Chapter One—Virgin and the Jerk
Please don't ask me what possessed me to do it. Something about her just made me curious, and she was too much of a challenge to pass up.
Once the first month of sophomore year had passed, I had already established a routine. The earliest part of that routine was sitting on the floor in the locker hallway, near the doors. We, people I hung out with and I, made a habit of doing rapid-fire judgments of girls as they passed: do or not do.
Girls, as a rule, did not deign to reply. It didn't matter what we said; those chicks would just stalk by, sticking their little noses in the air. Needless to say, that didn't quite discourage us, so we became more careless about whether the girl we briefly scrutinized heard our usually crude remarks. Well, until the morning of September 29, that is, when it was only Laser and me there. Everyone called him Laser, but I think his name was Collin or something. I honestly couldn't remember; it had been so long since everyone started referring to him as Laser.
He had just stretched out his legs, nearly tripping up a brunette wearing a miniskirt and a tight white shirt, showing off tan, shapely legs and decent cleavage. She managed to overstep him with a roll of her heavily made-up eyes, and determinedly looked straight ahead. Very high-heeled shoes made her lackluster albeit single-minded walk an impressive feat. I glared at her face, which, like her eyes, was caked with makeup, only this was the powdery, orange variety. A thick layer of pale pink lip gloss made her thin lips look oddly shiny, and her hair was over-dyed and dry, which just added to the overall fake look.
Laser and I glanced at each other, then at the brunette, and back to each other. We made our evaluations at the same time.
"Wouldn't do her," I decided, raising my lip slightly.
"Easy do," he said, sneering once he realized my answer. "Are you serious, Dono? She'd be so…easy."
"Yeah, so you said. Man, imagine waking up to that! Did you see all that shit on her face? You have no idea what she really looks like. I'll bet she's a troll," I said easily, trusting my intuition going when it came to that much skin covering.
He shrugged in reply, lolling his head towards the door, where a group of kids were entering. They were mostly guys, and they all seemed to mesh together, like they weren't so much people as one polo shirt-wearing entity. Laser and I ignored them. Ten or so feet behind this group was a slender girl reading and walking.
I narrowed my eyes, sweeping my gaze from her head down as she drew closer. She looked like she was on the tall side of average, maybe 5'8" or so. Her hair was sort of a dark blonde, obviously natural. It was pulled into two messy buns at the back of her head, a shorter bit falling over her left eye.
She had a pale face, her features sort of…delicate? It was hard to describe. She had large eyes behind black, rectangular-framed glasses, and a smattering of light freckles coupled with a hint of acne. Not too bad, but it was there on closer inspection. Her nose was small and round and her lips were a medium pink, well-shaped like the old silent movie actresses' lips. At a glance, I could tell she wasn't wearing any make-up as well, which was an interesting change.
She was wearing a dark blue, fitted t-shirt that showed off virtually nothing but thin, pale arms. Her pants were black and only went to the knees, not particularly tight on her legs, which were also thin and pale, but hung snugly on hips that couldn't really be called hips. I thought "hips" implied curves, which this girl was lacking in a big way. A black messenger bag hung off her shoulder, resting on her knee. Both the bag and its strap were decorated heavily with pins, patches, and a bunch of silver writing. What really got me, though, were her shoes.
Brown Converse High-Tops, with the laces undone from the top metal hole. They had obviously been worn plenty, since the color was slightly faded, the rubber scuffed and scratched, and the laces ragged. I glanced at my own feet, which were in the same shoes, albeit ones in worse shape, complete with the top hole undone. All this inspection was done in a matter of seconds. I made a somewhat unexpected decision, then.
"No way," Laser scoffed, raising his eyes and shaking his too-long black hair.
I shrugged and, as she was just in front of me, remarked carelessly, "I'd do her." It surprised both Laser and me, but not as much as her reply.
She clicked her tongue, not even looking up from her book as she easily navigated herself around Laser's outstretched legs. "Like you could," she said easily, without a hint of malice. I gaped at her slightly. What?
Without even a side-glance, the girl just kept on going to her locker twenty or so feet down the hall. Once I was sure she was out of earshot, I turned to Laser.
"What the hell? Was she talking to us?"
He laughed. "Don't you know who she is?"
"No. Why?" I said, frowning.
"Right, I forgot about the fact that you haven't been going to this school until this year. Well, here's a bit of advice: Don't even try it, man. That, Dono, is Piper Nolan; a bookworm with a notorious reputation for shutting guys down and, of course, her personal stamp: she is completely, one-hundred percent a virgin. In other words, totally impossible, even for a stud like you," he added, sneering.
I didn't object to the name. I'd been in a less privileged school district for the last five years, where the girls weren't as aloof, and even as a young teenager, I'd amassed a reputation. One which I was proud to be deserving of. Now, I wasn't Casanova, but I wasn't in the same boat as Piper Nolan.
I glanced back over at her, sniffing. "I could do it."
"Do what?" Laser said. I almost laughed at his terrible memory. It was likely that he was still hung over from our weekend.
"I could do her, easy," I stated. Piper, down the hall, stiffened slightly, and I was pretty sure her gaze slid to her left towards Laser and me. I was comfortable, though, with the fact that nobody could hear us from that distance at our volume.
He laughed again, sounding disbelieving. "Yeah, right. You want to bet on that, Mr. Confidence?" he said, sounding excited.
I shook my head, still looking at her. "No, I don't need money for this. I'll just revel in the amazement of everyone else when I let them know that I devirginized the virgin." Laser shook my hand, telling me I was on. Then a locker slammed, and heads turned towards Piper Nolan, who was not looking at anyone as she drew a different book from her bag, simultaneously dropping the other one in there. Oho, a challenge, I thought mischievously.
Approximately twenty minutes later, I discovered something I hadn't noticed earlier: Piper Nolan was in my English class. Well, technically, it was an Honors English class. I wasn't going to spread that around, though. Why? Well, it was sort of an accident that I had gotten into a "smart" class. Actually, three of them. At my other school, my mom said she'd cut my privileges if I didn't start living up to my potential, as they put it.
It was sort of true, I guess, that I acted like more of an idiot than I am. My type isn't typically thought of as intelligent. Anyways, the only teacher I have ever liked, even a little, sent this new school a few of my essays and other "impressive" assignments from other classes that came after my mother's threat.
It was just my luck that the higher powers at my new school happened to like them, and that they believed that those "works" outweighed my hefty record. That was just spectacular.
I walked in about four seconds before the bell, which made the teacher glare at me. The guy was okay, not completely useless, but he had a thing for tardiness. I winked at him as I passed his desk on my way to the desk in the back corner of the room. I was ready to throw myself into the awkward plastic chair when he stopped me.
"Ah-ah-ah, Mr. O'Byrne, not today. We have a seating chart now!" he exclaimed, looking painfully excited.
"Whoopee. Where am I stuck?" I asked him, careful to keep my voice a low monotone. It annoys people.
He ignored me, walking around the room and touching each desk as he rattled off names. I shifted, scratching the back of my neck, not listening until I heard my name. "…O'Byrne, Donovan," the teacher said, tapping a desk in the second row in the center of the room. I scowled. I had been perfectly happy with the free seating up to that point. Then I heard the next name as he gestured to the seat in front of my new one. "…Nolan, Piper, front and center…"
I looked around, surprised as I confirmed that indeed, she was there, and I had somehow overlooked her. That was interesting, since she was then moving from the front row desk directly in front of the classroom door to the one right in front of mine. I grinned wolfishly at her, testing the waters.
They were cold.
She just slipped past me in the aisle, where I had been blocking the narrow passageway between her new desk and the teacher's. Piper didn't even look at me, simply maneuvering her way around me and sitting down in the desk without saying a word, her face completely impassive.
I rested my hands on her desk and stared down at her, waiting until she would be forced to look up. Eventually, she did. Her big eyes slid off the board and landed on mine. She raised one eyebrow slightly. "Can I help you?" she asked, blinking slowly. Her eyes were a somewhat dull grayish blue, but she had redeeming eyelashes, which were long and fan-shaped.
I opened my mouth to reply when the teacher cleared his throat. "Mr. O'Byrne, why don't you move on to your desk?" he suggested, adding, "Or are you not ready for a continuation of this class?"
I knew what he was thinking. It was the same thing everyone else was thinking: How did he end up here? I didn't blame them, but I was still irritated enough to not reply. At the beginning of the year, we had all taken a test to make sure we were in the correct class. When they were handed back, each had a number in the upper left-hand corner, which signified the roster number. Mine was 2. I had scored second-highest in the class. Not that anyone would ever drag that out of me.
Any guesses who was number 1?
At that moment, the teacher began to ramble about something. A debate? I vaguely remembered him mentioning that two randomly selected students would debate over an unspecified topic. He "randomly" chose Piper and some jock named Jack. She hopped up; looking excited, she walked to the front of the room, followed by the jock, who was swaggering up there "smoothly." I felt a little disturbed.
I lost interest then, trying to keep my eyes from glazing over. I tuned in briefly as Piper argued some point about animal rights—was that what the debate was even on?—and Jack retaliated, looking distinctly more ruffled than she was. It was obvious who would win, so I let my mind wander some more.
Finally, Piper calmly sat back down amidst light applause while Jack slouched to his seat, scowling. I prodded her in the back, between her shoulder blades, trying to get her attention. I wanted to at least start wearing her down, since it would obviously take a while. She ignored me, leaning forward and resting her forearms on the cold desk, mostly out of reach. I smirked. Wonderful, I could see that I was really getting her to fall for me.
Perhaps she was going to pose a bit more of a challenge than I'd thought.
Piper was in my Pre-AP Biology and Pre-Calculus classes, as well as study hall. How I hadn't noticed so far was truly beyond me. She was always answering questions, raising her hand and replying with her clear, quick voice. I suppose I had written her off as another over-achiever. Not that she wasn't one; I had just never had much cause to look twice at her.
Studying her more closely, I began to find more redeeming qualities. She was obviously a strong animal-lover and opinionated as hell. On top of that, Piper had no issues stating said opinions; she listened quietly to conversations around her, nodding occasionally when she agreed, speaking up when she didn't. People seemed to genuinely trust her. I was mildly entertained by a particular argument she engaged in with a short guy about gay rights during our science class. That also brought up the fact that she had a strange mind. I still had no idea how she'd begun to defend animals' rights during English. Random tangents seemed to be her specialty. It was good that she had self-confidence, even if she did seem to be pretty solitary.
Disappointingly, Piper was also sweet, and not that catty, fake sweet common to a lot of teenage girls. She helped anyone who asked her and seemed to get along with, or at least tolerate, most everyone. It seemed wrong. I had known some virgins, and they had all acted like they were more experienced. Piper acted innocent, but the difference was that I had no problems believing her. She bit her nails, crossed her ankles politely when sitting in a chair, had obviously never broken any law, and had a wide, bright smile that I thought everyone lost after hitting puberty.
Overall, that bothered me. It just made her seem completely out of range for anyone, let alone me. Besides, she wouldn't even look at me after that brief moment in English. It seemed like she already had something against me, though I couldn't remember doing or saying anything to her in the month we'd been at the same school. Maybe she wasn't as kind-hearted to my type.
I hadn't attempted to get her attention during any of the two classes we had after English, and lunch was right after math. I noted that she was sitting with three other people, two girls and a guy, who were all chatting together. Piper was reading her book, looking up and saying a few words occasionally. Study hall, however, presented an irresistible opportunity. We were all in the cafeteria, and there was no seating chart as long as we weren't too loud and disruptive. As soon as her friends left for their next classes, Piper got up and moved over to an empty by the table.
I felt myself beginning to smirk as I made an easy decision. Pulling out the chair next to hers, I sat down unceremoniously, causing her to look up at me sharply.
"Oh. It's you again. Do you mind? I'm trying to read here," she said, sounding tired. She continued to stare me down for a few moments before returning to the pages of the third book I'd seen her with that day.
"No, I don't mind at all. What are you reading, Piper?"
She sighed, closing her eyes briefly. "A book. I'm reading a book. Believe it or not, I prefer its company over yours, which must be difficult for you to grasp. So could you please go bother someone else?"
I glanced at the title, which happened to be Taming of the Shrew.
"No need to be so unfriendly, Piper! I mean, I'm just trying to be polite, here. You look so lonely," I said, trying to sound charming, giving her a little smirk. She heaved another sigh and ran her tongue over her top teeth. Shaking her head, she pulled out her math book and a calculator. Who actually does homework during study hall?
"Don't be facetious, Donovan. I know exactly why you're here." I wasn't expecting her to say anything, but apparently she'd been ready to say that for a while.
Doubtful, I thought. I felt a slight twinge as I raised my eyebrow, having forgotten about the barbell I'd gotten on the previous Saturday. Resisting the urge to wince, I gave her my best look of condescension. "Facetious? Why don't you just say 'annoying' like a normal person would? You know, maybe if you didn't act so smart all the time, guys would be more interested in you. Help you lose that nasty good girl reputation you've been stuck with," I replied, knowing how I sounded and not caring.
She scoffed, not looking up from a matrix problem to raise her own eyebrow in return for mine. "I refuse to dumb myself down to further inflate some bastard's ego. And besides, I thought it was your job to get rid of my reputation," she said quietly, sounding matter of fact.
I choked on air. Oh shit. "What?" I said carefully, pulling my feet off the table and ripping a corner off her homework on accident.
Piper made a tsk sound and locked her eyes onto mine. Hers actually looked a little intimidating, flashing cold fury and knowledge at me. "I know all about your little bet with Connor. Don't act so innocent, Donovan," she said, sounding incredibly calm for all the emotions I saw in her eyes.
"Wait…who's Connor?" I asked, changing the subject half on purpose.
"He's your friend. Whatever they're calling him, Laser is it? I knew him as Connor for seven years. Kindergarten to sixth grade that was his name. It was only in seventh grade that he got a 'cool' nickname," she replied, adding, "And I still want you to leave. I try not to associate with guys who make bets to, how did you put it? Devirginize—that's not a word, by the way—the virgin?"
"No, that's impossible. I went to the same school as Laser for third and fourth grade. That's when they moved me to a better discipline system. Besides, how the fuck did you even hear me talking to him?"
She clenched her jaw, slamming her book shut and shoving it into her messenger bag, which she then hooked over her shoulder. Leaning forward slightly, she narrowed her eyes as they once again locked with mine. "For your information, I knew you for those two years, only you went as Donny. You had a golden retriever named Flag, and in the beginning of fourth grade, you cried when I beat you at a race," she said, voice still calm as a slight smirk curved her lips. "And I have my ways of…hearing."
That girl must have had an amazing sense of timing, because the bell rang right as she finished her speech. She shook her head at me as she turned and was out the door before I could stand up. I couldn't shake the nasty feeling that I had lost. Badly.
I skived off for the rest of my classes with Laser. We sat in the back of another friend's car, smoking. After a few minutes of silence, I finally gave up on holding my questions back. "So. Why didn't you tell me that I used to know Piper Nolan?" I said, blowing a stream of smoke at the ceiling.
He looked over at me, shrugging. "I thought you'd recognize the name. She used to make you cry, Donny," he said in a slight sing-song voice.
I glared at him. "I don't remember crying. Just being…frustrated. But she used to have really light blonde hair! And…and…she was short! What happened?"
"She…grew," Laser replied, sounding pleased with himself for his show of wisdom. I resisted the urge to smack him. It didn't work.
"You're such an idiot," I said, climbing out of the old Cadillac and kicking him on the way. I heard his exclamation coming several seconds late from the back seat. His reflexes always did get slower when he was in his happy place. I managed to catch the city bus, which took me within a mile of my house. Laser was okay, but I wouldn't trust him with anything. Friends are just a liability.
In English the next morning, Piper still wouldn't look up at me. She stared at the whiteboard, eyebrows furrowed together slightly. Too out of it to try at talking with her, I just took my seat. I hadn't really slept the night before. I don't think.
What with all the sleep-deprivation, I had forgotten to wait until the bell had almost rung before coming to class, so when the teacher came in with a minute left until the late bell, he looked at me suspiciously. I ignored him, contenting myself with looking down at Piper's shoes. Converse again, but they were white with black peace signs and green laces. It almost struck me as funny that I had a pair of black ones with white anarchy signs and red laces. Ironic.
"Well class, it's over a month into your sophomore year and time for a project! Even better…a partner project!" the teacher exclaimed from behind his desk. His enthusiasm was met with groans and inquiries as to how partners would be chosen. He smiled benignly at us.
"Now while you would all like to be with your best friend, I feel that such teams wouldn't work as efficiently and fairly. So, for fairness' sake, I am pairing you up based on your roster numbers from the test at the beginning of the year!" he said, and I inwardly flinched. It was only a matter of time until…
"So our first little group will be Piper Nolan and…" he paused, squinting at the paper, before falteringly continuing, "…and Donovan O'Byrne?" There was a low wave of murmuring, but Piper didn't show any reaction to the announcement. She just bent down and pulled a sheet of paper out of her folder. Smoothing it on the top of her desk, she held the tip of a black pen poised on the top line.
The rest of the class was partnered up without incident, and then the project was explained to us. Thoroughly. Piper's pen was kept busy. I smirked, not failing to see that she was the only one taking notes. The basic gist seemed to be that we had to choose five poems from one poet and analyze the change from first to fifth, chronologically. He told us to get together in our groups and choose a poet to begin.
Piper turned around at once, brightness in her eyes that I hadn't ever seen even while her expression when she looked at me was one of distaste. "Thoreau," she said at once.
"I really want to do poems by Thoreau! Henry David Thoreau," she explained, sounding exasperated. I just nodded at her, knowing that it would probably come out to the same result whether or not I argued.
After class, she stopped me just as I was getting ready to leave, standing in the doorway.
"Hey, would you mind not standing there? I'm going to be late," I said to her, trying to stare her down. It wasn't quite as easy as it tended to be with other girls who were 5'3". Piper was only about five inches shorter than me, and she wasn't moving.
"No," she said simply. "We need to get together and work on this. There isn't much in-class time to work on it. My house or yours?"
I blinked at her, smirking slowly. "Eager?" I drawled.
"Please don't tell me that is supposed to be charming." Piper said shortly, glaring slightly. Apparently she wasn't as over the whole "bet" thing as I thought. This was wise, since I was fully planning on carrying out my end.
"Fine. Your house. Where is it?"
"Good. Here, I'll just give you the address and hope you know your way around the town," she said, writing on a scrap of paper and handing it to me. "Um, so three o'clock on Saturday, then," Piper added after a moment of silence, turning out of the class to set off down the hall at a quick but easy pace. She didn't look like she was walking all that fast, but she had moved past a pretty decent number of people by the time I was in the hall.
I wondered where she was so desperate to go.
Piper's Point Of View
He was smarter than he liked to come across as. He knew how appealing he was physically to a lot of girls—he just didn't know that I found him attractive at all. Well in actuality, neither did I, at least for a while. Who knew he was even my type? He was tall and thin, with wiry, defined muscles that weren't at all bulky. His hair was shaggy and blonde, contrasting sharply with the black/multi-colored hair of the people with whom he associated. His nose was thin and straight, proud like him. Then there were his eyes, uniquely amber in tone, flecked with gold and shaded with brown around the edge of his irises. Embodiments of warmth.
There was one huge fault, though.
He made a bet. It wasn't even a bet for money—just for glory. He made a bet that he, Donovan O'Byrne, could seduce me, Piper Nolan. I knew the entire time. It wasn't one of those 10 Things I Hate About You-esque betrayal bets. No, I knew all along that he was after one thing and one thing only. Well, two, I suppose, if glory counts. Either way, I knew his motives the entire time.
That didn't stop anything, ultimately.
End chapter one