Chapter 1 – First of Summer

Somebody once asked me a question that rang in my head constantly.

"Would you rather tell a friend you love him and lose the friendship or forever keep your silence and suffer a lifetime of lies?"

The question disturbed me. I couldn't answer her then. Until now, I was still pondering. Why couldn't there be a third option? Why did it always have to be a decision between two very difficult and life-altering choices?

And why was I still thinking about it?

"Richie told me about the serial killers that's loose in our neighborhood killing anyone named Howie. That's my name! THAT'S MY NAME!" Malcolm cried, knocking me off the serious path that my thoughts had taken.

I whacked the back of his head. "Thank you for proving to us all that you've seen The Benchwarmers."

His girlfriend, Lori, turned to me, eyes rolling. "For about a hundred times at least."

The narrow hallway boomed with his easy laughter as we headed for Malcolm's apartment at its end. We just watched The Benchwarmers (obviously) at my place downstairs and were sniggering over some of the funny parts in the film. Well, Malcolm was. My tolerance for slapstick comedy tended to be a bit on the low side. He sauntered ahead of us and disappeared from view when he went through the door.

I was about to launch onto a discussion on guys having a shitty sense of humor when I heard Malcolm call out to someone and the unmistakable slap of a high five. I glimpsed a long muscled leg from outside the screen door. The smile froze on my face.

Instinct, borne out of years of experience, screamed at me that he was here - the obnoxious brute who lived and breathed to see me suffer. I should have known. He hung out at Malcolm's apartment so much, he already had a key.

I came to an abrupt stop, which caused Lori to bump into my left side.

"What is it?"

I answered through gritted teeth, "Nothing."

Right.

We entered the apartment, with me on the lead. I saw him sprawled out casually on the couch, playing with his phone. Behind me, Lori voiced a soft "Oh". I forced my mouth to crack into a smile.

"Well, if it isn't Mr. Universe gracing us with his presence," I bit out. "Hello, Mendoza."

The description wasn't entirely off-base; Brent Mendoza looked like he stepped off the cover of GQ. Of mixed Italian and Portuguese descent, he was tall – about 6'3", dark-haired, broad-shouldered, had magnetic eyes of the darkest brown they were almost black and full lips that were shy of being feminine but seemed like they were intricately drawn by an artist.

Cute. Handsome even. It was no wonder that he was disturbingly popular with women. Though Brent had a sharp tongue, a string of girls were always panting after him. Must be the pearly whites. Whenever he smiled, he could charm any girl off her panties.

Or it could just be his money. The residents of Orange County didn't even come close to the wealth that his Fortune 500 family enjoyed. Let's just say they owned a better part of Norwalk, Connecticut. A prime catch indeed.

It seemed like I was the only female alive who was immune to him.

He raised his head and stared at me a second more than necessary. I stiffened at the withering look. But his bristling manner didn't stop me from staring back with enough heat to melt an icicle. I hoped that on his end, it was an entire polar ice cap.

I was not going to lose my grip on my temper over a simple look from someone I didn't give a damn about.

Brent was primarily just a classmate of Malcolm's but over time, he grew to be one of his closest friends; a bond that caused me to boycott several parties and functions just because I knew Brent would be there. Malcolm and I had known each other since grade school. Because he knew me inside-out, he often ignored my boycotting intentions and dragged me to said parties and functions. We all went to the same university but I had a different major from theirs. I majored in Psychology and they were Architecture students. Malcolm introduced us three years ago when we were still freshmen.

We hated each other. Not on sight but definitely within the first five minutes of our conversation, wherein he predictably hit on me and I inevitably shot him down.

I didn't trust his wolfish grin. He had an arrogance about him that irritated me to no end. Kind of shallow as a basis for all that hostility, I know. But my initial impression of him didn't change over the years. I couldn't imagine him giving a glowing description of me either. Our verbal combat was a constant source of entertainment for our friends. It was truly a miracle we hadn't clobbered each other to pieces yet.

"Always a pleasure running into you, Martinez."

Maybe he wanted to project indifference but his clenched jaw was seriously contesting that. I smirked.

"Hey, Brent." Lori inclined her head in greeting, to which she earned a small smile.

It still boggled me that they got along. He was never amiable to Malcolm's girlfriends before Lori came into the picture. Understandable since most of them were insipid sluts. To be honest, their connection - however thin it may have been - pissed me off. Lori, who was supposed to be my friend not his, failed at judging Brent for what he really was. In other words, she didn't share my opinion of the asshole.

What? So I was immature like that.

I grew furious with each passing second. The fact that Brent and I were mere inches from each other was enough to set me off. I hurriedly sat down on a nearby chair before I did anything drastic. I looked around to distract my fiery head, as if every beige nook and cranny wasn't already familiar to me. I suddenly spotted something that was definitely out of place in the usual clutter.

"So this is what Mac's been raving about. I thought it was a bit ridiculous to be so crazy about a TV."

I inspected it with mild envy since I didn't own a plasma. As per Malcolm, it was the latest model; 3D if I heard him correctly. The tech shit he spewed earlier flew over my head. All I cared about was that TiVo recorded my favorite shows. But I was becoming interested in getting a new TV myself when I saw how much space I could potentially save. You could literally stick the slim set anywhere. In this case, Malcolm placed it on the wide wall in the living room, across from us. This must have been a product of that café job he's had for two years running.

"Yeah, it's his new pride and joy," Lori said.

"We should've just watched movies here instead of my boring set at home."

Lori shrugged. "You have Netflix."

"Yeah but this is way cooler." I picked up the remote and my jaw dropped at the vibrancy of the colors as I scanned through the channels.

"You have more food!" Malcolm shouted from his room.

I laughed but my enthusiasm disappeared when I turned sideways and clashed into two questioning dark brown orbs.

Why are you still hanging around them? You know you're just a nuisance. Why don't you just leave them alone?

They don't want me to. I returned Brent's stare flatly. He shrugged and turned away, leaving me to my troubled mind.

Why was I hanging out with Malcolm and Lori?

It wasn't the first time I've been with the couple of eight months. I couldn't find a good enough excuse to get away from them when Malcolm dragged me out of bed every morning after the school-year ended. Including Brent, the four of us were the only ones left in Connecticut for the summer because the rest of the group we regularly hung out with went home. We've been roaming Lockwood mall in SoNo together for the past two weeks and judging by my perpetually protesting feet, we've already entered every shop in the darned place. Thankfully, Brent didn't go with us on these outings or else I would've gone berserk. It was easier to forget my third wheel status at parties because I usually found other friends to drink with. Parties flooded every part of the city but we saved our energy for the wildest ones on the weekends. So I was...stuck.

To make matters worse, I think they forget that I was with them. Lori's family was strict in terms of her having a relationship. Apparently, they scared off her last, and first, boyfriend in high school. Lori became neurotic about the parental units (and her four older brothers) finding out about Malcolm so they let me tag along just in case. They didn't exactly say it in those terms but I had a feeling it was true.

Malcolm suddenly emerged from his room and erased all other thoughts from my head. It was disgusting how he could overpower my senses just by the sight of him. He was lanky, shorter than Brent by two inches and his hair was cropped to a crew cut. He was cute in a boyish kind of way; his light brown eyes often shone with mischief, mouth regularly sported a dazzling smile and he had a sense of humor which tended to be...yeah, slapstick.

Yes, I was in love with him. Joy.

I glanced at Brent and, to my irritation, he was looking at me with one eyebrow raised. Panic set in at the thought that he knew of my feelings for Malcolm but I disregarded it a moment later. How could he know? I've never been the object of his curiosity and he was too self-centered to notice anything else.

I glared at him. He just smirked and turned to Malcolm. I clenched my fist, ready to smash it to his face. If only there wasn't a law against manslaughter...

"Hey Malcolm, you up for a movie? I heard that new horror flick is on now."

"No thanks man, we just saw one. Besides, I don't feel like it right now." Malcolm smiled at Lori in such a sickeningly tender way that I almost barfed.

I got up in one motion, making Lori look up in surprise. "I'll go out for a walk."

"But we just got here. Where are you going?"

Lori surreptitiously glanced at Brent before swinging her gaze back to me. I almost rolled my eyes at her quick and wrong assessment of my mood. But I left it alone. Better have her thinking I was trying to get away from Brent instead of the raw truth.

"Just a walk," I mumbled.

Zipping up my white hoodie, I crossed the room as fast as my weathered Vans could take me. I got out of the flat, away from the pain and embraced the quiet of twilight.


Some life.

Cue in melodramatic sigh and magical appearance of emo hair.

Okay, so I was luckier than most. I had parents who couldn't spend enough on their only daughter. They were both successful lawyers and reaped the benefits on frequent renovations of our house, vacations in Europe and giving in to my every whim.

That being the case, I fought tooth and nail to enroll in St. Louis University, a college too far from my San Francisco home, to gain independence. If I had any qualms on moving to Connecticut, they were quickly squashed when I found out that St. Louis was just 10 minutes away from SoNo, the nightlife district in Norwalk. A girl's got to party, right? Or at the very least, get insanely drunk when the pressures of school got under the skin.

Oh, the distance issue still took up airspace whenever my parents called me. But I was always quick to point out that the Psychology program in St. Louis was one of the best in the country. They couldn't argue with a good pre-law degree. It's not that I hated my parents. I loved them to bits. I just didn't want to rely on Ma and Pop my whole life.

It was different in Malcolm's case - financially at least. He belonged to a middle-class family and had three brothers so money was a bit tight. Both of us got into most of the universities we applied to but while I was fortunate enough to go without a scholarship to tide me over, he fought hard to get a full ride at St. Louis. He could've easily taken the basketball scholarship Duke offered him but he turned it down. I know. What a freakin' moron. After screaming at him, he finally admitted that he didn't like the idea of us being so far away from each other.

I think that was when my dementia started. I was stupid enough to think that maybe he was harboring secret feelings for me.

Malcolm may be a bit obtuse (irritatingly so) and downright stubborn but nobody could question his unswerving dedication and sense of commitment when he set his mind on something. If he wanted it, he eventually got it. He juggled odd jobs in high school to save up for college. He got that café job for extra cash because his parents would only cough up money for school-related expenses. He was quite adamant in living off campus after fulfilling the dorm life requirement in our first year. I even offered the spare room in my apartment so he could save a few dollars but he refused, saying he wanted to see if he could live on his own. Frankly, I think he just didn't want me cramping his style. He used to be such a whore before he got serious with Lori. Well…that didn't change. But that's something I preferred not to think about.

It was bad to say out loud but the fact that he wasn't loaded worked to his advantage. He didn't experience moments wherein he had to ask himself if people only hung out with him because of his liquid assets. Unlike me. I developed a certain distaste for popularity after experiencing the hellfire of high school. You never know who your real friends are when you're popular.

You could say that I was a bit of a walking contradiction. People had different opinions about me; some of them said I was generally fun to be with and put down my bitterness and cynicism as effects of past relationships gone awry. Others thought I was simply a bitch who needed a good roll in the hay.

I think the whole world can screw itself.

I fished for a cigarette in my pocket and lit it. I dragged in a mouthful of the poisonous smoke and immersed myself further in my thoughts about Malcolm. First, I fell in love with the guy after spending close to 10 years of my life being his best friend. Just when I felt some positive response from him, I introduced him to Lori Lozada.

I saw her around campus and in some of my classes because she was also a Psych major but we never really talked. I thought she was a stuck-up bitch at first because she rarely spoke to anyone outside of class; she scrammed the minute the professors let us go. It wasn't until junior year when we sat beside each other on one class that I discovered we had something in common; I caught her picking raisins off a piece of bread. We instantly bonded over our mutual hatred of the shrivelled fruits. She talked to me in a way that made me feel like we were long-lost friends so I couldn't help but feel comfortable with her. Good thing it was our last class that day because we immediately headed to a local watering hole to continue our conversation. At some point, I told her that she was the total opposite of my perception of her and she just laughed in response. She admitted that she volunteered as a suicide hotline operator in campus three times a week so she didn't really have time to linger after classes on those days. Light bulb moment. So that was why she was so easy to talk to. It was almost a foregone conclusion that I would share my tale of woe about my unrequited feelings for my best friend. Over the next several weeks, she grew more and more curious about Malcolm because I often peppered our talks of the shit we got into over the years. It was actually my idea to introduce her to him. Stupid, I know. But I was confident enough in our friendship that she wouldn't throw it away at the sight of my best friend. It didn't occur to me that I should have worried more about Malcolm's reaction at the sight of her.

I was aware that Lori attracted a lot of male attention but I completely forgot that she was exactly Malcolm's type. She was an inch or so shorter than my 5'8" height with long black hair and a softly chiselled oval face, a legacy of her Spanish heritage. Her eyes were her most attractive feature; wide and caramel brown, fringed with long curly lashes.

To her credit, she resisted Malcolm's advances at first out of respect for my feelings. It was only my pride that kept my hostility at bay. That and the fact that she also couldn't help how she felt. I didn't want to be the pathetic bitch that threw down the 'friendship over' card because Malcolm fell for her instead of me. So I told her to fuck him already to put them both out of their misery. But I licked my wounds in private.

Isn't there a universal law on not dating your friend's object of affection? Lori asked me about a hundred times if I was okay with it and each time, I answered that I didn't mind, that it was totally cool because they made each other happy. I wasn't being magnanimous. I wanted her to feel guilty forever for "stealing" Malcolm away from me. And look where that got me. Karmic retribution could be such a bitch.

God, I fucking hated vacations. It was only during long breaks that I allowed myself to think about my crappy situation. The demanding courses usually kept my mind occupied enough. I could barely think past mental disorders and psych reports for 9 months for the past three years. But after that...

Well, at least I'd be taking a few courses this summer. That should solve my mind occupation problem. A little.

I wasn't paying attention to where I was going until I saw that my sneakers were already touching grass. I unconsciously sought out my favorite thinking place - the old neighborhood playground. It was often deserted because kids these days went for the digital gaming experience rather than actual physical activity. For someone like me who grew up on mud pies and tag, online gaming was ridiculous. But I couldn't say I wasn't thankful though because the stillness often brought me a few minutes of peace.

I plopped down on a bench and took a last drag of my cigarette. I threw it away and reached into my pocket for another stick. I was having fun watching the smoke curl in the air when I felt someone stop beside me.

"Bad day?"

I looked up at the all too familiar voice. Brent. I rolled my eyes. Another reason why vacations sucked.

"Later, Mendoza. I'm not in the mood for immature squabbling with you."

"Awww and I thought our conversations are always stimulating."

"Can't a person enjoy some peace?" To my consternation, he sat beside me.

"Of course. That's why I'm here. The flat was too hot," he said matter-of-factly.

"Why don't you just go home then? Or did the Department of Health finally zone that out as a garbage dump?"

Ha. Describing Brent's grandiose mansion as a dump was like saying I liked his company.

"They let me off on account of you housing roaches."

"Funny. Go home, Mendoza. Your rats need feeding."

"And leave you alone for some poor sucker to pick up? Hell no. I have to be here to warn him."

"Go sit somewhere else, loser."

I never learned. Snapping at him wasn't going to do me any good. But the acid rush coursing through my veins was begging to differ.

"As I recall, it's a free country. Stop being such a bitch and relax."

He flashed a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. To demonstrate that he was indeed staying, he pulled out a pack of smokes and lit one. Great. I could only hope that he wasn't going to be here long enough to light a second stick.

I scowled at him and turned to face the quiet road. Maybe he'd go away if I ignored him.

"Anything new at Lockwood today? I might as well ask you since you're always there."

Fate seemed determined to throw us into a conversation.

I heaved a long-suffering sigh. "No, I don't think so. The snobs you associate with weren't nursing their perpetual hangovers at Starbucks."

"Perhaps," He started laconically as his eyes followed the direction of a noisy cab when it passed by us. "But I wouldn't put much stock in your observation. I think trailing after a couple while holding a torch for one of them is depressing enough to notice anything else, isn't it?"

My whole body went rigid, his words sending shock waves inside me. But I schooled my face into a frown for my lone spectator's benefit.

He stared back at me with mocking eyes.

"Don't even attempt to deny it."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," I answered tartly.

"It doesn't matter. I don't see the purpose of spreading your secret anyway. God knows I wouldn't have come after you if-" He stopped short. I looked at him curiously. If what?

My unanswered question was forgotten when he continued, "I was sent by the reason for those puffy eyes to ask you what's the matter."

Was there no end to my humiliation? I didn't think there was actually someone observant enough to notice that my eyes were often swollen from crying and not from lack of sleep.

I raised an eyebrow at him. "If you're planning to change your major to journalism, feel free. You'd be a hit as a tabloid correspondent."

His lips turned up into a ghost of a smile. "What? You think it's not obvious? It's so plain for everyone to see. I don't know how Malcolm and Lori didn't notice it," he said. "Well...all that PDA must be clogging their brains."

He cocked his head in a way that was doubly irritating because I knew he was just surveying the effect of his words. But I became stoic. No matter how hard he dug for whatever sad emotion he thought I may have been feeling, I wasn't stupid enough to let him see it.

"Mendoza, is there a point to this conversation? Yes, they are a nice couple to look at. So?" Saying the words almost strangled me.

"Not to you."

"Why would you think that?"

"Of course, why should I? Your fear of commitment and vow to never seriously fall in love in this lifetime should be some kind of warning for me." My confusion must have been evident on my face because he added, "Yes, I heard the rumors. You broke Jeremy's heart. That's a good break-up line though. I might use it sometime." His derisive chuckle pierced the air.

My mouth fell open in surprise. Jeremy Greene, vice-president of the Supreme Student Council, deserved to be knocked off his high horse. I swear to God I spent more time swallowing hot air than food on our dates. But...how did Brent know we dated?

Then I recalled that the senior class was already far too small for comfort, considering the droves that dropped out. Our small number was indirectly proportional to the information (or gossip) that we knew about our peers. Brent would've heard about it eventually, even though he had a different major.

"Yeah, because it's really possible to break someone's heart after dating them for just a month." I shook my head.

"Still, it must be hell to choke on your own words."

Calm down. Don't rise to the bait. I narrowed my eyes at him. He just smiled at me lazily.

"Why do you care?" I flicked my cigarette to the ground and stomped on it with more force than necessary. "What are you still doing here anyway? I'm fine so you can get on with your life now."

"Careful, Martinez. Your claws are showing."

"If I maim you, it will be your fault, not mine."

"But that will just prove that I obviously hit a nerve."

I finally reached the end of the thread. I couldn't stop the words I kept secret from tumbling out of my mouth.

"Fine! I love Malcolm Diaz! Happy now?"

Hook, line and sinker.

I cursed myself a moment later for my loss of restraint. A strange expression crossed Brent's face. For a second, I thought the sadness I felt was mirrored in his eyes. But I dismissed it when I remembered that I was talking to an unfeeling ingrate.

He blew out a line of white smoke unhurriedly. "And the secret is out." He clapped his hands, mocking me with its slowness. "But there's really no need to get all dramatic, Martinez. I didn't ask you to call attention to the neighbors' dogs."

Bastard.

"No wonder you can't keep a girlfriend for more than two months. They couldn't stand the cold," I said scornfully.

His eyes became hooded. For some reason, he always took offense whenever I criticized him for his manwhorish ways. It was what usually jumpstarted our arguments. I didn't see the point of his irritation. It's not like I wasn't telling the truth.

"That didn't stop them from running after me."

"You arrogant son of a...You think you're so great. Well you've got another think coming for you, asshole!"

I got up and started to walk back to the flat. A strong hand suddenly gripped my elbow and tugged me back. I came crashing into a rock-hard chest. My eyes met Brent's ominous ones. His mouth was set on a thin grim line.

"And what might that be?" he asked softly. But I heard the deadly note in it. I fought to shake out of his grasp. He held me even more tightly.

"You're not going to run out of girls, Mendoza if that's what you're worried about. I'm afraid the types you pick are too dumb to look beyond the handsome exterior."

He laughed in response. "So you think I'm handsome."

I blushed hotly. I wanted to slap the arrogance out of his face. But his flaming eyes were the last points of light I saw when his lips crashed into mine. I resisted and pummeled his chest but he enveloped my hands with his easily and brought them around his neck.

To my horror, I felt an answering reaction to his deepening kiss. He must have felt me giving in because he brought me closer to his body. One of his hands went up to weave into my hair. My hands grabbed fistfuls of his.

We pulled away when a passerby whistled appreciatively. Our breaths were ragged as we gaped at each other. He looked surprised and well...shocked really. I felt exactly the same. Except...

Whoa.

No wonder girls stuck to him like moths to a flame-

Derail that train of thought!

"Are you attempting to channel Rhett Butler? Because, I have to say, I'm hardly riveted."

The sarcasm would have been biting if I didn't ruin it by panting for much needed breath.

He had the gall to grin. "Is that so? Why did you kiss me back then?"

I felt my face flushing. "I thought you'd learn a few things from me on the art. I hope you're not half in love with me by now."

I really should stop trying to sound venomous. It wasn't fucking working!

He threw his head back and laughed. "Don't worry, Martinez. Your kiss didn't inspire some sort of romantic feeling in me."

I felt oddly deflated at his words but they did nothing to control my escalating temper.

"What were you trying to prove, Mendoza?" I demanded.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head, telling me without words that he was growing bored with the conversation. Well, what the hell. Did he really think he could get away with pulling a stunt like that without an explanation?

"I felt it was imperative to demonstrate rather than explain why my Saturday nights are booked until next year," he deadpanned. "Unlike some people here."

Oh, he did NOT just say that.

"Fuck you and your ego, Mendoza. I'll leave you to indulge in your fantasies. Demonstrate your meager skills to some other helpless fool," I said furiously and stomped away from him. Jesus Christ, I will never come back to this park!

I managed to put about five steps between us but his question stopped me in my tracks.

"If you like him so much, why don't you go after him?"

The nerve. Was he seriously asking me a personal question after practically mauling me in public and about three years' worth of insults and outright humiliation?

With my back to him, I answered, "You're not entitled to an explanation."

"I know. I'm just wondering why you're wasting your time waiting when all you had to do was talk to the guy and he'd be yours."

I turned to face him. His expression was purely curious, as if he forgot that he kissed public enemy number one not a minute ago. He just screams bipolar, doesn't he?

"Wouldn't that be considered overshare, Mendoza? We don't want to give the impression to anyone who might be listening that we're actually friends."

"You don't mean the trees, do you?" He sneered. "So just answer the question."

I stared at him, contemplating if I should give him more ammo than I already did. On one hand, he could change his mind and share my secret to the rest of the world. The guy was pretty influential in many social circles at school and he wasn't above petty revenge schemes. On the other hand, why would he even want to seek revenge? It's not like I did anything to him that was bad enough to warrant such behavior. Besides, the guy didn't have time to wage war against me beyond his pants-dropping schedule.

"Stop thinking, Martinez. It's not that hard a question. Jesus."

I rolled my eyes. "I thought that would've been obvious. He has a girlfriend."

"Like he didn't have girlfriends before? Your friendship is a farce. If he really is a friend, you wouldn't be lying to him."

His words reminded me of the question that I still didn't have an answer to. How ironic that he somehow made the choice for me without knowing it.

"I'm getting love advice from our resident Casanova. Is the world ending soon?"

"Given your inexperience, I know more about it than you do."

"And who are you to talk to me about love? You change girls like clothes and treat sex like a requisite meal." I snorted. "Don't patronize me, Mendoza."

He eyed me with an unreadable expression on his face. "You want to know the real reason why I've never had a serious relationship?"

I was indeed curious. But I wasn't going to let on that I was.

"No, why would I want to?"

His mouth turned up into a mocking smile, as if he knew I was lying. I was about to verbally whip his egotistical ass but he beat me to the punch.

"I met someone…someone different. In an attempt to forget about my feelings for her, I went out with a lot of women. But no matter how I tried, I just couldn't shake her out of my head."

I gaped at him, reduced to silence. This was a side of Brent that I had never seen before. I was thrown that he was actually human enough to have real feelings for a girl.

We endured a few minutes of uncomfortable silence.

"Well? Who is she?"

"You think I'm going to tell you?"

"What's the point of telling me all that if you're not going to finish the damn conversation!"

It was almost comical, talking normally for a minute and then arguing again in the next one.

"God, Adelle, you do have a flare for drama," came Brent's stark reply.

I was surprised that he called me by my first name. We had always been Mendoza and Martinez to each other for the longest time.

"It doesn't matter, Mendoza. I'll probably find out anyway. Your type of girls isn't exactly a secret."

"And what do you think is my type?" The words were slowly drawn out.

I thought of all his sexy and scantily-clad girlfriends who looked like they put more emphasis on their boobs than what was in their brains.

I arched an eyebrow. "You think all those bimbos you dated would give me an idea?"

"I'm surprised with you, Martinez," he said in a taunting incredulous voice. "One would think with your superior intellect, you wouldn't stereotype."

"One would also think with your penchant for promiscuity, you wouldn't be this love-struck," I said. "Don't think for one minute that my personal opinion about you changed because of your confession. For all I know, you're just spinning me a story."

"For what? To get closer to you? I'd rather befriend a snake."

"Just goes to show how bad your taste is."

"And how would you describe yours? Your choice in guys leaves me breathless." He snorted in disgust. "By the way, good luck on your quest to get over Malcolm. I still don't get it but it's your life and I don't really care. I know you're just waiting for them to break up but you're too much of a pussy to actually do anything about your feelings if they do split."

I flinched slightly at his words. He turned and walked away, leaving me to sort out my thoughts.

Pounce on my best friend when things didn't work out with Lori? Hell no. I wouldn't do the pouncing. I'll make him do it.

On second thought...

Did I really want to risk our friendship for momentary bliss? I've never really thought about what our life would be like if we became a couple. My head was too occupied with brief trips to Elysium on the rare times we hung out without the girlfriend and the pain of masking what I felt during those times. It's a pity that the world didn't stop turning for broken hearts.

My thoughts swerved to Brent. So the playboy's heart wasn't impenetrable after all. Oh, the irony. I laughed out loud and would have continued laughing until sundown if only the thought of our hot kiss didn't stop me. That mouth should be deemed illegal in five states.

Fuck.

Things would really get awkward now everytime I saw him, which was nearly always. I could live with our numerous sparring sessions but sexual tension?

I was going to kill that bastard.


Author's Note:

Disclaimer: No ownership/association with any of the italicized brands. SoNo – South Norwalk. Rhett Butler is one of the main characters in the movie/book, "Gone With The Wind".

Chapter title – "First of Summer" by Urbandub

There may be geographical errors when I describe Norwalk or certain places in it in the ensuing chapters. I'm sorry! I'm not lucky enough to live there (: There is definitely no St. Louis or Lockwood mall in SoNo. I just made them up (obviously). My apologies to those who actually live in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Enjoy! (: