Chapter 21: It All Comes Crashing Down
Argh... he saw Mr. Mancuso's car!!

I decided it was best to level with him. I mean, he knows when I'm lying because I blab like a madwoman and do that weird foot tapping thing. I have got to stop doing that. I think I'd make the worst FBI agent… but that whole thought-reading thing could possibly come in handy. Wait, but don't FBI agents get dangerous missions? Oh, the joys of living in a Kevlar suit...

Oh, what in the world could I possibly say to Tristan?

Sure, I could tell him almost everything, and leave out some bits out so he didn't get riled or anything. Argh, but what if he eventually found out about the whole thing? Would he be mad? Would he feel hurt? Would he rush straight into my arms? (As for that last one, ha, as if. That was definitely in the realm of impossibility.)

Feeling a slight crick in my neck from staring up at Tristan, I looked down and started busying myself in the first thing that attracted my attention: my sock drawer. I mean, I hadn't sorted it in a while… and what better way to avoid Tristan's electric blue gaze?

As if I could get off that easily.

He noticed my path destination and immediately moved in front of it. I barely managed to stop in time to keep my nose from hitting the middle of his chest. And, you know what? It's a bit difficult to get to a sock drawer with a 6 foot 4 wall blocking the way. It is even worse when the wall can move and think for itself and impatiently say things like, "Alli. For the last time, where were you?"

I couldn't stop myself from blabbing.

"Out practicing my lines! Like, I met up with Lucius, and he took me to the school auditorium where we practiced for a while and then went off to run an errand for his mother, and I totally had no idea that we were going to do that. Really and truly. I could have sworn that he was kidnapping me, but it turns out that he wasn't and that I was being a little bit paranoid, but you know me. I'm usually very paranoid, and scarily so. Anyways, I was out practicing, and I wasn't doing anything bad!"

Tristan looked at me, gazed heavenward, and then refocused his gaze on my eyes. He sounded as if he was at the end of his patience; nonetheless, he quite calmly commented, "I don't know – you and Lucius would make a nice couple." That last bit was said as lightly as one would say, "Oh, and the weather's nice today". At this point, I was fuming slightly as I watched Tristan fold his arms over his chest, making those vein-y muscles stand out in his arms.

Grrrr... I could not believe that he had just said that!!

"We're not a couple!"

"Well, typically, when a girl's out late at night with a guy... "

I hate male fact-based driven logic sometimes. God, and was it just me or did he sound like a jealous boyfriend or something? I stated that fact, and hoping that it would rile Tristan, I turned to start organizing my sock drawer. I wanted to, but it wasn't like I could exactly dash into my bathroom to escape Tristan's questions.

And jumping out the window... hmmmm, it's not as if our friendship isn't strained enough already.

Why couldn't Tristan just suddenly stand up because he had the sudden urge to... to... oh, argh!! Why couldn't he just leave me alone? Didn't guys hate awkward moments? Guys tended to avoid awkward moments and confrontations like, well, glitter and the plague.

I heard my heart twittering something about jealousy and boyfriend-like tendencies and I tried to say to my heart, "By the way, heart, you are irrevocably broken. Be silent, now."

What? Was that my heart still sputtering indignantly?

I tried to squash down my heart and convince it that it was broken. Why the twinge of hope?? Could it not see that Tristan obviously did not like me?

Why would he like me? Oh, heart, it needed to stop its indignant beating. Of course, not in the manner of suicide. No, no, that was always a permanent solution to a temporary problem. As if I would ever consider letting my heart give out in such a manner. Oh no, let it never be said that Alli Carlevae had given up life without a fight...

Wait a second. Wasn't this just that? Why couldn't I just tell him that I liked him?

I suddenly remembered the whole of the Incident and realized that telling Tristan the truth would ultimately mean the breaking of my heart. Loudly, and in front of an audience. He couldn't possibly like me back, and we were just beginning to talk to each other again because I had to make sure he didn't die. And, our friendship means a lot to both of us.

But I cared so much about him. It just wasn't fair.

And, dear sweet world, I simply couldn't explain what was so unfair about the fact that I liked someone so completely. Sydney Carton never got his beloved Lucy, nor did Catherine ever completely belong to her Heathcliff. Juliet died with her Romeo, and Othello murdered his Desdemona. Love, already a tricky wild card, is complicated by the nuances of life.

And, I know enough about life to know that it is unfair. Why do people die when some of them deserve life?

At least I wasn't dead yet. Who knows? Any freak accident could have been thrown at me in my sixteen years of life. For all I know, I may have narrowly missed a paralyzing accident.

I turned away from Tristan, and hastily wiped away what might have been a tear threatening to slip from my eye. He did not need to see this sort of pain. What was I to him? If he saw me crying, it would simply horrify me. I'm sure it would horrify Tristan to some degree too, so a clear-eyed gaze seemed like the best game plan.

"Tristan, please, go away."

"No."

"Why do you want to talk to me? It's late, and a girl needs her sleep."

I'm certain that if he does not go away, I can get vicious. And, I will, because the world will simply crumble if tears begin pouring down my face.

"Alli, what's wrong? You can't keep ignoring me like this. We're best friends right?"

I could only nod. Oh, why couldn't I channel the fierce, vicious Alli when I need her most?

"Tristan, we need to talk."

"So talk."

Looking down, I decided right then and there that I needed to tell him how I felt. I had to take this chance.

"Tristan, what do you think of your fan club? Do you like any of them?" Wow, what a grand way to start off a meaningful conversation.

"Alli, is this over the whole Katherine thing?"

I nodded miserably. No use lying now, because I'm sure a portal to hell would open up under me if I tried.

"Do you realize that Katherine means nothing to me?" He said that gently. I'm sure he was trying to go easy on my feelings. Argh, this was going to be a load of pain. I could not see this conversation going well. Well, at least he didn't care about Katherine. I could have sworn I thought he did.

"Of course, I knew that all along."

"Good, so what is it that you wanted to say?"

"I... Tristan... we've known each other for an awfully long time. I never thought you would come back here, did you know that?"

He had absentmindedly started sorting my socks. Was he even paying attention? Here I was, about to pour my soul out and he decides to sort through my socks. At least I would have sorted socks at the end of all this.

I continued on, "My parents would ask me if I wanted to move, but I would always say no, because I had the sneaky feeling that you would come back to D.C. someday. I missed you because I think I cared about you as more than a friend, even then."

There the truth was, out and done with. I could go find a plane to carry me to Argentina now...

I sneaked a look back at Tristan to see if he had any sort of reaction.

I regretted sneaking a look because, suddenly, I was looking Tristan in the eye. Oh, God, this was more of a reaction than I had bargained for.

"What about now?"

"What do you mean now? What do I now what?"

"Do you like me?"

I gulped. "What if I like you, Tristan, what would you do?"

"This."

For the second time, Tristan kissed me.

All thoughts of anything else flew from my mind.

How does one ever describe a kiss? There's always a certain feeling that comes with every kiss, whether it be love, indifference, ice, passion, anything really. Tristan's second kiss filled me with a joy and hope I had never experienced before. I had never felt such a thrilling beat ever before in my heart, and later, looking back on the kiss, wondered if I would ever be able to play the tumultuous beat on any drum set.

It was over far sooner than I would have ever liked, and he looked firmly into my eyes as he asked, "That wasn't a hypothetical question was it?"

"Um, no?"

That familiar bright smile filled his face, and he suddenly rushed forward and lifted me up into the air. One moment, all of me was planted firmly in the ground, and in the next moment, I was rushing towards the ceiling. Being short, I am naturally more comfortable being closer to the ground, my familiar habitat.

"Tristan!! Stop!!! You'll drop me and then my parents will walk in and find you here and that cannot possibly end well!"

He suddenly pulled me close to him, and I could see an enormous grin on his face.

"You don't think I would really drop you now, do you? Plus, Alli, you really don't weigh all that much."

Still grinning, he slowly lowered me to the ground, but continued to hold onto me tightly. We stood there for a moment, Tristan holding me in his arms and breathing in the smell of my hair, and it would have lasted forever had I not suddenly realized the time. Papa Carlevae would be waking up in approximately two hours, and I was sure that he would burst a vein if he found a boy in my room.

Even if the boy happened to be Tristan Aldridge.

I mentioned this is Tristan, and with a smile, he finished sorting my socks. Before I knew it, he slipped me a quick kiss on the lips and glided back through my balcony door and down the tree.

He had left on my lips a lingering prickly sensation... it was one wholly unfamiliar to me.


Author's Note: So sorry for the delay!! It's been, what, more than a year since my last update? Please forgive me, and enjoy the story. From now on, I will never be kept from updating for so long. Just know that this is, so far, what has happened in my life since the time of my last update.

Orientfox's life between 12/05/06 – 1/1/08:

October – December 2006: Dealing with crazy ex-boyfriend, who cheated on me while I was on a vacation in China, and falling for a guy named Jordan. I met Jordan through Quiz Bowl. I may count as a Quiz Bowl groupie because I joined Quiz Bowl so I could get to know more about this Jordan fellow. Jordan very tall, intelligent, quiet, sarcastic, but a romantic at heart

January – March 2007: I think I started freaking out over my research project, a big thing at the math, science, and technology center I attend, and I studied for the SAT's. Jordan was also my research project partner.

March 10th, 2007: Jordan and I officially started dating. I was forbidden to date by my parents so Jordan and I had a secret relationship. Very stressful

April 2007: Studying like crazy for AP exams and running varsity track. At this point, I was still completing the research project and having a wonderful, but secret, relationship.

May 2007: Took AP exams. Score a 5 in the Literature Exam and a 3 in the Statistics Exam.

June 2007: Yay, school was over... but only for about a week. I had a scholarship for two free classes at local college due to a high GPA, so classes at the local college began about a week after school ended.

July 2007: Still taking classes at the local college, and spending massive amounts of time trying to make sure I got an A in both classes. (They were Political Science and Spanish 101 in case you were wondering.)

August 2007: The week after my classes ended, I was shipped off to marching band camp for two weeks. I remember obsessively checking college websites to see if they had uploaded their college applications. I also began cross country season and start attending cross country practices.

September 2007: School left me drained and I recall more studying for last minute ACT and SAT taking. I also began my college applications. I experience some of my first cross country meets this month, because 2007 was the first year I ran for the school cross country team. Surprisingly, I made the varsity cross country team. I told my parents that I was dating Jordan, and to both of us, it was quite a happy moment when my parents met Jordan for dinner one day and took a liking to him.

October 2007: I spend my waking hours completing homework, scholarships, college applications, and running cross country. Oh, and planning the annual Halloween Party held at the math, science, and technology center I attend. I spend time in October also freaking out about my Yale Application.

November 2007: Oh, the agonies of more college applications, scholarships, homework, and my senior research project. I cannot properly remember what happened in this month, so I have no excuse for why I did not work on Cursed during the month of November. Yes, Jordan and I are still dating.

December 2007: I found out that I did not get into Yale, my first choice college, and was disappointed for about an hour. However, as I was comforted by friends, family, and Jordan, I felt loads better. A scrapbooking party held about an hour after I heard the bad news also helped me feel my usual happiness again. I continued filling out college applications, doing homework, and applying for scholarships. Oh, I did get into the University of Michigan, but I was deferred from the University of Chicago.

This brings me to where I am today, and I am so sorry I did not update sooner! Yes, Jordan and I are still dating... it's been almost ten months! Anyways, so sorry for the delay and may you all have a happy new year and enjoy the update! I am sorry if it is filled with errors because I wrote this in the wee hours of the new year, to atone for my lack of updating, and please tell me about the errors so I can fix them.