't happen to know who that was, would you?" I asked hopefully. He gave me a
look, then raised his eyebrows.

"Madison told you, didn't she? Or was it Leah? I bet it was Leah, she tells you everything. You
women and your stupid 'girl code'-"

'Before the end of the night I wanna hold you so tight You know I want you so much
And I'm so tempted to touch Tempted to touch, tempted to touch Little woman, man I need you
so much Tempted to touch, tempted to touch Little woman, man I'm inside your clutch Tempted
to touch, tempted to touch Little woman, man I need you so much Tempted to touch, tempted to
touch Little woman, man I'm inside your clutch'

"You do know," I smiled triumphantly. "Tell me? Please? I promise, I won't tell anyone or make a
scene or anything. I just want to know."

David gave me another look, something akin to amusement. "No, I will not tell you. Hasn't it
occurred to you that maybe your mystery admirer has a reason for staying hidden in the
proverbial shadows?"

"Please, David?" Yes, I was begging. Begging David, of all people.

Stupid mystery admirer.

He better be a hottie of Angel proportions, I thought sulkily, as David gave me a firm 'no'.

"I wouldn't be so anxious to know. He's obviously touched in the head if he likes you."

I scowled. "Any girl who'd like you would have to have had a lobotomy first."

"Oh, touch." I was surprised to see that he wasn't mad. He just looked entertained. "So even
though I'm not going to tell you, have you given any thoughts as to who threw you the party?"

'I wanna feel you, I wanna squeeze you I wanna hug and kiss and caress you I wanna love you,
I wanna touch you I'll place no one else above you'

"I bet it was probably Scott."

"Isn't that incest of some sort?" David asked, raising an eyebrow. "Or are you one of those girls
who harbours a secret crush on her older stepbrother?"

I stared at him in horror. "No! I mean, I bet he did the whole secret-admirer-thing to make me
feel better."

"Better about what?"


"I nothing," I said quickly, avoiding his eyes. I was not going to tell him that Scott caught me
watching The Notebook for the third time straight and figured out I was sad because I was
lacking in the guy area.

Hey, you go seventeen years without getting any action, when all your friends have already
made it to second base. See how happy-happy joy-joy you'd feel.

"If you say so," he shrugged, twirling me around and holding my hands as we moved to the
music.

'I wanna feel you, I wanna squeeze you I wanna touch and kiss and caress you I wanna love
you, I wanna hug you You know woman I wanna wings of a dove you'
"Maybe it was Ian," he mused aloud.

I choked. "That is incest of some sort! Ian's my friend, David."

"So? Maybe he likes you. Feelings develop between friends."

"Not all the time," I argued.

"Can you honestly tell me you don't like Ian in that way?" He gave me another intense stare.

I didn't even need to think about it. I doubted Ian had a crush on me, but even if he did, my
feelings for him were strictly platonic. I didn't tell that to David, though. "Why do you care?" I
asked suddenly. "Got a crush on me? Trying to figure out if you've got competition?"

"Don't be stupid," he replied smoothly. "I only like your body." I choked again. If that kept up, I
wasn't going to live to my eighteenth birthday. "What? If you find someone physically attractive,
it only means you have eyes, right?" This time I was the one who was on the receiving end of
the sly look.

"Right," I retorted steadily. "Absolutely right."

'Before the end of the night I wanna hold you so tight You know I want you so much And I'm so
tempted to touch Tempted to touch, tempted to touch Little woman, man I need you so much
Tempted to touch, tempted to touch Little woman, man I'm inside your clutch Tempted to touch,
tempted to touch Little woman, man I need you so much Tempted to touch, tempted to touch
Little woman, man I'm inside your clutch'

The song ended, and I disentangled myself from his arms. "You're a pretty good dancer, you
know," he said appreciatively.

"Um, thanks," I muttered, scanning the crowd for Leah. She saw me with David and raised an
eyebrow; I waved at her. "Um, gotta go," I called, as she motioned for me to come over.

"So, I just checked my voicemail," she smirked. "And now I see you dancing with David to that
song, of all songs, and is it just me, or are you actually out of breath?"

"He's a good dancer," I replied defensively.

"I bet he's a good something else, too," she grinned. "Okay, ow, don't hit me."
"Don't be stupid, then."

"I'm not being stupid! Tell me you don't think he's gorgeous." Off my silence, she smirked.
"See?"

"All that means," I began wearily, "is that-"

"You've got eyes? Yeah, I've heard it already. Let me ask you something."

"Ask away." I crossed my arms over my chest.


"I why are you wearing your comfy clothes to your birthday party?" A puzzled frown appeared
on her pretty face.

"I was just planning on reading or something before going to bed. Next thing I know, I'm chasing
David into Party Central. Is that what you wanted to ask?"

"I huh. No. What I was want to ask you is how come you and David don't get along?"

"'Cause he's an ass."

"Isn't Scott the exact same as David?"

"Not the exact same." Off her look, I added, "Okay, so he, uh-"

"Sleeps around a lot?"

"Well, yeah. But Scott's a generally nice guy."

"Except for the sleeping-around thing."

"Um"

"And David's not a generally nice guy?"

"Not to me. Maybe to everyone else-"

"Definitely to everyone else-"

"Look, we just don't get along, okay? I mean sometimes like once in a blue moon he's
actually normal and nice, and I can be civil. But usually he's just so argh!" I let out a frustrated
sigh, and shook my head. "Look, this is my birthday party, right? And I'm supposed to be having
fun, right? So I don't wanna think about David or my detention tomorrow morning, or anything
else headachy, okay?"

"Fair enough," she replied, then gasped. "You have a detention tomorrow morning? How in the
hell?"

I sighed again. "That falls under the 'headachy' category. I'll fill you in later."
Six hours, one rousing chorus of 'Happy Birthday', two spars with David, and one gigantic clean-
up session later, the guys were helping Madison, Leah, and myself take all my presents back to
our dorm room. When I'd seen the pile of boxes, I'd almost fainted. I was surprised that so many
people actually got me something.

"I guess people are nicer than you give them credit for," David shrugged, which made me
squirm inside.

"Let's open them!" Madison squealed excitedly. I gave her a Look. I was wiped, and I had to get
up in three hours. "Oh, it's not my fault you got detention. Come on, let's open some of these,
Sam! You'll feel better!"

"If only to stop the chipperness," I conceded, sitting up against the headboard of my bed. Ian
separated the presents that were from my friends, and he tossed me the first box. It was wide
and wrapped in black paper with silver moons and stars.

"That one's from me."

"Clothes?" I asked. He smiled and shook his head. I shook the box and heard clattering. Raising
an eyebrow, I peeled off the wrapping paper. When I saw the box, I gasped. "No way. They
they don't even make these! At all!"
"They don't make what?" Scott asked. I showed him the box and his jaw dropped. Everyone
laughed at our reactions. "No fucking way," he gasped.

"It's just Monopoly, Scott," Madison giggled.

"But it's Buffy Monopoly," we chorused. He jumped onto the bed beside me.

"How?" He asked Ian, amazed.

Ian shrugged. "My mom's friend works for a guy who knows a guy who's an executive at Milton-
Bradley. I suggested the idea for the game way back when, and I got a copy of it to play for
myself. They're going to come out around Christmas time."

"Wow," I said in awe.

"I'll play you," Scott said, starting to tear off the plastic wrapping. "Right now. Let's go."

"She still has a whole pile of stuff to open," David pointed out.

"Exactly. So hands off, buddy." I put the Monopoly box in my drawer and gave Ian a hug.
"Thank you."

He ruffled my hair. "Happy birthday, Sammy."

"Seriously, you're amazing."

"Well yeah, I know that."

I grinned and picked up the next box. I tore off the red-and-purple-striped wrapping paper to
reveal a box from Stitches. "Leah, you rock," I beamed, pulling out the jeans and shirts she'd
gotten me.

"Duh, darling," she smiled.

I'd gotten a bunch of jewellery from Madison, a year-long movie pass to Silvercity from Alan, a
digital camera from Scott, and I was surprised to see, I'd gotten something from David, too.

"More clothes?" I asked, picking it up the hand-wrapped package.

He grinned wickedly. "I saw it and I thought you'd look good in it."
I peeled off about an inch of the paper, before I remembered who, exactly, the gift was from.
"What kind of clothes are these?" I asked suspiciously.

His smile widened. "Open it and see." Narrowing my eyes, I tore enough of the wrapping paper
away to tell what kind of 'clothes' he'd given me. My jaw dropped. "Like it?"" I looked from the
slinky pile of black lace and see-through fabric in my lap, to David, who was trying not to burst
out laughing, then back again to my present.

"What is it?" Leah asked. I shook my head and passed the box to her, and clamped a trembling
hand over my mouth.

No, I absolutely refuse to laugh. It's not funny! It's well, it's perfectly David, that's what it is,
and I won't laugh! No, seriously, it's not funny. I think the impending laughter is stemming more
from hysterics than actually humour. God, I can't believe he bought me that!
"Are you serious?" Leah asked, raising her eyebrows, then looked to me. I couldn't help it. I
laughed. The three of us were dying of laughter, but whereas David's and Leah's were of the
'Ha ha, this is so funny' variety, mine were of the 'Oh my God, this is insanely weird' hysterics.

"You like it?" David asked again, his eyes shining. I threw a pillow at him, still laughing, trying
very hard, but not succeeding in stopping.

"You loser," I choked out through one last shaky laugh, refusing for the moment to think about
what it exactly meant.

"What the hell?" Scott plucked the scrap of cloth by one lacy strap from Madison, who was
laughing, too. Figures she'd find it amusing. "You gave my sister lingerie? What the hell, man?"

"I'm not planning on using it," I assured him, putting it away with the Monopoly box.

"She says that now," David winked, which earned him another pillow at his head, this time from
Scott.

"Only you," I muttered, picking up the last box on the bed. It was small, no bigger than my fist.
"Doesn't this belong in the other pile?" I asked. "You guys already gave me your stuff."

"Might as well open it," Scott shrugged.

"Eh." I unwrapped the silvery paper and found myself with a small jewellery box, the kind rings
came in. The silly atmosphere quickly evaporated, and everyone was looking at me.

"What are you waiting for?" Ian asked. "Open it, why don't you?"

I bit my bottom lip and lifted the lid. Madison squealed. "Oh! It's so pretty!"

"Yeah, Sam," Leah agreed. "You've always wanted one of these, haven't you?"

"Yeah" I plucked the silver ring out of the box and slipped it over the ring finger on my right
hand. It fit perfectly. "Huh."

"Look, there's a note." Scott carefully unattached the small piece of paper from inside the
bottom of the box.
"'Happy birthday, Samantha. I hope you liked the party. Hope you like this, too. I assume you
know what it means'," Madison read over my shoulder. "Huh. What does it mean, Sammy?"

"It's a Claddagh ring. I always thought these were so cool, after I saw that episode of Buffy. The
crown represents loyalty, the hands mean friendship, and the heart stands for, well, love.
There's a bunch of different ways you can wear it, too," I explained distantly, running a finger
over the crystal heart. "If you wear it on your right hand with the crown turned inwards, it means
you're unspoken for. If the crown is turned outward on the right hand, it means you're
considering someone. And if you wear it on your left hand with the crown outward, it means your
heart belongs to someone. What?" I asked off their looks.

"Angel didn't tell Buffy all of that," Scott said with a raised eyebrow.

"I told you, I thought it was a cute gesture. I read up on the symbolism of it all afterwards."

"Damn, you really are a Buffy freak, aren't you?" David asked.

I gave him a dirty look. "Shut up." He glared at me.


"So, Sam," Madison said quickly, before we could start a full-fledged yelling match, "how are
you going to wear it?"

"'Wear it'?" I echoed. "I I'm not sure. Should I even wear it?" I looked around the room.

"Thought you liked it?" David muttered. "Women, so indecisive."

I stuck out my tongue at him. "I do like it. It's really pretty. But I don't even know who gave this
to me. What if it's some crazed psycho stalker or something, and I wear the ring and give him
the wrong message?"

"He's not a crazed psycho stalker," Madison, Scott, and David said in unison. I'd forgotten that
they knew who my mystery man was.

"Here," Leah said, rifling through my jewellery box, "put the ring on this." She handed me my
fine silver chain. "Wear the ring around as a necklace. It shows you at least like it and
appreciate it."

"True," I said slowly, trying to fasten the chain around my neck. My fingers kept slipping on the
clasp, so I turned to David, who was nearest to me. "Help me, please?"

"Hold this," he instructed, gathering my long hair into a ponytail, his fingers brushing the back of
my neck. I held my hair out of his way and in two seconds, he got the clasp to work.

"Thanks."

"Uh huh," he muttered, raking a hand through his hair, his eyes trained on me. If I didn't know
better, I'd say he was staring at the necklace, but it was more probable that he was staring at
my chest.

"It looks nice on you, Sam," Ian smiled.

Could David actually be right? I mean, there is a first time for everything

"Really?"

"Yeah. I mean, I don't think you should be wearing it at all, seeing as how you don't know who
gave it to you, but eh. Your call."
Okay, it's not him. Thank God. If it was him, he'd want me to wear it, right? Exactly. Who gives
someone a ring like this and prefers you to keep it hidden away?

"What do you think, Scott?" I asked. I no longer thought this whole thing was a Scott Manning
scheme.

"Wear it. It looks nice. Your opinion, David?"

David shrugged. "Do whatever you want. I, however, have to go get my stuff." Off my confused
look, he pointed to my clock. The time was four-forty. I groaned.

"You've got to be kidding me." I reluctantly got up and threw away the wrapping paper.

"Get your gym clothes or something," he advised me. "She's probably going to make us run laps
or something."

"Can she do that?" I asked, aghast.

"Can who do what?" Madison asked, confused.


"Yeah, she's the cheerleading coach this year. She's got access to the athletic department,"
David replied, while I rooted around my closet for my track pants and a shirt.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," I muttered, pulling out an old form-fitting black sleeveless shirt and an Angel
baseball cap, as well as my track pants.

"You've got detention, too?" Scott frowned.

"Yeah" I rushed into the bathroom to change.

"David, walk her down, please?"

"Why?"

"Because I don't want her to get jumped, that's why."

"I won't get jumped," I called out from the other side of the door. "David, go if you want to." I
pulled off my tank top and pulled the shirt over my head, careful not to pull the chain off.

"Oka-"

"David, stay," Madison ordered. I slipped my track pants on.

"If she doesn't want me to-"

"David."

"Okay. Okay, I'll play bodyguard to her Royal Pain-in-the-Ass."

"I am not a pain in the ass," I sniffed, coming out from the bathroom and pulling the baseball cap
over my ponytail.

"How in the hell did you get detention?" Leah asked me. "You still haven't told me."

"Check your voicemail again," I muttered. "Damn Cheerios." David chuckled. I slipped my feet
into my sneakers, and followed David out the door.

I was about to spend hours on end with His Unholiness and the Bitch from Hell.

Oh joy.
Chapter Four: The Evils of Excessive Coke

"Coke?" I asked, holding out a can to David.

"It's not even five o'clock in the morning yet," he replied contemptuously, shaking his head.

"But we didn't get any sleep. A caffeine high is the only way we're making it through this thing."

To my credit, I was being extremely generous, given the nature of the situation, and what was I
getting for it? Yeah, jack-squat, that's what.

"Maybe the only way you're making it through. Track's my thing, remember? This'll be a walk in
the park for me."

I shrugged my shoulders. This is why I'm not usually nice to David. He gets all braggy and PMS-
y for no reason. I took a long swig of my Coke and set the can down beside me. Even after we'd
made the detours to the locker room and the vending machine, we were still about twenty
minutes early. We were sitting on the top row of bleachers, staring out at nothing. Well, I was.
David's eyes were fixed on my soda. Well, sodas. I'd gotten a six-pack.

I was really tired that morning. Pulling an all-nighter like what we did ends up making you feel
disoriented and slightly headachy, and your appetite goes all out of whack, not to mention you
feel like collapsing every five minutes or so. In other words, it was something I never wanted to
do again.

"Look, I've got a bunch. Take one if you want."

He shook his head adamantly. "You're gonna crash when the caffeine wears off."

I shrugged my shoulders again. "Either way, this detention is gonna be over before I know it."

"I would think that with what happened to you the last couple of times you splurged on Coke,
you'd have learned your lesson."

I narrowed my eyes suspiciously. "What are you talking about?"


"Weren't you all nervous about your parents' Christmas party last year, so you had a ton of
Coke, and then when you crashed, you fell in the punch bowl?"

I gaped at him. What the hell? How - why - how?

"And then there was the time at your mom's wedding where they actually had to stop the
ceremony 'cause you went into an anxiety attack."

"Who - what - how-?"

"My favourite, though, is the one where you got a wicked case of nerves at your pre-birthday
party which was it? Your fifteenth, I think and then you tripped and fell and ripped your
dress. Wish I could've seen that one. Or better yet, I wish someone had had the presence of
mind to locate a camera." He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "Tell me, Sam, do you wear
thongs? I've always been kind of curious."

I stared at him, aghast. "Who told you all of this?" I asked shrilly.

"Scott," he replied offhandedly.

"Oh, he is the deadest man in Deadonia," I muttered angrily, pulling my baseball cap low over
my eyes. David poked me lightly in my side.

"Lighten up, Sam. It's only me. Who cares if I know a bunch of your humiliating teenage
memories?" I wasn't sure if he was teasing me or not.

I turned to him, my voice flat. "You're kidding, right? I care."

"Well, why do you care?" He stared expectantly at me, waiting for my answer. The sky, still
midnight-black, afforded us little light, but I could still see him well enough. His hair was, as
always, perfectly tousled (another paradox for you), he was decked out in a pair of red school
gym shorts and a black sleeveless shirt, and he was slightly shivering from the cold.

Well, we were sitting outside in the middle of September before sunrise without jackets.
Not the smartest of clothing choices weather-wise, granted. But he does look cute. I froze for a
moment. I so need sleep. I massaged my forehead tiredly, wishing I was back in my room,
curled up in my bed with my nice, soft pillowy pillows.

"So? I'm waiting, Sam."

"Then you can keep waiting," I muttered, taking another mouthful of Coke.

He gave me this smug sort of grin, and stared out at the football field. "You're very amusing,
Samantha."

"Am I?" Still feeling drowsy, I took another big gulp of Coke.

"I think that's what I just said."

"Yeah, well shut up."

Lack of sleep combined with David do not a happy Sammy make.

Or a sensible one, for that matter.

Have I mentioned as of late how much I abhor my History teacher?

No? Well, allow me to do that now.

I hate that woman. I loathe her. I despise her. I detest her.

Gee, that little spiel sounded familiar.

First of all, she came to the football field late (by ten minutes punctuality, my ass).

"This is my detention, Spade. Frankly, I don't give a damn if I'm making you wait. If you don't
want to be here again, I suggest you think twice about cutting class again and making out with
your boyfriend."

"One, I wasn't cutting class you deaf old bird," I added under my breath, making David choke
on his water. "And two?" I pointed to Weston. "Not my boyfriend. Never will be my boyfriend.
Never," I added for emphasis.
Then she went all drill sergeant on us (okay, on me) and made us do a bazillion laps around the
field. Well, okay, no, it was more like fifteen. But still. Not all of us are track stars, you know. And
that field is huge. See girls and boys, this is why you should always stay in shape: to shame the
evil History teachers who make you run laps.

Wish I'd had that foresight and hadn't given up soccer in tenth grade.

"Lift your legs higher, Spade! Higher! I want you to do this running, not walking!"

I wonder if she was a Nazi or something in a previous life? Because that woman is just
downright vile, I mused angrily to myself, as David lapped me yet again.

And if the laps weren't bad enough, she decided we needed to do some sit-ups. Keep in mind
I'm doing all this running only on three cans of Coke and like, five minutes of sleep.

"Faster, Weston, faster!"

Yes, for once, the barking was directed at my partner in crime, not at me. Why? Very simple. I
once did five hundred sit-ups before I had to give up (my stomach went numb). I can do sit-ups
with ease. And I can do them fast, too. David had finished his laps about fifteen minutes before
me and had that much of a head start on me with the sit-ups, but I easily caught up with him.

A hundred or so of those bad boys? Not a problem.

"Weston, you call that a sit-up? You barely lifted yourself off the ground!"
Breathing hard, I collapsed on the grass and stared up at the sky. It was starting to lighten, the
darkness turning to purples and light blues.

"You've still got twenty more to go! I said faster!"

If she's yelling at dear David, she must definitely not be a morning person. But for that matter,
neither was I, and her grating voice was starting to seriously piss me off.

"Hey," I called out, my voice hoarse. "Usually, Ms. D, if someone's moving a little slowly, it
means that he's tired, not that he's deaf. So all this yelling's not accomplishing anything, except
giving us all monster headaches. So could you just well, what's the phrase? Shut up?"

Yeah, I told her to shut up. I told you, morning person, I am not.

Ms. Davalos stared at me. Actually, so did David. "Finish your sit-ups," she said finally.

"Already did." I smiled brightly. I won't even go into what a chore that was to accomplish. "And I
gotta say, I'm really looking forward to the payoff for doing a hundred and fifty sit-ups, because
there's got to be a cosmic reward of some kind involved." Rolling over onto my stomach, I
pushed off the hard ground and stood up. "Are we done with this detention?" I asked Ms. D,
brushing off my track pants.

"You're done when he's done," she replied, a little taken aback. I presumed she wasn't used to
people being unfazed by her harsh behaviour. "Twenty more sit-ups."

I sighed. "Well, if I must, I must, mustn't I?" I stretched my arms and lay back down. "Together,
okay?" I called out to David. I didn't want to be finished before him again, and have to do more
sit-ups. For one, I was hungry, and for another, I was dead tired.

I noticed that Ms. Davalos had lost the whole Ice Queen 'tude. I guess there is something to be
said for standing up to bullies. Maybe I should make it a practice to stick it to her more often, I
mused, my stomach definitely starting to cramp up.

After about ten more minutes, I heard David slump against the ground in relief.

"You're done?" She asked, her green eyes slated with dislike. "Good. Consider this detention
over." I resisted the urge to make a face at her behind her back. Knowing her, she probably had
eyes in the back of her head.
And I mean that literally.

"Thank God," I muttered, staring up at the pinkish-orangish sky. "Lookit," I said to no one in
particular. "Sunrise." I laid down flat on the grass and stared at the horizon.

"Beautiful," David murmured.

"Yeah, it is," I agreed. The sun was a deep yellowish-gold colour, and the sky surrounding it was
orange, tapering off into pinks, then purples, then blues. The grass that we lay on was deep
green, and complemented the sky perfectly. Everything was so colourful, so pretty.

"It looks much better when you're seeing it from the other end, though."

"Other end?" I propped myself up on my elbows and turned to face him.

"Yeah. When you're seeing it because you've woken up really early, it feels like you're getting
treated to something special, something rare. When you see it because you've stayed up all
night"

"It seems wrong?" I asked, remembering the words from my favourite soft-spoken Wicca.

So I can find a Buffy reference for everything. That doesn't mean I'm obsessed.

"Not wrong, exactly. Just weird."

"Weird like how?" I asked, surprised that David Weston, of all people, had a thing for sunrises. If
I didn't know better, I'd say he had a bit of a romantic in him.

"Weird like us two talking like normal people and not biting each other's heads off." He risked a
look in my direction.
I was smiling.

I told you, I don't think straight in the morning.

Don't give me that look.

"Wanna go to Tim Horton's?" He asked suddenly, helping me up from the ground. "I know you
probably wanna go back to your room and sleep, but-"

"But nothing," I interrupted him. "David, I did twenty extra sit-ups and I told her to shut up for
you. Now she's probably gonna be on my case till graduation. Not that she was gonna let up
anyway, but" I waved my hand dismissively. "Ehhh. And you know, I wouldn't even be up at
this godforsaken hour if it wasn't for you. So you better believe that you're going to drive me
twenty minutes to Tim Horton's and treat me to breakfast."

He raised his eyebrows. "Who said anything about treating you?"

"I did." I smiled brightly. "It's my birthday today, did you know that?"

Hint hint, David.

He stared at me for a good two minutes, something between amazement and annoyance
etched onto his face. Finally, he conceded. "Fine. Fine, I'll take you out for your birthday. Isn't
that like a date, though?" He added as an afterthought, watching my carefully. True to form, I
didn't disappoint.

"It's not a date. We are not going out on a date."

"So it's a non-date?"

"That's only what people say when they're too afraid to call a date a date. We're not going out
on a date or a non-date." A sudden thought struck me, rendering my mind blank. "Do you want
this to be a date?" I choked out.

"Only if it'll annoy the hell out of you," he replied with a smile; I scowled.

An hour later, we were long-since showered and changed (thank goodness for locker rooms
and spare clothes) and were driving up Main Street to, in my opinion, the best donut-slash-
coffee place in North America. Possibly in the world. But then again, I haven't been to all the
donut-slash-coffee places in the world, or even in North America, so I guess my opinion's shot.

But I digress.

"And then, she's all like, 'Now!', and the entire graduating class rips off their gowns, and it's
like a scene out of Braveheart, not that I've ever seen Braveheart or anything, but I heard that
the scene was like something out of Braveheart, but anyways, and then it's this big battle, and
the mayor turned into this giant snake, and I got freaked when I first saw it 'cause I was about
eleven when I first saw that, and I don't like snakes, but everyone's fighting, and you've got all
these people with crossbows and flamethrowers and wouldn't it be so cool if our graduation was
something like that?" I finished breathlessly. "Y'know, minus the giant nearly-unkillable snake,
the vampires, and the death and carnage?"

With one hand on the wheel, David stared at me, something akin to fear in his eyes. "You are
never I repeat, never having Coke again," he said slowly, enunciating every word clearly. "In
fact, you're never having caffeine again at all."

I gave him a puzzled look. "Why?"

"Sam, when Scott tried to explain all that Buffy crap to me, it took him an hour and a half to get
through the first season. You explained every single episode from all three seasons in half an
hour. You've got a wicked case of hyperactivity bordering on A.D.D."

"Since when did you get all psychologist-y? And anyways, I'm not done yet!"

Yeah, I was hopped up on Coke (not the drug, people). I'd shamelessly prattled my mouth off
for a straight thirty minutes while David drove us into town. At the back of my mind, I guess I
was aware that most girls didn't come into his car just for a twenty-minute drive for a fifteen-
minute stop at a donut place, and that was probably why my nerves went on overload and I
decided to enlighten him to the world of Buffy.
"So, yeah, and then after she taunts Evil-Mayor-Snake-Guy with the knife, she runs into the
school and leads him into the library and then she dives through the window and then Giles
pushes down the detonator and the whole school just blows up. And then she says something
about 'fire bad, tree pretty' after she gets her high school diploma, and then she turns, and then
she sees him staring at her, and they're staring at each other, and then it's so sad they look so
sad and then he just turns and walks off into the mist, and I mean, that's just-"

"So sad?" He supplemented, giving me a wry grin. "Yes, I believe we've covered the fact that
Buffy and Angel can't be together, and that it's so sad."

"Well it is," I replied defensively, playing with a loose strand of hair in an attempt to appear
slightly calmer than I was feeling inside. "Imagine loving someone so much, and going through
so much with them. Imagine meeting your soul mate and falling completely and utterly in love,
and then it turns out that you can't have him. Or, her," I amended, sneaking a look at him out of
the corner of my eye.

He looked, well, sad.

"There there." I patted his shoulder awkwardly. "They do get together in season one of Angel.
It's only for a day though, when he becomes human, and then he opts to take back the day and
stay a vampire, so she won't die, and only he remembers the day and so, okay, maybe that's
not the best example of a happy ending in the world of Buffy, but that's only 'cause Joss
Whedon always dooms the couples from the start, I think, so it's not like they have a chance, yet
I remain hopeful that after that big battle, Angel Shanshu'd, and he and Buffy ended up
together."

I got another Look. This time, he just looked annoyed. "You really are clueless, aren't you? It's
not just the caffeine messing with your head, is it? I mean, you're always like this."

"Always like what?" I asked quietly, feeling a little sullen myself.

He kept his gaze firmly fixed on the road ahead. "Forget it."

"Fine."

Hello, sudden teenage mood swings.

The rest of the drive to Tim Horton's was in silence.


Finally, finally, we pulled into the parking lot across from Timmy's. The silence was becoming
unbearable.

"You wanna go in, or should we go through the Drive-Thru?" He asked after we'd sat in the car
for a good three minutes.

I shrugged my shoulders. "Whatever you want to do." I was staring at a tall pine tree outside the
store. I was also vaguely aware that I was sulking.

He sighed warily and turned off the ignition. "Don't be difficult, Sam."

"I'm not being difficult," I replied in that same maddeningly-calm voice. "And if you want to talk
about being difficult, take a look at yourself, 'cause last I remembered, we were having a civil
conversation before you snapped on me," I added breathlessly, refusing to look at him.

I heard him sigh, and take several deep breaths before asking, "Are you mad at me?"

"Are you mad at me?" I countered, still staring at the tree.

Fire bad, tree pretty.

"Do you care if I'm mad at you?"

"Do you care if I'm mad at you?"

"Stop echoing everything I say!" He pounded on the middle of the steering wheel, and the loud
beep made me jump. I turned to him and made sure he heard every word I was saying.

"I'm not echoing you. Look, if you're not going to answer your own questions, then don't expect
me to." He glared at me; I returned the look.

"We're going in," he said finally. "I don't think I can stand another minute in this car with you." He
opened the driver's door.
"Don't worry, the feeling's mutual." I was out of the car and halfway towards the cross-walk
before he even slammed his door. The September breeze sent little chills down my back. In
David's car it had been nice and toasty. Well, temperature-wise, anyways. Outside, I was
starting to really feel the cold, despite the oversized Sunnydale High sweatshirt (Scott bought it
for me don't start) and undershirt I had on. The wind blew my hair around my face so much, I
severely regretted not bringing a ponytail-holder with me. As soon as the light changed, I
crossed the street, taking long, quick strides. I made it inside the shop in record time, and to my
relief, there were very little customers in line. I guessed that in a small town at nine in the
morning on a Saturday, Timmy's didn't get many people.

"Good morning!"

God, chipper much?

"Hey."

Call me Monosyllabic Girl.

"How can I help you?"

"Um" I quickly rattled off a large order that consisted of drinks for the girls, Ian, and my
brothers, lots of round and sugary goodness for all, and breakfast food for me and His
Unholiness. The total came up to a rather sizable amount. "You take debit?" I asked.

"Nope," the girl chirped. "Cash only. Sorry."

"It's fine." I waved it off. I pulled out a few twenties from my wallet and gave them to the girl.
"Can you do me a favour?" I asked her to give me everything except for mine and David's things
when I was leaving.

What? I wanted those donuts to stay fresh for as long as possible.

When she gave me our drinks and food, I took them over to a quiet table in the corner and
patiently waited for David to arrive. True to form, the idiot came in ten minutes later looking
completely out of breath. When he finally spotted me, I gave him a small sardonic smile and
tipped my bottle of orange juice in his direction.

"What took you so long?" I asked, taking a sip of orange juice.


"Where were you?"

Someone looked livid.

"Well, first I took a little spin 'round the old homestead, to see how the 'rents were doing,
y'know? But no one was home, so I took a drive up the coast instead and let me tell you-"

"Stop the sarcasm and talk to me like an adult." He sat down in the empty chair across from me.

Well, where the hell did the loser think I went? The North Pole?

"I'll talk to you like an adult when you decide to start acting like one," I replied calmly. "But you
can continue to take your time. I'm in no mood to grow up." I took the another sip of my orange
juice and eyed him over the rim of the bottle. "And I don't remember inviting you to sit here."

"Who else is sitting here?" He practically growled.

"No one," I said sweetly. "I just don't remember inviting you to sit, that's all. Or allowing you to
eat my sandwich," I added, as he brought chicken salad sandwich I'd bought for him up to his
lips.

"Your sandwich? You have one right in front of you, and this one's placed in front of me."

"Yes, but generally, when someone buys something, that something belongs to said someone,"
I explained patiently. "And like I said before, I didn't invite you to sit here."

He left the sandwich down and pushed back his chair. "When you decide to stop being such a
bitch, come find me. I'll be in the parking lot. That is, if I haven't decided to leave you here."
Going too far? Me?

Nah.

I sighed and massaged my forehead. I waited until I thought he'd made it back to the car, then I
gathered up our uneaten food and put it back in the paper bag. On my way out, I picked up the
boxes of donuts and cookies and Tim-Bits, the bags of sandwiches, and the trays of iced
cappuccinos I'd paid for earlier. It was a lot, yeah, but with some clever balancing tricks, I was
good. I'd gotten about a foot out the door when I realized that David's car wasn't parked across
the street anymore.

I froze in shock, my mind not yet registering what I was seeing. Oh my God. He actually left me
here.

Panic began to set in, and I let out a soft groan. "Sometimes, I need to learn to control my
temper," I muttered, praying that a gust of wind wouldn't come by and blow all the food out of
my hands and down the street.

"Yeah, I could've told you that."

I jumped about a mile, causing the packages in my hand to wobble from their unsteady pile-age.
Luckily, David caught the tray of drinks before it fell.

"Nice reflexes. And the whole popping-up-out-of-nowhere thing? Gotta give you props for that," I
remarked sarcastically, curbing the urge to kick him in the shins or something.

"Thought I left you?" He took two boxes from me, as well.

"Sort of." I followed him to where he'd re-parked the car. "So you parked it behind the store and
made me think you left me? Very mature."

"Hey, I can still leave you here, you know," he threatened.

Well, yeah. I wasn't in the car yet.

"Yeah, you could. Of course, I'd have to get someone to drive me back to school. But then the
next thing you know, my knight-in-shining-rims turns out to be a stalker-slash-serial-killer-slash-
rapist, and the next thing you know, I'm on the six o'clock news. Well, my dead-as-a-doornail
corpse, anyway. Not to mention that all this food would go to waste," I added lightly.

"Well, if the food's going to waste" He unlocked the car and opened the door for me. I slid in
and put the boxes in the backseat. When David came around and settled in behind the wheel, I
gave him his food. "What's this?"

"Chicken salad sandwich, black coffee, a double-chocolate donut, and I'm sorry for being stupid
before," I finished breathlessly.

"And I'm getting this because?"

Can we say 'slow', ladies and gentlemen?

"'Cause I bought it for you, maybe?" I gave him the 'How stupid are you?' look. I have perfected
it over the years, having used it on him countless times before.

"I meant the apology. You don't usually make with those."

"Neither do you," I pointed out. "But perhaps my conscience is starting to warm up to you
because I felt a little bad, so thusly, apologies were in order."

"I see." He finished his donut and half his sandwich before he realized I wasn't eating anything.
"Why aren't you eating? I thought you were starved." I opened my mouth to reply, but he cut me
off. "And if the next words I hear are 'I'm on a diet', I'll kick you out of the car. Really, I will."

"Actually, I was about to say, 'Your arm's pinning down my bag o' food', but" Not waiting for
him to move, I lifted his arm with one hand and extracted my slightly-squished food with the
other.

I noticed that his forearm felt defined under his sweatshirt.


God help me.

"And if you're drinking Coke" He gave me warning look.

"It's orange juice." I held up the glass bottle to show him. "Besides, don't worry. Coke and I, we
are no longer together. I'm calling the relationship quits."

"Relationship?"

"Yes, well, I form emotional attachments easily."

Yummy sandwich.

"But to Coke? No, wait, let me guess. It's some weird girl thing, right?"

"Nope." I smiled slightly. "It's a weird Sam thing."

"Same dif."

"How so?"

"Well, you're a girl, aren't you?"

"I'm not every girl."

"And I guess we can thank the Lord for the little things."

"Do you want me to turn this car around?"

"Sam, I'm in the driver's seat. And also? We haven't begun driving yet."

"Oh. Good point."

"No more Coke. Ever, ever again."

Chapter Five: Sick, Sad Sense of Humour

So here we were, now a month into the school year. In the past two weeks, I'd gained a secret
admirer, a distaste for caffeinated beverages, my G2, and a new VW Beetle to go with said G2.
And David had actually left me alone for once. No snide or snarky comments, no sexual
advances. No acknowledgement from him at all. Well, no, he did break the silence to tell me
how much my car suited me.

Apparently, I was as annoying as a bug.

How cute.

Not.

The only headache I had was trying to come up with something for the school fundraiser. Every
year, we always picked a holiday and centered a special event around it, raising money or food
or clothes or toys (sometimes all of the above) for the orphanage a few towns up. Usually, the
event was a dance. But this year, I was the one in charge, and I wanted to do something really
fun, really creative and memorable.

I was running through ideas in my mind one day while I was eating dinner. I was vaguely aware
of Madison and David talking about their Thanksgiving plans, Scott giving Alan girl advice, and
Ian staring off into space, a small frown marring his features. Brought out of my stupor, I kicked
Ian under the table. He blinked, then gave me a Look.

"Wanna tell me why you were giving the vending machine the thousand-yard stare?"
"Wanna tell me why you're being so nosy?"

I raised an eyebrow. Ian was never snippy with me. Not even that one time I accidentally spilled
Krazy Glue all over his English notebook two days before his final.

"Maybe you should tell me why you're acting like PMS Madison, instead," I retorted coolly.

"Hey!" Came the indignant cry from beside me.

I shrugged my shoulders. "Well, you do get a little ahem bitchy."

"No, I don't! David, you've known me forever. Tell them that I don't get bitchy." Madison folded
her arms over her chest expectantly.

David blinked, taken aback. "Well, uh, I wouldn't say bitchy, per se. But you can get a little
violent?"

She glared at him through narrowed eyes. "I get what?"

He gave me a dirty look, as if to say, 'See what you started?' I shrugged again.

No one said you had to agree with me, loser.

"He's completely cornered," Ian said, amused.

Wow, split personality much? Then again I guess he's sort of always had a little sadistic
streak in him for when David gets himself caught between the proverbial rock and hard place.

"Yeah isn't it great?" I grinned wickedly, momentarily ignoring Ian's earlier attitude. David
looked exactly like a deer caught in headlights, while Madison continued to rant.

"So what's up?" I knew I probably shouldn't have pushed the subject; Ian was obviously
faking his good humour.

He sighed deeply. "Sam, nothing's up."

"Bullshit," I replied calmly. "You think I don't know when something's up? You've been quiet for
the past couple of weeks, and lately, you've got this broody look etched on your face twenty-
four-seven."
"When did you take to observing me?" He raised an eyebrow in a very David-like fashion.

"Stop it. You're my friend, and something's bothering you. I want to help. Please?"

He sighed again, this time, in defeat. "Look, you can't help me, okay? This is my thing. I have to
figure this out alone."

"So there is something to figure out." I got a Look. "You don't have to figure out whatever you
need to alone. Why do you think you have friends? So we can help you. Duh." I gave him a
lopsided smile.

"How about this? Let me let me work through some of this stuff. When I'm ready, I'll tell you,
okay?"

"Works for me," I replied brightly, taking a sip of my chocolate milk. "Just remember that I'm
here for you though, okay? You don't need to suffer in silence."

He pointed his carrot stick at me. "You're one to talk."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It's supposed to mean," he began, lowering his voice so that the others couldn't hear us, "that
you are a hell of a hypocrite when it comes to keeping stuff locked up inside and suffering in
silence."

"What the hell are you going on about?" For the life of me, I didn't know what he was talking
about.
"We're best friends, right?"

"Right"

"So you think I don't notice that when you watching old romance movies or the sappy episodes
from Bunny, you make with the sniffling? You pull yourself together pretty quickly, but not quick
enough."

"Okay, first of all, it's called Buffy," I replied stiffly. Since he'd unearthed my (oh, all right)
obsession of all things Buffy (which, truth be told, didn't need much unearthing), he insistently
referred to the show as 'Bunny', just to annoy me. He'd stopped after a while, when I informed
him that he was starting to become like David.

"Don't change the subject."

"Remember when we went to Mardi Gras, Mads? Huh? You threw an apple at one of the
floats and hit one of the people on top! You almost got arrested!" David's animated voice
interjected.

"Don't start the subject," I retorted to Ian, my voice raising slightly.

"Okay, that was one time," Madison conceded to David, raising a hand in submission.

"Sam, when you decide to trust your friends," Ian replied, "maybe then I'll trust you."

"I have the most trivial of problems. Why would I want to burden you guys with them?" Before
Ian could give me an answer, I jumped up. David's words clicked into my head. "David, you're a
genius!" I shrieked. I got more than one crazy-person stare from people at the surrounding
tables for that little outburst.

"Of course I am," he replied cockily, clearly having no idea what I was talking about. "I just
needed you to see that." I frowned and threw my apple at his head. He caught it and took a big
bite out of it. "Thanks."

"Least I could do," I breathed, gathering up all my stuff.

"Wait, no, where are you going?" Ian asked, looking slightly pissed. "You're not running away
that easily."
"No, no it's just that all month long, I've been struggling to come up with an idea for the school
fundraiser-"

"Why don't you just do a dance?" Alan piped up. I gave him a withering look.

"Dances are like the last resort. They're so done."

"Hey, I did the fundraiser last year, and I did a dance," David said, slightly miffed.

"My point exactly."

"Hey," he said indignantly, between bites of apple.

"So what's your big badass idea?" Scott asked, attempting to diffuse the tension.

"Not telling. Yet. But if the headmaster gives the thumbs up, then I'll spill." I reached over the
table and grabbed the brownie off David's tray. He looked down at the plastic-wrapped
chocolaty square in my hand, then up to me.

God, he has beautiful eyes.

I swallowed sharply, my heartbeat going five times faster than usual for some reason. He must
have seen something that pleased him, because that familiar smirk made its way onto his face
again. Then his eyes drifted downward ever so slightly, and the smirk widened.

"Nice view, Sam."

"What?" I asked dumbly, still mesmerized by his eyes, for some unknown reason.
"I said, 'nice view'," he replied in that same maddeningly superior tone of voice.

Yeah, it was then that I realized that he was looking down my shirt.

Voyeuristic pervert.

"You're so disgusting, you know that?" I took his brownie and straightened up, vowing never
again to steal something off his tray if it meant I had to reach across the table like that.

"Black lace?" He grinned. "I like it. It's sexy."

I heard snickering behind me, and I spun around to face Ian. "Not one word," I said through
gritted teeth. And then I rounded on Madison and my brothers. "From any of you. And you." I
turned back to David. "You are officially the single most annoying person to ever walk this
planet! Would it kill you to grow up a little?"

"Oh, I am grown, Sam," he smirked. "Wanna see?"

"Okay there!" Scott stood up and clamped a hand over my mouth before I could go completely
postal on David. "You were going to see the headmaster, right?" He dragged me backwards out
of the cafeteria, so I was still facing the table. I kept pointing at David and making slashing
motions across my neck with my finger.

And you would think that by now, the entire cafeteria would be watching us.

Sad to say, most of the students have been here for at least three years, so they've all gotten
used to the little spats between David and me. I got a couple of looks from some of the younger
kids, but I was too busy glaring and making death threats towards David to pay them any
attention. He had the most infuriating smirk on his face, and I was completely incensed. Scott
didn't relax the death grip he had around my waist until we were outside the cafeteria and
halfway across the quad.

"Do you want to get suspended again?" Scott asked, crossing his arms over his chest in an
attempt to block the cold October wind.

It should be said now that part of the reason why David and I don't get along is because he got
me suspended. Okay, to be fair, we got each other suspended. It was way back in the ninth
grade. I don't remember exactly who started it, but within minutes during that fateful lunch
period, food was flying in every direction, and when the proverbial smoke cleared, all the fingers
pointed to me and David. When Headmaster Quinn was doing the interrogation, David admitted
to sending an orange my way, and I admitted to throwing a piece of watermelon at him, but we
couldn't agree on who actually started it. So we both got suspended.

When my mom found out, she got so pissed off. She threatened to take me out of Maple Ridge,
and I would've gone and chucked another piece of watermelon at David's head, if she hadn't
added that she wouldn't bring me back home, but would instead send me to another boarding
school where I didn't know anyone at all.

Yep, I was a good little girl after that.

Not that I was bad before, but David just has the infuriating way of making me lose control like
that. I don't really engage in higher levels of thinking when he's around. I mean, as fantastic as
my clever comebacks are, they don't require that much brainpower.

"No, I don't want to get suspended again," I muttered, rubbing my bare shoulders. Stupid tank
tops. Why in the name of all things holy am I wearing one in October?

"Then I suggest you start to control your temper."

"Uh! I have been controlling my temper!" I protested. "Maybe you should talk to the jerk back
there who's on testosterone overdrive!"

"Oh, shut up, Samantha," Scott said irritably, shivering slightly.

I raised my eyebrows. "Excuse me?"

"Seriously. Shut up. I don't think I can take much more of your whining."

"Of my what?"
We were headed towards major fight territory. We used to always have big screaming matches
when our parents first got married, and they were way worse than the little tiffs I have with
Weston.

"Your whining. What are you, deaf? Or maybe you're stupid. Or blind. It's one of the last two.
Possibly both."

"What the hell is wrong with you?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"Chaste little Samantha is the only one who's never gotten any action. And you know you hate
that."

"Where the hell do you get off?"

"And yet you still complain, even though there's someone who so clearly wants you."

Say what now?

"What? Who?" I asked, puzzled. He rolled his eyes and threw up his hands. "What? You mean
David?" I gave short, bitter laugh. "Yeah, I'm not interested in being anyone's one night stand,
thanks, no matter how good-looking he is."

"How come you automatically assume all he wants is to sleep with you?"

"There's a little thing called a reputation," I explained slowly. "You know, the way you portray
yourself, the way people see you? And David's reputation? Use 'em and lose 'em. Much like
yours, though, huh?"

Wow, if looks could kill

"Don't even start with me, Samantha," he growled.

"No, I think I will."

Oh, silly little Samantha. Did we have Coke today?

"You're just as bad as David. Combined, you two probably slept with the entire female
population of this school! To you, it's just meaningless sex, isn't it? Did you know that half the
girls you screw are crying their eyes out in the bathroom the next day? 'Oh, what did I do? Why
doesn't he like me anymore? Wasn't I good enough?'" I shook my head, disgusted. "The both of
you are a couple of assholes, and you know what? You're totally high if you think I'm gonna let
you go after Madison and turn her into one of those sobbing girls. I gotta say, thanks for
reminding me exactly how you treat the girls you 'like'." By now, I was shaking like a leaf, though
I wasn't sure if it was from the cold or from fury.

"You're wrong," he said quietly. "I'd never I like her."

"Bet you liked them, too, didn't you?"

We were both quiet after that.

"Samantha," Scott said after a while, breaking the tense silence, "you need to learn to mind your
own business sometimes and concentrate on your own life."

"Says the same person who not five minutes ago decided to put my lack of a love life under the
microscope," I replied bitterly.

"You wouldn't have a lacking love life if you'd stop being a bitch every now and then."

Round Two, ladies and gentlemen.

"Well, apparently I'm not so much of a bitch if someone likes me." I held up the chain around my
neck, the one with the Claddagh ring on it. "Someone out there is thoughtful and sweet and
kind, unlike you and your fellow womanizer." Yep, couldn't resist adding that last part.

"You don't deserve that ring," he snapped.

Isn't it funny how after all that, those five little words were the ones that made me cry?
Never have arguments with your close friends on a Monday. Actually, there never really is a
good day, but Mondays are the worst. You have the rest of the week to endure their wrath, and
you've got minimal brooding time.

Yeah, kinda wish I knew that little gem of wisdom before I went all bitch-tastic the previous
night.

When I awoke the next morning, Madison had already left. Her bed was made, her backpack
was gone, and I saw that I'd missed breakfast. In fact, if I didn't get my ass out of bed pronto, I'd
be late to my Calculus class. I took the quickest shower I'd ever taken in my life, pulled on my
uniform, and grabbed some of the leftover Tim Horton's goodies that we still had in the fridge,
before I ran across the quad as if my life depended on it.

Someone up there must have taken pity on me, because I actually got to class ten minutes
early. I finished the last chocolate chip cookie I'd grabbed and took the extra time to fix my
uniform (the shirt wasn't properly tucked in and my tie was just draped around my neck) and pull
my hair back into a loose bun. Then, when the adrenaline wore off, I realized that Madison just
left me. I was not a morning person to say the least, and for Madison to just leave me asleep
like that meant that she was royally pissed off.

Gee, I wonder why? Could it be because you pretty much called her a bitch yesterday?

No, I didn't! I said that she got a little bitchy that time of the month. I didn't say anything new! Ian
and the others know how bad she gets. Remember that black eye Scott got last year?

Yeah, but there's a little thing called tact, halfwit.

Oh. Yeah. That.

I moaned quietly and buried my head in my arms, ignoring the steady stream of people filtering
into the classroom. Scott and I weren't speaking, Madison was mad at me, Ian was in all
likelihood upset with me, and David well, we never got along anyway.

What the hell was the matter with me yesterday? 'Cause I mean, it's gotta be a record when you
manage to successively alienate three of the people closest to you all within a half hour.

Wow, that's like ten minutes each to piss off one.


Math nerd.

This is math class.

Shut up.

I sighed deeply. You know that you've hit rock bottom when you've managed to royally piss
yourself off.

"Don't think too hard, Sam. You might hurt something."

You also know that you've hit rock bottom when you can't even summon up the tiniest bit of
enthusiasm to tell off the bane of your existence.

"Go away. Please," I added as an afterthought.

What? A little politeness never killed anyone.

"How come you missed breakfast?"

I sighed again. "You have no intention of leaving me alone, do you?"

"Not until class starts in five minutes and forty-three seconds, no," David replied cheerfully.

"I see."

"So how come you weren't at breakfast?" He persisted, poking me in the side lightly. "And if the
next words out of your mouth are 'I'm on a diet', I won't be held responsible for my actions."
"I'm not on a diet." I looked up from the desk. "Why do you keep saying that? Oh my God, do
you think I like, need to go on one?" I asked with feigned horror.

I, for one, quite like the way I look. I figured he'd roll his eyes and tell me to shut up. Imagine my
surprise when David's eyes widened and he immediately began to pacify me.

"No! You look fine! Not that I, you know, care what you look like. But you're not completely bad-
looking, when I so happen to look at you."

"Thanks," I replied dryly.

"No, I meant-"

"Relax," I interrupted, smiling slightly. There was no point in letting him go on when I wasn't
even in the mood to enjoy it. "I was just joking around, spaz."

"Sorry. Veronica's on a diet, and it's driving me crazy. I mean, she's skinny enough as it is, what
the hell?"

"Veronica" I drummed a couple of fingers on my forehead until I matched the name with the
right sister. "Middle sister, right? Couple years younger than you? She's got the curly hair?"

David looked impressed. "How'd you remember all that?"

I shrugged. "I'm pretty good with names and faces."

"Yeah, but I've got six sisters." I shrugged again. Truthfully, I didn't feel up for conversation from
anyone, least of all David. "Even Madison mixes them up."

"Madison mixes up her dog and cousin, on occasion," I reminded him.

"You've got a point there," he conceded, chuckling.

"Eh." I put my head in my arms again, my bun becoming undone.

He poked my arm. "You know, you're not as into the bantering portion of our love-hate
relationship as you usually are."

"Hate-hate," I corrected him.


"No, it's love-hate," he maintained. "You love me and you hate that you do."

"Ha," I replied half-heartedly, combing a hand through my loose hair.

"Seriously, what's wrong with you?"

"You care?"

"No," he replied without missing a beat. "Just curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat," I muttered, my voice muffled. "And would you stop poking me?" I
swatted his hand away.

"Answer my question first."

"I'm dead tired and someone won't leave me alone," I said through gritted teeth. "That is what's
wrong with me."

"Or maybe you're upset 'cause you think all your friends are pissed off at you?" I slowly raised
my head off the desk and turned to him. "Contrary to what you think, Sam, I'm not stupid. Or
blind. That's your department," he added under his breath.

"I heard that, asshole."


He let out a strangled groan. "Look, I don't want to pick a fight with you, okay?"

"That's a first."

"At least not this early in the morning," he amended. "Maybe sometime later today."

"Ah, that's more like it."

"Look, I thought you should know that yesterday-"

"You were a complete pervert and you need a serious spanking?"

He smirked. "Are you offering?"

Good God, I really need to start thinking before I speak.

"Shut up," I muttered, fighting off a blush.

He scooted his desk closer to mine, grinning. "Is that a yes?"

"It's a 'leave me alone if you want all of your reproductive organs intact'," I murmured, pulling out
my books as Mr. Trent finally waltzed into class. I've never understood why teachers can be late
for class, but we get punished when we are.

So not fair.

After second period, I still felt bad about how I'd acted the previous night, and I didn't particularly
feel like facing my friends just yet.

Yep, I'm a coward.

So I was relieved when I got a summons from the headmaster's office for a lunchtime
appointment.

I was not relieved when I saw David waiting by my locker and offering to walk me down to see
Headmaster Quinn. "Did I wake up in Bizzaro World or something?" I asked no one in particular,
pulling out my books for my afternoon classes. "My friends aren't speaking to me and you're
acting like we're best buds."
"For the record," he said, taking out the book from the top shelf in my locker and handing it to
me, "you're avoiding your friends, so how do you know if they're speaking to you or not?"

"I'm not avoiding them. I'm simply-" I saw a head of bright blonde hair and hurriedly shut my
locker before rushing down the hall.

"Running away in the opposite direction as fast as you can any time you see someone that even
looks remotely like one of them?" David asked, mere steps behind me.

"I'm non-confrontational, okay?"

"You're chicken is what you are."

"Kentucky fried," I agreed, hurrying out the west entrance. "And why are you still following me?"

"Look, Miss Self-Involved, I'm not following you. Okay, well, I am, but it has nothing to do with
you." We made our way into the main office building. Or rather, we tried to. We both tried to go
through the door at the same time, which resulted in a pretty painful encounter between my right
shoulder and the doorframe, and my left side and David's shoulder. We struggled for a moment,
wrenching ourselves out of that decidedly uncomfortable position.

"Beauty before age," I said, stepping in front of him after three more false starts.

"Wisdom before beauty," he replied, nudging me aside.

"Oh, just stop wasting my time. I've got an appointment." I pulled the bright orange slip of paper
out of my pocket and waved it at him.
"Yeah? Big deal." He pulled out a piece of paper identical to mine.

"When's yours?" I asked suspiciously.

"Ten to twelve. Yours?"

I sighed. It was starting to become a habit. "Take a guess."

He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Huh. Interesting. Wonder what Quinn wants with the both
of us?"

"How about we stop wasting time and go in there and find out?" I suggested, striding past him
into the lobby. I gave the secretary my slip of paper. She glared at me.

Yeah, it was the same crazy lady who went postal when I asked her for the time. Just for kicks, I
decided to ask her something similar.

"Excuse me, ma'am? Am I late for my appointment?"

Another glare. "You have eyes, don't you? Look at the clock! The clock's right there!"

"Uh" I blinked. Is it just me, or is she foaming at the mouth?

"Go sit down," she snapped at me. "I'll inform you as to when you are to see the headmaster."

"Uh" I stammered, hearing muffled laughing coming from behind me.

"What, are you deaf? I said sit!"

Note to self: never engage in conversation with that woman again.

Headmaster Quinn chose this very opportune moment to open his door. "Mrs. Fields, what's all
this yelling about?" His gaze went from the batty old lady, to David, then to me. "Oh, Mr.
Weston, Ms. Spade. Perfect. You're right on time, come in."

"Uh"

Laughing quietly, David put a hand on my back and guided me towards the open door.
"So, Ms. Spade," Headmaster Quinn began conversationally as I took my seat, "how have plans
for the annual fundraiser been coming along?"

"Oh, I actually wanted to talk to you about that," I began excitedly. "Last night, I got a really
great idea. I was thinking, what if, instead of having some big party or dance for the students
here, and then just shipping off whatever we collect to the orphanage, well, what if we did
something for the kids? I mean, an event for them? Not just the after part, but the whole thing?"

Headmaster Quinn lowered his glasses and ran a hand through his sandy blonde hair. "Ms.
Spade, I don't think I understand. Elaborate, please?"

"Oh, sorry." I blushed slightly. "When I get excited, I start to babble. It's a habit. They say it
takes six weeks to break a habit, but that's actually not true because I've tried and-" David
nudged my ankle, shaking his head exasperatedly. "And there I go again." The headmaster
gave me a bemused sort of smile. "Right. Fundraiser. My idea." I cleared my throat. "What if we
had a holiday carnival? We could hold it in the centennial gym, it's definitely big enough."

"A holiday carnival sounds like an interesting idea. I'll have to check the budget and give you the
figures. I'm assuming you'd want to hold this before the winter break starts, and we're already in
October. Can you pull this off?"

"If I get some help, definitely. If I don't well, I'll just have to work a little harder to ensure that I
do, because failure's not an option. But, um, that's not all."

"It isn't?"
"No. See, I was thinking what if the children came to the carnival? The orphanage isn't that far
away. And if we can get some of the senior students to volunteer themselves as chauffeurs, we
can pick them up ourselves, and save money for a school bus."

"But where would these children stay? The Kane Orphanage is two towns over, Ms. Spade. It's
a two-hour drive in good weather. If they were brought up here, we couldn't possibly take them
back before nightfall."

That was one of the rules of Maple Birch. The students who could drive were allowed to. We
could leave the campus during lunch, after school, on the weekends so long as we were back
before dark.

"I thought of that. What if they stayed here? Because actually, I was thinking of having this
carnival during the break. I know half the school is gone during that time, but that means more
space in the dormitories. We could have students volunteer to share their rooms. We could also
have the older students supervise groups of younger children if we have to. May-maybe the
children could stay for more than just one day? Like maybe the weekend? Or or a whole
week?" I asked tentatively.

The headmaster took off his glasses and massaged his temple. "Ms. Spade, I, personally, think
your suggestion is an excellent idea. The PR would be good for the school, for one thing. Not to
mention the fact that those children deserve to be spoiled and pampered once in a while. I've
been down there before, and the orphanage is nothing like in Oliver Twist, but it could definitely
be a nicer place to stay in."

"But?" I asked, knowing that I was still going to get shot down.

"But we have no idea if students here would feel comfortable with that situation, if they would
particularly like the idea of sharing their rooms or playing baby-sitter for a week. I don't even
know if the director of the orphanage would agree to this."

Oh, hello opportunity.

"If I can get enough volunteers if I can do that, will the director agree? I mean, if the children
have all got proper people to stay with?"
"If you can take care of the housing arrangements, Ms. Spade, I will take care of the director." I
beamed. "But there are forty children. You'll need to find enough volunteers by the end of the
month."

I bit my lip. If it took me that long to actually get all the volunteers I needed, then it would only
leave me with a month to plan an entire carnival, not to mention activities and events to keep
everyone occupied for the rest of the week. "Can we still have the carnival, regardless? If they
can't stay the week, we can pick them up early morning, and take them back in the afternoon.
Depending on how many of us there are, we could make it back before sunset."

Headmaster Quinn nodded. "This all depends on if you can organize it in time. Are you sure you
wouldn't prefer to wait until the end of the year?"

I shook my head. "It's the holidays, sir," I replied simply.

"If you're sure you can handle this."

"I am."

"How are you planning to get people to volunteer?"

"Well, besides the housing and chauffeuring part of it, I'll still need people to help with the
planning of the carnival and other small events we can hold for the children to keep them
entertained throughout their stay here. I'm thinking of making some announcements over the PA
system, and putting up some posters around school? Spreading it by word-of-mouth, that sort of
thing. And if we could give community service hours for this, I bet I could get a lot more people
to sign up."

"When were you planning on starting this?"

"As soon as possible."

"And do you need any help, with the actual organization of it all?"

"You mean like a partner?" I asked, contemplating the idea. "Yeah, I could probably use one."
"Excellent." He turned to David. Weston had been so silent; I'd completely forgotten he was
sitting right beside me. "This brings me to why I asked you both here at the same time."

Uh oh. This can't be good.

"Mr. Weston. You are severely lacking in community service hours. As in, you have none."

For once, David looked ruffled. His dark chocolate eyes widened slightly, and his lips formed a
small 'o' of surprise.

A small smile graced my lips. He actually looks pretty cute, when he's not being perverted or
arrogant or cocky. He doesn't look hot or gorgeous or completely unattainable. Just cute. And
good God, Sam, just stop thinking right now.

I shook my head to clear away the betraying thoughts.

"But but how?" He stuttered. "I organized the event last year."

"Mr. Weston, we always have a holiday ball. Charming the dance committee so that the money
went towards the orphanage instead of the school was a very nice thing to do, but that hardly
constitutes as actual hard work. I'll leave it up to Ms. Spade to allot the number of hours for
everyone depending on how much work they've put in, but I'd strongly suggest you take hold of
this opportunity. Ms. Spade herself will be receiving forty hours at the very minimum if she can
pull this off."

I turned to David. To say he looked shell-shocked would be too much of an understatement.

"I don't think she'd like working with me very much, though, sir," he said after a moment of
silence, sounding sad. "We don't exactly get along."

No, no, no, I am not hearing this. No, no, no

"Ms. Spade can put aside her personal animosity if you can, Mr. Weston. Can't you,
Samantha?" Headmaster Quinn gave me a stern look.

"Of course I can," I replied, trying to keep the quaver out of my voice. If David was going to be
my partner, I might as well just call defeat.

Well, to be fair, he did give you the idea.


He said 'Mardi Gras'! It was an accident! He didn't even know what he said!

I said 'to be fair'. Obviously, I was reaching.

"I'm game, then." The headmaster may have missed it, but I saw that wicked gleam in his eyes.

Devil spawn.

"So am I," I said, smiling. A completely fake smile, but a smile nonetheless.

"Excellent. I expect you two to keep me up-to-date on how well you're coming along, and by the
end of the month, I expect you to have enough volunteers."

"Will do, sir," I assured him, rising up.

"I know I can count on you, Ms. Spade," he nodded, turning back to the paperwork on his desk.
David and I took that as our cue to leave. When we were outside his office and safely out of
earshot, I rounded on my 'partner'.

"I am not giving you a free ride, hear me?"

"Aw, not even just a quickie?" He grinned.

I resisted the impulse to throttle him. "First rule: get your mind out of the gutter. Second rule:
don't screw this up, okay? This isn't about me. I won't allow you to mess this up for those kids,
okay?"
His face hardened. "Third rule: stop acting like I'm just this big screw-up. I know we're not on
good terms, but that doesn't mean I'm incompetent, okay?"

An apology was on the tip of my tongue, but I just nodded instead. "Fine. Fourth rule: stop
acting like I'm just around for your own personal amusement. Start treating me like I'm actually a
person, instead of your verbal punching bag-slash-pick-up line practice doll."

"Fine," he replied.

"Fine," I agreed.

"Fine."

"Fine." I turned to walk away, but stopped. "We have last period together, right?"

"Yeah, history. Why?" He was still looking pretty annoyed.

"I want to start recruiting people today. You think you can get Ms. Davalos to let us leave class
ten minutes early? It'd be enough time for us to come back here and say a quick thing on the
end-of-day announcements."

You also know that you've hit rock bottom when you start to ask the bane of your existence to
do a favour for you.

He raised an eyebrow. I could see he was struggling not to smile. "I'll have no problem getting
myself out. Now about you? That'd take some work."

"Oh, I'm sure you can manage to persuade her somehow," I replied, some very scarring images
flitting through my mind. I shuddered slightly.

"Now who has her mind in the gutter?" He teased.

"Only because I hang around with you. The reason for that particular decision still remains to be
seen," I retorted dryly, zipping up my jacket.

David laughed and tugged on my ponytail lightly. "You know you want me." He winked and gave
me the most infuriating of smirks before walking off.
Forget punching you in the nose, I fumed silently, staring skyward. You guys need a good kick
in the shins. Providing you have shins. I inhaled the crisp autumn air and put a hand to my
forehead. This is the single most important thing I've ever had to do in my high school career
thus far, and I have Halfwit as my partner. You guys have a lousy sense of humour. A sick, sad,
twisted sense of humour.

Chapter Six: Like, Totally

Oh, stop being such a baby, Spade.

I'm not being a baby. I'm just being cautious.

You're being cowardly, is what you're being.

Hey, I'm not being a coward. I'm just

Being incredibly stupid? Honestly, with all that superhero crap you look at, you'd think you'd
have a backbone of some sort. But no

Oh, shut it.

Right. You can tell me to shut it, but you can't go over and say two little words to Scott and
Madison and Ian.

You're mean.

And you're a dork. So we're square.

I swear to God, if you weren't me, I'd totally kick your ass.
Ah, if wishes were horses.

What the hell does that even mean?

Dunno. Sounded smart, though. And watch your language, darling.

Watch your own language, dumbass.

I rubbed my forehead tiredly. "God, I'm going crazy. It's not good when you talk to yourself, is
it?"

"Actually, when you start to answer yourself, that's when you've got a problem." I jumped,
startled. I took a few deep breaths to calm my racing heartbeat, gasping slightly. A pair of gold-
flecked chocolate-brown eyes tinged with amusement filled my line of sight. Since it was nearly
time for dinner, the usual school uniform had been traded in for a pair of jeans and well-fitting
wine-coloured long-sleeved shirt. "Did I scare you?"

Is it such a bad thing to wish once in a while that David Weston did not look positively perfect
and put-together every damn day? I mean, it gets a bit annoying to us lesser mortals who have
to deal with things such as bad hair days and the like.

Stupid perfect-looking jerk.

"Do I look scared to you?" I asked breathlessly, taking my thumbnail between my teeth.

A nervous habit of mine. Not that I was nervous.

Or scared.

Or completely freaking out inside while struggling to maintain a calm and collected composure.

David gave me a critical up-and-down look. "Hmmm. Wide-eyed look of terror, slight trembling,
and then of course there's the absence of your usual annoying, uniquely-you sarcasm. So,
scared? You? I have no idea what ever gave me that idea." His voice was dripping with
sarcasm.

Asshole.
"Don't start with me, Weston," I muttered, thankful I'd decided to forego the decision of wearing
nail polish that day. I mean, it looks pretty and all, but when you're making like a beaver on your
fingernail, the pretty nail paint tends to chip, and then you've got a mouthful of pink sparkles.

Unfortunately, yes I am speaking from experience.

"Stop that," he scolded, yanking on my wrist.

"Okay, ow. You're being none too gentle with me, you know," I admonished him.

"Figured you'd want it rough. Ow! You slapped me!" He stared at me, wide-eyed.

"Not hard," I muttered, absently scratching an itch at the base of my throat. "See? There's not
even a handprint, you baby."

"Chicken."v

"Dumbass."

"Loser."

"Jerk."

"Bit-cah."

My gaze went from over his shoulder at the quartet of people sitting at the usual table, to his
twinkling eyes.

"What'd you just say?"


"You heard me," he replied, amused.

There is no freaking way David's started watching that show, of all shows.

I shook my head. "Below the belt," I muttered, trying not to smile.

"C'mon, Sammy. Laugh. You know you wanna," he added, grinning.

Being friends and I use that term very loosely with David for the past three years has made
me take on the habit of regarding everything he says as a double entendre.

I ignored the possible second meaning, though, and just shook my head, hiding a grin. I mean
honestly, feeding me a Xander Harris line? If there's a sure-fire way to make me laugh, it's that.

Or tickling me behind the ears. Or neck. Or feet.

But I digress.

"Laugh, Sammy. Laugh, laugh, laugh," he chanted quietly, giving a bright smile to a couple of
thirteen-year-old girls who were standing across from us at the vending machine and had turned
to see what the commotion was about.

"Loser," one of them muttered, turning back to her friend.

"Like, yeah," the other replied, taking a sip of juice. "Hot, but like, so totally crazed."

Now that I will laugh about. And so I did. David gave me a dirty look.

"They think I'm crazed," he said, pouting slightly, his lower lip sticking out just a bit. I had a
sudden impulse to take his lips between my own, but immediately quashed that ridiculous surge
of teenage hormones, and instead opted to replying with a witty one-liner.

"And you're not?" I asked, blinking innocently.

"I can't believe that he's like, graduating this year," one of the thirteen-year-olds continued,
shaking her head sadly.

"I don't even get why she's like, always insulting him, though," the second girl whispered to her
friend. Or, you know, tried to. Thirteen-year-old girls have the tendency to be rather loud when
they should be discreet. "She's like, totally retarded or something. I mean, if I was like, around
him like, that much, I'd totally just do him already."

"You've like, got a point there. He's crazed, but he's like, so totally hot."

"Her and Madison Harper are like, so totally lucky. I mean, they say lots of girls end up in his
bed, but he's never like, had a serious girlfriend before. The only girls he even like, spends
actual time with are them."

"Okay, this is getting weird," David muttered, propping a foot against the wall behind him. "My
choice way to spend my dinnertime is actually eating, not standing behind a large, seven-foot-
tall fern trying to knock some sense into that pretty but obviously vacant little head of yours,
whilst listening to two little girls discuss my sex life."

"Now that you've mentioned it, it's not mine, either. And the two little gossips are standing right
by the vending machine." Cue hunger-induced tummy rumblings.

"How like, totally inconvenient," David muttered, mimicking the shorter of the two girls, the one
who'd called him crazed.

"Like, yeah," I replied enthusiastically, pasting on a bright smile for added effect. "Totally."

He cracked up, keeping his laughter as quiet as possible. "Think they know we're standing here
listening to them?"

"Think they care?" I countered, shaking my head. "There is something seriously wrong with the
youth of today."

"They're growing up way too fast," he agreed.


"And did you like, hear what everyone's been saying?" The second girl continued, her voice
rising just half an octave. "They're like, working together. For some charity thingy. Oh God, he's
so perfect!"

David grinned cockily. "Oh yes, you're perfection personified," I muttered. "Except for the part
where you've got an ego twice the size of Texas, and then of course, there's that annoying habit
of yours."

"What annoying habit?"

"The one where you open your mouth and sound comes out," I replied smoothly.

"How long have you been waiting to use that one?"

"Just popped into my head, actually."

"Damn. I've had that one for a solid two weeks."

"Timing's never been right?"

"Nope. And timing is everything."

Am I the only one who got the slightest feeling of a double meaning there?

"She's like so totally lucky." First girl this time. "How she can be like, that close to him like,
everyday without going into meltdown mode major is like, totally beyond me."

"Gee, maybe it's 'cause I'm like, sane?" I muttered, shaking my head.

"I know! I'd like totally just die if I got to spend that much time with him! And alone! I bet you they
like, totally end up doing it," the taller girl said enviously.

I'm sure mine wasn't the only face that went blush pink. I know I felt David stiffen beside me.

"I know! I bet you they like, already totally do it! Two people don't fight that much without
wanting to screw each other's brains out."

"Interesting logic she's got," David said lightly.


"Uh huh. And a whole sentence without the word 'like' or 'totally'," I replied in the same sort of
tone. "Think it's a personal best?"

"Oh God, do you think so?" The first girl asked enviously.

"I bet!"

"Oh my God!"

"I know!"

"She's like, so lucky!"

"I know!"

"But isn't she like, some tight-ass bookworm?"

"Hey," I muttered indignantly.

"Well, you kind of are," David shrugged, earning him a pout. "You know, it's kind of sexy when
you do that," he added casually. I bit my lip and rolled my eyes in indifference, trying to play it
off.
"I heard she's never like, had a boyfriend," the girl continued. "Well, like, here, anyway. And
David Weston's a total major player. She's so like, not his type. She's like, serious and all that."

"I can be serious, too." It was David's turn to be affronted.

"Yeah, well your reputation precedes you, and it says otherwise," I replied.

"I can be serious," he insisted. "Really, I can."

"You know, I totally bet that why she doesn't like, have a guy! I mean like, oh my God! It totally
makes sense! I mean, come on, Nina! Why do you think they're behind the plant?"

Okay, this is getting just a little too personal for me. I put a hand to my head, mortified. Stupid
gossipy brats, making my heartbeat go ten times the normal speed. If I have a heart attack, I'm
like, so suing. Oh God, I'm starting to think like them now! If there is any justice in this world

"Oh my God! In public?"

"I heard that he's like, totally insatiable. And do you like, see the way they look at each other?
So hot!"

And apparently there isn't any. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"Hey, I'm not totally insatiable," David whispered indignantly.

"Didn't need to know that!" I was on the verge of a hysterical breakdown.

"Hey, according to them, you already know that." He shrugged.

I buried my head in my hands. "Thank you. Thank you very much. I now have disturbing mental
images that will haunt me for the rest of my days."

"I think you had those before. Like since last summer? And you must have enjoyed them on
some level, or else you wouldn't have tried so hard to block them out. We both know how you
seem to abhor any modicum of pleasure that blows your way. I think you prefer to be broody."
Surprise, surprise that David didn't seem the least bit fazed by what the girls were saying.

"Are you finding this funny?" I asked shrilly, ignoring that dig.
"Little bit, yeah."

"Why?"

"Why not?"

"Aren't you even the least bit upset that they're discussing who you're getting groiny with?"

He shrugged again and shook his head. "Not really. Why do I care what a couple of adolescent
twerps think? There's no truth to it anyway, and besides, I can think of worse people to get
groiny with."

He was smiling. Smiling!

"Careful, now you're starting to talk like me."

Did I just get complimented? In a really weird way?

"I can think of worse people to emulate, too."

Something about that line struck me as familiar. "Wait a minute. Have you been watching?"

"Why do you care what they're saying, anyway?" Cue intense stare.
Oh my God! He has! Wait till I tell Scott about Mr. Subject-Changer's newfound hobby.

"I don't care. Really. It's just, it doesn't bug you? Not even in the slightest?" Cue my intense
stare.

"No."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Real?"

He clamped a hand over my mouth. "So help me God, if you say that word one more time, I'll sic
those girls on you and make them annoy you to death." He removed his hand.

"Really?" I asked innocently. He glared at me and pulled my ponytail.

"Very funny."

"I thought so." I glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the vending machine, and noticed
that the two girls kept giving us furtive looks when they thought we weren't looking.

Little weirdos. I'm sure that when I was their age, I wasn't that gossipy. Or creepy. Or
voyeuristic.

"Um, can we go sit down somewhere?" David murmured, his eyes following my gaze.

"They're starting to freak you out, huh?"

"No. I'm just really hungry. Thanks to someone, I didn't have lunch today." He gave me a
pointed look.

I raised an eyebrow. "If you recall, I didn't eat lunch, either. And I'm not the one who gave you
the appointment with Quinn."
"I know," he replied, giving me that same charming grin that seemed to melt the heart of just
about any other member of the double-X chromosome population. "I just like pissing you off."

I narrowed my eyes and gave him my patented you're-an-idiot look. He just kept grinning.
"Boys," I muttered, shoving past him. When I neared the two girls, they looked up from their
whispered conversation yeah, they actually learned the art of discretion and stared at me
point-blank. "It's not nice to stare, you know," I said, giving them both stern looks.

"You're like, Scott Manning's stepsister, right?" The one called Nina asked. She was only a
couple of inches shorter than me.

"Yes." I tapped my foot impatiently.

"And you like, hang out with Ian Hart."

"Yep."

"And you like, hang out with David Weston, too?" Her voice took on a strange tone.

"Really? Wasn't aware of that," I muttered sarcastically.

And let me tell you how it just ruins the effect when you're actually taken seriously.

"Oh my God! How can you like, not know when you're with David Weston?" The shorter one
shrieked.
I put a hand to my forehead, shaking my head in annoyance. David was leaning against the side
of the vending machine, quaking with suppressed laughter. Over the years, I've noticed that it
doesn't take much to make him laugh. A few well-placed tickles or pushing my temper to its limit
usually does the trick. And the latter is way easier to do. By the right people, of course.

And he is one of those right people. 'Right' meaning that he does a good job of pushing my
buttons, I mean. Not 'right' like anything else.

"Is there a point to this?" I was feeling hungry to the point where everything reminded me of
food.

Well, I was in a cafeteria, so yeah

Nina regarded me seriously. "We were wondering like, who looks hotter with his shirt off?"

"Huh?" I asked smartly, rubbing my forehead again. I didn't hear that right. I tugged on my
earlobe. "Say what now?"

"Like, who looks hot-ter with his shirt off?" Nina repeated slowly.

"'Cause we like, totally know you've seen Scott shirtless. You guys living together and all," the
other girl added, a dreamy look spreading across her face.

"I'd like to gouge out my eyeballs right now," I requested. They ignored me.

"And we know you've like, seen David Weston shirtless," the shorter one giggled.

God, if you're out there, if you like me, please

"Yeah, Sam. Who's hotter?" David asked casually, crossing his arms over his chest.

Okay, what major sin did I commit to warrant this particular brand of hell? I turned to David, who
could barely contain his laughter. "You are a stupid, shallow, egotistical prick," I informed him
coolly.

"So, not me, then?" He asked, pretending to look hurt. His lower lip stuck out slightly, in a kind
of endearing pout, but his eyes sparkled with laughter, and I wanted to inflict serious bodily
harm on him right then.
Why me? Why me why me why me why me?

"Not you in a million years."

"Not even after last night?" He asked, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

Evil bastard. Son of Satan. Source of all that is wretched and vile!

"You're sick, you know that? You're really sick." I walked away from him and the two open-
mouthed girls who I then recognized as the two eleven-year-olds who'd spray-painted Scott's
car a couple of years ago on some dare.

"No, I'm not," David called out, following me. He grabbed my hand and laced his fingers through
mine as I darted around tables and people just standing around for no apparent reason.

Excuse me, lads and lasses. That's why we have chairs, so you can sit and not be obscuring
people's paths to and fro.

Morons.

"Yes, you are. You're sick. That's a sick thing to do."

He sighed. "Sam, did we actually do anything last night?"

"No."

"Don't sound so upset," he smirked.


"I'll hit you," I threatened. "I swear to God, I will."

"Sam, why do you even care what a couple of kids think?" He asked.

"David, why do you even care if I care?"

"'Cause I do," he replied simply, giving my hand a small squeeze.

I blinked stupidly. "Um right." Then, like the extremely intelligent person I was: "Food. Um, I
want. You want? Um, food, I mean?"

I swear, it's like I have a disease or something, I thought, mentally hitting myself repeatedly.

But in my defence, he was holding my hand. And his hand was warm. But not too warm. And he
hand a strong grip, but without the overkill. He was, dare I say, being gentle. And also, there
was none of that sweaty palms nonsense.

Someone shoot me, please. Or at least stop the very wrong wrongness that's going on here.

"Food would be good," he smirked, leading me to the table around which our friends sat.

This is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The wrongness of it all is unbelievable.

What's so wrong?

Excuse me. Have we not been paying attention for the last half an hour? Since when do I stand
behind potted plants because I'm too scared to talk to my friends, and have a normal
conversation with David Weston, and hold hands with him?

Does someone need a nappy? Because someone sounds vewy cwanky.

Shove it.

You know, David had a point. You do like to be broody, don't you?

Sorry?

Well, you could just be taking whatever's happening in stride, but it's so like you to freak out
over it and make it seem like it's of the bad.
My inner confusion was put on temporary pause as a head of bright yellow obscured my vision.

"Sam! Where've you been all day?" I winced as Madison proceeded to crush whatever
remaining energy I had left out of me. For someone so angelic-looking and fragile, she's
surprisingly strong. "Come to think of it, I haven't seen you, either, David. Not since breakfast."

Scott raised an eyebrow and looked from me, to David, and down to the holding of hands,
before his jaw dropped. He quickly composed himself, but the look of surprise remained on his
face nonetheless.

"I was around," David replied, dropping my hand and sliding into an empty chair.

I do not sound disappointed.

"Madison, you're not mad at me?" I asked, as David began to have a whispered conversation
with my stepbrother. Of course, since Madison still had her death grip around me, my words to
her came out way more muffled. She still managed to make them out, though.

"Why would you think I'm mad at you?"

"Because you're trying to squeeze the life out of her?" David interjected, practically drowning his
mashed potatoes in gravy.

"Oops. Sorry." She let go of me, a sheepish smile on her face.

"It's okay," I gasped, sliding into an empty chair. "No broken bones or ruptured arteries or
exploding spleens-"
"Excuse me, but can we please not talk about exploding spleens at the dinner table?" David
asked, looking uneasily at his food.

"What about the broken bones, then?" Ian asked brightly. "Can we talk about those?"

"Or the ruptured arteries?" Scott added, piling carrots onto his plate.

"So, uh, where were you this morning?" I asked Madison casually, while the boys were talking
about dismembered limbs and the various degrees of decapitation.

"Oh shit! Didn't the alarm go off?"

"No."

"Shit, shit, shit," she muttered. "I accidentally pulled out the cord this morning. I thought I reset
the clock, but"

"Oh, no, you did," I assured her. "The alarm rang exactly an hour ago." It was now seven
o'clock. In the evening.

"Sorry, Sam."

"It's okay. I wasn't late for class, if that's what you were thinking. So you're really not upset with
me?" I persisted. "Like, not even a little?"

She gave me a weird look. "No," she replied slowly, brushing some hair out of her blue eyes.
"Why would I be?"

"No reason," I replied brightly, relieved.

From over her shoulder, David watched our conversation with interest. 'Told you so,' he
mouthed, once he caught my eye.

Arrogant jerk.

I stuck out my tongue at him and turned back to Madison. "So where were you again?"

"Oh," she said, taking a bite out of her burger. "Yeah. About that. I was at cheerleading practice.
Or, more accurately, tryouts."
"How'd that go?" I asked, pouring Caesar dressing over my salad.

"Well, we started off great. Then, things took a turn for the worse."

"The football team again?" I asked, giving David a withering glance. Every year, Madison
always recounted how the football team came to spy on the cheerleading tryouts, which,
coincidentally, took place on the football field.

"Yep. And the track team. And the basketball team. And the swim team. And the wrestling team.
And the soccer team. And the cricket team. And the-"

I held up my hand to silence her. "I think I get the picture. Was there a boys' sports team that
wasn't there?"

"I didn't see anyone from the hockey team," David volunteered.

"That's because you were too busy ogling at the ninth graders," Ian retorted.

"How'd you know that, when you were practically climbing the fence just to see better?" David
countered.

"You should talk. You were on full-scale alert because you thought you'd see-" Scott reached
over and clamped a hand on Ian's mouth, much to David's obvious relief. He looked like he was
going to wet his pants.

"Aw, and things were just getting interesting" Madison quipped.


"Please," I snorted. "I spent half an hour being all avoidy for no damn apparent reason, and then
I spent another twenty minutes behind a seven-foot-tall fern listening to two thirteen-year-olds
gossip by the vending machine. Watching the guys being extra testosterone-y does absolutely
nothing for my appetite."

And yet I was still gorging on my dinner like there was no tomorrow.

"And yet you're practically vacuuming the food like there's no tomorrow," Scott said. I gave him
a dirty look.

"It's nerves," Ian interjected sagely.

"Say what now?"

"She's nervous. And rightly so. After that disaster of an announcement" I winced. I was hoping
no one was going to bring that up.

"And now, here to give you the details on this year's annual charity event, Samantha Spade and
David Weston."

"David, give me the microphone!"

"No, you give it to me!"

"I'm the one in charge of this whole thing! Give it!"

"I'm your partner! So let me talk!"

"You don't even know what to say! Let me explain, and then you can talk!"

"Sam, give me the damn thing!"

"You want it? Fine."

"Um uh"

"Cat got your tongue?"

"Uh"
"David?"

"Invisible eyes"

"Oh, for the love of- hey! Give me that!"

"And those are your afternoon announcements, fellow students! Have a great afternoon, and
we'll see you again tomorrow morning!"

"How can you see anyone? We're not on television."

"Oh, so now he talks."

"Shut up, Sam."

Yes, David and I actually fought over the microphone, and when I'd finally given it to him, that
was when the idiot remembered he had a fear of public speaking.

I mean, really now.

"Please don't remind me," I moaned, burying my face in my hands.

"It wasn't that bad," Madison tried.


"Uh, yeah, it was."

"Well, if someone hadn't acted like she was four," David began lightly.

"No, if someone else had, like me, remembered that he was shit at public speaking, then maybe
we could've saved ourselves some embarrassment." I retorted icily, taking a sip of my drink.

Ooh. Coke. Taste of the forbidden.

"Maybe if you put some faith in me once in a while-"

"Did I or did I not give you the mic?" I demanded.

"Yeah, but-"

"And did you or did you not completely freeze up?"

"Okay, yeah, but-"

"So what have we learned?"

"That you're a control freak?"

I glared at him. "No. We've learned that you're immature and childish, and that Sam knows
best."

"No, we've learned that you're wait, is that Coke?"

I smiled sweetly and raised my glass to him. "Cheers." I drank the entire glass in one breath and
stared defiantly at him when I was done. He pushed back his chair and walked out of the
cafeteria.

"Well, you're on a roll this week, aren't you?" Scott remarked sarcastically.

"Hey, when I'm good, I'm good." So what if I made David mad? I don't care. I don't. I really,
really don't, because that hand-holding thing meant nothing, and everything is just as it was
before, and I don't care Okay, yeah, I do. Weirdness.

"I mean, is it like a personal goal of yours or something to alienate each of your friends by the
end of the week?" Scott continued.
"Okay, I get it," I interjected testily. "I'm in the wrong. Bad me. I'll make with the apologies,
okay?"

"Don't do it just because I'm telling you to. I wouldn't want to ruin your perfect record of never
listening to me."

"God, someone's bitchy today. I'll say the 'I'm sorry's, and I'll say them 'cause I mean them from
the bottom of my little heart," I assured him.

"Word of advice? Apologies don't work with the sarcasm."

I inhaled deeply. "I'm sorry," I said sincerely. I swear. I made eye contact and everything.

"Me too," Scott replied, biting down on his lip. "I didn't have a right-"

"No, I didn't have a right-"

"You had every right-"

"Well, so did you-"

"No, your life is your own-"

"Yeah, but so's yours-"


"But you're not the one messing up people's lives-"

"Yeah, just my own-"

"I need to learn to think-"

"I need to learn to think-"

"You think enough. I'm the disappointment-"

"Please. You are the most kick-ass big brother ever. Even if you do get a little bossy."

"And you're the, uh, spiffiest little sister. Even if you get stupid once in a while."

I grinned. "Wait, 'spiffiest'? Dude, what's that all about?"

"Am I the only one who's missing something here?" Ian cried out exasperatedly.

"Join the club," Madison muttered, tightening her ponytail.

Scott tossed me a brownie. "Thanks," I replied.

"It's not for you, smart ass," he muttered, shaking his head.

"Peace offering?" I sighed.

"There is no problem that can't be solved by chocolate," he replied wisely.

"You speak the truth, O Wise One." I smiled and put the chocolaty square in my pocket. "Later,
peeps." As I was leaving, I heard Madison and Ian pestering Scott.

"Okay, seriously, what just happened in those last five minutes?"

Damn it, it's getting cold.

Well, you know, it is October, Einstein.

No need to be snippy. I'm just merely stating a fact.

Right. Because you're too busy watching David run around the track to actually have a complex
thought.
I don't think I like your insinuation.

And I don't think I like your tone.

What tone? I'm not even speaking aloud.

Thought-tone. I don't like your thought-tone.

Again, weirdness.

At least you remembered to bring a jacket this time.

And no more tank tops.

Score.
See? I remembered-ed.

No more Simpsons for you. Ev-er.

Well, you're no fun.

Well, I try. I am your conscience, after all.

Really? Oh, thank God. I was getting a little freaked out, there. You know, hearing voices in my
head, having conversations with myself-

Oh, here he comes

And there he goes. He saw me, right?

No fucking duh. Sam, I think you need to learn when you're being ignored.

Ignored? Moi? What, just 'cause he passed me five times already?

Save yourself the embarrassment and take a hint. Say you're sorry later when you're both calm.

Nope, don't wanna. 'Sides, I'm calm. He's had enough time to be calm. It's calmness abound,
really.

Why are you so adamant about this?

I have no frickin' clue, to be quite honest. But you know how I love a challenge.

And I also know how you sorely despise confrontation. So remind me again why you're moving
closer to the track? No, wait. Explain why you're running backwards in front of him?

"Hi," I ventured tentatively. He didn't even look up.

Oh God. Have you learned nothing from me? Be smart, Samantha.

Shut the hell up.

"I said, 'hi'. Hmm, again with the lack of acknowledgement? A girl might start to think you're
ignoring her."

"And why ever would I do that?" He muttered, trying to get past me. I moved in front of him.
"Ahh, he talks. See, I was starting to think-"

"Sam, stop. No funny games or cute lines, okay? In case you haven't gotten it, I'm upset. More
accurately, I'm upset with you. So, just leave me alone or something, okay?"

"Nope, sorry. No can do," I chirped.

With an even expression, David pushed past me and began to run once more. Sighing
resignedly, and really glad that I'd worn sneakers, I sprinted to catch up to and keep pace with
him.

"Sam."

"Ooh, warning tone," I muttered, my lungs starting to ache. He was running just fast enough for
me to keep up with him, but the cold air was seriously burning my throat.

"Can I ask why you're here?"

I bit back the 'You can' that was threatening to come out, and instead took the honest approach.
"You, upset. Me, sorry."
"And that's Neanderthal for?"

"For I'm sorry?"

"Are you asking me or telling me?"

"Are you enjoying this?" I asked in between gasps for air.

"Little bit, yeah," he admitted.

"You're so evil."

He turned and began to run backward, so he was facing me. "I'm sorry, was that the apology?"

I narrowed my eyes. "Sure I'm sorry. I'm sorry that you're such a son of a-"

Without word, without warning, David stumbled backward on the track, and while I was half-
inclined to berate him for being stupid enough to A, run around at night in near-darkness, and B,
run backwards, the other half of me was too busy with the yelping. Yeah, see, he pulled me
down with him.

"Ow," I breathed, landing hard on something hard. Well, hard-ish. Solid, more like it. And
warm.

Oh, goddamn it.

"Comfortable?"

That wasn't even worth a glare. "I'll be even more comfortable once you let me go, hint hint."
See, David's arm was kind of around my waist yeah

Cue shallow breathing and aversion of eye contact. Thank God it was dark.

"Ah. But 'even more' implies that you already are. Comfortable, that is." Even in the near-
obsidian darkness, I could make out his stupid grin.

"You're insufferable. I honestly don't even know why I put all that effort in trying to apologize to
you, when you only act like a complete jackass."

"Apologize? To me?"
"Yeah, I had the brownie peace offering and everything. Well, everything being the brownie
peace offering," I amended, catching his eye. They looked tender and warm, and emotive.

"Do I still get the brownie?" He asked softly, the corners of his lips curving upward.

"I'll have to think about that," I murmured, my heart hammering in my chest. I vaguely wondered
if he could hear it, or feel it. He'd have a field day knowing that he made my pulse race as fast
as it was going.

He pushed back the hair that had fallen into my face and held it. Yeah, there was cupping of the
chin involved. "What about now?"

"What about now?" I asked quietly.

Hasta coherent thinking. My God, since when did David have such remarkable eyes?

"You tell me," he whispered, pulling me down, pulling me closer, to meet his mouth.

Chapter Seven: In All Honesty?

"Sam?" David whispered into my ear. His warm breath tickled the back of my neck.
"Yeah?" His hair smelled really nice, like it did outside after it rained really hard. And despite the
early October chill, he was warm. Really, very attractively, warm.

Oh my God. I'm attracted to-

"As much as I like you eagle-spread on top of me, would you mind getting off? There's the little
matter of me needing to breathe."

"Wha huh?"

Not my smartest of replies, I know, but I thought that that moment was going in a whole different
direction.

"I mean," he continued conversationally, "I know you like being so close to me and all, and I
always figured you to be the kind of girl who'd want the guy on top you don't really seem like
the dominatrix type but could you?"

Scowling and not because I had to get off of him I put a palm on his chest, and as hard as I
could, pushed myself up.

Brownie's mine now, asshole.

"Ow," he whined, extending a hand to me. I looked at him.

"What?" I asked coldly, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Help me up."

"What's the magic word?"

"Now?"

"How about 'please'?"

"Why would the magic word be 'please'?"

"Why would the magic word be 'now'? Other than the fact that you're a bossy, arrogant, son of
a"
"Because 'now' is 'won' backwards," he interrupted me, giving me the 'Exactly how stupid are
you?' look.

"David, exactly how many times have you hit your head playing football?" I asked, raising my
eyebrows.

"Um seventeen."

"Well, that solves one mystery," I muttered, raking a hand through my hair.

"Very funny, Sam."

"I try."

"Now help me up. Please."

"Well, since you asked so nicely," I replied sarcastically, extending my hand to him.

"Man, you're weak," he muttered, as I stumbled backward slightly in my attempt to pull him up.

"Next time, I'm leaving you in the grass," I informed him, wiping blades of grass off my jeans.

"Next time, you'll be with me in the grass."

"Go to hell."
"I'll save you a seat."

"Why are you so bad for?" David is the only person who can make me feel frustrated just by
looking at him.

"Bad? Me?" For some reason, that made his smile widen. "What? You think I'm a bad boy,
Sam? Aren't good girls like yourself supposed to like bad boys?"

"Not when they're stuck-up, arrogant assholes like you."

"Oh, I'm the stuck-up one?" His voice took on a hard edge.

"I think that's what I said."

"Right. I'm the stuck-up one when all you do is look down at me. Bet you think you have me all
figured out, too, huh? Spoiled little rich boy, gets whatever he wants, not good enough for you."
He shook his head disgustedly.

Me think-eth this is becoming more personal.

No shit. You think?

"Actually, it's more along the lines of, 'spoiled little rich boy, so full of himself, he is, that he
doesn't take anyone or anything but himself seriously'."

"You're wrong."

"Really? 'Cause I've got about three years of history between the two of us that says otherwise.
You're smart, you really are. But half the time you completely slack off and you make these half-
assed attempts."

"I do good when it counts."

"Like hell you do," I spat out. If it's one thing I hate, it's when people who have the talent, have
the opportunity, and have the brains to go far, and then they completely waste it. "What? You
think because you ace the tests and the exams that it's all you need to do? You're completely
shitting yourself if you think that. How can you be as smart as you are, and not strive to do the
best you can?"
Comprehension dawned on his face. "I get it now. All this time, you've been jealous of me."

I widened my eyes. "What the hell?"

"You have to work so hard to get your marks, whereas, I don't."

"Actually," I began icily, "I'm not jealous of you."

"Sam, really," he began, soothingly, "it's okay"

"I'm sorry for you. I see your life, and you know what? You're right. I see someone who doesn't
have to work for anything, but who seems to get everything anyway. I mean, you have the
money, you have the grades, and you have the good looks and the girls. But don't think for one
second that I'm jealous of you. I work for what I have, and I work hard. The things I have, they
have meaning because I earned them. Can you say the same?" He was silent. And looked very
pissed off.

When's he's angry, he's really

Don't finish that sentence if you value your life.

But

No.

He's
Don't. Say. It.

Hot.

Yeah yeah, I suppose he is.

"You know what?" He asked finally, and very much heatedly, I may add. "You know what?
Maybe everything that you just said is true, but you know what?"

"Enlighten me, why don't you?"

"At least I live. At least I don't just shuffle through every day and waste my life."

"I don't"

"I didn't interrupt you, so shut the hell up and listen to me."

Oh cripes.

Well, this is new.

Have we ever seen David really pissed off?

There was that time in Tim Horton's a couple weeks back.

Oh, right, right.

His eyes.

What? You wanna write a freakin' sonnet about how gorgeous his eyes are when he's in a
temper? Honestly.

No, asshole. I just wanted to point out that they're practically black. He's really mad. I mean,
really mad.

No shit. You think?

"I do what makes me happy, which is more than I can say for you. I have fun, I enjoy being
young while I can. I live. Carpe diem and all that. But you? You say you feel sorry for me? I feel
sorry for you. I mean, what good is working so hard to achieve something if you won't take the
time to kick back and enjoy what you've achieved? I mean, no wonder you've never had a
boyfriend. Who the hell in his right mind would want to date someone who'd only nag him or
criticize him or annoy him to death? I mean, can you even feel emotion? At all?"

A second's pause to get over the shock, and then: "Yeah? Well at least I don't subject myself to
just going out with the first person who looks my way."

"Sam, if only you could be that lucky."

Bitch-slap him. He so deserves it.

You bitch-slap him. I've got more important things to do.

Like stare at his eyes?

Maybe I'll bitch-slap you. Honestly now.

"Hey, better to be single than to be your latest flavour of the week," I countered.

Ooh, nice one.


"Better to be my latest flavour of the week than to be known as the dateless loser who went all
through high school without even so much as a second glance from a guy."

Ooooh, check.

"Do you even hear yourself?" I asked shrilly. "You wonder why we don't get along? I'll tell you
why. Why I violently dislike the kind of person I am when you're around. I'm mean, I'm bitchy,
I'm belittling, and it's your entire damn fault! My attitude towards you? It has absolutely nothing
to do with first impressions. It has everything to do with second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth
impressions! You've been a Grade-A asshole since the day we met, and how the hell can you
even expect me to talk to you maturely and civilly, to take you seriously, when you don't even
take me seriously?"

Checkmate.

"Bullshit"

"No, it's really not." I took a deep breath to calm myself down before continuing quietly. "You
never talk to me like I'm a person."

I hated how hurt and desperate that sounded, like I actually gave a damn how David saw me.
Like hell I did. But it was the principle of the thing, you know?

"I mean," I continued, "maybe I would take your so-called jokes in fun if you were actually nice
to me, or even serious with me, now and then. But you're not. And I mean, we're not even
friends, because how can we be? All we do is fight and humiliate and hurt each other, for God
knows why. What kinds of friends do that to each other? What kinds of people do that to each
other? Separate, we're good people. I've seen how you are, how you can be"

"Taken to scoping me out?" The sarcasm was somewhat diminished by the hoarseness of his
voice.

"Stop. This isn't a joke. This has to be said. Just I just-" I reached into my pocket and pulled
out the slightly-crushed brownie and tossing it at him. "Enjoy your dessert."

Don't cry. Why would you cry? There's no reason to cry, goddamn it!

"You're wrong," he murmured, catching it in mid-air. "You're so completely wrong."


I shrugged, blinking back a couple of tears. "Then prove it."

And here commence-eth the long walk to the dorm.

Honestly, now's so not the time.

Needless to say, when I got back to my room, I wasn't in the best of temperaments. Madison
had some happy, poppy music blaring from the speakers, which did nothing to aid my mood.
Ordinarily, I'd act like a goof right alongside her and do really bad karaoke, but I just wasn't in
the mood.

"Uh oh," Madison said, pulling her Tinkerbell nightshirt over her head, "I take it from the look on
your face that the apology didn't exactly go well?"

"Understatement of the year." I sighed deeply and climbed into my bed without changing. That
was how tired I was.

"What exactly did you say to each other? You look like hell, Sam."

"Gee, thanks." You can always rely on your best friend to reiterate how crappy you look. That's
a given.

"Seriously."

"Seriously?" Normally, I'd give Madison the vaguest of details, since David was her other best
friend, but I was too wiped to give a damn. There was something about this latest exchange of
words that was different from all the rest. I mean, the intensity and stubbornness and fierce
desire to prove him wrong, hey, that was still there. But I'd come away from it with a strange,
unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt anxious and apprehensive and extremely sick.
"C'mon, Sam, spill."

"I told him that when I'm around him that when he's around me, I-"

"You can't think straight, you're so in love?"

It was because of lines like that that I'd decided to leave out the part about the almost-maybe-
kiss.

I gave her a blank look. The humour was lost on me. "I told him that I'm a bad person, that I
don't like who I am when he's around. I don't like who he is when he's around me." For some
reason, I was in serious self-pity mode. "I'm noticing a general 'me' theme here," I continued
expressionlessly, staring blankly at a point over the blonde hair that was piled up haphazardly
on Madison's head.

"Sam-"

"God, I was a bitch." I shook my head and ran a hand through my hair. "I pretty much told him
he didn't deserve anything good he had, because he's never worked hard and put in the effort to
earn it." I bit down on my lip. Madison opened her mouth to say something, but before she could
speak, I cut her off. "I know, where do I get off, right? Fuck. Maybe he was right. Maybe a part of
me is jealous of him. He's got great parents, and he's so smart without even trying, and he's
gorgeous and everyone loves him he's like the 'It' guy, you know?"

And why do we care if the 'It' guy thinks we exist merely for his amusement?

'Cause we're a girl and we're into feelings and all that sentimental bullshit.

Right. Feelings. Such as lust? Or maybe 'like'?

Such as shut the hell up before I make you shut the hell up. I am so not going down that road
right now.

"Sam-"

"Don't say it, Maddy. I know. Me bad. Bad me. God, it's like lately, the art of tact has been lost
on me. I know I shouldn't have said all that-"

"Actually," she interrupted me loudly, "you definitely should have."


I blinked. "Say what now?"

"For years David's been coasting by. He may be my friend, but that doesn't mean I approve of
everything he's doing, that I don't think he's making some really bad decisions. If you got to him
as much as he got to you, then Sam? That's good, 'cause hopefully you'll make him second-
guess the way he's been behaving as of late. But speaking of, what did he tell you that's got you
all mopey?"

"Oh, just that I'm a workaholic ice queen who has no emotion, and that's why I can't get a guy to
give me a second glance," I replied much more flippantly than I felt. "You know, nothing of the
big."

Madison's baby blues flashed dangerously with anger. "He said what?" She asked in a harsh
whisper.

"Uh." I was beginning to regret opening my mouth; when Madison was really angry which
was seldom ever well, let's just say it's never of the good to be on the receiving end of her
wrath.

"Absolutely no right damned hypocrite of all the brainless, senseless, moronic things to"
Slowly easing off the bed, I grabbed a set of night clothes and went into the bathroom to
change. When I came back out, she was still muttering angrily. Well, more like raving loudly on
the telephone. "I don't give a damn! I do not care! Okay? You were so way out of line!
And yeah? Good! Good for you! You should be sorry! She's got ridiculously low self-esteem
already-"

"Hey!" I called out indignantly. I could hazard a guess at who she was speaking to. And about.

"Well, you do," she told me bluntly. She turned back to the phone. "No, not you, asshole. God,
your confidence levels could power all of New York City for a year. Yes, that's an insult.
Listen, I spent three years getting her this far, and so help me God, if you do anything to screw
this up, I will so kick your ass, David. What do you mean, as if I could take you? Yeah, you
better recognize"
And let me just say that it doesn't exactly make for a peaceful night's sleep when you drift off
listening to your friend bitching out the school hottie, or when you have really weird dreams
about the computer in the language lab stealing all the Pop-Tarts of the world and ruling
supreme.

Damned technologically-superior race, stealing my chocolate chippies.

Like I said, lack of sleep. And lack of sleep makes one incredibly out of it the next day.

Which would, therefore, account for me walking straight into David.

And you really think I'd have noticed him.

Because he's so tall and so there, I mean, and thereby noticeable. Not because of any other
reason.

"Hey," he said, staring at some spot just beyond my right shoulder.

"Hey." Huh. Did my voice just sound as cool and casual as his did? I bet not. I bet it was just a
squeak and he thinks I've actually spent all night obsessing over what he said as if.

"Hey." That final greeting came from Madison. It was then that I was all-too-painfully aware that
I was in-between the best friends. Both literally and figuratively. I mean, I was standing right
between them. And I caused Madison to bitch out David.

Hello, awkward silence.

"Right. Well, I'm going to go over there," I babbled, "and you guys can just talk and resolve
your differences 'cause you're lifelong best friends and nothing and no one should come in the
way of that and I'm going to get a Pop-Tart before they're all taken away by the technological
megalomaniacal bastards, so um, see you in English, Mads."

Cue hasty retreat.

I made a beeline for the cafeteria and waited fifteen whole minutes in the line before I got a
chocolate-chip muffin, my daily dosage of chocolate-chip Pop-Tarts, and a large carton of milk
for breakfast. Plus a couple banana-nut muffins and other assorted breakfast pastries for
snacks throughout the day.
What? I figure, if you've already let yourself go, what the hell.

'Sides, not like I have anyone to impress or anything.

Having around twenty minutes before the first class of the day began, I wandered outside and
instantly spotted Ian under one of the larger maple trees we have outside the cafeteria building.

"Hey there, slacker," I called out. Ian is anything but. At that moment, he was reading some
book on religion and art in ancient eastern civilizations. And I'm not quite sure if that was part of
the syllabus.

"What's with all the carbohydrate-y goodness?" He indicated my bag o' pastries. "You planning
on bulking up for football team tryouts?"

I tossed my orange at his head. "Don't make fun."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're sensitive about your weight which girl isn't?"

"And when did you become an expert on the female variety?" I gave up trying to cross my legs
in a comfortable position, and settled for leaning against the tree beside my friend, with my legs
stretched out in front of me.

"Between Madison and yourself, I have picked up a few good-to-knows over the years."

"Such as?" I offered him a muffin. He declined.

"Such as never tease a girl about trying out for the football team. And never imply that she
might like someone from said team, if she's of the stubborn, hard-headed variety."
I gave him a Look. "Don't start."

"Oh, but Sam, you're not stubborn and hard-headed," he replied innocently. "You're hard-
headed and stubborn."

"Oh, ha ha. How droll."

"What's 'droll' mean?"

"Something amusing," I informed him. "Wow, I'm surprised you didn't know that one there, Mr.
Genius."

"You're the language-slash-humanities expert. I'm the science-slash-math nerd."

"Ah, yes. It's just so hard to keep track these days, what with me taking Chemistry and Bio and
Functions and Stats, and you with your World Issues and Philosophy."

"How are you getting along in your math-y classes?" His bluer-than-blue eyes gazed at me
questioningly.

"Stats kinda boring, but it's easy. Biology's not bad. I mean, there's the impending dissection,
but my partner's Victor Sanford, so I'll just get him to do the icky stuff for me." My smile flickered
just a teeny bit. "Functions and Chemistry are good classes, but I've got David in both of them.
It's weird. And distracting."

He gave me a teasing grin. "I bet."

I whacked him on his arm. "Not like that! My Chemistry partner's Laura Brennan, and I mean,
God. David and his partner sit right in front of us, and Laura's always too busy flirting with David
and Josh to pay attention to what we're supposed to be doing. And hell if I'm gonna let her coast
by the entire year without doing anything."

"I'm sure it's not that bad," Ian began, trying to pacify me.

Eternal optimists. Don't they just piss you the hell off sometimes?

"Oh yeah? Last class, she left a capped test tube with a little alcohol in it too near the Bunsen
burner. It exploded. Glass everywhere. Thank goodness for safety goggles and good ducking
reflexes."
"Your marks are okay, though?" For the past couple of years, Madison, Ian, and I have done
this round-robin study session for the finals and midterms. Since we each have our particular
specialty subjects and all.

"Five by five," I replied cheerfully. "Class morale could be better, but hey. It's high school."

He smiled and his hand drifted up to his arm, where I'd punched him earlier. Because his
sleeves were rolled up, I could see the beginnings of a nasty purple bruise forming.

"Ian" My grin faded completely. "I didn't hit you that hard did I?"

"No. But I, ah it was already hurt. From basketball practice. The one we had earlier this
morning."

"Oh."

I should just take this moment to mention that Ian is one hell of a good liar. Except he's got a
tell, so in retrospect, he sucks ass at lying. He always blinks exactly five times and pauses for
exactly three seconds before he gives his award-winning performance.

"Honestly, Sam. I'm fine." He squeezed my shoulder.

"Okay. Just go to the nurse and get that looked at or something. It looks icky."

"Yeah, I was gonna go during lunch." He got up and dusted off his pants.

"Wait, where are you going?"


"Class. My Physics class is all the way on the other side of campus, remember?"

"But we've still got time. And who'll help me eat all these wonderfully yummy treats?" I held up
the white paper bag to him.

"Not hungry. But thanks."

"Take one," I said in my most commanding voice. "You didn't eat this morning."

"And how would you know that, Miss Cleo?"

"You said you had a basketball practice this morning? Your morning practices usually last until
about forty minutes or so before the bell. You were already sitting here when I wandered out, so
that means you had just enough time to shower, change, and come out here."

Blink times five. Pause, pause, pause. "I grabbed something on my way through the caf."

"Nice try," I retorted without missing a beat, "but there's no trash anywhere around here. So quit
making excuses and take a damn muffin."

He specifically picked out my one chocolate-chip. And I know he did it just to spite me.

Boys.

"Madison," I whispered, once Ms. Harris had turned to the blackboard. We were sitting side-by-
side at the very back of the classroom, which afforded us ample opportunities for whispered
conversations.

"Yeah?"

"Have you noticed anything funny about Ian lately?"

"Not really. I mean, he's not really a Chatty Cathy these days, but he's quiet by nature."

"Yeah" I let that issue drop. Ian was a quiet person, but he'd always told me when something
bugged him. If he wasn't saying anything, then nothing was up.

Or he just doesn't want you to know that there's something up.

Shush, you.
I mean, what could possibly be so serious that Ian wouldn't tell you?

If there was something serious, he would tell me. If there's a thing he's not telling me, then it's
not my business to know. He probably just has a crush on a girl or something.

Do you honestly believe that nothing's wrong with him?

Is the sky red?

Point taken.

There is something up with him, but I'll just have to trust him to tell me when he's ready.

"Hey." Madison's finger poked me out of my reverie. Quite literally, actually.

"Yeah?"

"I said, what are we going as?"

"Going as for what?"


"For the Halloween Costume Ball." She gave me the slow look.

I get the slow look a lot.

"Oh. That. I dunno." Since the ninth grade, we'd always coordinated our costumes. My first year,
we had gone as Harry Potter-type witches. In tenth grade, we'd done the sexy vampire theme
Madison's idea and last year, we'd gone as completely the opposite. With Madison in her
cheerleader's uniform and stake in hand, and me in an uncomfortable pair of tight black pants
well, Madison really made me regret choosing the theme of 'The Chosen Two' for our costumes.

On the plus side, I did find out the uncomfortable fact that leather pants are my thing. I'm not
quite sure how I should feel about that.

"Sam! The dance is only about three weeks away!"

"Only three weeks?" I replied dryly.

"Very funny."

"Mads, why are we discussing this in English class? We can talk about it at lunch or after
school."

"Because at lunch and after school, the guys are going to be around, and I don't want them to
know what we're going as."

"Why?" I had horrible visions of leather.

"David made me a bet." I groaned. David and Madison are alike in the scary way that you can
never issue a challenge to either of them. They'd die before backing down. "It's the two of us
against him, your brothers, and Ian."

"What's the what?"

"Come Halloween night, we have to pick each other out among the crowd."

"Well, that should be easy enough."

"This year, it's a masked ball."


"Huh. So you're telling me the purpose of this little challenge that Weston issued to you is that
we have to identify each other before the dance is over, based on what, exactly?"

"On our costume ideas and what we know about the person."

"We're gonna be chatting up all the guys over five-foot-ten? That's half the damn male
population."

"Well, I'll take half, and you take half."

"Ms. Spade, care to take opposition against Mr. Denton's point?" Ms. Harris called out, bringing
all conversation about the Halloween dance to a halt.

"Sure," I replied cheerfully. See, I have this uncanny knack for being able to carry on a
whispered conversation, and at the same time, be completely aware of what's going on in class.

Lucky, lucky me.

"Jake, you said something to the effect that Romeo and Juliet is one of the world's greatest
tragedies, but I totally disagree with you there. Yeah, they had the whole 'forbidden, star-
crossed love' thing. But they were two children. They were what, fourteen-ish? Not that I'm
saying there's a set age at which you can automatically feel mature emotions, but I don't think
what Romeo and Juliet felt was true love. Puppy love, maybe. I mean, there's no denying they
felt something for each other.

"But true love's more than just waxing poetic about the moonlight's reflection in a person's eyes.
I think true love has a sense of maturity about it. You love that person so completely much, that
you don't lose yourself in them, but you kind of become a part of them, and vice versa. Romeo
and Juliet were just kids. Maybe they could have had true love, but they were immature and
inexperienced. And that whole 'dying because my love died' crap? That's not great tragedy.
That, to me, is kind of pathetic, because I have to feel that if you lost the person you love,
then that person wouldn't want you to kill yourself. That person would want you to live and make
it through the pain to find happiness again. Otherwise, it's just selfish, and love isn't selfish."

My mouth suddenly felt drier than the Sahara.

Ms. Harris gave me an approving nod. "Excellent argument, Ms. Spade. You stated your
opinion, backed it up quite sufficiently, and you made an interesting point. How do we apply
today's standards to the kinds of lifestyles and beliefs that were of historical times? Can we
even do such a thing? Oh, good morning, Mr. Weston. To what do I owe the pleasure of you
interrupting my class?"

Even under Ms. Harris' clearly annoyed expression, David was cool. Gotta give the guy props
for that.

"I'm supposed to bring Samantha down to the nurse's station."

"I do believe Ms. Spade is in perfect health. She's in no need of medical attention."

"Her brother wants her," he replied flatly, handing my teacher a slip of green paper. Ms. Harris
skimmed it before clucking her tongue disappointedly. "Ms. Spade, go down to the nurse's
office. And take your things with you. Class will be over soon."

I nodded and hurriedly tossed my things into my bag and got up to go. Madison squeezed my
hand assuredly before I left my desk. The last few times I'd been summoned to the nurse's
office last year had been when Scott kicked some major ass and had wanted me there to calm
down my mother and Adam when the headmaster had made the inevitable call home.

God, Scott. Who the hell did you beat up now?

Chapter Eight: Five By Five

The walk to the nurse's office was an unbelievably long one the infirmary was located in the
main building, a couple blocks from the Languages and Humanities building. The walk was
made even longer by the fact that my companion and I weren't even so much as breathing
loudly. Well, David did ask me if I was cold when we first stepped outside, but I'd just shrugged,
and he hadn't said anything else after that.
"So, um since when did you start working in the infirmary?" Dr. Langer, the head physician at
our school hospital, didn't just ask random students to run messages down to others for her;
only those that worked for her were given that high privilege. I'd know; I volunteered for her back
in the tenth grade.

"Oh, so now you decide to talk, huh?" He asked coldly.

Of course he had to be sarcastic. Of course.

"Never mind," I muttered, picking up my speed. The cold was positively piercing. "Obviously, it's
impossible to have a civil conversation with you, isn't it?"

"You started it."

Oh, and he's so mature. Did I mention that?

"Yeah? Well, now I'm un-starting it, so you can be an insufferable ass or you can be a polite
ass."

"Wow, what a choice," he muttered sarcastically.

"Never mind. Forget it." Of course David had to be impossible when I was actually trying to be
nice and work my way up to an 'I'm sorry I said you were worthless and made Madison get mad
at you.' Of course.

He sighed, raking a hand through his already-unruly hair. "This is you trying, isn't it? I'm sorry,
this is new to me. I usually don't feel so crappy after we fight, and I sure as hell never had the
impulse to apologize before."

"That makes two of us," I muttered. "I wait. Did the words 'I'm sorry' just come out of your
mouth?" I raised my eyebrows.

He gave me a Look, which plainly meant, 'Don't be difficult'. "Yes."

"And you were talking to me?" Well, I never said I was going to heed the Look.
"Yes."

"You apologized to me?"

"Yes. Should I be regretting that now?"

"Wow." I looked skyward.

"What are you looking up for?"

"Are pigs flying yet?"

He gave me a dirty look. "Very funny."

"I know. Oh, ow!" Graceful person that I am, I walked into a tree. Well, I couldn't exactly watch
where I was going if I was looking up at the sky, now could I?

David stared at me, wide-eyed. "Are you okay?"

"Why the hell is there a tree here? Just why?" I leaned against the offending flora. "Why do
they put trees in the middle of the pathways for? Why didn't they just bulldoze it, or replant it off
the path, or something?" I put a tentative finger to my forehead. Even the slight pressure caused
my head to throb. "Ow."

"Here, let me see." David led me to a large rock that was off to the side and made me sit down.
He stooped down a little to my eye level, and after brushing back my hair, let out a low whistle.

"How bad is it? Huh? Huh? Oh my God. I'm going to have a concussion, aren't I? I'm gonna like,
wake up and find myself in a coma or something, aren't I? Aren't I?"

"How the hell do you wake up in a coma?" He asked, looking half-irritated, half-puzzled, half-
amused. Strangely, his low voice calmed me down.

A little. Just a little.

I felt something running down the side of my head. "Oh God. I'm bleeding, aren't I?" I put a
finger to my forehead and pulled it away, staring in horror at the bright crimson liquid on my
fingertips.
I do not like blood. Not even my own. It's all icky.

"Just a little," he murmured, reaching into his bag.

"Just a little? Just a little? It feels like frickin' Niagara Falls is running down my forehead, and
you're telling me that I'm bleeding just a little?"

He ignored me and pulled out a tissue, a bandana and a bottle of water out from his bag.

"Oh, great. I'm going to bleed to death, and you decide that this is the moment you need to
show some country pride while you hydrate yourself!"

If this were a movie, this is the part where me, as the hysterical girl, would get slapped.
Fortunately for me, David's not physically abusive. Well, I mean, I'd just hit him back twice as
hard, but still.

"Sam? Shut up. Please," he added as an afterthought. He poured some water on the tissue and
took hold of my hand. He held my hand gently in his and cleaned the blood off of my fingertips.
Then, he cupped my chin and proceeded to clean my cut as best as he could. It hurt a little, but
I took it like a man.

"Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow," I chanted under my breath, squeezing my eyes tightly shut as


he continued his ministrations. It was, to say the least, surprising and a bit unnerving at how
gentle his touch was. It was almost enough to make me ignore the slight pain.

He snickered. "Baby."
I took it like a wussy man.

"Here," he said, gathering up my hair. "Stay still." I twisted my hair up into a knot and held it on
top of my head while he tied the bandana on me. Or, tried to, at any rate. "Sam, don't look up.
Tilt your head down so I can tie this thing better."

For once, I listened to him without objection It must be the whole loss-of-blood thing, it's
making me woozy and stared down at grass. The grass was very interesting, mind you, but
shiny black caught and, unlike the grass, held my interest.

"Nice shoes."

"Thanks. My mom bought them for me." He bit his lip. "I just lost some major cool points, didn't
I?"

"Oh, but to lose some would mean that you already had some," I replied innocently.

"Oh yeah, you're in perfect health all right," he grinned, dropping his arms and placing them on
the rock, either side of me.

"Five by five," I agreed softly. The cool October wind blew through the campus, making me
shiver.

Or maybe it's because he's so close to you?

I've never had this reaction before. Not like this, not intense like this.

Things are changing.

They are, aren't they? Is all of it going to be confusing like this?

Sometimes. Some moments will be clearer than others.

Will things get bad?

I can't see into the future, idiot. Last I checked, we're not psychic.

Someone's testy. Let me rephrase that. Do you think things will get bad?

I think that things will be both good and bad.


That's no help at all! That's the way life already is!

And that's the way life will continue to be. What? You think that just 'cause you're attracted to
him oh, shut up, you so know it's true that it means everything's suddenly different now? Life
is life when you get right down to it. You'll get your moments of happiness here and there, but
you'll also have to go through incredible pain. Heartache and loss, Sam. Are you ready for that?
Are you even ready for the good parts? The amazingly surreal feeling of it all?

I don't know.

Better figure it out soon. Life keeps on going, whether you're ready or not, whether you want it
to or not. It's not gonna stop and wait for you to catch up.

"What are you thinking?" David asked softly. He brushed my hair behind my shoulder and let his
hand rest there. I could feel the warmth from his hand even through the fabric of my shirt. "Tell
me what you're thinking."

I sat there, studying him. Same old David. Same unruly hair and broad shoulders, same strong
jaw and slightly crooked nose the result of one of the many fights he'd sided with Scott on last
year.

But there were new things about him, or maybe old things that I was only beginning to notice.
His eyes, for example. They'd always been fascinating to me, but I'd never before realize the
depth of emotion they could hold. Looking into his eyes was like drowning in warm, sweet
chocolate.

"I'm thinking," I began quietly, hesitantly raising my hand to his face. I brushed his cheek as he
moved closer towards me. "I'm thinking"
"Yes?"

We were practically breathing the same air. Surprising even myself, I rubbed the pad of my
thumb against his lower lip; it felt soft and warm. His eyes widened just the slightest bit. "I'm
thinking"

"Sam" He was leaning over me, sheltering me from most of the wind. He was incredibly tall,
incredibly warm, and incredibly intimidating.

Oh God, I can't handle this. I'm not ready.

"I'm thinking I have to get to the infirmary," I managed to choke out, backing up until I'd fallen off
the rock.

Ooh, real smooth. Very graceful there, Sam. I give you a nine-point-oh for execution.

"You said you were fine," he replied quietly, somewhat accusingly. He stuck out his hand to help
me up, but I pushed myself off the ground and got up on my own.

"I am," I retorted, a little too forcefully. My nerves felt completely shot. "But I thought I had a
brother in need of my company waiting for me?"

"Oh. Right. "

I brushed the dirt and leaves off my skirt and followed him to the main building on the campus,
where the infirmary was located. I made sure to stay behind him and off to the side, and neither
one of us spoke the rest of the short walk there.

"What took you so long?" Dr. Langer demanded the second I'd walked through the door of the
waiting room. "I sent Mr. Weston out nearly half an hour ago! It doesn't take that long to get to
the Languages building and back," she added, eyeing us suspiciously.

"Ms. Head-in-the-Clouds walked into a tree," David supplied cockily, dropping down and
lounging in a nearby armchair.

Oh, that jerk, I thought, feeling a familiar swell of emotions. Dislike, anger, annoyance, the usual
compadres. Hurt was new to the mix, though.
"Well, she wouldn't have if Mr. Mess-With-My-Head hadn't been playing mind games," I replied
casually, repressing the feelings I was, well, feeling.

"What? I can't be nice?"

"Niceness is a foreign concept to you, Weston."

"You're talking as though you know it any better than I do," he retorted coolly, draping an arm
around the back of the chair.

"Break it up, children," Dr. Langer intervened, looking amused. And relieved.

I suppose one's world would be rather shaken if one discovered that Samantha Spade and
David Weston made nice one day. I've been told it's one of the signs of the coming apocalypse,
actually.

"Samantha, have a seat and let me take a look at your forehead before you go to your brother,"
Dr. Langer said, pointing to the couch David was draped upon. "Mr. Weston, you won't be
earning anything just sitting around there baiting your peers. Re-stock the shelves with the
bandages, then go over the patient files and make a list of everyone who has expired health
insurance. I want that list typed and on my desk before you go to lunch," she added sternly.

"Aye aye, Captain," he drawled, mock-saluting her before jumping over the back of the chair
and making his way to the stock room in the back.

"Okay, Samantha, take off the bandana and let me see how bad this is." I did as she asked,
clutching the soft material in my hand. "This might sting a little," Dr. Langer warned, dabbing
some antiseptic on a cotton swab.

"I can take it." It stung more than just a little, but I tightened my grip on the bandana and looked
up, waiting it out. When she was done cleaning the wound, Dr. Langer put a Band-Aid on my
forehead. "Harry Potter. Nice," I said appreciatively, looking in a mirror that hung off one of the
walls. I grimaced at the sight of purple and blue, though.

Definitely not attractive.


"When you're done admiring your beloved Band-Aid," Dr. Langer smiled, pushing open the
swinging double doors that led past the waiting room into the actual infirmary. She gave me a
white surgical mask, and I slipped it on as I followed her in and saw a lone shape hunched over
one of the beds.

"Alan?"

"His teacher dismissed him from class first period. He's been suffering from a very severe
stomach flu. He's been complaining of stomach aches and hasn't been able to keep anything
down, not even medicine. If this continues, he'll have to be hooked up to an IV."

"No," Alan muttered, rolling onto his back. "No needles. Please."

I lowered myself onto the bed beside him and pulled him close to me, wrapping the large
blanket around us both. His head rested on my chest, and I realized how pale and clammy he'd
gotten. "Shhh. It's okay, hun. Don't worry." I stroked his hair. "You'll be okay."

"Samantha, would you stay with him?" Dr. Langer asked quietly. "He's been asking for you, and
I'd like it if you could convince him to take the IV."

"I'll try," I replied, my voice muffled by the mask. "But I make no promises. None of us are
exactly best buds with needles." Ever since Amanda had driven her foot into a rusty nail when
we played hide-and-seek as kids, the three of us had developed an aversion to the long and
pointy.

"Even if you could just keep him calm, I'd appreciate it. He's been suffering a great deal," she
added, casting him a sympathetic look.

"Oh, for sure." I smoothed back his hair. "I don't mind at all."

"Excellent. I'll send a memo down to excuse you from your second period class. I'd like it if you
went to your afternoon classes, but if you're unable to, I'll inform your teachers of your absence."

"Thanks, Dr. L."

"I don't expect you to fall behind in your classes," she continued sternly. "I'll have a classmate
bring you all of your work, and I expect it all to be done by the bell." I nodded and she turned to
go. "I have to go and check on Ms. Carmichael poor girl's been bedridden since the weekend.
If your brother becomes worse, have Mr. Weston come and get me, okay?" I nodded again, and
then she left.

"Sam it really hurts," Alan moaned, clutching at his stomach.

"I know it does," I murmured, "but it'll get better, okay? I promise."

"The medicine that she gives me, it won't stay down. Nothing will. I just throw it back up again."

"Hey, you feel one of those impulses, you aim in the other direction, okay?"

"Sam, please. Don't make me laugh. It hurts."

"Sorry. Your stomach hurts when you laugh?"

"No, your attempt at a joke was so crappy, it hurt me."

"Ha ha," I replied dryly. He gave me a feeble smile. "Wanna play cards or something? I've got
the morning and possibly the afternoon off, thanks to you." I looked at him seriously. "The
minute you feel better, I'm gonna feed you so much ice cream, it'll make you sick."

"Are you trying to thank me or keep me in here?"

"Were you always this obnoxious, or is it the being-sick?"

"I was always this obnoxious. Whoa!" He exclaimed, getting a good look at me. "What the fuck
happened to your head?"

"Don't swear, Alan," I admonished him.

"What happened?"
"Walked into a tree."

He shrugged, accepting my answer. "Okay.

"Shit, I can't even speak properly with this thing." Annoyed, I pulled off the mask.

"Don't," he warned.

"Please." I waved dismissively. "We've traded germies before, Alan. 'Sides-"

"Sam, seriously, this does not feel good, okay? My stomach hurts like hell and I feel like my
insides are cooking or something."

"I don't wanna wear the mask."

"You'll miss so much school you'll fail and you won't be able to go to university."

"Post-secondary education is overrated."

"You'll throw up so much, you'll puke blood."

"Cool. Can we tape it?"

Alan gave me a strange look. "What kind of weirdo do I have for a sister?"

"My kind," I replied cheerfully, hugging him.

A sly smile crept across his face. "Oh, I get it."

I narrowed my eyes suspiciously. "You get what?"

"Oh, I feel ever so sick," he crooned, his voice high. "However will I get better again? Oh,
don't worry, Samantha," he continued, making his voice go deeper than normal this time. "I'll
make you all better." He waggled his eyebrows.

I was not amused.

"Oh, ha ha," I muttered, staring up at the ceiling.

"Oh, David, you took such tender care of me! I love you!" He squealed, his voice high-pitched.
"Alan, knock it off," I said through gritted teeth,

"I love you, too, Samantha!" Sick or not, I punched him. "Ow, Sam," he whined, rubbing his arm.
"Geez. Lighten up."

"That wasn't funny, Alan."

"It was a joke, Sam."

"It was a crappy joke," I muttered.

"I know you don't like the guy, but God why are you blushing?"

"I'm not!" I scrambled out of the bed and nearly slipped on the floor.

"Sam, calm down. I'm sorry, seriously. Wait, where are you going? Please, come on, don't
leave."

I sighed. "I'm going to the bathroom. I'll be right back."


"Are you mad?" He asked in a small voice.

I sighed again, then shook my head. "No. I'm not mad. Just annoyed. Which, by the way, is not
a good thing to make the person who's giving up her day to play nursemaid to you."

"I'm sorry," he repeated.

I waved off the apology. "It's fine. It was in no way funny, but it's fine." I walked purposefully
towards the double doors and pushed them outward. As soon as they swung shut, I sank into
one of the comfy chairs. A loud crash from the supply room disrupted my thoughtful silence.

"Ow! Fuck," I heard David mutter. Off a curious whim, I crept over to the desk, feeling very much
like someone doing something she shouldn't. I noticed that the word processing program was
up on the computer's screen, but there were like, two names typed. Sighing, I settled down
behind the computer and quickly got to work. Having done this before for Dr. Langer many
times, I knew the cross-referencing program I needed to use. The computer automatically called
up the list of names Dr. Langer had requested, and I hit the 'print' button just as David was
coming out of the supply room, rubbing his head.

"What are you doing?" He asked suspiciously.

"Reading love letters from my European boyfriend," I replied brightly. "Very steamy love letters,"
I added, seeing the look on his face.

"Uh huh. So tell me something." He leaned against the side of the computer desk, his arms
crossed over his chest and his legs crossed at the ankles. Behold the timeless cool-guy pose,
ladies and gentlemen. He had a knowing sort of smirk on his face. "What's better? These love
letters, or the dreams you have about me?"

"Had about you," I corrected quietly, feeling my face grow warm.

His grin widened. "Right. Whatever. Answer my question."

"Leave me alone." I moved past him and paused long enough to grab my bag off the floor
before I continued back to the infirmary.

"Thanks, Sam," he called out. I heard the distinct sound of paper flapping. I raised my hand in
response and waved without turning around.
Quickly packing my bag, I practically flew out the door as soon as the final bell rang. The rest of
my classmates followed soon after, and some were, like me, coughing wildly.

"Samantha, are you okay?" Josh Rawlings asked me. I nodded, still coughing. My throat burned
and my head felt light-headed from the fumes we conjured in Chemistry during that day's
experiment. I wanted to completely throttle Laura Brennan for knocking the ethyl alcohol into the
sulphur. While the latter was on the Bunsen burner.

Thank God for safety goggles and good ducking reflexes.

"Are you sure?" He asked, leading me down the corridor.

"Yeah, yeah," I rasped out. In truth, I felt horribly crappy. My stomach was starting to pain, my
head was still throbbing, and I was feeling incredibly nauseous. "It's just the fumes and stuff. I
feel a little dizzy, but I just need some air." He led me over to an open window and I gratefully
stuck my head out. I breathed in a few lungful of fresh air, then ducked back in.

"Feel better now?"

"Yeah. Thanks."

"Good. 'Cause I mean, a big guy like David, you don't wanna make him mad."

"What?" I asked, pretty sure that I hadn't heard him right.

Maybe it's 'cause of the fumes that I'm all loopy and no-sense-making-y.

"He had to stay back to ask Mr. Dumel about something. He asked me to make sure you were
okay. Not that he needed to. You looked kinda under-the-weather through the whole class."
"Really?" Coherent thought left me as the sudden urge to throw up threatened to overcome me.
"Be right back," I choked out. I sprinted down the hallway and into the first bathroom I saw. I
stumbled into an empty stall and latching the door behind me, started to throw up into the toilet
bowl.

Shit, Alan was right. I mean, just when I think there's nothing else in my stomach, I manage to
regurgitate something else.

I half-coughed, half-gagged, tears starting to run down my cheeks. I pulled a bottle of water out
of my bag and rinsed my mouth out with it, before flushing the toilet. I sank against the cool tile
of the floor and leaned my head against the wall of the cubicle. I heard the door open and a pair
troop in.

"Well, where the hell is she, then?"

"I already told you! I don't fucking know! Stop yelling at me!"

"Stop yelling at me," the first voice mimicked, clearly pissed off. "How about you shut the hell up
and help me look for her?"

David and Josh, I realized. Why are they in the girls' bathroom? I looked under the stall door
and it was then that I noticed the oddly-shaped sinks against the far wall. Oops. Guess I'm the
one that's in the wrong bathroom.

"Where? I already told you, I don't know where she went!" Josh's voice sounded completely
frustrated.

Not interested in being further embarrassed, I reached into my backpack and as quietly as I
could and opened a bottle of Canada Dry.

"Just get out of here," David muttered angrily, and I heard the bathroom door slam shut.

"Oh cripes," I whispered, as another wave of sickness came over me. I started gagging again,
and took a quick gulp of the ginger ale. Leaning again the cubicle wall, I was acutely aware of
how quiet it had gotten. My ragged breathing stood out impressively.

"Wrong bathroom?" I looked up to see David's head sticking over the wall, resting on his
forearms.
"Looks like," I replied, feigning casualness. I raked a hand through my hair and took another sip
of soda.

"Okay," he said, climbing over the wall and landing neatly in the cramped stall. "Come on. Get
up, get your stuff. I'm taking you to the infirmary."

"No, seriously, I'm fine." He gave me a Look. "I am! It's just the fumes from Chemistry class."

"Sam," he said firmly. "Let's go."

"No! I'm fine, I'm really, really fine!" He pulled me up and kept his arm around my waist, then
tossed my bag over his shoulder. "David, come on," I pleaded. "Please. I'm fine." He hesitated.
"Look at me. Do I look not-fine to you?"

"You look like hell," he replied bluntly. I peered over his shoulder into the mirror. My hair was
dishevelled, my skin was pale, and my eyes looked strangely watery.

"Okay, well, yeah, I'll concede to that."

"Come on, come on," he muttered, ushering me out the door. "You can admire your pretty self in
another mirror preferably one that's not in the boys' bathroom?"

"Hey, it was an accident. Not all of us can always remain calm and composed," I rasped out.

"Your voice is going."

"Nah, my throat's just sore from Chemistry class. Speaking of, could you, in future, not flirt with
my lab partner when we're working with chemicals? Or heat? Or a combination of the two?"

"Jealous?" The corners of his mouth quirked upward.


"As if. I'd just prefer to leave the lab for once without ducking from exploding glass. It tends to
get old after the first five or six times."

"Someone's jealous," he sang out under his breath.

"Oh, you can put words in my mouth, David, but you can't make me say them."

"Say what?"

"That I'm jealous of Laura" He smiled triumphantly. "Okay, that's not fair."

"I don't play fair, Sam. Thought you knew that by now."

"I am not jealous of her," I insisted, as he steered me towards the girl dormitories.

"Uh huh."

Stupid 'knowing' grin.

"I'm not."

"Okay."

"I mean it, David."

"If you say so."

"David!"

"Okay, okay, I'll stop." He stayed quiet, but that stupid grin didn't leave his lips.

Oh God, don't look there! What are you, deficient! I said, don't look!

"I mean, if I was jealous, which I'm so not," I continued, "why would I be?"

"I don't know, Sam. Why would you be jealous?" He asked, sounding amused.

"I mean, it's certainly not because you're attractive or anything, 'cause you're not," I said,
emphasizing the last word so he'd get the point.
"About every other female at this school could attest to the contrary, but whatever you say,
Samantha."

I had the distinct feeling that he was trying not to laugh.

"You're not. You're you're"

"I'm what?" He challenged.

"You buy really lousy shoes," I finished lamely.

"And you have really lousy comebacks," he laughed.

"If I'm jealous of Laura," I began quietly, as we neared my dorm.

"Yeah?" He backed me up against a window my window, I might add and put a hand by my
head. I leaned against the cool glass and propped one foot against it.

Don't throw up, don't throw up, don't throw up, don't throw up'cause that would be both ill-
timed and so unattractive.
"If I'm jealous of her, then you're jealous of Ian," I said calmly, finding some sense of
satisfaction, from the emotions that flickered across his eyes. He reached around me and
expertly unlocked the window, tossed my bag inside, then gestured for me to follow. I climbed
through, stretched out a hand to him, and pulled him through.

"Don't move from this room," David ordered, pulling my books out of my bag and arranging them
on my desk.

"Yes, Dad," I muttered sarcastically. He walked over to the fridge, pulled out a can of ginger ale,
and tossed it to me.

"I won't tell Madison you're sick, on the condition that you go see Dr. Langer tomorrow."

"How kind of you."

No, really, he was being pretty nice. Madison became hell on wheels when someone got sick.
She was like a really authoritative, really scary Mother Teresa on crack, or something.

"Make sure you go see Dr. Langer, though," he insisted.

"I will, I will," I assured him, taking a long swig of the ginger ale. I leaned against my dresser and
crossed my legs at the ankles. I figured the cool pose wasn't working nearly as well for me as it
usually did for David. "Um, may I ask you a question?" I fiddled with the pop can tab, bending it
back and forth; it broke off on the fourth try.

"Okay." He was about to climb out the window, but pulled back. "What's on your mind?"

Okay, there's a question I thought I'd die before hearing from David's lips

Don't think about his lips, goddamn it.

Easier said than done.

Just ask him the damn question so he can leave already.

"Why are you working with Dr. Langer? I mean, I didn't know you wanted to go into medicine."

"I don't," he replied, sitting down at the foot of my bed. "After that disaster of an announcement
the other day, Headmaster Quinn offered me an alternative to the orphanage event."
"And you took it?"

"Yeah."

"Oh." Even to my own ears, my voice sounded flat.

"You sounded almost disappointed," he noted, studying me carefully.

I shrugged. "Well, things are never dull when you're around."

He grinned. "I'll take that as a compliment."

"Uh huh." Suddenly, I wasn't feeling very talkative.

None of this is of the bad. He's out of your hair, he won't be around you as much, and I mean,
so what if you kind of got used to having him around? Seriously, I see no bad in this.

I'm not buying this. Are you buying this?

Not a word of it.

"So like I was saying, the headmaster offered me another alternative, and I took it in addition to
the work I'll be doing with you." I looked up. His eyes were sparkling. I could tell he was trying to
gauge my reaction. I just shook my head and stared up at the ceiling.
"That was really mean. Getting my hopes up like that and all."

He laughed, and walked over to me and gently tweaked my nose. "Feel better. You're no fun to
bug when you're sick."

"Very funny," I muttered, rubbing my forehead. My head was really starting to pound, and I
reckoned that if I wasn't leaning against my dresser, I would have already fallen, that was how
weak my knees felt. I was fairly sure that this wasn't a good thing.

"And I knew you were jealous of Laura," he murmured.

"Whatever," I mumbled. I seriously felt like shit.

"Hey, what's wrong?" David asked, holding my hands in his.

"I don't know," I mumbled, drawing in deeper breaths. It felt like I couldn't get enough air in me,
no matter how hard I tried. "My head just it hurts, and I feel really dizzy, and dizzy and
think I said that already oh" I grabbed onto David's collar, the first thing my fingers closed
on.

"Sam? Sammy? Sam!"

The only thing I really felt before I blacked out was the weakness in my legs as they gave way. I
didn't feel David catch me, nor did I feel him carry me to the student hospital.

I was told that it happened though. Reminded about it several times, in fact, after I'd woken up
and gotten medicated good and proper.

The only thing that was running through my mind afterward was that I'd fainted. In front of David
Weston. In his arms.

Talk about adding insult to injury.

hapter Nine: All the Little Things

"Mmm this tastes so good." Alan, like any typical fourteen-year-old male, was talking with his
mouth full. Pig.
"Which, the creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes with gravy, or the irresistible stuffing?" David
asked him, holding a spoon up to his lips that was laden with the creamy, garlicky-looking
mashed potatoes.

"Both," Alan answered brightly.

"You are not that good of a cook, David Weston," I muttered, trying my best to ignore the
savoury scents that were wafting over my way. Yes, it was Thanksgiving, and yes, I was still
sick, and yes, these so-called friends of mine were eating their dinner right in front of me. Of
course, like Scott had pointed out when they'd trooped in with their dishes of food then promptly
informed me that I couldn't have any, they had at least stayed behind this weekend instead of
going home, and they'd come to the infirmary, instead of leaving my all by my lonesome.

"Yes I am," he replied arrogantly, waving a turkey leg in the air. Bastard. "Not that you'd know.
Tell me, Sam, how's your carrot?"

Yes, while Madison and the guys were feasting on roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes,
and all that yummy Thanksgiving goodness, I got a carrot. One lousy mother-fucking carrot. Oh,
and I had to wear that God-awful surgical mask so the others could keep my company.

"While you guys are killing yourselves with all those calories and fat, I will live a long, healthy,
prosperous life, thanks to my carrot," I replied primly, taking a bite of the orange stick.

"She looks so sad," Ian said sympathetically. Of course, he wasn't sympathetic enough to give
me some of that stuffing.

"I told you not to take off that mask," Alan reprimanded me. For the millionth time. Yes, the virus
was apparently a short-lived one, which meant that little twerp was back to full health, while I
had to still stay in bed. Dr. Langer said that I was getting over the virus, but I was still very
contagious, which is why I had to stay bedridden in the infirmary.

"On the plus side, you'll be back to perfect health when school starts back up."

Can someone please tell me how being sick for the long weekend, but getting better just in time
for the beginning of classes is a good thing?
"You guys, stop torturing her already," Madison called out. Like the nice, benevolent person that
she was, she'd taken her food aside and eaten behind the curtain, where I couldn't see her. I
mean, I still knew what she was doing, but I appreciated the gesture all the same.

"Okay, okay, I'll take pity on her." Ian removed a plate of food from beneath a cover, and
presented it in front of me with a flourish.

"I seriously love you right now," I beamed, practically drooling at the sight of all that food. All I'd
had for the past few days were saltines and ginger ale. Oh, and my carrot. Can't forget that
good source of orange-y, vitamin-y goodness.

"Open wide," he grinned, making airplane sounds with a spoonful of mashed potatoes. I shook
my head, but did as he asked.

"Oh God, it's actual food," I murmured after swallowing. "This tastes so good! Ian, you're
brilliant."

"Excuse me, but who slaved away for hours in a kitchen so you could have actual food?" David
muttered, poking at his biscuit. Which, actually, was quite tasty. It was flaky and buttery and I
had to concede, David was pretty damn good in a kitchen. "Who cooked this delicious meal?"
He continued, scowling. "And who gets the props?" Everyone turned in mid-bite to stare at him.
He looked up from his plate. "What? Nothing, I said nothing."

I continued to stare. "You're a strange, strange little man, David Weston." Strange, but as
always, perfectly put together. Today was no exception. Decked out in black dress pants and a
crimson button-down shirt, David easily stood out from the rest of us, all clad in our most worn
sweatshirts and jeans.

Just once, I'd like to have just one time in which David didn't look so perfect. Just once.

"You know, this is Thanksgiving. How about showing me a little thanks?" He snapped.

And still with the staring. Only now, I was annoyed and confused. "How about you stop acting
like a little child?"

"Oh God," Scott muttered, moving the cart with food out of our reach. Yeah, David and I kind of
have a bad history when it comes to food, our tempers, and each other.
"How about you just say a simple thank you?"

"I'm the sick one, you know. Ergo, I should be the whiny, bitchy one. I mean, you already had
everyone praise you up and down for your delicious cooking-"

"Everyone else," he interrupted pointedly. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why he needed
me to echo what everyone else already said.

"Move the cake, Scott!" Madison hissed, easing David's plate off his lap.

"God, what is your damage?" I cried out, coughing. "Why do you constantly need everyone to
give you an ego boost? You already know you're a good cook, you already know you're as
smart as they come, you already know that you're gorge-" I stopped my little rant, a small feeling
of pressure building in my stomach. "Oh God."

"Sorry, I already know that I'm what?" David asked with a smirk.

"Um" I glanced furtively at the bathroom door.

"What was that, Sam?" He looked at me expectantly.

"Uh"

"Sam?" Madison asked, her brow furrowing. "You look a little pale, hun. Lie down."

"Bathroom," I managed to choke out, before bolting out of my bed, shivering at the feel of cold
linoleum on my bare feet.

After about twenty minutes throwing up my carrot and the few bites of food I'd eaten, I felt
reasonably better. I mean, compared to the feeling of being run over by an eighteen-wheeler, I
felt absolutely spiffy.

"Spiffy?" Ian asked, after I'd told him how I felt when I emerged from the bathroom.
I stared at him. Higher thought escaped me. "Okay, shut up." He helped me back into the bed
and even tucked me in. What a sweetie. "Where'd everyone else go?"

"Alan and David took the food away." He frowned. "I'm not really sure where Scott and Madison
disappeared to."

"Doesn't matter," I muttered. "God, I hate being sick. I feel so helpless. It feels like my own
body's revolting against me, you know?"

"Yeah, I know." He ruffled my hair. "I gotta go, okay? Like your typical teenager, I haven't done
any of my homework yet, and tomorrow's the last day of the long weekend."

I waved him off. "Go on, go on. You don't have my excuse of being legitimately bedridden."

"Ah, if only." He waved goodbye and left me to solitude of the infirmary.

"God, it's so quiet," I muttered. I grabbed my cell phone off the nightstand beside my bed and hit
the first button on my speed dial.

When you're feeling like crap and things guy-related things start to change and not make
sense anymore, sometimes it helps to hear the voice of your best friend since pre-K.

"What?" A voice snapped on the other end of the line after the first ring. "Jim, I already told you
don't call me! Stop calling me! Why are you calling me? We broke up! Get that through your
thick skull!"

"Excuse me, but are you gonna stop the nonsensical ranting any time soon so I can get a word
in?" I teased.

"Sam? You're not Jim."

"Okay, good thing you cleared that up for me. Otherwise, I would've been wondering."

"Very funny."

"I aim to please, Leah," I grinned.

"So, you feeling any better?" She asked. I could imagine her sauntering through her house, the
cordless phone in hand, swatting away her brothers.
"Define 'better'." I frowned. "And unless you've developed ESP, how could you possibly know I
was sick?"

"I hear it in your voice. I just know you that well."

"And?" I could practically hear her smile.

"And Madison told me."

"Madison?" I was beginning to feel like a parrot.

"Yeah. We've kept in touch since this summer, when Madison wanted to know what to get you
for your birthday. I actually can't believe I forgot to tell you all this time."

"No, it's fine. I'm just that's really huh." I didn't have a problem with Maddy and Leah being
friends. On the contrary, actually. It's always a good when your two best friends can get along.
But it did feel kind of weird to know that they'd formed this bond. I mean, I have my school life,
and I have my home life. To have them mixing was a little off-putting. Next thing I knew,
Amanda was going to enrol here.

Now there was a funny concept if I ever heard one. Only an evil, sadistic bitch of a higher power
would do that to me.

"You're weirded out."

"Not not really, actually. Hey, we can be like the Three Musketeers. You know, if they were
chicks and had a sense of style. Ooh. Hey. Forget the Three Musketeers. We can be Charlie's
Angels. They were three chicks with a sense of style."
"Okay," Leah laughed, "you are so weirded out."

"If I'm weirded out about anything, it's about this Jim dude. Excuse me, but why was I not
informed that you had a boyfriend?"

"'Cause I knew you'd freak."

I was starting to feel uncomfortable with the little silver phone pressed so tightly against my ear,
so I put her on speakerphone. "Well, duh! I mean, of course I'd freak! Your first boyfriend! Well,
you know, not counting Rick Warner."

"But we were eight, then," she reminded me.

"We were eight," I agreed. "But Ricky was a cutie. A nice guy, too. Maybe I should give him a
call" The last time I saw Rick Warner, he was three inches taller than me, and had a pretty hot
smile for a thirteen-year-old.

"He was also the spider-eater," Leah added helpfully.

"Okay, ew. Moving on."

"Moving on to?"

"To Jim, of course," I grinned wickedly. "So now that you've completely kept me in the dark
about your torrid little tryst-"

Leah burst out laughing. "Sam, you're such a trip."

"Don't change the subject. Now that you've managed to keep this illicit affair from me for how
long?"

"Three months."

"You were with this guy since August and you neglected to tell me?" I shrieked. I took a deep
breath. "Okay, I'm calm. I'm good."

"Sure you are."

"Spill," I ordered. "Everything. Start straight from the beginning and tell all."
"Sam" She was blushing. I just knew it. Leah always did get embarrassed when I bugged her
about a guy she liked.

"Tell," I ordered.

"Oh, fine. But just know this, Samantha Sarah Spade: one day, it'll be your turn to tell me all
about a guy you've fallen madly for, and I'll be just as ruthless as you're being right now. Maybe
even more, in fact."

"Promises, promises," I smirked. "We both know that won't happen to me for a long time
coming. So stop stalling and get on with it."

"Okay, okay. What do you wanna know first?"

"How you guys got together," I replied promptly.

"Of course. Okay, so remember Chris Walker?"

I thought for a moment, then snapped my fingers. "The same Chris Walker who went around
snapping girls' bra straps at the grad dance in eighth grade?"

"And when he got to me and my strapless-"

"He started er poking around for the straps?" I started giggling, remembering what
happened next. "And then you fully decked him. Oh God, that was classic."

Leah snorted. "Please. All I did was punch out a little pervert. Anyways, you'll be glad to know
he hasn't changed one bit."
"And why would that make me glad?" I placed the phone at the foot of my bed and lay down in
front of it on my stomach.

"Okay, I was leaving Burger King after my shift one afternoon-"

"And apparently, you've also neglected to mention that you got a part-time job," I interrupted.
"But that's another story for another time. Continue, continue."

"Right. And sorry. I could've sworn I told you. I need to start writing things down. In my defence,
though, you were gone the entire summer anyways, so I left through the back, and it was
around nine-ish when my shift ended, so it was still relatively bright, so I didn't bother calling Eric
to pick me up."

"How is your brother, anyway?" I'd had the biggest crush on Leah's older brother when we were
in middle school. He was nearly as cute as David, if memory served.

"Ask him yourself. Hey, loser!" She bellowed, making me wince. "Come here!" I could hear the
double-beep of her phone, which meant she'd put me on speaker.

"What?" A loud voice yelled back.

"Come! Someone wants to say hi!"

I heard footsteps, then a familiar male voice. "Yeah?"

"Hi, Eric," I drawled.

"Who is this?" He asked suspiciously. I laughed, and I could hear Leah giggling in the
background.

"You're such a dork, Eric," she said. "Honestly."

"Eric, I'm hurt. After all the years, after all the memories, after all the love where's the love,
Eric? Huh? Huh? Where'd it go?"

A beat, then: "Hi, Sam."

I giggled. "Hi."
"Haven't seen you around here in forever. I actually never thought I'd miss you and Leah
hanging out together. I mean, there were the pillow fights, which I had to clean up after. There
were the candy binges, which, again, I had to clean up after. There were the sappy chick flicks I
had to sit through, and then of course, who could forget when I made the mistake of falling
asleep and you two used my face as an easel and went crazy with your Crayolas?" I thought I
heard snickering in the background on my end, but I figured the phone had surround sound or
something, and I was maybe hearing Leah.

"Oh Eric, we were four."

"I know, I remember. I just like to tease you."

"You always did."

"Hey, as Leah's big brother, it was my job nay, it was my duty to torture you guys endlessly
about your little crushes."

"'Nay'?" I snickered. "I can see you're still doing the English-major thing."

"Yeah."

"University's good? Higher education making you feel all superior and holier-than-thou?" Eric
had left for university the same year I'd come to Maple Ridge.

"University's great. How's private school agreeing with you? Way I remembered it, you used to
hate all that conformity crap and you loathed people staring down at you."
"School's fine," I answered lightly. "The uniforms actually aren't bad. They're pretty cute,
actually. And red and gold I mean, could I ask for better school colours?"

"I saw a picture of you and my sister from your birthday party a few weeks ago. You've really
changed, Sam."

"Ew!" Leah shrieked. "Stop hitting on Sam, you pervert!"

"I'm not hitting on her," he replied, horror-struck.

"Ah, it's too late anyways," I said sadly, fighting back a laugh. "Eric, m'friend, you missed your
chance."

"Aw, Sam. You're breaking my heart, my darling."

"I know it's hard, but there are other fish in the sea. Be brave, Eric. Be brave!"

He laughed. "Seriously, kiddo, it was nice talking to you again. Don't be a stranger, okay?"

"I won't."

"Take care of yourself."

"I will."

"Bye, Sammy."

"Later." I heard another double-beep, then Leah's chipper voice.

"So, you were telling me about your latest erotic dream with your usual leading man?"

I snorted. "I was telling you no such thing and you know it."

"Oh, all right. Just out of curiosity, though?"

I sighed. "No. There haven't been dreams of that of that particular nature," I muttered, feeling
my face grow warm. I paused, this time positive I'd heard someone in the background on my
end.
"Oh, okay. Just wondering. I mean, they're always entertaining. 'Cause we both know how you'd
never actually do it in a pool-"

"Leah!" I interrupted, my voice shrill. I was certain there was someone eavesdropping on me,
and I had a pretty good idea who it was. "Can you just finish what you were telling me?" I took
her off speakerphone and sat up on the bed, tucking my legs underneath me.

"Right. Sorry. So anyways, I left BK and I was walking around the back. Then Chris Walker
showed up, and I swear to God, he like, sight-raped me. The way he was looking at me was so
shudder-worthy. So I was walking down the block, up Crawford Street. He kept following me
and telling me all this shit about how he'd take me back to his place and all the stuff he'd do to
me. I swear, Sam, I was so scared."

"Next time I see Chris Walker," I said grimly, "remind me to severely kick his ass."

"Sam. He's a linebacker for our school football team."

"What's your point?" I asked flippantly. "Linebacker or no, he's a perverted little creep who
needs to get hurt. I wouldn't mind being the one who hurt him. He chopped off my hair in second
grade, remember?"

"And you say you don't hold grudges."

"I don't hold grudges! But my hair was so long."

"True. And it was so pretty. Like mermaid hair."


"Thanks," I grinned.

"Anyways, Walker got his comeuppance. I ducked into Baskin-Robbins, and Jim was working
behind the counter. He saw how upset I was, and he saw Walker hanging around outside. He
put two and two together, went outside, and hit him."

"Whoo-hoo. Go Jim," I cheered.

"Yeah. It was actually pretty cool. No guy's ever like, defended my honour before."

"Awww," I cooed. "So, what? He had that whole knight-in-shining-armour appeal?"

"Something like that. But then he became the mother of all jerks. He's such a controlling
bastard. So I dumped his ass, but now he won't leave me the hell alone. He keeps calling my
cell. It's creeping me out."

"So, tell Eric. Duh."

"Eric would tell Mom and Dad. Duh."

"So, gee, what's better? Having a stalker ex-boyfriend, well, stalk you, or being grounded for
having secretly dated said stalker ex-boyfriend?"

"Oh, all right. As always, you are the voice of reason."

"Well, it's a lot to live up to, but I manage."

"You were totally right about him, though. He always was a bossy little son of a bitch."

"What?" I asked, puzzled. Then the light bulb went off in my brain. "Oh my God! James French?
You dated James French?"

"See, I knew you'd react like this. Exactly why I didn't tell you in the beginning."

"Leah, repeat after me: James French. The guy put worms in my spaghetti!"

"That was a long time ago"

"That was in the eighth grade! I mean, God, even Tommy Hart stopped pulling pranks like that
by eighth grade." I shook my head, disgusted.
"You really have a way with men, don't you, Sam?"

Even though I figured I wasn't by myself, and hadn't been for a good ten minutes at the least, it
didn't stop me from shrieking my head off at the unexpected sound of the husky voice in my ear.
Startled, I dropped my phone. And, of course, my loud scream led to Leah shrieking her head
off.

"Sam! Oh my God, what's happening? Who's there? What happened?"

I put a hand to my forehead and willed my heart to stop racing. My breathing was coming in fast,
shallow gasps.

Grinning broadly, David picked up my phone and put it back on speaker. "Hiya, Leah." I was
shoved over to the far end of the bed, and the right side sagged down a little with the added
weight of my favourite chemistry-partner distracter. I rolled over onto my back and stared up at
the ceiling.

"Am I supposed to know who this is after you've just taken ten years off my life?"

"Oh, you'll live long, gorgeous."

"I know this is probably hard for you, but could you refrain yourself from hitting on my best
friend?" I snapped, my breathing slowing down to normal once more.

"Ah. Mystery solved." I could hear the grin in Leah's voice. "Someone with a penchant for royally
pissing off my best friend, the talent to annoy her within five seconds of being in her presence,
and of course, you're a natural flirt. How are you on this fine evening, David Weston?"
"I'm quite fine, Leah Green. And yourself?"

"You've been eavesdropping on us, haven't you?"

"Guilty," David grinned, raking a hand through his hair.

"You bad, bad boy. And since I know Sam's too embarrassed or too upset to ask this-"

"Hey, still right here," I called out, nudging David aside.

Leah ignored me. "Exactly how much have you heard?"

David turned to me. "You have a middle name?"

"Yes, I have a middle name. It's not uncommon for people to have middle names, you know."

"Your middle name's Sarah?"

"What's wrong with Sarah?" I asked defensively. "It's a perfectly nice name."

"Samantha Sarah Spade," he mused aloud, slowly enunciating each syllable. I exhaled slowly;
there was something about the way he said my name. I couldn't pinpoint it, exactly, but I knew
no one had ever said my name like that before. I turned my head to the side and caught him
staring. "Your parents were big fans of alliteration, weren't they?"

Truthfully, I wasn't quite sure how to respond to that one.

"Um"

"What's with the lack of speakage?" Leah asked from the other end of the line.

Strange. I almost forgot about her.

"Uh"

"It was actually your dad that named all three of you, right Sam? Yeah, Mrs. S wasn't really fond
of the alliteration thing. I mean, with one kid, it's cute. With all three? I don't think so. Of course,
only Sam had the full-on 'S' thing. The twins just had their first and middle names. It's Amanda
Amelia and Alan Arthur, right Sam?"
"Yeah. That's right," I said in my best I'm-so-gonna-kick-your-ass-the-next-time-I-see-you tone
of voice. I wasn't a particularly private person when it came to my friends, but I didn't exactly
count David as my lifelong best, and it felt weird referencing a particularly unpleasant part of my
past with him around.

"Oh. Okay. Well, good." I guessed she caught the ass-kicking vibe. "Yeah, I, um, I hear my mom
calling me. So I have to go, okay? Bye, Sammy. Bye, David."

"Later," I muttered.

"Bye," he said, giving me an amused look. I reached over my head and ended the call. "So, that
was interesting."

"Which part? The part where you fully eavesdropped on a private conversation for the last half
hour, or the part where you took about fifteen years off my life?" I slapped him on the shoulder.

"The second part, mostly, because, well, would it be a bad thing to say that seeing you get all
worked up like that got me, well, worked up?"

I gaped at him. "You've got to be kidding me."

He shrugged. Well, as best as he could while lying down. "Maybe." Then he rolled over and
positioned himself on top of me, propping himself up with his right hand. "Then again, maybe I'm
not."
Oh dear God.

Oh, don't say that, Sam.

Why?

Let's look at the, um, position you're currently in. Do you really think He would approve?

Okay, point taken.

So, any ideas on how to get him off?

Off? Why?

Excuse me? Look, you're not really functioning at one-hundred-percent mental capacity. So I
can forgive you somewhat for going all whore-tastic on me here. But I don't give a damn how
you do it, just get him off.

But it's so cold in here. And he's so not cold.

Oh, God help your sinful little soul.

"Samantha. Sam, Sammy, Samantha." I swallowed. There was something about the way he
said my name that reminded me of the feeling I got when I first learned how to ride a bike an
indescribable exhilaration and the feeling like I could do anything. "Samantha am I making
you uncomfortable?" He murmured into my ear.

"Umno?"

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure," I choked out. "But, the thing is, I'm sick, I feel like hell, and I am so not in the mood
for your little games. Please get off."

"Oh, you're no fun." He obliged and sat cross-legged beside me on the little bed. He took hold of
my hand, and I noticed how cold his fingers were.

What the hell? Is he?

I do believe so.
He's thumb-wrestling with me?

Hey, he's weird just like you. Go for it, kid.

"One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war" I raised an eyebrow, but went along with it. He
won three consecutive thumb-wrestling matches before he spoke again. "You know, your
heart's really not in this."

"Um, why exactly are you here? At ten-something in the night? Eavesdropping on me?"

"Hey, if it was a private conversation, you shouldn't have had her on speaker," he shrugged.

"I thought I was alone! I didn't figure on you coming back and scaring the hell out of me!"

He gave me a long look, before starting up another game of thumb-war. "I forgot to tell you.
While you've been out sick, I got some people to help with the carnival thingy you're so hopped
up about."

Now that sparked my interest. I looked up and caught his eye. "Really?"

"Yeah. Malinna Wong said she'd do promotional stuff, too."


"Are you serious? She's like the best artist in the whole school!"

"I know." He smiled proudly.

"But she never takes on projects from other people. She has too much of her own work to do.
How?"

He smiled mysteriously. "I have my ways."

I rolled my eyes. "Oh. Let me guess. You slept with her?"

"Actually, she volunteered. Your little project seems to be bringing out the best in people." He
reached over my head and unclasped the clip that was holding my hair back from my face. Hair
spilled into my eyes, but he brushed it back. "Besides, Malinna's not my type."

"Oh, and here I thought every girl was your type."

He chuckled. "Nope. Believe it or not, I actually have some standards."

"Like what?" I asked innocently.

It wasn't like I was genuinely curious or anything, like I wanted to know what he looked for in a
girl. I was just trying to make conversation. I swear.

There was that amused look again. "Well she'd have to have a sense of humour. Having a
girlfriend who never jokes around would be pretty boring, I imagine. But she'd also have to be
able to take things seriously, too. And she'd have to be smart. And nice. And pretty, of course.
And she'd have to challenge me and test me every now and then, because where would the fun
and passion be if she was all submissive? So, so far, Sam, you're five for six. Impressive." He
winked.

My eyes widened. "I huh what? Excuse me?"

"Oh, come off it. Sam, you're a girl."

"I've noticed," I replied dryly.

"So have I."


Oh. Interesting.

Is that all you have to say?

The power of higher thinking is kind of lost on me right now.

It was then that I realized something. "David, you're not wearing a mask."

"Well, yeah." He rolled his eyes. "It's not Halloween yet."

"No, I mean the surgical masks, dumbass. You're not wearing one, and I'm not wearing one,
and I'm still contagious. You're going to get sick."

"So I miss a couple of days. Big deal." I heard footsteps outside the door and stiffened. David
gave me a questioning look. When I realized who it was, I pushed him off the bed. He fell in
heap off the side of the bed. "Okay, ow. I said I wanted to miss a couple of days, not break my
arm and miss a month," he hissed.

"Stay down," I ordered. Dr. Langer came in a moment later and flicked on the lights, her brow
furrowed.

"Oh, Samantha, you are awake. What was that crash?"

"I, um, fell off the bed. But then I got back on. So I'm not off the bed anymore. I was but now
I'm not." I gave her my best I'm-completely-innocent-and-am-in-no-way-hiding-a-boy-under-my-
bed look.

"I see. Well, I forgot something in the main office, and I thought I should check in on you.
Feeling better?"
"Uh huh!" I nodded enthusiastically.

"Great! Well, I'm going to go now, okay?"

"Good night, Dr. Langer."

"Good night, Samantha." She turned to leave, but when she was at the door, she called back
over her shoulder. "Oh, and Mr. Weston, remove yourself from under Samantha's bed and fetch
your jacket from the waiting room." She gave us both stern looks as David crawled out from
under my bed. "Visiting hours are over, Mr. Weston."

"Yes, ma'am." He grinned brightly and gave her a mock-salute. She shook her head and
opened the door for him. "Bye, Sam," he drawled.

"Bye," I said weakly.

"Oh, and Sam?" He called back, once Dr. Langer had left the room.

"Yeah?"

"The athletic department keeps the pool open for public use until eleven. So, you know, it's not
too late if you wanted to-"

"Out!" I yelled, fighting back a blush. I could hear his loud laughter even after the double doors
had swung shut.

Well, I now know what I'm thankful for this year.

And that would be?

I' m thankful for all the little things in life. Fresh air, sunshine the little bitty virus dudes that
made me get sick and end up here in the first place, thus allowing for my night time visitor.

Straight to hell with you. You're going straight to hell.

Chapter Ten: A Defining Moment


The long weekend was over, and I couldn't have been happier. Hey, you would have done
cartwheels too, if you had to make up about three days' worth of class work and homework in
less than a day.

And, you know, if you could actually do cartwheels.

Which I can't anymore. Shame, really, because besides that spell of dizziness you get that
makes you want to throw up, it was really quite fun.

But I digress.

After breakfast at which Madison, Ian, and Scott confiscated all the chocolate-chip pop tarts in
the immediate vicinity and forced me to have only toast and tea, the rat bastards Madison
yanked me out of my chair and pulled me off to English class twenty minutes early.

"Ow, what the hell was that for?" I muttered, massaging my neck. She'd pulled me up by my
collar, unfortunately for me.

"I have to show you something," she beamed, her eyes sparkling. I narrowed my own
suspiciously.

"What?"

"Lookit," she said brightly, pulling out two pieces of paper.

I took them from her and raised an eyebrow. "Wow. You're, ah, really going all out on this, huh?"
Each piece of paper which I now realized was thin card had three detailed colour photos.
Two each were of a costume, one shot from the front and one shot from the back. The third
photo was what caused the raising of the eyebrows. "Madison, may I ask how you got this
picture? I've never dressed up as Sailor Mars before. Well, not recently."
"The magic of Photoshop," she grinned. "Like mine?"

"Sailor Moon? Oh yeah. I can so see you going as her. I mean, you have the blonde hair down.
And it'll be neat to fix your hair in the pigtails with the little buns."

Well excuse me for getting a little girly for once.

"And Sailor Mars is perfect for you! All you have to do is leave your hair out, I know how much
you don't like to get too coifed."

"Now there's a word you don't hear everyday," I muttered. "And no," I added, seeing the look on
her face. "I don't want to be Sailor Mars."

"But but why? Look how good you look in the picture, Sam!" She waved the card in front of my
face.

"Yeah, but that was digitally rendered. 'Sides, that skirt is so short. You can pull it off, you have
no shame-"

"Hey!"

"Oops. Did I say that out loud?" I asked innocently.

"Very funny, Samantha. You know, I shouldn't even be showing you your second option. You
deserve to wear a micro-mini. Hell, I shouldn't even be doing this for you at all, but because
we're best friends and you're too caught up in that carnival thingy by the way, put me down as
one of your volunteers I'll take pity on you."

"You're too good to me, Maddy," I said, slipping into my customary seat in the back.

"I know." She placed another piece of thin card on my desk. This one, like the last, had three
photos of similar style. Only I liked this costume a lot more.

"I like this costume a lot more," I grinned.

"I figured you would. Leah suggested the idea to me."

"Cool. I gotta remember to give her props for that next time we talk."
"You don't think it'll be too tight? Or too pink?"

"Nah. 'Sides, it'll be fun to get all Ranger-fied again. And it has a helmet, which is an added
plus we're still doing the 'Guess Who Me Be' thingy, huh?"

"Please? And miss the opportunity to hit on dozens of guys? Of course we're still taking up
David's challenge."

"I still think it's highly unfair for it to be four-on-two."

"Sam," she began, giving me a wise look, "it's not whether we win or lose-"

"It's how many phone numbers we get at the end of the night?"

She beamed. "Exactly." I chuckled to myself and shook my head. It was times like these that I
had to stop and wonder exactly how we became friends. Not that I was averse to getting the
phone numbers of cute guys quite the opposite, in fact but-

"Wait a minute." I snapped my fingers as a sudden realization came to me.

"Hmmm?" Madison stopped pawing through her back and faced me. "What's wrong?"

"You said David issued this challenge, right? Not the other way around?"

"Yeah" She appeared perfectly composed, but I could detect a slight nervousness in her tone.
"You're never this calm and happy-go-lucky when you're the one who gets the challenge. You're
always so well, to be quite honest, you're crazed. You're always so hopped up about winning,
and you never take a challenge especially one of David's challenges in stride like this." I
narrowed my eyes. "What's going down?"

She rolled her eyes good-naturedly and gave a light laugh. "Samantha, you're so paranoid.
Nothing's going down. What, I can't mellow out over the summer?"

"No," I replied flatly, staring her in the eye. People were starting to filter in, which meant that
class was going to start soon.

She gave another laugh. "Sam, don't be preposterous."

"Madison, don't lie to me to my face."

"Sam-"

"No," I interrupted her, my voice just the teensiest bit melodramatic. "No, no, that's fine. If you're
going to go behind my back and deceive me, that's fine." I turned away from her. "I'm not your
friend anymore."

"But then who'll be brave enough to convince you to wear leather pants and micro-minis and
skin-tight pink Lycra?" She asked innocently.

"I thought I said no on the micro-mini?"

"Please. There'll be other occasions," she grinned wickedly.

I raised an eyebrow. "Unless there's an anime convention in town that you're planning on
dragging me to, how many more opportunities can there be for me to dress up as Sailor Mars?"

"Tch. I'm not talking about the costume, per se. But rest assured, before we graduate, you're
putting on a mini."

I snorted. "Like hell I am."

"You have long legs, Sam, and guys go for long legs. I'm telling you, you show some leg every
now and then, it's not such a bad thing."
I shook my head. "No way, and stop trying to change the subject. Tell me what the ulterior
motive is behind this bogus challenge David issued you."

She bit down on her bottom lip, then exhaled slowly. "Fine. Fine. I'll tell you, only because
there's going to be food in close proximity." That peaked my interest. She gave me a dirty look.
"How the hell do you do that, anyway? How the hell do you just look at me and make me tell
all?"

I shrugged. "It's a gift. Now get on with it."

"The point of the whole thing is that David's supposed to know exactly what you're going as, but
you aren't supposed to have a clue what his costume's going to be."

I frowned. "I don't get it."

"I only agreed to it in the first place because I know you want this. I mean, albeit that the part of
you that wants this is buried deep, deep down and is too stubborn to actually admit that you'd
want this, but it's there."

"Madison," I began slowly, putting a hand to my forehead. "Could you tell me what's going on
sometime before the new millennium?"

"I-"

"Good morning, class! I trust you all had an excellent long weekend?" Ms. Harris strode to the
front of the room, looking exceptionally chipper. Madison gave me an apologetic smile, and
turned to face the front of the room.

Okay, seriously, what the hell is going on?

Me no know, but you've got two weeks to figure it out. You game?
'Course I am.

Then I suggest you find another source of information. Madison came so close to telling all, and
I doubt she's going to crack like that again.

Yeah. Damn her incredible sense of loyalty to David.

And also? You might wanna hurry up. The first chance she gets, Madison will tell David you're
onto him.

But that's just the thing! I'm not. I mean, I know he's obviously planning something, but that's it.

Well, do you even wanna know?

Come again?

I'm just saying, Madison's in on this, right?

Right.

So if it was something horrible or utterly humiliating that was going to happen, do you think
she'd let it happen?

Noso, what? Am I supposed to believe that David's actually planning something of the good?
Well stranger things have happened.

Like you getting warm for his form?

Okay, shut up.

The whole 'not needing to know' attitude lasted for a good seventy minutes. In AP Statistics
class, I started pestering Madison again, but since she had Ian for backup, she wouldn't tell me
shit.

Damn that whole 'strength in numbers' bullshit. I mean, one of 'em alone, I can break 'em. But
with two of them, they gang up on me. They resist my wily ways.

Pity.
Statistics class was boring as all hell, because we had a substitute teacher who basically read
the entire textbook for the whole period. Needless to say, I could not wait to get the hell out of
that classroom. Malinna Wong had called me on my cell this morning to ask if she could meet
up with me to show me her ideas for a few posters, so as soon as the bell rang to signal the
beginning of the lunch period, I waved a goodbye to Madison and Ian and hightailed it out of the
classroom.

I met up with Maple Ridge's resident Da Vinci on the bleachers overlooking the football field.
Even though winter hadn't begun yet, she wore a thick, puffy navy coat and her thin, red-
streaked hair was pulled back by a pair of fluffy Dalmatian-patterned earmuffs. And silly me
hadn't even brought a jacket.

"Samantha, right?" She called out to me as I climbed up to the top tier, where she sat patiently.
It was the kind of meeting where you know of the other person, but you don't actually know
them.

"'Tis I," I nodded, waving a hand in greeting. When I reached the top, I sank onto the cold metal
seat with relief. "Thank you so much for doing this, Malinna. I know that with your help, we'll get
to attract more people for this. I mean, your talent in this school is renowned throughout the
school."

Hey, a little flattery never killed anyone, right?

Malinna grinned, her grey-green eyes sparkling. "How do you get to be renowned? Do you have
to be nowned first?"

It took me a moment to place where I'd heard those familiar words, and then I replied with a
smile, "Yes, first, there is the painful nowning process."

"I think I'm gonna like working with you," she laughed, pulling a black sketchbook out of her bag.
"Same here," I smiled. "Um, if you don't mind me asking, though, how'd you get my cell
number?"

"Your boyfriend gave it to me," she replied absently, flipping through the thick, creamy pages in
her leather-bound book.

I coughed. "My who now?"

"David? The dark-haired guy? Tall, funny, kinda cute. If you go for the whole 'tall, dark, and
handsome' type, which I so don't even. They're all, 'I'm so bad, I'm so broody, don't you wanna
fuck me?'" I raised an eyebrow. "No offence," she added hastily.

"None taken. Especially since David and I are about as un-together as two people can be."

Apparently, this girl did not know the reputations David and I had in relation to each other. I
mean, the two of us, together it was well, it was something that would never happen, seeing
as how we could barely carry on a civil conversation for two minutes.

"Oh. Oh." She gave a small chuckle of relief. "Okay, so you two aren't-?"

I shook my head. "Dear God, no! No, no, a world of no."

"Don't sound so disappointed." I shrieked. Oh, all right, screamed. I screamed like a little girl.
But it is quite disconcerting when you just hear this low voice in your ear all of a sudden. "Sam,
you have to come to university with me," David choked out in between his laughing. "I'll need
you around for comic relief."

"Ha ha," I snapped, scooting closer to Malinna and away from him. "This sadistic lecher here is
unfortunately my partner for this little endeavour," I explained. I turned to him. "Why are you
here?"

"Well, like you just explained to the wonderful Ms. Wong-" He broke eye contact long enough
with me to give her a wink and a grin, to which she good-naturedly rolled her eyes, "we are
partners in this little venture." He gave me a pointed look. "So thanks for inviting me along with
you so we could make this decision together."

I looked down at my shoes. "Sorry," I murmured.


I swear to God, the pink in my cheeks came from the cold.

"S'all good," he replied easily, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "Besides, while I was
running around trying to find you, I found some other stuff along the way."

"Like?"

"Like your jacket for one, idiot." He shook his head and slipped my coat over my shoulders,
rubbing my arms to make them warm. "Are you deficient?"

"Excuse me?" The whole helping-me-warm-up thing threw me for a loop. The last time someone
did that was my dad, when I was seven and had gone roller-skating with him at this indoor place
that had their air conditioners cranked to full blast.

"Why would you go and chill outside without your jacket on?"

"Sorry, Dad," I muttered, turning back to Malinna. "I'm sorry about that. David has this annoying
habit of needing to always be the center of attention," I whispered loudly, earning me a poke in
the back. Unfortunately, that poke was aimed at my tickle spot, so I was barely able to repress a
giggle.

"No big," Malinna smiled, amusement sparkling in her eyes. "I mean hell, you two are better
than cable."

"Gee. Thanks," I deadpanned, earning a laugh from her. For the next twenty minutes, she
showed us different drawings she had made for various posters. David sat behind me and
straddled the bench so he could look over my shoulder.

"Decide on which ones you want," she said, holding out a sheaf of papers. "I would recommend
no more than three, just so there's not too much variation and people won't have a hard time
recognizing what it is you're organizing."

David nodded and took the papers. "Thanks again, Mal."


"No problem," she replied warmly.

I was struck with a sudden inspiration. "Malinna, would you perhaps like to run a visual arts
activity during the week the children will be here?"

She scrunched up her nose in thought. "Not sure. I mean, yeah, I'd love to do it, but I'm not sure
if I'm gonna be here for the winter break."

I nodded. "That's cool. Let me know if you're going to plan on sticking around, though, okay?"

"Definitely."

"And make sure to document how long you work on the posters. You definitely have to get
some sort of compensation for this."

"Thanks, Samantha," she smiled. "It was nice to meet you."

"Likewise."

"David, try not to zone out in English class next time?" She called out, carefully climbing down
the bleachers. "Who else am I gonna copy notes from?" He grinned and gave her a wave, which
she returned before jogging off towards the dormitories.

"Thank you for bringing me my jacket," I said quietly after a moment's pause.

"Uh huh."

"Um, wanna split my lunch?" I reached into my bag and pulled out a white Styrofoam carton and
a large thermos.

"Sure."

"Okay." I pulled out an extra straw and fork being the less-than-graceful lass that I am, I
usually drop my utensils when I eat, hence the extras.

"Thanks," he said, taking the straw and uncapping the thermos.

"You're welcome." I opened the carton, which contained some cold chicken and potato salad.

"You made this?" He asked, spearing a piece of chicken.


I snorted derisively. "Madison did. Please, I so can't cook. Last time I tried to make rice, I nearly
set the place on fire." He choked on his chicken. "I can boil water, though. That's something."

"Water," he gasped, half-laughing, half-choking. I handed him my water bottle and vigorously
slapped him on the back. He downed practically the whole bottle in one gulp. "Okay, ow, ow,
ow! Damn it, you can stop hitting me, you know! I'm not choking anymore."

"I know. But consider it part of my aggressive nature." I slapped him one more time for good
measure. He gave me a dirty look. We finished off my lunch okay, David finished off my lunch
while I picked at a piece of chocolate cake.

"What's wrong? Why aren't you eating?"

I shrugged. "I don't really feel all that hungry. My stomach is still a little unsettled, I guess."

"Can I have your cake, then?"

I gave him a Look. "You completely polished off my lunch-"

"You offered-"

"-And now you want my cake?"

"You're not feeling one-hundred-percent yet. Shame to let the cake go to waste."
I narrowed my eyes in concentration. "Fine," I relented. "But the hot chocolate's mine." I passed
him the cake and he passed me my thermos and we consumed dangerous amounts of sugary,
chocolate-y goodness in silence. Letting out the smallest of yawns, I stretched my arms over my
head, arching my back. The bleachers were not the most comfortable of places to sit for a long
period of time. He raised an eyebrow and stared at me for a good minute and a half, his face
expressionless. "What?" I asked, brushing loose hair out of my eyes.

He shook his head, a small smile creeping onto his face. "Nothing."

I shook my head. "You're a little odd, you know that?"

"Uh huh."

"So how long till class starts?"

"Dunno."

I scooted closer to him and poked him gently on his arm. "Why are you being so monosyllabic
and laconic for?"

"Hey, you wanna have a gin on the rocks with me?" He looked up, suppressing a laugh.

"I don't drink, thanks," I replied absently.

Mischief sparkled in his eyes, and I could tell he was trying to suppress a grin. "How about a
northwest cocktail?"

"I just told you, I don't drink." I took one look at his barely-composed form and laughing eyes,
before something clicked in my mind. "This has nothing to do with alcohol, huh?"

"Nope."

"This has everything to do with sex, doesn't it?"

"Uh huh."

"Right. Well, in that case" I trailed off, my voice low and as sultry as I could make it. I sidled
up to him until I was straddling his lap, and draped an arm around his neck. He widened his
eyes, clearly surprised. I was more than a little nervous about what I was planning to do, but
then I remembered David pulling me down on top of him, and David hovering over me on the
rock, and David rolling onto me on the bed, and David in general making my hormones go
crazy. And doing it on purpose, too, the limey jerk.

No, no, this is so called for. Time for some freakin' payback. Let's see how you like being thrown
for a loop.

I pulled the zipper of his jacket down and unbuttoned the first two buttons of his shirt. My hands
were shaking ever-so-slightly, though I was pretty sure it was from nerves and not the cold. My
mouth was drier than the Sahara, and my heart was racing. Steadfastly ignoring eye contact
with him, I reached up and firmly planted my lips against his collarbone, sucking lightly. I felt,
rather than heard, his sharp intake of breath.

Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. What are you doing?

Getting a little thing called 'payback'.

His skin was warm and had the subtle scent of pine trees, and the way the air smelled when it
rained really hard; it felt cool and soft against my lips and tasted vaguely of sweetness. He sat
up straight and wound an arm around my waist, tangling his other hand in my hair.

Oh God. Is he trying to drive me crazy?

Excuse me, but who is doing the kissing, and who is doing the mere holding of the person who
is doing the kissing?

Point taken.

'Payback' never felt so good before, huh?

Damn straight.
I kissed my way up his neck, then pressed my lips along his jaw and kissed my way towards his
ear. His breath was warm on the back of my neck, and it came fast and erratic.

Only David, you know. Only David could lead me to do something so completely unlike myself.
Sad thing was, I was getting into it.

"Sam, are you serious?" He asked hoarsely. I pulled away from him and tried to contain my own
ragged breathing.

"No." He blinked, uncomprehending. "So stop messing around with me. Not really fun when
you're on the receiving end of it, huh?" I whacked him lightly with my backpack, then stood up,
slinging my bag over my shoulders.

Okay, that's it, knees. Don't bend. Keep walking, and don't collapse.

I carefully climbed down the bleachers, and a moment later, I heard a David follow me down,
occasionally slipping and swearing.

"Sam, wait! Wait up! You can't do that!" He yelled after me, falling down the last tier. He
scrambled up and ran across the grass towards me. "You can't do that to a person and-"

"Why not?" I replied, feigning casualness, walking backwards towards the Science building.
"You do it to me all the time."

"But it's not the-" He tripped over his feet and clambered back up. "It's not the same."

"How?" I challenged, raising an eyebrow expectantly. I could see the frustration building in his
chocolate eyes. "Exactly."

He looked like his was quickly reaching his boiling point, but then I saw the frustration leave him
and the amused look returned to his eyes.

"You know you loved every minute of that."

Damn straight. I shrugged indifferently and turned my back to him.

He jogged up to me and walked beside me. "You know you wanna do that again. That and
more." I turned to look at him, trying to look as bored and unconcerned as possible.
I flicked my gaze down to his waist area. "I think you liked that more than I did, by the looks of
things."

"Touch," he chuckled, draping an arm over my shoulders. "Who would have known you could
be so?"

"Seductive?" I supplied helpfully, ignoring the not-exactly-unpleasant feel of the weight and
warmth of his arm around me. "Well, I guess I learned from the best."

"Actually, I was gonna go with 'slutty'," he replied, failing miserably at controlling his delight.

"Shut up." I shrugged his arm off me.

"Wanna shag?"

"Go to hell."

"How about root?"

"Fuck off."

"Wanna dip the wick?"

"I'd rather have my teeth pulled."

"We can play hospital."

"You're an ass."
"Wanna play cars and garages, then?"

"Get a life."

"Let's slip a length."

"I'll slip your length through a paper shredder if you don't leave me the hell alone."

And sadly, this continued throughout the rest of the lunch period.

By the time we made it to Chemistry class, David had asked me to have sex with him in ten
more different ways.

"Where the hell are you getting these things?" I asked, sliding onto my stool.

"Article on euphemisms in English class," he grinned, leaning back against the lab counter.

"Huh."

"Yeah. So-"

"For the last time, David Weston," I hissed, keeping my voice low, "I will not have sex with you!"

"Sooner or later," he promised me, giving me a wink.

"Argh!"

Where's a three-hundred-page thesaurus when you need one?

And if it wasn't for the fact that Laura Brennan sparks an intense dislike in me, I would have
been somewhat happy for the addition of her presence.

But sadly, she's about as bitchy and snobby as can be, and if I have to duck from exploding
glass one more time, I will personally set her stupid shampoo-commercial hair on fire, so her
coming into class and taking her customary seat beside me just added fuel to the ever-growing
fire that was my annoyance.

"Samantha," she acknowledged, her voice flat and expressionless. I raised an eyebrow,
surprised. Usually, she didn't even bother to make with the pleasantries. But I guess it was
because David was facing our way that she decided to play nice.
"Laura. What's up?"

"Nothing."

And that was that.

It's so funny funny as in ironic, not funny 'haha' because Laura Brennan has your classic
'friendly girl' looks. I mean, she looks like a nice girl. Her eyes are big and blue and she really
does have a very nice smile. Her hair is long and dark brown, and she's very pretty in that
classic sort of way. She's not drop-dead gorgeous, but she has that sweetness to her features.

And here comes the funny part, because like I said, she's a Grade A bitch.

"Oh, David. Hey." She gave him a dazzling smile.

Excuse me while I gag.

He turned around and smiled that heart-stopping, make-my-knees-go-weak smile. "Laura, hey.
How are you?"

Well, not my knees, I mean. Knees in general. David Weston does not make my knees go
weak.
"Not too well. My cousin was out sick for a little while, and I feel so terrible for her. You know
Greta Carmichael, right?"

David shifted in his seat, sparing a quick glance in my direction. "Yeah. I remember her."

"Yeah, poor thing's so sick. Won't stop throwing up." She clucked her tongue sympathetically. "I
was thinking, if you have some time, could you teach me how to make some soup for her? I
mean, you are one of the best cooks in this school."

Barely managing to repress a scoff, I began to pull my books out of my bag.

This is nice. This is very nice. Yeah, what a gentleman David Weston is. Carry on a nice
conversation with me, but as soon as some pretty girl comes over, I get the cold shoulder. What
the hell am I, chopped liver? Yeah, talk to Sam when there's no other girl around that you can
hit on.

I twirled my pencil between my fingers, fuming, as they continued to talk animatedly.

Moron. Bastard. No, rat-bastard.

"So I heard you were doing track again this year, right?"

"Yeah, I'm actually doing both. Figure it's my last year, I might as well go out with a bang, know
what I mean?"

"That's great. Consider me your personal cheerleader." She gave him a flirtatious wink.

I wanted to hit her soundly with my Beauty and the Beast binder.

Awww, someone's jealous.

Please! I am so not jealous. Why would I be jealous?

If I could, I'd give you the 'don't take me for an idiot, because I'm not' look.

Okay. Fine. I'm jealous. I'm jealous that David's completely ignoring me to flirt with that less-
than-human biatch. Happy?

Yes, quite. And you know what this means, don't you?
What? That I'm an attention-whore?

Nope. Come on, Sam. Admit it. You've never been one to hide from the truth before.

Yeah, I'm pretty accepting of the way things are, aren't I?

So stop preening and accept this.

Fine. David's a cutie. In fact, he's more than a cutie. He's a veritable hottie and I actually want
him. I'm attracted to David Weston. So are we happy now, huh? Are we satisfied?

Not quite. But we will be.

Chapter Ten-and-a-Half: All Kinds of Newness

Three essays, two lab reports, twenty-five pages of reading, and fifteen math problems. That
was what I had on my plate to finish within the next week and a half. And yet, I couldn't focus
long enough to get any of it done.

And, as always these days, the root of my problem was a certain sharp-tongued, six-foot-two,
dark-haired cutie.

Yes, the puzzle that was David preoccupied my thoughts, diverted my concentration, took up
my every attention. I couldn't for the life of me figure the guy out. One minute he was, gasp,
actually normal. And the next, he was back to his old self. Oh, and there was also my changed
behaviour when I was around him; I still couldn't get over the fact that I'd actually given David
Weston a hickey earlier that day. The memory seemed like it came from someone else's mind.
Someone else's hormone-filled, erotically-charged mind, mind you, because I'd be lying if I said
that what happened on the bleachers didn't turn me on in the least.

Oh yes, there was much indeed to ponder about David.

So with a shitload of work to do and my inability to focus on it, I turned to my back up method.
No, not Buffy or Angel, 'cause come on now, the work would never get done if I went down that
route.

No, I burned some incense and did some meditation.

Yes, Samantha Spade is capable of sitting still for longer than five minutes, thanks.

Madison, Scott, and Ian were at the library studying for their upcoming Calculus test, so I had
the room to myself for a good couple of hours.

Making sure to keep the baggy legs of my pyjama pants away from the fire, I lit a few vanilla-
scented candles, placed them on the floor of the kitchen, then turned off the lights. I sat on the
linoleum and crossed my legs, and for a good fifteen minutes, emptied my mind and focused on
nothing at all.

I was really starting to relax. And then I heard it.

It was a couple of clicks. Small ones, barely noticeable otherwise, but in the quiet dark of the
room, they might as well have been sonic booms. I wasn't sure if the clicks came from the
doorway or the window, the only two entry-slash-exit points in the room.

Feeling more than just a little freaked out, I snuffed out the candles and got to my feet. Keeping
quiet, I peered out into the entertainment area; the door was closed. I was fairly sure that the
intruder hadn't come in through there, seeing as I would have heard the door close. Feeling like
I wanted to faint all over again, I darted behind the couch closest to the kitchen doorway.

I paused for a moment and listened; there was a slight rustling sound coming from the area of
my bed. I froze, terrified. There were two courses of action I could take. The front door was less
than ten feet away: I could make a speedy exit provided that the intruder didn't wise up and
wasn't faster than I was and get the security out front. Or, I could go towards the sound.
See, if you're like me, when you watch horror movies and thrillers, you yell at the character
when he or she is about to walk right into the killer's clutches. But when you're in the situation, I
have to say, there's something oddly compelling about finding out what exactly is making that
freaky weird noise. So doing the exact opposite of what my mind screamed at me to do, I made
my way towards my bed.

There was a chance that the clicking-like sounds had just been caused by something falling
over or knocking into something else. Nevertheless, I kept my back against the wall of the
bathroom, and when I peered around the corner, my heart caught in my throat. There was a
large, looming figure sitting on my bed. Tall and broad-shouldered, the guy could easily take
me, no contest. I cursed myself up and down and ten times over for not getting the hell out of
dodge when I had the chance.

Oh my God, how stupid can we be? Why? The door was right there! But no, we have to play
detective, find out what's behind the creepy sounds. Frig, who do you think you are, Nancy
frickin' Drew?

I'm too young and smart to die!

Just as I was contemplating sneaking back to the front door, the figure turned to face me. That
was when I knew for sure that he saw me. Fighting back a whimper as he stood up, I backed up
and my foot hit something. Solid, round, and about the size of a soccer ball.

Hey, this is my soccer ball! I thought it was in my closet. Weird.

No. No, I can use this to my advantage. Provided that I still got some moves.

Up until a year back, I used to be pretty good with a soccer ball.

Manoeuvring the ball between my legs, I tossed it up with my feet and kicked it straight at the
figure's head. It collided with a solid thump, and I took that moment to bolt for the door. But a
pained, whining voice stopped me in my tracks.

"Ow. What the frig, Sam, that hurt!"

Slowly, I turned around. Barely managing to suppress my anger, I called out, "David?"
"God, Sam," he griped. "You didn't have to take my head off."

I blinked as the lights came on; David's one hand was poised over a light switch, and the other
was rubbing his temple. A wicked-looking purplish bruise was forming over his left eye. Part of
me a small, tiny, nearly non-existent part wanted to make it better, but a much bigger part of
me wanted to make his whole body black-and-blue for scaring the shit out of me.

"What the hell were you trying to pull?" I gritted out, crossing my arms over my chest. "You're
lucky the baseball bat wasn't within reach, you know. What the hell were you trying to do?"

A sheepish grin crossed his face. "I knew you'd be here by yourself, since the others are
studying. I wanted to scare you a little."

"Mission accomplished," I snapped, striding over to the kitchen. I stooped down and began to
pick up the candles. "And how many times do I have to tell you, don't come in my room with
your shoes on!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he murmured calmly, holding his hands up in surrender. "Really, I am. It
was wrong of me to scare you, and trek mud all over the carpet."

"There's mud all over the carpet?" I asked, horrified.

"What were you doing before, anyhow?" David asked quickly.

"Meditating," I replied shortly, turning my back to him.

He snickered. "You, meditate? You can barely sit still for ten minutes at a time."

"See that there?" I pointed to my desk, piled with papers and books. "I need to finish all that
soonish, and I can't concentrate on any of it. Meditating helps me. You being here does not. So
leave. Now." I gave him my best no-nonsense look.

"Come on, Sam," he wheedled. "Don't be like that. Let me stay here. Please?"

"Why the hell should I?" I asked, incredulous. "You break in here annoying habit which you
need to stop, by the way, before I report you to the school security you scare the absolute shit
out of me, and you want me to let you stay? Give me one good reason why I should." I crossed
my arms over my chest.
He made a face. "Charlie's got a girl in the room. At least, I'm pretty sure he does. There are
sounds coming from behind the door." He widened his eyes. "I hope he's got a girl in the room."

I sighed, exasperated. "Then go chill somewhere else. David, I really need to get all this work
done."

"Fine. Fine, fine I'll go." He gave me puppy-dog eyes. He actually gave me puppy-dog eyes.
He had pretty cute puppy-dog eyes. Of course, I would rather swim in bleach than tell him that.
"On one condition, though," he added.

Of course there was a stipulation. Of course.

"What's the catch?" I asked suspiciously.

"Follow me."

"Excuse me?"

"Follow me. Come with me, and I'll leave."

"I think me trailing after you defeats the purpose of you leaving me alone," I pointed out.

"It'll only be for a few minutes, I promise. I just want to show you something. And it's pretty nice
out. You don't even need to change, just throw a jacket on over your shirt."

I glanced down at my pyjamas. I was in my room alone with David Weston, and was wearing
blue and purple Hello Kitty pyjamas.
Lovely.

I weighed my options. I could be stubborn and refuse, and then David would probably pitch a
tent near the couch and never leave, if only out of pure spite. Or, I could humour him for a while
and come back, refreshed and ready to work.

"How long is 'a few minutes'?" I asked guardedly.

"Fifteen minutes too long?"

"Hmmm I guess that would be okay," I replied finally.

David smiled. A genuine smile, too, and not like those too-practiced-to-be-really-real ones that
one usually saw him sporting. I decided he looked quite handsome when he smiled.

"Great," he beamed. And for some reason, I found myself smiling, too. It was a small one, but it
was a smile nonetheless.

"Great," I echoed. I walked over to the closet and pulled out a blue jacket to wear over my
nightclothes, then slipped on a pair of socks and my sneakers. David was already through the
window by the time I was done.

"Oh, and bring that soccer ball of yours." He grinned. "I wanna see what else you got."

"Score's tied, nineteen even," David called out.

"You liar," I laughed. "Score's twenty-five to ten. I'm totally kicking your ass." To prove it, I kicked
the ball past him once more. "Make that twenty-six to ten," I smirked.

David had led me down to a meadow-y sort of area a little ways behind the main building; we'd
had to walk down one of the less-travelled pathways to get to it. We'd started playing soccer,
using trees as makeshift goalposts, and had been playing for nearly an hour. I was actually
having a lot of fun.

"How in the hell are you doing this?" David asked, sounding genuinely perplexed.

I laughed again. "I used to be on the school team." I passed the ball back and forth between my
legs, waiting for him to try and get it.
"'Used to'? What happened?" He darted forward, but I sidestepped him.

I shrugged. "Mom wanted me to quit, so I did. Put everything into the newspaper, instead."

David frowned. "You quit? Just like that?"

"Kind of had to. Besides, working on the school newspaper looks a lot better on your university
applications than kicking a ball around. At least, that was what my mom said."

"You always do everything your mom says, always give up the things that make you happy
without a fight?"

"Oh, you know how West Indian parents are, David. Parents in general. 'My way or the
highway'. 'As long as you live under my roof, you do what I tell you to'." I kicked the ball wildly
out of frustration, and it ricocheted off one of the trees David had marked as his goalpost.

David jogged over to the ball and tried to kick it past me, but I stole it from him. "But technically,
you don't live under her roof, do you?" He asked with a sly glance.

I managed a small smile. "I used to be really good at this, you know."

David raised his eyebrows. "'Used to'? What do you call now? You're completely kicking my
ass, here."

I grinned. "This, dear boy, is nothing. I was captain of the girls' junior team back in tenth grade,
and co-captain of the junior co-ed team." I feinted right, then went left and got another goal in on
him. "Those were the days."

"Why don't you join the team this year?" He asked, whooping when he got the ball from me and
scored a goal.
I shook my head. "I'm too out of practice. It was fun, though. Every once in a while" I
positioned the ball then tossed it up with my feet, and started bouncing it from knee to knee.
"Every once in a while, I start jonesing for a game. I get this urge to strap on a pair of cleats and
go crazy on the field." I kneed the ball over to him. It hit him square in the chest; I smothered a
laugh.

"You know, I never knew this side of you," he mused, giving me a sideways glance.

I shrugged. "And I never knew this side of you, so I guess we're even."

"I guess."

David tried to be slick. He really did. But I saw the move coming a mile away. He feinted left,
and I went right and stole the ball from him. I was just angling to kick the ball, when I felt him
grab me from behind and started tickling.

"Cheater!" I cried out between laughs. "Oh my God, David, knock it off! Stop tickling me! You
cheater!"

"It's not cheating," he grinned, brushing his fingers across the back of my neck. "Think of it as
levelling the playing field."

I felt drunk on laughter, even though David had promptly stopped tickling me. My legs felt
completely slack, and if David hadn't had an arm around my waist holding me close,
supporting me I would have collapsed onto the soft grass we stood on.

"You, David Weston," I managed to choke out in between bursts of laughter, "are a damn
cheat."

A shadow of a smile passed across his face. "No, I'm not."

Why did I get the feeling we weren't talking about the soccer game anymore?

I studied David. He really was handsome, even more so up close. I spied a faint purplish spot
on his neck it was fairly small just above the neckline of his shirt, and wondered what he told
people as to how he got it. It kind of bothered me to think that maybe some other girl's name
was perhaps attached to the mark.
I wondered what it would be like to kiss him. Not just give him a peck on the cheek, but really
kiss him. I'm talking full-frontal, my-lips-passionately-crushed-against-his, his-tongue-teasing-
mine kind of action.

Oh yes, there was tongue in this little fantasy of mine.

David peered down at me, his dark eyes glinting with devilish amusement, like he knew the
kinds of sinful thoughts that were running through my mind.

Oh God, I hope he doesn't. Mortified, much?

He wet his lips with his tongue I never realized how sensual that one little act could be and
bent his mouth to my ear. For a moment, I thought he might kiss me, and it surprised me that I
wanted him to. When he didn't, I actually felt a little disappointed. Had to remind myself that I
probably wasn't the first girl he'd brought to the little clearing although I might have been the
first clad in pyjamas.

I imagined we looked quite a pair: him looking trs suave and cool in black slacks, a black
sweater, and white Pumas; and me looking like a dork in an oversized purple shirt with Hello
Kitty print on it, matching blue-and-purple plaid pants (that were a size and a half too big for me,
mind you), and beat-up black sneakers that were the nerve completely three seasons ago.

Oh yeah. We made a perfect match, for sure.

"You shouldn't stop doing something you love, just because someone tells you to," he
whispered into my ear.

"I'll keep that in mind," I squeaked. "I'm, um, guessing that we've been out here for more than
fifteen minutes," I said, trying to restore some measure of calm to my voice.

"Yeah, I guess we have sorry about that." He didn't look very sorry.

"No worries. The weekend's coming up, so I'll have time to finish everything then." I
disentangled myself from him and took a step back.

David raked a hand through his hair. "Good. Great, I mean. 'Cause you get to finish everything,
and yeah."
"Yeah," I echoed.

Hello, weird awkward moment.

"So, uh, I'm gonna go." I bent to pick up my soccer ball and gave David a little wave.

"Wait! Do you, uh, want me to walk you back?"

I smiled. "That's nice of you, but I think I'll be okay."

"Are you sure? This time of night, you got some crazies out. And there are all those guys who
are sneaking back on campus, drunk and-slash-or high."

"David, it's only nine. Odds are the alcoholics and druggies are still out getting drunk and high."

He scowled. "You're not funny."

"Okay, if I get accosted, I'll scream bloody murder," I assured him. He didn't seem amused. "I'll
be fine, don't worry. One big brother is enough, you know."

"Sam, I big brother?" He asked, looking horrified.

I suppressed a snicker. "I'll call you the minute I'm safely inside my room," I promised him. In
truth, I wouldn't have minded him walking me back. I was kind of nervous about having to cross
the campus by myself after dark, and after seeing him in so many fights, I figured he'd be a
decent bodyguard. But I was even more nervous about spending another minute in David's
presence. He made me feel all weird and fluttery inside. I wasn't sure yet as to whether or not
that was a good thing.

"If you insist," he replied, in the tone of voice that clearly said he thought it was a bad idea.

"I do. I'll see you later, okay?" He raised his hand in good-bye, and I turned around and followed
the path back towards the back of the main building.

About five minutes after I'd left, though, I started to get the feeling that I was being followed. It
made me seriously rethink declining David's offer. All the way back to my dorm, the feeling
stayed with me. Sure enough, when I reached the walkway up to my dorm and turned around, I
saw a figure clad in black duck behind the nearest tree. A figure clad in black and wearing white
Pumas. Shaking my head, I stepped off the path and waited until he walked past me.
David walked right past me and went up the steps, peering through the glass windows of the
back doors, his brow wrinkling in confusion.

"FYI, the creepy, stalkery following-me-in-the-shadows is, well, a little creepy," I informed him.

He jumped, startled. "You scared the shit out of me!"

"I guess we're even, then."

"Hey, I already apologized for earlier."

I crossed my arms over my chest. "So, you're not going to say you're sorry for following me?"

He scowled. "No, I'm not going to apologize for looking out for you."

I raised my eyebrows. "I suppose you want me to thank you, is that it? For making sure I got
back safe, since I can't take care of myself, I mean." David gave me a dirty look and stalked
past me. "Thank you," I called out.

He turned around. "What are you thanking me for? I didn't do anything gratitude-worthy."

Well, sure, if he was going to be like that.

"You know, you did a really half-assed job. You didn't even make sure I got to my room in one
piece."
David rolled his eyes, but didn't move. I unlocked the back door and slipped inside. It took me
only a few minutes to get in my room, and the second I flicked on the lights, my phone rang.

"You're inside?" David asked, his voice gruff. I waved at him through the window; he was
leaning against one of the thicker maples across the pathway. "So can I go now?"

"You are hereby relieved of your duty."

"Good. You've distracted me long enough." He made no motion to leave.

"Right, because I was the one who broke into your room and scared you senseless."

"Well, you were the one who jumped out at me from behind the bushes and scared me
senseless."

I snickered. "That was all kinds of funny."

"Well, you know, if you're not even gonna say you're sorry"

"Fine, I'm sorry," I replied, trying to sound put out. "I guess while I'm at it, I might as well doing
something else crazy, like thank you for helping me clear my mind."

He chuckled. "So I guess you want me to do something crazy like say 'you're welcome'."

"Oh my God, are those words even in your vocabulary?"

"Believe me, I was just as surprised to hear words of apology and gratitude coming from your
mouth."

"Ha ha," I replied dryly. "You are so not funny."

"I'm so so funny."

"So not."

"So am."

David stayed on the phone with me for another forty-five minutes, until Madison came back from
studying; we talked for a full hour, without fights, without argument, and with plenty of laughs.
Weird? Oh yeah.

Unwanted? Not quite.

Chapter Eleven: Comfortably So

By Thursday, a whole slew of people had come up to David and me about the weeklong event
for the orphans. On Friday, we'd gotten Madison to make an announcement for us see, we
learn from past mistakes, we're not totally un-trainable and the very clever idea of a bake sale
as a fundraiser had been presented to us. On Saturday, the plan was to start making cookies to
sell the following Wednesday.

Of course, things never do go as planned

"Samantha! For heaven's sake, stop being stubborn!"

"I am not being stubborn! You are!" For the past twenty minutes, we'd been arguing about what
pants I should wear to bake cookies. I mean honestly, off all things, pants?

"Wear the leather pants, Sam!" She threw them at me. They landed on my head.

"No!" I pulled them off and flung them back at her.


"Samantha!"

"Madison! I wore them as part of my Halloween costume last year!"

"So? They're not costume-y! And you know what? You're lucky I'm not making you wear the
shirt we bought to go with the pants!"

"Okay, that 'shirt' barely covered my chest; it was a piece of black fabric, if anything."

Madison shrugged. "Not my fault you wanted us to go as Buffy and Faith."

"Yes, but did you have to make me look like I just finished a shift at a strip club?"

"Honey, you wanted to go as Faith. 'She's sexy, she's cool,' you said."

"Yeah, well" Okay, I lost the argument. I knew that one.

She crossed her arms over her chest and gave me a smug smile. "Exactly."

"I'm still not wearing the leather pants," I muttered petulantly.

"Fine, fine," she sighed, exasperated. She rooted around in my closet until she came across a
pair of coal-coloured low-rider jeans.

I widened my eyes. "You can't be serious."

"Oh, I am. It's this or the leather, Sammy. Make your choice."

Gritting my teeth, I reluctantly held out my hand for the jeans. "Fine. I choose the jeans."

A hint of a smile graced her features. She muttered something that sounded suspiciously like,
"That what I thought," then tossed the jeans to me. I quickly shed my boxer shorts and slipped
them on.

"They look, um, kind of tight," I noted, looping a simple white belt around my waist.

"Trust me, they fit fine."

"You can see my underwear!"

She raised an eyebrow. "Since when do you wear thongs?"


"Madison!" I wasn't blushing. Really, I wasn't.

"It looks hot," she ground out, her eyes flashing as if daring me to challenge her. And, of
course, I didn't. I mean, when you combine Madison's impressive height and her don't-take-shit-
from-anyone personality, she can be quite intimidating.

Which is probably why I've got half a wardrobe full of incredibly sexy but definitely not-me
clothes that I will most likely never wear.

"Yes, ma'am," I said meekly, trying to adjust the pants.

"Leave it."

"Okay, okay you do realize that you're dressing me up an awful lot for someone who's about
to go and get flour all over herself, right?"

"Samantha, if you dare let even a speck of flour touch these clothes, I will hit you where it hurts,"
she warned. "And that means no more free muffins in the cafeteria."

I gasped. "You're evil."


Madison beamed. "Thank you." She tossed me a soft, satiny shirt that was a shade or so darker
than the pants. I pulled off my t-shirt and pulled the black shirt over my head. "Do you have a
problem with this, too?"

Well, you can kind of see my stomach

"No?"

She smiled and patted me on the head. "Good answer." She studied me critically, before
adjusting the shirt so it fell around my shoulders. "This is how it's meant to be worn, you know."

"Yeah, yeah." I turned to look at myself in her full-length mirror. In all fairness, the clothes did
look nice; they just weren't 'me'. The pants fit snugly along my hips and thighs, then tapered off
from about mid-calf and flared out just the slightest around my ankles. The shirt was off-the-
shoulder and fit closely around my chest area. But otherwise, it was all billowy sleeves and
flowing midriff.

"Oh, you look so cute!" She squealed.

I was not amused.

"You know," I mused, chuckling to myself, ruffling up my still-damp hair and putting on a pair of
simple silver studs in my ears, "you'd think I was like, going out on a date or something, the way
you're acting." Madison stayed silent, determinedly looking at her poster of Chad Michael
Murray on the far wall. The smile left my face and I slowly turned to her in horror. "Oh, hell no!
Madison-!"

"Here's your jacket!" She said hastily, tossing me my cell phone and my black leather jacket, the
one definitively cool piece of clothing I'd bought of my own accord.

"Madison-!"

"Go, go, you're going to be late!" She pushed me out the door and locked it behind me. That
was how I wound up standing the hallway in my socked feet, with Alicia Cummings' boyfriend
wolf-whistling at me as he passed my room.

I flipped him off, then banged on the door. "Madison! I need shoes, you moron!" She opened the
door just wide enough to toss out my black boots, then slammed it shut once more. "Great," I
muttered, leaning against the beige walls of the hallway. "Just bloody perfect." I slipped the
boots on under my jeans and zipped them up. As soon as I stepped out into the cold evening's
air, I immediately wished Madison had thought to toss me a hat, too.

By the time I got to David's room, I was not in the best of spirits. I banged on the door, silently
cursing Madison all the while. David's roommate, Charlie Winters, answered the door, and his
eyebrows shot up in surprise.

"Samantha?"

"Hey," I replied dejectedly. He was in my AP Biology class this year (until I'd dropped it and
gotten a whole bunch of classes switched around in the process), and he was a pretty good
conversationalist. Kinda cute, too, with his spiky blond hair and emerald-green eyes. And he
had dimples. Who does not love dimples?

"Scott's room is a floor below," he informed me.

"I know. I'm here to see David." I pondered those words for a minute. "I never thought those
words would come out of my mouth."

He chuckled and opened the door wider so I could come in. "Nice outfit," he commented
appreciatively, once I'd taken off my jacket. "So you guys are going out on a date or
something?"

"Or something," I replied, picturing all the lovely ways I could get back at Madison once the night
was over. I sank onto their couch and crossed my legs.

Okay, so maybe I was over-exaggerating a little. Maybe I wasn't all that mad. But I had to be
mad; it was the principle of the thing.

"Wow. I mean, not that it's surprising, really. But I guess that means you're taken, huh?" He
flashed me a smile.

"Rooming with David all these years really has affected you, hasn't it?" I asked sadly.
"You pick up things here or there," he shrugged.

"Ah." I raked a hand through my hair. Still wet. Damn.

Charlie took a seat across from me. "So, when did you guys hook up?"

I made a face. "I think you misunderstand, in like the worst way possible. We're not" I trailed
off helplessly, my eyes wandering to the sight over Charlie's shoulders.

"Samantha? Are you okay?"

Well, you would lose the power of speech, too, if you saw a guy any guy, really, it doesn't
have to be one as hot as David walk out of the bathroom shirtless. And in a towel.

Oh dear God.

Breathe, Samantha.

I am breathing.

And don't drool.

I'm not drooling.

And don't stare.

Now that is easier said than done. Madison, I take back everything. I love you, you're the
best.

I guessed he'd just come out from the shower; the navy towel that was wrapped around his
waist was riding dangerously low on his hips. His black hair, for once, was tamed, and was
spiked up by the water. Add all that to the fact that he was dripping wet, and in short, the boy
was hot.

Yummy.

Charlie turned his head to see what I was staring at, and smirked when he caught sight of David
rustling through his closet. His muscles flexed spectacularly as he reached up to grab
something off the top shelf. "Breathe, Samantha. You look like you're going to go catatonic."
"Uh huh?" I mumbled distractedly, my eyes still firmly trained on David.

My, how far we've come. First, we violently dislike David with the burning passion of a thousand
suns, and now, we can't seem to take our eyes off of him.

Hey, he's a hottie. I am merely appreciating the fact.

I had an odd, constricting feeling in my stomach as my eyes continuously roamed up and down
strong arms, taut muscles, and glistening brown skin. I titled my head slightly so I could get a
better view.

Hey, I am seventeen. I'm allowed to ogle.

And after a solid three days of David-avoidance, I'm sure the appreciation is more so.

You got that right.

He is yummy, huh?

Oh yeah.

"Charlie? Where the hell's my shirt?" David growled out, pawing through his drawers, throwing
clothes over his shoulders. An impressively-sized pile of shirts soon accumulated on the thick
plush carpet.
"Which shirt?" Charlie drawled, amusement flickering in his eyes.

"The red one I took out and put on my bed before I went to shower. And my pants! Where the
hell are my pants?" He ran a hand through his hair, frustration darkening his handsome
features.

He hadn't seen me. Which was just as well, actually. Meant I could take in all the eye-candy I
wanted without getting a large dose of ego on the side.

"Relax, lover boy. It's only a quarter after six."

"Yeah, and she's going to be here right now." I swear, the startled expression on his face
when he looked over and saw me sitting on the couch was absolutely priceless. It was funny
enough to snap me out of my little, um, moment.

"Hi!" I chirped brightly. I openly checked him out, then turned to Charlie. "Does your roommate
always make it a practice to walk around the room in nothing but a towel when company's
expected?" Charlie's laughter was cut off by David's deathly fierce glare.

Well, isn't this new and interesting.

I'm aggravating David! This is pretty fun.

"Aw, it's not Charlie's fault you're an exhibitionist," I drawled, stifling my laughter. David turned
his glare to me. I scoffed. "Please. Like the intimidation crap works on me. I've seen scarier
looks from Madison."

No, really, I have. She gets all glowery and and tall it's not for the faint of heart, believe you
me.

"And is that embarrassment I see in those deep, dark eyes?" I continued, making Charlie snort
with laughter. "Wow, who'd have guessed that David Weston of all people would be
embarrassed to be seen in towel?"

"Take a goddamn picture, why don't you," David growled, clutching his towel tightly, staring
somewhere over my head. "It lasts longer."
"Well," I shrugged, taking out my cell phone. "If you insist." Before he could stop me, the little
flash went off, and I had a perfect image of David Weston half-naked in a towel. "Hmm, wonder
how much I'll get for this on eBay," I mused aloud. Charlie could no longer control himself. He
exploded into fits of loud laughter that turned David a very interesting shade of red. Whether it
was from annoyance, rage, or embarrassment, I wasn't quite sure.

"Don't you have a freshman to fuck?" David muttered, still keeping the death grip on his towel.

"Oh shit," Charlie muttered, looking at his watch, "you're right." He grabbed his jacket from off
the back of a chair and practically flew out the door.

"Wow. She must be one hot freshman," I said, taking the opportunity to stretch myself out on the
couch. I politely turned to look up at the ceiling to spare the boy further embarrassment. Yeah,
I'm just nice like that.

"Eh, she's not bad on the eyes," he replied easily. "Anyway, do me a favour?"

"Depends on what this favour entails."

"It's not a sexual thing," he assured me exasperatedly.

"Then, sure." I swung my legs off the couch and sat up, looking at him expectantly.

He glanced nervously towards the kitchen. "Can you put a pot of water on the stove to boil?"

"Since when do you need to boil water if you're going to make cookies?" I asked. I pondered my
question, and reflected on my cooking experience, which mainly consisted of watching people
cook stuff for me. "Never mind, I'm not gonna question you." I got up and strode over to the
kitchen.

"The pots and pans and shit are in the bottom. Use the big white one. Fill it about four-fifths of
the way up. Put it on low heat." I did as he asked, fumbling slightly with the stove knobs.
Electric stoves. Gotta love 'em.

"Okay, well, I'm gonna go get dressed," he said, walking backwards towards the bathroom with
a rumpled pile of clothes in his arms. "I think I've given you enough of a racing pulse for the
night."

"Okay," I replied sarcastically. "Sure. Whatever helps you sleep at night, David. You're so
conceited, you know that?"

And you have no idea how right you are.

Still conceited, though.

Oh, most definitely.

"Do I have a reason not to be?" Cue the cocky smirk.

I shook my head, sighing sadly. "David, David, David. When will you learn that not everyone
considers you a perfect specimen of manliness?"

"Are you including yourself in that little group there, Sam?" I shrugged indifferently, which only
made him smile broader. "I knew it. You have the hots for me. It's okay, Sam. You're one of
many, rest assured."

"Go. Put some clothes on before I have the impulse to do something reckless and stupid like-"

"Strip down naked and let me take you to bed?" He asked innocently.

"No. Like pushing you out into the hallway and locking the door behind you. It's an impulse that's
growing," I added helpfully.

"But see, my way's fun for the both of us."

"Have I mentioned that your towel isn't included in this little scenario?"

He held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, I'm gone, I'm gone. If you need anything, just knock
on the door, okay? I mean, you will be all right though, right?"
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, David. The seventeen-year-old can stay unsupervised for fifteen minutes
and watch a pot of water boil."

"Sam, this is you we're talking about."

"I feel mildly insulted. I'm not completely inept in the kitchen." I crossed my arms over my chest.

"Okay, if you say so" He looked at me uncertainly for a moment, before retreating into the
bathroom and shutting the door behind him.

I shook my head sadly. "Ye of little faith," I murmured, hopping up onto the counter. I slid back
until my back was up against the wall, then I pulled my legs up and sat cross-legged. I glanced
to my left and poked a finger into the pot.

Still cold.

This is boring. I'm bored.

Then call Madison or something.

A devilish thought was forming in my mind.

Actually, that's not a bad idea.

I found the picture of David on my phone and sent it to Madison. Sure enough, within two
minutes, the phone was vibrating. I'd received a text message from Maddy:

My God, Sam, you slept with him already? I mean, I knew you liked him, but I would have
thought that you'd hold out longer
Madison is the only person I know who refuses to use slang in even her text messages, God
bless her.

I didn't bother reading anymore. I pressed the second button on my speed dial, and as soon as
the phone stopped ringing and the line connected, I launched into my rant.

"What do you mean, I slept him 'already'? What do you mean, you thought I'd 'hold out longer'?
What do you mean, you know I like him?" By this point, my voice was a shrill whisper.

"Sam?" Madison asked, sounding a little confused.

"Yes!"

"Oh. Hi. Got the picture." I could practically hear her smirking.

"I know."

"How'd you get the picture?"

"He walked out of the bathroom looking like that."

"And you just took his picture?"

"Well, no. First there was much teasing, which, I for one found extremely enjoyable. Since, you
know, I wasn't on the receiving end of it. And then he's all like, 'Take a picture, it lasts longer.'"

"And so you took a picture."

"Because it lasts longer." I kept my voice to a low murmur. No way was I going to be overheard
this time.

"Well, you certainly are a good photographer."

"It's a talent that comes naturally to me," I replied airily, then dissolved into giggles.

"You're a little bit of a dork."

"You know you love me."

"How can I not? I mean, you're so sophisticated and modest."


"Okay, shut up." Madison's peals of laughter echoed in my ear. Ow.

"So what have you been up to with a half-naked David?"

"Get your mind out of the gutter. I haven't been doing anything with him."

"How about to him, then?"

"Maddy" I began, a warning tone in my voice.

"Samantha, the day you stop becoming so completely transparent is the day pigs will fly. C'mon,
Sammy. Just admit it, you like him."

"I do not," I replied fiercely, fighting back a blush.

Even if I did harbour some not-so-innocent, Harlequin-esque thoughts about David and this is
a purely hypothetical situation I wouldn't tell Madison straight away, just because she has that
matchmaking streak in her that won't let her leave well enough alone.

But like I said, purely hypothetical situation.


"Oh, of course. You don't like him. But you do lust after him, though."

"I don't exactly think he's not attractive," I replied slowly. My voice dropped to a tone barely
above a whisper. This was definitely something I did not want overheard. "I mean I get why
everyone practically faints at his feet."

"What, you were blind for the last three years?" Madison asked incredulously. "I mean, I know
he's practically my brother and everything, but even I'm not going to deny that he's got good
genes. He's fairly good-looking."

Um, excuse me. Try 'hotter than the surface of the sun'.

I made a face, even though she couldn't see me. "I never said that he wasn't. I always knew
that."

"Then what?"

"I mean I get it. I get why he's so wanted," I said meaningfully. I waited for her to get it.

"Oh. See, I knew it. You're lusting after him."

"I am not," I replied stubbornly.

"You think he's a hottie?"

"Yes," I replied quietly.

"Do you want him?"

"Define 'want'."

"In a perfect world or your own private fantasy one you'd screw him twenty-four-seven.
Duh." My cheeks began to grow warm. "I'll take your silence to mean that you do," she said,
sounding far too superior for someone who was going to get her pretty little butt kicked the
minute I got back to our room.

I cleared my throat. "It's not like I spend every waking hour thinking about him like that"

"But?" She prompted.


"But I do spend some sleeping hours er, visualizing the prospect." My voice was barely
audible. The one reason I had not told Madison the dreams was because, as she'd said, David
was like her brother. How would you feel if your best friend told you she'd had a couple dreams
about sleeping with your brother?

"So you've been having sex dreams about David?"

"Well when you put it like that," I replied, perturbed.

"Yes or no, Sammy?"

"Twice, okay? Two times, that's it, I swear," I said desperately.

Madison sighed deeply. "God, why don't you two just have at it already? I mean, the sexual
energy's so thick, I can practically cut it. You want him, he wants you-"

"And what makes you say that?"

"If memory serves, he's propositioned you just north of a hundred times over the last few years."

"So? Am I supposed to take some meaning from that? What girl at this school hasn't David
propositioned just north of a hundred times? Besides you and our old geography teacher."
"Well okay, no, got me there," she conceded. "But, okay, even though I really shouldn't tell
you this, I think you need to know, 'cause if I don't tell you, then you won't know, and then it'll be
one of those things where both people are secretly wanting each other, and anyways, Sam,
David feels-"

"Oh fuck," I muttered, jumping off the counter.

"Sam, what is it?"

I stood in front of the stove, staring wordlessly at the thick, acrid black smoke that began to emit
from the pot and the small orange flames that began to consume the burner. "Oh fuck," I
muttered again.

"Sam, what's wrong?"

"I think I burned it." I was contemplating the fastest, easiest way to put out the fire and get rid of
the smoke before David came back out.

"Burned what? Wait, David let you near an open flame? Is he retarded?"

"It's an electric stove," I replied defensively. "It's obviously defective if the burner's on fire."

"Fire? Samantha, put it out! Get off the phone and put it out!" She shrieked frantically. I could
just picture her hopping up and down madly in frustration.

"Oh, right! Talk to you later, okay?" I flipped the phone closed and set it aside. "Okay what the
hell am I going to do?" In a moment of non-panicky-ness, I pulled the hose from the tap and
sprayed it at the burner. The water covered all of two inches before trickling helplessly to the
floor.

"What the hell?" David stood in the doorway, his teal shirt tucked out and half-buttoned, his hair
once again unruly, and an expression of horror on his face.

"Um, hi?"

"Don't just stand there," he yelled. "Put out the fire! Put out the goddamn fire!"
"You put out the goddamn fire!" I yelled back, feeling slightly hysterical. I put my hand over my
mouth with one hand and tried to wave the smoke back with the other, amidst a small coughing
fit.

Fire bad, tree pretty.

"You're closer!" He argued, coughing.

I dropped the hose and moved to the back of the kitchen. "Now you're closer."

"You started it!"

"It wasn't my fault! And besides, you're the guy! Aren't you supposed to be all alpha male
protective-y and stuff?"

My Aunt Caroline died when her house caught on fire. I was six. I have bad memories of fire.

David muttered some choice swear words under his breath, and started rooting around for the
fire extinguisher, coughing all the while. "Where the hell is that damn thing?"

Spying a bottle of water on the top of the fridge, I stood on tippy-toes and reached for it. I crept
up to the fire and began to pour the water onto it.

"Sam, no! That's not water!" Too late. The fire whooshed upward, leaving an impressive burn
mark on the ceiling. Eyes wide, I staggered backwards from the towering orange flames and
pressed my back against the wall. "That's vodka," he said weakly.

"Oops."
I didn't even want to know why David had a bottle of vodka in his kitchen.

David reached around behind a shelving unit and produced the elusive fire extinguisher. He
tried to pull out the pin, but it wouldn't budge. "Help me out a little?" I braced one foot against
the wall and began to pull the pin. It gave way, and I toppled backwards. He reached out to
steady me, but dropped the fire extinguisher, and thick white foam sprayed everywhere. I
shrieked loudly, jumping up and down, trying to escape the reach of the extinguisher, as wave
after wave of cold foam hit me. I slipped on some and landed hard on my butt on the tiled floor.
When all was calm, David wiped some foam out of his eyes and glared angrily at me through
the thick black smoke.

"On the bright side, the fire's out." I tried to smile, but it wouldn't come.

"You burned water," he said flatly, coughing weakly. "How the hell do you burn water?"

"It's not my fault," I replied defensively. "Your stove's defective or or your pot's broken or
something!"

"You burned water."

"Again, not my fault." I tried to get up, but slipped again, this time landing on my back. I groaned
and made a face; the feel of the foam seeping into my hair was weirding me out.

Smirking, David pulled his phone out of his pocket. "Say cheese."

"Go to hell," I scowled.

"That'll work, too." He flipped it open and pointed it at me, and within seconds, a fabulous
picture of me lying on the floor in some of my hottest clothes and covered in fire extinguisher
foam was on his phone.

"Oh, that's just great." Taking care to be extra careful, I managed to stand up and remain
upright. I pulled at the bottom of my shirt disgustedly. "This is just perfect."

"The whiteness really brings out the colour of your eyes," he said seriously.

"Oh, shut up." I took a handful of foam from my shirt and rubbed it into his hair. "How d'you like
them apples?"
"Sam, I just had a shower!"

"So? So did I." I kicked angrily at the fire extinguisher canister, which caused another spurt of
foam to spray on me. I closed my eyes and exhaled slowly. When I opened them, David was
towelling most of the foam out of his hair and trying not to laugh at me. "Oh, just go ahead," I
snapped. "Just laugh. You know you want to." He shook his head, but still kept grinning.

He walked over to his dresser and rooted around in it for a good minute. "Here." He tossed me a
towel and a ball of clothing.

"What's this for?"

"You can towel off, if you want. Get cleaned up." I bit my bottom lip hesitantly. "There are no
hidden cameras or anything in there," he added irritably. "I just thought-"

"No, it's I mean thanks," I stuttered out. "This is, uh, nice of you. It's just-" I took another
deep breath to calm myself down, then shook my head. How could I expect someone like David
to understand that it was just a little on the weird side for me to get half-naked in a stranger's
bathroom? Okay, granted, David wasn't a stranger, but it wasn't like I knew his roommate all
that well, either. I sighed again. "Forget it. Thanks." Before I could lose my nerve, I all but ran in
the bathroom, then shut and locked the door behind me. Making sure the door adjacent to
Charlie's bedroom was also locked, I felt a little more comfortable, if not less vulnerable.

"There's extra soap in the cabinet, and you can borrow some of my shampoo, if you want to get
this shit out of your hair," he called out.

"Thanks," I repeated, feeling a little like I'd stepped through a mirror or something. Nice David
was, well, nice, but a little unnerving.

The entire bathroom was decorated in forest green and gold, from the tiles right down to the
rugs and the shower curtains, lending the space a warm, earthy feeling. I checked the cabinet
above the sink for the extra soap David told me about, and set the shower to a nice, warm
temperature. Silently, I peeled off my clothes and underwear, and stepped under the spray of
the hot water.
I took probably the shortest shower ever, even with washing my hair; there's just something
about stripping down and taking a shower in the bathroom of a guy whom you hypothetically
find more-than-just-a-little attractive. Especially when you realize that said guy stood naked not
half an hour ago, exactly where you're currently standing naked.

With that rather unsettling thought in mind, I turned off the shower and wrapped the towel
around myself. I dried off my hair as best as I could, and then pulled on the sweatshirt and
sweatpants David had given me, which, as it turned out, were about three sizes too big for me. I
made clever use of some yarn, though. I discovered a hairdryer under the sink, and once my
hair was reasonably dry, I left the bathroom.

The dorm room was still pretty smoky, and the acrid smell burned at my lungs. That was why I
found David out on his balcony, lounging on sofa, his upper half covered by a big pillow in the
shape of a "D".

"I can't believe you got a balcony room. I'm so jealous." I sat down on the far end of the couch.

"As are most people," came the cocky reply.

I shook my head. "Why do you even have a couch out here?"

"Because Winters threatened to throw it out altogether."

I raised an eyebrow. "This is yours?"

"Yep. Since I was three. I used to jump up and down on it when I was little. Until I fell off and hit
my head on the glass table." He chuckled ruefully. He took my hand and placed a finger just
below his hairline.

"Ouch," I murmured, tracing the length of the scar, brushing back soft hair.

"Seventeen stitches."

"Damn."

"Yeah, it was pretty bad. Blood everywhere, me crying like a baby."

"Age three's not that much older than a baby."


He grinned sheepishly. "That happened when I was fourteen."

I exploded in fits of laughter, which earned me a dirty look. "I'm sorry," I gasped out, "but the
thought of you, David Weston, jumping up and down on a candy-cane print couch at fourteen
years old? Kinda makes the hair go silly."

"So you're gonna tell me you've never done stupid things and got hurt before?"

"Oh, please. When I was younger, I was the Klutz Queen. That was actually my nickname for a
couple of years in elementary school," I added, frowning slightly.

"And how did you earn such a coveted title?"

I playfully punched him on the arm. "Well, it was sometime after I fell down the flight of stairs
when a spider landed on my head. But it was before I fell off the slide, if memory serves."

"How the hell did you fall off a slide?"

I leaned back and snuggled deeper into the sweatshirt. It was warm and soft and had the faint,
pleasant smell of pine trees and rainy days. "It happened when I was seven, I think. Me and a
bunch of my friends, we decided we were all going to go down the big spiral slide at once. This
thing was mad tall, like eight feet. So everyone's all crammed close, and then we realize, there's
no space for Leah and I. So like the genius that I am, I suggested we sit on the sides. Leah sat
on the inner side, but I sat on the outer side. I think I made it about an eighth of the way down
before I fell off." I pulled back my damp hair to show him the thin scar that ran about an inch
long.

"What an incredibly intelligent little girl you were," he deadpanned.


"Oh, that's not even the stupidest of things I've done. There was the time I was convinced that
Leah's next-door neighbour was a vampire." David burst out laughing. "I was eight, okay? Leah
convinced me to follow the guy, so when her brother Eric was babysitting us, we faked him out
and climbed up this tree that stretched into Mr. Davenport's yard. Leah wanted to get a better
look inside his house, so since I was on a branch that stretched farther into the yard"

"You didn't," he laughed. I decided I liked the sound of his laugh.

"Oh," I chuckled, "I did. The branch snapped and fell, and little Sammy came tumbling after."

"I once got chased by a dog," he offered, stretching out his legs and propping them up on the
balcony railing. "I'd snuck out of the house to go on this date with some senior girl at the local
high school this was when I was fifteen, when I'd gone home for summer break and I tried to
take a short cut home by going through a neighbour's yard. The thing charged at me and
chased me five blocks before I climbed a tree and it went away."

I giggled. "What kind of dog?" He muttered something under his breath that sounded strangely
like, 'mellow noodle'. "Come again? I didn't quite catch that."

"My neighbour's yellow poodle," he ground out.

The giggles became peals of laughter. "Serves you right."

"Uh huh. Because Samantha Spade's never done anything wrong and disobeyed her parents
before."

"Nothing that's gotten me chased five blocks by a yellow poodle, no," I smirked.

"Because you're the picture of angelic nature, right?"

I smiled sweetly. "Of course."

He laughed. "Oh yeah. You're a perfect angel. Only instead of the wings and halo, you've got a
set of pointy horns and a trident."

"I think you're mistaking me for you there, buddy."

"Everyone has a darker side, Sam. A wild, reckless side." His voice dropped to a murmur as he
leaned over and spoke into my ear. "Even you. Especially you." I shivered, not quite sure if it
was from the unbelievable coldness, or the feel of him being so close to me, his warm breath on
the back of my neck. "Cold, Sam?"

"Not really." I nestled farther into the sweatshirt.

"You're going to catch pneumonia or something, by the way," he added, lifting a lock of my wet
hair.

"Says the guy who is outside in five-degree weather in nothing but pyjama bottoms and a t-
shirt," I retorted, brushing wet hair out of my eyes. Not that I was complaining about his choice
of clothes, exactly. His black t-shirt which was the first I'd ever seen him wear fit snugly
across his broad shoulders and showed off his powerful arms.

Yummy.

Uh huh.

"You look like you're freezing. Think you might wanna put a jacket on there, Mr. Exhibitionist?"
To that, I got a pillow in the face and a deep laugh.

"What? Do you find me so irresistible, Samantha, that you need to cover me up?"

I scoffed. "As if. I find you that repulsive, sure-"

"Liar, liar," he grinned, waggling his eyebrows. I burst out laughing; I'd never seen David do
something so completely dorky like that before.

"Well" I considered the truthful approach, then shrugged. "I don't think you need me, of all
people, to tell you that you're good-looking." His grin broadened, but he remained silent.
"Besides, me as one of your drooling little fan girls?" I scoffed. "I think not."
"Where would the fun be if you were all submissive and agreeable?" He agreed, throwing an
arm around my shoulders. I rolled my eyes but said nothing.

"And now we come to the reason I'm here in the first place. What happened to the nice-sized
group of people that were supposed to be here to help us bake? And by 'us', I mean 'you',
'cause it was totally my intention to serve in a strictly supervisory capacity." I tried not to relax
against him, but it was proving to be a hard struggle. I mean, he was so warm, and so there.

"The nice-sized group of people were told not to come. After the meeting yesterday, I figured
there were some things we needed to go over first," he replied casually, completely oblivious to
my inner battle. "Like what exactly we're fundraising for, what we need the volunteers to do, how
many children there are, how old they are background info like that. I assume you did your
homework?"

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Forty-eight children in total, ranging from ages three to seventeen;
twenty-two boys and twenty-six girls. Their cases range from abandonment to runaways to just
falling through the cracks in the system. Some have been victims of rape, of abuse, of
molestation, of-"

"I get it," David said quietly, cutting me off.

I shrugged emotionlessly. "People struggle, people suffer, people hurt. Everyone's too wrapped
up in his or her own pain to give a damn about anyone else's. World's not a pretty place to live
in." I was aware of how pained and bleak my voice sounded.

"You want to make it better." It was a statement, not a question; his voice was low and calming.
Despite any reservations I had, I leaned into him and rested my head on his shoulder.

"If I can. I mean, I don't want my kids to live in a world in which they feel like they can't make an
impact, know what I'm saying? I mean, I don't know what difference I'll make, but-"

"You'll make a difference." His voice was quiet barely audible but filled with a kind of
conviction and confidence I'd never heard before. He was strangely reassuring. I risked a
glance at him; he was purposefully staring straight ahead.

"Thank you."

"Anytime, Ms. I'm-Gonna-Set-the-World-on-Fire."


"Me?" I raised an eyebrow. "What about you? You have such presence and force, you're such a
passionate person, David."

"What about me? You said it yourself, Sam, I'm a slacker." He gave a bitter laugh. "It's senior
year, and I have goddamn clue what I want to do with my life."

"That's not such an uncommon thing."

"In my family it is." He sighed deeply. "All my sisters, they know exactly what they want to do,
and they're working hard for it. Danielle's pre-med, Lisa's working through business school so
she can open her own restaurant hell, even Eliza's knows she wants to be a forensic
anthropologist, and she's only eleven." I raised an eyebrow. "She's a big CSI fan," he explained.

"Ah."

"My dad expects me to join him in business. I don't wanna join him in business. The stupid
Accounting class that I'm taking right now bores the shit out of me."

"Well, what are your interests?"

"Football and track," he replied flatly. "And even I'm not that nave to think that I'll ever make it
pro."

"You're good at cooking, too. Maybe you could be a chef. Work in some classy five-star place."

"No, cooking's enjoyable to me. If I were to make it my job I don't think I'd like it very much."

"Fair enough." I thought for a moment. "Are you good with children?" He gave me a Look.
"Okay, guess not."

He sighed. "Look, you mind if we not talk about this? It's pretty depressing to know that you're
never going to amount to anything."
I frowned, but kept quiet. I looked up instead at the sky, and saw a big, bright silver orb amidst
the velvety black of the night's sky. The moon was blindingly bright, with puffs of greyish-blue
clouds occasionally wafting by. The sky was dotted with little pinpricks of light here and there,
but the silver luminescence of the full moon stood out prominently in the sky. Even though the
air was near-freezing and I was in a boy's room well past curfew, I felt warm and comfortable
and completely safe.

"You'll be something," I murmured. "You'll do something worthwhile with your life, David."

"How do you know that?" He sounded weary, yet hopeful.

"Because I'm Samantha Spade. Duh. I'm never wrong." He looked down at me, and I gave him
a smug grin. He laughed lightly, then rested his head on mine. I took several slow, deep breaths
to calm my racing heartbeat.

Well. Isn't this new and interesting?

More like weird and

Unwanted?

No.

So then what's the problem?

It just feels

What?

Right.

Oh, the horror. Maybe you should run away now, before you feel even better with him, hmmm?

Stop the mockage. This is serious.

Right. Because the sheer rightness of it all is so wrong.

Exactly! Wait, no, I mean


You have no idea what you want or mean. Till you do, I suggest going along with this. Fun times
to be had, I'm telling you.

If you say so

Of course I do. I mean, I'm Samantha. I'm never wrong.

Cute.

He thought so, too.

Shut up.

Hey, what are consciences for, if not to mercilessly tease you?

How about guidance?

Eh. That, too.

Chapter Twelve: And?

Confused. One little eight-letter word summed up everything I was feeling lately, from Ian's
secretive attitude, to Scott's sudden bout of petulance, to my constant inability to complete even
the tiniest and easiest homework assignments, right up to everything concerning David Weston.

I was quickly coming to the conclusion that men in general be it friend or brother or
something else were more trouble than they were worth.

Especially the good-looking ones. That was another common trait between the recent sources
of my emotional turmoil.

Maybe if I made them wear paper bags over their heads?

Anyway, t'was another evening in the middle of another onslaught of homework that had me
buried beneath a mountain of unfinished homework and assignments.

I swear, sometimes I seriously think the teachers are trying to off us with the amount of work we
get. Death by stress. Not a pleasant way to go, I'd wager.
So, yeah. Precariously piled all around me were textbooks and binders from all eight of my
subjects, and there were about six different Internet windows opened up on my laptop.
Additional books were strewn across the room, opened up at various pages, and my printer was
cranking out page after page, non-stop.

And where was I in the midst of this scholastic chaos?

Sleeping. Sprawled out on the carpet, looking like one of the victims in those stupid slasher
movies. Well, a victim that was wearing Mickey Mouse pyjamas and had a death grip on a
biographical on Ren Descartes.

And then, you know, just to complete the perfection of it all, David and Ian broke into the room.

Yes, you guessed right. It was a Tuesday night.

Well, to their credit, they knocked on the door first. Well, 'pounded' was more like it. That was
what initially startled me out of deep sleep. That, and the shouting for me to open the door from
David, then the yelling at David from Ian to stop shouting, which I found immensely ironic when
looking back at it, since Ian was louder than David.

But then, all was calm, and I went back into a state of semi-unconsciousness. And that was
when David and Ian came in through the window. To their credit, they'd stopped the yelling and
took to loud whispers, instead.

I was half-awake, in that dreamlike state where you're aware of what's going on around you, but
you're too out of it to do anything about it.

"This isn't a good idea. Sam and Madison are gonna be pissed to find us in here without them."

"Scared of two girls half your size, Hart?"

"Go to hell, Weston."

"Don't get your boxers in a knot. It's not like we're snooping around. Besides, Sam is in here, I
know it. I bet the only time she's left this room in the past couple of days is to go to class."

"Well, if she is in here and she's not answering us, she must be sleeping or something. Ergo, we
should leave."
"I'm not going anywhere."

"Jesus, stalker much?"

"Screw yourself, Hart. It was your idea to find her and drag her out of here."
"But if she's sleeping -"

"If she's sleeping, then where is she? Her bed's right in front of us and it's empty. Where the hell
else could she be?"

"How about on the floor, dumbass?" A foot prodded me in the side, and I moaned sleepily.
"Don't do that!"

"I was just checking to see if she really was asleep!"

"As opposed to what?"

"I dunno. Dead?"

"You're an idiot. She's not dead. She's clearly breathing."

"Whatever, Hart." I felt myself being lifted off the ground, strong arms supporting my shoulders
and legs. A soft grunt of effort stirred me out of sleep; I sighed drowsily and rested my head on
the first available surface I hit when I tilted my head.

Pine trees and rainy days.

"Wipe that smirk off your face, Weston."

"Jealous?"

"No. I just know that Sam's gonna kick your sorry ass once she wakes up."

"Please. She'd never believe she rested her head on my shoulder, anyway. Unless of course,
you want to take a picture? Capture the moment?"

"Right. So you can have another keepsake for your sick obsession? I don't think so."

A bitter chuckle. "Is it so hard to believe I might genuinely like someone?"

"Yes," came the blunt reply.

"You're in love with her."


An exasperated sigh. "No! Get that through your goddamn head already! She's my friend, that's
all. But I won't sit idly by and let you hurt her, either. Your reputation precedes you, Weston.
Forgive me for not supporting you wholeheartedly in this little endeavour of yours."

"It's a reputation I'm starting to wish I didn't have." Silence. "Goddamn, she's heavy."

Dudes, I'm like, awake here. Sort of. For the most part. Okay, my ears are working fine. Kind of.
Well, I heard the part about being heavy, at any rate.

"You're lucky she's asleep. She'd murder you if she heard you say that."

He's right, if I had the physical capabilities, I so totally would.

"Yes, yes I ow, damn it!"

I swear, I wanted to kill someone. I mean, if you're going to carry someone, the least you can do
is not trip and fall and bring that person down with you, am I right?

"Damn it, David! What the hell did you do that for?"
"Right, because I make it a practice to trip every time I'm carrying someone! Damn textbooks!"
The sound of papers scattering made me cringe.

I blinked and opened my eyes, startled. My head was starting to hurt something fierce, and it felt
like I had a gigantic weight on me; when I tried to breathe, I couldn't. When I saw brown eyes
flecked with gold staring into mine, concerned, I rolled my eyes.

"David, get your ass off me. I can't breathe," I choked out. Ian pulled him off, and I pushed
myself into a sitting position. "You know," I rasped, rubbing the back of my head, "a simple
'wake up' would have sufficed quite nicely." I glared at the two of them.

"Sorry," David muttered, hanging his head like a guilty child.

"Yeah, he's sorry," Ian said, sitting down beside me. "Are you okay?"

"For the most part, yes. I mean, there's still that little problem of not being able to breathe
properly because someone fell on top of me." I gave David a pointed look.

"I'm not that heavy," he scoffed.

"Tell that to my lungs. And my ribs while you're at it, Mr. Lightweight."

"I'm not that heavy," he repeated adamantly.

"Uh huh."

"I'm really not."

"If you say so."

"Oh God." David's expression became one of horror. "Have I gained weight?"

Ian and I traded incredulous looks before hastily turning our laughs into coughs. "You know," I
began gravely, suppressing some serious laughter, "I did think I saw a little undefined area
when you were in that towel."

David's eyes widened as he began to poke himself repeatedly in his midsection. "Where?
Where'd you see it? Where?"
I burst out laughing. "You are so conceited, David Weston," I declared, standing up and walking
over to my mirror. I pulled my tangle-ridden hair back from my head and twisted it behind my
head, then clipped it in place. I took a seat on my bed with my legs crossed, and, looked up at
them, putting on my best 'annoyed' face. "So, what the hell was so important that you felt like
you had to break into my room and drop me on my head to wake me for?"

"We're here to kidnap you," Ian replied. I sat up properly and raised an eyebrow.

"You're here to what now?"

"Kidnap you," David repeated. "Give you a break. Help you relax. Get you away from all this
work." At this last remark, I really did become annoyed. "Hart's idea," he added quickly, seeing
the look on my face.

"Look guys, I appreciate this, I really do, but I have way too much work to finish. All weekend I
procrastinated, and I was out sick before that, and now I'm working my ass off just to catch up! I
mean, I have a research project on Ren Descartes due for tomorrow, I have a biology lab
report due sometime soon, I have-"

"Sam, chill," Ian ordered. "And Ren Descartes? What class is that for? Calc or something?"

"Don't remember. The assignment sheet is somewhere over there." I gestured in the general
direction of my desk, which was in total disarray.

Ian strode over and picked up the aforementioned piece of paper. "Sam, this is for Philosophy,
which you took last year? You did this project already!"
I took a moment to ponder that small revelation. "Huh. No wonder I was feeling all dj vu-y."

"Okay, you seriously need to get out of here," David muttered, pulling me up.

"Okay, first? Ow." I glared at him, to which he just rolled his eyes. "And second? I can't! I have
too much stuff to do to just just leave like that!"

"You're coming with us even if I have to throw you over my shoulder," David threatened. "Which,
you know, I'm not really averse to doing." Cue smirk.

I stuck out my tongue at him, then sighed, resigned. Muttering under my breath, I made my way
to my closet and pulled out a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt. Seeing David out of the corner of
my eye, a reckless sort of daring streaked through my mind. I thought better of my choice of
clothing and tossed them back into the closet and turned to face the guys.

"Where exactly are we going?" David, as per usual, looked immaculate in his black dress pants
and black button-down shirt. Even Ian wore his good jeans and blue dress shirt that
accentuated the intense colour of his eyes.

Ian shrugged. "We were thinking somewhere in town. Maybe the movies, or maybe we might try
Le Mordor."

"Hmmm. I see." It sounded like a fancy French restaurant, but Le Mordor was the teen hangout
in the town of Maple Ridge. Well, it was the only teen hangout in Maple Ridge, but it was a
pretty decent place. It was usually packed on the weekends, but on school nights, it was
relatively calm.

I thought for a moment, then pulled off its hanger an off-the-shoulder black silk dress that, if
memory served, came up to mid-thigh.

Madison really does give great gifts.

I was not lucid. I was still sleeping. David had absolutely no influence on my clothing choice
whatsoever.

Yeah, I don't believe me, either.


"Five minutes," I promised them, dashing into the bathroom. I pulled on the clothes as quickly as
I could, which was a little hard to do seeing as I apparently needed to buy a new dress, it was
so well-fitting. I made sure the silver ring was still around my neck on the chain, and put two
pairs of simple silver studs in my ears. I took the clip of my hair and, as usual, decided to forego
makeup, and true to my word, I emerged five minutes later, walking stiffly because of the
shortness of the dress.

"Isn't it a little cold to be wearing something that short?" Ian asked, an amused smile playing on
his lips.

"Shut up." I risked a glance at David, who looked as though he was just informed that yes, in
fact, the moon was made of cheese.

Who'd have known a person could go that long without blinking?

It's kinda creepy.

Oh, go on. You know you're loving this.

Damn straight.

I sat on the arm of the couch and put on a pair knee-high black leather boots, also courtesy of
my beloved roommate. I zipped them up slowly, hoping that I wouldn't fall in them. They were
only a couple of inches, but heels and I just weren't mixable.

Hell, flats and I weren't mixable.

"Ready?" Ian asked, struggling not to laugh at David.

I pulled on my leather jacket and tossed him my car keys. "Almost. I just need to find my
phone"
David tossed Ian his car keys. "Start her up. We'll be there soon."

"Uh huh." Smiling to himself and shaking his head, Ian left the room.

"Where the hell is that damn thing?" I muttered, rifling through piles of paper on my desk.

"Maybe it fell under your desk. You should take a look," David suggested, his face a picture of
innocence.

I gave him a 'How stupid do you take me for?' look. "Maybe you should take a look for me,
pervert."

He shrugged good-naturedly and crouched down to check under my desk. "Can't blame a guy
for trying."

"Of course. I forgot. Acting like an ass is second nature to you." I raised an eyebrow as he
inched farther under the desk. "Don't hit your head," I murmured absently. David, I decided, had
a particularly nice butt.

He backed out and caught me staring. His lips curved into a knowing smirk. "Who's the pervert
now?"

I looked up at him innocently. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

He stood up and handed me my phone, our fingers brushing just the slightest. "I'm sure you
don't."

"I don't," I reaffirmed, pocketing my phone.

"Uh huh."

"I don't!"

"Right. I believe you."

This continued all the way to the car, where Ian was patiently waiting.

"David!" I slid into the driver's seat.


"What? I said I believed you. And excuse me, but this is my car?" He stood outside the driver's
door and waited for me to move.

"You may have said you believed me, but your tone implied otherwise. And I'm driving. The
roads are icy, and I'm so the better driver out of the two of us."

"Nuh uh."

"Uh huh."

"Nuh uh!"

"Uh huh!"

"Nuh uh!"

"Uh huh!"

"You are so not the better driver," he muttered, trying to shove me over to the passenger seat.

"Oh, I so am," I retorted, trying to push him back. "Who got her G2 the first time around?" I
grinned smugly as David scowled. "That's what I thought. And besides, for your highway test,
you went on Allen Road! That's practically a measly main road! I've driven on the 401, I've got
experience, man."
In Toronto, there are three levels of a driver's license. The first is your G1, which you get by
passing the test. That consists of twenty multiple choice questions about the rules of the road,
and twenty multiple choice questions about the signs; you have to get a score of sixteen or
higher on both parts to pass. Getting your G1 is like your permit; that's what allows you to
practice actually driving. The second level of your license in your G2, which is the road test. You
can go for your G2 as early as eight months if you've gone to driver's school or twelve
months if you haven't after you get your G1. In order to get your full license, though, you
need to take the highway test, and that you can only take as early as a year after you get your
G2.

I only got my G2 the other day, the day after my birthday, so I've still got another year until I can
be a full-fledged driver like David. But goddamn, I'm so the better driver!

"Allen Road still counts as a highway!" David protested.

"Yeah, but the 401's way harder!"

Okay, so technically, you're not allowed on the highway unless you're taking your test or you've
got your full license. But it's not like I've ever crashed or anything.

All right, there was that one time. But I swear, it totally wasn't my fault that Honda came out of
nowhere, I'm telling you.

"She's got you there, man," Ian interjected from the back seat. "The 401's murder compared to
Allen Road."

I beamed. "Ergo, I'm driving." I started up the car and waited patiently for David to get in. When
he came around to the passenger side, I shook my head and gestured in the back. He climbed
in beside Ian and glared at me.

"Why the hell can't I sit in front?"

"She doesn't like distractions when she's driving," Ian answered, before I could even open my
mouth. I shook my head and flipped him off in the rear-view mirror. He laughed, while David just
sat there, looking confused.

"I don't get it."


"Colour me surprised," Ian muttered.

"Everyone buckled in? All right then, let's rock and roll." I backed out of the parking lot and
headed towards the main gates.

"'Let's rock and roll'? You seriously talk like that?" David asked from the back, his eyebrows
raised. I simply stuck my tongue out at him and paid him no more mind.

About a half an hour later, I was seriously considering driving us all off the road. It would have
put an end to my misery.

"The Raptors can so take the Packers!"

"No fucking way!"

"Guys!" I shrieked, tightening my death grip on the steering wheel. Both of you just shut the hell
up! How can you even compare the Raptors to the Packers? One's basketball, one's football!
They're teams from two different sports, for God's sake! And the Raptors pretty much suck," I
added. "Home team or no."

A moment of silence, then

"Ha!" David exclaimed triumphantly.

"Fine, the Lakers, then. Shaq would so-"

Growling, I pulled my iPod from out of my pocket and stuck the buds in my ear, the blissful
music drowning out the sounds of David and Ian bickering like two small children.
As was usually the case when I listened to music or when I was driving, I eventually got lost in
my own little world and blocked out everything else. I began to sing along to the current song
under my breath, mumbling incoherently to the tune when I forgot the words. When I felt a tap
on my shoulder, I jumped and the car jerked violently to the side. Pulling over, I turned around to
face David and Ian with wide eyes.

"What the hell?" I growled.

"You're the one driving with earphones on!" David retorted, looking just the slightest bit
unravelled.

"So? You're the one who startled me and nearly made us drive off the road!" I was feeling a bit
close to hysterics myself.

"Actually Sam, that was me," Ian said, his voice grave. "But David's right. I know we might have
been a little-"

"Irritating? Annoying like hell?"

"Yes, but-"

"Bottom line, you shouldn't be driving with earphones on," David interrupted, anger now
overtaking him.

"Why the hell not?"

"Because it's dangerous! Not to mention illegal, idiot." He scoffed. "And you said you were the
better driver."

"Well, hello, I still don't have my full license," I scoffed.

David started at me for a few seconds, then shook his head. "That's it. Move over. Move over or
come back here, but you're sure as hell not driving anymore."

Sighing petulantly, I moved over to sit shotgun, actually feeling a bit relieved that now I could
possibly sleep through David and Ian's rendition of 'Basketball is Better Than Football'.

"I should have your G2 revoked," David continued, putting the car in 'drive'.
"Try it and make sure you're celibate for the rest of the school year," I shot back, leaning against
the soft leather seat.

"Right. You and I both know you don't have that kind of power at school, Sam."

"Oh, really?" I could hear Ian sighing tiredly from the back. "People may like you more, but more
people respect me."

"Whatever," he muttered.

"Whatever, yourself," I retorted quietly, just wanting to have the last word. I turned and leaned
my head against the cool glass of the window, realizing just how stupid it was to get myself
trapped for two hours with David. I popped my earphones back on and listened to the earlier
works of Britney Spears, feeling too grey to sing along. When I felt a slight pressure on my
thigh, I jumped. I looked down to where David's hand was strategically placed just below the
hem of my dress then up at the man himself.

"Yes?"

"You're hand's on my thigh," I informed him.

Okay, so you know, my leg felt warm where his hand was, and the weight of it was pretty nice,
too. But it was the principle of the thing!

"Yeah. And?"

Cocky bastard.
"And"

And I'll kick your ass if you don't move it. And I'll castrate you. And you'll never be able to
procreate. And

"And?"

"And nothing," I muttered, feeling my face grow the slightest bit warm. David was staring straight
ahead, but the stupidest grin was plastered on his face.

After Saturday night, something had definitely changed. Granted, I'd hardly seen him outside of
class, but the few times I did something had most definitely changed. Case in point, the, er,
placement of his hand. Before Saturday, no matter how gorgeous I thought he was, I would've
told him off. Now, I was blushing just the slightest bit and wondering how far he'd go if Ian
weren't in the car. Perhaps it was as good idea that he was, then.

Slowly, hesitantly, I lowered my hand onto his and laced my fingers with his.

"Sam?" His voice was quiet, barely audible.

"Yes?"

"You look really pretty, Sammy."

I blushed. "Thank you. You look nice, too. Completely defined, I promise."

He chuckled and took tighter hold of my hand. "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Were you really checking me out?" He asked, glancing at me.

Thank God the car was dark. "Maybe." My voice, if possible, was quieter than his.

He grinned, rubbing small circles on the back of my hand with his thumb.

Oh yes, things had definitely changed.

Chapter Thirteen: Turn Me On


"No."

"Sam."

"No, Ian."

"Sam."

"I said, no way."

"Well, technically, you just said 'no'," David pointed out.

"Shut up, David," Ian and I chorused.

There is a reason why I normally choose comfort over cleavage. I felt like kicking myself just
then; five minutes in the presence of David, and I'd abandoned all thought of common sense
and went for thigh-high dresses and two-inch heel boots in October.

Damned hormones.
"Sam, no one told you to dress like one of David's dates," Ian said irritably, tugging at my
sleeve.

"Hey!" I cried out indignantly. I stepped out of the car and slammed the door, taking a couple
steps towards Ian.

"What's wrong with the girls I date?" David demanded, coming up behind me.

"Oh my God, do I really look like a slut?"

"I mean, what exactly are you trying to imply, Hart?"

"The dress isn't that short-"

"I do have standards, you know-"

"And the boots aren't, like, 'come fuck me' boots, at least, I don't think so, because I've never
really understood what 'come fuck me' shoes look like-"

"And I don't only go out with a girl because I think I'll get laid! Not always, anyways," he
amended.

"Well?" We both rounded on him, backing him into David's black BMW.

"I um" Ian blinked, looking like the definition of a deer caught in headlights.

I raised an eyebrow. "Make it good, Ian."

"Uh David's looking down your dress!"

"What? You liar oof!"

"Nice aim," Ian said appreciatively, as David leaned against his car, clutching his side. I kicked
Ian in the shins, and then walked towards Le Mordor, shivering from the cold night air.

"Men," I muttered.

A shout of, "You're lucky you're a girl, Sam!" rang through the air, and although the voice was
calling out against the direction of the wind, I could hazard a guess at who it was.
Baby. I mean, I didn't punch him that hard.

Right. You only hit him in the exact same place he got hurt at last week's game.

Well, how was I supposed to know that?

You could have actually been paying attention to the game instead of reading Pride and
Prejudice.

I had to finish it for class. And I was paying attention.

Only when Madison and the cheerleaders came out.

She threatened to torch my bookcase if I didn't!

So in order for you to be able to pay attention to one of your friends who's actually an athlete on
the competing team, he has to threaten you with arson? Ian and Scott never had that
problem.

Shut up
The best way to drown a guilty conscience? Paying for round after round of un-inhibiting alcohol
for the two jocks you've managed to incapacitate with a couple of well-placed moves and a few
years of self-defence knowledge.

On the bright side, two mildly drunk teenage boys make for excellent photo ops.

David and Ian had each had about three beers, and I'd had one rum and Coke, but whereas
David only seemed mildly buzzed, Ian was completely wasted. We met up with Malinna Wong
about fifteen minutes after we'd gotten our first drinks, and it had only taken the one drink to get
Ian relaxed enough to dance with Malinna. And I use the term 'dance' quite loosely. It was more
like some weird mating ritual, which made me figure that the normally composed Malinna was
pretty gone, too.

David and I sat across from each other, facing the dance floor. The lighting was really dim
near dark, dark enough to shroud the corners in total darkness, allowing for ample make-out
spots throughout the space but we could still make out two figures standing slightly apart the
rest. We watched with mild interest as Ian continued to go at it with Malinna. Our resident
basketball star had always been the more rational and reserved out of all of us.

"It looks like they're having sex with their clothes on," David commented, bringing his glass up to
his lips. I kicked him under the table, causing the beer to slosh over the side of the glass. "Hey,
watch it! And you know you were thinking it," he added, glancing over at me.

I shrugged and took a sip of my Sprite. "Since when did you become Miss Cleo?"

"I wasn't aware that I'd had a sex change."

"Loser. You know what I meant."

"Of course. I just like to give you a hard time."

"Good to know some things never change."

"It's just too much fun to stop, Sam. You're like a drug."

"Oh, yes. I can see how annoying the hell out of me can be so addictive," I replied dryly.
"Considering you've been doing it for years now."
David laughed. "Like I said. You're a drug. But the good kind."

"There are no good drugs. They all mess with your mind and have weird side effects-"

He leaned in over the table. "But they make you feel really good."

I crossed my legs at the ankles and leaned against the pillar. Our table was situated mere feet
from the dance floor, against one of the rectangular pillars that held up the balcony floor. We
had extra-tall tables, and extra-tall stools; the toes of my boots were barely skimming the
ground.

"Not everything that feels good is actually good for you."

"Not everything that feels good isn't good for you," he countered.

"Just because something feels good doesn't mean you should go for it."

"Just because something feels good doesn't mean you should be afraid of it."

"Who's afraid?" I asked, trying to control the level of anger in my voice, the anger that inevitably
seemed to come out around David.

"You tell me," he challenged.

"Screw you."
"I know you wanna."

Ian's reappearance was probably the only thing that saved David from getting a hard kick in the
crotch.

"Hey, Sammy! Another round?"

"I think you've had enough," I muttered, glaring at David over Ian's shoulder. He stuck out his
tongue and made a face at me.

Have I ever mentioned what a mature young man David Weston is? No?

Probably because he isn't one. He looks like he's twenty, but acts like he's ten.

What a great combination.

"Nah, Sam. I'm good, I'm good," Ian slurred, nodding his head emphatically, taking a seat
between myself and David.

Not for the first time that night, I felt someone nudging my foot under the table and then a
socked foot sliding up my leg, all the way to my knee, then back down again in slow, deliberate
strokes. I tried my best to keep focus on Ian's drunken ramblings, but in all honesty, it was hard.

"Uh huh. Which was why you were grinding against Malinna, right?" The stroking motions up
and down my leg continued. I risked a glance at David; he was staring right back at me, with an
innocent, bewildered expression on his face. His eyes were another story, though. Dark and
cloudy and sparkling and vibrant, all at the same time. Dare I say passionate?

"S'cuse me for being relaxy for once."

"Don't mind Samantha," David interjected. "She's PMS'ing."

"Ahhhh," Ian murmured wisely.

"One more round?" I asked wearily, if only to shut the both of them up.

Ian beamed. "Just one. Just a little itty bitty witty itty bitty mitty itty bitty-"

"I get it."


"One," he finished.

I shook my head and made my way to the bar. I managed to balance two beers, a rum and
Coke for myself, and three plates of burgers and fries on one tray.

"Nice," Ian commented appreciatively, as I set the tray down on the table. "You ever consider
waitressing?"

"And end up tripping every five minutes? It's a miracle I made it back here in these boots."

"Why'd you get us all food?"

"One, I'm hungry, and two, you guys can't keep drinking so much alcohol without having
anything to eat."

"Aren't you the responsible one," David muttered under his breath. I rolled my eyes, but kept
quiet.

"I still can't believe they sell this stuff to minors," I mused, spearing a couple of fries with my fork
as Ian and David each downed half their beers in one go.

"Well, s'not like they card here, anyways. And we all look legal. S'evident by the way the
bartender keeps staring at Sammy like he wants to ask her to star in a porno movie or
something." He actually stopped to muse over that, which earned him another kick in the leg
from me.
"Never wearing this dress again," I muttered, shaking my head. "Never ever again." David
turned to glare at the bartender, his hands clenching into fists at his side. "Whoa, easy there,
Red Ranger. You look like you're about to take someone's head off."

"I am," he growled. "Ian?"

Ian shrugged and drained his glass. "I'm game."

I found that reply to be extremely amusing, see as I've never seen Ian fight a day in his life. I've
never even heard him raise his voice to someone.

"No! Both of you, no. You brought me out to have some fun, and to be quite honest, watching
you guys kick the crap out of some random guy who happens to find me attractive is not of the
fun, and-"

"Sam?" Ian pointed to the bar where David was holding the bartender by the collar.

Damn my long, inopportune rants.

"Oh God." I ran around our table and weaved in between a couple of people on the dance floor
which was no easy feat, I might add, in the boots I was wearing and managed to make it
before David did something that would land his ass in jail for assault, among other things. I
grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back.

"Sam? Ow."

"Are you gonna go all testosterone-y on me?" I asked.

"Maybe."

I imitated a buzzer and pulled his arm a little tighter. "Wrong answer. Try again."

"No?"

"That's more like it."

"But, see-"
"No 'buts'. I didn't drag my ass down here to watch you get arrested for assault and underage
drinking. Ready to calm down?"

"No. Ow."

"Again, wrong answer. Now, I'm going to ask you one more question, and believe me when I
say the wrong answer will result in me severely kicking your ass." I let go of his arm and he
massaged his shoulder, giving me a wary look.

"What's the question?"

"Dance with me?"

What? I swear, it was the only way I could think of distracting him.

He raised an eyebrow. "Are you drunk?"

Quite possibly, all things considering.

"A couple of rum and Cokes, which, by the way, was a lot more Coke than it was rum. And I can
so hold my liquor. I mean, someone has to be the designated driver, and Ian's completely
wasted, and you're a little tipsy yourself-"

"M'not." He turned and walked straight into a wall.


Suppressing a laugh, I put on my serious face. "No, no you're not. Of course you're not. It's all
so clear to me now."

He poked me in my tickle spot and laughed. I jerked and squeaked out a giggled. "Don't get
fresh with me, Sam."

I stared at him incredulously. "You're telling me not to get fresh with you?"

"Yeah huh."

"You really are drunk, aren't you?"

"I prefer 'tipsy'," he chuckled, slurring his words just the slightest. He tugged at my arm and
motioned towards the dance floor.

Soca music started blasting over the speakers while the band on stage took a break.

"Maybe we should sit this one out. The song is pretty fast, and you're not exactly-"

"No way, Sam. You wanted to dance, so we're gonna dance."

'Oh yeah ah ah ah Is ah big dancehall song in know Madzart alongside Kevin Lyttle You
know how it is, you know how we go You know'

David twirled me around a couple times into one of the darker corners and pulled me close. His
cologne was strong and made me feel just the slightest light-headed.

'For the longest while we jamming in the party And you're wining on me Pushing everything
Right back on top of me (Yea hey ai) But if you think you're gonna get away from me You
better change your mind You're going home You're going home with me tonight'

"Having fun?"

"More fun than I would be if I were graphing trig functions. Which, by the way? Ick."

"Are you really gonna talk math with me right now?"

"Why? Got a better idea?"

I swear, I never meant it to sound like that.


"Actually," he grinned, "I've got a couple, now that you mention it."

'So let me hold you Girl, caress my body You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn me
on Let me jam you Girl, wine all around me You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn
me on
'The girl ya nah go get way tonite -Ooh yea yea If she think madd man nah go fight -Ooh yea
yea Me done feed she with popcarn and sprite -Ooh yea yeah Now she whar come fly way like
kite -Ooh yea yea yea yea yea yea yea yea'

He slung my arms around his neck and trailed his fingers downward, stopping at my waist. His
fingers traced small, slow circles around the small of my back, and I was pretty sure it wasn't the
air-conditioning that was making me shiver.

'One hand on the ground and bumper cock sky high Wining hard on me Got the python Hollerin'
for mercy Yea hey ai Then I whisper in her ear, So wine harder And then she said to me,
Boy, just push that thing Push it harder back on me'

He bent his head to touch mine, my fingers involuntarily tangling themselves in his hair.

"Relaxed?"

"Depends on what you're referring to," I muttered, before I could stop myself. He laughed quietly
and tilted my chin up, my eyes meeting his. They were sparkling and vibrant, not even the
slightest bit dazed, like Ian's were.

'So let me hold you Girl, caress my body You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn me
on Let me jam you Girl, wine all around me You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn
me on'

"You're not drunk, are you?" His grin was a reply enough. "You faked it. You've been faking it."

Well curl my hair and call me Shirley, the sneaky son of a gun faked that he was drunk.

I swear, where do I get these expressions from?

"Sort of," he replied, suppressing a smile.

"How much did you drink tonight?"

"The one beer you just brought for me."

"So every time you went to get the drinks?"


'Girl just hug me, hug me, kiss me, squeeze me Hug me, hug me, kiss and caress me Hug me,
hug me, kiss me, squeeze me Hug me, hug me, kiss and caress me'

"Apple juice for myself."


"Nice. Yet you got me and Ian all alcohol'd up."

"You wanted a beer, remember? Besides, you're not drunk."

"Just a little buzzed. Don't sound so disappointed."

'The girl ya nah go get way tonite -Ooh yea yea If she think madd man nah go fight -Ooh yea
yea Me done feed she with popcarn and sprite Now she whar come fly way like kite'

"Well, how else was I going to get you to dance with me?"

"You jerk," I muttered.

He laughed, spinning me around and pulling me to him so that my back was pressed against his
chest. "You wouldn't change me though, would you?" He murmured into the shell of my ear.

"Not for anything."

Hell if I know where that little gem came from.

'Hey boy You wanna wine with this Bajan girl?'

I could practically feel him smirking. I wound both arms behind me around his neck and tilted my
head backwards ever so slightly to rest on his shoulder.

"You're not drunk, aren't you?" He asked, slowly sliding his hands down my arms. "God, don't
tell me you are. Because after tonight? I want you remembering that every word you said, every
action you did, the choice was yours to make."

"No, not drunk. Merely buzzed," I replied, blushing slightly by his words.

"I should get you buzzed more often," he whispered, trailing light kisses down my neck.

"Oh, David," I sighed.

"God, you're gorgeous," he murmured, his breath warm on the back of my neck.

'Ooh yea yea


'Come and wine pon me, boy For the longest time we jamming in the party and I'm wining slowly
Pushing everything Right back on top of you, baby

'But if you think you're gonna get away from me You better change your mind You're going
home You're going home with me tonight'

"Payback?" I murmured, his one hand slung around my waist, the other making lazy strokes up
and down my stomach.

"Doesn't revenge feel so good?" He started to gently suck on the base of my neck, and
chuckled when I stiffened and gritted my teeth.
"Screw you."

"That's the second time you've said that. Sounds like you're feeling a little desperate. I don't
blame you. Seventeen years is a long time to go without getting any."

'So let me hold you Girl, caress my body You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn me
on

'Let me jam you Boy, wine all around me You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn me
on

'Ooh yea yea Ooh yea yea Ooh yea yea yeah Ooh yea yea yea yea yea yea yea yea

'One hand on the ground and bumper cock sky high Wining hard on me Got the python Hollerin'
for mercy Yea hey ai

'I wanna whisper in your ear, Wine harder Oh Boy, just push that thing Push it harder back on
me'

"I'm the desperate one?" I managed to ground out, my lids feeling uncommonly heavy. "Who's
got the erection that's poking me right now?"

"Who's the one dressed like she's planning on getting thoroughly fucked?" He countered, his
arm tightening around my waist.

'So let me hold you Boy, caress my body You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn me
on

'Let me jam you -Hey Girl, wine all around me -What You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on
-Turn me on

'Girl just hug me, hug me, kiss me, squeeze me Hug me, hug me, kiss and caress me

'Hug me, hug me, kiss me, squeeze me Hug me, hug me, kiss and caress me

'For the longest time we jamming in the party and I'm wining slowly Pushing everything Right
back on top of you, baby'
"Who's the one who brought me here in the first place?"

"Hey, I never dragged you here against your will," he replied, his voice taking on the slightest
edge.

'But if you think you're gonna get away from me You better change your mind You're going
home Is that so? You're going home with me tonight

'So let me hold you Boy, caress my body You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn me
on'

"Who's the one who tried to get me drunk just so he could score?" I felt him stiffen behind me.

"Sam, you're not that hot."

"Tell that to the lower part of your anatomy," I smirked.

"It's involuntary, I assure you."

"Uh huh."

'Let me jam you Girl, wine all around me You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn me
on'

His hand automatically dropped from my stomach to my thigh. He played with the hem of my
dress, and then slowly began to slide his hand upward along my outer thigh. "Tell me, Sam.
How exactly am I affecting you?" I swallowed, his fingers moving across to the inner part of my
thigh and still making their torturously slow ascent.

"Go screw yourself," I exhaled slowly.

"Just tell me to stop and I will," he murmured, kissing my ear. "Just say the word, and I promise I
will."

'So let me hold you Boy, caress my body You got me going crazy - you -Turn me on -Turn me
on'

"Sam, tell me to stop," he whispered hoarsely. Pleaded, was more like it. "Come on, tell me to
stop."
I craned my head slightly to the left and upward, David's lips mere inches from my own. "Don't,"
I breathed, my voice barely audible.

"Don't what?" He croaked out, tracing small circles lightly on my skin.

"Don't stop." The loud music drowned out the small gasps I tried in vain to repress as David
continued his ministrations, sucking painfully hard on the base of my neck, the feeling of his
tongue and lips on my skin excruciatingly good. Once his fingers reached their desired
destination my uppermost thing he began drawing slow circles on my skin, the motion of his
fingers soothing and gentle.
It's hard to say exactly what I was thinking then, perhaps because the realm of higher thought
had completely escaped me. I do know what I was feeling, though. Definitely a little scared; I
was in a completely unfamiliar situation, with someone who not only knew exactly what he was
doing, but who also had so much experience in the matter. That in itself was intimidating. Then
you had to consider the possibility that perhaps I was just another body to keep his warm, which
was something I was amazingly afraid was true. Then well, once you got past the whole
insecure-nervous-afraid thing, you got to the actual complicated stuff.

How am I supposed to put into words how protected I felt in his arms, how wanted and liked and
beautiful and cherished I felt right then? How should I explain the way he held me, the way his
lean, muscular body curved around mine? How should I explain the way his touches felt, gentle
yet seductive and provocative? To think that someone could feel that way about me that
someone wanted me and liked me. Yeah, I knew David liked me. Contrary to what he and Scott
say, I'm not completely blind. Now, knowing something is true and being able to admit that it's
true are two totally different things.

Perhaps that is what scared me most of all: that someone like David, someone brilliant and
gorgeous and funny and talented, liked me. Or maybe the thing that scared me the most was
the fact that it was David, not just someone like him, but it was him. We had a solid, consistent
dislike for each other that was our whole relationship. It was something you could count on,
Samantha and David at each other's throats.

So how in the hell did that turn into 'Samantha and David necking in the corner and groping
each other'?

Yeah, I think that was what scared me the most. Goodbye predictability, hello uncertainty.

There's nothing like getting caught up in the moment to make you realize what your true desires
and feelings are.

'Hug me, hug me, kiss me, kiss me Hug me, hug me, kiss and caress me Hug me, hug me,
squeeze me, squeeze me Hug me, hug me, kiss and caress me'

Loud rock music suddenly pounded through the speakers as the soca song ended, and it was
like a light switch was flipped on in my brain. I practically tripped over my feet trying to
disentangle myself from David.
Ho-ly fuck.

Yeah, I think that'd be about right. You screwed up big time, kid, messing with stuff you're not
ready for.

Excuse me, but who says I'm not ready for whatever it is you say I'm not ready for?

If you were, you think you'd be so freaked right now?

I tried in vain for several seconds to form some kind of sound, but all I pretty much succeeded in
doing was making sounds like I was choking or something.

Of course, the shock of said realization can be kind of a bitch.

"David?" I managed to croak out.

"Yeah?" He replied, his voice cracking.

"What the hell was that?"

In contrast to my expression of horror and disbelief, David had the laziest, smuggest grin on his
face. "Damn, I love that song."

I had the worst feeling, like I'd been caught doing something so wrong.

Well, you were. Except for the 'being caught' part.

Shut up. It felt good.


'It felt good'? What kind of lame-ass retort is that? Oh, yeah, I forgot. The kind of lame-ass retort
one gives because her mind's still recovering from the things she ought not be doing with
someone who isn't her boyfriend. You bad, bad little girl

I shuddered despite myself. David reached out a hand to my shoulder. "Are you okay?"

I backed away and focused on his hairline instead of his eyes. "Yeah. I'm okay. I'm fine. Five by
five. I'm gonna go."

"What? Why?" He took a step forward, and I took another one backward.

"I can't stay," I mumbled. I half-ran, half-hobbled to the door, grabbing my jacket on the way out.

"Wait!" He grabbed my hand, pulling me back into the doorway of the place. Why are you
leaving? It's still early"

I tugged my arm out of his grasp and backed up again. Hurt flickered across his face for the
briefest of moments. "Because"

"Because?"

I'm not thinking straight

I'm too confused right now

I don't trust myself with you.

"Because it's getting late," I finished lamely. I pulled my jacket tighter around my shoulders,
adrenaline coursing through me.

"Bullshit," he retorted, his eyes glittering. "Don't wimp out on me now, Sam. I didn't do anything
you didn't want me to."

I inhaled slowly, trying to control my temper. "Keep an eye on Ian and make sure he doesn't do
something stupid, okay?"

"Where the hell are you going?"

"Back to school," I muttered, walking away.


"By yourself?"

I turned around and walked backwards, shrugging my shoulders. "I'll take a cab up to the
gates."

"Fuck that."

"I can take care of myself!"

"Sam!" He ran up to me and pulled me in the direction of his car. "Come on, don't be like this."

I shook my head. "I think we're both a little on edge right now."

"You mean horny," he supplied. "Well, in your case, drunk and horny."

"I'm not drunk!"

"Fine. Buzzed and horny," he amended.

I rolled my eyes, deciding not to get into it with him. "Whatever. Look, it's not a good idea-"

"For us to be around each other?"

"No," I replied bluntly.


His lips quirked upward. "Can't control yourself around me?"

I rolled my eyes. "At the moment? No, I can't. I blame the alcohol," I added quickly. "But it looks
like you have the same problem, so I wouldn't be talking if I were you."

He grinned. "What? You want me to tell you that you turn me on? Fine. You do. You make me
hard, Sam. The difference between you and me is, I'll admit it. I don't get what's so difficult
about saying that you want me, that I make you warm."

I stared at him, incredulously. "I'm going. Now."

"Lie to yourself all you want," he murmured. "But I know how you feel about me. I felt it myself,"
he added, smirking.

"You're a completely egotistical jerk, you egotistical jerk." For added measure, I punched him
on his shoulder.

"Ow."

"Dumbass."

"Control freak."

I stopped in my tracks. "Come again?"

"You're a control freak," he replied casually, jumping up and taking a seat on the hood of his car.
Normally, a little comment like that wouldn't even have fazed me, but right then, every sense felt
like it was on overload, and I was one a very thin line away from pummelling him into the
concrete. Either that, or jumping him where he sat and having him fulfill every sinful little fantasy
that I'd had about him, I wasn't quite sure which.

"Fuck off."

"You're just upset because you came this close to losing complete control over yourself.
Because of me. That's probably what pisses you off the most, huh?" His grin widened. "Admit it.
If we weren't in public, we would've-"

"What? We would have what?" I kicked a pebble towards his car. "Don't be so damn sure of
yourself. I'm not a freakin' nymphomaniac like you."
"And the excessive swearing? Sam, you're teetering on the precipice of rational thought."

"Then I suggest you don't push me," I replied quietly, crossing my arms over my chest.

He slid off his car and opted to lean against it, instead, crossing his arms over his chest and
giving me a nonchalant stare. "And by the way? Hard to be a nymphomaniac when you've never
actually gotten any."

Oh, that did it.

"Yeah? Well at least I don't whore myself out to anyone and everyone," I spat.

"Don't run your mouth about my business when you know shit about it," he replied. Though his
voice was calm and his demeanour was relaxed, his eyes clouded over with anger.

"Yeah? Well don't presume to know anything about me, 'cause you don't."

"I know much more than you think. You're an open book, Sam. You'd like to think that you have
depth, wouldn't you? But you don't. You're an open book, babe. With you, what you see is pretty
much all you get." He gave me a critical up-and-down stare. "And all I see is a scared little girl
playing dress-up, trying to be more than she is."

"Shut up," I ground out, dangerously close to losing my temper.


"Doesn't matter how much attitude you give me or how badass you think you've become," he
continued, his voice mercilessly calm. "Because you're still the same loser thirteen-year-old you
were when you first came here, and nothing is ever going to change that."

And you actually believed there was more to him than all you knew.

After Saturday I really did.

Apparently, you were really wrong.

No freakin' duh.

One thing you should know about me. When I get exceptionally pissed off to the point of
decking someone I laugh. I don't know why, but I find everything so funny. That is, of course,
until the humour subsides and I'm left with mind-numbing anger.

I stared at David for a good long while, and began to chuckle to myself. That turned into a
giggle, and then I was just laughing to myself.

"Sam?" He asked quietly.

"Don't say my name like we're friends," I replied cheerfully, still chuckling. "In fact? Don't come
near me, don't talk to me at all, hell, don't even look at me. You honestly think that about me?
Then you are so not worth my time. As of this moment? I don't know you. I don't want to know
you. As far as I'm concerned? You don't exist." I pulled out my phone, turned my back to
him, and called for a cab. I stood in the freezing cold for fifteen minutes until the cab came.
David was still leaning against his car, looking something akin to shell-shocked. When the cab
pulled up, I walked purposefully towards it. I felt a sharp tug on the back of my jacket and turned
around.

"Sam, wait. Look, you have to listen to me. You're not thinking clearly, and neither am I, okay?
I'm sor-"

"Let go before I make you let go," I warned him.

"Sam, stop being such a hardass and listen to me!"


I grab his arm, twisted his wrist, and pulled his arm around and held it behind his back, like I did
at the bar.

"Leave me alone," I whispered into his ear, before letting go and aiming a swift kick at his lower
back.

The one upside to wearing a short dress? Lots of leg room.

David was on his side on the concrete, anger and hurt written all across his face. "You're
making a big mistake."

"Nope, don't think so. 'Cause, see, you already beat me to the punch," I retorted, walking
backwards towards the cab. "Here I was actually thinking there was more to you than everything
else you showed me in the past three years. I thought you were a decent man. Thanks for
proving me wrong before I got too far in. Saturday was a fluke, I guess. The soccer game was a
fluke, too, huh? And the phone conversation after that? Another fluke? You're nothing but a
shallow, arrogant, sadistic, self-centered little bitch that gets off by stringing people along then
ripping them apart. You're worse than nothing," I added, blinking back tears, "because at least
people who are nothing don't make people feel for them, and and then" Right then, I didn't
give a damn how mean I sounded. In fact, the bitchier, the better. I just wanted to hurt him as
badly as he had me.

"You don't know what the hell you're talking about, Sam. You don't know shit about me, and you
know what? I don't give a damn. I don't. I'm done with you." He pushed himself up off the cold
ground, dusted himself off, and went back inside.

I felt like complete hell the next morning. I had a mild hangover, I had to sneak back into school
by climbing over the gates and avoiding the cameras and patrolmen, I'd gotten about three
hours of sleep, and I'd fallen asleep without changing out of my dress, so I felt all icky, and
worst of all was my memory of that night.

I don't know which was the more unsettling of the two: when David and I were dancing, or when
he was being a little bitch in the parking lot.
"You look like hell," Madison commented, as I finished brushing my teeth and headed to my
closet to fish out a clean uniform.

"Thanks. You look as good as I do." It was true. Her blonde hair was dishevelled and hung
limply around her shoulders and her eyes were red and puffy. I threw my skirt aside and went to
sit beside her on her bed. "What happened?"

She sighed. "I had a date last night," she said eventually. "Peter-"

"Parker?" I interjected. She gave me a Look. "Sorry, no more wisecracks, shutting up now.
Continue, continue."

"Peter's on the football team with David," she added, as if that would help.

"Do me a favour? Never mention that name within earshot of me again."

"Who? David?"

"Your best friend is a little bitch," I replied shortly.

She rolled her eyes. "Oh God. Can you two not go like, a day without fighting?"

"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours," I promised.

"Fine. So anyway, I had a date with Peter, to go see the movie that was playing in the student
lounge. The little prick tried to feel me up as soon as the lights dimmed."

I clucked my tongue sympathetically. "What a jackass. What'd you do?"

"Pushed him off his chair, threw my Nestea on him, and walked out."

"Go, you."

She sighed again. "I really, really liked him, though. He was always such a sweetheart to me. Is
this what's always gonna happen? You agree to date a guy and he turns into an octopus? I
mean, where are all the good guys?"

"Taken or they live abroad. Because there sure as hell aren't any at this school."
"Ooh, your turn, now. C'mon, s'plainy. Tell me what happened last night. I so need to forget that
disaster of a date."

Reluctantly, I began to recount the entire night, starting from when Ian and David had broken
into our room.

"Wait, what? You did what? You did what with who?" She shrieked, once I'd gotten to the
'dancing' part.

I shrugged half-heartedly. "More like what I didn't do. As in stopping him? But please, don't
make me say it again." Recounting it once was bad enough.

"But but " She let out a squeal that was positively ear-splitting. "Oh my God! Yes! Yes, yes,
yes," she laughed, falling backward onto the bed. "Oh my God! About freakin' time! You guys
are so perfect for each other! And you look so cute together! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," she
chanted over and over, oblivious to the less-than-happy look on my face. "Aren't you so happy,
now that you know how he feels?"

I pushed a stray lock of hair out of my eyes. "Oh, I'm ecstatic," I replied tonelessly, beginning to
pace around in front of her. "It's so heart-warming to know that a guy I could have kinda,
perhaps, maybe, possibly, slightly I mean, a guy that I did" I exhaled. "Remember Saturday
night? When you set me up?" I added for emphasis.

She grinned broadly. "You never did tell me what you guys did. Come on, Sammy. Sharing is
caring."
"You mean what happened after I nearly burned the place down?" I chuckled despite myself.
"We hung out. We talked. He showed me that scar on his head." My hand drifted to my own
hairline. "I saw that stupid candy-cane couch of his," I added with a small smile. "He told me I
was gonna set the world on fire."

"Yeah, if you're ever around an open flame, I have no doubts about that," she muttered.

I laughed quietly. "I'm serious. He told me that I'll make a difference in the world. It was nice to
hear that, you know? As opposed to the pure bullshit I've been hearing for the last four years.
We saw the full moon and we traded scar stories and we laughed and joked around and he
held me." I met Madison's eyes. "I liked that. I liked him like that."

"You're easily romanced," she smiled.

I nodded, smiling myself. "Yep," I agree. "It's true."

"So what else happened last night?" She asked gently. Sighing, I pulled my hair away from my
neck. Her eyes widened considerably. "Huh. Well. I actually meant what happened to make you
so pissed off at him after you were starting to warm up to him. But wow. That's definitely"
She trailed off, her eyes still fixed on the base of my neck.

"You want the nutshell version? He called me a control freak, and I was already a little tightly
wound before that, 'cause of the you know" I trailed off, recalling the sensations of his lips
and fingers on my skin. "He called me a control freak. It wasn't like he called me a bitch or
anything, and he only did it to get a rise out of me, but not only did I take the bait, I also
completely went off on him. And I only went off on him because he was absolutely right. I did
almost lose control. To him. To the one person who's been trying for years to get me to
completely lose it I almost did."

"What'd you say to him?"

I gave a bitter laugh. "I told him he whored himself out to everyone. Then he told me I was an
open book, I had no depth, and I was, and I quote, 'a scared little girl playing dress-up, trying to
be more than she is'. Oh, and that I was still the same loser kid I was when I first came here,
and that that's what I'd always be."

"Then what did you say?" She asked suspiciously. I could tell she knew where this was going.
"Told him he wasn't worth my time if that's what he thought of me, and that he didn't exist to
me."

Madison exhaled in relief. "Well, that's not so bad compared to what you could have-"

"And then when he tried to stop me from leaving, I decked him. And then"

"You're nothing but a shallow, arrogant, sadistic, self-centered little bitch that gets off by
stringing people along then ripping them apart. You're worse than nothing."

"Oh Sam," Madison wailed, looking near to tears.

"Oh, it gets worse," I assured her, feeling miserable, myself.

"You don't know what the hell you're talking about. You don't know shit about me, and you know
what? I don't give a damn. I don't. I'm done with you."

Madison stared at me for a few seconds. "You're kidding me, right?" She asked, her voice
dangerously low.

"Do I sound like I'm fucking around?" I snapped, the beginnings of a migraine setting in.

She narrowed her eyes. "Don't start on me because you screwed up a potentially good thing,
okay? It's not my fault you got buzzed and decided to go off on him because he happened to tell
you the truth. So listen and listen hard, Sam. You are going to find him, and you are going to
apologize, and you are going to mean it. Every single word of it is going to be sincere. I don't
fucking care if he tells you to get lost, but you will make him listen to you long enough so that
you will say you're sorry. I don't give a damn how pissed off you are at him, you guys are going
to make up, because this is just fucking ridiculous." And with that, she grabbed her backpack
and left the room, slamming the door loudly behind her.
It's a testament to how... encouraging Madison can be when she wants to. Because despite
how much I did not want to see David, finding him was exactly what I went to do before classes
started. It was easier than I thought, too. Walked out into the hall and saw him right there
leaving some tenth grader's room. In the same clothes he wore last night.

Chapter Fourteen: Tell Me

The little black dress? Somewhere in the back of my closet. It's never seeing the proverbial light
of day again if I can help it. The sexy black knee-highs? Stuffed under my bed somewhere.
They can stay there for all I care. The two-litre bucket of Turtles ice cream? Gone faster than it
takes for Weston to come.

Not that I'd know. Or want to know. Or I'm just gonna stop now.

Seeing him in the hall of my dorm, walking out of some girl's bedroom, it felt someone had
kicked me in the gut. Which made me feel confused as hell. Which led to me calling Leah and
forcing her to miss most of her first-period class to instead hide in the girls' bathroom so that she
could talk to me.

"It's just a physical thing, right? I mean, you said so yourself, Leah. It's just lust. He's a hottie,
that's all it is. Right?" I looked like some sort of crazed person, pacing back and forth across my
room, repeatedly biting my lip or running a hand through my hair.

"Babe, calm down. You sound like you're bordering on desperation here."

"I am!"

"Oh. Wait, remind me again why you're not in class? And ergo, why I'm ski skip why I'm
doing that thing where I'm purposely missing class?"

I chuckled lightly, but continued to pace the floor of my room. "Because I have Advanced
Functions first period and I can't see him yet. Not until I figure this out. Not until I know why."

"Why what?"

"Why this bugs me so much!" I seriously contemplated throwing my cell across the room; that
was how frustrated I was.
Denial: it ain't just a river in Egypt, folks.

"Tch, is that all? I could've told you that half an hour ago."

"Well, then, O Insightful One, impart your wisdom onto me," I muttered sarcastically.

"You like him."

I slipped on the edge of Madison's rug and fell flat on my back. The phone dropped out of my
hand and bounced across the room. I scrambled for it as it rolled under Madison's desk, and I
promptly hit my head as I tried to sit up. "I do not," I replied breathlessly, crawling out from under
her desk. "I think he's gorgeous, sure, but-"

"But nothing! You like him! Say it with me, Sammy. 'I like David Weston.' Just say the words.
Just say those four little words, and you'll feel a lot better."

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, willing myself not to go off on Leah.

"You're trying to calm yourself down, aren't you? You feel like yelling at me, and you're trying to
keep your temper in check. You know why you feel like that, Sammy? It's 'cause you like David."

I swallowed and sniffled. "I can't," I replied weakly.

"Why the hell not?"

"Because."
"Oh, yes, that's a perfectly logical reason," she replied sarcastically.

"I don't know anything about him. How can I like him and not know anything about him?"

"Oh, come off it. You know loads about him."

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you do."

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you do."

"No, I-"

"I'm telling you that yes, you do. Stop arguing with me. You know I'm right, Samantha. But you
know what? If you feel that you don't know enough about him to like him which is the stupidest
thing I've ever heard come out of your mouth, by the way there's a very easy way to remedy
that."

I bit my bottom lip. "How?"

"Duh, idiot. Talk to him. Ask him about himself."

I gave a bitter chuckle. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard come out of your mouth,
because in case you forgot, me and David? We're not talking to each other anymore!"

"Because the pair of you are stubborn and childish. You're perfect for each other!" I could
practically hear her beaming.

"Argh! No, we're not! Stop saying that," I snapped.

I mean, it really helps one's depressed state to hear that the guy you're supposedly perfect for
apparently screwed the girl in Room One-oh-Six.

"You only get like this when you're wrong and you don't want to admit it," Leah replied sagely.

I inhaled deeply. "Leah. I can't like him like that, okay? Don't say anything, just listen to me.
When I say I can't, I really mean that I can't. I can't let myself."
She snorted derisively. "I take it back. That was the stupidest thing that's ever come out of your
mouth. But I'll play along. Why the hell can't you?"

"Because if I like him God, Leah, he's so smart, and funny, and charming and if I start to
like him, then I'll fall for him, I know I will, 'cause how could I not? And how can I fall for
someone who's got a reputation like he's got? It'll always be in the back of my mind: 'The minute
you sleep with him, he's gone'."

Leah was silent for a few seconds, and then she burst out laughing. "My God, not only are you
an idiot, but you're so conceited! Has boarding school changed you that much?"

"Stop making fun of me!"

"I'm not! I'm serious. Did it ever cross your mind that maybe he likes you, too?"

"Before last night, before that brilliant exchange of words, yes, it did. A hundred times over. But
he obviously doesn't. I accept that. I have to accept it." I grabbed the first thing within reach an
orange and squeezed. Citrus-y juice splashed all over, and I had to turn my head to avoid it
getting in my eyes.
Stress balls. A wise investment. A way better one than oranges.

"Don't bullshit a bullshitter, Sam. You're making assumptions and excuses just because you
don't wanna let your comfortable little world get shaken up. You're going to act ignorant of
what's right in front of you because you don't wanna take a chance. If you get proven wrong,
you'll end up hurt, and if you get proven right, you'll end up in unknown, unfamiliar territory, and
you don't like that. But what if not taking the chance is even worse?"

My breath came ragged and I sank down on my bed. "I don't like David like that, I can't," I said
in a small voice. "I don't. I really, really don't. Oh my God."

"Sam?"

I wasn't sure exactly when it happened my guess was the beginnings of it started when we
went to Tim Horton's on my birthday, and Saturday night only intensified what I'd started to feel
but it didn't matter. It didn't matter how it happened, or why or when. It did, and the realization
of it slammed into me like a flying Ford Anglia into a Whomping Willow.

"Oh my God," I breathed. "I like him. I like David. I'm totally crushing on him in a major way."

Leah sighed tiredly. "Freakin' took you long enough."

I made it to second period with time to spare, and lunchtime, David was nowhere to be seen. I
didn't know if it was a good thing or not. I wanted to see him, to apologize, but at the same time,
I still didn't trust myself around him. He had the uncanny habit of making me completely lose all
inhibitions. I was still upset with him, but I didn't want to screw things up even more.

"Sam, can you do me a favour? Get me some more lollipops?" Madison gestured around the
Dining Hall with the stick of her previous Tootsie Roll Pop.

"Sure. Where are they?"

"Beside the Jolly Ranchers, behind the stack of Twix bars."

I nodded. "Gotcha." I went into the line and got a handful of chocolate Tootsie Roll Pops for her,
and was about to make my way back to my table, when I caught a glimpse of a head of tousled
black hair heading towards the exit for outside.
Oh, don't even think about it. It's near freezing outside!

I'll be warm.

I bet you will.

Shut up.

I weaved in between tables and darted outside. I had to sprint for a couple of minutes to catch
up to his long strides, but at least I felt warmer from the running.

"Hey. Weston, we need to talk." He was adamantly ignoring me, so I contemplated grabbing his
arm to get his attention, but thought better of it.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I wasn't aware that the non-existent could speak," he replied sarcastically,
walking faster. I hurried to keep pace with him.

"Weston, c'mon, don't be like that," I pleaded, brushing stray hair out of my eyes.

"If you want talk, the least you could do is call me by my first name again. And Sam, when I said
I was done with you, I meant it. I can't keep doing this."

I was taken aback. "Excuse me? You can't keep doing this?"
"Yeah." He ran a black-gloved hand through his hair. "I can't keep dealing with your hot-and-
cold behaviour."

"My hot-and-cold behaviour?" I asked shrilly, shaking partly from the cold. "Oh, don't you dare
pin this on me alone! I came to apologize to you, to talk with you, and you're gonna give me
crap like that? Weston, c'mon, you know me. You've known me for the past three years. You
know this all new to me, you know I've never and still, you baited me and got me all fired up
and I said so many mean things, just to hurt you, because you hurt me, and I mean, all I needed
was a little time to process everything, okay? That's all I needed. Everything's so muddled, I" I
ran a hand through my hair and took a deep breath. "All I needed was a little time to think."

He stopped walking and turned to face me, his expression cold, yet his eyes held so much
emotion; confusion, anger, hurt. "I told you to tell me to stop. I begged you to. You didn't listen,
you told me not to stop. Seemed to me like you knew exactly what you were doing."

"Ever heard of getting 'caught up in the moment'?" I asked desperately, sinking back against a
maple tree lining the path.

Oh David, if you only knew how easy it was for me to just just be, how it easy it was for me to
forget about every stressor in my life while I was in your arms, if you knew how much I wanted
to stay there but it's all so complicated.

"Is that all it was?" He sighed and reached forward. My heart thumped painfully loud as he
loosened my tie and unbuttoned the collar of my shirt. "That," he said quietly, brushing the base
of my neck, "was not me getting 'caught up in the moment'."

I closed my eyes and swallowed. My head felt dangerously light, as though if I weren't leaning
against the tree, I would have collapsed. "What was it, then?" I asked softly, fixing my uniform,
not daring to look him in the eye.

"You honestly don't know?"

"If I had to guess, I'd say it was you doing the typical male conquistador thing, because truth be
told? You've barely given me anything to think otherwise."

"I've given you plenty to think otherwise. You just choose not to."
"No, you haven't. A couple of really enjoyable evenings constitutes a 'barely nothing' when you
compare it to three years of alpha male behaviour. And you know, life isn't a fairytale. It's not
some magical world where everything just clicks into place. It's harsh and it's cruel and it's-"

"Spare me the 'life's hard' lecture. I've heard it, okay? The world's a dark place, and you know,
unlike yourself, I'm not a freaking loner. I'd like to have a little light to make things more
bearable." He looked up at me meaningfully.

"I'm not a loner."

Of course I would hear only that part. Of course.

He blinked. "Didn't you hear the part that came after that?"

"I heard the part where you were calling me an outsider. You know, it's not like I'd wanna fit in
here, anyway."

He sighed and shook his head. "Sam-"

"We've got like what, eight more months of school left? I've fared pretty well here for the last
three years, I don't need your acceptance all of a sudden."

Ten minutes later, seven Tootsie Roll Pops were violently slammed down in front of Madison.

"Good God, that took you forever. And why the hell are they so cold? What, did you travel to
Antarctica to get them?"

I took a few sips of my glass of Coke and gave her a glare. "Madison? Shut up."
For the next two days, I was in a foul mood again, and from what I'd heard, David wasn't any
better. Rumour had it he'd punched out a ninth grader who accidentally scuffed his shoes in the
rush between first- and second-period classes. I had my doubts about that story, but then again,
I freaked out on an eighth grader and reduced her to tears. After those small incidents,
everyone just generally stayed clear of us. Though we weren't outright hostile unless
provoked, I mean the student body was wary of us. Even the teachers could tell that neither of
us was in a mood to be reckoned with; only Ms. Davalos seemed to be too thick to get it.

Surprise, surprise on that one.

"Ms. Spade." Ms. Davalos barked out. AP World History was a class I adored, despite its
horrible teacher, but for that day, I couldn't for the life of me concentrate on anything.

"What?" So I was rude. Sue me. She was a bitch anyway.

Ms. Davalos pursed her lips, like she'd just sucked on a lemon but was trying not to start
gagging. To her credit, she held her temper. Ever since that detention on my birthday, she didn't
pick on me, and I wasn't anything but polite and respectful to her. But that day well, it's that
whole 'misery loves company' thing, isn't it?

"How did the geological factors of Greece influence its cultural development?"

"You're the teacher. You tell me." A few students traded surprised looks; it wasn't everyday
Samantha Spade was a smartass to a teacher.

Ms. Davalos raised an eyebrow, a small chuckle escaping her lips. She came and stood right in
front of my desk, and stooped over so she could talk to me on level. Her voice was so low, I bet
the only other person who could hear her besides me was David.

"Listen to me, you spoiled little rich girl. I do not give a damn about whatever personal problems
you're going through. Broke up with your boyfriend, mommy and daddy cut off your credit card, I
don't care. But don't you dare come into this class and take your anger out on me." Her eyes,
cold and hard, flitted over my shoulder to David, and she gave him a hard stare, as if to say,
'You better be listening to this.' David stared right back at her, until she broke eye contact first.

"So, what? I get a detention now? Is that it? As much as I'd love to do another forty laps around
the football field, it's all old hat now, don't you think?"
Ms. Davalos gave another small chuckle, and then picked up my bag and pulled me up from my
desk.

"Hey!" She held a firm grip on my wrist, her crimson-painted nails digging into the flesh of my
arm. "Ow!" She paid no mind to my protestations, and dragged me out into hall.

"Start acting your age or don't come back," Ms. Davalos said calmly, shoving my bag at me.
"Either way, I won't have to deal with your insolence anymore." She turned, and then added,
"Oh, and to the office, Ms. Spade." Then she slammed the door in my face.

The headmaster was fairly lenient on me. I got more of a pep-talk than anger or disappointment:
"Never waver, Ms. Spade. You've shown excellence in all the years you've been here, and
although senior year may seem like an unbeatable obstacle, you can triumph!"

What a load of bull.

I had to stay in the detention room of the office for the remainder of the period, while the
headmaster met with another student who'd been sent down shortly after me, and so I finished
up the homework I'd gotten from my previous three classes for that day. When the final bell
rang, I was told to go back to Ms. Davalos' room for my detention. I'd had that whole forty-five
minutes to mellow out and put myself in check again, but the minute I walked out of the
detention room, I rounded the corner and walked straight into the very warm, very defined upper
half of the star quarterback, right into the very person that, with a look, was able to send my
mood spiralling again.

And, you know, me being the picture of poise and grace that I am, I staggered backward,
slipped on the hardwood floor, and landed on my ass. A pair of dark chocolate eyes flecked with
gold stared down at me, amused.
"Ow," I breathed, silently cursing whoever it was that had the bright idea to put in polished floors
instead of carpet. I was sure I was blushing. My face felt warm enough.

"Need some help?" He stretched a hand towards me.

"I'm fine." I pushed myself up off the ground and slung my bag over one shoulder.

"I didn't mean to knock you over." He was but one step behind me as I left the main building.

"It's fine," I repeated monotonously, trying to out-walk him. Yeah, when the person you're trying
to lose has about half a foot on you and is, for some strange reason, determined not to lose you
in the post-final bell rush, it's kind of hopeless.

"I'm sorry," he added, coming up in front of me and walking backwards so that he could face
me.

"My fault. Should've watched where I was going." I shrugged carelessly and tried to sidestep
him. He grabbed my shoulders and forced me to look up at him. His eyes pleaded with me.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Okay?"

No, it's not okay. How can it be okay? You hurt me and cut me down, and even worse, I did the
same to you. Foremost, you were my friend, and I was an inexcusably horrible bitch and you
were a damn bastard and God, you just sleep with some random kid after? Well, I don't know
what it was, but you never gave me the time to figure that out, did you? You totally screwed up
senior year for me. Work hard, get good grades, enjoy these last few months with my friends,
that was what was supposed to happen. Becoming attracted to you, wanting you, having these
feelings for you these confusing, stomach-dropping, heart-flipping, wonderful, make-my-
knees-go-weak-every-time-you-smile feelings that was so not the plan. And everything's so
messed up and confusing and nothing is okay.

"Sam?"

"Yeah, sure." I forced a small smile to my lips. "Likewise. Listen, I gotta go. Later." I shrugged
his hands off and walked past him, purposefully towards Ms. Davalos' room. I heard David sigh,
and all the way back to the Languages and Humanities building, a pair of heavy footsteps trailed
mine. I determinedly refused to turn around. On the way back, he kept just behind me, and I bet
he knew that I knew that he was there, but neither of us said anything to one another.
When I got to Ms. Davalos' room, the genuine yes, I was planning on being sincere apology
I'd mapped out in my head died on my lips.

"Oh, so you're both here?" She made a little sniffle of disapproval and flipped her raven hair
over her shoulders. "I specifically requested that you serve your detentions separately." She
gave both of us suspicious, guarded looks.

I raised an eyebrow. Honestly, what did she think was going to happen? I mean, what could
happen between two teenagers who harboured an intense dislike for each other, and, okay, had
a mild attraction for one another, but currently weren't speaking and had a lot of pent-up anger
and maybe even a little pent-up sexual frustration, and

Never mind.

"What's with the?" David gestured over to where a mop was propped up against the wall
beside a bucket and a cart with an assortment of cleaning products. "The janitor forgot his stuff
here, or something?"

Ms. Davalos grinned. Honestly, I never knew she could look so happy. Shot my theory of her
not getting any straight to hell. "Frank's taken the night off."

"Is he sick?" Frank Ames was one of the school custodians, and he was the kind of guy that
never yelled at anyone, no matter what an ass you were being. He'd just give you this
disappointed sort of look and no matter how badass you thought you were you stopped
whatever shit you were trying to pull. He knew damn near every student, and he always asked
about your day and how you were doing.

"No, Samantha, I'm in perfect health," he grinned, coming up behind David and I. "Seems
you've gotten yourself into a bit of trouble, though, eh?"
I smiled my first genuine smile of the day. "Just a little."

"This young man here got you in trouble again?" He gave David a mild glare. He's never liked
David, not since that fateful day I stepped out of the taxi.

I took a moment to think it over. "Well, you know, technically, it can all be traced back to" My
eyes fell on David's face. He looked genuinely hurt. I trailed off and lowered my gaze, my mouth
suddenly dry. "No," I murmured. "My actions are my own regardless of outside influence. It's
not his fault." Both staff members looked from David to me, but neither said a word.

Ms. Davalos pushed her shades up the bridge of her nose, her dark green eyes now obscured.
"I don't think you'll get any trouble from these two, Mr. Ames. Generally, they are very compliant
students, when approached correctly. Individually, they are both diligent and meticulous workers
and produce exceptional results." She slid a couple binders into a large leather bag and let the
long strap rest on her left shoulder, the bag against the opposite side.

Was that an actual compliment?

Is there an apocalypse nigh?

"Together, however, they are counter-productive, highly impulsive, and, at times, very hot-
headed children." We stepped aside and allowed her to make her way out the door. "But they
seem to be more or less subdued today. They shouldn't give you any problems. Just make sure
they work separately, or else we'll have the building in ruins by the end of the night." She turned
to leave the room.

"Wait! Ms. D, what exactly are we going to do?" David asked, almost nervously.

Ms. Davalos smiled. "Why, David, you and Samantha are going to help out Mr. Ames for the
evening." Her voice switched from

saccharine-sweet to steel-hard, her gaze moving between the two of us. "You two are going to
clean this classroom and make it spotless. And then, you'll proceed to do the same thing for the
other six classrooms in the History Wing. Mr. Ames will be present for supervisory purposes
only. You two are about to finally learn what happens when people disrespect me, my
classroom, and the people in it."

Oh yeah, this definitely promises to be a fun-filled evening of laughs and entertainment.


Sarcasm accomplishes nothing.

It was an end to itself.

"Good evening, Mr. Ames, Mr. Weston, Ms. Spade." Her heels clicked softly against the tiled
floors as she receded down the hallway.

"Well, kids, it's us three, huh?" Frank stood between us and clapped our shoulders.

"Oh joy," I heard David mutter darkly under his breath. "What fun."

Two and a half hours later, and Weston and I had managed to clean six classrooms between
us. After Frank had retired to the Staff Lounge with the promise of checking in every half an
hour he didn't, by the way it was just the two of us. We'd wordless split ourselves up I took
the three classrooms on the left, and Weston took the three on the right. Diligently I worked,
mopping floors, cleaning windows, wiping down chalkboards, scrubbing desks and de-gum-
ifying them, you name it, I did it.

Weston had made it to our AP World History classroom before I did, so I tried my best to stay
quiet as I wheeled my cart in. Yeah, that doesn't really work when you're an accident-prone
klutz like me. A stereo was in the corner with the school radio station on, the music barely
audible outside the classroom.

"Hey, watch yourself. I just mopped-"

Not for the first time that day, the world slipped out from under me and I was on my back,
winded.
"Ow," I murmured weakly, pushing myself into a sitting position. My arms and legs felt sore from
my non-stop, vigorous cleaning session, and I wanted nothing more than to just take a hot bath,
then lie down and sleep. Of course, I still had to finish half the classroom, so cleanliness and
sleep would have to wait.

"Is there some quota or something you're trying to fill before the day is up?" David asked,
leaning casually against the closest wall, his arms crossed over his chest. The sleeves of his
white uniform shirt were rolled up, showing off his muscular arms, and a black bandana kept his
hair away from his face.

I wondered if he knew how sexy he looked, his clothes and all dishevelled and unruly. He
probably did. Would explain why he ditched his normally-put-together-and-perfect image for the
I-just-got-out-of-bed-doing-God-knows-what one.

"Yeah, actually," I replied, slowly getting to my feet. I knew I probably looked as unkempt as
David, but I highly doubt I looked as alluring. "My personal best for landing on my ass and
making a fool of myself is five times in one day. I'm trying to beat that record."

"Well, you're doing a great job so far."

"A better job than you're doing on these desks." I shook my head in distaste. There was still a lot
of gum stuck underneath the desk in front of me.

"How about I do you on a desk?"

I raised an eyebrow; it seemed like things between us had reverted back to the way they
originally were, which, to be honest, made me just the littlest bit sad. Okay, no, it made me
really sad, 'cause we'd been getting along so well okay, well better than usual up until last
night.

"How about you kiss my ass?" I replied flatly.

"That can be arranged. Ow, Sam!" He yelled, rubbing the spot where the chalk eraser I threw
hit his head.

"Well, what do you know?" I mused. "Seems my aim is getting better."

We were only standing about five feet apart, so really, it would have shameful if I had missed.
"There better not be chalk dust in my hair," he warned, waving the mop threateningly. I raised
an eyebrow, then grabbed a sponge off my cart, ducked it in the mop bucket of cold water I'd re-
filled just before leaving the last classroom, and lobbed it at him. It landed right in the middle of
his forehead with a loud, wet splat. I put a hand over my mouth to hide my smile as the sponge
slid down his face and dropped onto the floor, leaving a trail of water in its wake. David
remained eerily still.

"No, no, uh, there's no dust in your hair," I replied, stifling a snicker. "You've got a little
something on your face, though."

"Is it anything like what's on your shirt?" He asked innocently.

Like a fool, I looked down. "What's on my shirt? Nyagh!" I winced as I felt something cold and
slimy slide down my head and neck and down the back of my shirt. I looked up to see David
standing over me, a bottle of liquid soap in his hands. Cringing at the feel of the soap sliding
down my back, I stood up straight, eyeing the bucket with sponges over David's shoulder. "You
are so going to pay for that," I said in my most casual tone.

"Oh, really?" He asked, amused.

"Uh huh." I dove around him for the bucket of water and flung all five sponges that were in the
bucket at him. Surprisingly, they all hit him: two in the face, two in the chest, and one down
south. "Bull's-eye," I grinned, backing up slowly as he came forward.

"If I were you, I wouldn't be getting cocky, gorgeous."

"Why's that?" I asked, blushing slightly despite myself. God, how could someone make you feel
hot all over just by looking at you?
David smiled wicked. "You look flushed, Sam. Feeling a little warm? I think you need to cool
down." In one fell swoop, he scooped up the bucket of cold water and dumped it on me. I stood,
shell-shocked, as the water soaked through my clothes and hair and pooled at my feet.
Shivering slightly from combined fury and cold, I could barely speak.

"I am going to kill you."

"In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the view," he smirked.

"You're a dead man, Weston," I muttered, crossing my arms over my chest. I wore a tank top
under my shirt, so you couldn't see my bra, but my shirt was still trs clingy and much of the
form-fitting.

"But what a way to go," he grinned, giving me a deliberately long up-and-down look, his eyes
lingering just south of my face.

Emitting a sound akin to a growl, I tackled him onto the tiled floor. He landed hard on his back
and I fell down beside him, my arm breaking my fall.

Ow. Note to self: no more impulsive Slayer-esque moves.

Slowly, I rolled over on my other side, my right arm aching painfully. I flexed it a bit, and the
shooting pain subsided to a dull throb.

"Sam. Ow," David murmured weakly, rubbing the back of his head. "You need to give your
brother some pointers. Better yet, why don't you join the team?" Just as I was about to
apologize and ask if he was okay, the snake reached over and grabbed the nearest bottle of
liquid soap, and squirted the sticky pink liquid all over my hair.

My hair!

"You are a dead man, Weston," I repeated, my fingers closing over one of the soapy sponges.

Round Two was on.

Half an hour later, we were both out of ammo and out of energy. The classroom, instead of
being sparkling and spotless, was the actual opposite. There were pink, orange, blue, green,
yellow, and violet streaks of liquid soap all over the chalkboard and walls, and the bulletin board
which, thankfully, had not yet been filled of student work was soaked with soapy water. Not
to mention that there was a small river of soap water that was currently making its way from the
middle of the classroom to the wall furthest from the door.

And then there was David. Normally picture-perfect David, who currently looked as though he'd
gotten into a fight with Mr. Clean and lost in a bad way. His shirt was tucked out and soaked
completely through, so much so that I could see the red-and-blue tie-dye t-shirt he wore
underneath his white uniform shirt. Well, formerly white uniform shirt. Like the walls, his clothes
were streaked with coloured liquid soap, and his hair was even more unruly than usual, literally
sticking out in all directions. The black bandana was currently wedged inside my bra; he'd stolen
my hair-tie, so I'd thought it was only fair to take his bandana. He'd had enough sense not to try
and get it back, though I figured he wouldn't mind undertaking the suicide attempt.

I figured I didn't look much better than he did. My only consolations were that I had an
undershirt on beneath my uniform top, I was wearing leggings that day so my legs weren't
covered in sticky soap, and I couldn't see exactly how much of a train wreck I looked like and
therefore, couldn't freak over it.

David and I were leaning side-by-side against the wall opposite the chalkboard, surveying our
scene of destruction.

"Well, damn," he said finally, shaking his head. "Our asses are dead."

"In the biggest way," I agreed. I let myself slide onto the ground, and sat so that my back was
against the wall and my legs stuck out straight in front of me; anything else would've been trs
uncomfortable. David sat beside me, so we were shoulder-to-shoulder.

"I've got a bone to pick with you," I muttered, looking at my shoes.

"You've always got a bone to pick with me," he replied, exasperated. "Gotta be a little more
specific."
- : - : - : - : -: -

'You wanna know more, more, more about me, I'm the girl who's kicking the Coke machine. I'm
the one that's honking at you 'cause I left late again'

- : - : - : - : -: -

"Tell me why you slept with that girl," I said, the words tumbling out before I could stop them.

God, obvious much?

"Uh, excuse me?"

"Forget it," I said quickly, shaking my head.

What was the point of that, seriously? Why revisit what's been established? David is David.
And it's whatever.

"Hey." His voice went from annoyed to serious. "Look at me. Samantha, look at me."

Reluctantly, I looked up. Big mistake. Warm dark chocolate-brown eyes I could get lost in, full
lips that I got hot all over just thinking about, and those hands over the past couple of weeks,
I'd only managed to come up with a couple of dozen different things those hands could do with
me.

"Yeah?" I choked out.

"I didn't. You never gave me a chance to explain, but I didn't. Camille is my cousin. Sort of. Long
story." He waved his hand dismissively. "I spent five hours listening to her bitch me out." Off my
expression, he added, "She's seen you around, read some of your articles, thinks you're
'intelligent, insightful, articulate, and deep', in her words. Cammie called my sister, and then I
spent the rest of the night listening to both of them bitch me out." He smiled wryly. "I'm not really
popular with the female persuasion right now. But Sam," he continued, his voice growing quiet,
intense, "you have to believe me when I say I didn't do that. I I don't think I could, just like
that, not since not now that I, that we" He trailed off, shaking his head.

He didn't?

Note to self: give David more credit from now on.


I didn't think I'd be this relieved to learn this tidbit of information.

"So I totally demolished my ice cream supply for no reason? Wonderful," was all I said.

- : - : - : - : -: -

'Hey! Hey! Hey!

'Can't you see I want you by the way I push you away, yeah? Don't judge me tomorrow by the
way I'm acting today, Mix the words up with the actions, do it all for your reaction, yeah Hey!
Hey! Get tangled up in me'

- : - : - : - : -: -

"Did you really?" He asked, raising his eyebrows.

"Isn't that what I just said, or are you simply hard of hearing?" Okay, so I was still a little testy.
"Forgive me, but it's more than a little hard for me to imagine you getting so upset over what you
thought happened." Nevertheless, his ego got a nice big boost, not that it needed it any.

"Right, 'cause I'm the Ice Queen with no emotions, huh?"

"No, idiot," he scoffed, shaking his head. "'Cause"

"Because what?" I asked.

"Forget it," he replied, stubbornly staring at a point over my head, his jaw set.

"David, tell me," I said, pulling out the Voice. The Voice was firm and authoritative. The Voice
was not to be messed with.

- : - : - : - : -: -

'You wanna know more, more, more about me, Gotta know reverse psychology. I'm the reason
why you can't get to sleep. I'm the girl you never get just quite what you see'

- : - : - : - : -: -

"Do you know what it's like for someone like me to to like someone for the longest time,
someone who can hardly stand to be in the same room with me?" He ran a hand through his
hair. "Believe me, I didn't plan on it. I wasn't exactly thrilled by it at first. I mean, you're you.
Annoying, obnoxious, holier-than-thou, know-it-all you."

"Wow. You've really got the art of flattery down," I deadpanned.

"See? See? That is exactly what I'm talking about!" He replied, frustrated.

"Oh, like you're any better!" I retorted. Yes, I was fully aware that the guy had pretty much
confessed to crushing on me on me! but if you don't know our dynamic by now for shame.
"In case you didn't notice, David, we're not in second grade anymore. If you like a girl, you don't
need to be a jerk to get her attention!"

"And you would've said yes the minute I asked you out, right?" He countered, scoffing. "Please.
I know you, Sam. You've already got your nice, neat little opinions about me. I had no intention
of telling you, because I know you would never date me."
"Well, shows what you know, idiot," I muttered, sticking out my tongue at him. "I liked that
Saturday night, and the soccer game, and the unnecessarily-long phone call that ran up my bill.
I like spending time with you when you're not an arrogant jerk. Oh, why can't you always be how
you were then? It would simple things up so much, you know."

- : - : - : - : -: -

'Hey! Hey! Hey!'

- : - : - : - : -: -

"Baby, I am always like that. It ain't my fault if you bring out a different side of me."

"David, I've seen about ten different sides of you in the past month and a half. Forgive me if I
don't know which one is the right one."

"You know what? I don't know, either! All I do know is that you're in my every goddamn thought
every damn hour of every damn day."

David had on his frustrated face. He looked totally hot. I wondered if there was a facial
expression that he couldn't make look so sexy. I figured that that was unlikely.
"I am?" I asked weakly, the smart-ass comment I'd been ready to say completely evaporating
from my mind.

"And I have this stupid compulsion to make you smile," he barrelled on, oblivious.

"You do?" It was becoming increasingly harder to breathe, let alone talk, I was so taken aback.

"Even though I always seem to end up doing the opposite, though. It's fucking stupid, you know.
I mean, I have other things that I gotta focus on, other things that need my time and energy!
School, the team, my friends but it's like none of it matters if I don't at least see you or
something for the day."

"It doesn't?"

Did I accidentally get run over by a Mack truck and go into the white light and just not realize it?

"But, of course, it's all a moot point, isn't it? Honestly, do you know what it feels like for someone
like me to carry this around inside me for you? Of all people" He chuckled darkly. "Of all
people, it had to be the one person who hates me. Karma's a fucking bitch. What are you
smiling for?" He asked, looking at me through narrowed eyes. "Laughing at my pain, are you?"

- : - : - : - : -: -

'Can't you see I want you by the way I push you away, yeah? Don't judge me tomorrow by the
way I'm acting today, Mix the words up with the actions, do it all for your reaction, yeah Hey!
Hey! Get tangled up in me'

- : - : - : - : -: -

I did laugh. I couldn't help it. The irony of it all was more than a little funny. "David, I don't hate
you," I said softly, when my laughter subsided, which didn't take too long, seeing as he was
glaring daggers at me. "I'm so sorry if I made you think I did. I I was really upset that night,
though, and it wasn't like you exactly made things better, but oh, I screwed up so much. I I
don't usually just let go like that," I said slowly, trying to explain everything that was running
through my mind, while steadfastly blocking out that excited little voice in my head that kept
chirping, 'He likes me back! He likes me back! He likes me back!'
"Really? You? Nah," he interjected, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Never would have thought
that."

"You know what, David? Shut up, okay, 'cause I'm trying here. It's one thing to just let go and
have fun or whatever. It's another thing to do that and so completely, too with someone
whom you know can totally shake things up not-so-temporarily. But the the dancing with you
and with me, that was something else altogether, and it freaked me out, David. I mean, it's you,
and it's me. It's mind-reeling and scary and and such a great rush, but it takes a wee bit of
time to process and sort out, especially when your feelings for that person are changing."

"Changing?" He pounced on that one word. "Changing how?"

I took my time answering; David didn't rush me, but just kept his eyes trained on me, waiting for
me to speak. "Like from extreme disdain, to possibly platonic, to I I want you, to I kind of
have a crush on you," I murmured quietly, "in a sort of big way. That kind of changing."

I don't know which part of that was harder. Telling the guy I wanted him, or telling him I liked
him. Both were about equally high on the stress scale.

"I don't know if we'd work," I continued quietly, "considering we want to kill each other half the
time, but I'm interested in finding out, David. I think well, I know, more like, that I'd totally kick
myself if I didn't try and see, 'cause, well if we could work it'd be pretty cool, don't you
think?"

- : - : - : - : -: -
'You think that you know me You think that I'm only When everything I do, is only to get
tangled up in you'

- : - : - : - : -: -

"Don't fuck around with me, Sam," he said, his voice low, ragged, raw.

"I'm not!" I replied defensively. "I'm serious! I was serious when I said I was sorry. I am, for
everything," I continued honestly, the scent of him that smell of pine trees and the outdoors
after it rained that I'd come to associate with an anxious, fluttering, hot feeling inside my belly
making me just the slightest bit light-headed.

The fluffy, happy little floating feeling I had instantly evaporated. In its place was guilt over how
I'd handled the changes in the way he'd made me feel, how I blew up at him and yelled at him
instead of just being straightforward and honest with him from the start.

But that's not who you guys are. Part of the attraction is the way you guys never let up on each
other. You push each other sometimes too far you bug each other, you harass each other,
you're not afraid of hurting each other's feelings. You've got passion.

"I really am. I'm sorry for pushing your buttons, for hurting you unintentionally or not, for
frustrating you, for telling you all that crap, 'cause I really do think you're a decent person. When
you're not being a dick, I mean. And I was serious when I said I w-wanted you. Not just your
body stop smirking but your mind, and your heart, and I want to know you, as much as I
can. You intrigue me, David Weston. You're interesting and and layered, and well, you're
pretty cute, too," I conceded with a small smile. "And I just want you. And thus ends Sam's
incredibly embarrassing babbling."

God, shoot me now. This has got to be on the list of the most embarrassing things ever that I've
done. Second only to the birthday-party-punchbowl incident I don't think anything could ever
top that, still.

"Were you also serious when you said you liked me?" To his credit, David didn't shy away, nor
did he back down. He was blunt and direct and wouldn't take his eyes off of mine.

"That was what I was most serious about."

"I see. So, how much do you like me?" He asked casually, hiding a smile.
I pretended to think about it. "Let's see I would say, more than David Boreanaz, but less than
a Kit Kat," I replied with mock-seriousness. We were still sitting side-by-side, just like five
minutes before, and we were still touching only shoulder-to-shoulder, just like five minutes
before. But now there was this tension-free air between us. Well, negative tension-free air,
anyway. The sexual tension was still there. In spades.

Haha.

- : - : - : - : -: -

'You wanna know more, more, more about me I'm the girl that's sweeping you off your feet'

- : - : - : - : -: -

I swear, if the guy could just bend his head down a little, itty bitty bit more

"More than David Boreanaz, eh?" David asked, raising his eyebrows.

"Well, truthfully, it was a really close call. I mean, come on, it's Angel, Hottie McHotHot
extraordinaire. But there's you," I said, dropping the joking attitude. "And you're"

"Charming? Devilishly handsome? The star of your nightly erotic dreams?" He asked with a
crooked smile.
"First of all? It's bi-weekly," I corrected with a smirk. "And, no. You're you're the kind of guy
that people don't realize how fortunate they are to have around, until you're gone."

He smiled that stupid, arrogant smile he'd done a hundred times before, every time he'd gotten
something his way. Only this time, I didn't mind it so much. He bent his head to my ear and
whispered, his breath tickling the back of my neck.

"I want to kiss you. I mean, I'm going to kiss you. Just a couple of things I need to tell you, first."

- : - : - : - : -: -

'Hey! Hey! Hey!

'Can't you see I want you by the way I push you away, yeah? Don't judge me tomorrow by the
way I'm acting today, Mix the words up with the actions, do it all for your reaction, yeah'

- : - : - : - : -: -

"Yeah? Like what?" I murmured, resting my hands on his broad shoulders. Being so close to
him, it felt like my senses were short-circuiting and getting an energy boost all at once.

"I want you," he whispered. He looped his arm around my waist and pulled me closer not that
there was much space between us in the first place and I could feel his arousal against my
thigh, and the definition of his muscles beneath his shirt. He had pretty good definition. His eyes
darkened and clouded over, and his voice was low in my ear. "I've wanted you for so long I
want you so much, it hurts."

"Oh. Well, that's nice," I squeaked out. Any notions that I'd entertained myself with of being
able to be sexy and seductive once the opportunity arose, flew out the window. I mean honestly,
when a totally hot guy tells you he wants you, you don't react like someone told you that they
got a new pet parakeet.

David snickered. "Yeah, it's really nice, having to take cold showers practically every day.
Charlie's always hogging the hot water, anyway, so it was a mutually beneficial thing."

"Picturing you in the shower right now is so not of the good for my self-control," I murmured,
sliding the palm of my hand down from his shoulder to rest on his chest. What that
accomplished besides getting the both of us more excited, I don't know. "What else did you
want to tell me?" I wanted him to kiss me and I wanted him to do it now-ish.

"I like you." It was kind of refreshing and definitely cute how David could look so open and
vulnerable sometimes. I wondered how many times he'd actually said those words honestly to
someone else.

"I like you, too," I replied quietly. I wondered how many times someone had honestly said those
words back. I bit my bottom lip. "So, uh can we make with the kissage now?"

He chuckled. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you liked me just for my body."

"Good thing you know better, then."

Making good on his word, David pressed his lips against mine the minute the words left my
mouth.

You'd think I'd have been prepared for it. I mean, he did announce it, and I'd asked for it not ten
seconds ago. Hello, sweet, intimate moment with a guy because of whom I experienced nearly
every major emotion in the last forty-eight hours. You'd think I'd have been ready for it if there
is such a thing as being ready for your first kiss or known what he was going to do at the very
least.

But no. It's me, She Who Lives in the Land of Perpetual Ignorance. In my defence, I was pretty
out of it at that moment, though. What with it being like IMAX David and all, I was on sensory
overload and it felt great.

- : - : - : - : -: -
'Hey! Hey!

'Get tangled up in me.'

- : - : - : - : -: -

It's one thing to fantasize about the moment. It's an entirely different thing to, well, do it.

Not "it" it. Minds out of the gutter, please and thank you.

The first kiss was a little awkward, with the nervousness and general new-ness of it. I didn't
really know what to do, so I pretty much just tried not to over-think it and just let David lead and
go along with what I felt I should do. Seemed to work.

The second kiss was better. I wasn't as thrown by it, and I could better appreciate everything
about it, the warmth and softness of his lips, the way it felt to be in his arms, the way it felt for
him to be in mine. His mouth was eager, insistent but I didn't mind. I liked it. I kissed him back
as passionately as he kissed me; figured that what I lacked in experience I could make up for
with enthusiasm.

And the third kiss? Well, the third kiss was just perfect.

"God, Sam, calm down. You've been freaking hyper all damn day. You didn't have Coke, by
any chance, did you?" Madison lowered the Snow White costume in her hands and stared at
me suspiciously.

"No Coke," I laughed. "What? I can't be happy and problem-less for once?"

"No, of course you can. It's just that non-moody you is freaking me the hell out," she muttered,
putting the Snow White costume down and picking up a Cinderella dress. The two of us were
browsing the Disney section of Costume Central, this gigantic warehouse-like building in Maple
Ridge stuffed with every kind of costume and accessory imaginable.

All six of us had been crammed into David's car for the two-hour ride David driving, Scott
riding shotgun, and Alan, myself, Ian, and Madison squished in the back. Every time David
would glance into the rear-view mirror at me during the ride, I'd start grinning, and then Ian
would poke me repeatedly in my side.
Needless to say, 'Ow'.

"Here, go try this one on," Madison said, handing over a princess dress.

"But I already decided what I'm going to be." I lifted up the shopping bag with my jacket and
already-purchased costume inside.

"Yeah, but they don't know that." She took the bag from me, and gave me the dress, then
ushered me into one of the changing room. "When I knock on the door, let me in, okay? Don't
you dare come out of that room," she said loudly, for the guys' benefit. I smirked to myself and
quickly changed into the dress. It was a dark, velvety green with a large bell skirt that fell to my
ankles, and a corset-like top that nearly choked the hell out of me when I put it on. I was just
finishing adjusting the wrist-length sleeves, when a quiet knock sounded at the door. I nudged it
open with my foot and tried to straighten the dress.

"So, Maddy, what do you think?"

A pair of strong arms encircled my waist from behind. "Well, I don't know about Madison, but I
think you look gorgeous."

I beamed and turned around. "Thank you. You don't look so bad yourself, Captain Jack."

Pirates of the Caribbean I love that movie. Can't wait for the sequel.

David grinned and took off the pirate hat, plunking it down on my head. "You have hat hair." I
reached up and tousled his hair back into its familiar messiness.

"So, milady, would you like to go to the dance with me?" He twirled me around and dipped me,
holding me by my waist. I held his shoulders to keep from falling, my head tilted back. The hat
fell off my head and he scooped it up and put it back on his.
"I swear you just did that just to look down my dress."

His grin broadened. "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies."

"Good to know you haven't changed in the least," I replied dryly.

He let me up and ran a hand through my hair. "I don't know why, but for some reason, I just
can't keep my hands off you."

"No complaints on this end," I murmured, smiling against his lips. I wound my arms around his
neck; with all the practice he was giving me, I was starting to get the hang of this kissing thing.

We couldn't have been in there for more than ten okay, fine, twenty, at most minutes before
we acquired an audience.

Madison cleared her throat. David and I, startled, pulled apart and turned towards the door.

"We were wondering where you were," she grinned.

"'We'?" I asked weakly.

"Uh huh." It was then that I saw Alan, Ian, and Scott standing behind her. Madison looked
overjoyed, and Ian kept shooting David threatening looks, while Alan looked particularly grossed
out to find his sister making out with a pirate in a public place. Scott looked like a cross between
the three of them.

"Oh." I was sure I was blushing.

"I think I preferred the non-stop bitching," Scott muttered under his breath.

"Hurt her and you die, David," Ian added.

"Can you change?" Alan piped up. "And change separately? The costumes are weird. Besides
which, you guys are just freaking me out."

"But guys, they look so cute together," Madison gushed. I could practically see wedding plans
running through her head.
"I think I liked it better when we didn't have an audience," David muttered, kissing the top of my
head.

"Stealthy, we are totally not," I agreed, putting a hand to my forehead.

"Aw, they're so cute!" Madison squealed.

"So," Scott began conversationally, looking as though he'd rather engage in sumo wrestling with
a grizzly bear than bear witness to David-and-I, "exactly when did this, er thing between you
happen?"

"Last night," David replied, leaning against the doorframe.

"Last night?" Scott repeated in a strangled voice. He looked to me. "You didn't? I mean, you
wouldn't right? Sam? Right?" Poor boy sounded like he was pleading with me to give him an
affirmative.

"Wouldn't what?" I asked, puzzled. Comprehension dawned on me. "Ohhh. Oh. Oh, no! It wasn't
like that! We were detention, 'cause of World History, and, you know, mouthing off so, both
of us, cleaning the classrooms, right? And then there were sponges thrown-"

"Chalk erasers first," David interjected, looking amused.

"Right. Chalk erasers, then soap, then sponges, and bottles of liquid soap, and buckets of
water, and then the room pretty much got trashed, and we, you know, talked and" I trailed off,
not quite sure how to explain the 'we made out for freakin' half an hour until our asses got
busted' part.
"And?" Madison prompted, a wicked gleam in her eye.

"And made s'mores," David finished, suppressing a grin.

"Ah, s'mores," Ian echoed. "Is that what they're calling it these days?"

If a hole in the ground happened to open up, I would have gladly jumped into it, if only to avoid
further mortification from my friends.

I mean, just because something happened that pretty much everyone figured would happen
does not give anyone bragging rights.

Hint hint, Madison.

"So both of you in detention," she began, her voice more than just a little dramatic. "You're all
alone, there's no one else around. One of you says something, the other retaliates and then,
you snap. You can't take it anymore! You have to be in each other's arms, taste each other's
lips, feel each other's-!" Without word, Scott clamped a hand over her mouth, muffling the rest of
her little spiel. I turned to David, who mirrored my expression of mild amusement and surprise.

"She's very enthused about this," I noted, playing with a strand of my hair.

"You think?" David asked sarcastically.

"But, this is good, no?"

"This is good," David agreed, "until-"

"I knew it," Madison called out happily. "See, didn't I tell you? Didn't I say that this would
happen? Hmm?"

"That," he finished. "Well, have fun with her." He kissed me once more on the lips, Madison's
gushing merely a backdrop of sound, and moved to go.

"Wait, I'm sorry, but exactly where do you think you're going?" I asked, raising my eyebrows.

"Elsewhere, until she calms down," he smirked. "Let me know when that is, yeah?"

"Kiss my ass," I muttered to his already-retreating figure.


Well, it's really darling to know that romance hasn't changed him one bit.

Hey, you yourself said you wouldn't change the guy for anything.

Mental sigh is it too late to take that back?

Just think of all the ways you'll get compensation for this.

Hmmm I like the way you think.

Yeah, yeah I'm just smart like that.

Chapter Fifteen: Wouldn't It Be Nice?

T'was the night of the dance, and Madison had come up with the brilliant idea to dye her hair ice
blue to go with her fairy princess costume, only it came out more of a green than a blue. And,
after the dye job from hell, she somehow managed to convince me to get my bellybutton
pierced. I think it was revenge for the hair, since I was the unfortunate soul who was supposed
to keep time. It was pretty good, as far as revenge schemes go. I think it's been the only time
since passing that age that I wished I was fourteen again.
Also, Madison and David really should have set time limits for their little game. They guys had
left way, way, way before us, but as soon as we'd walked in even with the veils covering my
face and the pretty forest green-and-gold mask covering Madison's, Scott made us out. We
probably shouldn't have walked in together. Once he saw my bellybutton which, thanks to
Madison's brilliant gypsy costume idea, showed my bare midriff he went all big brother-
protectory on me. This attracted the others, and thus, the guys won the bet. After an hour and a
half of constant pestering, she still hadn't told me what exactly it was that the guys had won.

"You look gorgeous. Are you trying to turn me on?" David's voice snapped me out of my
thoughts.

"It's only been three days, and already I have to try? Getting bored of me that quickly?" I asked
lightly.

"Not a chance." And as if to prove his point, David kissed me passionately, tongue and all,
eliciting some low whistles from the people nearby, and some stern, disapproving looks from the
teachers chaperoning from the sidelines.

"I I I " I stuttered, once he'd let me up for air. I swallowed and tried again. "I well. Uh,
point proven."

He smirked and pulled me close. "I love your costume." Madison had helped me curl my hair
into loose ringlets, and had put just the tiniest bit of red eye shadow on me to match the red-
and-silver colours of the costume. She'd outlined my eyes heavily in eyeliner, though, and I
wore a dozen silver bangle bracelets on each hand. The skirt was near floor-length, and very
wispy and sweeping. Little silver bell charms were sewn all over, so every time I moved, I
jingled. The veil covering my mouth and nose was in actuality a really long scarf that was made
adjustable by a silver clasp. The only thing I didn't like one hundred percent was the top. It was
off-the-shoulder and sleeveless, and the bottom was cut so that it ended just where my stomach
began. It showed a lot more skin than I was comfortable with, but the comforting thing was that
no one knew who I was.

"Likewise," I replied.

David was dressed as Zorro. An extremely hot Zorro. With the cape and whip and sword and
everything. The only downside was that I couldn't tousle his hair because of the mask and hat.
Scott was a pirate and attracted more than half the grade nine and ten girls, for some odd
reason. It could have been because of his exposed chest, but that's just speculation on my part.
Alan dressed up as the killer from the Scream movies, and Ian went as a very cool, very hot
Neo.

David trailed a hand lazily across my stomach, gently brushing the small silver belly ring. "Did it
hurt?"

"Did what hurt?" I asked absently, staring over his shoulder at nowhere in particular. He tickled
my stomach gently, and I bit my bottom lip to keep from bursting into loud laughter. "Nah, it
didn't hurt," I lied. Actually, it did hurt. A lot. I was freaking out like crazy afterwards, convinced
that hole would get infected before it closed, and I'd die a slow, excruciatingly painful death.
Madison had bought me ice cream after, to make me feel better. But I was not going to let David
think that I was some sort of wimp.

"Liar," he retorted, brushing my bottom lip with his thumb. That was all it took to make me relent.

"Fine, fine, it hurt like a bitch. You happy?" He kissed my forehead and rested his head on mine.
All was calm. For about two seconds. David wrapped his cape around me and glared at
something over my head. "David?"

"Yeah?"

"Did the wall do something to piss you off?" The cape was wrapped so tightly around me, I
could barely move. We weren't slow dancing any more so much as we were waddling side-to-
side to the music.

"No," came the short reply.

"Um did I do something to piss you off?"

"No."

"So, then-" I turned my head as much as I could which wasn't much, really, seeing as
everywhere from the neck down felt like it was saran-wrapped to David (not that that was a bad
feeling, mind you) and the only thing I could see was some kid dressed up as Yugi leaning
against the wall and looking in our direction. I shook my head. "Oh, David."
"What?" He asked innocently.

"You can't possibly be jealous of that kid," I said incredulously. "He doesn't look a day older than
thirteen."

"So? I don't like the way he was looking at you," he replied petulantly.

"David, he's a hormone-crazed kid. He's looking at every girl in this place that's showing the
slightest bit of skin. Damn, that's an eerie look," I noted, perturbed.

"Told you. It's got nothing to do with me being jealous." I raised my eyebrows. "Okay, it's got a
little to do with me being jealous," he admitted, "but that was a fucking creepy look." The music
changed to a song that was more fast-paced, but we didn't break apart.

I never thought that when I got a boyfriend and I use the term loosely, because we hadn't
really talked about it; the only couple-y sort of thing we'd done so far was kiss and make out a
bunch of times I'd feel so comfortable with him so fast. I guess a part of that came from the
fact that we knew each other for a few years before. But either way, it felt nice. Everything felt
exactly the same. Except I now got this really nice warm feeling whenever he smiled at me, and
there was also the kissing.

The kissing was good. It was nice, even. I'd go as far as to say it was highly pleasurable. But
the funniest thing is, after that first kiss, it felt like I'd jumped this gigantic hurdle, which, I
supposed, I had. Everything felt easier with him and more comfortable and nicer just in general.
David made me happy. The one person, who for years had made it his mission to piss me off,
was kissing me and making me laugh and holding me in his arms like I meant something to him.
It felt nice.

Like, really nice.

Have I mentioned how nice it feels?

A little part of me wondered how long the niceness would last, because, as bleak as it sounds,
good things don't last for long. But as a friend once told me a long time ago, good things still
happen, and I intended to make the most of it while it was still happening.

"I'll be back in a bit, okay?" David disentangled my arms from around his neck and kissed my
cheek. "Nature calls," he added. I rolled my eyes, but said nothing.
"You two look so cute together." Sometime while I was busying myself watching David's
retreating backside leather pants are really his thing Laura Brennan had managed to sidle
up next to me.

"Thanks," I replied easily.

"So, are you two dating?"

I raised an eyebrow. "No offence, but that's really none of your business."

She smiled politely, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "Of course. Excuse my boldness. So
you two are just screwing around, then? I figured. David's not the kind of guy to hold one girl."
She smirked. "And you're not exactly the kind of girl to hold the interest of a man like David. At
least, not for very long."

I returned the smile. "I've been holding much more than just his interest."

It was Laura's turn for raised eyebrows. "Really? And here I thought well." She made an
attempt at another cool smile, only it came out like more of a grimace. "Guess you surprised me,
Sam. I always saw you as the sweet and wholesome little goody-goody. Never figured you'd
have the goods to get a man like David."

"You mean someone who's brilliant, ambitious, sweet, and funny? Yeah, it figures you'd miss
that side to him."

"Well, look at you," she drawled amusedly. "Two days with the man and already you're an
expert. Which is funny, considering you used to love nothing better than tearing him down."
"I never enjoyed any part of our fights," I replied coolly. "See, I don't take pleasure in belittling
people. And anyway, that was before I got to know him."

"Yeah, I figured he must have been amazing in bed to get you to change your tune. What, did
you get an epiphany about what a great person he is while he was making you come?"

"Not everything's about sex," I retorted arrogantly. "There are some things that actually have
meaning."

She chuckled, but it was devoid of any humour. "And she's an expert on relationships, too. You
know, I didn't come here to fight," she continued, sounding apologetic and innocent and so
freakin' fake. "I just figured I should give you some friendly advice. You know, girl-to-girl. I mean,
I have been with David before."

I felt the superior smile slide off my face. I think I may have even heard it shatter on the floor,
but the sounds of loud music and even louder teenagers made it hard to tell.

'Been with'? How?

How do you think?

Ioh.

David gets around. Remember?

Unfortunately.

"And my cousin, you know my cousin, right? Greta? She's on the squad with your roommate."

I nodded vacantly, my mind wandering onto the less-than-pleasant thoughts about David's
dating history.

You know, this doesn't even matter. All we've done is kiss a little. No big deal.

Really?

Uh huh.

So do you believe that any more than you did five seconds ago?
No

"Yeah, she went out with David, I think it was last year, just before the summer? Well, it was
more like a month of casual sex, but that's all the same thing to guys, isn't it?" She gave a small
chuckle, but I could barely muster up a twitch in my facial muscles. "Not that I'm saying that's
the kind of relationship that you and David have. I'm sure he's probably told you that you're
completely different, that he wants more than just sex. But no matter how different he says you
are, you can't be that nave not to know that he's going to want sex, and soon. If you think he
seriously likes you, you're a fool. He's just not that kind of guy. Don't kid yourself, because when
it comes down to it, you're just another body to keep his warm at night."

"You'd know, wouldn't you?"

To my credit, at least I didn't start crying or anything. I think my voice sounded fairly steady, if
not a little pissed off.

"I'm just saying, I've lasted the longest with him, and then Greta, so you know, if you ever want
advice or anything-"

"I'm fine, thanks," I replied, feeling slightly sick inside. "But if I ever want to learn how to whore
myself out, I'll let you know." Laura scowled and stalked off. "Good riddance," I muttered under
my breath. After all her bullshit, I really, really wanted to find David. I turned and walked straight
into something hard.

And very, very red.


In one smooth very smooth move, the stranger caught me before I fell, pulled me up, and
twirled me onto the dance floor. That was when I noticed the costume.

"Going for kind of a nostalgia thing or something?" I asked lightly. "'Cause I gotta say, your
costume's pretty dated."

I was dancing with the original Red Ranger.

Coolness.

Yeah, so I'm a nerd. Sue me.

His voice was muffled by the helmet, so I couldn't really tell who he was, but his voice was
audible enough so I could still hear what he was saying.

"Enjoying yourself, Samantha?"

So much for no one knowing who I was.

"Immensely. Going to a dance with a date is a lot more entertaining, than going by yourself.
Speaking of, have you seen a really hot Zorro around here?"

"David Weston? He's around. But I've got you here with me, and I've got some stuff to tell
you."

"All right, then. Talk."

"Did you like your party?"

I swallowed. "Um, yeah, I did. It was you?"

"Uh huh."

"Thank you, in that case." His confirming it made me feel just the littlest bit disappointed; I'd had
the smallest inkling that maybe the party had been thrown by someone else, someone with the
unique ability to both annoy the hell out of me and make me horny at the same time. Pity it
wasn't him.

"And your ring?"


I bit my bottom lip. The ring in question was around my neck, as per usual, on the silver chain. I
disentangled myself from the Red Ranger's arms and fumbled with the clasp for a moment,
before disconnecting it and taking the chain off.

"I love the ring. It's beautiful, and I really appreciate it. You have no idea."

"But?" He asked. He sounded vaguely amused, as though he knew what I was planning on
saying.

"But" I placed the chain in his palm and closed his fingers over it. "It's not real. I mean, well,
no, it is real, duh, but I think it's incredibly sweet of you to have done all that for me, but I
don't even know who you are. I kinda wished you'd show yourself to me, but the most you are
to me is some mysterious dream guy. A fantasy. I'm sorry, but I want something real. I think I
might be on the verge of that."

He was silent for a moment, then said casually, "You think David Weston can give you a real
relationship? You know his rep."

"I do. And I do. For some weird, inexplicable, but not entirely unwanted reason, I like him. And
he likes me back. At least, I think he does. Either way I like hanging out with him. He's a fun
guy."

"But will he be there for you when you need him to be?"

"I'd like to think so."


"That's not the question I asked you."

I raised an eyebrow. "David is a good guy. I know he has his flaws, but so does everyone else.
I'm not going to judge him on what I've heard or what he's been like before." At least, not
anymore, I silently amended.

"And if he hurts you?"

"I take crap from no one," I replied firmly.

"Not even David Weston?"

"I take crap from no one," I repeated. "Why? You planning on being first in line if he screws up?"

"You flirting with me, Samantha?"

"No. Just asking a question."

Red Ranger sighed, then squeezed my hand. "No. No, I won't be." He dropped my hand and
disappeared into the crowd.

After hunting down Madison and telling her everything that had happened (and, oddly enough,
getting pretty much zero reaction from her when I got to the part about the Red Ranger), I
eventually found David outside, a few feet away from the gym, leaning against one of the
massive maple trees that lined the path towards the main building. His mask was stuck in his
pocket and his hat was hung loosely around his neck. Shivering, I quickly made my way towards
him. Hearing my footsteps crunch against the leaves that had already fallen, he looked up.

"Hi." He smiled and took my hand in his.

"Hi. What are you doing out here all by yourself? In the very cold coldness?"

"Just thinking."

"Right. Because I heard that near-freezing temperatures help stimulate brain activity."

Rolling his eyes good-naturedly, he pulled me towards him and wrapped his cape around me.
"Feel better?" Our arms were wrapped around each other, and my head rested against his
chest.
"A little." Sighing deeply, I let myself drift off amidst his warmth and the rhythmic beat of his
heart.

This feels nice.

But?

No buts. I mean, it feels too nice too real to be a prelude to nothing more than a one-night
stand.

You're not seriously considering what she said to be the truth, are you?

What are the odds that David could seriously feel serious, about anyone non-busty and non-
leggy and non-sexy?

This is the part of the conversation where I'd hit you for being so dense. Do you not see
what's starting to happen here?

David started to suck lightly on the base of my neck. I kept eerily still.

What are you talking about?

Why do you have to be so clueless sometimes? You've barely begun something with David.
And all Laura has to do is say something she pulled out her ass to make you start doubting him.
You're with the school player, sweetie. You're making a lot of
girls unhappy. The bitchier, more conniving ones are going to do what they have to, to make
sure you don't stay together. Please, for the love of all that is Joss, Samantha, don't let this turn
into some torrid teen soap opera.

I won't. But I mean David's bound to get bored with me, sooner or later.

You told the Red Ranger you could have something real with David. You're never gonna get
that if you don't trust him. And you're never going to trust him if you don't put a little more faith in
yourself.

David alternated between gently grazing his teeth against my skin and planting soft open-mouth
kisses where he'd sucked on. After about a minute of non-responsiveness and me staring at the
tree branches above his shoulder, he stopped what he was doing and sighed deeply.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."

"Bullshit."

"How many girls?" I asked bluntly.

He raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

"How many girls have you had?"

His eyebrows went higher still. "What?"

"Don't make me repeat myself."

"Have you been drinking?" He asked incredulously.

"Please?" David sighed, then shook his head and shrugged. "You don't know?" I asked
incredulously.

"I don't know," he affirmed.

"How could you not know how many people you've slept with?"

David stared at me and scoffed. "It's not like I keep a track record, Sam!"
"So it's been a lot of girls, then."

He shrugged uncomfortably. "Yeah, I guess there's been a fair few."

"Well how about who you do remember?"

"What the hell is wrong with you?" He asked in disbelief.

"David please." I couldn't explain exactly why I needed to know so badly, only that I did, and I
didn't feel that we could move forward if he kept that part of his history a secret from me, 'cause
if he did, then it was like he was hiding it for some reason, and how can you move forward with
a person if he's hiding things from you?

He sized me up, a small scowl marring his features. "I don't get it, and I don't like it. Just for the
record. But you're all PMSy. So if the details of my personal, private affairs make you feel better,
why the hell not?"

I frowned, unable to tell if he was being sarcastic or not. "Never mind, forget about it-"

"Rachel Sullivan, end of tenth grade, just before we went on break. Carrie Ford, beginning of
eleventh grade, after we got back from the break. Nelia Singh," he continued, counting off his
fingers, "the week of my birthday. Laura Brennan, last New Year's
Eve up until March Break. Greta Carmichael the last month or so before this past summer.
Those are the ones you know, by the way. Unless you want me to get into everyone, in which
case the most I can do is give you a vague description of how they looked." His glare darkened
significantly. "So I gave you the 'who' and the 'when'. You want the 'where', too? How about a
play-by-play?"

My stomach tightened unpleasantly at the sound of the last two names on his list. "Why do you
even like me? I'm not like them."

He didn't hesitate at all as he rattled off his answer, the scowl softening slightly. "You idiot, that's
why. You're sweet, you're smart, you're pretty and funny, you don't take shit, you give me shit"
He kissed me lightly on the lips. "You make me want to be better." His voice was soft, but he still
looked a little annoyed with me.

"Why? How?"

How could one person be all that to someone? How?

"You have dreams, and you work to make them a reality. You actually seem to enjoy hard work.
I don't think I've ever seen you take the easy way out before, and you encourage people to do
the same. S'kinda hard to hang around you and not feel like I can be more; like I can do more."
He kissed me again, this time a little rougher. "It's like you don't expect me to do anything else
but my best. You don't encourage me to be anyone other than who I am. You make me like
being me."

I inhaled deeply. "Wow." I chuckled nervously. "That's I mean" He tilted my chin up and
kissed me hard and slow. When we broke apart, I was out of air and had a pair of bruised lips.

David brushed ran his hand through my hair and cupped my face. "Now, tell me what
happened."

I put my hand over his and sighed. "It's nothing. I mean, we're not even together together, so it
shouldn't matter."

"What shouldn't matter?"

"All the shit that Laura Brennan told me."


The scowl reappeared, only it wasn't directed at me. "What did she tell you?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Sam. This communication thing's a two-way street, you know."

I sighed. "She just said, you know that you have certain urges, and certain habits, and that
you might sort of, kind of, maybe, eventually get tired of me for not sleeping with you."

He chuckled darkly. "Sam, if you really believe any of that, then you're a bigger idiot than I ever
thought you could possibly be."

I scowled. "Hey, I defended you on that, okay? God, relax; I know you're not that shallow. But
she also said that she slept with you, as did her charming cousin and that is what is bugging
me."

David folded his arms over his chest, and shook his head. "Look, I'm not exactly happy with the
rep I have, okay? Guys don't trust you to be alone with their girlfriends or sisters or cousins, and
girls either think that you're going to try and rape them or something, or that all you've got going
for you is that you can fuck good."

"Fuck well," I replied automatically.

Despite the seriousness of the conversation, he laughed. "Jesus, Sam look, what happened,
happened. It's over with, it's done, let it rest, okay?"

I nodded. "Okay."

We've got closure on the subject now, are we happy?


We're placated.

Well, we'll take what we can get.

"And why aren't we together together?" David asked, eyeing me.

I shrugged. "Because we never said we were."

He raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Instead, he sat down and pulled me down to sit in his
lap, wrapping his arms around me.

"David, why'd you come all the way out here for?" I asked after a few minutes of thoughtful
silence.

"I needed some quiet."

"And an echo-y room packed with yelling teenagers and headache-worthy music isn't?"

He shook his head, amused. "You know, you're a very sarcastic girlfriend."

"Yeah, it's one of my finer points" I trailed off, unable to help the small smile that crept across
my face. "I'm a girlfriend?"

"Well, my girlfriend," he amended. "You know, if you wanna get technical."

"Yours?"

"If you'd like to be."

"I think I would."

"All right, then."

"Okay."

"Okay. So can I kiss you now?"

"May I kiss you now?" I corrected, smiling.

David grinned. "Yes, you may." And so I did.


Chapter Sixteen: That Look

"Okay, so you have the bedroom assignments?"

"Uh huh."

"What about the groups and group leaders?"

"Got that, too."

"And the financial aspects of this whole endeavour?" David said nothing. "The floor plans for the
carnival?" He remained silent. I dropped the sheaf of papers in my hand and grabbed the collar
of his shirt. "How can you not have any of it? How? Any second now, the headmaster is going to
open that door and we're going to have to go in there and you're telling me you don't have the
most important parts of our projects?" I asked shrilly, earning me a death glare from the
secretary.

"Babe, calm down." He smiled, amused. His smile was cute, but I was not going to be deterred.
"Don't call me babe," I muttered through gritted teeth, tightening my grip on his shirt.
"Where's the proposal, Weston?" That stupid grin still plastered on his face, he moved one hand
out from behind his back, clutching my red USB key. I let go of his collar and narrowed my eyes.
"You are a dead man, David Weston." I hit him over the head with the folder in my hands, then
quickly tucked the USB drive into the pocket of my skirt for safekeeping. David put his arms
around me from behind and nuzzled my neck.

"C'mon, Sam. Relax."

"'Relax'? 'Relax'?" I pulled away from him and started to pace around the foyer to the
headmaster's office. During the previous weekend, all we'd done on Sunday was work, work,
work on the fundraiser, and we pulled an all-nighter after the dance to get everything finished on
time. To my total and complete relief, David and I didn't get distracted at all, and we worked
really well together. We'd switch assignments halfway through and easily picked up where the
other left off. We made a good team.

"Yes. Relax. I know that it's a foreign concept to you, but trust me, you'll do better if you're calm
and collected."

"Oh, so says the person who clams up whenever he has to so much as utter a single word in
front of a crowd," I muttered, raking a hand through my hair. I cracked my knuckles and shook
myself out. "Okay." I inhaled deeply. "Okay." I took several more deep breaths, then turned to
David. "I can do this, right? I mean, this is nothing new to me, and it's only to one person like
you said, right? No big deal, right? Right?" He had an expression on his face that was a cross
between amusement and well, no. He just looked like he was going to burst out laughing any
second. I put my hands on my hips and glared at him. "What's so funny?"

He shook his head, refusing to look at me. "Nothing's funny," he replied between gasps.

"Weston," I said sweetly, sidling up to him, "tell me what's so damn funny before I hurt you."

He raised an eyebrow, grinning wickedly. "Hurt me how?"

I punched him on his arm and scowled. "Pervert."

David threw his arm over my shoulder and hugged me close. "You know you love me."
"Whatever." I rolled my eyes, but still rested my head on his shoulder. "In all seriousness you
believe we can do this?"

"Yes. Why, don't you?"

"There's a lot riding on this," I sighed, avoiding his question. "More than just a few hours of
community service."

"I know that. And you're not answering my question."

"I've never done anything like this before," I mumbled into his shirt. "What if I crash and burn?"

"And what if you don't?"

"That would be nice."

"You need to have a little more confidence in your abilities."

"Easier said than done," I muttered.

"Mr. Weston? The headmaster will see you now," the secretary chirped. "Conference Room C."

"He'll see you? What about me?" I muttered, picking up my bag and slinging it over one
shoulder.

Chuckling, David guided me down a short hallway towards a pair of metal double doors. He
turned to me. "It's time. You ready?"

I took a deep breath. "Not even remotely. But let's do this." He nodded and pulled one door
open, while I pulled the other. Side by side, we crossed over the threshold into the conference
room. Usually the conference rooms were only used for staff meetings
or other such occasions, but the law classes got to use them for the mock trials, and if you went
through the right channels, you could have parties in there, too.

But parties were the furthest thing on my mind right then. At the head of the table in the seat
farthest from us was the headmaster. But he wasn't alone. Three teachers sat on either side of
him and looked up at us expectantly.

"Mr. Weston, Ms. Spade. Good afternoon. Begin when ready," the headmaster smiled,
motioning to the laptop and projector off to the side.

"It'll be all right," I muttered, loud enough for only David to hear as we began to set up. "It's only
the headmaster, after all." If were alone, I would have punched him.

"Sam" David whispered, as our PowerPoint presentation began to load. He looked absolutely
terrified. Calming my own racing heart, I took another deep breath and held his hand in mine for
the briefest of seconds.

"We'll be fine." He nodded and started up the slide show. I pasted on my brightest smile and
began to speak in a loud, clear voice. "Headmaster Quinn, esteemed members of staff, good
afternoon"

Numbly, I unlocked the door and pushed it open. David followed me in, shutting the door behind
him. Wordlessly, we dropped our stuff on one of the couches and walked towards the back of
the room. I sank onto my bed as soon as I reached it, staring straight ahead. I felt David sit
down next to me, and I wondered if he was feeling as drained and zombie-like as I was.

"Oh, hey guys." Madison pulled out her earphones and turned away from my desk. "Sorry to use
it without asking, Sam," she apologized, gesturing to my laptop. "Mine just went dead all of a
sudden." I waved my hand dismissively. Narrowing her eyes, she rolled over in the swivel chair
so that she was closer to the bed. A few stray hairs escaped the loose bun she'd piled her hair
into, and fell into her face. "Guys? What's wrong? Didn't it go well?"

"Never again," David croaked out. "Never again."

"It didn't go well? I'm so sorry, guys."

"No, it went fine," I replied distantly.


"No, it didn't," David argued.

"Well, no," I agreed. "It was a complete catastrophe. But the teachers and Quinn all agreed to it,
so that's of the good."

"What happened that was so bad?"

"You mean besides the fact that the file on Sam's drive wouldn't work and I had to talk?"
David replied weakly, paling at just the memory. Madison raised an eyebrow.

"Our PowerPoint wouldn't work," I explained, "and like, all of our information was on there. So
David had to do most of the talking. 'Cause, you know, photographic memory."

Madison patted his head sympathetically. "You poor thing."

His lower lip jutted out and he nodded his eyes downcast. "It sucked. It was really, really scary,"
he whispered.

I struggled not to laugh and hit him playfully on the arm. "Don't be such a baby."

"You hit me. Why'd you hit me for?" He whined, rubbing his arm. "That hurt."

I blinked. "I'm sorry. I thought, you know, being the two-hundred-pound quarterback you are,
you could take a little slap like that."

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh, so now you're calling me fat?"


"Um you're pretty and people like you?"

He laughed and took my hand in his, playing with my fingers. "In all seriousness, that was some
scary shit."

"You did good, though. You know, minus the stuttering, and the stumbling, and the total lack of
eye contact, and the barely-audible voice, and the-"

"I get it," he replied, cutting me off.

I kissed him on the cheek. "You did well and I'm proud of you." He smiled slightly.

"Here you are," Madison chirped brightly, returning from the kitchen with a large bowl of vanilla
ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce and rainbow sprinkles. She handed David the bowl and
a spoon.

"Thanks," he beamed.

I gasped. "We have ice cream?" Smiling, Madison produced another spoon from behind her
back and handed it to me. I grinned. "I love you, Madison."

"I love you, too, Sam," she laughed.

"And where's the love for me?" David asked. We ignored him.

David and I ate our ice cream, talking at random intervals, the sugar making me feel just a little
better.

"Ew. You can have the cherry." I do not like cherries.

"Thanks. I'm taking the sprinkles, too."

"What, you can't share?"

"I'm a growing boy, I need my-"

"Sugar-coated pellets of rainbow sugar?"

"Whatever."
After we were done, we launched into a huge argument on what we should do to forget about
the horror that was that god-awful presentation. Yeah, it was a stupid thing to get into an
argument over, but short tempers coupled with sugar highs combined with two people who were
already a little childish you do the math.

"Buffy."

"Buffy,my ass. I wanna watch basketball. C'mon."

"To hell with basketball. We're watching Buffy."

"I don't think so. It's a Miami Heat game. We are not missing a Miami Heat game."

"The DVD is already in there. It's already set to 'Enemies'. All you have to do is press 'Play'-"

"All I have to do is flip two channels up, and I could be watching the Heat play."

"You just wanna watch Dwayne Wade," David accused, grabbing the remote from me.

"You just wanna watch Eliza Dushku and Sarah Michelle Gellar catfight," I countered, grabbing
it back. We were lying on our backs on the couch, stretched out side-by-side, with David
between myself and the back of the couch. We'd started off sitting up,
then we got into a tickle fight and kind of slid down, and then we were lying down and I was too
comfortable to move. Resting against David was kind of like lying against a really warm, really
comfortable, very nice-smelling bed or something to that effect. But, of course, David could
never just let a nice, comfortable moment stay and nice, comfortable moment. From his
position, he easily flipped me under him.

"I'll take that," he smiled, plucking the remote out of my hands with ease and playing the
episode.

"Fine, fine, I'll forsake Dwayne Wade just this once, and only because it's Buffy and only
because you asked so nicely," I added sarcastically, trying to crane my neck to see the
television. "Would you mind letting me up?"

"Why? I like you in this position," he smirked.

How familiar did that sound?

With a small smile, I remembered the last time he told me that. I wanted to take his head off.
Now, it was different. He was still joking around, but it didn't incense me anymore. Actually, on
the contrary, it made me feel kind of wanted. It was good, but scary, to know that someone
felt that way about you.

"Very funny, you perv. But seriously, my neck hurts. I was comfy before, come on" With one
swift motion, he pulled me down so that my head was resting on the cushion instead of on the
arm rest. "Yeah, that wasn't exactly what I wanted you to do."

David, propping himself up on one arm and leaning slightly over me, grinned wickedly. "There
are so many things I could do with you like this right now" I blinked, expressionless. He
laughed. "It's so fun to tease you," he murmured into my ear, lacing his fingers with mine.

"And here I thought you got tired of that little game," I remarked, finding my voice.

"Ah, young grasshopper, there are some things I will never tire of," he murmured, bringing my
mouth up to meet his. After a long, slow kiss, he added, "Such as kissing you."

The whole blushing-and-beaming-in-silence-every-time-he-said-something-cute thing was


starting to pass. I was, to my relief, starting to regain my acid tongue, albeit a bit slowly.
"Why are you comparing me to an insect?" I asked against his lips. "And I'm not that much
younger than you. Just ten months. Ten months is not that long of a time-"

"If there's only one thing you ever learn in your life, young grasshopper, let it be this," he cut me
off, placing a finger over my lips. "There's a time to talk and joke and do all of that bonding crap,
and then there's a time to make out like the sex-crazed teenagers we are. Guess which time this
is?"

"'Sex-crazed'?" I scoffed. "Speak for yourself." He sighed, rolled his eyes, and moved to sit up.
"However, I won't say 'no' to the making out part." I swear, I saw a gleam in his eyes. "You really
are on a permanent testosterone high, aren't you?" I muttered playfully.

"Only when I'm around you," he replied, lowering his lips to mine.

After the first forty-one minutes, I kind of lost track of what time it was. I only remember that
even after 'Enemies' had finished well, we hadn't.

"Oh fuck."

I frowned. That voice, though familiar, didn't sound like it came from right beside me. In fact, it
didn't sound like David at all. Breaking apart from me, David sat up like a shot. My ascent was a
little more hesitant. After all, there is some weirdness when your older brother's caught you
making out with your boyfriend on the couch.

"Hi, Scott," I chuckled weakly. A head of blonde hair peeked out from behind Scott. "And
Madison." My forced laughter trailed off. David remained uncharacteristically silent. Madison
raised one perfectly-plucked eyebrow; David's black button-down shirt was all kinds of rumpled,
as was my uniform shirt. Not to mention that our hair looked as though we'd withstood gale-
force winds, and our lips were swollen and red.
Madison broke into loud laughter, grinning wider than the Cheshire cat. "I was wondering when
this would happen. I leave you crazy kids alone for a couple of hours, and look what happens
when I come back." She shook her head sadly, the smile still firmly pasted on. Her blue eyes,
though shining bright with glee, still held a trace of wistfulness. I frowned inwardly and made a
mental note to talk to her later.

"I didn't need to see that," Scott said, his voice distant, gripping the handle of the white bag he
was holding tighter and tighter with each passing second. "That I really didn't need to see
that. The dressing room was one thing, but David, my sister!" He wailed.

"Oh, lighten up, Scott. It's not like they were doing anything wrong," Madison grinned. "I see
nothing wrong with a guy and his girlfriend acting like little lust bunnies and getting in some
make-out time."

I resisted the urge to burst out laughing. "Not helping."

"Just" Scott blinked a couple of times, the faraway look in his eyes disappearing. "Just put a
sock on the door or something the next time-"

"'Next time'?" Madison echoed, elbowing him playfully as she led him into the kitchen.

"Well," David began, clearing his throat. "That was I mean I never"

"Do thine ears deceive me, or is David Weston actually speechless for once?" I asked in mock-
surprise, fighting back a grin. "You know, I'd think you'd be used to getting caught with a girl by
now, you know. Have a bunch of excuses or whatnot ready to rattle off to placate the older
brother or father or whoever."

"Very funny."

Grinning, I stood up on my tiptoes and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. He instantly paled.
"What? Am I a bad kisser or something?"

"No!" He replied fervently. I raised an eyebrow. "Hey missy, Scott is right there. And Madison.
But mainly Scott."

"Scared, are we?"


"Just treading carefully. I'm going out with my best friend's best friend. And my other best's
friend's little sister. There's more than just a small weirdness factor."

"Hey, you should have thought of that before all the flirting and seduction and making-yourself-
likable that you did," I replied matter-of-factly, pulling my hair back into a ponytail.

"Well, I like you." He pulled the ponytail-holder out of my hair and raked his hand through my
loose hair. "A man's got to have some crosses to bear. If being with you means that I'll have to
deal with Scott kicking my ass for deflowering his little sister, then that's a sacrifice I'll have to
make. I'm sure it'll be wholly worth it."

"Excuse you. I'm going to have to deal with Madison's snide I-told-you-so's. She hasn't said
anything since the costume shop, it's only been a few days, but now, oh, she'll definitely say
something. She's been wanting to, I can tell." I paused, his words playing back in my mind. "And
there will be no deflowering going on," I added sternly.

At least not yet.

He smiled slyly. "You want me. I know you do. How could you not? But don't worry, when you're
ready to act on those impulses, I'll be here."

Rolling my eyes, I punched him on the arm. "You better hope Scott didn't hear you say that."

Twenty minutes later, the five of us Ian had joined us after his weird absence were seated
comfortably on the various couches around the coffee table, which had an assortment of food
on it. Scott had gone off-campus and raided the local Chinese restaurant. Dinner was yummy,
to say the least. We usually had whatever the caf was serving, or if Madison felt up to it,
whatever culinary concoction sprouted from her mind.
Madison and I sat side-by-side, with David and Scott across from us, and Ian on the single-
seater on Madison's left. We were joking around and trading anecdotes from class and team
practices and club meetings, catching up. Like most of the other senior students in school, we
adamantly refused to tread upon the subject of post-secondary education. Madison had already
mentioned in the past that she wanted to travel abroad for a few years, and I knew Ian would go
wherever his inevitable basketball scholarships took him. David, I figured, would pick whichever
school offered him the best football or track scholarship, and I wasn't completely sure about
Scott, either.

And me? I figured I'd venture into law, but none of my decisions were concrete. The only thing I
knew for sure was that I was going to go the farthest university away from home; I refused to
stay around the 'family' while I was in university.

So, how far are you planning on going? One would assume you'd want to stick close to your
sweetie-pie.

He is not my 'sweetie-pie'. That is so middle school. He's my boyfriend. And we've only been
officially a couple, for what? A day?

You're going to have to start applying in another few weeks. In another few weeks, I predict you
will be completely infatuated with David Weston, and in several months, I predict you will be
completely in love with him, and not going to school together, being countries, or even
continents apart, will seem like hell.

Either way, we're all splitting up, aren't we? Oh, that's a lovely thought.

"Hey." Madison elbowed me. "What's wrong?" Concern was etched all over her face. I looked
up. Three more pairs of eyes were fixed on me, mixtures of confusion and unease reflected in
all.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry, I spaced out there. I was just thinking"

"About?" Ian prompted me.

"A year from now, we won't be doing this. At least, not with each other," I added quietly.

"Now there's a sobering thought," Ian muttered, crossing his arms behind his head and leaning
back.
"I'd just rather not think about it at all," Scott interjected, folding his arms over his chest, as if that
settled the matter.

"We kind of have to, though." Madison chuckled softly. "What are the odds the five of us all end
up some place close to one another?"

"That would be nice," I mused. "Completely unrealistic but nice all the same."

"Sam, you've always been an idealist."

"Hey, I'm not exactly jumping for joy over the fact that we're all splitting up in" I counted on my
fingers. "Eight months. I mean, it seems like a long time, but look how quickly the past
seventeen-to-eighteen years of our lives has gone by already."

"But it's not like we're all going to be continents apart," Scott pointed out.

"Oh no?" I turned to Madison. "What was it you wanted to do after graduation?"

"Take a year off, travel. I'm so not sticking around in Toronto for the rest of my life. I want to go
places, do things." Her eyes glazed over, but still managed to sparkle with a light I'd rarely ever
seen before. "I want to meet people, learn about different cultures, do more than just go off to
university and get a job and get married and whatnot. There's going to be plenty of time for that
later, but I want to see the world while I still have the chance to. When it's time to go off to
school I think I'd like to do something in fashion. Yeah, I think I'd be good at that. I mean, look
at the wardrobe makeover I gave Sam."

I stuck out my tongue at her. "Robbing me of most of my clothes and replacing them with things
more to your taste hardly constitutes a makeover." The previous night, Madison had come back
from the dance before me, and when I'd returned it may have possibly been after one in the
morning, maybe I'd found that most of my jeans and sweats and t-shirts were in garbage bags
to be given to the Salvation Army. I suppose it was my fault for letting her know my sizes.
Scott nodded knowingly. "I was wondering what was up with the clothes." Before dinner, I'd
changed out of my presentation clothes and into the least form-fitting pair of jeans and a long-
sleeved red shirt that I thought wasn't too bad. It wasn't cleavagey in the least, but the hemline
was short and it did lift every now and again when I'd raise an arm or something.

Madison rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Oh, you look pretty, and I left you enough of your old
clothes to use if you wanted to, so stop your whining, missy." She turned her gaze to Ian. "What
about you?"

"I don't think I need a wardrobe makeover, thanks, but if I ever need new clothes, I'll bring you
along."

Madison rolled her eyes. "Everyone's a comedian. I meant about school, smartass."

He ran a hand through his brown hair, exhaling slowly. "I guess I'll be working this summer,
trying to scrape up enough so Mom and the kids will all right for the first few months."

"What about college or university?" Scott asked, kicking his feet up on the coffee table. Madison
frowned and slapped at his leg with a rolled-up magazine. He gave her a roguish grin, but gave
no indication that he intended to move his feet.

"Whichever school offers me the best scholarship is the one I'm going to. I've worked too long
and too damn hard not to get one of those." He paused, thinking. "I think I'd like to study
oncology."

I raised an eyebrow. "Why-?"

"Scott, what about you?"

I narrowed my eyes. Something about the way he cut me off so abruptly seemed a little weird.
And Madison and Scott's brief exchange of looks and gestures nagged at me; something about
it was familiar, somehow. It was as though my mind had the pieces of two separate puzzles, but
was concentrating so hard on them both, that neither could be put together.

Scott shrugged his shoulders, a look of careless indifference on his face. "Father wants me to
go into business. I don't want to be a psychologist. I really couldn't give a damn why Farmer Joe
started clucking like a chicken in the middle of his corn field." I snickered.
Madison's lips barely curved into a smile. "And if you had a choice, what would you be?"

"I'd write. But I don't have a choice, that's the problem."

Madison snorted derisively. "That's a joke. Wanna hear the punch line? You do have the
choice." We all raised our eyebrows. Madison was the one who never ever encouraged
disobedience, especially against our parents. Sure, she was a little flamboyant sometimes, but
she was a model student and I'd seen firsthand what a model daughter she was, too.

"Sam, what are you planning for after high school?" Ian asked, breaking the awkward moment.

"Law school," I replied promptly.

"Harvard?"

"If I'm lucky enough to get in."

"Oh, you will," Scott assured me. "While Madison's in Rome making all of us jealous, you'll be in
Boston and I'll be in Connecticut. At least the two of us will be together. Sort of."

"You guys are acting like after graduation, we'll never see each other again," Ian pointed out.
"We will."

"How do you know?" Madison countered.

"Because I do," he replied matter-of-factly.

And that was that.


It wasn't until later, when I reflected back on that conversation, on the sense of assurance I felt
in knowing that I wasn't the only one who was uncertain about where the five of us would end
up, on the comfort and solidity I felt from Ian's words, that I realized that David hadn't said
anything at all.

Once we'd finished eating and cleared away the table and put away the leftovers, the guys
decided it was way too early to leave before curfew, so David put a movie on to watch. The
start-up menu came on for The Exorcist, and I rolled my eyes. He came over and (purposely, I
bet) sat between Madison and I. Glancing around David, she rolled her eyes good-naturedly
and shook her head, a hint of a smile playing across her lips. David slung his arm around my
shoulder yep, even with Scott sitting mere feet away and relaxed against me.

"If it gets to be too much for you," he whispered into my ear, "I'm right here."

I smirked to myself.

So when the scary parts start, am I supposed to shrink into his arms? Now there's a laughable
thought. Does he not know I've watched this movie five times already this year? And for the past
few years, it's been a damn comedy. I mean, that was one kick-ass crabwalk Linda Blair did
coming down the stairs

The first part of the movie, where Reagan finds the Ouija board and all that, always bores me,
so it was no surprise when I started to feel drowsy. I rested my head on David's shoulder,
blinking ever-so-often to stay awake. He absently ran his hand up and down my back, making
me feel sleepier by the minute. When the first truly scary moment came, David, Ian, and
Madison screamed, while Scott and I laughed and high-fived each other. David and Ian turned
to us with incredulous expressions on their faces; Madison had watched enough slasher flicks
and horror movies with me to know that by now, I found it all thoroughly amusing.

A few seconds later, though, when the door slammed open, I did yell and shrink into David's
arms. But then again, so did everyone else.

Yell, I mean. Not shrink into David's arms. Madison did grab Scott's hand, though. That was
cute.

Breathing heavily and trying to calm my racing heartbeat, I realized I recognized the figure
standing in the darkened doorway, his navy hood pulled over his head.
"Oh my God!" Madison yelled, reaching over the back of the couch. A minute later, she had a
very heavy-looking baseball bat in her hand, and she was charging towards the 'intruder'. "Get
the hell out, demon child!"

I didn't know whether to laugh or not. So I opted for bolting from my seat to stop her from
pounding my brother into oblivion.

"Madison! No! That's Alan!" I yelled out over the blaring noise of the movie. I raced over to the
doorway and pulled his hood down. Ian turned off the movie, and upon seeing the familiar face,
she lowered her weapon.

"Sorry about that," she apologized, ushering him inside. The lights were out in the dorm halls,
and the atmosphere was more than just a little creepy. Alan kicked off his shoes and wandered
in, sitting in the exact same spot I had a few ago. I opted for sitting on the arm of Scott's chair.

"What's wrong?" I asked. It was a rare occasion that he paid a visit to my room. Alan's
expression was somewhere between anger and fear. "What's happened?"

"Next week is Parent-Teacher week," he replied distantly, his dark hair falling into his face. Huh.
It's growing so long. I made a mental note to bring him into town the next time I drove up so he
could get a haircut.

"Yeah, so what about it?" Madison interjected. Whenever she'd had a major scare, it always
took her a few minutes to calm back down, and in those few minutes, she was a little cranky.
Whenever Madison lost control of herself, she was always a little cranky.

Instead of answering my roommate, my brother looked pointedly at me, then Scott. A growing
sense of dread began to course through me. David looked from me to Alan, confusion etched
across his face. Madison and Ian, however, quickly got the picture. But it was Scott who spoke
first.

"Oh, hell no."


"Mom just called me," Alan said miserably, his cell phone held limply in his hand.

"Why didn't she call me?" I frowned. Not that I particularly wanted to hear from my mother at
that moment, but I was the eldest, Scott exempted. I would have thought that she'd have called
her first-born before her younger son.

At the exact moment I spoke those words, my cell vibrated in my pocket. I flipped it open and
answered tentatively.

"Hello?"

"Mom says you have to pick us up at the airport at Saturday afternoon at five. Don't be late,
make sure your car's not full of junk, and be on time. Wear something nice, and tell Scott and
Alan to do the same; we're all going to dinner at some place called 'La Testa Del Maiale' after
you drop us off at the hotel, and the guys are supposed to meet us at the restaurant. Bye."
Click. I stared at the phone, my mind not yet able to process exactly what had just happened.

"What just happened?" Ian and David asked in unison.

"I think that was my sister. And I think she just hung up on me." My scowl deepening, I flipped
my phone closed and put it back into my pocket.

"Well?" Scott asked impatiently.

"Mom and Adam are coming for Parent-Teacher Week. What fun," I added sarcastically. Scott's
face took on a sour expression that I bet could rival mine and Alan's miserable mood seemed to
double by hearing me confirm what he'd said.

"I knew things were going too good around here," Scott muttered under his breath.

"Oh, don't worry," I assured him. "Things are about to get a hell of a lot worse."

On Wednesday morning, I was in an annoyed state of mind. I wasn't quite pissed off, but every
little thing that wasn't done right just irked me. But I dealt. By the afternoon, though, I was more
than just irked, and by Friday, I was a force to be reckoned with. Since we'd gotten that
bombshell of news, I'd avoided David, because I knew I'd end up taking out some of my anger
and hurt on him, and not only was it not fair to him, but I felt certain that I'd ruin the beginnings
of something good that we'd started. I saw Madison only when I woke up and went to bed; I'd
avoided her, too, for as much as possible I also didn't want to start bitching at her and say
things that I didn't mean. Ian was away all on his own, so I didn't even have to try on that one.

Oh, and it had rained the night before, and with the so-very-close-to-freezing temperatures we
were starting to get, the rain had formed ice, and I'd slipped and fallen on my ass more times
that day than I could count. Rising up from the concrete path once more that led to my door, I
starting walking again, muttering darkly under my breath about the injustice of ice formation
during the winters of Canada.

"You know, they say talking to yourself is a sign of insanity."

Startled, I slipped backward again, only to fall into a pair of strong arms. "Nice catch," I
breathed.

"As your boyfriend, I felt it was my duty. I couldn't have very well let you fall. Again. I laughed
hard enough the last two times." David grinned and steadied me on my feet. "So, wanna tell me
why you've been avoiding me for the past couple of days?"

"Not really," I replied with false brightness, trying to walk off quickly without falling.

"Wrong answer."

I sighed and turned to face him. "Don't you ever just let anything be?"

"The most I've seen of you since Tuesday is the back of your head in History and Calculus. Is
this your subtle way of telling me you've rethought about us being an 'us'?" He said it casually
enough, but his eyes were a dead giveaway as to the confusion and hurt he was feeling.

I sighed again. "No," I replied, guilt overcoming the anger I'd built up over the past few days.
"Don't be silly. Of course I haven't."
"Then what's with the lack of speakage these past couple of days?" He zipped up my open
jacket and reached inside my pocket. He pulled out my crimson earmuffs and fixed them over
my ears. I raised my eyebrows, hiding a smile. "You could've caught pneumonia or something,"
he said defensively, crossing his arms over his chest. "Excuse me for not wanting you to end up
in the infirmary again."

I smiled, the first one since Tuesday. "Thank you." I reached up and kissed him softly on his
lips. He smiled back and pulled me off the path from prying eyes, then leaned me against a tall
maple tree and covered my mouth with his. The kiss was slow and sweet, ending only when
we'd run out of breath. "Thank you," I repeated quietly. "I think I needed that."

"I know." He sat down and leaned against the tree, then pulled me to sit in his lap. Blushing
slightly, I shook my head 'no'. David snickered quietly. "Please don't tell me that all of a sudden
you're shy with me." I rolled my eyes but said nothing. "Fine, you can sit on the ground if you
want. The cold, hard ground."

"Or we can go inside."

"We could. But I'm already comfortable right here." He grinned wickedly, patting the ground
beside him. I shook my head again. "Fine," he sighed, "I relent."

I narrowed my eyes. "No, you don't. You never give up that easily."

"You're right." He grabbed my legs and tickled behind my kneecaps.

"Stop!" I shrieked. "Stop! David, stop! It tickles!" Still laughing, I yelped when he pulled me down
into his lap and started to tickle my stomach, his fingers working their way under my jacket. I
laughed so hard, my stomach hurt, even after he stopped tickling me. People passing by started
giving us weird looks, so I buried my head in the crook of his neck, still laughing. Every time I
thought I'd composed myself, I broke down again, laughing hysterically.

"Mind if I ask what's so funny?" He asked, amused. I just shook my head, not trusting myself to
speak, for fear of bursting into laughter again. He chuckled, brushing back my hair from my
face. "I missed seeing this."

I sniffled from the cold and smiled vacantly, puzzled. "Seeing what?"

"Seeing you smile, hearing you laugh."


"It's only been two days," I murmured quietly. It was the way he said that, or maybe the words
themselves, that got me thinking that maybe his feelings for me ran deeper than just mutual
attraction and a schoolboy crush.

"I know. But I still missed it." His small smile was relaxed enough, but it was his eyes it was
always his eyes that were the telltale signs.

Oh my God that look. I know that look. Scott always looks at Madison like that

It was that look the depth of emotion and sincerity of it in his eyes that told me that there
was a very real, very distinct chance that David could possibly fall in love with me.

Do I have that look? Should I have it? How bad is it bad if I don't? Is it bad that he does?

"Sam?"

I swallowed, smiling slightly. "I'm fine." I leaned against his chest and relaxed against him. That
little revelation was enough to get me to shut up.

"Are you sure?" I nodded, playing with his hand. I slipped the glove off his right one and gently
kissed his fingertips. "Okay, you're sure." I smiled. "So, wanna go out tomorrow night?"

Caught off guard, I dropped his hand and shifted to look him in the eye. "Huh?"

"Do you want to go out tomorrow night?" He repeated patiently, clearly entertained.
"Like on a date?" I replied dumbly.

"Yeah, a date," he chuckled. "I heard it's a thing people do on occasion when they like each
other. I know, I know, it's crazy idea" I punched him on the arm and rolled my eyes, making
him laugh. "So is that a 'yes'?" He asked, his eyes dancing.

"No," I replied bluntly, causing him to blink, having been caught off guard. "But this is." Not for
the first time, I leaned in and kissed him gently. "When and where?" I murmured.

"Be ready tonight for seven. As for where" His eyes sparkled with glee. "That's a surprise."

"The last surprise I got from you was lacy black lingerie for my birthday," I reminded him wryly.

"And I can't wait till we test it out," he replied, grinning wickedly.

"You pervert."

"You know you love me."

Unable to say anything, I just shook my head, laughing. I couldn't tell him that I loved him,
because I didn't. Not yet, anyway. I did like him a lot, though, and I did care greatly for him. And
for now, that would have to be enough.

Chapter Seventeen: Have A Little Faith in Me

I'm quite proud to say that I'm not one of those girls who runs around like a chicken with its head
cut off in preparation for a date. That may have been because I'd never actually been on a date
before, but let's not let technicalities get in the way.

The point is, David had told me not to dress up, so it really hadn't taken me long at all to find
something to wear. A nice pair of jeans and one of the tamer sweaters Madison had foisted
upon me, and I was pretty much ready. Or so I thought.

"I sincerely hope you're not going to leave this room looking like that," Madison said disdainfully,
emerging from the bathroom. She had to get ready for her own date with one of Ian's team-
mates. Her blonde hair was piled on top of her head, loose locks framing her face. Ice blue silk
fit her form flawlessly, showing the perfect amount of cleavage and leg. Silver chandelier
earrings hung from her lobes, and she barely wore any makeup, her natural beauty needing no
enhancement. She looked like a princess.

"I look nice," I replied defensively.

"Yes, you look nice. But you want to look drop-dead gorgeous." She adjusted the top of her
strapless dress in front of the mirror, then started rifling through my closet, pulling things off their
respective hangers and throwing them on her bed.

"But David told me not to dress up."

"So? You can still look like a complete knockout. This is your first date; you want to wow that
boy into speechlessness." Her eyes narrowed as she studied me for a moment, then she picked
up a pair of dark blue low-rider jeans with a silvery flower-and-vine design around the legs, and
a crimson off-the-shoulder top with wrist-length arms. "Here. Try these on."

Wordlessly, I went to the bathroom and quickly changed; I had about ten minutes before David
would arrive, and I'd just learned not to argue with Madison against clothes. She really did have
an eye for what looked good, even if I did feel vaguely out of place at first.

The jeans were pretty enough; the legs were about an inch too long, but the length would be
perfect if I wore shoes with a heel. The shirt was a little on the tight side, but not of the suck-in-
my-stomach variety.

I emerged from the bathroom, intent on looking for a pair of shoes, only to have Madison attack
my face with makeup.

"All righty, sit still and this'll be over before you know it." She led me over to my bed and I sat
down with my eyes closed and let her do her thing. When I opened my eyes, I blinked, slightly
taken aback.
"Madison, what did you do to my face?" I narrowed my eyes. "Am I even wearing any makeup?"
I inched towards the mirror and took a closer look.

"The key to wearing makeup is to look like you're not wearing any," she explained, putting away
her things.

"Then why bother wearing it?" Now that I was closer to the mirror, I could see the subtle
changes she'd done. My lips were a little pinker, and my eyes were a little darker and a little
bigger.

Ooh. Prettyful.

"That, my dear, I haven't an answer to. You like, though?"

"Very much so." Madison beamed. "I actually look my age. Hell, I look older than seventeen," I
added, awed.

"Don't push it," she replied dryly. "All righty. I might not be here when you get back, but don't
stay up and wait for me if you don't want to. We'll recap in the morning if anything, all right?" I
nodded. Light rapping sounded at the door. She tilted her head in the direction of it and smirked.
"You gonna get that, Cinderella, or should I?"

"I need shoes!" I cried out.

Madison laughed. "I put your boots near your jacket. Why were they in the back of your closet,
anyway?"

Oh piffle. Not those accursed things.

With no time to run around trying to hunt down a different pair of matching shoes, I let Madison
answer the door while I zipped up my black boots under the legs of my jeans.

"Hi, Mads. You look gorgeous."

"Flatterer."

Slipping on my leather jacket, I looked towards the door. David hadn't seen me yet, but damn,
he looked good. He was wearing a pair of slightly baggy khakis and a simple green long-
sleeved shirt under his coat. What surprised me most, though, were David's hair and his eyes.
His hair was gelled up, and he wore a pair of thin black-framed glasses. He still looked
completely drop-dead gorgeous, though. The guy could definitely rock glasses.

"I'm serious! You look beautiful. Who's the lucky guy?"

"James Lister."

David made a sour face. "He's a prick."

Madison rolled her eyes. "You say that about all the guys I date."

"That's because they're all pricks."

"David, you'll never be happy with any of the guys I go out with."

"That's because you're not going out with the right ones," he replied patiently, as though he
were talking to a child.

"Oh, really? So who might some of the right ones be?" She put her hands on her hips, and even
though she was shorter than him by a good three inches or so, the heels she wore gave her
enough of a boost for a pretty serious stare-down contest. I just leaned casually against one
wall and watched them.
"There's Charles Atwell from the track team, Wesley Aarons on Ian's basketball team, there's
Ian himself, actually, there's Scott, there's Rick Trent, there's Emerson Danes, there's-"

"Wait, who?"

"Charles Atwell?" David replied innocently.

She narrowed her eyes. "After him."

"Emerson Danes?"

"Before him," she growled.

I shook my head sadly. Oh you poor, poor boy. What have you gotten yourself into?

"Um, I-Ian?" David tried again, backing up slightly.

"Try again. David, I know I didn't just hear you say S-"

"Hey." I sidled up next to Madison and beamed up at David. He looked really glad to see me. Of
course, that may have been because I'd just rescued him from a fate worse than death.

"Hi! Ready to go? Great! Bye, Madison!" Grabbing my arm, he pulled me out the door, half-
running half-walking down the hallway and up a flight of stairs.

"Well, I suppose I did need the exercise," I mused, as we stopped under one of the light fixtures
near the ceiling.

"Sorry about that."

"Quite all right. I always say, a day without your foot in your mouth is like a day without
sunshine."

"Very funny," he replied wryly, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

Oh so cute!

"I thought so," I grinned, as he bent down and covered my mouth with his. I never got how his
kisses could be sweet and gentle, yet passionate and raw at the same time. But they were.
"You look incredibly gorgeous, by the way," he murmured into my ear.

"Ah, behold the wonders of Maybelline," I chuckled.

"You look pretty either way."

I raised an eyebrow. Madison was right; he was a flatterer. "Uh huh. Whatever you say, Mr.
Sweet-Talker. So what's up on the agenda for tonight?"

"Oh, right." After fixing his glasses, his eyes never once meeting my face, he pulled a black
bandana out of his pocket.

"We're going to play 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey'?" I asked, confused.

He chuckled. "No, loser. I'm going to blindfold you so you can't see where I'm taking you."

"Oh yes, it's supposed to be a surprise." Pulling my hair off the nape of my neck, I allowed him
to tie the bandana around my eyes.

"Can you see anything?"


"I see London, I see France, I see David's-"

"I take that as a 'no', then." I could hear the smile in his voice.

"David?"

"Yeah?"

"I see dead people."

He was silent for a few seconds, before he burst out laughing. "Come on," he said, taking my
hand in his and leading me through the lobby and out the front door. I shivered as the cold hit
me full force.

"You would think," I muttered under my breath. "I mean, you would think that after living in
Canada all my life, after going to school here for three years, I'd learn by now that you should
never ever wear anything in November that shows skin."

"I'm not complaining."

"I'll just bet you aren't." I staggered slightly in the boots, unaccustomed to seeing where I was
going. He put an arm around me and held me close to him. "David?"

"Yeah? What, you see more dead people?"

"No," I laughed. "I just wanted to tell you that"

Oh, come on then. Don't get shy now. Time was, you'd have called him Four-Eyes. Now you're
practically tripping over yourself to tell him he looks sexy in glasses.

Even though that's true, I wouldn't tell him it like that. I couldn't just go-

"David, you look sexy with your glasses."

I froze, only just beginning to comprehend what I'd said.

Ah fuck. I have to stop this 'voicing of thoughts' thing. It's trs embarrassing.

"Do I, now?" The amusement in his voice was so pronounced, I could practically see the stupid
smirk on his face.
"Uh well, you're not exactly bad-looking with them." Truth be told, he should have ditched his
contacts a long time ago. Not only did he look older with the glasses, but he looked more
mature, as well, and his eyes were clearer and he looked more natural and at ease, which only
added to the physical appeal. Not that I base everything on looks, but I couldn't very well deny
that I was extremely attracted to him physically.

"'Not exactly bad-looking'? Isn't that what people tell you when they're trying to be polite instead
of just saying straight up that you look like crap?"

"You want me to repeat what I said?"

"If you don't mind."

"You're ego's going to need its own area code one day, it's getting so big," I muttered. "Fine,
fine, you egotist. I said you look gorgeous with your glasses."

"I believe the word you used was 'sexy'."

"Yeah, yeah, keep talking, Four-Eyes."


"That's Mr. Sexy Four-Eyes to you."

"You're a little bit of a dork sometimes, you know that?"

"Takes one to know one."

"Oh, and so mature. Whatever happened to the cool David?" I stumbled slightly over some
uneven ground, thanking whatever higher being there was listening that I didn't fall. Not that I
was embarrassed to fall in front of David I'd long since gotten over that. I figured that I being
blindfolded, though, would add a whole new dimension of hilarity.

"Hey, I'm still cool," he replied indignantly.

"Yep, you're cool as a cucumber, all right."

"Damn straight. I'm so cool, I make water freeze."

I couldn't help but laughing at that one. "You're unbelievable," I muttered, shaking my head.

"Well, when you have six sisters, you learn how to deal with the ladies."

"Do you, now?" I struggled to hide my smirk. "So then, Mr. Ladies Man, tell me about your
sisters. I vaguely remember two of them from Parents Week in ninth grade."

"Oh, you just can't think of any more compliments to give me. It's okay, I'll humour you while you
come up with some more. Okay, there's Danielle, who's the eldest. She's watch your step,
there." He held my arm and guided me up a few stairs and into a building of some kind, which I
figured to be one of the dorms, as the classrooms and such were all the way on the other side
of campus.

"Can I take this off now?" I asked, pulling at the bandana. He pulled my hand away from my
face and held it tightly.

"No. And what was I saying? Oh, yeah. So there's Danielle, our lovely paediatrician-in-training,
then Lisa, who's doing the business thing. Then after me, there's Chloe the activist, Veronica
the model wannabe-slash-anorexic, and Eliza, the future forensic anthropologist."

"Wow," I breathed. "That's a lot of people."


And that's one less than the six he said. Either David's forgotten how to count, or hmmm.

"Uh huh. Elle's twenty-four, Lisa's twenty-one, Chloe's sixteen, Ron's fifteen, and Liz's eleven."

"Wow," I repeated. "In my family, there's just Alan, Amanda, and Scott. And me," I added as an
afterthought.

"Tell me about your sister. You never talk about her." David guided me up another couple flights
of stairs as we continued to talk.

"I never talk about her because I don't even know her anymore. When we were younger, she
was the artistic one, Alan was the athletic one-"

"And you?"

"I was the responsible one."

"Colour me surprised." I heard a lock turning, then the sound of a door creaking open. David
slipped my jacket off my shoulders and let me hold onto his arm as I took off my boots. He
closed the door behind us and seated me at a table. "Keep talking, I'm listening. I just have to
finish a couple of things up."

"All right. So yeah, when we were younger, I played with them and hung around with them more
than I guess I normally would have. Mom was always working, so it was my responsibility just to
make sure they were okay and doing good in school and all
that. They were good kids, so that wasn't hard. I remember Amanda always used to drink
exactly one-and-three-quarters glasses of chocolate milk before going to bed every night, and
Alan would drink half a glass of apple juice. And Amanda used to beg me to read to her from
whatever it was that I was reading at the time. They were really fun kids." I smiled fondly at the
memories.

"Sounds like you guys were close. What happened?"

"After Mom remarried, we just started to drift apart. I was thirteen at the time, and the kids were
ten. Responsibility lessened on me, so I jumped at the chance to hang out more with Leah and
my other friends, and me and my friends were getting ready to go off to high school and the
twins were getting ready to go off to middle school; we were all busy with our own things. And
then the summer was spent with last-minute preps for the wedding, and then of course, there
was the wedding itself. And then at the end of the summer break, Mom decided that I was being
all rebellious and shit and she didn't need that while she was trying to kick-start her new
marriage. So I came here, and I guess we just lost touch. I wrote her a couple of letters, but she
never wrote back, so" I trailed off and shrugged as if to say, 'What are you gonna do?'

"How in the hell are you rebellious?" He asked incredulously. I began to detect the faint aroma
of food. And thank the Lord; I was starving.

"I didn't fit in with the kids in Scott's neighbourhood, and I guess I sort of kind of went out of my
way not to fit in afterwards."

"After what?"

"After Mom and Adam got married, I'm not gonna lie, I loved it. I loved being loose and carefree.
But the kids in the neighbourhood made it clear that we didn't fit in, especially when Leah and
Cindy and the others used to come over to chill out. So I was like, 'Screw this. I don't want to fit
in here if it means I have to be a snob.' I refused to go along with the play-dates or whatever the
hell it is Mom used to plan out for me, and I guess I pushed her too far after a while."

"So you and your sister don't talk at all?"

"We talk and shit when I go home for the summer. I mean, it's not like we go out of our way to
avoid each other. We're just not close anymore. And anytime when all six of us are home
together is iffy on the peace. If it's not me and Mom arguing, it's Adam and Scott or Amanda and
Alan."

"Why did your brother come here, anyway?" I heard the creaking of another door presumably
the oven, because I was sure I smelled something suspiciously like lasagne.

"Expelled from his school for fighting, I think it was. Yeah, some asshole was harassing
Amanda, and Alan kicked his ass. He always got in trouble for fighting, to protect her honour or
stop people from bugging her. My sister doesn't exactly have the most pristine reputation," I
chuckled bitterly. "That last time, he broke the kid's nose, and I guess it was the last straw.
That's the main reason why they don't get along anymore. I think Amanda blames herself for
Alan getting sent here, and Alan blames himself for not being able to stop her from doing
whatever the hell it is she does."

"When was the last time all of you got along?"

I had to stop and think for a moment. "That would probably have been when Dad was still
around. When I was around nine, though, he upped and left. I never did find out why." I sighed.
"Doesn't matter, anyway. No use crying over spilled milk, right?" I flipped my hair off my
shoulder and scratched absently at the nape of my neck.

"Sam?"

"Yeah?" He sounded as though he were right in front of me.

"Come here." He pulled me to my feet and wrapped his arms around me.

"What's this for? Not that I'm complaining, mind you." My voice was slightly muffled by his chest.

"Just felt like it," he replied, sounding surprisingly curt.

"I see," slightly taken aback. "Well, like I said, no complaints on this end." I wound my arms
around his neck and rested my head on his shoulder. "David?"
"Yeah?"

"Would you ever? I mean, do you think it's like, a bad thing, if I say that I could never forgive
someone for something?"

"That's a pretty strong thing to say." His voice was barely audible, even though he practically
spoke into my ear. I sighed deeply and massaged my forehead.

"The one thing I will never be able to just forgive and forget is how my mom just cast us aside
when things got a little rough. I mean, I get that she had a hard time raising us after Dad left,
but as soon as she got remarried, it was like her marriage was her top priority and whatever
didn't fall into place, whatever threatened her marriage, had to go. First it was me, then it was
Alan. She just stopped trying. She got the guy in the end, so it's like the rest of us didn't even
matter anymore."

"Hey don't cry. Come on." He cupped my cheek and kissed me lightly.

"I'm not crying" David pulled off the blindfold, and I felt tears sliding down my cheeks. "Oh. So
I am." I chuckled weakly. "There goes Madison's perfect makeup job," I sniffled, using my
sleeve to wipe at my eyes.

Oh, how attractive.

One thing I've never been is a pretty crier.

"I don't think it's that you guys don't matter to your mom. I think it's just that her first marriage
ended so badly, and she just wants the second to work out. Maybe she's going about it wrong,
though."

"You think?" I chuckled, wiping at my eyes. "Oh, God, no. She hates me. That's the truth, plain
and simple."

"She can't hate you."

"Oh, no, she does," I replied, as devout in my belief of that as I am in my belief that Buffy
belongs with Angel. "I'm not quite sure why, but she does. I mean, it's not like anything I do ever
merits any praise, or acknowledgement of any kind. Nothing I do is ever any good, nothing
about me is right. There's not one thing about me she likes."
"She can't hate you," he repeated, tightening his hold around me.

"And how did you arrive at that conjecture, Mr. Weston?"

"How can she hate you when you're so likeable?" He tickled my sides, getting me to smile. He
kept tickling me, and eventually, I was a laughing mess in his arms. Chuckling, he bent his head
to my neck and pushed my hair out of the way. The frames of his glasses felt cool against my
skin.

"You vampire," I gasped, partly from the feeling of his lips and tongue on a very ticklish part of
me, and partly from the pain. It didn't hurt a lot, but it did feel slightly tingly. "David ah! Come
on I have to pick Mom and Adam up tomorrow! They can't see this!" I slapped my hand over
the spot on my neck that he was sucking on. He kissed his way up my neck and tugged lightly
on my earlobe with his teeth, forcing me backwards towards the couch, one arm wrapped
around my waist.

"So, what? You want me to pretend like I don't think about all the ways I want to make you
scream my name?" He murmured, kissing the shell of my ear. Despite myself, I arched into his
touch; it felt like fire was coursing through my veins. Everywhere his lips travelled and his
fingers brushed felt like it was on fire. "You want me to pretend that I'm just your friend, like I'm
no different from Hart?"

"If you don't mind," I blurted out, before I could think. He froze, then pulled away.

Fuck. That probably wasn't the best thing to say.

Then why'd you say it for, dumbass?

"Are you serious?"


"Well" I looked down, suddenly very interested in the shade of blue of his carpet.

"Fuck. You are." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

"David please. Everything's hard enough when she's around. I have to be I can't afford to
mess up, at all."

"So, what? I'd make you mess up?"

My eyes widened. "No! I'm just saying I have to be on my best behaviour, okay? Please
understand. I have to be absolutely perfect while she's here. I can't afford any distractions-"

"So now I'm a distraction?" He asked, raising his eyebrows.

"No," I replied desperately, trying to placate him. He looked dangerously close to going off on
me. "Well yes, but not a bad one. Look, my mom is frickin' psycho, okay? She's liable to bitch
about the simplest things. And she's very traditional in her views, so me with a boyfriend? So
not simple, and so the cause of a week's worth of unnecessary fighting!"

If possible, his glare intensified by about a million. "I can't believe that you, of all people, can be
this spineless."

"It's not about me being spineless," I said, affronted. "God, you're not getting this look. I like
you, okay? I like you a lot, and I'll be damned if what we're starting to have gets completely
ruined by the time she leaves."

"No, I doubt it will. Because I mean, you're doing a hell of a job fucking up, yourself."

I raised my eyebrows, starting to grind my teeth. "You're not getting this, okay? I'm not asking
you to stay away from me for a week, I'm just asking you to-"

"Lie and pretend that we're just friends. Yeah, I got that. And no, I'm not gonna do it. If you can't
even tell your mom that we're going out, then you're not serious about us, and I'm not gonna
waste my time on this." He was leaning casually against the back of the couch, propped up on
his forearms and giving me one of the deadliest looks I could ever remember getting from him.

"You're overreacting, okay? Forgive me for having a whack-job psycho of a mother instead of
someone, you know, vaguely human who understands human emotions like love!" I took a deep
breath and willed myself to calm down. "Look. All I want is one peaceful visit from my mother,
okay? Just one. That's all I'm asking."

"And all I'm asking is I get to be with you and, hmmm, I don't know? Maybe act like your
boyfriend? You know, seeing as I sort of am? If your mother's on your case, then we'll deal,
together. I got your back, Sam. You know I do, no matter what she or anyone else will say. But
I'm not gonna front when she's around just so you can impress her. I mean, you've been doing
everything right the past seventeen years, and she hasn't given a damn. Why are you gonna
deny yourself what makes you happy just to keep trying to get on her good side?"

I shook my head. "You don't understand."

"No, I understand," he assured me. I breathed a sigh of relief. "I understand that you wanna
shove me in some metaphorical little corner until it's convenient to have me around." He gripped
the back of the chair so tightly that his knuckles began to turn white. "Fuck that."

I took a deep, shuddering breath. "I think I should go," I said quietly. I turned to grab my jacket
and slip on my boots and saw the spread of the table that I was sitting at only minutes before.
The tablecloth was a deep blue, with gold edging, and two places were set opposite each other.
A single red rose sat in a crystalline vase in the center of the table. It was that more than the
actual arguing that made me want to cry.

"I like," I murmured, pulling on my jacket and opening the door. I risked a look at David. He was
still leaning against the couch, his arms how crossed over his chest. His mouth was set in a
scowl and he was adamantly staring straight ahead at the closet, not moving a muscle. "Okay
then. See you around." Carefully, I closed the door behind me. I waited for ten minutes outside
the door, but he didn't bother coming after me.

Chapter Eighteen: Family Reunion


I got about two hours of sleep that night. I got back to our room and was in bed way before
Madison had come back. Not up for post-date story swapping, I pretended I was asleep and
spent the rest of the night lying awake, mostly thinking about David, but as the hours wore on,
thoughts about my mom came to the forefront of my mind.

When my alarm went off at flipping six o'clock in the morning since I forgot to turn off the alarm
for the weekend I staggered out of my bed and took the longest shower of my life. I spent half
the time crying the tears that wouldn't come last night. I cried mostly over David being unfair and
stupid, only a part of me knew he wasn't the one acting like a jackass, so then I felt guilty and
started crying about that.

When I got out of the shower two hours later, my eyes were red and puffy I am so not a pretty
crier and the purplish-red spot on the nape of my neck was looking even more pronounced
than it did last night; it was about the size of a quarter and stood out in stark contrast to my skin,
which looked pretty pale from the lack of sleep and excess of stress. And just to top it all off, I
had the most horrible dark circles under my eyes. I looked like someone punched me out.

Just lovely. I bet Mom will love seeing me like this.

Oh, who gives a damn what the old lady wants?

Staying as quiet as I could, I crept over to my closet and rummaged though the clothes I had,
looking for something serious and vaguely nice-looking to wear, but the only formal clothes I
had were my uniform shirt and this pleated black skirt that I like, never wore. I wondered why
Madison even kept it after she did her overhaul on my wardrobe. Shrugging, I took the clothes
back to the bathroom and quickly changed, making sure the shirt was properly pressed, the skirt
was perfectly creased, and my stockings had no runs in them.

I used some of Madison's makeup to cover up the dark circles under my eyes. She had lighter
skin than me, but she had a separate set of colours for when was tanned her summer look,
she called it and I used from that.

I was undecided as to whether or not I should cover up the mark David left on me. I ran a finger
over it lightly; it was kind of hard and sad to believe that just over twelve hours ago, his lips
had been there and I was with him and we were both happy. Or at least pretty close to it.

Oh yeah, Spade, you really know how to romance a guy, how to move a relationship forward.
Sighing, I put Madison's makeup away and left well enough alone. I brushed out my hair, and
left it loose, and put a pair of silver teardrop earrings on. I made completely sure that my
bellybutton ring wasn't the least bit visible. I couldn't take it out for another eight weeks, so it
would be most unfortunate if my mom saw it. 'Cause regardless of infection or not, she'd make
me take it out, use of physical force optional.

But even after I was dressed and ready for the day, Madison, God bless her sweet soul, was
still fast asleep. Granted, it was just a little after nine, but I was grateful that she was still
sleeping. I didn't feel like going into all the angst from the previous night. Instead, I felt like
burning off some of the sorrow I was feeling. With any luck, by the time I had to be at the airport,
I'd be pleasantly numb and devoid of any emotion. That way, I couldn't get pissed off one way or
another.

Half an hour later, after scrawling a brief note to Madison, I was walking through the stacks in
the library. Fifteen minutes prior to that, I was at Ian's door, where I was (not so) kindly informed
that he was at the library, and what kind of unholy person was up and around and making social
calls before lunch time on a Saturday, anyway?

I worry for my generation.

I couldn't help but get worked up, though. If it were any normal Saturday, I could be sleeping in,
too, after staying up till sunrise talking with Madison and going over our dates and being normal,
happy, well-adjusted teenage girls.

There's no sense in getting upset. And there's always next week, right?

Assuming David's even talking to me, much less making with the kissage. God, how I am a fool.

No argument there.
I found Ian seated in the far back, his feet propped up on the table in front of him, a large
dictionary-sized textbook in his lap and his headphones blocking out the world. Quietly, I pulled
up a chair and sat right beside him, waiting for him to notice me. When he did, he yelped loudly
and fell backward with his chair, startled.

"I'm sorry!" I helped him up and brushed him off. "I'm so sorry!"

"It's okay," he smiled, pulling off the headphones. "No harm, no foul. So what's up? You're not
usually up for another" He checked his watch. "Four hours." He studied me closely, his eyes
searching me.

"Cute."

"Wait, today's the day your mom's coming in, right?" After I didn't say anything, he clucked his
tongue sympathetically. "No wonder." He left the textbook on the table and motioned for me to
follow him out.

I shrugged. "Yeah, well yeah."

"Nervous?"

"Uh huh."

"Scared?"

"Most definitely."

"Had a fight with David?"

"Yeah, we-" I broke off, staring at him, staying silent. Finally, I gave in. "How'd you guess?"

He pointed to my neck. "There's that. I figure, it must have been something more than just
nerves that have you up before most of the school, and your little love bite there tells me you
saw him recently. I'm guessing it was last night, because Madison mentioned that you two had a
date. One of you must have said something to piss off the other, because it's seriously not
normal if you guys don't fight at least once a week. And also? You have dark circles under your
eyes. You did a pretty crappy cover-up job, by the way."

"Gee, thanks," I deadpanned.


"You stayed up all night because of some little thing?"

"It wasn't just 'some little thing'," I argued, feeling slightly uneasy at how he'd guessed it all so
easily.

"What'd you guys fight about? No, wait, don't tell me" I walked a step in front of Ian, leading
him towards the school parking lot. "Your mom's coming to visit she's a scary tight-ass" He
narrowed his eyes shrewdly. "You told him to pretend that he wasn't your boyfriend, didn't you?
Because if your mom found out, she wouldn't approve."

I gaped at him. "Okay, the ESP thing was cute the first couple of times, but now it's just freaky."

"Samantha," he said sternly, "this isn't a joke. You're messing around with people's feelings, and
goddamn it, did you fuck up."

"You think I don't know that?" I asked miserably, unlocking my car. "I like him, Ian. I like him so
much, and I pretty much said that none of it mattered, and for what? Just to keep my mother
from seeing me lower than she already does? I mean, is it even worth it?" I slid into the driver's
seat, and he sat up front next to me. "I don't even know why I care so much. It shouldn't matter
anymore. I mean, why scramble for approval and acceptance from someone who thinks you're a
mistake?"

"Your mother doesn't think you're a mistake," Ian said quietly as I began to back up the car. "I
understand where you're coming from, the whole still-striving-for-her-approval thing. I get that,
and I get why you did what you did. But I can empathize with David, too. Sam, it's no secret how
much he likes you. You guys need to talk about this. Not throw temper tantrums at each other
like you usually do. I mean you need to really talk."
I sighed, my eyes glued to the road ahead. "I know. And we will."

"Where are we going, anyway?" He leaned back in his seat and glanced sideways at me.
"You're not supposed to be at the airport for another six hours or so. It doesn't take that long
to get there."

"I know. But I didn't want Madison or Scott asking me questions right now, and David's probably
still pissed off at me, and staying on campus is only going to completely fry what little sanity I
have left. Hence, the escape."

"Sure you don't wanna turn back, use this time for making up with David?"

"I'm sure. I think that right now, anything I say is just going to make things worse. Besides, we
haven't done anything together in ages." I risked a glance at him. He looked completely relaxed
and at ease. "So what's up with you? Anything new? How's that thing?"

He blinked, puzzled. "What thing?"

"Remember before, when you got mad at me when all of us were talking, that day David ended
up looking down my shirt when I tried to steal his brownie? You said that there was something
you had to take care of, and if it didn't work out, then you'd let me help you. So, did it work out?"

"Um" He was silent for a long time, then finally, he shook his head. "No, it didn't."

"What happened?"

Again, he was silent for a few minutes before answering. "There's there's a girl," he began
slowly. My eyes lit up, and he immediately began to shake his head. "No."

"What do you mean, 'no'?" I asked innocently. "I haven't even said anything yet."

"I know that look. That was the look you gave me when you tried to set me up with Madison-"

"You two would look so cute together!"

"-And then with Becca from the cheerleading squad-"

"She had the biggest crush on you-"


"-And then Leah, when all of us spent a week at your house that summer-"

"You guys have a lot of common interests, you know."

Ian stared me down. "I know that look, nothing good comes from that look, that look is pure evil.
No, I'm not telling you her name, her grade, her age, her nothing."

I pouted. "Not even just a little hint?"

"No!"

"Fine," I replied sullenly. "Be a bitch, see if I care."

Ian sighed, staring out the passenger window. "I'm going to regret this"

I beamed. "Name, please."

He rolled his eyes. "I'm not that suicidal. I'm not telling you her name."
"Fine. What grade is she in? And please don't tell me she's a ninth- or tenth-grader. There are
plenty of elevens and twelves you can pine over."

He smiled softly. "No. No, she's in our grade."

"Cool. She in any of your classes?"

"Yeah, she's in my Stats oh, fuck," he muttered. "I never said that. I never said any of it."

I cackled triumphantly. "She's in our Statistics class, huh? Excellent. Come Monday, I'm going to
find out who she is, Ian Hart, and then you will spend your days happily making puppy dog eyes
at your one true love."

"You mean that sappy look Weston gets on his face whenever you're within two feet of him?"
Ian smirked.

I felt my face growing hot. "He does not."

"He does so."

"He does not."

"He does so."

"Does not."

"Does so."

"Does not."

"Does so."

"Does not."

"Does so. Weston's got it bad for you, Sam."

"Yeah, well, after you get together with this chick, you can be the one with the sappy look on his
face."

He shook his head, smiling sadly. "She doesn't like me that way. It's cool."
I narrowed my eyes. "And why the hell not? Is she blind? Stupid? Both?"

"She's not into jocks."

I raised an eyebrow. "Say what now?"

"I don't want to get into it. Do me a favour and just drop it, okay?" He gave me the biggest puppy
dog eyes I'd ever seen; I never could say no to him, anyway.

"Fine, fine. So, are you feeling better?"

"Am I what now?" He asked, apparently startled.

"Are you feeling better?" I repeated slowly. "Remember, that bruise you got from 'basketball
practice'?" I did the little air quotes with one hand on the wheel. "You good to go?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," he replied without missing a beat. "What's that thing you used to say? Oh
yeah." He grinned. "I'm five by five."
"Ah, cute," I smiled. "Can I ask you a question, Ian?"

"Of course." He shifted in his seat so that he could face me. "What's up?"

"When it's time to go off to university can I just pack you in one of my suitcases or something?
'Cause I'm really going to miss you."

"Aw, it's okay," he murmured, ruffling my hair. "If you can find a suitcase big enough, I'll gladly
come."

"Good. 'Cause I mean, you were like the first nice person I met here, and sometimes, I really
don't know what I'd do without you."

"Oh my God."

"Sam, calm down and stop hyperventilating."

My, how time flies when you're having fun and dreading what's coming. After we got into town,
Ian and I had lunch at Tim Horton's, then we went to see a couple of movies ("Holy shit! Harry
Potter is coming out in two weeks! We have to come and see it!"), then we just walked around
the shops and pretty much acted like fools for an hour and a half, before I drove to the airport.

"Ian! They're I mean, the plane! It's landing! In fifteen minutes! Oh God, my Lord, father up
above, please help me"

"Sam!" Ian shook my shoulders gently. "You need to calm down! It's going to be okay, all right?"

"Promise?"

"I promise. Now look, I don't think it's a good idea if I stick around, okay? Call me or one of the
others on our phones in case of anything. I'm gonna head back to school, all right?"

"What?" I gaped at him and latched onto his arm. "No! You can't leave me! They'll eat me alive,
Ian!"

"Sam!" He whispered loudly. "Calm down. You're acting crazy. And people are looking at us
weird. Look, do you really want your mom to say something about me being here? It's the same
thing she'd say if David were here." At the mention of David's name, I felt a little pang of
sadness and guilt. I took a deep breath and let go of his arm.
"Okay. I'll be the brave little soldier. But how are you getting back up, anyway?"

"I saw Nalini Hennessey, that girl in our Stats class? Yeah, while you were calling Alan and
Scott to remind them to come to 'La Testa Del Maiale', I went to say hi, and she offered to give
me a ride back, so I said okay."

I nodded. "That's good. I didn't want to leave you stranded down here without a ride, and taxis
are so overpriced these days."

We were standing outside in the parking lot just in front of the airport, so when Nalini pulled up,
we easily spotted her. Ian gave me a quick one-armed hug and started for her car. "Go get 'em,
tiger," he winked.

"Thanks, Coach," I grinned. I waved to Nalini and she waved back; she was a casual
acquaintance I'd gotten along nicely with in the past. Just then, something in my mind clicked.

Girl from Stats class in our grade not into jocks no. Not even

I stared in shock at Ian's retreating back. "Ian!" I yelled as loud as I could. He turned back and
gave me a puzzled look. 'It's her!' I mouthed, pointing as subtly as I could at Nalini without
looking like a freak. He blinked a couple times, then seemed to understood what I meant. He
didn't say anything, but the huge smirk on his face gave him away. "I want details!" I yelled.

"Likewise!" He got into her car and I followed the car down the road with my eyes. I sighed
deeply and smoothed the front of my skirt. "All right, folks," I muttered under my breath. "Let's
do this thing."
At Maple Ridge International, the furthest you could go to meet people was at the baggage
claim, so even after getting lost, I still found my way to the right claim area with time to spare.
The flight had been delayed by twenty minutes, and so like the moron I was, I spent my time
wondering what it would have been like if I hadn't been a complete asshole to David.

Well, for one, he'd be with you now, keeping your company, and you wouldn't be all alone. And
he'd be with you not only in the physical sense, but he'd stick by you, too.

I miss him. God, it hasn't even been a full day, but I miss having him around, and I don't like
fighting with him. It's just not fun anymore.

Oh, yes, because that sounds so much lovelier.

The desire to talk to him too strong, I pulled my phone out of my jacket pocked and called him. It
took six rings for him to pick up.

"Mmmm 'lo?" He answered sleepily. I could just picture him lying half-awake in his bed, half-
naked-

Okay, bad thoughts, bad thoughts, don't go there

"'Lo?" He repeated, sounding slightly irritated.

"Hi," I replied softly.

"Sam?" He mumbled. I heard the rustling of sheets in the background.

"Yeah, it's me. I just called to say hi. What are you still doing in bed, Sleeping Beauty?"

"Sleeping," he answered gruffly. "At least, I was."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you. We can talk later-"

"Nah." He yawned loudly, and I could picture him stretching out in bed-

Bad thoughts! No thinky!

"It's fine. Kinda wanted to talk to you, anyways. Aren't you supposed to be with your family right
now?"
"The flight got delayed. I just well, I guess I just really needed to talk to you. When I come
back to school tonight, can we talk? Please?"

"Yeah, of course. When you gettin' back?"

"Not sure. After I pick them up, I'm taking them to their hotel, and then I get to play chauffeur
some more and drive them to 'La Testa Del Maiale' to meet with Alan and Scott."

David yawned again, although he sounded more awake. "I see. 'La Testa Del Maiale', huh? Try
the steak, it tastes great."

"Typical jock," I teased.

"Whatever, Ms. Sundae Bar," he muttered.

I smiled. "So you're not mad at me anymore?" I asked tentatively.

He snorted derisively. "Fuck yeah, I'm still mad. I just missed talking to you too, is all," he
added softly.

"Oh." The corners of my mouth quirked upward just the slightest bit.
"Yeah."

I heard an announcement for arrivals over the intercom, and I shook my head. "Hey, I think their
plane just got in. We'll talk later tonight?"

"Yeah, just come find me when you get back. I'll be in my room or something."

"All right, then."

"Hey, why did they even take a plane? Why didn't they just drive up?"

"Because they're too good for car trips," I replied scathingly, willing myself to calm down.

"Damn, I'm sorry I got you started. Anyways, we'll talk later?"

"Definitely."

"Okay, then. Have fun."

"Not funny."

"Wasn't meant to be, babe. Good luck."

"Thanks, although I think I'll need a minor miracle to make it through this alive." He chuckled,
and with a click, the line disconnected. Sighing remorsefully, I wandered over to the merry-go-
round for the bags arriving from Toronto, and recognized our luggage. There were about seven
bags in total; after the third, I was horrified to see more coming. It was a hell of a lot of work to
get them all off the merry-go-round by myself, but I managed. But of course, it didn't end up
mattering, anyway. At least, not to Mom.

I smelled her perfume before I saw her face. Sharp and tart, just like her. She and Adam
descended down the escalator, arm-in-arm. As had become the usual, not a hair was out of
place in her French braid, not a thread was loose on her Gucci attire, and not a flaw could be
found in her makeup. Adam was like an older version of his son, but whereas Scott was pretty
much like me with the whole discreet-attitude-about-money thing, Adam wasn't. Decked out in a
grey Armani suit and a gold Rolex watch on his left hand, he and my mother were the picture
perfect couple.
Adam was the one who spotted me first, even though the both of them were facing me. He
waved his hand in greeting, and I waved back. Adam was tolerable, on occasion. I could deal
with him. My mother, however, I could not.

"Samantha! How are you?" He gave me a strong hug.

"Fine, thanks," I smiled. "And yourself?"

"Still a little nauseous from the flight, but it'll pass. How's everything going? Friends, school?"

"Everything's great. My friends are good, thanks for asking, and as for school-"

"That's why we came, isn't it, Adam?" My mother interrupted, smiling a smile that didn't quite
reach her eyes. She gave me a hug, brushing some hair out of my face. "How are you, darling?"

"Fine, Mom, thanks. "How are you?"

"I'm good. There was some turbulence during the flight; a storm was coming in to Toronto."

I made a face. "That sucks."

My mother clucked her tongue disapprovingly. "Speak properly, Samantha. And my goodness, I
think we need to get your hair cut. It's grown so much since the summer. You really should take
care of yourself, darling." She eyed my skirt. "And I think we need to get you some new clothes,
too."
Ha, who bought me this hideous thing, anyway?

"Really, Samantha, you should take more pride in your appearance. You could be so pretty if
you just wore a little makeup, or did something nice with your hair. It looks so plain like that."

"Well, with all the work I put into studying, my appearance is the last thing on my mind," I replied
sweetly.

And my boyfriend, my gorgeous football-slash-track star of a boyfriend, thinks I'm plenty pretty,
thank you very much.

"Still, darling, it's no reason to let yourself go. Speaking of, we should talk to the school about
the food they serve at mealtimes," she said to Adam, eyeing me. More specifically, eyeing my
stomach. "It looks like the food is very heavy and starchy. I'm not sure I want Amanda exposed
to this, too."

Oh, yeah, it's fine for me and Alan to consume the heavy starchiness, but Heaven forbid
Amanda should wait, what was that?

"I'm sorry, Mom, did you say Amanda?"

"Yes, darling, and really, it's quite rude to just ignore your sister like that."

Say what now?

Stepping out from behind Adam I hadn't even noticed she was there was my lovely little
sister. She looked exactly the same as she had in August, except her shoulder-length layered
hair had more highlights. Amanda was about three inches shorter than me and about only bra
size smaller than me. Large, dark doe-eyes, pouty lips, and had a pretty smile when she chose
to; at only age fourteen, my sister was a knockout.

Stunned at seeing her, I could only blink. When she waved a hand tentatively, that jarred me
into motion. I smiled nervously; even though she did annoy me half the time and we were akin
to complete strangers, she still was my one and only baby sister.

"What up, homie?"


When I get nervous, I tend to blurt out the first thing that pops into my head, and do some pretty
stupid things.

She grinned and waved more enthusiastically.

Well, this is new, interesting. I wonder why she's suddenly so

Friendly?

Yeah, that's it.

"Samantha, did you pick these up all yourself?" Adam asked, as we grabbed bags and started
dragging them out the airport and towards the parking lot. "My God, when did you get so
strong?"

"It was no big," I shrugged modestly.

"Wow, this is your car?" Amanda murmured, as we neared the Bug.

"Yep," I smiled proudly. As was requested, my little black beetle was completely spotless and
the trunk was completely empty, save and except for the spare tire I kept in there. We loaded up
all the bags "Darling, you really should have a more practical car." and I let Amanda ride
shotgun next to me. As soon as Mom and Adam settled into the backseat, they stopped the
formalities and broke out in full-on West Indian-speak.

Beside me, Amanda smothered a giggle. I caught her eye and we both started chuckling; it
wasn't often you saw two prim and proper people such as our mother and stepfather talking in
broken English. It was funny.

"What's your school like?" Amanda asked me quietly, as I cruised the car down Main Street.
"It's nice. The campus is really big, and the teachers are great. For the most part," I added,
thinking of Ms. Davalos.

"Yeah, I know what you mean. Last year, in my middle school, right, we had this crazy teacher. I
think it was her first year, but she was really smart. She taught us Social Studies, but she was a
bi- uh, she was evil," Amanda quickly amended, shooting a look in the rear-view mirror.

I laughed. "Yeah, I've got a teacher like that, too. She teaches me World History this year. I can't
deny that she knows her stuff, but man, she's always on my case."

Amanda's eyes widened, the mascara she was wearing making them look even bigger. "You, in
trouble? But you never get in trouble in school!"

"Trouble?" My mother asked sharply, giving me a look. "Who's in trouble?"

"No one," I replied smoothly. "I was just telling Amanda that I hope we don't have trouble getting
seats at 'La Testa Del Maiale'."

"We shouldn't. Alan made reservations for us days ago," Adam replied, before he and Mom
went back to mutilating the English language.

"Sorry about that," Amanda murmured. I waved a hand dismissively.

"Ten and two," Mom called from the backseat. Curbing the very strong impulse to mouth off and
ask my mother if she'd like to drive, I put my hand back on the steering wheel and continued
chatting with Amanda.

"So yeah, except for that one loserish teacher I have, all the others I've had have been great.
Strict at times, but I can't deny that I learned from all of them, and that I learned a lot."

"That's cool. What about clubs and things?"

"Oh, there's pretty much every kind of club imaginable. Madison's on Student Council and she's
involved in so many things, so she's the better person to ask on that front. You remember
Madison, right?"

Amanda nodded. "She reminds me of Princess Aurora, actually, from Sleeping Beauty."
I smiled. After talking with David last night, I realized how much I'd missed this with my sister,
this talking and joking around and bonding. I couldn't believe it had been about four years since
we actually talked so easily with each other.

"What are the people like? Are they nice?"

"There are jerks," I answered honestly, "but there're also a lot of people who are genuinely nice,
caring individuals." I smiled, thinking of Madison, Ian, and David.

"Which brings me to my most important question." She smiled mischievously, but kept her voice
low so that the parentals in the back wouldn't hear. "Any cute guys?"

I carefully eyed my mom and stepfather through the rear-view mirror. "I think that that part of the
school introductions will have to wait."

"I'll take that as a 'yes', then," she smirked.

"Take it as however you want," I replied indifferently, unsure as to whether or not I should do the
typical big-sister thing and dish about the guys, or do the responsible thing and put a big 'no-no'
sign on the subject door. I mean, the only hot guys I knew were the ones in my grade, and I'm
sorry, but no way in hell is my fourteen-year-old sister going to date a senior.

No freakin' way.

"Samantha?" She asked carefully, folding her hands in her lap. "Is something wrong?"
"No," I answered slowly, taking pains to make sure my parents could hear me over their family
gossiping.

"Then why are you suddenly so-?"

"We need to talk, okay?" It was more of a statement than a question.

"Okay," she replied nervously. "But why-?"

"I'll tell you later. Don't stress over it," I said, breaking off from the main road and turning onto
the little side street that housed the hotel.

I wasn't sure if she could tell, but I was pretty nervous about our impending chat, too.

After all, how are you supposed to go about asking your little sister about her personal life and
after-school escapades when you haven't been around for the last three years?

Chapter Nineteen: Tease & Titillate

It's not fair. It's just not fair. I mean, why on earth should guys get off so damn easy when girls
have to suffer through cramps and PMS and massive blood loss one week a month?

I ask you, where is the justice?

Apparently, not with me.

The whole 'not covering up the hickey' course of action that I took came back to severely bite
me in the ass. Amanda was the one that noticed it first, and although I don't think she meant to
be so obvious, my mom caught on after, and, well let's just say that she didn't buy my excuse
of getting hit by a softball. After Adam had confirmed the room and gotten the room keys, I
spent the better part of an hour getting yelled at for cavorting around the campus like some sort
of scarlet woman, and did I not know what kind of an example I was setting for my sister?

"Yuh ah de one dat mek shih rass dis way," my mom continued, oblivious to all else, the way
she usually got when she was really into yelling at one of us. Gone were the North American
accent and the prim and proper faade. Nope, she was just one really pissed-off West Indian
lady.
Oh, right, because I'm Amanda's mother, right? I'm the one that raised her to become used to
getting every little thing she wanted, and I'm the one that encouraged her spoiled and
materialistic attitudes, right? Yeah, I'm so sure.

I was about to point out that my conversations over the past three years with Amanda had
mainly consisted of "Hi", "Bye", and "Pass the salt", and I was also going to tell her that it wasn't
all the guys on campus just the one that I was 'cavorting around' with, but Mom, seeing me
about to say something, narrowed her eyes. "What?"

"Nothing," I replied insolently, feeling very much like throwing something. For the next fifteen
minutes she continued to rant and rave about how disrespectful I'd gotten and she should have
sent me to Santa Anna (the all-girls boarding school five towns over), instead.

"Are you done?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Keep pushing me," she breathed, sounding more in control. "Keep pushing me. It's not too late
to transfer you." I froze.

"Santa Anna is semestered and the new second half of the year starts in late January," Adam
interjected, that disapproving frown looking as though it was permanently plastered on his face.
"If you switched over now, you could catch up."

It was then that I remembered exactly why I disliked Adam.

They're bluffing. They have to be. They're not going to pull you out of Maple in the middle of
your last year. I mean, even they're not that okay, I stand corrected.
My mom pulled a booklet out of her purse. Santa Anna 2006 Admissions. I felt like the ground
had dropped out from under me.

"You can't be serious," I murmured, my eyes fixed on the booklet she waved around, almost
tauntingly. "You can't be."

She's gotta be bullshitting. I mean, I can't leave. It's not that I won't, it's that I can't. How can I
leave Madison, the first real friend I made since Leah? And Ian I can't leave him. It'd be like
abandoning family. And Scott, I mean, who'll keep him out of trouble? And Alan and damn it,
David

I tried to picture what it'd be like not having any of them around, having to start all over. I'd
grown so used to David. Even if we weren't boyfriend-girlfriend and it felt so nice to actually
say that I'd still miss having him around. Who else would bother me and piss me off and get
me so riled up and know me so well?

"Keep pushing me."

After that little exchange of words, Mother made me stay in the living room while she, Adam,
and Amanda took turns watching me as the other two settled in and unpacked their things.
When Adam was on guard duty, he gave me the same critical look he always gave Scott.

Welcome to the family, Sam.

Amanda, the poor thing, looked too afraid to talk to me, to even so much as look my way. Not
that I blamed her. To incur the wrath of my mother when she was already pissed off was like
giving a known murderer a gun and painting a target sign over your chest; it was suicide.

Needless to say, the drive to 'La Testa Del Maiale' was not the most comfortable of outings. We
got there about fifteen minutes late, which was somehow attributed to my 'poor' driving skills,
and not Adam's anal need to, for twenty minutes before we finally left, shine his shoes until
they'd become frickin' mirrors.

Dinner itself was about as good as the drive from the hotel. In public, my family had enough
sense to cut the bullshit, so instead of the constant arguing we usually had, we were treated to
deafening silence, instead. Adam and Mother sat at opposite ends of the table, with me, my
brothers, and my sister in the middle. Amanda and I sat side-by-side, with me facing Scott and
her facing Alan. Mom wasn't talking to me, Adam wasn't talking to Scott, Alan wasn't talking to
Amanda, and Scott and I had a grand old time kicking each other under the table and making
stupid faces at each other when our parents weren't looking.

Alan and Scott were lucky; they got to say their goodbyes at the restaurant. I had to play
chauffeur one more time and drop everyone back at the hotel. Adam gave me a short, one-
armed hug, and my mother just squeezed my shoulder as she got out of the car. Amanda gave
me a small wave when the parentals had turned their backs, and mimed calling me later. I
nodded and waited until she'd made it in the hotel before pulling away from the curb.

No sooner had I backed into the street than my phone had ringed. When I answered it, I was
pleased to hear Madison's voice on the other end.

"Hey pretty girl, where you at?"

"Just pulling away from the hotel. Why?"

"Scott gave me a lift down here, figured I could keep you company on the way back. I've been
malling for the longest time, hun, and I am so wiped. Get your ass over here and give me a lift
home."

When I pulled into the mall parking lot, I was surprised to see Madison with an armful of
shopping bags, and another pile of bags and boxes standing beside her, with a pair of khaki-
clad legs sticking out underneath. The black Nikes seemed awfully familiar.

I rolled down my window and stuck my head out a fraction of an inch. "Mads, what the hell? Did
you buy out the whole mall?"

"No," she replied defensively. "Just some of the smaller stores." I had no problem
wholeheartedly believing that; she'd even gone as far as to wear sweats and sneakers, what
she only usually wore if she was planning on getting in some serious exercise.

I sighed. "There is no way in hell all that shit is gonna fit inside my car. You do know that, right?"
"Sheesh, Ms. Cranky-Pants. One little disaster of a dinner with your parents and you're all
moody. Maybe we should go shopping. It's a great stress-reliever. There's still a few more hours
before the mall closes," she added excitedly.

"No!" The pile of boxes yelled vehemently, the voice slightly muffled. "No friggin', goddamn
way!"

Madison rolled her eyes. "Honestly," she griped, motioning for me to open the trunk. I walked
around to the back and unlocked the trunk, then started helping her pack her stuff in. She took
boxes off the pile and started arranging them in the back. "You're such a guy sometimes,
David."

"What? Like my eight inches said otherwise?"

I choked, trying not to cough too loudly. David caught my eye and smirked. Madison shoved a
box into his arms and started slapping me violently on the back.

"Are you okay?"

I nodded, gasping for air. "Yeah, thanks." My face felt warm to my hands, and I was sure I was
blushing. I wondered why Madison didn't mention David was with her.

Oh, you know why.

Yeah, yeah. I still wish she'd told me, though. I mean, it's not like I'd leave her behind if she did.

Madison rolled her eyes and flipped her hair over her shoulder, before casting David an irritated
look. "Don't listen to him. He's such a bullshitter. And don't kid yourself, David," she added
derisively. "You know you're only six-and-a-half. Seven at most."

The 'La Senza' bag that was in my hand dangled limply from my fingers. I raised an eyebrow,
tilting my head slightly to the side. "And you would know this how?"

"Jealous, Sam?" David grinned, staring at me intently. I ignored him and focused my attention
on Madison. She began blushing furiously, avoiding both my eyes and David's.

"Accidents happen doors are left unlocked people accidentally open said unlocked doors
when the people behind such were too deaf to hear a simple 'hello'" I tried to suppress my
laughter. Madison must have been really embarrassed for her to actually blush. "Yeah, yeah,
laugh it up," she snapped, starting to throw things into the backseat. "Like you never
accidentally walked in on Scott or something."

"Actually, I haven't. 'Cause I have a little thing called 'common sense', which enables me to
knock and make sure I hear a coherent reply every time before I open Scott's bedroom door."

"He had his fucking music blaring out the speakers like he was goddamn deaf! Sam, the people
in China heard his music loud and clear!"

Shaking my head, I pulled my keys out of my pocket and tossed them up. "One of you can drive.
I'm so thoroughly exhausted, it's not even funny."

Madison grabbed the keys and grinned. "I will!"

With a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, I climbed into the back and stretched out, using
some of Madison's bags as pillows. Stifling a yawn, I frowned when David tried to move my legs
off the seat. "Yeah?"

"I want to sit."

"Then sit up front. You have no idea how drained I am, and there's too much stuff back here,
anyway."

"Then move it up front. I want to sit in the back." Even as he spoke, David began to pass the
few boxes that were in the back to Madison. When there was enough space for two people to sit
comfortably, he pulled my legs off the seat and sat down beside me. "What the hell's wrong with
you?"
"Tired," I muttered, closing my eyes and leaning back.

"Dinner was that bad?" Madison asked, backing out of the parking lot. She made a sharp turn
right, and David and I immediately tried to buckle our seatbelts while being pitched to the side. I
remembered then what had bothered me about Madison being at the wheel: she made drag
racers look tame.

"No. It was the before and after that was that bad," I muttered, grabbing onto David's arm. "Why
did you let her drive?" I whispered into his ear. He shrugged, looking slightly paler than usual,
but didn't reply. Frowning, I let go of him and leaned against the window. Madison braked
suddenly, throwing all of us forward.

"What the hell?" David muttered.

"Traffic," I supplied, looking out the window. "I guess we're not the only ones who came into
town. A lot of other kids probably came to see their parents, too."

"It's gonna be forever before we get back to school," he moaned. "Can't believe I'm stuck in
here with you two. The crazed shop-aholic and the Buffy freak."

"You can always walk back to school," I replied helpfully, reaching over and unlocking the door
for him. Inwardly, I was confused over his sudden one-eighty. I mean, he'd sounded pleasant
enough on the phone. "It's okay; we won't miss you." Scowling, he slammed the palm of his
hand down on the lock and crossed his arms over his chest, staring straight ahead. "Okay,
what's wrong with you?" I muttered quietly, as Madison sang along pleasantly to the song on
radio.

"If you don't know, I'm not gonna tell you," he whispered back fiercely, his jaw set.

"Fine. Be a bitch, I don't care," I retorted, folding my arms over my chest.

"What I like about you / You hold me tight / Tell me I'm the only one / Wanna come over
tonight? Yeah"

"Good. Good for you, then." A pause, then, "Why the hell did you spend the entire day with
Hart?"
"I didn't spend the entire day with him. Just the better part of it." David switched the focus of his
scathing glare from the back of the passenger seat in front of him to me. "Oh, what? Suddenly I
can't hang out with any of my guy friends because we're dating?" I retorted, trying to keep my
temper.

"Technically, we haven't been out on a date yet," he reminded me. "You kind of fucked up our
first one."

"Keep on whispering in my ear / Tell me all the things that I wanna hear / 'Cause it's true /
That's what I like about you"

"Oh, yes, let's bring that up as often as we possibly can," I hissed sarcastically, falling forward
as Madison inched the car ahead.

"You're the one who decided to be a goddamn fool," he muttered, bracing himself against the
car door. "Not that that should be anything new for you, though."

"You're the one who decided to be all ignorant," I countered. "Not that that should be anything
new for you, though," I added sweetly.

"What I like about you / You really know how to dance / When you go up, down, jump around /
Talk about true romance, yeah"

David grabbed my wrist and pulled me close to him. "You honestly believe that what you asked
me to do wasn't complete bullshit?" He hissed into my ear.

"She wants to send me to Santa Anna," I whispered. "She doesn't even know about us, and she
already wants to make me leave. I don't want to go. I want to stay here, with you and Madison
and Ian and my brothers. I want to go to prom with you guys, graduate with you guys. I don't
want to leave, and I'll do whatever I have to, to make sure I stay. I'm not going to give her any
reasons to transfer me."
He shook his head. "You're over-exaggerating." My jaw dropped. "She probably just told you
that to make you behave. And you fell for it. You bring a whole new meaning to the phrase
'dumb blonde'."

"I'm not blonde."

"Exactly."

"Keep on whispering in my ear / Tell me all the things that I wanna hear / 'Cause it's true /
That's what I like about you"

Grinding my teeth, I pulled my hand away and shuffled to the other end of the car. "Stupid
ignorant goddamn son-of-a-bitch," I muttered under my breath, taking several deep breaths to
calm down. I heard him sigh and swear under his breath. "Madison?" I called out sweetly,
adamantly ignoring the imploring looks I was getting from David.

"Yeah?"

"How'd your date with James go last night? We never got a chance to talk about it."

"Oh, it went really well. We had dinner at 'Yvette's' and walked around school grounds after we
got back, just talking and stuff."

"Enjoyed yourself?"

"Immensely," she replied happily. "We're going out again tomorrow."

"Very nice," I smiled. "I always thought Saunders was a bit of an egotist, but as long as he's
treating you right and you like being with him, then I approve."

"Same," David muttered, staring out the window. We had yet to clear a block.

I caught Madison's expression in the rear-view mirror. She was smiling softly, tapping her nails
lightly against the steering wheel. "I do like being with him. It was great."

I narrowed my eyes thoughtfully. "Okay, when you say, 'it was', what do you mean-?"

"How did dinner go tonight?" She interrupted, catching my eye in the rear-view mirror. "Details,
details."
There's something she's not saying. I risked a glance at David, who was staring at Madison with
a pensive look. I guess there is something to be suspicious about, if I'm not the only one picking
up on something.

"Dinner was horrendous," I answered slowly, bracing myself against the boxes on my side as
the car jerked forward again, slowly picking up speed as traffic began to wind down.

"What happened?"

I recounted what had happened from when I picked up my family at the airport, and got the
appropriate sympathetic moan or consoling glance here and there. David remained stoic and
stared out the window, an unreadable expression on his face. I had the sudden impulse to slid
over and hug him.

Yeah, I doubt he'd appreciate that right now.

He looks so lost and upset.

Gee, I wonder why he looks that way. It couldn't be your fault, now could it?

Cut the sarcasm. I feel bad enough as it is.

If you feel so bad, then do something about it.


Like what? He already knows what's going down with me and Mom, and if he feels jealous
'cause I spent some time with Ian, then that's his issue, not mine.

You don't think he has a reason for being just the slightest upset if you go off and spend a day
with Ian, after the two of you just had a huge fight?

Ian's my friend! Why is it so impossible to comprehend that a guy and a girl can be just friends?

It's not impossible to understand, but look at the situation from David's point of view. Put
yourself in his shoes. Both of you are totally justified in feeling the way you do, but the pair of
you are too damn stubborn to completely talk with each other.

I sighed and fisted a handful of hair in frustration.

"Sam?" I looked up. Madison and David were both giving me odd looks. "Sam, you okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm just tired, I guess." I raked a hand through my hair. "It's been a long day," I
chuckled weakly, lying against some of the more cushiony bags.

"I can imagine," Madison clucked sympathetically. "Up at six on a Saturday morning?" She
shuddered. "That's just unholy."

I laughed. "No, the unholy part is having to deal with my mother."

"How can you say stuff like that about your mother?" David asked quietly.

"Unlike most people, my parents don't treat me like I'm the best thing since the creation of sliced
bread."

"Like you're the only who-"

"I didn't mean to offend you or anything," I continued quietly, "because I know pretty much
everyone has problems at one time or another with their parents. But it's just" I shook my
head. "Never mind," I said softly.

"Sam?" Madison asked quietly, actually managing to coast the car forward smoothly.

"Don't mind me, I'm just tired," I replied offhandedly, fluffing the bags under my head. "And, you
know, tiredness equals crankiness and loss of patience. I'm gonna take a little nap, okay?"
"Yeah, that's cool. I'll wake you when we get back to school," she promised, driving steadily if
not still slowly now. I nodded and rested my head against the window, and for half an hour, I
stayed like that, but sleep wouldn't come. My eyes were closed, my breathing was regular, and I
felt exhausted enough, but I just couldn't sleep. Madison and David talked quietly about the next
upcoming football game, with the junior team versus the senior team. After a lull in the
conversation, Madison motioned over to me.

"She looks a little uncomfortable, don't you think?"

"I guess."

"Don't be a prick, David."

"Don't be so goddamn nosy, Madison."

"Temper, temper," she murmured. I heard David sigh, and then I felt him reach over and
unbuckle my seat belt and gently pull me over to him. "Don't wake her up."

"I won't." He buckled me in beside him and slung his arm around my shoulders. Automatically, I
leaned into him and rested my head on his chest, draping my arm over his middle. I felt him sigh
and hold me tighter. "She looks so peaceful when she's sleeping. How can she be so goddamn
irritating when she's awake? Did she just scowl at me in her sleep?"

Madison laughed. "She's such a trip. It'd suck if she left."


"It would," he replied softly, lacing his fingers with my mine.

"Oh, so now you believe her? Oh, don't give me that look. Just because I decided to be polite
and pretend that I couldn't hear you two, doesn't mean that didn't. You've met Mrs. Manning
before, David."

"She was nice to me."

"And she put down Sam a lot. You were the one who was always complaining to me about it,
I'm surprised you forgot about it so easily."

"I didn't forget about it," he replied quietly. "Guess I thought she'd start sticking up for herself,
though, not still scrambling to win Mommy Dearest's approval."

Come again? That summer, it bugged him that much?

It would explain that exchange of words that, up until now, has been unexplainable.

What, you mean when he cornered me in the kitchen looking like he wanted to kill someone,
and told me to stop, and I quote, "being such a fucking mouse all the goddamn time"?

And then he stormed out, and wasn't that when you started to really talk back to him?

Uh huh. Didn't look impressed, though.

Right, because he went off on you when you both ended up in the kitchen for a midnight snack.
"What the goddamn hell is wrong with you? You only got a tongue when I'm around?"

And then I told him to go drown himself in the pool and leave me the hell alone.

And then he poured chocolate sauce in your hair.

And then I dropped the last two slices of cheesecake in his boxers.

And then he poured milk down your shirt.

And then I drizzled caramel in his hair. And then the 'rents came down, and Mom got mad
'cause of what happened to her cheesecake.

And then you had some very inappropriate dreams that night, if I recall.
Oh, yes, let's do bring that up as often as possible.

The first of many, it's all I'm saying

"Madison?"

"Yeah?"

"I I can't" He sighed, struggling for the right words. "I can't lose her," he finally said, so
quietly that I barely heard him. "I mean I finally have we're finally"

"I know," she said, just as solemnly. "I remember all the conversations we used to have, how
stressed and confused you were. I remember all of it. But you have to remember that she
genuinely likes you. For some inane reason or other."

"Thanks," he replied dryly, stroking my back.

"I'm serious, and so is she. I know she's likes you, and have you ever seen Samantha when
she's serious about something?"
"Heaven help anyone who tries to stop her."

Just on the border between the realms of consciousness and unconsciousness, I smiled into
David's shirt and held onto him just a little tighter. I felt him stiffen just the slightest, and then I
heard his voice in my ear.

"Did I wake you?" I shook my head. "So you never fell asleep?" I shook my head again. "Why
not?" I shrugged. "Would you give me a straight answer about something?"

"I like you. Not Ian. You really have to stop being so jealous because frankly, it's not a turn-on," I
murmured, stifling a yawn.

"I can't help it."

"Learn to help it," I retorted sleepily.

"Easy for you to say. How would you feel if I blew you off for one of my ex-girlfriends and spent
the day with her and-?"

"First of all, Ian isn't my ex, he's my best friend. And second of all, I thought you had ex-lovers,
not ex-girlfriends?"

"Jealous?"

"You're one to talk."

"Can we talk about this later?" He asked, a slight edge to his voice.

"Fine," I yawned. "But only because I'm falling asleep here."

"For real this time?"

"Mm-hmm."

"So I can say your handwriting looks like chicken scratch and you'll be fast asleep and unable to
do anything about it?"

Scowling, I slapped him lightly on the arm. "Not asleep yet. And my handwriting so doesn't look
like chicken scratch."
"If you say so, beautiful."

"It doesn't."

"Uh huh."

"David" I began warningly.

"Your handwriting doesn't look like chicken scratch. Not even close."

"Stop humouring me."

"Fine. Your handwriting sucks."

"Fuck you."

"All in good time, Sam, all in good time."

By the time we finally made it back to school, it was past midnight, and apparently, neither
Madison nor David had had the heart to wake me up. David carried me back to my room, and
when he realized I was awake I'd been awake halfway from the parking lot he dropped my
unceremoniously on my bed. Madison grabbed her clothes and a towel went into the bathroom
to take a shower and change.
"Ow," I whined, glaring up at him.

"Take it like a man."

"Why don't you go jump off a bridge?" I muttered, raking a hand through my hair and stifling a
yawn.

"You're so goddamn irritating, you know that?"

"But I'm so peaceful when I sleep, right?"

David glared at me. "That's not fair. I didn't know you were listening when I said that."

I sighed and massaged my forehead. "Look, it's really late and we're both feeling really tetchy.
How about we continue this after we've both had a good night's sleep?"

He shook his head. "Odds are I'm not seeing you at all tomorrow."

"Why?" I frowned, standing up and crossing my arms over my chest. One thing I hate is having
people tower over me.

"The administration fucked up Parents' Week this year. They let a bunch of ninth- and tenth-
graders organize the thing for some volunteer hours, and nothing's ready. Ms. Conway's trying
to round up enough people at the last minute to pull off something good. I have to get all the
team captains together tomorrow and figure out what the hell's happening with the exhibition
games. Which reminds me, you're supposed to meet Ms. Conway tomorrow in her class to put
together one of those exhibits that all the departments have in the centennial gym."

"Huh?" I asked smartly, my voice several pitches higher than normal.

"And then when you're done with that, you're supposed to find out when you're playing hostess
for AP World History."

"Again, huh?"

Every year during Parents' Week, every department in the school set up presentations and
exhibits in the centennial gym the biggest room in the whole school and because classes
were suspended for that week, the classrooms had several students available to answer
questions from parents and show the work that was being done. Campus tours were available
on an hourly schedule, a variety of presentations and skits and events were usually scheduled
throughout the week, and at the end of the week, all the sports teams pitted the juniors versus
the seniors for exhibition games, with the cheerleaders having their own stage time, too.

Parents' Week was always one of the year's highlights.

Until the junior students decided to run it into the ground this year, that is.

"And after that, you need to find out when you're doing campus tours. Of course, if you hadn't
spent the entire day fooling around with Hart, you'd know this yourself. I heard that he's your
partner for the tours, by the way," he added scathingly, his eyes sparkling with gold.

I straightened up and stood as tall as I could and stared him straight in the eye. "I did not 'fool
around' with him, you asshole," I hissed, poking him in his chest. Doubtful that he felt anything,
but it was the principle of the thing, you know? "Ian is like my brother, okay? When are you
going to stop being so jealous of him for no reason? I mean, we've only been together for a
week, and already you're having trust issues with me?"

"I'm not having trust issues with you. I'm having trust issues with-"

"All I did today," I barrelled on, "was spend some time with a friend that I've been neglecting for
a long time, and if you're too goddamn thick in your goddamn head to see that, then"
Groaning in frustration, I grabbed the collar of his shirt and pulled him towards me, kissing him
roughly. I released all of my pent-up frustration and anger into that kiss, trying to just get it all
out of me.
He shrugged off his jacket and wrapped his arms around my waist, sliding his hands down to
my hips. He moaned gruffly against my lips as we fell backwards onto the bed, a tangle of arms
and legs intertwined with each other. Being on top of him, I felt how his chest rose and fell in
between each kiss; how his heartbeat raced the harder I kissed him... my stomach constricted
oddly at the feel of him underneath me. He rolled over and flipped me under him and kissed me
so hard, he literally stole my breath away. He started toying with the hem of my shirt, pushing
me farther up the bed until my legs weren't dangling over the side anymore.

"David" I whimpered into his ear as he started to trace small circles on my skin just under the
hem of my shirt. I didn't want him to stop for anything; after that disaster of a day, he was
making me feel all kinds of good, all kinds of wants and needs, and I was seriously
contemplating just breaking free of all inhibitions.

God, this is exactly what I need right now. Pure lust

Being a little irresponsible now, aren't we?

I don't care. Damn it, I want him so badly

He rose up just enough for me to pull off his shirt and throw it aside, and he kissed me again,
even more fiercely this time. He slipped his hand farther up my shirt, tracing the outline of my
bra, and groaned when I ran my nails lightly down his chest. When he started kissing me again,
he positioned himself directly on top of me, and I felt exactly how excited he was.

God, I'm making him feel like that?

Either it's you, or someone's been eating his broccoli.

Reluctantly, I broke the kiss and pushed him off me, already missing his warmth.

This isn't how it's supposed to happen. This isn't how it's going to happen.

Spoilsport.

And also? Madison is in the next room and is liable to walk in at any moment.

Yeah, all right, that would put a damper on things.

He fell onto his back beside me, breathing heavily. For that matter, I was short of breath myself.
"So" His voice was barely audible.

"So" I echoed, staring up at the ceiling, gasping slightly. My lips felt bruised to the touch.

"Yeah" Sighing softly, David rolled over onto his stomach and reached for his shirt that had
landed on my pillow. His voice was muffled as he tugged the black long-sleeved shirt over his
head, his eyes determinedly not meeting mine. "Sorry about that," he said coolly, raking a hand
through his hair.

I blinked, confused. "Well, I'm not, and I know you aren't, either, so why are you even
apologizing-?"

"Guess I just got caught up in the moment."

"Everything's so muddled, Iall I needed was a little time to think."

"I told you to tell me to stop. I begged you to. You didn't listen, you told me not to stop. Seemed
to me like you knew exactly what you were doing."

"Ever heard of getting 'caught up in the moment'?"

"Is that all it was? That was not me getting 'caught up in the moment'."
"What was it, then?"

"You honestly don't know?"

I stood there, rooted to the spot. I was sure my mouth was probably hanging open. "What?" I
asked, hating the way my voice cracked. "What did you say?"

"I said, I didn't mean for that to happen. Guess I just got caught up in the moment. You know
how that goes, right?" He folded his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow.

I chuckled bitterly and shook my head. "Yeah, I know how that goes. David?"

"Yeah?"

"Leave. Now."

Damn it, David's such an asshole. Why do I even like him again?

He's cute, he's smart, he's hot, he's funny, he's sexy, he's witty, he's attractive, he's probably
really great in bed, and have I mentioned how fucking gorgeous he is?

Vaguely.

You know, you like him precisely because he's a jerk. He's a jerk and you're a bitch, and that's
why you guys go together so damn well. You know he's a good guy, though. He's just really
pissed off because of what you asked of him, and how you spent the day with Ian. He's already
jealous of Ian, you know this. And you know how David gets when he's pissed.

Duh. Been on the receiving end of that emotion for years now.

Exactly. He gets pissed off, so he tries to incense you. 'Misery loves company', remember? And
if I correctly recall, you did the same exact thing to him a week and a half ago. No being a
hypocrite, missy.

So, what? I should go after him?

Are you fucking stupid? Both of you are feeling way too much frustration right now, both the
confused kind and the sexual kind. Cooling off needs to be had before major mistakes are
made.
Wordlessly, he stood and walked over to the bathroom door, rapping lightly and muttering a
quiet goodbye to Madison, before slipping on his jacket and boots and leaving.

When Madison emerged from the bathroom, she eyed me critically. "You okay? You look kind of
shaken up."

Let's see. In the span of twenty-four hours, I royally pissed off my boyfriend, unknowingly made
him insanely jealous, incurred the wrath of my she-devil of a mother, and probably would have
seriously considered having sex with said boyfriend if you weren't in the bathroom.

I smiled weakly. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just need a shower," I said, grabbing my stuff and heading into
the bathroom. "A really, really cold shower," I added under my breath. "A punching bag in the
shape of Weston wouldn't hurt, either."

I spent two hours in the bathroom, trying to lose myself in the heat and let my thoughts just drift
away with the steam.

Key word, here: tried. Even after two hours, even after the water had long turned cold, I had the
same confused, mixed-up, pissed off thoughts I'd had before I went under the hot spray.

Damn you, Weston, I silently cursed. It's one thing to make me lose control like that. It's a whole
other thing to make me actually think when I'm showering! Hell, if my mealtimes are affected
next, I'm coming after you with a goddamn blunt object.

That night, I had a dream. As I got up for a glass of milk to calm my nerves, I heard Madison's
sleepy voice call out.
"Shower wasn't cold enough?"

"Nope," I muttered morosely, wishing evilly that David was having just as sleepless a night as I
was.

Apparently, the Powers-That-Be were as determined to make me miserable as I was to put


some semblance of normalcy back into my life. I woke up that morning with one hell of a
stomach cramp, and had to all but limp to my psychology classroom after swallowing two Midol
and half a bottle of water in one gulp. I spent the better part of the morning on the computer,
typing up class summaries and expectations and prerequisites and trying to decipher student
experiences written in barely-legible writing. After popping back another couple of Midol while
the printer spat out paper after paper, I jogged down to the cafeteria to grab something to eat.
Like me, most people were still in their pyjamas, it being Sunday morning and all. Unlike me,
those pyjamas did not consist of Care Bears print.

"Hmm, I thought I got rid of those," Madison mused, as I sat down next to her. She could hardly
call her Sailor Moon pyjamas any better than mine.

"Oh, you did. I just snuck them back out of the bag when you weren't looking," I replied
cheerfully, pouring maple syrup over my pancakes.

"I figured." I tweaked her ponytail before starting to sprinkle powdered sugar over my plate.

"Bulking up for the winter, are we?" David remarked, setting his plate down across from us. I
flipped him off and put a forkful of food in my mouth without even sparing him a glance. Madison
opted for the mature route and flicked a strawberry at his head. It left a trail of sticky maple
syrup as it slid down his face and neck. "Very nice," he muttered, glaring at her.

"Well that's what you get for cutting the cheerleaders' game time," she replied coolly, staring him
down.

"I didn't have a choice! The girls' soccer and baseball teams demanded equal playing time this
year. And I didn't cut your exhibition time. I just relocated it."

"To the football game's halftime show," she informed me.

I blinked, confused. "I don't see the-"


"It's not fair, David!" She cut me off, waving her fork wildly.

"Why the hell not?" He asked, stealing my napkin and wiping the maple syrup off his face.

"Because, cheerleading isn't some little hobby we do when we have nothing else to do. It's an
actual sport, you know. It's demanding and rigorous and requires a lot of practice and physical
stamina. You're totally undermining it and the squad by just making us perform at halftime.
For God's sake, we ended up going to the hospital more times than you guys did!" She shook
her head. "This is ridiculous," she muttered, getting up and walking off.

David stared at her retreating figure for a couple of minutes before rounding on me. "And I
suppose you want to add your two cents in, right? So come on, tell me, what did I do wrong
today?"

I blinked. "Did I say anything? Shit. Learn to control your goddamn temper, why don't you?" We
ate in angry silence until Ian and Scott came over and started talking about basketball and
soccer.

"Think the Raptors are making it to the NBA this year?" Scott asked. He and Ian looked up at
each other, then burst out laughing.

"They'll be lucky if they don't rank last out of the eastern conference teams," Ian muttered.

"The Raptors aren't that bad, guys," I tried, taking a sip of milk. I almost choked when I felt what
I was sure to be David's bare foot nudge my own slippered one, then slowly slide up my leg,
pushing my pant leg up.

"Sam?" Ian asked, looking over at me.

"Huh?" I squeaked, as David's foot slowly stroked my leg, making long strides from my knee to
my ankle.
"Are you okay?" Scott asked, glancing at David, who was blinking back at him innocently.

"Uh huh," I chirped, trying to nudge back David under the table. I missed and ended up kicking
the table leg instead, though. I bit my lip to keep from crying out.

Son of a bitch! Owoh shit, this really hurts.

Well who told you to kick the damn table?

I wasn't aiming for the table. I was aiming for David.

Well, it's nice to see your aim is as crap as always.

Oh, shove it.

"Are you sure?" Ian asked, placing a hand on the tabletop to steady it.

"Uh huh," I repeated, blinking to keep my eyes from tearing up.

"Sam? Just so you know?" Scott began.

"Yeah?"

"You're weird."

"Oh, I know."

"Oh, okay. Just as long as you do."

"Uh huh," I squeaked again, feeling David's foot resume its path up my leg.

How long d'you reckon this'll continue for?

"What the hell?" Ian yelled all of a sudden, pushing his chair away from the table so quickly that
he fell over backwards.

Not long. Not long at all.

Kids from neighbouring tables who saw started to laugh quietly, but a couple of glares from me
and Scott got them to shut up. Scott picked up Ian's chair and helped him back up.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" I muttered, dusting him off.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" He countered, his eyes wide.

"What did I do?"

"You foot my leg, Sam!"

"And in the language that is English, that meant?"

"You were playing footsie with me!"

"Sam!" Scott admonished me, wide-eyed.

"I wasn't!" Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed David slowly backing away from the table, so
naturally, I rounded on him. "J'accuse!" I pointed at him. He froze like a deer caught in
headlights.
"David?" Scott asked, blinking a couple of times before bursting into laughter. David instantly
began to blush, stumbling over his words.

"It wasn't I didn't mean-"

"Dude," Ian muttered quietly, "I'm cool with you and everything but I don't swing that way, all
right?"

If possible, David reddened even more. "Neither do I!" He shouted desperately. Several more
heads turned in our direction, which got him to lower his voice. "Neither do I," he repeated. "I
mean look, girlfriend!" He added, throwing an arm around my shoulders. "It was an accident. I
mean, I was aiming for I didn't mean to it was supposed to have been Sam I mean," he
backtracked quickly off the look on Scott's face, "that, um, not like that, but just oh, fuck."

"There's a time and place for everything, David," I said patiently. "Not right now, okay?"

"'Not right now'?" Scott echoed. "What the hell have you been doing with him?"

"Oh, calm down, Scott. It was a joke. And, to answer your question, none of your damn
business."

"None of my what?" He echoed, raising his eyebrows and crossing his arms over his chest in
that big-brother's-ready-to-kick-some-ass kind of fashion.

"Sam, please don't get the very violent ex-hockey player upset," David pleaded, stealing a bite
of my pancakes.

"Scared, Weston?" Ian taunted, grinning.

"Fuck you, Hart," David replied between bites of my breakfast.

"I told you, dude, I'm flattered and everything, but I'm not into that."

"I hate you all right now," David muttered miserably, taking a gulp of my hot tea, then promptly
spitting it back out. He screwed up his face, the hot liquid still burning his tongue. "I really hate
you all."

Chapter Twenty: Meet the Parents


PMS Sam wasn't nearly as scary as PMS Madison, but she did have her moments. For
instance, though she was nowhere near as violent as PMS Madison, she was a hell of a lot
whinier, and definitely more annoying. So much so, that the others often ostracized her from the
group until she was feeling normal again. Only Ian usually took pity on her and stuck around,
even though it was harmful to his mental health. Well, David would pop up once in a while, but
that was only to piss her off and get her riled up even more. He enjoyed doing that.

But the point of that little story wasn't that David enjoyed annoying the hell out of me no matter
how crappy I was feeling. The point was that Ian stuck around. Always. Which was why I felt it
was my duty to return the favour and help him win over his lady love. Only that was proving to
be harder than I thought, seeing as I barely had time to breathe these days.

Sunday was hectic enough with last-minute preparations for Parents' Week. Friday was the real
kick in the ass. But let me back up to Monday.

The first day of Parents' Week was a success. Well, depending on how you look at it, anyway. I
heard my Psychology exhibit was well-visited, and I drained three bottles of water in an hour
talking about AP World History. In that way, Monday was a success. But in a more personal
way, it was horrifying. Gruesome, even.

It all started when I decided to venture into the centennial gym for only God knows what reason.
My mom and Adam weren't scheduled to come up to check out the school until Wednesday, so
I thought I was safe.

I wandered through the crowd, stopping now and again to direct people to where they wanted to
go (the uniform and yes, we were required to be in uniform easily distinguished me as a
student). I eventually made it to the newspaper table, where a frazzled-looking boy my age was
handing out copies of the latest edition of the school paper to whomever happened to pass by.
"My, my, how the mighty have fallen," I clucked disappointingly. The boy looked up, and gave
me the meanest glare he could muster. Which, on Clark, wasn't anything much, really. Clark
Braithwaite was the editor of the school newspaper, and up until the end of last year, I had been
one of his faithful writers. But then when it was time to pick a new assistant editor Alex Brown
had graduated Clark chose Wendy Masters over myself, even though yours truly had more
experience and was, you know, better for the job.

No, I'm not bitter.

I'm really not. The popular theory was that Wendy slept with Clark, and although he never
confirmed it, he never denied it, either. I pretty much lost all respect for him after that, and quit
the paper after Wendy made me write a riveting piece on the lunch menu and gave her best
friend the front page story.

Her best friend, whose idea of a front page story was of Cathy Anson flashing her thong to half
the senior class when she bent over to pick up a pencil.

Yes, I know. What riveting journalism.

"Oh, that's nice, Samantha," Clark replied miserably. "Come by to gloat?"

"Why, because you ended up running the paper into the ground? Why would I gloat over that?
That's just sad."

He smiled bitterly. "I guess you never heard, then."

"Heard what?"

He handed me a copy of the school paper and shook his head. "I got usurped. I am now once
again a lowly field reporter. After working four years to climb to the top, I'm right back at the
bottom."

I crossed my arms over my chest and raised an eyebrow. "Wendy, I presume?"

"No shit."

I shrugged, trying to stay unsympathetic. "No one told you to make her assistant editor over
me." In truth, I felt so sorry for him. He'd had a great command over the staff and always wrote
insightful pieces for the editorials. Not to mention he often did the work of a 'lowly field reporter',
and did it damn good, too.

"I made a mistake, I know. A really, really big one. I mean, having to see shit like who's dating
who making the front page is nauseating. By the way, is it true you and David Weston are dating
now? I swear you and him were always at each other's throats." Clark raised his eyebrows
questioningly.

I made a face. "No comment. You know, I can't imagine Marla writing relationship profiles, even
if Wendy made her." Marla Sims was the most stubborn, but also the best, writer that the paper
had.

"I guess you really don't keep up with the paper at all anymore. Not that I blame you."

"Let me guess. Marla quit?"

"Uh huh. Didn't like being bossed around by Wendy and writing about crap like the baseball
team getting new uniforms."

"I figured. Who else quit?"

"Lance, Meg, Drew, Val, Nick, and Xavier," he replied, ticking them off on his hand.

"So you're out a sports columnist, a fashion reporter, a cartoonist, a gossip columnist, a
photographer, and an advice columnist. Who's actually left?"

"Me, and Yvonne and Mike, the two field reporters I recruited in the middle of the year last year."
"That's wonderful. How's the paper even running if all that's left is you, Wendy, Mike, and
Yvonne?"

"Wendy recruited all of her friends. The paper's pretty much garbage right now. It's like a school
tabloid or something." He shuddered.

"You're telling me Mr. Stephenson took this lying down? He fought me tooth and nail when I told
him I wanted to quit."

"Yeah, he kind of doesn't know."

I raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were required to report all important changes to the staff
advisor?"

Clark shrugged his shoulders helplessly. "It's gotten to the point where I just can't give a damn
anymore."

I shook my head sadly. "I'm sorry to hear that. You know, I really was looking forward to this
year. We had such a good team last year."

"I know. Too bad this year got so fucked up." He sighed. "You know, it'd be cool if we could
assemble the old team."

"I suppose."

"I mean, all I'd really need is one person to come back," he continued, staring hard at me. "The
right person, of course, and she could convince everyone else to-"

"No," I said flatly, crossing my arms over my chest.

"What do you mean?" He asked innocently. "'No' what?"

"No, I'm not doing it. You dug your grave, now you can lie in it."

"Samantha, don't be like that!" He whined. "You know the paper was a good shot for you getting
a scholarship. It was a shot for Lance, Meg, and the others, too. Don't take that away from
them!"

"They chose to quit."


"That's because the paper is trash now. But if you came back, we could revolt! Power to the
people, Sam!"

I shook my head. "You're crazy."

"Crazy or brilliant?" He smiled slyly.

I pretended to consider the question. "No, you're just crazy."

"I make sense, though."

"Perhaps"

"Samantha, please? At least promise me you'll think about coming back. I know the others will if
you do; you're nice and smart and people listen to you. You can get everyone to come back and
we can turn things around. Promise me you'll consider it." His green eyes were pleading with
me.

I sighed, relenting. "Fine, I'll think about it. I make no promises, though."

"Thank you!" Clark cried, attempting to throw his arms around me.

"Hey, easy there," I muttered, backing out of his reach.

"Sorry, I just you have no idea how happy this makes me!"
"Oh, I think I have a pretty good idea." I was pretty sure there were tears in his eyes. "I'm gonna
go see if I can find my friends. Later." I waved goodbye to him and melted back into the crowd. I
spied a familiar figure manning the sports area, and debated going over there.

Well, I haven't talked to him since that really weird breakfast yesterday.

Think he's calmed down?

Please. It's David, remember? You never were able to predict his moods. When you expected
him to be cheery, he'd be a bitch on purpose just to piss you off.

Oh, yeah. See, those were the days. The peaceful, uncomplicated days.

The quiet, lonely days?

Those, too.

Hey, even if David complicates things, you can't deny that having him around makes things a lot
more interesting, and fun. Most of the time.

That they do.

Before I had a chance to make a choice all my own, David spotted me and waved me over.

I guess he's feeling less animosity towards me, I mused, making my way to the brightly-coloured
red-and-yellow area of the gym. They were against the back wall, which had a large mural
recently painted on it, of the school and its various teams and clubs. The mural stretched the
whole length of the wall and backed the student council booth, the art department, the drama
department, and the chess club.

"Sam." He nodded, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the table behind him.

"Hi."

Not the coolest of greetings, but nerves were getting in the way of witty retorts. He looked great
in his football uniform and thus, intimidating. Unlike this past weekend, his hair was once
again perfectly tousled and the glasses were replaced by contacts. I was beginning to figure out
there were two Davids. One was the front he presented to the public; the perfectly put-together,
carefree, cool faade that charmed everyone. The other David was a little more insecure, a little
more down-to-earth. Both had their similarities and differences, their strengths and flaws, but
what puzzled me was why someone like David felt he couldn't be himself all the time. He could
clearly charm anyone into anything if he wanted to.

I mean, if he got me to start crushing on him

"Saw you over by the newspaper booth," he said casually, an accusatory glint in his eyes.

"Clark was trying to get me to come back to the paper," I explained, brushing a lock of hair out
of my eyes. "Jealous much?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Are you going to?" He purposely ignored my question.

"I might. I mean, I quit for a reason, but I don't know. If it was like last year I might."

"I remember that time Lance Bentley broke his arm. You covered one of our football games. I
don't think the star player ever got insulted after a winning a game as much as I did in your
article."

I shrugged, hiding a smile. I remembered what he was talking about. He'd spent a week rubbing
his winning play in my face, and after the seventh day, I cracked. I'd had to stay up half the night
to rewrite my entire article, but I ended up subtly bashing him in every paragraph. Clark had
given me a long lecture in journalistic integrity, but it had been well worth it. "I couldn't help it if
you were acting like a self-righteous jerk for a week after you won the game. Of course, you still
act like you're God's gift to football"
"Hey."

I smiled sweetly. "I merely speak the truth."

"Well, if I act like God's gift to football, you act like God's gift to mankind," he replied coolly.

Methinks he missed the whole 'teasing' aspect of me, well, teasing him.

Nah. You think?

"By the way, you still have my sweatshirt." He straightened his jersey, avoiding looking me in
the eyes.

"Oh. Yeah, I do, don't I?" I crossed my legs, looking down at my shoes.

And exactly why are we so shy all of a sudden?

Well, Mr. Moody shot down the whole teasing banter thing. Now, all that's left is me being
nervous around him. Which is foreign in itself, because back in the day when being upset at him
was an everyday kind of thing, I always had a retort for him. He never intimidated me before.

Welcome to the wonderful world of relationships.

"Yeah."

"Right. Well, um, I'll just no, you know what?" I shook my head. "Screw you."

"Excuse me?" His eyes snapped up to meet mine.

Baby, the bitch is back.

"You're mad at me, I get that. And it's totally understandable why, but you're being such an
asshole. We do the yelling thing, and then all of a sudden, we're practically have sex on my bed,
and then you're back to snubbing me. Like, hello, you think I don't feel the least bit guilty over
what I can't believe I actually asked of you? You think I don't feel sorry at all? Oh," I barrelled
on, as he was about to reply, "and then you decide to instigate a lovely round of erotic footsie
with me before going back to being Mr. Cool Cucumber," I finished in a hushed whisper. "You
are so infuriating!" I whacked him on the arm with each syllable.
"You think you're so goddamn superior, don't you?" He murmured angrily, grabbing my hand.
"You think any of this is easy for me? I don't know what the hell it is I'm doing! The last girlfriend
I had was thirteen!"

I couldn't help saying the words that were on the tip of my tongue. "Got a thing for younger girls,
huh?"

He glared at me. "I was thirteen at the time, idiot."

"Oh."

"You know, you act like you're the only one that's going through anything in terms of us."

"I would think that by now, you'd be proficient in the area of relationships. I mean, you're the
nymphomaniac who's been screwing around since before he could walk."

"So I had sex a bunch of times!" He exploded. "That doesn't mean I know shit about how to
please you excluding physically."

"Oh, I think you're giving yourself a little too much credit in that department," I muttered
scathingly, wrenching my hand out of his grasp.

"That's not what you said when we were on your bed the other night," he smirked. "Not that you
said anything much, actually. Mostly you were moaning."
"Like you were any better off, with Junior there standing at attention," I retorted.

"Yeah, well shut up." Rolling my eyes, I stuck out my tongue at him. It was immature, yes, but
when dealing with David, one has to regress to seven years old. "You know, you shouldn't stick
that out unless you plan to use it," he said, his eyes gleaming wickedly.

"Who said I wasn't planning to?" I countered innocently, reaching up to give him a kiss on the
lips. An innocent one, I swear. But somehow, as was becoming common with us, we ended up
playing a lovely game of tongue tag.

Chalk this one up to pent-up frustration both the mental and sexual kind if you'd like. I mean,
I'm usually not so into the whole PDA thing. A chaste kiss of the lips? All right, no problem. A full
on make-out session in front of any and everyone? Not so much. I mean, save that for private
time, know what I mean? I never liked being subjected to watching horny couples groping at
each other in plain view of everyone. Not that David and I were groping. Hand placement was
fairly innocent his arms around my waist, and mine around his neck but I doubted that
having our tongues down each other's throats constituted as behaving decent in public.

Before I became entangled in David, I always had nave, idyllic views about having a boyfriend.
All the relationships in my life were of the crash-and-burn variety, so I never really had a solid
role model in that department, with the exception of Leah's parents. I was over at her house as
often as possible, and her parents were like my own. They still sent me presents at
Christmastime, and were good people in general. They were great to each other, and so from
since I was little, I 'knew' that I wanted someone who was doting and caring and sweet and kind,
and in short, perfect.

Only, you know, as you grow up and meet different people and learn new things, you lose those
clear-cut views of the world. I know things became intensely more complicated after kissing
David. Fourteen-year-old Samantha would probably kick my ass if she found out that she'd be
on a tongue-to-tongue basis with David Weston when she was seventeen. David certainly didn't
fit the mould of perfection I'd carried around in my head for the past several years. I used to
picture instant sparkage and wow-worthy dates, and then the kiss that would send you spiralling
into the heavens.

I certainly didn't envision daily verbal sparring for three years before things suddenly changing
after the summer. I didn't expect a sudden physical attraction for someone I was pretty sure I
loathed, and I definitely didn't expect him to actually genuinely like me. Yet here we were. After
two months of tumultuous courting in that twisted, teenage boy kind of way we had that
intensely scary kiss, and yeah, I probably took a dive headfirst into unknown waters maybe a
little too quickly, but damn it if I'm not a sucker for nice eyes. Besides, this was senior year and
all, and I figured why the hell not?

And I know I had a point to this.

Wait, give me a minute, I'll remember it

Oh yeah. There we go. The point was that nothing about this was the way I thought it would
happen. David wasn't what I envisioned my first boyfriend to be like. Besides the hotness factor.
And the intelligence. And the humour. And the sweetness, of which I was seeing more and more
every day. And the tolerance for Buffy, although that's a given, so that doesn't even count.

(Please. Me, date someone who can't stand the work of the Joss, let alone appreciate it? It's a
laughable thought in itself.)

Okay, so maybe David has some of the characteristics I wanted Prince Charming to have. But
the way I imagined Prince Charming to be, he was a pretty laid-back kind of guy. Not
challenging and impulsive and intimidating like David. Being around David, inhibitions went
straight out the window. Higher thinking took a backseat to physical instincts, and with David, I
had a lot of those. Not all of them were completely innocent, either.

Okay, so none of them were in any way innocent.

But that's the thing. With anyone else, I think I'd feel, well, a little embarrassed and shy to act so
blatantly raw. But not with him. He made me lose control. It was like he encouraged me to act
on my impulses, and I knew that I'd get to a point probably before the school year was up
where I'd lose complete control with him. Whether or not I'd end up regretting it was still a coin
toss, but I didn't figure I would. He had this uncanny way of separating lust from like, yet still
keeping them as one. Like, kissing him when we were both upset at each other, we were driven
by lust, but the affection was still there, underlying. Like we were both too proud and stubborn to
give up fighting even though we wanted to, but kissing under the pretence of just physical
attraction was a way around that, a way to do the boyfriend-girlfriend thing and still stay mad at
each other.
What? You expected our romantic relationship to be any less complicated than our 'platonic'
one?
Please. The answer to the question of who's right and who's just being a stubborn asshole is
one that is forever changing. I suppose that's what keeps things interesting, though.

"You know, there are other ways of getting your brother on the senior team. You don't have to
seduce the star player," David murmured against my lips, playing with my hair and glancing at a
point just past my shoulders.

"All right. I'll keep that in mind the next time Wes Davies is around," I replied, wrapping my arms
around his waist.

"Very funny."

"Mm-hmm, I thought so." He disentangled himself from me and took the smallest of steps
backwards. "David? You are aware that we left the whole concept of cooties back in elementary
school, right? Besides, I think we're long past that."

"It's not that," he said quietly, crossing his arms over his chest.

"What's wrong?"

"Behind you," he murmured in a singsong tone.

Why do I not have a good feeling about this?

Don't turn around. Whatever you do, do not turn around. The badness will not come if you can't
see it.

Your logic astounds me.

I have logic? Coolness.

God, why? Just why?

"Samantha, darling, don't you want to introduce your friend?"

And this would be the part in the story where they'd play that ominous 'dun-dun dun' sounding
music.

"Samantha, don't just stand there. Be polite."


"Yeah, Sam, be polite."

My eyes snapped up to meet David's.

Weston, you're a dead man.

And by the way his eyes flickered just the slightest, I assumed he knew that, too.

"Mommy," I chirped brightly, turning around.

Idiot.

"Samantha, introduce your friend," my mother repeated, still smiling friendly. Her voice,
however, carried a distinct edge.

"Mom, what are you doing here? Not that, you know, I'm not totally ecstatic by this surprise
and it really is a surprise," I chuckled, trying to lead her away from David, "but I thought you
were coming on Wednesday. It's Monday. You're two days early."

"I know, darling, but your sister wanted to come. She's around here somewhere," my mother
said airily, waving her hand dismissively. "But forget about that. Tell me, who's your friend?" Her
eyes snapped back to David. I had to give him props, though. He didn't back down from the
Death Stare.
Yeah, that's what I call it when she looks like she wants to cleave every limb off your body and
feed you to the dogs.

Not that we actually have dogs. But I bet if we did, those bad boys would be well-fed, the way
the guys and I get those looks every time we go home.

"David, this is my mother," I murmured, raking a hand through my hair. "Mom, this is David
Weston."

"And who is David Weston?" She trilled, still giving us that razor-sharp smile.

"The quarterback on our school football team."

"And?"

"And one of the best members on our track team."

"And?"

"And the co-chair for this year's annual school fundraiser."

"And?" She repeated, clearly impatient by now.

Damn it, I'm running out of extra-curricular activities here.

"And the best student in my Chemistry class," I added.

It was true; I could probably get better marks than David in Chemistry, if only Laura would stop
drooling over him and pay attention to what she was actually doing. It occurred to me more than
once that he distracted her on purpose to sabotage my grades. I mean, he did that to me in
tenth-grade English, and there was that one time in ninth grade when the boys' and girls' gym
class were sharing the pool for some inane reason, and he 'accidentally' distracted Erica
Stephenson when we were doing our life-saving test she was the 'victim' I had to save that
she swam off to flirt with him, and I wasted so much time trying to find her that I ended up
failing.

I had to take a re-test. Me! Take a re-test!

Damn bastard.
And we like David again, because?

Smart, hot, funny, sweet, built like a god.

Right, I gotcha.

"Samantha, what else?"

"He's one of the top five students in our school. Second to Ian Hart remember him, Mom?
Why don't we go find Ian, hmm? Let's go say hi to Ian." I tried to drag her away, but she stayed
put.

"Samantha, who is your friend?" She asked slowly, giving me a dangerous look.

Oh crap. She's pissed, she's so pissed. No more beating around the bush.

"Well, that's a very simple question to answer," I chuckled lightly. "See, David, this guy right
here," I gestured to him, stalling for time, "who's name is David, as that is the name he was
given at birth, well, he's my"

David raised an eyebrow, and my mother looked at me expectantly.

"My boyfriend," I finished, barely audibly, the same time David said loudly, "We're in a couple
classes together."
David's voice considerably drowned out my own, but of course, my mother didn't pick up on the
'casual acquaintance' thing.

"Boyfriend?" She was struggling to maintain a friendly, impassive expression. I figured that the
moment I was alone with her, though well, let's just say I was going to have Madison put nine-
one-one on speed dial.

"Well, he's a boy, who's my friend. A boy who's my friend who's in a couple of my classes with
me," I covered, keeping my voice light and casual.

And, you know, who I happen to make-out with every now and again

"And you make it a practice to act so brazen with all of your classmates?"

I think she might have seen you guys sticking your tongues down each other's throats.

Nah you think?

"Just the cute ones," I blurted out, before I could stop myself. To my credit, I did make David
blush, which was something rare in and of itself.

My mother raised her eyebrows, but to her credit, she didn't say anything.

She was probably going through all the places she could hide my body without arousing
suspicion.

"It's nice to see you again," David murmured, sticking out his hand. My mother took it, and over
her shoulder, he gave me a 'What the hell?' look.

'I don't know!' I mouthed back frantically; still unable to believe I'd actually said that to my
mother.

"I think you should know that Samantha's been incredibly stressed out over the annual
fundraiser she's organizing this year," David began, turning on the charm. "She's usually not
quite so-"

"Barefaced?"

"I was going to go with impulsive, but I suppose that works," he replied, chuckling slightly.
"You're Scott's friend, aren't you?" My mother asked, giving David an appraising look. "I
remember you visiting that summer." Her gaze flitted to me for just the briefest of seconds, but
David caught it.

"Yes, I did. But my interest in Sam is more recent than last summer. Being around her so much,
I'm learning that she's an intelligent, warm, fun person. She's good person to have in my life. I
know things would be really crappy without her around."

I smiled. I couldn't help it. It was just a small smile, but it was a smile nevertheless. Not that he
was getting anything more than that out of me. 'Couple of classmates', my crackerjacks.

"You seem mannered enough. Although I wish I could say the same for my daughter." She
looked pointedly at me.

"You could, if you bothered to stop concentrating on every mistake she makes," he muttered
under his breath. I was standing closest to him, and I barely heard him. But my mother? The
woman has ears like a bat. Or a dog or whatever animal has really good hearing.

She raised her eyebrows so far, I thought that they'd disappear into her hairline. "I'm sorry, what
was that?"

"Man, here you are!" Looking up, I saw my sister push a guy twice her size out of her way and
purposefully walk towards us. In her hand, she had a coffee cup, which she promptly handed to
our mother. "I had to go all the way to the other side of the building. That was really
inconvenient," she pouted. "The refreshments should totally be on this side of the building. Hi,
Samantha," she smiled, automatically switching gears and giving me a hug and a kiss on the
cheek. "I like your hair like that. And wow, can you pull off the school uniform or what? I mean, I
totally can't. The shirt fits me like one of Granny's old dresses;
it's doesn't show any shape like yours. Hey, is your friend Madison around? I like her, she's so
funny. And she really knows how to accessorize. Hey, think she'd take me shopping? She
offered to the last time she came."

David widened his eyes and gave me a 'What the hell?' look. I shrugged, not quite knowing the
answer myself.

"Did you take a sip of my coffee?" Mom asked, sighing wearily.

"Just a small one," Amanda replied timidly.

"I see caffeine-induced hyperactivity runs in the family," David smirked. Amanda looked up and
widened her eyes when she saw him.

"Hi," she said brightly, sticking out her hand. "I'm Amanda. You're David, right? Scott's friend? I
remember you from that summer," she added, smiling. "You're friends with the coolest people,"
she added to me, her eyes sparkling.

"Uh huh," I replied, interested in seeing where this was going.

Oh, not even.

To her credit, she doesn't know who David is.

Not really caring much right now. David is mine; M-I-N-E spells mine.

Feeling a mite possessive, aren't we?

Well, I never did like to share.

"Yes, this is Scott's friend. And apparently, your sister's boyfriend," our mother added,
practically spitting out the last word.

"Oh," Amanda said, still smiling. "That's so cool. I remember when you came you guys argued
so much, I figured you had a little something-something on the down low." I blinked, at a loss for
words. "So," she said to David conversationally, "you wouldn't happen to have a younger
brother, would you?"

Mom practically choked on her coffee.


"Three younger sisters, but no brother, sorry," he replied, struggling to hide his smile.

"Oh, that's okay. Any cousins?"

"Amanda!" Mom scolded.

"What?" She asked innocently. "You said, 'Get to know people your age.' How can I do that if I
don't find any people my age? So," she said, turning back to David, "about these cousins of
yours"

"None that go here," he smiled, amused.

"Damn. What about your roommate? You have a roommate, right? I know Madison is
Samantha's."

"Yeah, I have a roommate. He's the same age as your sister, though."

"Aren't you the same age as my sister?"

"Actually, I'm a year older."

"Ten months," I corrected. "Don't get cocky."

"It's practically the same thing, Sam," he replied warily. Well, we have had this argument several
times.
"Actually, there's a two-month difference between a year and ten months, thanks."

"Aw," Amanda chirped, "you guys still argue. It's cute. So if you're a year older, how come you
didn't graduate last year? What, did you fail or something?"

"Amanda!" I reprimanded her.

"What?" She asked innocently. "It's a plausible question. So, did you fail?"

"No, I didn't fail," David replied, still grinning.

"He's in the top five for our grade," I added proudly.

Okay, so maybe he got better marks than me half the time, and maybe I was jealous of him
some of the time, but that didn't mean that I couldn't be proud of him, either.

"So why'd you stay back? Ooh, did you get into a fight and nearly get expelled like Scott? That's
why he had to stay back. Did you kick the crap out of someone, too?"

"Amanda," Mom sighed. "Be polite."

"What? Why does everyone keep calling my name like I did something wrong?" She asked,
biting down on her bottom lip.

"Never mind," our mother said, shaking her head and draining her coffee cup.

"I've been in the same grade as Madison and your sister since I was a kid," David offered,
leaning against the table."

"How come?"

"Amanda," I said gently, "you remember when you were in fourth grade, and your teacher gave
you a list of words, and every week she'd test you on the meanings?"

"Yeah. It really improved my vocabulary," she beamed.

"Right, well, remember the definition of 'tact'?"

She blinked, then looked properly chastised. "Right. I gotcha."


I nodded. "All right, then."

"Sorry," she offered to David, smiling sheepishly.

"You have caffeine in your system. You can't be blamed for your actions. God knows your
sister's the same way," he muttered under his breath.

"Shut up," I murmured, whacking him on the arm.

"Try that again," he challenged.

I shrugged. "All right." Instead of hitting him again, I reached up and tweaked him on the nose.

"You're so childish, you know that?" He asked, tousling my hair.

"You're one to talk," I scoffed.

Yes, I was acutely aware that my mother was watching every action and listening to every word,
but to be quite honest, arguing with David is like a base instinct; it's something that's just so
natural to me, I don't think I could not do it.
"Mo-om, let go! I can find him myself!" All of us turned our heads to the sound of the loud,
feminine whines coming from somewhere in the bustling throng of people mobbing the
gymnasium. A minute later, a dark-haired little girl emerged from the crowd, standing just near
the fringe of it all. She was quickly followed by two teenage girls and a frazzled-looking woman,
who I assumed to be her sisters and mother. The three girls all shared their mother's
appearance: thick, dark hair although the little girl had straighter hair than her sisters and
mother friendly-looking features, bright dark eyes, and full lips. It suddenly struck me who else
had features like that.

I turned to David. "Is that your-?"

"Mom," he called out, cutting me off, waving over the woman and girls. Looking relieved, the
teenagers made their way towards us, with the woman bringing up the rear, tightly holding onto
the smallest girl.

"Why the hell are you all the way back here for?" The taller teenager demanded, giving David a
hug.

"So I can hide from you. Duh."

"Very funny, asshole." She punched him in the middle of his chest, and from the pained
expression on David's face, it looked like she hit him hard, too.

I like this chick. She seems pretty cool.

"Chloe, don't talk to your brother like that," their mother admonished, finally catching up.

"Yeah, don't talk to me like that," David echoed, sticking out his tongue.

"And you, act your age. You're eighteen, for God's sake, David, not eight," Mrs. Weston added
wearily, giving her son a hug.

"Sorry, Mom," he replied, looking properly chastised.

"How's Madison?"

"She's fine. She's around campus somewhere."

"We'll be down here for a week, so tell her to come by and say hi, all right?"
"I will."

"David!" The youngest girl yelled, breaking free of her mother's grasp. She ran towards David
and swung her arms around his waist. I suspected she was Eliza.

"Hey squirt," David grinned, tousling her hair affectionately.

"I'm eleven now, all right? I'm not that little okay, maybe compared to you, but you don't count,
'cause you're a giant. But I'm not that much shorter than she is," Eliza added, pointing to me.

She was about a foot and a half shorter than me.

"Who is she, anyway?" The second teenager asked who, up until now, hadn't spoken and had
only been giving me up-and-down stares. I figured she was Veronica.

"None of your damn business," David replied, making a face at his sister.

"And they say absence makes the heart grow fonder," another voice spoke up sarcastically.
Two more girls made their way towards us. They looked like older versions of their sisters; more
sophisticated and mature.

"Shove it, Elle," David muttered, but gave his sisters hugs anyhow. I figured that the newcomer
with glasses was Lisa, then.
"David? Be polite, honey," Mrs. Weston gently scolded him, glancing in my direction, then
towards Amanda and my mother. Unlike my mother, she sounded merely curious, not accusing.

Getting the hint, he spoke up. "This is Samantha Spade, and her sister and mother," David
answered, gesturing to us.

"And who is Samantha Spade?" Lisa asked, her eyes twinkling.

"None of your damn business," he repeated, narrowing his eyes.

"Is she your girlfriend, David?" Eliza asked, grinning. David began to blush, and by the way my
face was growing warm, I figured I was blushing, too.

"Oh, how cute," Lisa cooed. "David's got a girlfriend!"

"Lisa, act your age, not your shoe size," he sighed.

"It's not like she's the first one," Chloe said, rolling her eyes.

"She doesn't say much, does she?" Veronica added, crossing her arms over her chest.

"That's what you think," David muttered under his breath.

"You girls are horrible," Mrs. Weston murmured, laughing. She leaned over and gave me a
quick hug. "It's nice to meet you, honey. Excuse the girls; it's not often they get a chance to bug
their brother."

"It's all right," I smiled. "And it's nice to meet you, too." Mrs. Weston smiled and moved over to
introduce herself to my mother, so I was left at the mercy of the Weston girls.

At least I had my sister.

Which, to be honest, was actually of little comfort at that moment.

"So you're Samantha, huh?" Elle asked, giving me an appraising look. "We've heard a lot about
you."

"Have you, now?" I raised an eyebrow at David.


"Hey, where do you think you're going?" Lisa demanded, grabbing the back of David's jersey as
he was trying to sneak away. She turned to Eliza. "If he moves, kick him in the 'you-know-
where'. Odds are he's not wearing a cup." Eliza nodded seriously, and David paled.

I would have laughed at that, but I was too busy watching my sister and Veronica size each
other up. It looked like a potential bloodbath was going to happen.

Or a replay of the episode of America's Next Top Model that came on the other night.

Amanda and Veronica were staring each other down, little scowls on their face. I wondered why
there was such an instant dislike, because from the looks of them, they could have been friends.
They both dressed the same: too-tight pants, too-small shirt, and makeup that would have
looked fine on someone my age, I supposed. But on them? Well, yeah, they looked like they
could be seventeen, but I don't count that as of the good when you're barely fourteen.

Veronica caught me staring and turned her sour expression from my sister to me. "Yeah? If
you've got something to say, then say it. Don't stare at me like you're a frickin' fish or
something."

"Don't talk to her like that," Amanda and David snapped together.

Oh Lordy
I fished around in my pocket and pulled out my wallet. "Mandy," I called, tossing it to her. She
caught it and turned to me with a puzzled expression. "Go get me a coffee, would you?"

She hesitated, before nodding and walking away.

"Don't mind Ron," Elle drawled. "She's not a people person."

"Screw you all," she muttered, before stalking off and melting into the crowd.

"Eliza, go tell Mommy that Ron disappeared," Lisa ordered. "And borrow her cell and call Dad to
see if he found a damn parking space yet, all right?" Eliza nodded and ran over to our mothers,
who, at least, seemed to be getting along.

I blinked, stunned. "Well, that was definitely interesting."

"Well, we need one nutcase in the family, I suppose," Chloe murmured, scanning the crowd for
her sister.

"In your case, you guys have two," I cracked.

I couldn't help it. I swear it's like an instinct.

"Very funny," David replied dryly, crossing his arms over his chest.

"I like this girl," Lisa beamed, throwing an arm around my shoulder. Which was kind of hard for
her seeing as I was about three inches taller. But hey. "Why have you never displayed the
common sense to get with this girl before?"

"All those twittering imbeciles we had to endure," Elle added, leaning against the table. "I mean,
really, little brother. I know teenaged boys are supposed to be controlled by the lower part of
their anatomy, but honestly."

"Shut up, Danielle."

"Hey, only Mom and Dad can get away with that shit." She sighed. "At least you've finally found
a girl who's got looks and a vocabulary that contains more words than she can count on her
fingers."
"You, little brother, truly are an idiot," Lisa sighed dramatically, joining her sister by the table. "I
mean, you whine and bitch and complain about this girl for three years I'm of course assuming
that this is the same girl who totally kicked your ass in the final school standings last year. Props
on that, by the way," she added, winking at me.

"But," Danielle continued, "instead of going after someone really worthwhile like her, you date
worthless, flavour-of-the-week twits who are probably only good for a fuck."

"Hey," David said, narrowing his eyes.

"You know, I'll never understand men," she sighed, oblivious to David's glare. "I'll never
understand why the male mind works the way it does. Instead of substance, you go for big racks
and stick-bodies. It makes no sense to me."

"You're starting to sound like Chloe," David muttered. "Anyway, are you finished bashing the XY
population, or can me and Sam leave?"

"'Me and Sam'," she scoffed. "First of all, little brother, it's 'Sam and I'. Second of all, I think she
can make her own decisions."

"Yeah," I echoed. "I can make my own decisions." David threw up his hands in frustration.

"I do believe the girl's made her choice," Elle said happily, throwing an arm around my shoulder
and leading me towards a corner. "If you want to go so much, little brother, be our guest. It's
girls only, anyway."

"Isn't that sexual discrimination of some kind?" He asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
Elle and Lisa traded looks. "Yeah, probably," the oldest Weston shrugged, turning her back on
him.

"Fine, so you're just going to leave me, huh? Well, don't I at least get a hug or something?"

Lisa sighed loudly. "Fine, you little attention whore," she muttered, throwing her arms around
him. "Are you happy?"

"Actually, I was talking to Miss Suicidal over there, because that's what you gotta be, Sam, if
you're going off with these two without me. But thanks, Lise."

"Loser," she said, rejoining her sister's side.

"We still need to talk," he reminded me, coming up close.

Invasion of personal space much?

Oh, you know you love it.

"I know."

"Tonight?"

"If I can survive today?" I glanced towards where our mothers were talking. "Then I'll probably
be unconscious from exhaustion. Tomorrow?"

"Busy. Wednesday?"

"Busier. Thursday?"

"Probably still gonna be passed out from Wednesday."

"Lovely. How about Friday, then?"

"It's a date. Your room or mine?"

"Seducing the poor girl already, little brother? How deviously dastardly of you, David," Elle
called out.

"Mind your own damn business," he muttered, flipping her off. "Anyway, like we were saying?"
"How about my room? Afterward, we can watch a movie or something with Madison and the
guys."

"Look, I gotta wait until Friday until I can be legitimately not-pissed with you again. I really don't
wanna chill with you and Mads and Hart and Scott. My room. Eight."

"I love how you're telling me and not asking me," I replied sarcastically.

"Oh, you'll be there," he said confidently, crossing his arms over his chest.

I rolled my eyes. "You're so goddamn conceited, you know that? I mean, what if I already had
plans, huh?"

"You don't."

"What, you think you're so irresistible that I'll drop everything just to get a couple of hours of
alone time with you?"

"Who said anything about 'hours'?" He grinned. "Maybe I just wanted a couple minutes alone so
we could go about our business without anyone butting in. But hours, huh, Sam? Got something
else in mind than just making up?"
"Yeah. Severely hurting you."

"Just remember, baby; I like it rough," he murmured, his voice low.

I rolled my eyes. "You are so unbelievably perverted. God, just get laid already."

"You offering?" Grinding my teeth in frustration, I glared at him. "Ah, come on, babe. Don't do
that. It'll ruin your enamel."

"You are so impossible."

"But that's why you like me, isn't it? I'm the only one of these pricks that won't take your bullshit."

"How in the hell did you get such an inflated ego?"

"Huh, good question. Let's see; good-looking, smart, athletic, great sex drive" He put on an
expression of pretend confusion. "I really don't know, to tell you the truth."

"Oh, shut up. You know, you really should give 'modesty' a try for a change."

"'Modesty'? Hell, is that word even in my vocabulary?"

"Apparently not," I replied wryly.

"Look, I'm not being conceited. Just honest. Like I am when I say you wanna kiss me right now."

"As if," I ground out, glaring at him in disdain.

"Oh, fine. Make out with me. Big difference."

I shook my head. "You know what? You need a serious reality check. Not every person on the
earth lives to praise you up and down. You're not the center of anyone's universe but your own
little imaginary one, and you sure as hell-"

Sighing impatiently, David took one final step toward me and covered my mouth with his. The
kiss was quick; it felt like it barely lasted a second, but it must have been long enough for
David's sisters to see, because they made with the obnoxious cheering.

"So, Friday at eight?" He asked, placing a hand on my waist.


"No." David raised an eyebrow. "Friday at seven. Curfew's at ten," I reminded him.

"Mmm, that it is. So what could we possibly do that would keep us busy for three hours?" He
asked innocently, a wicked gleam in his eyes.

"Oh, I'm sure your sick, twisted little mind will come up with something," I muttered.

"How do you feel about bondage?" That inane question earned him a punch on the arm. "What?
I'm just trying to broaden my horizons here, seek new experiences-"

"If one more word comes out of your mouth, I will not be held responsible for my actions," I
warned him. Looking over his shoulder, I saw a tall man of about David's height emerge from
the crowd and make a beeline for where our mothers were standing. "Hey, is that your father?"
David turned his head, but said nothing. "Fine, you can talk," I sighed.

"Then yeah, that's my dad. Guess he finally found a parking space."

"Shall we go and say hello?" I asked, as David's sisters rushed toward us.

"No need, if they're coming over here."


"Oh, this can't be good," I muttered.

"How do you figure?"

"My mom. She's smiling."

"Ah."

"I hate to break up you two lust bunnies, but can we have a word with Samantha? Great,
thanks," Elle interjected, before either David or I could say a word. With a surprisingly strong
grip on my arm, she dragged me towards her other sister, who was waving to her father. "Lise,
look alive, huh?"

"Davie actually gave her up without a fight?" Lisa asked, raising an eyebrow in incredulity.

"Didn't give him the chance to put up one," Elle smirked.

"Nice. Okay, so long story short," Lisa began, rounding on me. "We were gonna do the whole
girly-bonding thing before we got to this, but my dad's here, and seeing as the two of us drove
here separately, we haven't seen our dad in like, ages, and-"

"Get to the point, Lise," Elle sighed, crossing her arms.

"Oh, right. Well, here's the thing, Samantha can I call you Sam?"

"Knock yourself out. Only, not literally," I added. "Our old neighbour used to take that line
seriously," I added off their looks. "There are only so many times you can accidentally make a
person give himself a concussion without feeling the least bit guilty."

Elle and Lisa traded looks. "Well, she's definitely weird enough," Lisa muttered.

"What my little sister and I are trying to say," Elle interjected, cutting to the chase, "is that David
seems to really like you. And it seems like you like him, too."

"I do," I nodded, not quite sure where they were going with this. "Not completely sure why, but I
do."

"Great. So here's the thing: Hurt him, and you'll seriously regret it." I blinked, taken aback.
Lisa punched her sister on the arm. "What this tactless idiot means is, we don't want to see
anything bad happen to him. He may be eighteen and shit, but he's still our baby brother. He
might think he's invincible, but he's really not, so please, don't turn out to be one of those
shallow, insipid sluts whom he usually dates. Please show him that he's worth more than that,
all right?"

"All right," I murmured.

"We've never really understood why he thinks he can't do better, because he so totally can. And
I think he has."

"You're putting a lot of faith into someone you've only known for fifteen minutes," I replied.

"There are some things about a person you can just tell right away. I think you're a good person,
and I don't know what your experiences with guys are, but I know David, and I know he can be
a little temperamental sometimes, and really, really annoying, but he's really a good guy, and he
does have some really great qualities."

"I know."

"Above all else, please promise that you'll be his friend first and foremost. With the exception of
Madison and Scott, he doesn't have very many people who are really his friend."

I nodded again. "I promise."

Lisa and Elle traded looks. "All right, you can go now," the older Weston sister said dismissively.
"I okay." Vaguely confused and a little overwhelmed, I walked back over to David's side. The
parentals were already there, and David made with the formalities and introduced me to his
father, who greeted me as warmly as his wife did. Amanda having returned with my coffee and
Veronica reappearing from wherever she'd gone off to were just in time to hear the lovely news
my mother shared with all of us.

"Sonia and I thought it would be a lovely idea to get to know each other better, seeing as how
Samantha and David are dating,so we're all having dinner together on Friday evening."

See? Like I said: horrifying. But it was nothing compared to the actual dinner Friday night.

Chapter Twenty-One: Dinner with the Devil

The only thing that didn't turn that dinner into complete warfare was Scott, God bless his sweet
soul. Since Adam hadn't come up to the school that day, and my mother had never said one
rude thing to Scott in her life, she let it slide when he invited Madison and Ian and their families
without so much as a second glance towards her. Mr. Weston was all for it, anyway, so it wasn't
like my mom could shoot Scott's idea down without coming off like a jackass.

Having already met David's parents who were both way too nice and laid-back to be West
Indian I was only nervous about how four different families would interact with each other. I
already knew that there was tension between Amanda and Veronica, and I figured that with
about ten teenagers and five children, chaos would be had.

Wednesday and Thursday nights were spent choosing the perfect outfit. Oh, fine, watching
Madison choose the perfect outfit and vetoing anything that was revealing in any way.

"Look, do you want to look like you're seven, or seventeen?" Madison asked exasperatedly,
after the tenth rejection.

"I don't want to look like I should be wearing a sign with the words 'Hello, I'm an enormous slut'
painted on it," I countered, digging through her closet.

"You're no fun," she muttered, throwing yet another dress back into the recesses of my closet.

"How about this for you?" I asked, holding up a white knee-length dress.
"No, I would not like to be today's virgin sacrifice, thanks." I stuck out my tongue and continued
on my mission. Our deal was that I would find something tame enough for a dinner-with-the-
family for her, and she'd find something eye-catching enough for the inevitable make-out
session with David that would follow the Dinner from Hell, as I was fondly calling it.

We finally agreed on a blue spaghetti-strap knee-length dress for her and a pale yellow off-the-
shoulder shirt for me, with excess fabric hanging over the chest area. We complimented that
with a just-above-knee-length black skirt, and for once, we found something for me to wear that
we both completely agreed on.

"You know," I commented, as I struggled to pile my hair on top of my head so that I could clip it
into a bun, "for a tomboy, I sure am wearing a lot of cleavage-y shirts and shit lately. I blame
your girly influences."

"That shirt shows like, zero cleavage. Okay, maybe a little, but it's just a tiny bit. And you're not
a tomboy," Madison replied, brushing out her hair. "You were just never into the whole makeup-
and-skirts thing."

"Never had a reason to be."

"Until David." To that I stuck out my tongue. "Well, it's the truth, isn't it? I mean, not that you
need makeup, but the figure-flattering clothing definitely isn't kill you I don't even know why
you refused to wear pretty clothes, 'cause you can find things that look nice and are
comfortable, too, you know and the only reason you got into it was at first to subconsciously
tease David, I think, because I think you secretly always liked the attention you got from him."

"Yeah, well"

"It's nothing to be embarrassed about. He's a good-looking guy who paid more attention to you
than he did to a lot of the other girls that are his 'type'. And that was even when he wasn't
completely Jack about you."
I frowned. "Jack about me?"

"Jack Titanic? Honestly, Sam." She shook her head. "Watch a movie once in a while."

"I'll have you know that I watch a lot of movies. It's not my fault if there are a million guys in the
world with the name 'Jack', and wait." I paused for a moment. "We're seriously talking Titanic
here?"

"We seriously are. At first, it was just mild intrigue. After all, except for me and his sisters, I think
you're the only girl who refuses to back down to him. It's so pathetic to see girls go all
submissive just because a guy's cute. Oh my God, I remember the first day you came. Amy
Adams was a year ahead of us so she was in tenth grade at the time and she comes into to
the squad meeting all shocked. We were like, 'What's wrong with you?' And she goes, 'Some
other new chick just came, and David Weston hit on her, and she told him to go to hell.' People
thought you were seriously crazed after that. Well, the girls, anyway."

"That explains a lot, actually," I mused, giving up on my hair and opting to leave it out.

"I'm serious when people thought you were just a few pennies short of a dollar. And David was
confused as hell. Pissed off, too, 'cause after coming here, he got used to girls falling at his feet.
So, naturally, I had to find out who this new girl was, convince the headmaster to make her my
roommate, and get her I mean you and David to fall madly in love with each other. After all,
you guys do fit so very well together."

"What?"

"Well, no, I lie. The plotting to get you and David together came after I actually met you. It was
just the idea that formed after David's fuming and ranting. I just can't believe that it took three
frickin' years to actually happen, though. I mean, damn are you people stubborn or what?"

"Three years?"

"If only you guys weren't so stubborn."

"Madison, you've been playing matchmaker since I came here?"

She smiled sheepishly. "Just a little bit."


I shook my head. "At least that explains why you always had to include the both of us in stuff. I
always figured you didn't want one of us to feel left out."

"Well, that too. Mostly it was to get you guys to get past first impressions. I mean, I knew you
were both good people, who are actually strangely similar. I just needed you to know that, too.
Funny how David caught on first, though," she mused aloud, talking more to herself than to me.
"You always figure it's the girl that gets infatuated first."

"David was infatuated with me?" I asked, as we grabbed our jackets and slipped on our shoes
in my case, a pair of strappy black three-inch heels that Madison wouldn't take 'I'm going to fall
and break my ankle' for an answer. "How so?"

"Mostly, he wouldn't stop talking about how annoying and irritating you were, and how you
always had to do this and that and blah-blah-blah this about Samantha, and blah-blah-blah
that."

"Oh, yes, I can just feel the love," I remarked sarcastically.

"No, you misunderstand," she replied animatedly. Get Madison started on a subject and the girl
can chat for hours. "He would not shut up about you. It was so cute! He would always be able to
find some way to steer the conversation back towards you. Funny thing is I don't think he even
realized what he was doing at first. When his cousin Camille called him on it, he gave her that
look."

"What look?" I asked, shivering slightly as we made our way across school grounds towards the
parking lot. We'd all decided beforehand that we would take two cars so that in case things got
too intense and one or two people couldn't stay, the rest had a ride back up to school.

"The same look you gave me that summer when we all ended up staying at your house, and the
guys snuck out to go clubbing and Ian came to hang out with us and when we asked how come
he wasn't with David and Scott he said that they brought girls
back to the pool house and you got upset, and I suggested that you were jealous and you
looked at me like I had two heads. That look, remember that one?"

"V-vaguely," I replied slowly, still trying to process everything that she'd said. When Madison
starts on one of her tangents, she ends up talking really fast to point where it's like if you lose
concentration for one second, you've missed half of what she's said. I'm becoming more
proficient at keeping up with her, but I still can't compare to David. Their friendship has always
amazed me; I think it's really rare for a guy and a girl to be so close, yet to just remain friends
(Fine, I admit it; I had a little crush on Ian in ninth grade, but I got over that pretty quickly, and to
be honest, it's weird-bordering-on-uncomfortable to think of him as anything more.).

"Right. Well, that was the same look he gave Camille when she suggested he had feelings for
you. Took him a little while to admit that she was right. I think it was about two weeks, if I rightly
recall. Yeah, it was, 'cause those were the two weeks leading up to the semi-formal, and you
were all relaxed 'cause for once he wasn't bugging you, and he was all pensive and broody."

"Oh. I think I know when you're talking about. Damn, those were the most peaceful two weeks
I've ever had."

"Yeah, I mean, you were in such a good mood, we actually managed to convince you to get
dressed up."

"You act like it was the first time I'd ever worn a dress."

"Just the first time you wore one without a fight."

"Everyone was really in a good mood that night," I recalled.

"Yeah, we all were. Even David snapped out of his mood. And, if I correctly recall, you weren't
even upset after seeing the bunny ears David gave you when we took that picture."

I shrugged. "The five of us had a lot of fun that night. Kind of like prom with training wheels,
know what I mean?" We were nearing the parking lot, and it was plainly obvious that we were
the last to arrive.

"Oh my God, can you imagine what prom's going to be like?"


"It shouldn't be too different from semi-formal. Except there won't be any junior kids running
around and starting up food fights."

"Yeah, that was totally of the ick."

"Good thing the teachers stopped it before things got too out of hand. But anyways, I'm more
worried about the after-parties for prom."

"I'm more worried about getting a dress. There are only so many dress shops in town, and
there's our high school and the public school to account for."

"What're you guys talking about?" Ian ventured as we neared my car. He was leaning against
the passenger door, his hands in the pocket of his black leather jacket. Yep, Ian was wearing
leather. He looked like all kinds of cool, to be quite honest. His hair was gelled up, he wore a
pair of crisp-looking khakis, and he had on shiny black dress shoes.

"We seriously have to start some serious browsing, Sam," Madison continued, oblivious to the
fact that we'd been the last ones to arrive at the parking lot. "I am not wearing off-the-rack for
prom."

"What the hell?" Scott asked, frowning in confusion. He was sitting on the trunk of his car
(which was parked next to mine), and was also decked out in his casual best: white shirt, black
blazer, and black dress pants. I figured that the bright red Adidas were his way of rebelling,
though.

"Prom dresses," I whispered to him.

"Oh," he replied knowingly.

"Isn't the prom in June?" Alan asked, puzzled, sliding off the trunk of my car. Little bro had his
hair slicked back and even ironed his pants, but had taken to wearing the rattiest pair of
sneakers he owned. Guess Scott gave him some outfit pointers.
"It's never too early to start prom dress-shopping," Madison replied seriously, sliding into the
front passenger seat of my car, after I'd tossed her the keys to get in.

"Is that what you two have been talking about all the way here?" David asked, leaning against
the driver's door of my car.

"What, you don't say 'hi' anymore?" I asked, nudging him aside so that I could get in. In reply, he
oh-so-maturely stuck out his tongue at me. "Darlin', don't stick that out unless you plan to use
it," I advised him, flicking his nose. Raising an eyebrow, he stuck out his arms on either side of
me and pinned me between him and the car. Or foreheads were touching and he moved his
hands from the car to rest on my waist.

"Hi," he murmured, his lips mere millimetres from mine.

"Hi," I replied quietly, feeling just the slightest bit light-headed from the scent of his cologne. It
was a really, really nice smell.

"All right, you damn lust bunnies, break it up before we're late, okay?" Scott muttered, sliding
into his car.

David shrugged. "All right." As if nothing was about to happen, he left me leaning against my car
and went over to ride shotgun beside Scott.

"Tease," I called out to his retreating back.

"That was a little payback for that time on the bleachers," he replied.

"What time on the bleachers?" Madison and Scott asked in unison.

Shaking my head and suppressing a small smile, I (finally) made it into my car and started up
the ignition. I let Scott pull out of the parking lot before me, then followed him for most of the
half-hour trip, occasionally pulling ahead for a while. As we neared the hotel where our parents
were all staying, it was clear that tensions were mounting.

Madison had called David on her cell after about two minutes from when we'd left, and both of
them had the other on speakerphone so that all six of us could talk. Only most of us really didn't
do much talking besides the odd 'You still there?' Madison was uncharacteristically silent, which
meant that she was uncharacteristically nervous, which freaked me out even more than I
already was. David was the only one who prattled away like it was any other venture into town.

"Okay, so who wants to hear a joke?" He spoke up, as we were pulling onto Main Street, Scott
in the rear.

"You want a joke?" I muttered, becoming increasingly agitated with every second that was
passing. "Go look in a mirror."

"What's the joke?" Ian asked loudly.

"Okay, so there's this married woman, right, and she's having an affair. So one day, her son
comes home early and sees her in bed with her illicit lover. Before either his mother or the lover
can see him, the boy ducks into a nearby closet. Not too long after, the husband comes home,
and the wife hides her lover in the same closet as her son, not knowing the boy is in there."

"Why do I have a bad feeling about where this is going?" Alan piped up.

"Anyways, so the little boy goes, 'Sure is dark in here.' 'Yep,' says the lover. So then the boy
offers to sell the lover his baseball. The lover declines, but the boy reminds him that his father is
right outside. The lover asks how much the ball will cost, and the boy replies, 'Two hundred fifty.'
Having no other choice, the lover pays the boy two hundred and fifty dollars for the baseball."

"That's not funny," Madison remarked. "That's really sad. Or really impressive, depending on
how you look at it."

"The joke's not done yet," David replied impatiently. "Okay, so the next day, the same thing
happens again. 'Sure is dark in here,' the boy says, and the lover agrees. This time, the boy
offers to sell the lover his baseball glove. Remembering what happened the previous day, the
lover just asks how much he has to pay, and the boy tells him the price is seven hundred and
fifty dollars. With no other choice, the lover buys the glove. Now, the next day, the father is
home and calls his son. 'Come on, Son,' he says. 'Get your ball and glove and let's go play
some baseball.' 'I don't have my things,' the boy replies. 'Why not?' 'Because I sold them.' 'How
much did you sell them for?' 'One thousand dollars.' At these words, the father gets upset. 'Son,
you cheated your friends. That's not fair, that's not how you were raised. Come, I'm taking you
to church to confess your sins."
By now, we were pulling into the hotel parking lot. Madison, Alan, and I got out first, and waited
for Scott, Ian, and David to follow suit. Silently, the six of us marched into the hotel.

"Wait a minute," Madison spoke up, stopping us in the lobby.

"What's wrong?" Scott asked.

"The joke, how does it end?"

David grinned. "The father puts the boy in the confessional booth and closes the door. 'Sure is
dark in here,' says the boy. 'Not that shit again,' says the priest." David looked at us expectantly.
We shook our heads and cracked up, trying to keep our laughter down.

"May I help you?" The desk clerk asked, giving us all disapproving frowns.

"Can you direct us to the hotel restaurant, please?" Ian asked politely, ignoring the Look that we
were all getting.

"And may I enquire as to why you'd like directions to the hotel restaurant?"

"You may," Madison replied, "if you wish. But we're running a bit late, so if you could help us out
here?"

"Down the hall on your right, second door on your left," a passing bell-hop called out.

"Thanks, man," Alan said, leading the way.

"Hey," I whispered to David, stopping him. "Thanks."

"What for?"

"The joke. Stupid as it was, I think we all needed a good laugh to ease our nerves."

"You definitely looked like you needed a good laugh to ease your nerves," he whispered back.
"You looked like you were gonna run over anyone that got in your way when we were coming
down Main Street."

"I'm really scared," I confessed with a little laugh.


"Don't be," David assured me, giving me a quick hug. "We're just going to sit down, have
something nice to eat, and chill out with our parents for a couple of hours. What could happen?"

Rule of thumb in life? Never ever ask, 'What could happen?' Because then you might just get
the answer.

Three hours. That was how long we had to play the part of the perfect children. All in all for the
first two and a half hours, it wasn't that bad. Ian's little siblings were a delight to meet again, and
Amanda had wisely lain off the caffeine for the evening. Veronica seemed to have decided not
to speak at all, to which David looked relieved. His other sisters weren't quite so quiet, but they
weren't as outspoken as they had been on Monday.

The adults complimented us all on how nice we looked, and I took particular pleasure in the fact
that David found it hard to go ten minutes without sneaking a glance at me from across the table
(yes, our parents had wisely placed us across from each other instead of beside), and although
our respective sisters seemed to catch every time our eyes met, they didn't say a word.
Madison, of course, had to gloat.

"Told you yellow was your colour," she smirked, passing me a dish of some kind of pasta with
thick, creamy-looking sauce.

"Yeah, well red is really his," I murmured back, making her stifle a small laugh. For once,
David's usually-unruly hair was tamed and spiked up with some gel. The dress shirt and dress
pants were nothing out of the ordinary, but they did fit him exceptionally well, and the crimson
colour of shirt really suited him.
"Don't stare so much," she advised, nudging my foot under the table after a full minute had
passed before I looked away from David. "Your parents are going to see."

"Forget them," I whispered back. "Is it like, normal, for a guy to make you all light-headed and,
um"

"Excited?" She supplied dryly.

"Sure, yeah, that just by looking at you?"

Madison shook her head and grinned. "Sam, you having raging hormones is unbelievably
amusing, did you know that?"

"I'm glad one of us is getting some entertainment out of this," I replied dryly.

"One day, you're going to look back on this and laugh."

"Alas, that day is not today. Right now, I'm feeling pretty confused, a little embarrassed by the
way David keeps staring at me, and a little guilty that I'm enjoying it."

"By the way he's looking at you," Madison observed, "I'd say he's hungry for more than just the
food." Unfortunately for me, Madison made that comment while I had water in my mouth.

"Samantha!" My mother reprimanded me, as Madison started to violently slap me on the back.

"Sorry," I coughed weakly, giving Madison a dirty look.

"I'm just grateful you didn't spit up over the food."

"I almost choked, and you're more concerned about the food?" I asked, feeling something inside
me snap. That one throwaway comment was the last straw.

"Samantha, stop being so melodramatic," my mother sighed, as though I were being nothing
more than a petulant child. That alone incensed me more.

"I'm not being melodramatic, Mom. Is it too much to ask to have you care a little about what
happens to me every now and then?"
"Samantha, sit down and behave yourself," she said quietly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw
David and Madison trade anxious looks with each other.

"It's always 'sit down and be quiet' or something like that with you, isn't it?"

"Sam," Madison whispered urgently.

"Samantha, listen to your friend and behave. This is neither the time nor the place."

"No, I think this is the perfect time. I mean, this is the first time in years that I have your
complete and undivided attention, so why not make the most of it?"

Yes, I was aware that the private room in which we all sat was deathly silent, and that all eyes
were on me and my mother, but I was beyond caring.

"You're making a fool of yourself, Samantha."

"Truthfully? I really don't give a rat's behind."

Okay, so yeah, it might've been more effective if I'd used a swear word or two, but there were
children present, after all.
"Watch your language."

"I didn't swear. Funny, though, how you can always pick up on the things I do wrong, and never
acknowledge what I do right. For as long as I can remember, I tried to be perfect, tried to be
the best in anything, in everything, just so you could say, 'I'm proud of you'." I laughed
sardonically. "Talk about throwing your life away. Sports were useless, right? So I quit soccer in
tenth grade, so I could become even more of a bookworm than I already was. But hey, a ninety-
three percent average isn't enough to please you, is it? Neither was practically giving up my
childhood to help you take care of the twins. I mean, thank heavens for Leah, or I would have
gone completely insane."

"I think she already is," Ian's younger brother whispered to his older sister, who nodded
vehemently.

"Samantha, I suggest you leave this table before you make an even bigger mistake than you
already are," my mother said, rising from the table, her arms crossed over her chest. She looked
extremely close to her breaking point, and the funny thing was, I didn't give a flying fuck.

"How about no? How about, instead, we talk about you shipping me off three hours north just
so you wouldn't have to deal with me? I mean, that was easier than talking to a thirteen-year-old
girl about how she was feeling after her mother just remarried and her entire life got turned
upside down, right? I mean, why bother to just deal with the problem, when you can send it
away and be rid of it?" I, too, rose from my seat and crossed my arms over my chest; I refused
to let her tower over me.

"Apparently, it was a mistake to send you here. Look what you turned into."

"A person who's self-reliant, hardworking, opinionated and independent?" I asked innocently.
"No, of course you wouldn't say that. I actually can't remember the last time I got an actual
compliment from you."

"With good reason. Look at the way you behave. Did I raise you to act like this?"

"You didn't raise me at all," I laughed sadly. "My friends raised me. I raised myself."
"And look how well you turned out," she muttered. "Look at the way you dress, look at the way
you act with that boy. He and that roommate of yours have had such a bad influence on you. It
was a big mistake sending you up here with Scott."

"Hey," Madison muttered indignantly, crossing her arms over her chest. David just scowled.

No, wait, I lie. Bringing my friends into the picture was the final straw.

"He is not that boy, and she is not that roommate," I said furiously, indicating them. "Their
names are David and Madison, and they have nothing to do with this, so leave them alone.
They are good people, who've given me more caring and affection in the past two weeks than
I've gotten from you in the past two years. Madison's always looked out for me, and I mean,
even when he was an annoying jerk, David liked me. You may be my mother, but I don't think
you ever have. Liked me, I mean. And don't even start on Scott. He's been the most amazing
older brother and friend, and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else than here with him. Madison
and Ian are two of my best friends, and David is far more than just 'that boy', and you do not get
to talk about them like that!" I added, finally raising my voice.

I winced slightly when the palm of her hand connected with my cheek. Refusing to rub it to
sooth the burning sensation I was feeling, to show any more signs of weakness, I stared her
straight on.

"You do not get to talk to me like that," she said slowly. "I am your mother, and-"

"Do you even know what it means to be a mother? Like, at all? It's more than just giving a kid
food and shelter, you know."

"Well, Samantha, since you're so smart, enlighten me."

"You're the 'mother'," I said, with air quotes and all. "Why don't you tell me?"

Scowling, she pointed at the door. "Leave."

I threw my napkin down on the table and couldn't resist a lopsided grin. "I think that's the nicest
thing you've ever said to me." I strode out of the private room and stopped at the front of the
restaurant to get my jacket and actually made it all the way to the
lobby before hurt and anger overcame my momentary rush of triumph for sticking up for myself
and sticking it to my mom. My head was starting to hurt something fierce, and all I wanted to do
was lie down and sleep for a really, really long time; it was like all my energy was drained.

Making my way to the front desk, I pulled the credit card I'd kept on me for emergencies and
pushed it across the desk.

"Yes?" The desk clerk asked. Unfortunately, it was the same person that was at the desk when
I'd first come in with the others.

"Can I get a room for a couple of hours, please?" I asked wearily.

"How old are you?" He asked.

"Old enough."

"I'm sorry, can I see some ID? Because you have to be at least eighteen to rent a room."

"Look," I began slowly, staring him straight in the eye, "I'm a grade twelve student up at the
boarding that's a half hour from here. I'm tired, I feel like shit, and I am in no position to drive. All
I want is a room for a few hours so I can sort some stuff out, all right?"

"You have to be eight-"

"Please. I'm totally not up to begging right now, and," I glanced out the window, "the weather is
complete crap. If I have to, I'll go somewhere else, but please-"

"Fine," he snapped, taking my credit card. After a couple of second of typing away, he sighed.
"Single bed?"

"Uh huh."

"Look, you should know that if you only want the room for a couple of hours, we charge per
night, so-"

"It's fine," I waved my hand dismissively, practically grabbing the key out of his hand. "You
totally rock," I called back, sprinting towards the elevator. As I pressed the button for my floor, I
heard a deep voice calling my name, but I wasn't sure whether it was Ian, Scott, or David. Two
elevators came down at that moment. Wanting to be alone for a while, I ran into one and
pressed all the floor buttons, then slipped into the second one just before a head of dark hair
rounded the corner. As my elevator door closed, I heard a loud string of swearing.

Yeah, it's either David or Scott.

When I made it to room three-fourteen, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the room was not
only verily pretty, but that it had a balcony, as well. Throwing my jacket on a nearby chair and
kicking off my shoes, I ran sock-footed out onto the balcony, revelling in the rain that was
pouring down. For some strange reason, the rain was as warm as it was in late spring, as
opposed to the near sleet-like shit we usually had in November. Leaning forward against the
railing, I stared out into the grey-black sky and let my thoughts drift away. I closed my eyes and
let the rain just fall, but it wasn't too long until I was brought back to earth.

"Sam?" Furious thumping sounding at the door.

Inwardly I groaned. David, you're gonna give me a bigger headache than the one I already
have.

"Sam? C'mon, Samantha. Open, please. I know you're in there. This is the only room that
someone hasn't come out of looking like they wanna drop my ass." Sighing, and partly shivering
from the rain, I ran back into the room and opened the door before he could leave. His fist was
poised in mid-thump. When he saw me, he raised an eyebrow. "Are you trying to drown yourself
or something?"

"Screw you," I muttered, pulling at his wrist. He looked over my shoulder, closing the door and
locking it behind him.

"Were you on the balcony?"


"Uh huh."

"And you realize that it's raining, right?"

"Yeah."

He shrugged. "All right, then." He kicked off his shoes and followed me out onto the balcony.

"You know, you can stay inside. I wouldn't want you ruin your nice shirt or catch a cold or
something."

"I have plenty of nice shirts and I haven't caught a cold since I was three. Besides, you ruined
your shirt. I mean, it's all transparent now." He grinned wickedly. "I think I like it better like this."

I punched him on his arm. "You pervert."

"Ah, you know you like it. Anyway, if I go inside, who'll stay to keep you warm?" He added,
wrapping his arms around me.

"There's that," I conceded. We were silent for a moment, until a clap of thunder made me jump.

"You wanna go back in?" He asked quietly.

I shook my head. "I like it out here."

"Sure? It looked like the thunder scared you."

"Nah, it just startled me. Lightning's the thing that really freaks me out."

And wouldn't you know what appeared next across the sky?

"Wanna go in now?"

I shook my head again. "I like the rain." I rested my head against him and jumped when he
trailed a finger across my bruised cheek. "Yeah, that's probably gonna leave a mark."

"She had no right," he fumed.

"Ah, you know how West Indian people are. I'm actually just glad she didn't have a belt on
hand." I paled. "Or a broom."
"Sam"

"David, it's okay. It'll go away. It's only a little red mark."

"It's a fucking handprint, Sam."

"Why is this bugging you so much?"

"You're not supposed to get hurt. I'm supposed to keep you from getting hurt."

Shaking my head, I leaned up and kissed the nape of his neck. "You're very sweet."

"You know, for some reason, I don't hear that often enough."

"Rest assured, you are." Disentangling myself from him, I leaned back against the railing, facing
him. "I feel really tired right now, really drained. Kind of like how I used to feel after you and I
argued, only a lot more exhausted."
"I'm proud of you, you know," he said. "We all are. Mads, Hart, Scott my sisters still aren't
sure if you're trouble or not," he added with a small laugh.

"Me? Trouble?" I asked innocently.

"You're anything but innocent, Ms. Spade."

"How astute of you, Mr. Weston," I murmured, pulling him towards me. I was past the
emotionless, empty stage and was now at the point where I needed to feel something intense
and raw. As another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, David pulled me back into the room and shut
the balcony door and drew the shades. It was eerily dark in the room, but I don't think neither of
us cared much about lighting right then.

"You know," he murmured against my lips, "I really like your shirt."

"Thanks, but I don't think they come in your size," I chuckled, raking my hands through his wet
hair.

"Damn. And the colour goes so well with my eyes." Feeling our way across the room, we sank
onto the couch, a tangle of limbs.

"Don't stop kissing me, please," I murmured.

"I won't," he promised, his lips travelling down the base of my neck. "We're so much alike, you
know. Can't believe we never saw it before."

"We were too busy trying to one-up each other to think of anything else."

"No, you were too busy. I had time to wonder what it'd be like to do all the things with you that
we've been doing."

"Really now?"

"Mmm-hmm."

"I had no idea you spared a single thought for me."

He grinned. "Yeah, well, you had a bunch of sex dreams about me, so I think we're even."
"I'm not living that down, am I?"

"Never," he laughed, kissing me again. What promised to be a lovely make-out session was cut
short by a sharp rapping at the door. Frowning, David got up. "Stay," he ordered. Rolling my
eyes, I complied (for once). Moving a little to the left, I was able to see the door, without being
seen.

"So, why am I not surprised to see you here, David Weston?"

No, no, no. Suppressing a groan, I watched my mother shove past David and enter the room.
He looked pissed as hell, but to his credit kept his cool.

"Good evening," he replied coolly.

"Yes, hello and dripping wet, too?" She shook her head and clucked her tongue
disapprovingly. "The clerk at the front said that this was the room he checked Samantha into
Amanda insisted I bring her some clothes." I heard the small thump of a bag dropping on the
floor. "So where is she, David? I think I have some unfinished business to attend to with my
daughter."

"She's busy. But thanks for coming by," he said, trying to usher her out.

"What poor manners. No doubt she's rubbing off on you."


I saw David's scowl darken. "You have an incredible daughter, Mrs. Manning. She's intelligent,
opinionated, beautiful, talented but you're too blinded by jealousy and hate for her father to
see what an amazing person she is."

I blinked. Wow. Go, David, I guess.

My mother stared at him, then shook her head. "My God, you're in love with her." She chuckled
as though the very idea of it was ridiculous.

Sheesh. I'm not totally repulsive, thanks.

"Tell me, David, how does it feel to be in love with someone who can't return it? Not that it's
anything personal against you, dear, but your darling Samantha is exactly like her father, cold
and heartless."

David stared at her, open-mouthed. "God, do you really hate your own daughter that much?"

"She lived!" My mother exploded suddenly. "She lived! Caroline died and she lived!"

Aunt Caroline? What the freakin' hell does she have to do with anything? When did my life
become a Passions rerun?

David blinked and looked slightly unnerved. "Look, Sam's her own person and you know what?
She's nothing like you, okay? She's warm and caring and one of the nicest people I know."

"Your loyalty to her is staggering."

He smiled. "She makes it easy."

"You're a fool."

David shrugged. "What can I say? Love makes you do the wacky. Now, with all due respect,
Mrs. Manning?" He crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes hardening. "Get out."

"Not until I have a little talk with my daughter. Where is she, David?"

Sighing, I left the comforting warmth of the couch and walked up to them. "Mom," I sighed,
standing beside David, "just just go, okay?"
She narrowed her eyes, scrutinizing me like she did so many times before, then shook her
head. "How did I raise such a slut?" She turned her back on us and slammed the door behind
her. Temporarily frozen, I stared at the door, then went to sit on the bed. It was so high, the tips
of my toes were barely skimming the carpet.

"You okay?" David asked, sitting down beside me.

"Jesus Christ, she's awful," I muttered, leaning my head against his shoulder.

"Don't cry," he murmured, rubbing my back.

I shook my head. "She's not worth crying over. You only cry over people who matter. She might
be my mom, but we're only related by blood." I sighed and closed my eyes.

"Sam-"

"Nah. I'm done. I can't do this again. I'm just I'm done."

"Okay." He wrapped his arms around me and held me close.

"David?" I asked, my voice low, slightly muffled by his chest.


"Yeah?"

"Can we go back to school now?"

"Yeah, we can."

"We should probably change first."

He chuckled. "We probably should. Pneumonia's not very becoming."

I managed a small laugh. "David?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

"Anytime."

Chapter Twenty-Two: Mr. Flipples

"Pizza Pizza or KFC?" David asked, his phone at the ready. Neither of us had eaten much at
dinner.

I raised my eyebrows. "You memorized the delivery numbers for Pizza Pizza and KFC?"

"No," he replied indignantly. "I have them on speed-dial."

Shaking my head, I had to laugh. "Only you would have fast-foot restaurants on speed-dial,
David."

"Ah, the fair maiden laughs," he teased, running a finger down the left side of my face. For the
past two hours, he'd been nothing but serious and stoic. Madison had popped in and offered to
run to the Zellers up the road to get a change of clothes for David, since none of us were going
anywhere for the night; the rain was coming down harder than ever, and the roads were pretty
much washed out. After she'd left, David and I had taken our showers (separately, of course
get your minds out of the gutter, people) and I'd changed into my old middle school gym uniform
that Amanda had sent for me, the shorts of which were uncomfortably, well, short. David, while
waiting for Maddy to come back, had donned a bathrobe and made creative use of one of the
bed sheets.
"The fair maiden can also throw a mean right hook," I reminded him. In the span of just a few
short hours, it seemed like David completely forgot everything he knew about me. I was not a
defenceless little mouse, and I could hold my own. For some reason, he was beating himself up,
and I didn't know why, which was making me pensive.

"I remember," he replied wryly, his hand drifting up to his forearm.

"So" I sat myself down in his lap and slung an arm around his neck. "You know that I can take
care of myself, right?"

"Only an idiot would mess with you."

"You mess with me every day."

"Yeah, but I know how to handle you ow!" He rubbed his forearm and glared at me.

"Oh, don't be a baby, Weston" I said, pushing his wet hair out of his face. "So we're in
agreement that I'm not made of glass. Wanna tell me, then, why you've been acting like I am for
past couple of hours? Is it because of me getting slapped?"

"No," he muttered, rather unpersuasively, I might add.

"David, I grew up getting licked with a belt. You probably did, too. Physical punishment is
nothing new."

"Yeah, I know"
"So what's on your mind?"

He took one of my hands in his and began running his thumb over the back of it. "Didn't you tell
me that if your mom got anything else to use against you, she'd transfer you?"

"Well yeah. But," I added firmly, "there is no way I'm transferring. I think part of the
admissions testing is having an interview with the headmaster or something, and I can screw
that up. And there's the actual written test, and I can so bomb that. And the only other
alternative is switching me back to public school, because Santa Anna is the only other
boarding school in the province with a curriculum so similar to ours. And she won't switch me
back to public, 'cause then that'd mean I'd have to live at home, and she won't want that. And
she won't send me to another boarding school, 'cause that's money right there."

"Wow," David exhaled. "You've thought this through."

"What, you think I want to leave? Please," I scoffed. "I still have to royally kick your ass in the
final standings at the end of this year."

"You wish, baby."

"No, I know. You kept saying last year was a fluke. Well, I'll show you fluke."

"So beating me is the only reason you want to stay?" David asked, winding an arm around my
waist.

I pretended to think. "Well, there is Pam. I'd miss her chocolate chip cookies too much."

"And?"

"And I suppose I'd miss having a Tim Horton's so close."

"And?"

"Damn, I can't believe I forgot about my friends." He smiled expectantly. "Of course I'd miss
Madison, Ian, and my brothers."

David scowled. "What about me?"

"What about you?" I asked innocently.


"Wouldn't you miss me?"

"I suppose I might," I replied thoughtfully.

"'Might'?" He echoed.

"Yeah, as in 'maybe'. I mean, you have begun to grow on me."

"You make me sound like mould," he complained, raking a hand through his hair.

"You're not like mould. Bacteria, maybe"

"Hey."

Grinning, I tousled his hair. "Don't be an idiot. Yes, I would miss you."

"Why would you miss me?"

"I'm not telling you."

"Why?" He smirked, lightly tickling my sides.


"Because," I yelped, trying to squirm out of his reach, which was hard to do seeing that I was on
his lap, "if your ego gets any bigger, it's going to need it's very own area code."

"Very funny. You're a regular comedienne, aren't you?"

"Hey, it's not my fault if you bring out my more impulsive qualities."

"Most of your impulsive qualities I can deal with. I enjoy a lot of them to great lengths, actually.
It's that whole 'talking' thing you have going on that's just not doing it for me."

"I thought we agreed life would be no fun if I was all agreeable and submissive," I pouted.

"Fun, no. Peaceful, Lord yes."

"Not funny," I said, tweaking his nose.

"Oh, what? You can give shit but you can't take it?"

"I can take anything you have to give me."

"Anything?" He smirked.

Ah, there we go. There's the perverted David we know and like.

"You, David Weston, are a sick, sick little twit."

"Don't pretend you don't like it."

"Sick, sick, sick," I muttered, shaking my head. "You know, one of these days-"

He silenced me with a quick kiss, then pulled away and gave me a smug smile. "Oh look, we're
finishing each other's sentences already."

"Just as long as you don't start calling me 'Sugarplum', or something else equally revolting," I
replied, stifling a yawn. "Because I will be forced to hurt you. I can't stand all that cutesy crap,
and I sure as hell don't want to start doing it myself."

"Hurt me how?" He replied thoughtfully.

"David, behave yourself," I said witheringly.


"You really got the dominatrix thing going now, huh? Tell me Sam, you ever worn leather
before?"

I stared at him, unblinking, before getting off his lap. "You're feeling especially horny right now,
aren't you?"

"How'd you know?"

I spared a quick glance downward. "Lucky guess?"

He shrugged and gave me a last grin. "What can I say, Sam? Thinking about baseball around
you is just not doing it anymore."

"How flattering," I replied wryly.

"You'd look really flattering on my pillow tomorrow morning."

"How many times have you used that line?"


"A couple."

"And how many times has it actually worked?"

"None," he admitted, chuckling. "Wanna change that track record?"

"No, not really," I answered, walking over to my bag. I pulled a novel out and lay on my stomach
on the bed before beginning to read. "Behave yourself before I kick you out."

"But I have nowhere else to go," he said, sticking out his lower lip.

"I thought you, Ian, Scott, and Alan got a room to share for the night?"

"Well, yeah, but it's on the fifth floor. Would you actually make me go into the elevator looking
like this?" He gestured to his makeshift clothing.

"Wanna try me and see?" I asked sweetly.

"Not really."

"All righty then." I focused back onto my book and heard the television turn on. As I was
becoming more and more engrossed in the plot (a rather riveting murder mystery involved
suspense, intrigue, and of course, a touch of romance), I noticed the background noise of the
television was no more and felt the bed sink down ever-so-slightly with David's added weight.

"Hi."

"What up?"

"Whatcha reading?"

"It's this murder mystery, about this girl growing up in average suburban family. Or so you think,
because after her parents are killed in some 'accident', she starts to uncover the truth about
their deaths, and it turns out the government ordered their assassinations and-" I abruptly cut
myself off.

"Yeah?" He prompted for me to finish.

"I don't want to tell you all the plot twists. What if you decide to read it?"
"I probably won't."

I frowned. "Why not? It's a really good book. You'd like it."

He shrugged. "I'm more into the classics."

"The classics?" I echoed, slightly perplexed.

"Yeah, like Tom Sawyer. A Tale of Two Cities is my favourite, actually."

"No, I know what the classics are I guess I just never figured you were into books like that. Or
books at all, actually."

He shook his head and poked me in my tickle spot. "Real nice. You should know better than to
think I'm just another dumb jock."

"I didn't say you were. I know you're smart. Brilliant, even. A veritable genius-"

"Sam, knock it off."

"I just didn't figure you were into the whole literary thing, is all."
"There's a lot about me you don't know."

I put my put down on the nightstand and turned to him. "Like what else?"

"You tell me yours and I'll tell you mine," he replied, rolling onto his back.

"Me, tell you all of my embarrassing little hobbies? I don't think so," I scoffed.

"Okay, well now I'm curious," he murmured, pulling me down on top of him.

"I'll never tell."

"C'mon, Sam. I told you something about me. Fair is fair."

"So? It wasn't like, a bad thing."

"Yeah, well, it's still not something I want getting out to everyone."

"Why not? I mean, think about all the girls you could get if they knew you liked to read A Tale of
Two Cities."

He smiled and pushed the hair out of my face. "But I only want you."

Okay, I admit it. Those five little words completely weakened my resolve. And from the smirk on
David's face, he knew it, too.

"Fine, you win," I conceded. "I'll tell. But on one condition."

"I refuse to strip down unless you join me," he replied, tugging at the hem of my shirt.

I rolled my eyes. "You never give up, do you?"

"Nope," he grinned. "All thanks to three small words I live by."

"Which are?"

"Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance."

"That's one word three times."

"So?" I shook my head. "So what's the condition?"


"One of my little secrets for every one of yours," I replied, resting my head against his shoulder.

"Okay," he answered, a little too quickly for my liking. "Agreed. So what are your illicit pastimes,
you little criminal?"

"You have to promise not to laugh."

"I promise," he replied solemnly.

"Sometimes, when I'm hungry," I began hesitantly, "I eat ketchup."

David blinked. "Come again? You eat what?"

"Ketchup."

"By itself?"
"Uh huh."

"Like out of the bottle?"

"Ew, no. That's just gross." David sighed in relief. "No, I eat it from those little condiment
packets."

He stared at me, then shook his head. "For once, I don't know what to say."

"Okay, it's not that weird of a yeah, okay, never mind, it's pretty weird," I chuckled.

"You think that's bad? I skateboard around the room in my boxers."

"You can skateboard?"

"A little."

"And you wear boxers, huh?" I grinned. "Nice imagery there, Weston."

He laughed. "And you call me perverted."

"Well, you are."

"Yeah, but you're just as bad."

"I'm not just as bad," I argued.

"Oh baby, take my word for it." I stuck out my tongue, which only made him laugh more. "Now,
you were about to tell me one of your silly pastimes?"

"Well I jump on my bed every weekend, and I try and see how many times I can touch the
ceiling. My record best is ninety-six times in a row."

"Please," David scoffed. "You're an amateur. My record is one hundred and eight."

"Oh yeah? Well when it rains in the night when it's warm out, I go outside and I lie in the grass
until the rain stops."

"I take a shower in the rain every now and then."

"I have to have a jalapeno pepper anytime I eat curry."


"I eat jalapeno peppers for my after-school snack every day."

Yeah, of course this had to turn into a competition. I mean, do you not know us by now?

"I roller-blade down the stairs."

"I bike down the stairs."

"I used to think that the guy who played the original Red Ranger on Power Rangers was pretty
hot."

"That guy was a dick. Now, Sailor Moon is pretty se-" David abruptly cut himself off.

I raised an eyebrow. "Say what?"

David swore under his breath. "Nothing. I didn't say anything."


"Yeah, you kind of did." I grinned wickedly. "So, David Weston has a thing for Sailor Moon?"

"It's not a thing," he replied defensively.

"And for you to have a thing for Sailor Moon and yes, 'have', 'cause you said 'is', not 'was'
that must mean that you've watched your fair share of episodes. Am I wrong?" When David
didn't reply but instead chose to stare sullenly over my shoulder, I laughed gleefully.

"Oh, be quiet Ms. I-Thought-Tuxedo-Mask-Was-Cute." I froze in mid-laugh. "Yeah, I'm talking to


you."

"I don't know what you're talking about," I replied, sounding unconvincing even to my own ears.

"You feel the heat yet, Sam? 'Cause your pants are on fire, baby."

"Okay, how on earth did you ever-?" I narrowed my eyes. "Leah," I growled. "Leah told you,
didn't she?"

"All my sources must remain confidential for their own protection," he replied, pinning my arms
to my sides and rolling me under him. "I also happen to know that you once rescued a kitten
from a tree, your favourite snack is peanut butter on apple slices, you fell everyday for five
weeks when you learned to ride a two-wheeler-"

Oh my God, he knows all that stuff about me? It's both embarrassing and incredibly endearing.
He's such a sweetheart

"-You always push the ice cream down with your tongue when you eat an ice cream cone, and
the day after your dad left, you shut yourself up in your closet and the only person you let in was
Leah, and you cried all day."

"I don't remember that," I murmured. David looked at me, unconvinced. "No, I really don't. Truth
be told, I don't really remember much about that day."

"Sam, it's okay to-"

"David, I'm telling you the truth." I pushed him off of me and sat up. "I seriously don't remember
anything around then. I don't even remember him leaving, but I should, because apparently, I
was there."
"Hmmm." He stared the wall thoughtfully. "I wonder what it is exactly that you're repressing."

"Who said I'm repressing anything? Maybe it's just me. We both know my memory's not
completely up to par."

"Yeah, well your crap recollection skills aside, I still say it's more than just that. I mean, is there
anything at all you can remember about that time?"

I stuck out my tongue. "You make it sound like I'm amnesiac."

"Well you sort of are, aren't you? Only it's like selective amnesia. There's nothing significant
about that day or the days surrounding it that you remember?"

"Well" I concentrated hard, trying to think of something that was of any importance around
that day. "A couple days before Dad left, I got Mr. Flipples."

"What?"

"Mr. Flipples. My stuffed armadillo. You know, the bright blue thing you used to use as a soccer
ball when you came into my room? Which reminds me" I punched him on the arm and glared
at him, resisting the urge to rub my knuckles.

"Okay, first of all? Ow, you little freak." He rubbed his upper arm and muttered under his breath.
I hadn't the faintest idea how I'd managed to hurt him how I'd ever managed to hurt him, for
that matter since punching him felt like hitting a freaking wall. I briefly wondered if he was
faking it, and decided to test my theory on him later on.

"That was retribution for all the times you kicked, kneed, and headed Mr. Flipples."
"Mr. Flipples can't feel pain, unlike a certain someone whom you feel the need to keep abusing.
You know, Sam, I don't think I like the course of this relationship."

I stuck out my tongue again. "Well maybe if you didn't give me a reason-"

"Maybe if you didn't take things so seriously-"

"Maybe if you learned some tact-"

"Hey, I have plenty of tact. You're the one who can never take a joke-"

"I can take a joke. You just never make any. You're too busy acting stupid-"

"Oh, I act stupid?"

"Don't make me repeat myself, you deaf duck."

David got off the bed and pulled me by my ankles until I was half-off the bed and had a death-
grip on the bedspread. If he let go, I would experience a rather painful sensation in my behind.
"Did you just call me a deaf duck?"

"Don't you dare drop me, David," I warned.

"Did you call me a deaf duck?" He repeated, tickling the bottom of my feet.

"David, stop! Knock it off," I yelled out in between laughs, trying to twist out of his grip. Which
felt like iron, by the way.

"Did you call me a deaf duck, Sam?"

"You really are a deaf duck if you have to keep asking that David stop!" He lowered my legs to
the ground but picked me up and spun me in circles. "I swear, I'm going to murder you," I
screamed, clutching the back of his robe tightly.

Don't drop me, don't drop me, don't drop me, I chanted in my head, wishing severe bodily harm
on him at that moment.

If he does anything else stupid, his ass is getting dropped.

And how exactly are you going to do that, seeing as you're half his size?
Gotta aim for the kneecaps. The little motherfucker is going down.

Oh, don't say 'down'.

David stopped spinning around and dropped me onto the bed, falling down with me. I lay there
for a few seconds, trying to get my bearings, and then I tackled him.

"You are so dumb," I ground out in between punches.

"Jesus Christ, Sam," he muttered, his arms raised to shield himself.

"Why do you have to be so stupid for?"

"Would you stop?"

"Act your damn age hey!"

David sighed and grabbed my wrists. "That's better. Okay, now Sam? Darling, sugarplum, light
of my life? Knock it off. It's really annoying, okay? Frig."
I narrowed my eyes. "If you could do that every time I hit you, why didn't you?"

"It would be no fun if you knew it never affected me."

"You jerk."

"You're not telling me anything new. Now, are you going to behave yourself?"

I shook my head in disbelief. "You're the one asking if I'm going to behave? Am I the only one
that sees the irony?"

Trying to hide a smile, he loosened his grip on my wrists, which was his first mistake. "Are you
gonna behave?"

I sighed in defeat. "Fine, I'll be good." He let go of my wrists.

His second mistake was in believing me.

I body-checked him again, only this time, we fell to the ground since he had been so close to the
edge of the bed.

All right, I thought we agreed that it was a 'no' on the impulsive Slayer-esque moves?

Yeah, they seem to bring forth pain, don't they?

I moaned lightly, rubbing my forehead from where I'd smacked it on David's elbow after we'd
landed. I whined even louder when I felt his weight on top of me. Complaints did cease, though,
when he started kissing me. It was feather-light at first, but built in both passion and intensity,
until we were one misplaced hand position away from one very passionate make-out session.

Then again, maybe the Slayer-esque moves have merit of some sort.

Before we could get to that level, David pulled away and gave me a rather exasperated look. "Is
this the only way I can get you to shut up and calm down? 'Cause it's not like I'm complaining,
but I could do without the full workout I get beforehand."

"I'll be good, I promise," I murmured.


He pretended to think for a moment, then smiled wickedly. "Then again I mean, when you're
good, you're good. But when you're bad, you're so much better." He leaned in for another kiss,
his lips lingering on mine for a fraction of a second, before getting up. He extended his hand to
me and pulled me to my feet.

"Why thank you, kind sir."

"The pleasure be-eth all mine, fair lady."

Laughing, I went over to the mirror, grimacing when I saw the state my hair was in. I took out the
ponytail holder and combed it out, wincing when I hit a few tangles. My hair still wasn't
completely dry, so I decided to just leave it out, even though it was a mess; I swear, my hair can
be so stupid. When it's wet, it can't tell if it's straight or curly, so it's an amalgamation of both. It's
so awkward.

"Hey, when do you think Madison and the guys are going to be back? They've been gone for a
while now." David opened his mouth to speak but we heard a thumping sound instead. "Okay,
that was cool. Do it again."

He opened his mouth again, only it wasn't his voice we heard. "Sam, David? Let me the hell in.
And you guys better not be having sex, because I will profoundly kick both of your asses if you
are."

"Wow, you sound just like Scott," I remarked.

"Open the damn door, Sam," David muttered, shaking his head. Laughing, I went over to the
door and unlocked it, and was greeted by not one, but three mountains of bags with legs. And,
of course, Madison.
"I think that answers the question of why they took a millennium," I quipped, as the guys strode
in, dumping the bags in a pile on the ground. Each kept one bag in his hand, and formed a line
at the bathroom door, with Madison bringing up the rear. After each had changed into dry
clothes, they made their way back towards us.

"Never again," Ian muttered, slumping down on the couch.

"Never again," Scott whispered, sitting down beside Ian.

"Yo, your friend's fucking psycho," Alan said, his eyes wide. I didn't bother scolding him for
swearing; shopping with Madison was punishment enough for several minor sins.

"Madison, did you buy out the whole store?" David asked, tidying up the unruly pile.

"First it was Zellers, then goddamn Claire's, then Staples, then Tim Horton's, then yo, what
was that other store?" Alan asked, snapping his fingers.

"Baskin-Robbins," Ian supplied weakly.

"You shopped at an ice cream parlour?" I asked, raising my eyebrows.

"What? I was in the mood for double chocolate chip. And by the way? You might want to get
those two bags in the freezer," she added, sitting on the arm of the couch beside Scott. Shaking
our heads, David and I grabbed three bags each and made our way to the small kitchen. We put
tubs of ice cream in the freezer and stacked the sandwiches, sodas, and donuts in the
refrigerator. "Those are for the drive back to school," she added.

"Hey, did you guys get around to ordering any food?" Scott asked.

"Of course they didn't," Madison replied matter-of-factly. "They were too busy making out.
Which is exactly why I knew it was better for us to bring home foodstuffs than to rely on the little
lust bunnies to order it. I swear," she went on, "first they can't stand each other, then they can't
get enough of each other."

I opened my mouth to say something, but David cut me off. "Well she kind of does have a
point.
"L-o-l," I muttered, taking out cartons of yay! Chinese food. Grabbing some cans of soda, we
took the food back to the others and set it out on the coffee table.

"The clothes we got you are in there," Ian said to David, pointing the bag closest to the door.

"As well as your entire winter wardrobe," Scott added, before stuffing practically half his carton
of chicken fried rice and sweet-and-sour pork rapidly into his mouth, then downing it with half his
can of Pepsi.

Ew. Pepsi. Sometimes, Scott really has no taste.

"Excellent," David grinned, grabbing the bag and half-running to the bathroom.

"Oh, I don't think so," Ian said, as I was about to grab the lone can of Coke. "That baby's for me.
I can barely stay awake."

"Poor thing," I clucked sympathetically.

"You guys are all weak," Madison said, twirling her fork around her chicken lo mein. "By the
way, Sammy, I got you some proper jammies."

"She got you one of each that they had in stock," Alan muttered, a chicken wing in hand.

"How thoughtful," I smiled.

Madison beamed. "See, guys? She appreciates it."


"That's because she's a girl and has never been on one of your inane shopping sprees," Scott
muttered.

"That wasn't a spree," she replied, slightly puzzled. Scott paled.

"You're up," David called out to me, emerging from the bathroom.

Apparently, Madison's good taste in clothing didn't just stop at the female persuasion. David
was decked out in what looked to be a very comfy pair of red plaid pyjama bottoms and solid
white t-shirt.

"See something you like?" He smirked.

"No, not really," I replied offhandedly, kissing him lightly on his cheek as we passed by each
other.

It took me surprisingly long to change into the clothes Madison had bought me. Why? Because
she was a conniving little witch, that's why. Out of the seven different sets of nightclothes she
bought me, only one fit. And the one that did fit was not fit to be worn around four teenaged
males, two of whom happened to be my brothers, and one of whom I wouldn't want looking at
me that way, even if it was involuntary. David, I wouldn't mind so much. But seeing as we'd
have an audience

Madison, I'm so going to kill you.

Okay, in all fairness, the nightgown wasn't that bad. It was sleeveless and had thick straps, but
it was also thigh-high, black, and slinky. And I was pretty sure you could see the outlines of my
bra and underwear, although it might have just been my imagination. Cursing Madison, I sighed
and contemplated stuffing myself into one of the two-sizes-too-small pyjamas, because the only
alternative was going out there practically naked, and I was not having that.

"Sam, what the hell?" Scott called out. "Your food's getting cold and eaten."

"Give her time," Madison said patiently. I could picture the smirk on her face. It was then that I
saw the bathrobe David had left strewn across the floor. Smiling in triumph, I slipped it on and
belted it tightly. I took a quick look in the mirror. The robe hung to my knees and the sleeves
were more than long enough. Satisfied, I opened the door.
"Sorry, sorry," I apologized, making my way back to my seat. Only to find that it was taken. By
David, no less. Sighing, I took a seat on the arm of the chair, only to be pulled into his lap.

"More comfortable?"

"A little," I replied, picking up my already half-eaten carton of food. It was just as well; I wasn't
that hungry, anyway.

I noticed Madison was sitting in Scott's lap, but I decided not to say anything about it, since no
one else was making a big deal about it. I filed it away for later reference, though, under the
heading of 'Why Madison and Scott Should Get Together'. The list of reasons and evidentiary
support was steadily growing.

"Spoilsport," she said good-naturedly, eyeing the robe.

"It might be seen by its intended audience later on," I grinned, causing her to raise her
eyebrows.

"Oh, you bad, bad girl," she murmured, shaking her head. "I've taught you well."

"I don't get it," Alan said, looking from Madison to me.

"I think it's best if we don't," Ian told him, passing him a carton of stir-fried vegetables.

"Is there any particular reason you're wearing a bathrobe?" Scott asked, which made Madison
and I stifled our laughter.

"Wanna let me in on the secret?" David asked quietly.

"Maybe later on."


"So what were you guys up to while we were gone?" Madison asked. "Or do I really not want to
know?" She glanced towards the bed, which looked like it had been through a tornado or two.

I shrugged. "Apparently, I've got selective amnesia."

Scott blinked. "Come again?" David and I told them the conversation we'd had, and his theory
about me repressing something.

"Interesting," Ian said, once we were done. "I agree with David. Something must have happened
to make you block that day out. Intense trauma can do that."

"Alan, what do you remember about that day?" Madison asked.

"Nothing really important or out of the ordinary," he shrugged. "A lot of yelling, a lot of swearing,
a door slamming, and me and Amanda sitting behind Sam on the stairs and watching the whole
thing. It was around then that Mom started coming down harder on Sam, though. Is that
anything significant?"

David and I traded looks, and I wondered if he was thinking what I was.

Last night, Mom brought up Aunt Caroline. How do she and Dad's leaving factor into all of this?

"I think," Scott said slowly, "you need to talk to your father to figure this out."

"Easier said than done," I muttered. "I have no earthly way of knowing where he is. My mother
would sure as hell never tell me."

"There are ways, though," Alan said, excitement tracing his voice. Of course he would want to
find our father. Dad used to play around with him so much, since he was the only boy.

"I suppose," I said slowly.

"Do you not want to?" Madison asked.

"It's not that," I replied. "It's just I'm not sure." I had a weird feeling about the whole thing. Not
necessarily a bad one, but a feeling all the same. I wasn't sure what it was trying to tell me,
which added a whole other element of confusion to the whole situation.
"I really think we should find Dad, Sam. I mean, we only got Mom, and she's a good candidate
for Crappiest Parent of the Year," Alan said.

"Alan, don't say that," I scolded.

"But look at the way she treats you. And me, but mostly you.

"Yeah, well, she's still our mom, right?"

"Sam, you wanna go through with it, or not?" Madison asked, tucking a lock of hair behind her
ears.

I thought for a moment, unaware until David mentioned it to me later that I was playing with his
fingers. "Yeah, I think I do. I want to find out what the hell went wrong with my family. I want to
find my dad."

Chapter Twenty-Three: Friends First

Red. It's a nice, versatile colour. It can be bright and flashy, or dark and subtle. It can be the
colour of anger, or the colour of love, or the colour of uncontrollable, unrestrained, unbridled
passion.

It can also be the colour of that ber-gross turnip-spinach-beet concoction that Ian tried to pass
off as "nutritious and delicious".
'Delicious', my ass. It took all I had not to spit out the first mouthful. And yes, I say 'first
mouthful', because thanks to His Highness the Health Freak, I had to drink a whole glass of the
vile stuff.

"See, Sam?" He asked brightly, once I'd drained the whole glass. "Don't you feel so much more
invigorated, energetic, alive?"

"I'll feel much more alive once I regain my taste buds and pack away two Rolo milkshakes," I
replied.

Ian shook his head, his now-shaggy hair flopping into his eyes. "That stuff's going to kill you,
Sam. You're going to die an early death from sugar overdose, while I will live a long, prosperous
one fishing for cod off the coast of New Brunswick."

I blinked. "Do they fish for cod off the coast of New Brunswick?"

He shrugged, absently tapping his fingers against the hardcover of his Canadian Law textbook.
"I don't know, but it sounds like a peaceful way to live."

"Oh, yeah. If you don't mind the harsh effects of the elements, and hey, aren't you seasick?"

"I said 'peaceful'," he replied, giving me a crooked smile. "Not 'ideal'."

We'd been in his room for the past two hours, trying to simultaneously cram for our Statistics
test the next day and finish our Law partner-assignment. So far, we'd committed about half the
material on the Statistics test to memory, and we'd done about a quarter of the research for our
project. We'd also played a couple games of Tic-Tac-Toe, played a few rounds of Anywhere But
Here not surprisingly, most of his fantasies featured one Nalini Hennessey and sung several
rousing choruses of 'Weasley Is Our King'. Yes, unlike some boyfriends who shall remain
nameless, darling Ian was an avid Harry Potter fan.

"Hey, speaking of Harry Potter," I began slowly, jotting down the key points from Chapter
Twelve in our Statistics text.

"We weren't speaking about Harry Potter, Sam."

"Okay, well since we are now," I pressed on, earning an indulgent smile from him, "what are we
doing about Goblet of Fire? The movie's coming out in" I flipped through my agenda.
"Ten days, Sam," Ian said calmly, popping a baby carrot stick into his mouth.

"Let's see, let's see," I muttered, scanning through the pages in my small red-and-gold book.
Sure enough, I found the page for the eighteenth of November, which I'd decorated in bright
colours and pretty sparkles. "Oh my God!" I shrieked. "There's only ten days left!"

"Really? Imagine that," he drawled.

"Shush, you." I threw a pillow at him, which he allowed to smack him in the face to appease me.
"But we're going, right? Opening night? You ordered the tickets?" He suddenly became very
interested in his reflection, studying himself in the full-length mirror that donned his closet door.
"I-an!"

"Well, I thought you were going to get David to take you," he replied, raking a hand through his
mop of brown hair.

I scoffed. "The boy wouldn't know good literature if it bit him in the ass."

"So I take it that that's a 'no', then, huh?"

"Well, he did offer," I said, trying to be fair. "But I know he doesn't really want to spend two
hours watching Harry Potter, and, well, I really want to see this movie," I rushed on, fighting off a
blush. "Besides, we planned this ever since we heard the release date for it, and between
classes, your basketball team, my fundraiser, and David and your quest for your fair maiden's
heart, we don't spend nearly enough time together these days."

"True. But are you sure your crazed, jealous boyfriend isn't going to come after me with a
football bomb of death?"
I pretended to think about it. "Pretty sure. I mean, he used up the last of his C-4 on this guy that
smiled at me. No, I lie. David's not that bad." I got a Look. "What?"

"You're going to tell me that the green-eyed monster of jealousy isn't a permanent playmate of
David's?"

"Not permanent. Just, you know, a regular visitor." Ian stared at me patiently. "Oh, okay, so he
gets a little jealous on occasion. It's not a bad thing."

"'A little jealous', Sam? David glowers at any guy not related to you who gives you a second
glance," Ian remarked, leaning back against the headboard of his bed and resting his arms
behind his head. "And don't look so pleased," he added, frowning. "It's nothing to be smirking
about."

"I'm not smirking! Who's smirking? Why would I be smirking?"

"'Cause you think it's so cool or cute or something that he likes you enough to be jealous of you.
You probably think it shows he cares or something."

I shrugged. "So? What's your point, Mr. Psychoanalysis?"

"My point is that I think David gets too jealous for unnecessary reasons."

"Sorry?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"There's nothing for him to be jealous about," Ian explained, oblivious to my getting all offendy.
"Yet he's always acting so intimidating."

"Well, am I always going to be around? Is it not possible that other guys find me attractive?
What if some charming guy from Europe wooed me off my feet and seduced me into falling for
him? Huh?" I demanded.

"Never happen," he interjected calmly.

"Why not? I'm not totally repulsive, you know."

"You're very pretty, Sam, but that's beside the point."

"Which is? And thanks," I added as an afterthought.


"The point is that that little scenario would never happen because one, you like David a lot, and
you'd never do anything to intentionally hurt the people you care about. Two, you're one of the
most trustworthy people I know. David knows it, too. It's a really good thing when someone
places that much trust in you, Sam. Scary, but good. And three, do you really want David to act
like you're nothing more than his property and get all territorial about you?"

I narrowed my eyes and regarded him seriously. "One of these days, you're going to have to
stop making so much sense."

He grinned broadly, his blue eyes shining. "It's a burden, this incredible wisdom of mine. But I
cope."

"Speaking of coping," I started innocently, "how's the courting of Miss Statistics 2005 going?"
Ian's expression instantly soured; I frowned. "Not good?"

"If David thought he had a hard time with you" He shook his head. "At least you talked to the
guy, paid attention to him. Me? I get nothing. Well, there was that 'You're not my type', and the
'Keep bugging me, and I'm getting a restraining order against you', but that was in the
beginning. Now, she just ignores me."

I raised an eyebrow. "Interesting. Very interesting."

"She hates me, Sam," he continued, his voice growing dejected. "I don't even know why, but
she hates me."

"I'm sure she doesn't," I replied soothingly, patting his head. "But don't they say that there's a
fine line between love and hate?"
Ian stared at me blankly. "You've been reading Harlequin Romances again, haven't you?"

"Just one," I replied meekly.

"That trash will rot your brain. And you need all the brain cells you can get."

"Oh, how funny," I retorted sarcastically, curbing the impulse to lob another pillow at him. "My
point, dear boy, is that these things take time."

"One boyfriend, and suddenly she's the expert," he muttered.

"When did you get so moody?"

"About the same time you got so perky and cheerful."

"There's nothing wrong with being perky and cheerful."

"There's nothing wrong with being moody," he shot back.

"I think I liked you better when you were docile," I muttered, earning a glare. "Well, you were
nicer! Look," I added as an afterthought, "I think she just needs to get to know you. Right now,
she probably thinks you're some psycho stalker. I mean, she transferred here this year, right?
She doesn't know you, she has no reason to think you're anything more than a stuck-up jerk of
a jock looking for another conquest, 'cause let's face it here, that's the mentality of half the
athletes in this place. Ease off, give her time to get to know you, and go from there. Why is she
all reluctant to be around you, anyway? Didn't she give you a ride back to school that day I
picked up my mother from the airport?"

"Yeah, well" He trailed off, giving me a sheepish look.

"Ian" I began warningly. "What happened?"

"Well, I kind of sort of wouldn't shut up for the first while. I couldn't help it. I was really nervous.
But by the time I realized what I was doing, it was too late. The second half of the ride was filled
with awkward silence."

"Oh, that's always a hoot and a half," I muttered sarcastically. "What were you rambling on
about?"
"My new Motorola Razr."

"Your cell phone, Ian? God, no wonder the girl thinks you're just another dumb jock." I shook my
head wearily.

"Well I was nervous," he bit back, hitting me square in the face with his pillow. I glared at him,
and pondered on whether or not to throw the pillow back, opting for a 'no', since with my crap
aim, I'd practically be handing him the pillow to hit me with again.

"You know, I really wouldn't think too much on it. You were having a bad case of the wiggins. It
happens."

"But there are no second chances for first impressions. Unless the person gets amnesia I
never thought about the amnesia factor," he muttered, staring off into space.

Sighing, I snapped my fingers in front of his face. "Ian! Hey, Hart!" Ian was forever going off on
tangents in his mind, thinking deeply about topics that launched many a debate within our small
group of five. "I-an Ian!"

"Huh? What?" He blinked rapidly, shaking his head. "Sorry about that, Sam."

"Weirdo," I replied fondly. "What were you thinking about?"

"Your mother."

I shuddered. "God forbid those words to ever come out of your mouth again as a response to
that question."
"What?" He asked, perplexed, before realization dawned in his eyes. "God, Sam! Get your mind
out of the gutter!"

"Sorry. I think David's rubbing off on me."

"No, you were always that perverted. You just never realized it."

"Thanks," I replied wryly. "Now, about what exactly were you pondering, my good man?"

"I was thinking about what you told me about what your mother said, and, well don't you ever
wonder?"

"Wonder what?" I asked, straightening up our textbooks and notes and putting my things away.
"Why my mother's a psycho loony? Why she is the way she is, why she hates her own daughter
so much? Nope, haven't spared it a single thought."

"Sam, I was thinking"

"Wow, did it hurt?"

"I was thinking," he ploughed on, "that you might want to know why. And what my idea is."

"What idea?" I asked suspiciously. Ian has always been the quiet little instigator of our group.
He'd come up with nefarious little schemes, verbalize them, then watch as David and Scott
sometimes joined by Madison if she was feeling bored would carry out said plan. Madison
would always duck out just in time, but like the idiots they were, the guys would get caught.
Stealthy, they were not. Come to think of it, that may be part of the reason why David's not
exactly best buds with Ian. Although no one ever told him to act like an ass. I suppose it's hard
to avoid innate nature, though.

"Well, you want to know why your mom's a crazy lady. I know you do, just like I know you want
to know why your late aunt is important to unravelling this enigma."

"You make this sound like some sort of soap opera," I muttered, making a face.

"You know, it could be," he began slowly. "I know people who know people. We could pitch the
idea to some agents, set up some meetings with a couple of networks-"

"Ian, no," I said firmly.


"But-"

"Tell me your idea," I interrupted hastily. Sometimes it's hard to know whether or not he's joking.

"It's a very simple idea, really. If you wanna find out something as buried as this, you need to go
to the source."

"Ha! Like my mother would tell me shit," I muttered. "But it's a nice plan in theory, Ian."

"You forget. In those days, it wasn't just your mother around, was it?"

"You're not possibly suggesting what it is I think you're suggesting are you?" I asked slowly.

"I don't know, Pinky. Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"

"Well, if you're pondering that I ought to ask my father about all of this"

"Then yes, I am suggesting what it is you think I'm suggesting."

I stared at him for a full minute in silence. "You're joking, right?"

"Um, no. I'm really not." His face was dead serious.
"Let's say, then, that I was so overcome by curiosity that I decided to go along with this. How
would I even find my father? It's been eight years, so I don't think I'll suddenly get a postcard
from him in the mail. The man could be anywhere. Asking my mother to explain her inane
actions would be a better plan!"

"With some clever sleuthing on your part, you could find out all you needed to know," Ian replied
calmly.

"You're insane," I muttered, throwing the last of my things into my schoolbag. "From here on in,
you're no longer allowed to read books of the mystery genre. It makes you loopy."

"It does not make me loopy," he argued, rising from his spot on his bed. "What I'm saying
makes sense."

"If we lived in some kind of fictitious story world where everything always managed to work out
perfectly despite huge obstacles 'round every turn, then yes, Ian, why that would make perfect
sense." He followed me silently towards his door, holding it open for me. "Sorry, buddy, but we
live in reality where nothing ever works out the way it's supposed to." I jumped, startled, as my
phone began to vibrate in my pocket.

"Nothing, Sam?" Ian asked, glancing down at the caller ID.

"Okay, there are some things," I amended, flipping the phone open. "Hello?"

"Where are you?" David's voice sounded impatient and irritable.

"Good afternoon to you, too, darling," I replied sarcastically. Smiling to himself, Ian shook his
head. He followed me out the door and down the hall in his socks, padding along quietly beside
me.

" Why in the hell didn't you tell me you failed the Chapter Six history test?"

"What?" I asked, perplexed. "How do you even know about-? David, are you snooping through
my stuff?" I shrieked.

"What?" Ian parroted, coming to a halt beside me.


"I wasn't snooping," he replied defensively. "I needed some lead for my pencil, and Mads
doesn't use point-five. I opened your drawer and it was just lying there. How the hell did you
fail?"

"Don't worry about it, David. It was just a little quiz."

"Sam, you failed an evaluation. You never fail. I count on you not to fail. I count on you to give
me some good competition up in here. How did you fail?"

"I don't know," I snapped. "But it was just one stupid chapter quiz, so why does it even matter?"

I had a way better time hanging out with you than I would have if I'd stayed in the library and
studied for hours. And for what, one chapter quiz that's gonna have virtually no effect on my
grade? Oh yeah, it was worth it.

David scoffed in disbelief. "Since when do you take something like this so casually? I remember
the time you got a seventy-five on your trig test in tenth grade you flipped out."

"So I've relaxed a bit. I don't see the bad here."

"Sam, I oh fuck."

"What?"

"Oh fuck. That was the night we were chilling on the bleachers, wasn't it? Where were you when
I called you? Were you studying? You said you weren't doing anything important!"

"I wasn't."
"Don't lie to me. You know, you didn't have to come. You could have told me you were studying.
I mean, of all the stupid and irresponsible things for you to do. No, you know what?"

"What?" I asked, dreading the answer. David lecturing me about responsibility and sounding
serious... nothing I'd like could come from that.

"We have another chapter quiz next week, and there's that Calculus in a couple of days oh,
and Madison says you guys got an English thing next Friday. So here's what we're gonna do,"
he began authoritatively. "You're gonna study your ass off and ace that chapter quiz and the
Calc test, and your English presentation is gonna kick ass. Trent and Davalos both give back
test marks the next day, and I know Harris does, too. So you are going to get at least ninety
percent on all of your things, or we're not going to see Harry Potter next week."

"You wouldn't," I gasped.

"Try me," he retorted. "I'm not going to be the cause of your marks taking a downhill turn. This is
our senior year, Sam. We can't afford to slack off. You might think this quiz was nothing, but
that's how it starts. First it's small quizzes, then small assignments, and the next thing you know,
you're failing unit tests. I'm not gonna let that happen. So you study and prep yourself however
else you need to, and I'll talk to you in ten days. Don't worry about the fundraiser; I'll take care of
that and everything else for the next week and a half."

"Wait! What? What do you mean, 'I'll talk to you in ten days'? What about our date?" Yes, sadly,
we still hadn't gone on an official first date. The set day was next Wednesday, but seeing as
how he was so adamant against my average dropping below the A-plus line well, I guessed I
was going to have to wait a little longer to have that first date.

"I'm not gonna let you get distracted. It always used to piss me off how my sisters would change
when they got a man, and I'm not gonna let the same thing happen to you Jesus Christ, Sam.
How were Indo-European nomads a pacifist society? They were patriarchal! Patriarchal! And
please tell me how you didn't know that the Japanese islands weren't part of Southeast Asia's
three geographic zones. And I'd really like to know how you didn't know that it was the varna
system that divided India into four classes."

"Are you done yet?" I asked, leaning against the lobby wall, Ian politely pretending not to pay
any attention to me.
"Yeah, yeah but forty-eight percent, Sam. Jesus Christ." He sighed, and I could picture him
running a hand though his hair.

"Hey, I only failed by two percent," I replied lightly. "I mean, even when I don't study, I don't get
a completely horrible mark."

"You don't call a forty-eight completely horrible?" He asked flatly. "Okay, I'm gonna talk to you in
ten days. Remember, if you don't kick ass on your shit, no date, no movie."

"Okay, Dad," I muttered sarcastically, getting tired of the lecturing.

"Good, so we understand each other. Later, then." Without even so much as giving me a
chance to say goodbye, he hung up the phone on me, and I was left holding my cell with a very
irritated expression on my face.

"So, I'm guessing he found your history quiz?" Ian asked.

"That would be a very accurate guess."

"I told you that you should have told him right off the bat."

"But why? My business is my own."

"Correction, sweetheart. When you're in a relationship, your business is his, and his business is
yours. You knew he'd be mad if he saw the mark, and that's why you hid it from him. You gotta
understand how uncharacteristic this is of you, and as much as he might act like an ass, David's
really not a bad guy. He's not gonna do anything that's gonna have detrimental consequences
on you, so if you don't wise up and start thinking with your head a little more, you're gonna
sabotage this relationship."

"Thank you very much, Dr. Freud."


"The only useful contribution Freud made to psychology was his method of psychoanalysis. In
his book, the cause of everything had its roots in sex. So I see you haven't been paying
attention in Psychology class, either."

"Shut up. Yes, I have, Mr. I'm-So-Smart-I-Took-AP-Classes-Last-Year."

"Whatever, Ms. I'm-So-Smart-I-Decided-To-Kill-Myself-With-the-Stress-of-Four-AP-Classes-


This-Year."

"I can handle four AP classes, Mr. I'm-Too-Shy-To-Make-a-Move-On-the-Girl-I-Really-Like."

"Okay, Ms. I'm-Too-Scared-To-Go-After-the-Truth, she already thinks I'm a brainless athlete


with stalker-like tendencies."

"So do what I said and ease off for a bit. Give her some space to breathe, and try just talking to
her like you talk to me. And I'm not scared to find out the truth," I added. "I just think it's a waste
of time to go after something with no guarantees that I'm going to find anything at all."

"You are scared, Sam. I don't know what exactly it is that's got you freaked, but I'd guess that
it'd be the part where you have to find the man who you haven't seen for years on end and that,
for all you might know, might have a new family. So my money would be on the fear of him
forgetting about you and your sibs. And what, you want me to insult Nalini like I insult you?
Yeah, that should win her over."

"No, loser, you're supposed to talk to her all relaxed-like and casual, and not treat her like some
bona fide superstar on a pedestal. You've probably got the girl freaked. And I could care less
about the life of someone I haven't seen in eight years."

"I'm so sure," Ian replied unbelievingly, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Oh, I can see how sure you are. About as sure as I am that you giving up on Nalini has nothing
to do with you being scared of taking a chance. Oh, believe me, Ian, I know the signs all too
well." I reached up to give him a parting hug. "I also know that if you do takea chance once in a
while, the payoff can be pretty sweet."

"Sa-man-tha!" Madison griped, throwing a pillow at the back of my head. She lay sprawling on
my bed, tossing a tennis ball up and catching it with her left hand. I'd always found it pretty neat
that she was ambidextrous.
"Wha-at?"

"Play with me," she replied sweetly, bounding off the bed and slinging an arm around my
shoulder. "Come on. It's nice outside. Okay, granted, it's a little on the chilly side, but there's so
much stuff we can do! The first snowfall's going to come pretty soon, you know."

"Maddy, after I'm done, okay?" I was determined to do well on my Calculus test, and that meant
making up the most detailed study sheet I'd ever written. I was about halfway through, with
many a formula left to go.

"All right," she shrugged, turning away. She sounded casual enough, but something in the tone
of her voice made me turn around.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," she replied airily, flipping her hair over her shoulder. "It's just interesting, is
all. How you're so very determined to make more time for David, even though we haven't spent
any quality girl time in like, weeks. That's all." The one thing you could count on Madison for
was being upfront.

I bit down on my lower lip, my stomach sinking.

She's ri-ight, a little voice sang out evilly. You've become one of those horrible little girls who
neglect their friends, and you're only two weeks into the relationship. Hey, have ya picked up
the phone lately to give Leah a call?

"A simple 'I'm sorry' isn't going to make up for this, is it?" I asked, rolling the chair over to where
she sat on my bed.

"No, probably not," she conceded, crossing her legs at the ankles.
"Next weekend, wanna go shopping?"

"Tch, always," she smiled. "But you must be really sorry to take me shopping on your Harry
Potter weekend."

I shrugged. "Harry can wait another week. Quality you-and-me-catching-up time? That can't."

"I didn't mean to guilt you into anything, you know. And we can go shopping the weekend after,
'cause, ah, I need to go to GoF on opening day. I'm sorry, but that's just how it has to be."

I laughed. "You're not guilting me into anything," I assured her. "I really, really do want to spend
time with you. I never meant to like, neglect you or anything."

"I know. And I also know what a character David can be. Seductive, charming, enigmatic
oh, you're not the first friend of mine to date him," she added. "Just the first with half a brain to
realize his less-than-finer points and, you know, not completely alienate me after getting hold of
him I have some unresolved issues," she murmured, in response to my raised eyebrows.

"Oh, I can see that. Care to illuminate me on the subject?"

"What, about Calculus? 'Cause an entire football field of floodlights wouldn't give you enough
illumination on that."

"Please," I scoffed. "I know it backwards and forwards. The study sheet merely serves as
review. Well, that and proof that I've actually been studying. Which, now that I think about it,
why the hell do I need to prove anything to David, anyway? I mean, since when do I cave in to
David?"

"Sam?" She said calmly, raising her eyebrows.

"Sorry. Continue," I prompted her, printing out the work I'd completed so far.

"It was a while ago. It's not even worth rehashing."

"It's bugging you, so it definitely merits some revisiting. Spill it, sister."

"It was a few years back, in the eighth grade, the year before you got here. I had a friend, a
really good friend of the non-male variety. I would go so far as to say we were best friends. Not
as close as David and I or you and I are, perhaps, but we were tight. Friends since the first day I
came here. Or rather, since the first day David and I came here. I only begged my parents to be
enrolled here because David's father sent him here. He was my only friend in the world, you
know. I couldn't bear to have him leave me. Mom agreed, because she thought it would be a
good change for me."

"Good change from what?" I asked cautiously, climbing onto the bed beside her. "And I never
really figured you for the introvert type."

"Oh, my elementary school years were bad," she smiled sadly. "I was really quiet. I only knew
David because we'd been neighbours since forever and him, with his alluring personality, he
made friends with everyone, and his friends were mine. In name, only, though. When we hit
seventh grade, things were a little rough. Seventh grade was the year boys became appealing
and girls became these wicked little gossips. Because David and I were best friends, I dunno I
guess people were jealous of that closeness we had? Whatever the reason, they started
spreading some pretty vicious rumours."

"Shit," I murmured, throwing my arms around her. She rested her head on my shoulder and
continued her story, unwavering.

"Uh huh. But the sad part is, I believed everything they said. Every name they called me, I
believed it. I was just so desperate to have friends. Well, girlfriends. David's amazing and all, but
having a best girl friend is different from having a best guy friend. You know that. Ian gives you
a different perspective on things than me or Leah would. I just I really wanted that."

"What happened?"

"Being me wasn't good enough. I had to fit in, you know? And fitting in meant looking the part."

I felt as though the floor had dropped out from underneath me. Which was kind of funny funny
'weird', not funny 'ha ha' seeing as I was sitting down.
Oh Madison

"Thank God David caught on quickly. Mostly it was lunch that I'd be skipping; I think it was only
after a few weeks that he realized what was happening. That was the very first time he yelled at
me. 'What the hell's the matter with you? Why the hell are you doing this? Do you want to die?'
He made me cry, because I never realized the real harm it was causing. Not only to me, but
also to him; he blamed himself for not noticing sooner. After all the yelling, he took me to his
house and made a turkey sandwich and gave me a glass of milk and made sure I ate the entire
thing. Then when I was composed enough, he dragged me home and sat there with me and
made sure I told my parents everything."

"Wow," I murmured softly.

"Uh huh. Coming here, I remade myself. I didn't have to be the shy girl anymore, and it's fun
being so open and outgoing."

"So, um, this friend of yours, that you had," I began slowly, my mind still trying to wrap itself
around the thought that sweet Madison, brilliant Madison, beautiful Madison, had been anorexic,
had felt like she had to be someone other than the amazing person that she already was.

"Became my friend for the sole purpose of being part of the in-crowd," Madison replied. "And, of
course, to get David to notice her. Of course, David, being the shallow little prick that he can be,
didn't pay her any mind until after she came back from summer vacation all nipped and tucked.
Manipulative, that one. Knew she didn't stand a chance of getting with David if she wasn't in his
circle of friends from the beginning, so she used me. Once she was in our group, she pretty
much dropped me. Big loss though," she added sarcastically.

"Damn."

"To sum it up. So now you know why I have a little inferiority complex when it comes to friends
of mine in regards to David."

"I never knew," I murmured. "Well, obviously I didn't know, 'cause no one told me, not that I'm
saying I need to know everything about your life-"

"Sam," she began, sitting up.


"'Cause I'm not like, nosy or anything, but I'm totally interested in you, I'm not saying that I'm not
interested in you, either-"

"Sam."

"I'm just saying that I never knew you felt this way, but I'm glad you told me, 'cause I never really
realized how I was totally not paying attention to anyone but David-"

"Sam."

"But I like him, you know? And weirdness, he likes me, too, so I guess I just got caught up in
that, but it's still no reason to totally neglect you or Ian or Scott or L