AN: This is just one of my many side stories.  I'll keep updating my other stories, but I'll also have this one.  Hope you enjoy it, and plz r/r!

Chapter One

            Lauryn Manning stood before her window, looking out into the distance.  As the sun set down, the sky was filled with a wondrous blend of light pink, peachy orange, and a faint trace of lavender.  High up in the sky, the colors blended together, leaving no room for clouds.  Sighing, she walked away from the window and sat down on the couch.

                "What were you looking at?" he asked her.

                She lifted her head and looked at the boy sitting across from her, typing away at a laptop.  His ruffled blonde-streaked hair and deep blue eyes accented a strong, chiseled, face.  Beneath his shirt, the strong structure of his muscles showed through.  What had caught her eye and at least half of the female student body, though, was the dazzling smile on his face.  It flashed with a brightness that almost seemed blinding, as if making the person he was looking at seem like the only person he was thinking about.

                "Just admiring the sunset," she brushed off the question.

                "Okay.  Well, I'm almost done with this, so we can be through with the project and get on with our lives.  I only have a paragraph left to type."

                "Sure."

                'So we can be through with the project and get on with our lives.'  The way he said it made it seem like just an inconvenient distraction from the normal excitement of his life.  Of course, it probably was merely a distraction.  Working on a project with the solitary bookworm wasn't at the top of anyone's list, let alone Chris Harrison's.  All he wanted to do was get it all out of the way, so he could escape from the presence of Lauryn Manning and once again step into the limelight of being popular.  After all, if he stayed around Lauryn too long, she might infect him like a deadly disease.  At least, that's what his friends told him, and he was too gullible to not believe them.  No, it was best that he finish the project as fast as possible and step away from the bookworm, as quickly as possible.

                "Well," he announced after a few minutes, "I'm done.  I'll just take it home, print it out, and bring it to school on Monday."

                "Okay.  That's fine.  Well, I guess I'll see you around."

                "Sure, whatever," he mumbled, already packing up the laptop and heading out the door.

                "So just call me—"

                The sound of the door slamming shut cut her off.

                "—if you need anything," she finished, sighing.

                It was then that reality hit her in the face.  She would never find a boyfriend.  At least, not a decent one.  And there was no possible way she could get Chris Harrison to even take a second glance at her, unless it was for school.  Otherwise, she was just the silly girl with her nose always stuck in a book.  No one paid attention to her.

                So, living up to her reputation, or at least the modicum of one that she had, Lauryn picked up the latest novel she was reading.  After trying to make friends with anyone in sight practically all her life, she had given up and adapted to the eerie silence and loneliness of being without a friend.

                About thirty minutes and fifty pages into her novel, the sound of the shrill ringing of the phone interrupted her vigilance.

                "Hello," she answered with a monotonous voice.

                "Hey."

                "Uh, hi?  Who is this?"

                "Oh, Chris."
                "Hi."

                "So I came home and looked at the project, and we left out an entire part of it."

                "What?  That's not possible.  We did everything on the rubric."

                "Look on the back."

                Reluctantly, it grabbed the sheet of paper off the table and flipped it over.  Groaning, my face fell.

                "Great.  We have two days to do half of the project."

                "Unless you want to get half-credit."

                "No, that's not going to happen.  Okay, here's what we're going to do.  I have extra time on my hands.  Why don't you just leave it all to me?"

                "Are you sure?"

                "Yeah, it's fine," she said, stressing about how she was going to find time to do all the work she had heaped onto herself.

                "Okay.  Well, thanks, I guess.  Bye."

                "Yeah, bye."

                As she put down the phone, she banged her head on the book still in her hands.  How am I supposed to do this with all the other projects I have going on, not to mention my voice lessons, piano competition, and violin recital?  I couldn't ask him to do it, though, and we don't have enough time spend more time working on it together.  I'll find a way, somehow.

                The entire weekend, Lauryn spent every free moment inside, if not working on one project, then on another.  By the time Sunday night rolled around, she felt exhausted and sick from overexerting herself.

                "Where is she?" Chris screamed, demanding an answer from anyone around him.

                "I don't know.  Calm down, dude.  It's just a project.  So what?" his best friend yelled at him.

                "Adam, it isn't just a project.  If I fail this, I don't get to go on my cruise for spring break.  Meaning, no hot girls."

                Adam burst out laughing.  "Well then you're screwed, but I'm sure the bookworm will get here."

                Chris flinched at the nickname his friend used.  What's wrong with me?  Days ago, he would've been right there with Adam, making fun of her, but after spending some time with her, he realized she was just like everyone else.  She was just a lonely person who found friends in books.  It was a little creepy to him, but she can do whatever she wants to.

                "Yeah, I guess so," he said, taking his seat.

                As class moved on, he began to get more and more worried.  Finally, the moment came.

                "Chris and Lauryn, do you have your project?"

                "Uh. . . uh. . . no.  Well, see, Lauryn was supposed to do half of the project over the weekend and bring it in today, but since she's not here. . . "

                "Mr. Harrison, I don't think that's a very good excuse.  You made her do something that would normally take two weeks in just two days?  You should have put in your share of the work."

                "Well, I wouldn't say I made her do it.  She offered."

                "But did you offer to help at all?"

                "Well. . . no."

                "Exactly.  You dumped all that work on her."

                "I wouldn't say—"

                "Oh, but that's exactly what it is.  Do you realize all the other work she had to do this weekend?  Maybe you should ask her.  In the meantime, I want you to do this entire project over, by yourself.  Turn it in when you get back from spring break."
                "What?  But—"

                "Nope.  It's what you get for dumping all that work on her."

                After she finished her sentence, the bell rang.

                "Everyone, have a great spring break!" she yelled.

                " 'I'm sure the bookworm will get here', huh?" Chris shouted at Adam.

                "I guess I was wrong.  But look at the bright side.  You'll be home all spring break to have time to do the project over again."

                "Yeah, yeah.  Shut up!  This is all Lauryn's fault!"

                "Who's Lauryn?"

                "The bookworm.  I managed to learn her name over the period of a month that I spent working on that stupid project."

                "Whatever.  I have to go.  The guys and I are leaving for the airport in a couple hours to go to the Bahamas."

                "Go away.  I'm spending the entire week stuck here while you're on vacation, so just shut up."

                His friend laughed, swinging his backpack over his shoulder and walking away.

                "I'm going to hurt Lauryn.  God, how could she just leave me with all this work?  And sure, she has tons of other work?  Where did that come from?  She sits at home all day reading," he said to himself as he took the books he would need out of his locker and put them in his backpack.

                Then, he shut his locker and walked down the hall towards the exit.  Chris pushed open the double doors at the end of the hallway and headed to Lauryn's house.  Ten minutes later, he arrived at the old brick house and knock loudly on the door.  After a moment, the door was opened, and there stood Lauryn in pajamas with her hair in a mess, as if she had just stumbled out of bed.

                "What happened today?  You were supposed to bring the rest of the project!  Now, because you didn't do your part, I have to do the entire thing over, by myself!  If that's not bad enough, you made me miss my cruise all because I didn't pass this dumbass project."

                Sleepily, she simply shut the door in his face.  On the other side of the door, he looked shocked, as if wondering why someone like Lauryn Manning would dare to shut the door in his face.  He was Chris Harrison, for goodness's sake.  Again, he rapped on the door, this time louder.

                "Lauryn!  Lauryn, open the door!  I'm not finished with you.  You owe me!  All of this is your fault!" he yelled.

                She could hear his muffled voice from her position on the couch with a book in her hands.  Sighing, she unwillingly placed her bookmark in the book, and went to open the door for Chris.

                "What do you want, other than to place fault on the bookworm?" she demanded.

                "You need to understand that my spring break is ruined all because of you."

                "Okay, I understand.  Bye."

                She started to shut the door again, only to be stopped by Chris.

                "What now?"

                "Aren't you going to make up some excuse about why you ditched school?" he persisted.

                "No, there's no point.  In case you haven't noticed, I'm not like you.  I didn't ditch school, as you put it.  I was actually sick.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my book."

                "You're always reading."

                "So?"

                "What's so fascinating?"

                "You wouldn't know.  I doubt you've ever read a book in your life."

                "Yeah I—"

                "Besides for school."

                He shrugged, saying, "I never saw the point."

                "Exactly, and I doubt you'd see it if I told you now."

                "Why weren't you there?"

                "Where?"

                "School."

                "I was sick."

                "From what?"

                "I don't know, overexertion of myself, maybe?"

                "Huh?"

                "I worked too hard," she simplified for him.

                "How?  All you do everyday is read."

                She laughed at his naivety.  "Believe me, I do a lot more than read."

                "Like?"

                "I don't know why you'd care, but I stayed up until at least four in the morning doing projects on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  I didn't spare one moment this weekend.  I bet the teacher told you that, but you probably didn't believe her."

                "You said you had free time."

                "That was a lie.  I knew if I relied on you to do it, I would end up with nothing."

                "You spent the entire weekend on that thing?"

                "Oh, no.  That project only took me three hours."

                "Well why were you up so late?"

                "When you have to fit seven projects into one weekend, you can answer that question for yourself."

                "Whatever.  It's your fault I'm missing spring break."

                "Where were going to go, the Bahamas?"

                He just stood there, silently.

                "I thought so."

                "I can't believe I have to spend spring break doing a project that you should've finished."

                "Yeah, sucks doesn't it?  Well have fun.  Maybe it'll show you some responsibility," she remarked, closing the door.

                Fuming, Chris walked back down the porch stairs and headed home.  How could she act like it didn't matter?  She practically blamed it on me when it was her fault, he thought.  Rolling his eyes, he decided he would find some way to get her back for this.

                The next morning, Lauryn woke up feeling better than she had in days.  It seemed that all she needed was a little break.  Then, remembering the scene from the day before, she groaned and turned over in his bed.  Why do I have to have a conscience?  It'd be so much easier to just let Chris do all the work by himself.  Sighing, she tumbled out of bed and got dressed.  Half an hour later, she gathered her keys and her purse before heading out the door towards Chris's house.

                Once she arrived, she knocked lightly on the door.  A very sleepy looking Chris opened it a few moments later.

                "What do you want?" he grumbled.

                "To help."

                "What?"

                "Look, I don't really want to be here.  I'd rather be spending my spring break doing better things, but I'm here, trying to help you on the project, okay?  You could at least sound grateful."

                "I. . . am.  I'm just shocked that you're here."

                "So am I.  Well, are you planning on leaving me out here the entire day?"

                "Oh, come in.  I'm just going to take a shower and get my stuff.  Make yourself at home," he said, heading upstairs.

                She stood in the hallway, looking at the messy house and muttered, "Not too likely."

                Wandering around, she found a bookshelf full of tomes that were covered in dust.  They most likely had never been touched.  She selected a book and pulled it out of the bookshelf, blowing the dust off it.  Coughing, she saw that the title was fading.  As she leafed through the book, she sat down on the couch, tossing a stray jacket out of the way.

                Becoming bored waiting for Chris, she leaned back and began reading the book.  About thirty minutes later, he finally walked downstairs in a simple shirt that showed off his muscles and cargo shorts.

                "What are you reading?" he asked her.

                "I don't know.  It was on the bookshelf."

                "We have a bookshelf?" he wondered, sounding surprised.

                "Yes, it's over there," she told him, pointing to it.

                "Oh."

                "Yep.  So are you planning on getting started on the project?"

                "Sure, but why are you helping me?"

                "I have a conscience.  Even though I know that you deserved this, because you basically just dumped the work on me, I'm going to show you some mercy."

                "Okay," he said, a smile forming on his face.

                "What are looking so happy about?"

                "Oh, nothing," he dismissed.

                This is the perfect way to get back at her, he thought.  The previous night, while he was lying in bed wishing he was with his friends on a cruise, he came up with a way to avenge the punishment she had left him with.

                For the next two hours, they worked in almost complete silence, mumbling a word or two here and there about something.

                "Well, I think that's pretty good progress.  I'll come back tomorrow, okay?"

                "Yeah, that's fine," he muttered.

                "Bye," she said, taking her keys and her purse and walking out the door, shutting it softly behind her.

                As she was walking along the sidewalk back home, she smiled inwardly.  Even though she had told Chris that she just wanted to help him on the project, which was partially true, her reasons were also selfish.  She wanted to spend time with him, because, even if he was out of her league at school, she could at least have one week with him.  Most people wouldn't think she would be interested in guys like him, but in the weeks she spent working with him on the project, she saw that there was a better person underneath all the superficiality covering him.  She was determined to bring out that better person in him.  Unfortunately, it was easier said than done.

AN: Hope you liked.  Not too much has happened.  Plz r/r!

*~jULiA~*