Humble Pie

A/N: Gah! Schoolwork! But I'm working on chapters as much as is humanly possible, so if I don't update for a long period of time (not that I'm planning on it, but if it happens…), it's not because I've forgotten about the story, or don't love you guys anymore, it's because I've been locked up in the loony bin for taking crazy-people classes.

Anyway, a question: Do you guy s think the story should be rated T or M? It seems to plop right in the middle, so I'm not sure where to put it.

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize (for example, if you see Pizza Hut, and think "store that sells pizza, must order one tonight," then chances are I didn't make it up). But everything else (for example, any flying pigs or interesting characters that choose to rear their heads) is mine. And if you want to do something with it/about it, let me know in a review.

This chapter's for Jessica Turner for giving me not one, but THREE marvelous reviews (one for my poor neglected short story, and the other two for this one)!

Chapter Two

Part 1: Scheming Nuts

An hour after the Corellis left, I overheard a conversation between my parents (I made it a point of listening to these whenever possible so I could head off any hair-brained conspiracies before they reached fruition).

Hippie: So nice…

Scholar: Hmm?

Hippie: The boy, I mean.

Scholar: Hmmm.

Hippie: And cute, too. He's perfect!

Scholar: He seems rather too young for you.

Hippie: Are you saying that I'm old? Well, at least I've aged with wisdom and grace, the final flowering...

Scholar: Mmmm-hmmm.

Hippie: Anyway, I wasn't talking about me, I was talking about Noli.

Scholar: Eh?

Hippie: Yes, I don't really like that young man she goes out with – Marvin, Melvin, Aleric, something like that.

Scholar: Who?

Hippie: Her boyfriend.

Scholar: But doesn't –

Hippie: Yes she does.

Scholar: And you don't like him?

Hippie: He's a stuck-up, spoilt little brat who grew up with a silver spoon sticking out of his capitalist asshole.

Scholar: Language, my dear! Well, it rather appears as though we ought to have a discussion with –

Hippie: No, no, that would make her feel like we don't trust her. Which we do.

Scholar: Of course, dear.

Hippie: We must be subtle, not let her know we think she's making the wrong choice, but encourage her to change her own mind. And I know just the person for the job.

Scholar: No.

Hippie: No what?

Scholar: It appears you have forgotten the last time we –

Hippie: Of course not, but that was a mistake; how were we supposed to know she thought he was a geek?

Scholar: Well, maybe –

Hippie: But it's been years.

Scholar: I don't –

Hippie: It would be wonderful if after all this time…Like Fate. Karma.

Scholar: Ahem. What about the…the feelings of the young man? What if he –

Hippie: If he doesn't like our Noli?

Scholar: No, no, of course not, you're misinterpreting –

Hippie: Did you know that he owns the first edition of one of the oldest translations of one of those Roman people you like so much? Virgin, or something.

Scholar: Virgil? He owns a…Well, it appears they are more suited to each other than I thought. He seems to be a very nice young fellow indeed.

Hippie: I knew you'd see it my way.

Unsurprisingly, the plan they concocted would have been even worse than their last attempt (shutting me up with that awful nerd, Whatshisname, on my birthday). If I hadn't been worried they were going to spoil everything with their nutty scheme – it involved linen closets and padlocks – I would laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it. But I was worried; I actually wanted He the Younger Corelli to like me, and if I let my parents have free rein, they could easily wind up being on the receiving end of a Corelli lawsuit, hardly the stuff engagements are made of.

So I locked myself in my room and paced for an hour before coming up with a solution that was risky to the point of suicidal, but also my only practical way out:

I, who had spent most of my life trying to escape my parents, I, who had gotten drunk with joy (and liberal amounts of celebratory champagne) the day I moved into my dorm room at Columbia, I, who had pretended to be an orphan in front of my many boyfriends (including Mav, which made wonder how the Hippie found out about him), was going to do the unthinkable, the unadvisable, the unpalatable:

I was going to enlist my parents in my plans.

Part 2: And the World Ends

It's like they think the world has ended, I marveled, looking from the paralyzed Hippie, a dandelion wilting over her ear, to the Scholar, whose blank, slack-jawed expression implied, as with Chicken Little, that a sizeable acorn had knocked out the majority of his brain cells. I almost felt guilty – was I really so rotten to them that they were this surprised by my white-flagged, olive-branched request for romantic help?

But then I remembered that it was their fault I had a police record (the Hippie was sick, and she sent me as her representative to what turned out to be an illegal rally) and a scholarship that required me to maintain a grade average of A- or higher (the Scholar had applied for me, and I'd cried when I received the "CONGRATULATIONS!" letter). And it was their fault I didn't know how to make friends, but did know exactly how many babies were killed every year by illegal abortions and what a subdisconjuntive adnoun was.

So the guilt evaporated as quickly as it had appeared (Whoosh!) and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, the kind of yucky feeling you get when you realize you've made a B. I. G. mistake. In my case, a mistake that felt a lot like kissing a hot multi-millionaire (and the perks of being his girlfriend/fiancée/wife/ex) goodbye.

But having destroyed the world as in its familiar form, I had no means of putting it back together. After all, I didn't have a time machine, and I couldn't unsay what I had said, though what I had said was one of those things that clearly required erasing. So I allowed my parents to remain wildly ecstatic and forced a smile, pretending I was as thrilled as they were.

My dreams were a different story.

Murder…pumpkins...murder…first degree – wart, lawyer…laughing, laughing, laughing, what the fuck is so funny? November 38…Defense? Click flash click flash click flash Did you kill them? Yellow dress…I'll never forget…Money, money, money! Click flash, falling, falling December 49, We the jury find you guilty as charged…Death of your parents –

Unfortunately, I woke up at that point, just when it was getting good (how did I kill them?). The Hippie was perched on my bed, looking at me like I had just laid a golden egg, and wanting to have a serious "girl-to-girl" chat about Him; to this day, she insists that I was in love with that "nice Corelli boy" from the second I set eyes upon him.

But she was off by a few days, or a few months, depending on how you look at it. Personally, I pinpoint the start of my love affair (read: blatant greedy grabbing) to the second I saw The Car. Remember I said He the Younger made a splendiferous salary to the tune of "I'm Too Sexy To Be Named"? Well, the showing was much more effective then telling; the Hippie had told me about His bank account, with the closest thing to awe I'd ever heard from her in regards to money, and while that was convincing as it was…Let's just say that three days later, as we pulled into the Corellis' expansive driveway for lunch (I'd taken a week off from college to strategize and avoid doing my grossly procrastinated work), a 2003 Saleen S7 pulled out, He the Younger at the glorious wheel.

And that, of course, was the end of my world (as I knew it).

Part 3: Getting the Dirt

It would have been far too obvious (that is, beyond any measure of good taste) to pump the Corelli Parents for information on their son. Especially since the Hippie (and the Scholar, to a lesser degree) had vowed to do that for me. So for the first ten minutes of lunch, I was free to salivate over the Car-God. Which I did. Literally. He the Elder Corelli had to pass me a napkin (which was awkward, but not awkward enough to snap me out of my daze).

Then Z burst in.

Z (real name – Ziazan, as Ma Corelli shrieked in annoyance) was wearing a black turtleneck, a rainbow miniskirt, and go-go boots. Z was screaming obscenities into a cell phone, at what I hoped was the top of her lungs. Z was carrying a barking Chihuahua in an undersized lime green purse. Z was also, apparently, He the Younger's younger sister.

The sheer noisiness of her entrance caused my daydream Saleen to crash off a cliff, freeing up my brain for opportunism. Z was breaking up with her boyfriend; I excused myself from the table, wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and steered her out of the room, ostensibly to give sisterly comfort. My plan: let her weep and wail for a bit, then nudge the conversation over to the topic of her brother.

My plan worked, I got the dirt I wanted, but only at the expense of a portion of my sanity and my new forest green faux-cashmere sweater. Because neither Z nor the Chihuahua liked me very much (it was not a joke when she told me his name was Vampire, the first thing he did was nip my poor, unoffending wrist), getting information from them was like pulling teeth (my own, to be more specific).

Under different circumstances, Z and I might have been friends. But I had trust issues and she had a chip on her shoulder the size of the Sphinx's missing nose, so when I started questioning her about her brother, I was confronted with the female equivalent of an angry Hulk Hogan.

"You fucking slut, what the fuck makes you think my brother would fucking want to date you? He doesn't go for fucking bimbos, he prefers girls who have actual fucking brains – where the fuck do you come off pretending to be fucking nice to me just so you can sink your fucking claws into my brother?"

"Ow!" Vampire bit my wrist again. I swatted at him.

"Don't you lay a fucking hand on my fucking dog or I will punch your fucking lights out." I thought, Did I curse that much when I was her age? (She couldn't have been more than fifteen).

"I know what you fucking preps are like. You think you're so fucking cool, so fucking perfect that you can have anything you fucking want, but I'm not going to fucking let you have my brother, he's too fucking good for you. I bet all you care about are his looks and his fucking money."

And his car, of course, but the girl had me pegged. "No, that's not true. Z, I –"

"Don't fucking lie to me, bitch. I know your type. You're just like my fucking asshole boyfriend."

Her fucking asshole ex-boyfriend.

"So fucking shallow."

I wondered whether the Car-God was worth marrying into this…thing's family. Then I checked myself – of course it was! It was a fucking Saleen! I imagined the look on Mav's face when I pulled up to the doorstep in that perfect specimen of automobile beauty, and suddenly Z's vituperative sounded no more unpleasant than country-western on a bad car radio (at a very, very low volume, of course). I pulled up another fake smile, and prepared myself for the next onslaught.

"Do you even fucking know the meaning of the word considerate? Couldn't you fucking tell that I was fucking breaking up with my boyfriend? What the fuck made you think I'd want to fucking talk to anyone, especially a fucking moron like you, who's just trying to fuck my fucking brother over?"

My head was spinning, trying to separate the words from the fucks. I remember thinking dimly, So this is what a conniption-fit looks like.

"But let me guess. You wanted to play the fucking hero so that I would fucking tell my brother how fucking wonderful you are, and how sensitive and caring. Fucking-A! Like he'd fucking go out with you, even if I fucking told him! He wants an actual fucking relationship, not just a girl who wants his fucking stuff. You know what that means? Re-lay-shon-ship! Like where people actually fucking talk to each other and fucking understand each other? You don't even fucking know him!"

Vampire nipped my ankle. The only thing keeping me from strangling Z was the thought of the Car-God. And even that was in terms of When I'm driving the Car-God, I can run that fucking girl and her dog over like a rolling pin on dough. I'm sure I looked half-crazed, my hair wild from dodging the canine man-eater and my face stiff from trying to smile through the tirade.

"You don't fucking know him!"

She was starting to repeat herself. But then,

"You don't know that the last time he had a fucking girlfriend was three fucking years ago, and she died in a fucking car crash. You don't know that his favorite fucking color is black, and that he likes to eat waffles with blueberry syrup for breakfast. You don't fucking know that he works his ass off to keep his fucking company running, but they wouldn't fucking promote him until he threatened to fucking quit. You don't know that he's allergic to jelly, but loves peanut butter. You don't know that when he's not being a fucking workaholic, he likes to cook or play with his fucking cars. You don't know one fucking thing about him, so get the fuck out of my face."

Despite my headache, I sent a silent prayer of thanks to God that hysterical teenagers can't control their tongues. Another minute or so of Z's ranting and I would have slapped the girl for sure, ending any chance I had of making her brother like me (even if the Hippie obtained enough information from the Corelli Parents, by the time I had translated it, Z would have told him that I was the scum of the earth, and lower than Hitler on the Axis-of-Evil food chain). All the same, though my plan was overall a success, I mourned the loss of my sweater (when he wasn't aiming for flesh, Vampire was shredding cloth) and several notches of self-esteem.

Part 4: Pig-What?

As predicted, the Hippie's narrative was full of hot air, and the only information I gleaned from it was that He the Younger had a penthouse apartment in the City, and that he'd had confidence issues as a teenager. Useful, but not overwhelmingly so. I then asked for the Scholar's news, but cut him off when he started speaking in tongues (He the Elder Corelli had shown my father the Virgil book, and he was thus in a state of bliss comparable only to mine when I thought of the Saleen).

So I decided to take the show on the road (that is, return to the City and work from there).

Mav was the farthest thing from my mind, though I was driving the car I had "borrowed" from him. My thoughts centered on a certain someone's Car (and Bank Account), and how to get that certain someone to fall hopelessly, madly in love with me (to get to the Car and the Bank Account), no matter how long it took (I was willing to wait if it meant surefire success). So when I saw him (Mav) walking down my street with his arm around a girl, I thought nothing of it; in fact, so absorbed was I that I barely even noted his face (which seemed uncharacteristically cheerful). Until I caught sight of the girl he was walking with.

Salem.

I choked.

The car swerved.

Mav shouted,

"Hey, that's my fucking car!"

I pulled over and got out, tossing the keys at him like I wasn't feeling like Julius Caesar. We conversed.

It turned out the two of them had started dating in the week I'd been away (giving truth to the saying "When the cat's away, the mice will play."). They'd gone to a play that night (I idly wondered how Salem had enjoyed it; real theater usually required brain cells to understand, unlike her customary reality TV shows), and they wanted to know if I'd seen it. When I asked them what play it was (we were being ridiculously polite because the tension was basically unbearable), Salem let out a ridiculous little titter, and said,

"Like, Pig-Melon, duh, didn't I say?"

Mav started laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world. I was still trying to figure out what she meant. Pig-what? But the two of them had already developed Relationship-Speak (a sort of speech impediment where you only say half your thoughts – usually the useless ones – because your attached-at-the-hip significant other understands the other half, and they're all that matters), so I was left in the verbal dust.

"And then she – "

"I know, and then he –"

"So funny."

Mav and I had never gotten Relationship-Speak though we'd been together, however loosely, for two years. But now he was looking at Salem like she was the cat's meow, nifty beans, and all that jazz as she cuddled into him (faking coldness: one of the most effective ways to get a guy to sleep with you).

Then suddenly, over her head (have I mentioned that he was unfairly tall, standing at about six-foot-gazillion), he winked at me. And not just any wink, oh no. It was an "I'll be seeing you tonight, wear sexy lingerie" wink, the kind I was so used to getting from him that it was like second nature to slip a spare key under the welcome mat outside our door.

But this time, it felt slimy, and inexplicably made me angry; I was used to Mav cheating on every girl he was with, me included, but it felt like cutting too close to home, sleeping with him when Salem was just a room away. And since when am I at his beck and call? I thought, my eyes clouding over with a reddish haze.

In my obsession with the Car-God, I was losing track of my main motivation (making this asshole jealous). It was all right and good to live in la-la-land, where I had all the time in the world to seduce Him, but it was time to get back to my priorities. So I glared at Mav (causing him to give me one of his infamous smirks); our friendship was over, as was the "Benefits Plan," and while it had been nice to see the same person every day for two years, I would be better off without him.

I told Salem that if she wanted to "get some" that night, it would be at Mav's place, or in the Corvette (which had never fully taken my affections anyway, being slightly too…something compared to the Sexy Beast or the Car-God) because I was locking them out. She had lost her key a week ago, and though I had given her a spare to make a copy, it usually took two weeks come in because of our outdated lock, she knew I could easily do just that, and that though I didn't really want to know where she'd been sleeping while I was gone, I would love it if she stayed there.

She came in with me, after kissing Mav goodnight.

I gave him the Evil Eye when he winked at me again, vowing to make his life miserable.

Part 5: My Almost Completely Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It was a dark and stormy morning, and though it was only 9 a.m., I wanted to kill somebody because:

First: Salem woke me up by singing what sounded like "I Could Have Danced All Night" (though I couldn't be sure because of my hangover –yes, from drowning my sorrows in my good friend vodka the previous night – and her nails-on-chalkboard voice).

Then: I realized that my undies and my sheets were wet and sticky; the monthly visitor was making the rounds.

So: Feeling disgusting, I decided to take a shower, but the water gods were pissed at me and ran first boiling hot then ice cold.

Stumbling: I made my way into the kitchen where Salem was eating heavenly-smelling pancakes – and not offering me any.

Soon: I discovered she had used up all the milk, so I had to drink my coffee black, which was gross, but I needed the caffeine to get through my classes.

And then: The toaster attacked me. I got a whip-lash cut across my cheek. Salem found it funny.

Eventually: I gave up, grabbed my bag, and walked to my class in the pouring rain, sans umbrella.

Suddenly: I recalled a book I'd read as a child, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Unsurprisingly: My class turned out to be cancelled.

Icing on the cake: I slipped, fell in a puddle, and cried; Mav's Corvette whizzed by me, drenching me in mud. I could almost hear him laughing with Salem, warm and dry inside ("We got that sucker good!")

I wandered around the City for the rest of the (still rainy) day, having nowhere to go since I didn't feel like playing nicely with my pseudo-friends. Without knowing how I got there, I wound up in the Rich District (Upper East Side, duh), feeling thoroughly depressed, and wanting nothing more than to find a dry corner where I could curl up and die (or at least wallow in self-pity without getting pneumonia). A car drove past me, looking so much like the Car-God in the poor visibility that it brought to my mind vividly the wonderfulness of the Saleen – and how I'd never get a chance to drive it, or even touch its smooth leather seats because, and I really thought this, Good things don't happen to me.

The next thing I knew, the Car-God was pulled up next to me, purring gently. I blinked. Once. Twice. The door opened and a disembodied voice said,

"Get in the car."

I got in, and apologized profusely for getting the seat wet. My rescuer responded,

"You owe me one, that's all."

Let it be said here that I came very, very close to falling in love with He the Younger at that moment, leaving aside the Car, the Bank Account, and the Perfect 10 Figure.

Part 6: Curiosity Murdered The Cat

Upon entering His apartment (he'd insisted, and I was too shell-shocked to refuse), I practically collapsed – the only reason I didn't hit my head on the cushy plush carpet was that he caught me by the armpits. He then practically dragged me to a white and gold bathroom (with a Jacuzzi!), handed me some clean clothing, and told me to shower and change.

But the Jacuzzi looked so inviting, and I was just so tired. I thought, Maybe just a little soak, after all, I'm never going to get this chance again

The next thing I knew, He was panicking, banging on the bathroom door and yelling that he was going to break in if I didn't open it now and to just please, please say something. I scrambled out of the tub, slipped, and hit my head smartly on the sink, letting loose a string of curse words. The banging stopped, and I heard a sigh of relief.

Completely humiliated, I dressed myself in what turned out to be boxer shorts and a humongous Playboy T-shirt, feeling like I just wanted to pour myself down the drain along with the dirty bathwater. I washed my face, noted that the cut on my cheek was bright red and much more noticeable than I'd given it credit for, and decided that at this point, the only way I'd get He the Younger to like me would be to flat out seduce him. Which I could have lived with, if I hadn't had my P. E. R. I. O. D.

I groaned, squared my shoulders, and stepped out of the bathroom.

To find the penthouse completely empty.

As in, no He the Younger.

So I snooped. Big deal. I mean, I was viewing this guy as a potential husband; I had a right to know something about him.

The first something I found was the stash of Playboy magazines under his bed, and I recalled what Z had said; "The last time he had a fucking girlfriend was three fucking years ago, and she died in a fucking car crash." Apparently, he was ready to move on.

Then I went through his closet (mostly tasteful clothing, meaning Ma Corelli shopped for him, but it was interspersed with a few pieces of crap, including shirt I was wearing; which meant he was trying to assert his independence as a manly man). But not much else was in there, so I took the search up a level, and combed through his drawers, which were in a state of organized chaos. Meaning he had separated the socks from the underwear, but not much more that. Another good sign – he wasn't slob, but he wasn't anal either.

Finally, I made a tour of his study. His desk was covered with work papers (insurance crap, practically a foreign language to me), so I left the surface alone, but did poke through a couple of the drawers. And that was when I got what I suppose I deserved:

It was a photograph, a little bent at the edges, from a few years ago (the Twin Towers were still standing in the background), and it depicted four people: Ma Corelli, He the Elder, He the Younger, and Z. Except He the Younger looked an awful lot like…

Whatshisname. Gregory.

Fucking hell.

A/N: You guys rock so much! I was so happy I had mental party after I got all your reviews!!! (Note to self and everyone else: hypothetical alcohol is as potent as the real stuff, without the hangover).

Thanks to:

Chocolatetuna – I liked the name too I actually cracked up when I thought of it. And yes, I deserve reviews (Hint hint). By the way, your name's not too shabby, either!

Aish – Thanks for catching the last name thing, you'll notice that I've changed it in the Prologue (if you care enough to go back and check). He the Younger is most definitely Greggo Corelli (remember, I said his dad was Italian?).

Jessica Turner – You are the bomb. Absolutely. You made my day with all dem reviews. Gosh darn it.

De Leon – I fully intend to continue, and I hope you continue to read!

My blessings upon you all, and don't forget to do your homework!

(Hypocrisy is an art not a fault.)

I.C.