|Jealousy Best Served Devious
Author: hotcheri PM
Kaylee loves Ryder,who's dating Celeste, Tyler's ex.Tyler is Ryder's arch rival and is therefore loathed by Kaylee but when Kaylee ropes him into her fake dating scheme to make Celeste and Ryder jealous,chaos,mixed emotions and drama reign supreme. NEW CHAPTER UP!Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Chapters: 13 - Words: 73,981 - Reviews: 261 - Favs: 70 - Follows: 102 - Updated: 02-27-13 - Published: 05-14-12 - id: 3022325
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This story contains an excessive usage of clichés and should not, in all honesty, be taken seriously. And when I say excessive, I really mean it.
I OWN NOTHING YOU RECOGNISE (AND SOME THINGS YOU DON'T.) Please don't steal my work. I worked really hard on this and I don't want to read the exact same story on any other site with the names changed. Not cool.
Through the Grapevine
The universe has a pretty twisted sense of humor, in my humble opinion. For years I had just been a regular girl at Sao Marino High, flying under the radar, known more for my kinky hair than anything else. And now, thanks to one measly kiss and one huge blabbermouth, (I'm pointing fingers at you, Bobby Alton) my name was in everyone's mouth.
Suddenly I was an integral part of the Tyler/ Celeste/ Ryder triangle and everybody was noticing me and generally being in my business. Sao Marino High is pretty laid back compared to most high schools I've seen on TV (Gossip Girl's high school terrifies me). Sure, we have mean girls, gossip and our grapevine is second to none, but people are generally cool with each other. There's no pointing of fingers, whispering behind hands or outright confrontations unless the person who was being talked about went out of his/ her way to stir the proverbial pot. My kiss with Tyler- it stirred the pot until the damn thing boiled over.
It was bad enough that my friends could barely believe what had gone down between Tyler and I, (I was having a hard time processing it myself so I couldn't blame them) but now my very own schoolmates, who up until that day had barely been aware of my existence, let alone my name, kept stopping me in the school hallways to ask if I had really kissed Tyler.
"You've finally reached notoriety," Brandon intoned grumpily as he walked me to my locker after the last class of the day.
Yes, I actually needed an escort. Or at least someone to hold on to as I got bombarded with questions by a throng of nosy girls. So this is how it feels to be famous.
I muttered "I wish I hadn't."
"If you would have left me to deal with Tyler, you wouldn't be." Brandon sniffed contemptuously, no real bite to his tone. "Selfish hooker."
Punching him lightly in the arm, I protested, "Ain't like I wanted it to happen!"
"Sure, that's why you kissed him back," Brandon snorted, sarcasm spiking his tone. He rolled his eyes, adding, "Greedy ho. I thought you hated him? Do you know what this world would be like if people who hated each other went around kissing each other just for the hell of it? 90210 wouldn't have been created! Ignorant skank."
I bit my lip, deep in thought as Brandon said the last part. Why had I allowed Tyler to kiss me? Why hadn't I pushed him away and locked myself in the car? Hell, why had I even let him kiss me again? Heat of the moment? Just plain heat?
Out loud, I said, "I plead the Fifth," even though Brandon hadn't exactly asked me why I had let Tyler kiss me.
"You'd better plead the Fifth," Brandon said in a mock snarl as Shelly joined us, her eyes bright.
She leaned in to give me a quick hug, which was kind of surprising in itself, but not really. The only time Shelly ever hugged me was if she wanted to make me do something unpleasant (like apologize) or if she had done something mean to me and was sorry about it. She never hugged me just because she was happy to see me after two classes. But just as I was starting to narrow my eyes as a feeling of distrust washed over me, (she was up to something) she stepped away from me and began walking (scratch that, she didn't walk. She was practically skipping) next to me. I chanced a look at her face and almost cried.
With all the recent drama surrounding me, I hadn't had a chance to think about Shelly's fledgling relationship with Vince and what it meant to me, but it was obvious that the two were getting closer as the days went by. Just by looking at Shelly's face I knew this. I'd been her best friend for way too long and I knew the symptoms. Her eyes were bright, her face was glowing with happiness (not from excess oil, Shelly always kept anti-shine powder in her purse) and her step had a definite spring in it. I didn't know when it had happened, but somehow Shelly had crossed the lust line and was being overtaken by infatuation. And when the dopamine wore off, who was going to have to deal with the ensuing drama? Yours truly. I could tell by her dreamy eyes. Ol' girl thought she was in love. It was the same look I had on my face when I was gazing into my mirror at home and daydreaming of being on my first date with Ryder. A lovesick, dopey look. Eww.
Quickly, I whipped my head around to make sure that he was nowhere near me before continuing in a happily chattering Shelly and Brandon's wake. Shelly was talking about her upcoming date with Vince but I was barely paying attention. I hadn't seen Ryder since yesterday's epic foot in mouth (amongst other things, if you know what I mean) debacle, and although I didn't want to admit it to myself, I was glad. That look he'd given me when he asked if anything was going on between me and Tyler made me very nervous. Once again, I wondered if he had seen more than what I hoped he had seen. Did he actually spot the kiss or had he just been acting all possessive because Tyler had been there and they were rivals? I groaned to myself. Why did I always end up in complicated situations?
Brandon poked a long bony finger into my ribs, forcing a squawk of surprise from my lips and effectively cutting my musings short.
I glowered at him. "Brandon!"
"You're being awkward," he shrugged.
Pouting, I muttered, "I'm not being awkward, I'm thinking something awkward."
And wondering why all my friends try to bruise me up on a daily basis.
"She can't deal with the notoriety," Brandon explained to Shelly, who giggled behind her hand. "That's what happens when you're a stingy heifer."
Shelly squeezed my shoulder comfortingly. "Are people still talking?"
Nodding, I said, "I think tomorrow I'm gonna dress up as a drag queen."
Brandon snorted with laughter and I shot him a wounded look. I thought it was a good idea. Everyone would be on the lookout for Makayla Bailey; they wouldn't expect to see Manila Luzon show up.
"I'm pretty sure you're not a man…"
Shelly always has to rain on my parade.
Flippantly, I shrugged. "Minor setback."
A couple of juniors passed us. One of them exclaimed, "Hey, Kaylee, how does it feel being Tyler's replacement girl?"
They sauntered away laughing raucously, leaving me glaring after them with my teeth clenched. Shelly, probably knowing that I was ready to run after them and read them their last rites, grabbed my shoulders and held me where I was.
I ran a trembling hand through my hair. "I can't deal with this anymore!"
"It'll blow over soon," Shelly said sincerely, shooting me a sideways glance before deciding it was safe to let go of me. Easy for her to say, she wasn't being called 'replacement girl' or 'rebound chick'. Just as I was opening my mouth to tell her this, she continued. You got lucky, Shelly. "People are only interested because of the extra drama you're bringing to this stupid Twilight-like story. High school drama is so lame."
Brandon spoke up again, a note of excitement in his voice. "Speaking of high school drama, guess what a little birdie told me?" he said, speaking in the hushed tones of someone about to impart a juicy story. My ears perked up. I loved a good piece of gossip and Brandon was always good for that.
"What? Is the news mind-blowing?" I asked curiously, not knowing that Brandon's next words would blow my mind, although not in the way I figured.
"Ryder and Celeste are officially dating! And they're exclusive!"
I stopped short, the sound of my sneakers squeaking on the faded tiled floor of the school hallway. My body went cold as I stared at Brandon, a hopeless feeling of disbelief coursing through me. My voice came out in a harsh whisper as I shook my head. "No."
It wasn't true. It couldn't be true. How?
"He gave her a promise ring yesterday," Brandon replied with finality.
Shelly snickered derisively. "Isn't it a little too late for that?"
"This isn't how it's supposed to be," I said, more to myself than to anybody else. My throat was working and tears of despair welled up in my eyes as I leaned against a locker, trying to get my equilibrium back.
Visions of me at an amusement park with Ryder, kissing on the teacup ride while onlookers, much like a TV audience, make awwing sounds, filled my head. Upon the very top, Ryder turns to me, the sunlight shining on his hair, making it look several shades lighter, and asks me to be his girlfriend. I closed my eyes, almost able to smell the amusement park aroma, cotton candy and popcorn on the air. When I say 'yes', Ryder puts the promise ring on my finger. Not Celeste's!
Furiously, I opened my eyes, seeing Shelly's worried expression but not caring.
"He's not supposed to be with that- that- tart!" I spat.
Quietly, her voice calm, soothing and basically what a psychologist would sound like when faced with someone who has the full blown crazies, Shelly asked, "Who's he supposed to be with?"
My bottom lip trembled and shakily, I replied, "Me," without much conviction in my voice.
Could I have been wrong in reading Ryder? Had he actually wanted me to just do his homework? Were we not soul mates after all? I shook my head. No. I needed to think positive.
"But he's not," Shelly pointed out, still speaking in that dreadful, calm, rational voice. "And you know why?"
I swallowed hard, raising my hand to stop her. Pretty sure she was about to say some things I didn't want to hear. "Shelly-."
"Because you've been obsessing about him for years, Kaylee. He's someone that you want, not someone you need. It's not like me and Vince. Your obsession is one-sided, always has been." Shelly sighed as I listened, listened hard for once in my life. She looked almost as hurt as I felt and I suddenly realised that she had wanted to say all this for years. "He doesn't deserve you, Kaylee. You're funny, smart, pretty and down to earth. If you got together with him, he would bore you to tears in no time."
The confrontational part of me spoke up. "Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" I asked, my hands on my hips.
"She's right, you ding dong," Brandon told me impatiently. I snapped my head around to look at him. Did he just call me a ding dong? "It's like you and Johnny Depp dating. Some kinda- culture shock would happen. Or something. You're too different."
Shelly nodded in agreement to what Brandon was saying, as I stood there, feeling attacked from both sides and hoping that Janessa didn't show up. Because then it would be open season on me. "If Ryder had wanted to ask you out, he would've asked you out by now. And he hasn't. He asked Celeste out instead." She put both hands on my shoulders, looking hopefully into my eyes as if she could hypnotize me into facing her version of the facts. "Move on, Kaylee. Please."
Part of me knew that Shelly was right. I had to move on and get over Ryder, if only for my own sanity. Ryder wasn't thinking about me. He might never ask me to the prom. It was time for me to put all my childish thoughts away and grow up. But that stubborn streak that I had inherited from my mother fought hard for its right to be heard. And it kept sending me an image of me talking to Ryder at the Hallmark store, when he said I was really sweet.
Don't give up. He'll come around. You're really sweet, you know that? You just have to be patient.
Shelly was still talking and with great difficulty I tuned in again. "You'll find someone who deserves you. Just let go of the past."
"You really think so?" I asked, deciding to act like I was actually considering taking her advice. I needed some space to think about all this. It was way more than my brain could handle right now.
Nodding empathically, Shelly smiled. "Yes, I do."
"Maybe you're right," I sighed, spotting the satisfied gleam in Shelly's eyes. She thought she'd won. I could be crafty too, though. Heehaw!
"You know what they say, living well is the best revenge," Brandon added. Shelly turned to him, her eyes narrowed and her lips set. "If he sees that his hook up with Celeste doesn't faze you, he might open his eyes and realize what you mean to him."
Shelly looked about ready to backhand slap Brandon, her nostrils flaring. "Brandon, I swear if you make me lose an inch of this precious ground I've just gained, you will rue the day you crossed me, you'll rue it! And you won't get much else done, because ruing the day takes a lot of energy."
Brandon huffed, "Just tell her to stay away from Tyler!"
"You can have him," I growled. Tyler Jason Li was persona non grata in my books. He needed to stay the hell away from me.
"Yay!" Brandon beamed all over his face. "I've gotta go to work. We're receiving a shipment of 'video games'." He laughed. "More like unlaundered money from my bosses Yakuza clan. Bye!"
He sashayed down the hallway and out of the building, his back straighter than a model on the runway.
I looked after him, shaking my head in wonder. "He really wants an exciting life."
"I need to meet Vince soon," Shelly said, looking at the time on her phone. She looked up at me, worry in her eyes. I strove to make my face as expressionless as I could, but I probably just managed to look like I was holding in a fart. "Are you gonna be okay?"
Nodding briskly, I exclaimed, "Yeah! Go on, enjoy your date! I'm just going to go home and- veg out on ice cream with Arielle and watch cartoons."
"Okay." Shelly turned to leave, and then turned back. "Look, Kaylee, if I was too harsh earlier-," she started, pushing back her hair nervously.
"You weren't," I cut in quickly. "You made me see- the light! I'm gonna be okay, yes I am!" Okay, Kay-Bear, you're overdoing it just a tad. Before Shelly could notice that I was acting more donkey-like than usual and just wanted to be left alone for a while so that I could recharge, I gave her a little shove towards the school entrance doors. "Go on, you're gonna be late! Vince is waiting!"
Mentioning Vince galvanized her into action. Her eyes brightened. "Okay! Bye!"
She was gone in a flash and I finally wiped the fake smile off my face, glowering as I reached my locker. Wasn't there a limit to what one could take? Because if there was, I had reached mine.
But like I said, the universe definitely has a twisted sense of humor.
I was still scowling at my locker when I heard a jingle of keys behind me. My immediate reaction was to turn and see who the person intruding on my silence was. Nobody sneaks up on Makayla Bailey and gets away with it. The school had emptied out and apart from a few stragglers (me included) the hallway around my locker bay was empty. Or it had been empty. If I'd known that the only other straggler in this part of the school and currently behind me would be Tyler, I would have kept mumbling grumpily under my breath at my locker and tried to make myself as small as possible in the hopes that he wouldn't see me. Alas, it's Shelly who's the self-proclaimed psychic, not me. I turned and had the most unfortunate luck of meeting eyes with Tyler just as he chose that moment to glance up from his phone.
He grinned at me and my heart banged in my chest. It wasn't one of his smug, I'm gonna call you Aayla grins; it was a real Tyler grin. One that forcibly reminded me of being in fourth grade and playing baseball at recess. Whenever Tyler was the team captain (which was often) he would pick me to be in his team first. When a sulky Vince finally asked him why, Tyler shot me one of those unbelievably gorgeous grins and said, 'because she's really fast.'
Holy crap, I cannot believe I just remembered that.
Still, something about that smile on Tyler's face compelled me to smile back, even though I had never felt less like smiling.
"Hey," he said easily, slipping his phone into the pocket of his cargo shorts.
Forcing myself to not focus on his lips and what they could do, I managed to croak out, "Hi."
My face burned. How was I supposed to talk to Tyler? What did you say to the guy who kissed you senseless in a mall parking lot, especially when you were supposed to abhor him?
I ran an unsteady hand over my face, forcing myself to calm down. Damn hormones.
"You okay?" Tyler asked, a slight frown creasing his forehead.
Blinking hard, I nodded. "Yeah. Why?"
"You just looked- never mind." Tyler eyed me thoughtfully and I could tell that he didn't believe me when I said I was okay. Truth was, I didn't believe it myself. I was standing a couple of feet away from Tyler Li and he was looking kind of really hot. Luckily, he didn't press the issue, which was good because I just wasn't thinking right. "Did you get home safe the other night?"
That's what you are to him, Kaylee, the other night.
Ignoring the caustic voice in my head, I said, "Yeah. Not a hitch."
"Yeah?" A familiar, teasing note crept into Tyler's voice and I tensed. That was how he sounded yesterday, right before he kissed me. If he moved closer, I was getting out of here. "Coz I was thinking I could probably change your oil too. But that'll cost you double."
His lips turned up in a sexy grin. It was entirely too warm in the hallway and I raised my hand, intending to fan myself. Common sense stopped me before I could do it and risk showing Tyler that even with a smile, he could still get me heated.
Clenching and unclenching my fists, I unconsciously leaned forward and hissed, "You're a total perve who could have chosen another method of payment for changing my tyre, like money!"
Right? Any normal guy would say 'sure, I'll change your tyre for ten bucks and some fries'. Not Tyler.
"Well, I know you're a broke ass," Tyler answered, his teeth flashing as he smiled cheekily at me. "And anyways, my idea was more fun."
Fun? You call pressing me up against my mom's car in a public parking lot and proceeding to kiss the living daylights out of me fun? You think I enjoyed how your lips felt against mine, or how your hands roamed up and down my back or-.
Feeling frazzled, I shook my head in hopes of stopping my train of thought. Not even my mind was helping me out!
"You're talking reckless," was all I could come up with. Hell, at least I could still talk!
Tyler's smile widened. "You seemed really into it, like you wanted it to happen."
Pursing up my lips, I snapped, "I only did it to get you to change my tyre, don't blow it out of proportion!"
God, Tyler was infuriating! Part of me wanted to slap him, part of me wanted to kiss- whoa, Kaylee, what?
"There's nothing wrong with you admitting that you wanted me to kiss you, Aayla," Tyler snickered, obviously enjoying this teasing session. "I mean, being single that long must have its problems."
Before I could respond to this intentionally taunting jab, I heard a click clack of heels behind us. A second later, a flash of orange-blonde hair imprinted itself on my retinas and Celeste appeared. Her eyes flicked towards me and disregarded me immediately as I bristled. How rude. Just because I was wearing flip-flops and my hair was super frizzy due to the heat wave Sao Marino was currently going through didn't mean that she had to brush me off like that. It isn't my fault that I don't wear 6 inch heels on a daily basis and can't sneak up behind people.
"Tyler?" Celeste said uncertainly in that stupid little girl out of breath voice that I so greatly hated.
I snuck a glance at Tyler as Celeste said his name. The teasing yet cute grin on his face disappeared in an instant and his whole body tensed up, his eyes narrowing as he stared at something right above my head.
Heaving a deep sigh, Tyler turned to face his ex-girlfriend. "Hey, Celeste," he said simply, but I could hear the pain in his voice.
This is going to be interesting.
I took a step forward so as to have the perfect vantage point to check out the fireworks. And to run for cover if I needed to. Tyler's lean body was coiled tensely and I for one did not want to be there when he pounced. Hopefully on Celeste, because I didn't even want to think about what might happen if he pounced on me.
"Hi, Tyler," Celeste breathed, her smile brave. Her eyes flicked to me again and for a second I thought she was just going to act like I wasn't there. Then her heavily made-up eyes crinkled in the corners as she shot me a fake smile. "Hi, Kaylee. I thought I heard your voices." She raised the duffle bag she'd been holding behind her back. I barely had time to register that it was bright pink and matched her heels to a tee (go figure) before she refocused on Tyler and continued talking. "I was headed to-."
"Cheerleading practice, yeah. I know." Tyler nodded, his hand going up to massage the spot between his eyes. He dropped his hand and gave Celeste such a naked look of pain that my heart actually went out to him. "I used to go with you sometimes before…you know."
Celeste flinched from his gaze, her head bowing. She knew. I had no idea what Tyler was talking about, but right now I didn't really care. I wondered if Tyler knew what Brandon had told me, about Celeste and Ryder being exclusive and my eyes dropped down to the hand that was clutching the pink bag. Ringless. But that didn't mean anything. Or did it? My heart lifted momentarily. Was Brandon's source off target?
Celeste reached into her pocket and surprised me by taking out an individually wrapped wet wipe. She took a couple of tottering steps towards Tyler as she ripped open the wipe. "You've got a little something on your chin," she murmured softly, looking up into his solemn face. For a second, as she wiped away the smudge on Tyler's chin that had so offended her clean tastes (my mom would be so proud) and Tyler stared down at her, I saw the undisguised expression of hurt on his face and realized how hard this breakup had actually hit him. For whatever reason, he really loved this fake Barbie. And she didn't care.
I sympathized with him over that. Unrequited love wasn't fun. I should know better than anybody.
"Are you seriously dating Ryder?" Tyler asked suddenly as Celeste stepped back.
Her lips set in a resolute line, Celeste nodded. "Yes." Almost immediately, she went on the defensive, maybe spotting the way I slumped weakly against the lockers, but probably because of how Tyler recoiled from her. "I didn't know how to tell you, Tyler." Her voice faltered and she stared down at her feet. "I didn't want to hurt you."
"I would have appreciated it if you had waited more than a week after we broke up before hooking up with a guy who hates me." Tyler eyed Celeste seriously, that injured look still in his eyes and her cheeks reddened. "That was really low, Celeste."
You tell her, Tyler!
Even though I was still reeling from all the revelations I had been force-fed today, I was actually rooting for Tyler. That sad look on his face, it was eating me up inside. And even though I almost couldn't breathe due to Celeste admitting that she was actually dating Ryder, I was glad that Tyler wasn't taking this blow to his manhood lying down. I could have my breakdown later. Trust me, I will.
Tossing her hair, Celeste scowled up at him. "Well, at least I'm not making out with an alleged stalker!" She pointed at me as I listened to her suddenly switch the blame to Tyler and me, my mouth gaping. "You know Kaylee's been obsessing after Ryder for years." Looking me up and down, Celeste's top lip curled in disdain. "Guess all you really wanted was a basketball player, huh, Kaylee? Didn't matter who."
I blinked at her, willing my eyes to stop watering. Don't cry until you're alone, Kay-Bear. "I didn't even-," I started, trying to defend myself.
"You seriously think Ryder will notice you now? He thinks you're annoying, creepy and delusional. You're pathetic, Kaylee." She sneered at me, flipping her silky hair over one shoulder. Each cutting word hit me solidly, chipping away at my self-preservation until my eyes welled with tears. "Both of you are pathetic."
She turned smartly on her heels, wobbled slightly and strode down the hallway, her hair blowing in the nonexistent breeze. Celeste Hong always did know how to make an exit.
And leave two severely hurt people in her wake.
My body was entirely numb save from the pounding in my head as I closed my locker, watching my hand shake disinterestedly, as though it belonged to someone else. It actually felt like I was seeing through someone else's eyes, a calm visitor in a teary eyed stranger's body. I could feel a lump in my throat from the hurtful words Celeste had flung at me, but it felt like the tongue-lashing had happened to someone else. I knew why I was feeling like that and I was glad. Although holding onto my emotions was difficult when all I wanted to do was break down and cry, I couldn't have my meltdown in front of Tyler. The last time I'd cried in front of him was after the ketchup incident and the last thing I wanted was for him to see me at my most vulnerable. Some people are pretty criers. When I cry, I look like a yeti.
Tyler was still standing in the middle of the hallway, a look of mingled anger and pain playing out on his face. "Shit," he muttered, fists clenched by his side. Briefly, I wondered if he was going to lay a hurting on Ryder for masterfully committing the robbery of the year, then I blinked away the first tears. Ryder. It was never, ever going to happen between us. The crushing realization that all it had been was wishful thinking after all had finally caught up with me, and it was so brutal for me to finally face the truth that my body had gone into some kind of shock.
"I gotta go," I murmured, more to myself than to Tyler. I wasn't even expecting that he would hear me, wrapped up in his own thoughts as he was, but he turned to me like a man in a daze. Even through the haze of unshed tears, I noticed the deep concern in his eyes as he looked at me.
He took a hesitant step towards me then just stood there staring at my face, his forehead wrinkled into a frown. "Are you okay, Kaylee?"
"No. I mean, yes. I am." I backed up a few steps, needing to be outside, to be away from this cursed locker bay. "I gotta go home and- finish my English essay. You know, the Wuthering Heights one? It's due in a few days."
I wasn't sure why I was explaining myself to Tyler. Maybe I just wanted to wipe that look off his face. We weren't supposed to be cool with each other, but if that was the case, why did he look so worried on my behalf? Or was I just reading too much into it due to my delicate mindset? I somehow didn't think so.
"I wouldn't know about the Wuthering Heights essay." He bit his lip, suddenly looking surprising self-conscious. "I'm in AP English. Look, Kaylee, let me drive you home."
I shook my head, clutching my bag against my chest. "No, I'd rather walk."
Couldn't he tell that I needed to be alone? It was taking all of my self-preservation to not drop to my knees and howl out my pain at the ceiling. But then again, I didn't think Tyler was very good at reading people's emotions. Probably why Celeste had strayed in the first place. 'You're pathetic'. The memory of the scorn in her voice and the unaccustomed sneer on her doll like face made me grit my teeth. Do not fall apart, Kay-Bear. Not yet.
"It's hot out." A tentative grin turned up a corner of Tyler's mouth. "You might melt. My car is air-conditioned."
Sarcasm was always something I could fall back on when I was in dire straits and right now was as good a time as any to be as sarcastic as possible.
My eyes wide with wonder, I exclaimed, "The only air-conditioned car in Sao Marino belongs to you? Huzzah!"
"Kaylee, just let me drive you-," Tyler said, sounding slightly exasperated now.
"I'm more than capable of walking home, thanks. Bye." I stuck my nose in the air, turned on my heel and stalked out of the school building. The oppressive heat washed over me and a fine sheen of sweat covered my forehead by the time I hit the sidewalk. But I wasn't even thinking about that. My heart was thumping loudly in my chest but it wasn't loud enough to blur out the jumble of uncoordinated thoughts in my mind as I walked with my head bent, the sun beating down on my neck.
Celeste. Ryder. A promise ring. Ryder thinking I was a creepy stalker. And wasn't he right? I knew his schedule by heart, had memorized his favorite foods and I even knew his parents' names.
My face crumpled and I started to cry, the tears silently rolling down my cheeks as I kicked up dust while I walked. Why did this always happen to me? Was I doomed to just be unlucky in love while everyone around me was happy? Maybe Janessa was right and I was so focused on Ryder that I had failed to see the other fish in the sea. But I wasn't interested in anyone else. I loved Ryder. But he was with Celeste now, and he laughed behind my back.
"Kaylee, get in the car."
I screamed, my heart jumping up into my throat as I whirled around to face the intruder of my thoughts. And there was Tyler, sitting in his midnight blue Dodge Charger, a car so quiet I hadn't even noticed it trailing behind me. That worried me. I would be really easy to kidnap. But somehow I didn't think anyone wanted to kidnap a girl with tear tracks down her face.
"Leave me alone, Tyler! Don't you get it? I don't need a ride home, I just want to be alone!"
I almost yelled the words at him, feeling the cords in my neck stand out. Was this just part of his 'aggravate Kaylee as much as possible' routine? Because it was working, and it was working really well.
He stuck his head out of the window as I blinked away tears. "Look, Kaylee. I just want to take you home. I won't even say a word. Just let me-."
"No!" I screeched, my voice echoing in the still, almost airless street. I turned my back to him and started walking up the steep sidewalk.
Behind me, I heard Tyler heave an irritated sigh, but I didn't care. He didn't owe me anything, why was he coming after me? I didn't need his pity. This Ryder infatuation was my doing and I intended to deal with it in the only way I knew how- eat lots of ice cream, listen to sad music and cry.
After trudging along for a few feet, I thought I was safe enough to start crying again, swallowing past the huge lump in my throat. There was no way that Tyler was still tailing me, not after I had yelled at him.
All of a sudden, a pair of strong, toned arms wrapped around my waist. I barely had time to let out a squawk of unadulterated surprise before I was lifted bodily off my feet and grimly marched to Tyler's silent car, which was idling at the side of the road. Slack jawed with shock, I didn't even struggle as he placed me in the passenger seat. Maybe the cool, refreshing air-conditioning rendered me silent, but it was more likely that my mind had just given up trying to process all this new information. Did I just get abducted? By Tyler Li?
"Fuck, Kaylee, you can be a total ass sometimes, you know that?"
The exasperated yet fond tone of voice he used made me glance up at him, my eyes wet with tears. He was leaning against the car, head resting against his forearms, his body blocking the door way, probably to make sure that I wouldn't kick and claw my way out of the car. I wasn't planning to. All the emotions I had been trying so desperately to reign in all day crashed in on me at once. My lip trembled and I opened up my mouth and burst into tears. It was like someone had opened the waterworks. Tears fell hard and fast as I sobbed, not even caring that I was crying in front of Tyler anymore. What was this degradation compared to the hell the last few days had been?
Murmuring "Oh, shit," with what sounded like real worry in his voice, Tyler hunkered down until he was level with me, reached into the car, and, with some difficulty, wrapped his arms around me. Without resisting, I let him hug me against his warm body, burrowing my face into his t-shirt and crying my eyes out. He stroked my hair, murmuring soothing words that I didn't catch as I let my anguish out.
I cried until my eyes were dry and burning and the only sound that came out of my mouth was that weird hiccupping sound that happens when you cry too much. Although my head was splitting and my eyes felt grainy, I actually felt better. Closing my eyes as shame seeped in (I just cried my eyes out in front of Tyler. Again) I pulled away from Tyler. He let his arms drop but didn't stand up. I could feel him looking at me and I nervously opened my eyes, expecting to see a smirk on his face right before he taunted me. But he surprised me once again by gazing at me earnestly.
"You feel better now?" he asked.
I nodded. I couldn't trust myself to speak just yet.
"I'm going to drive you home. Will you let me?"
Again I nodded, swallowing hard. His lips quirked up in a cute smile and he stood up, closing the door and walking around to his side. I put on my seat belt, feeling emotionally drained.
Tyler slipped into his seat, closed the door, put on his seat belt and pulled away from the curb. Glancing over at him, I saw dark smudges on his once pristine white t-shirt and I winced. My mascara. My bad.
I cleared my throat, wondering how to phrase what I wanted to say next. "Thanks Tyler. For- everything."
Glancing at me, Tyler waved a dismissive hand. "Don't worry about it."
But I did worry about it. You see, I was mostly my father's daughter, barring the Home Network addiction, but one thing I got from my mom was the ability to hold a grudge for a long, long time. Hey, at least I can admit it! I had been holding a grudge against Tyler since the 6th grade and for some reason, I thought he had been holding a grudge against me too. So for him to be acting the way he had been towards me for the past couple of weeks was tripping me out. This wasn't typical Tyler behavior. The guy lived to antagonize and tease me every chance he got. Why was he being so nice towards me lately?
Collecting my scattered thoughts, I turned to look at him as he drove up the street to the intersection. Usually, when I was walking home, I took a left at the intersection, passed the shopping center, walked about half a mile down the road and turned right onto my street. Instead of turning left, Tyler turned right, driving slowly down the quiet, palm lined street that would take us down to the beach before opening out onto my street. Although it was the coolest, most beautiful street in Sao Marino, I never came this way on my walk home. It was almost a 5 mile walk and I was the laziest person I knew. For a split second I wondered why Tyler was taking me home via the scenic route, and then I caught sight of myself in the rear-view mirror and grimaced. My eyes were red and puffy. He probably wanted to give me a chance to recuperate. I felt a flash of gratitude towards him, which only made me go back to my original thought- why was Tyler being so nice?
"Why did you follow me even when I told you not to?" I blurted out.
I was expecting an answer like 'because it was really hot and walking in the heat sucks' or something, but Tyler's actual response proceeded to blow my mind (second time in two days. Surely there was a limit).
A thoughtful look on his face, Tyler shot me a sideways glance before he replied to my sudden question. "Remember when we were in first grade and your mom always used to make you PBJ sandwiches?"
Dumbly, I nodded, suddenly overwhelmed by a barrage of memories. If there was one thing my mom could actually make in the kitchen, it was a good sandwich. Unfortunately, I just hated the way PBJ sandwiches tasted. But because I didn't have the heart to tell her, she would make them for me almost every day.
"You used to hate them, but you never told her so she would always make them for you," Tyler continued, unconsciously echoing my thoughts. He looked at me and smiled. "I would always see you in the canteen at lunch, staring down at your lunch with the saddest look on your face so I would come over, sit beside you and ask if you wanted to trade. But you wanna know something fucked up?"
"What?" I asked, still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that, for whatever reason, Tyler still remembered something that I had totally forgotten and was recounting it with such clarity that for a second, I was transported to my 6 year old self again, back when bliss was measured by what kind of sandwich my mom had made for my lunch that day.
Chuckling, Tyler said, "I never really liked PBJ sandwiches either."
"What?" My head snapped up. "Then why did you always want to trade?"
"Because you always looked like that sandwich was all that stood between you and happiness. And when we switched sandwiches, you would give me the cutest, most grateful smile." Tyler scratched the back of his head embarrassedly. "So maybe, no, probably, that was why I followed you. Because you had the same look on your face like you did 11 years ago. And I thought I could maybe cheer you up a little. I never liked seeing you sad, Kaylee."
I massaged my temples as I tried to find something smart to say, but my mind was blank. Tyler's revelation was one of the sweetest things I'd heard in a while concerning me, and it had the power to render me speechless. Not that it mattered to Tyler, because he had something else up his sleeves.
"Can I ask you something?"
Nodding, I said, "Sure."
"Were you crying because Ryder and Celeste are dating or because of what Celeste was saying? Because if it was over what Celeste said, I wouldn't even waste my time letting it get to you." He shook his head, eyes fixed on the road. "She has no right to judge either one of us. And to be honest, Ryder doesn't think you're creepy. A little- dedicated, but he loves the attention."
Well, this was a dramatic turn of events. Even as I filed that Ryder tidbit away for further inspection, I wondered why I had started to cry. A combination of both, I'd say. And Celeste's contempt was just the icing on the cake. Hesitantly, I told this to Tyler, who snorted.
"Like I said, Celeste can't judge you. She's the one who played me to get with Ryder. I kissed you. Not the other way round. And as for Ryder, he loves my sloppy seconds." Tyler snickered to himself. "He's dated two of my exes. Celeste makes three."
I raised my eyebrows. That was news to me. Then again, I hadn't really noticed who Tyler was dating before Celeste started to be seen with Ryder.
"Why did you kiss me?" I heard myself ask before my mind knew what my vocal cords were plotting.
Tyler actually laughed out loud at my question. "Why do you think?"
"I don't know, that's why I asked you," I murmured crankily.
"Maybe because I wanted to." He shrugged. "Is that hard for you to believe?"
I thought about it. Yes, it was very hard for me to believe. Why would Tyler suddenly decide to put the moves on me after so many years of aggravation (from both of us)? Why else would he have kissed me, then? Well, let's think, shall we Kaylee? Who showed up while Tyler was kissing me? Ryder Jefferson, that's who. So what did that mean?
Accusingly, I pointed at Tyler. "You knew Ryder was in the parking lot that day, didn't you?"
Obviously Tyler had seen Ryder around the vicinity and, knowing that his mission in life was to irk Ryder by any means possible, had decided to step to me. Actually, that only made sense if Ryder liked me. And as Celeste had established, he didn't.
Man, this was confusing. And Tyler was acting waaay too nice. It was starting to creep me out.
"Well, yeah. I saw his car," Tyler said and to my surprise, he blushed. "But that's not why I kissed you. Honestly."
All of a sudden, I didn't even want to know why Tyler kissed me. Let it be one of the many mysteries that run my life. He turned onto my street and we drove the remainder of the way in silence. As he rolled to a stop just before reaching my house (which was good because mom would have a cow if she looked out of the window and saw me stepping out of Tyler Li's car) I turned to him and, swallowing hard, managed to say, "Thank you, Tyler. For- everything."
Tyler favored me with one of his cute smiles before saying, "You're welcome. But can I suggest waterproof makeup next time?" My face flamed with mortification as he held out his stained t-shirt.
"I can wash it for you if you want," I babbled, holding out my hand like he was just going to take off his t-shirt and hand it to me.
Laughing, Tyler shook his head. "Don't worry about it. Just pay it forward."
Impulsively, I leaned forward and hugged him, manoeuvring around the gear lever to wrap my arms around his neck. He squeezed me back as I buried my face in his shoulder, inhaling the clean scent that surrounded him. Tyler infuriated me most of the time, but today he had done something that nobody had been able to do for a long time- made me feel better about myself. And I was grateful for that, even though I couldn't put it into words.
Slowly I pulled back, unlocking my fingers from behind Tyler's head as I stared right into his eyes. Time seemed to freeze around us as the only thing that suddenly seemed to matter was the adorably uncertain look in Tyler's eyes and the way he licked his lips just before he leaned in closer. I held my breath as our noses brushed, so close that our breath intermingled and despite the fact that we were parked a mere few feet from my house, I let my eyes slide closed. Kissing Tyler was a bad idea, but at that moment, I wanted nothing else.
But just before our lips could meet and seal the deal, Tyler breathed out a frustrated "Fuck." He shifted back and bit his bottom lip nervously. "I should go, Kaylee."
I nodded in agreement, my cheeks flushing. Oh God, what had almost happened? "I'll see you tomorrow," I mumbled quickly, scrabbling for the door handle and almost falling out of the car in my hurry to get away from Tyler.
"Yeah. Later, Kaylee." Tyler revved the engine and as soon as I slammed the door shut he drove away. But before he did, I noticed with a brief feeling of satisfaction that his cheeks were flushed too. So I wasn't the only person who had been worked up by that almost kisses, thank goodness.
I stood outside in our meticulously tended garden for a couple of minutes, breathing hard and trying to get back to myself. I needed time to think, that was it. What was wrong with me? Had I just been about to kiss Tyler? Again?
Opening the front door to the house, I was bombarded by a cacophony of sounds. Marc yelling, Aunt Vivienne talking at someone, mom humming, Arielle practicing on her flute (blame dad for getting her one) and dad testing out a new gizmo that sounded like a lawnmower. Just a normal day in the Bailey household.
I sidled into the kitchen, hoping nobody would notice me. Unfortunately, Aunt Vivienne was in one of her attention grabbing modes and as soon as she saw me I was suckered in.
"Kaylee! Tell your mother that alcohol decreases the risk of cancer! Then pour yourself a glass. You're what? 18? You deserve a gin and tonic."
Mom rolled her eyes at me. "Vivienne, stop trying to get my daughter to drink."
"Well, so-ree for insulting your sensibilities, Noelle," Aunt Vivienne slurred, a sarcastic note in her voice and a champagne glass in her hand. "I just thought the kid needed a drink. She looks low as hell."
"I'm 17, Auntie. And I'm good without a drink. I'm going to do my homework."
So far, nobody had really taken note of my smeared makeup or asked why my top was so crumpled. All I had to do was make it across the room and I was safe.
"Kay-Bear?" A tug on my pants made me look down. Arielle was staring up at me, her brown eyes wide. "You were crying!"
Trust my 4 year old sister to notice.
Everyone turned to scrutinize me, making me feel like I was on display. Even dad popped in from the living room.
"What happened, Kay-Bear?" he asked, sounding concerned as he kissed my forehead.
My voice broke as I explained what had happened, conveniently leaving out Tyler giving me a ride and what had almost happened in the car. They didn't need to know about that.
"You should just hang it up with this Ryder kid," was Aunt Vivienne's advice. "He sounds like a poser to me."
Wise words, but I couldn't stop thinking about him when I finally escaped to the privacy of my own room and dropped myself onto my comfy bed. I'd been crushing on him for years. Why couldn't I get one chance? Just to see for myself if he lived up to the hype I had created in my head? What did I have to do to be good enough to date Ryder? Screaming into my pillow made me feel better. It was almost as therapeutic as crying on Tyler's shoulder.
Suddenly, something Janessa said popped into my head and I rolled over onto my stomach, my brow furrowed as I conjured up an image of her face and tried to remember her exact words. 'Face it, have you had such a Ryder filled week before Ryder started popping up everywhere you go?'
No. I hadn't. And although I still didn't know the real reason behind why Tyler had kissed me in the mall parking lot, I knew that Ryder had seen and it had irked his soul. Which meant only one thing...
"Ryder always steals Tyler's girlfriends because he can't stand to see him happy," I murmured to myself as a little 'aha' light went on in my mind. All of a sudden, I knew exactly what I had to do. Somehow, I had to convince Tyler to pretend to be my boyfriend and then Ryder would be mine. It was a foolproof plan, or would be if I could get Tyler on board.
The next day found me staking out Tyler's locker at lunch time, tapping my foot against the floor impatiently. When he finally sauntered up the hallway, I was out of sorts and hungry. I had a sub that I had to devour. Why had he taken so long?
He raised his eyebrows at me as he walked up. "Aayla. Isn't your locker thata way?"
And he was in a mood, too. Just my luck.
Still, I was here for a reason and I forced myself to smile at him even though all I felt like doing was a) wiping that smug expression off his face and b) snatch the box of pizza from his hands and run. When I'm hungry, I do not play.
"Hey, Tyler. Listen, what are you doing after school?" I asked brightly.
Shrugging, Tyler said, "Minding my own business. Why, what are you doing?"
I bit back a snappy retort. I needed to stay calm, even if it seemed that the old Tyler was clearly back.
"I was wondering if you wanted to go to the food court with me. My treat." I played my trump card, grinning so hard that my cheeks hurt. I hoped I wasn't scaring him. Smiling at Tyler was something I just wasn't used to doing. "It'll be worth your while."
Okay, so that was a lousy trump card, but oh well.
Tyler's eyes narrowed. "You asking me on a date, Aayla?"
He asked that question so loudly that head turned to look at us. As he probably intended. I glared at him, pursing my lips as an arrogant smile spread on his face.
"I have a proposition for you," I whispered, hoping he would get the hint and keep his voice down.
He shot me an evaluating look, ran a hand over his hair and said, "I'll meet you at 4. You get ten minutes. Don't be late."
"Sounds good," I said over my shoulder, already in motion. My plan was in effect. Now hunger was calling.
Author's Note: My complete bad for not updating on Wednesday. My laptop quit on me and I had to wait to get it fixed. And because I saved this chapter on my laptop and not on my flash disk, I was screwed. Hopefully you enjoy this chapter and aren't too mad at the wait.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed- Guest, Guest, Guest, Anon, creativequirky, Midnight Jewel (x2), witeaya, Guest, Guest, CreativeChick233, N-butterfly (x4), bluz, amiga101, ryrosalind, Alex, LoveAndBeyond, Guest, Guest, Anon, thetasteofsun, Kiss-My-Sass87, Guest, Sallu, RosalynB, book-geek, aisha001, Guest, Guest, Live and learn (x2), The Hierophant, Fantasque, Lea Brown, Joker-Darkly, ConverseObsessed, Lafeyette.
Seriously hope you enjoy this instalment!