A/N: Can I just take this moment to say how much I missed the funny? Writing Nadine is delightful and to believe at one point I thought this story was so dramatic that I felt the need to start a purely funny/ridiculous one (A Lesson in Love 101). Apparently I had no idea how truly dramatic my writing could get with Standing on the Edge, it truly makes everything else I'm writing feel much lighter. : ) I hope you enjoy this chapter!

Soundtrack to this chapter: "Shark in the Water" by VV Brown, "Penelope's Theme" by Nathan Johnson (score from the movie: The Brother's Bloom), "I Miss You" by Incubus (acoustic version), and Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning) by Vertical Horizon.

Nadine's Point of View

The art of love...is largely the art of persistence.
Albert Ellis

"Did you just say that you think you just acted a little gay?" I asked, my cell phone pressed against my ear as I tried on yet another pair of uncomfortable ballet flats. "I thought you were Mr. 'Don't Say Gay As Though It's a Derogatory Adjective That Can Be Affixed to Anything Under the Sun'."

"One: that is way too long of a title, and two: I mean that I actually acted a bit like a jealous life-partner with Thatcher just now."

I kicked off the shoes and resumed searching for the boots that I had lost two months ago and had yet to give up on finding. (How could I? I dyed them yellow and sewed daisy decals to them everywhere – they were comfortable and adorable.) "You guys are like a married couple, so it's bound to happen occasionally."

"Not like this." He muttered and then sighed, "I have something that I desperately need to tell him, but he broke up with me over the phone. Which wasn't a big deal until my sisters started going on about the jerks that broke up with them over the phone. Thoroughly putting me in a bad mood – who would dare to break up with Aliana on the phone? Seriously, who? She wouldn't give me a name."

"Probably because she's twenty-two and doesn't want her little brother to hunt down an ex."

He sighed, "Yeah, probably. Anyway, I think I took all of that out on Thatcher...which I'm really not prone to do, so that's not something of which I'm particularly proud. And I did it really vaguely..."

"You could probably just send him a message about the really important news." I offered, crawling under my bed to see if I had kicked the elusive boots down there.

"It's not really something I can do that with, it's more of a face-to-face thing. Probably with hot chocolate and a game of charades. Although how I would mime 'you're evil ex is back', I don't know."

I froze and I had a feeling that he did too, since he went so silent on the phone that I couldn't even hear his breathing. "What?" I whispered after a beat, giving up on my search and focusing my all on the sound of Huey's voice...granted I couldn't even hear him breathing.

After a moment he gasped for air and then cleared his throat, "What?"

"What did you just say?"

"I don't think I said anything...just...you know...I'd play charades."

"Nicola is back in town?"

"Um...no?" He asked, his voice almost a whimper.

"Matthew Sancho Taverez." I growled, trying to sound like his mother. Usually saying his whole name did the trick – he's not great at keeping secrets.

"Okay, maybe...possibly or positively y-yes, she's in town."

My heart dropped and I squeezed my eyes against the sudden prick of pain, "She's...here."

"Hopefully not for long, I spent most of my afternoon telling her to back off – it's what I was doing when Thatcher called to complain about Sandy Phillips and things had just gotten really heated around the time he broke up with me on my voice-mail. Which wasn't really the greatest thing to hear after spending the better part of two hours telling a psycho that she needed to stop screwing with his life."

"Nicola is...here? In town?" I whispered numbly, "She wants him back, doesn't she?"

"Yeah...I probably should have thought of a better way of breaking the news to you... Sorry, I was preoccupied with Thatcher otherwise I would've never just said it like that." He said, his voice pained. "I'm so sorry Nadine – "

"Does she want Thatcher back?" I repeated, he hesitated and I closed my eyes. "Of course she does; he's the father of her child. Their child. They are a family and I'm..." I exhaled slowly and opened my eyes, "I want to meet her."

"What?! No! That girl is a class A psycho! She makes Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction look tame! She's like the evil witch of every soap opera known to man! She's...she's...my God, I actually am having trouble coming up with a pop culture reference – that's how bad she is."

"Where is she staying? How did you find her?"

"Thatcher mentioned something about Rockwell today, so I decided that I'd try to find whoever was watching him on my own. Honestly, I kind of thought I would run into you, but instead I ran into the Wicked Witch of Europe. I should've known that she wouldn't let Thatcher go so easily, but he didn't seem worried so I backed off." He groaned, "I shouldn't have backed off, obviously I was right on the money when it came to her evilness."

"Huey, where is she?"

"Nadine...you really don't need to get involved with this. I don't think Thatcher ever wanted the two of you to meet; he's trying to protect you."

"You want to know something that I'm tired of? Thatcher trying to protect me. He's awful at it and I'm not as breakable as he thinks I am."

"Yeah, but he might break me."

"Thatcher would never lift a finger to you and you know it." I replied, crawling out from under my bed and shoving my feet in a pair of ruby red and sparkly Mary Jane shoes – shoes that took me several hours to alter.

"No, that's what you think – you have no idea what he would do when it comes to you. I have no idea what he would do when it comes to you. Honestly, messing with you can bring out the Hulk in him. Once, back in high school, we walked up on some guy that was making fun of your wackiness – which I think is one of your best qualities – and I could see the Lou Ferrigno in his eyes; he was hulking out, which he proved less than a minute later."

"Huey, you're stalling."

"No, I'm rambling, there is a difference."

"Not really." I replied, "You're rambling with a purpose, which means that you are stalling. Tell me, Huey!"

"Lou Ferrigno, Nadine!"

"Fine, there are three hotels in this town and two bed and breakfast places, I will find her on my own." I announced, "I just have to find the yellow pages and then no one can stop me."

"Don't you have a date with Thatcher tonight?"

I paused and then narrowed my eyes, "Okay, so maybe you can stop me."

He sighed in relief, "Oh thank God."

"But only for the length of this film – I'm going to find her, mark my words."

"No! Let's not mark them! Let's erase them, erasing is fun – they even have erasers that look like cereal boxes. How great is that?"

"I've been making my own erasers since I was ten – usually ones that look like snails. Hey! Do not try to get me off topic!"

"Please don't go see her? Please?"

"You're begging will not work, I want to see this girl. Huey...she destroyed everything, can't you understand why I'd want to see her?" I asked, my voice so raw by the end of the sentence. "I've got to see her, I have so much I want to ask."

"She's a lying psycho though, I'm not sure you'd be able to trust a single word that came out of her mouth." Huey responded, "She spreads her vileness to everything she sets her eyes on – she's horrid."

"Come on, Huey. She made my relationship into a tricycle before I kicked my wheel off, and I want to meet her."

"Nadine..." He groaned, "I don't know what to do." He sounded so helpless that I couldn't help but put myself in his shoes and feel for him. He was a best friend to both of us, he loved us both, and felt for us both. And right now what we wanted was in direct opposition to each other. That had to be rough on Huey, even with his skill at it.

"Look, if you don't tell me where she is or anything, than you're not really helping me, right?" I asked, hoping that I could reach him with technicalities.

"But I still told you she was in town."

"You didn't mean to, it slipped."

He sighed and was silent for a moment and then cleared his throat, "Okay, just promise me that you won't do anything until tomorrow, all right?"

"You're going to try to feel Thatcher out and see how angry he'd be?" I asked.

"Lou Ferrigno, Nadine. The Incredible Hulk."

I sighed, "Okay, I promise you that I won't do anything tonight, but come tomorrow I'm tracking her down, got it?"

"Got it." He murmured and then I could his doorbell going off in the background. "I've gotta go check that. Talk to you later?"

"Of course." I replied, hanging up the phone and then standing still in my room for a moment.

She was in my town. She was here again, the girl that managed to knock me off my feet and left me flailing around on the ground for more than a year. Like some kind of fallen turtle; just rocking back and forth on my shell but not being able to get back to my feet...

My analogies are weird.

Shaking my head and combing my fingers through my hair, I checked the Micky Mouse clock on my wall and then jumped. "Bye guys, I'm heading out!" I called out, grabbing my coat and racing out of my room. "I'm going on a non-date with my ex! See you later!"


Great, yet another sex scene; I seriously don't recalled this many sex scenes in the book... And I think I can honestly say that I'd be more comfortable watching a sex scene with my overly protective dad and our preacher than with Thatcher. Moreover, I think he'd be more comfortable watching a sex scene with my dad and our preacher than with me. We haven't been able to look at each other since the sex scenes first started happening. Two couples with very active libidos have been falling in and out of love for the last hour and I'm beginning to think that this is the longest movie I've ever sat through. Probably due to how freaking uncomfortable it is – I never knew how hard it was to not even remotely look at the person you've gone to movie with, but it's seriously hard.

The last time I looked at Thatcher his eyes had just widened and his whole body had froze – that was the beginning of the first scene of heavy petting. Next time I see that a book I read has warranted an R rating as a movie, I'm going to just not go see the movie. Yeah, that's definitely a plan after this experience.

I wonder if Thatcher is wondering what kind of movie I would take him to...which is what I'm wondering. Will this thing never end?

We both sat stiffly in our seats for another half hour before the movie began to wind down and take a turn for the worse. Or perhaps a turn for the weird...or romantic to most people, probably. People that didn't have our history.

Two of the leads of the movie got married and invited the other two leads; which was great because it meant that the movie was coming to an end – everyone knows that we never get to see relationships play out on the screen. At least, not ones that work...we only want to see the chase, it's pretty pathetic really. What are we supposed to do once the chase is over?

Okay, seriously got off track: the movie took a turn for the weird when the second couple left the wedding. They took a taxi and it began to storm while they were in the car. Once they got out of the taxi they made a run for their apartment, but then the guy lead stopped his date and offered his hand to her for a dance. Which they then did; they danced outside in their formal wear, in the middle of a rain storm. Before the end credits rolled they whispered that they loved each other for the first time in the course of the movie.


Not that I think in any way that the writer of this movie knew about how Thatcher and I exchanged "I love yous" for the first time...but still, that's just eerie.

We both sat silently as the credits finished and the lights came on. Personally I was feeling really freaked out and couldn't really feel my legs for some reason. When I chanced a sidelong glance at Thatcher I found him with a shell shocked look on his face. After another few seconds of silence he cleared his throat and glanced at me.

"That was...um..." He began, but then trailed off. "...something."

"I had no idea that it was going to be like that, I swear." I blurted, hold out my hands in deference. "Honestly, the book was nothing like that. For one, I can't remember any sex scenes at all and that ending truly came out of left field." I went on, embarrassing myself by lowering my voice to a whisper when I said 'sex' – I am such a sheltered child.

Unlike Thatcher...and Nicola. Neither of them are sheltered, they are worldly and probably beautiful. Thatcher's very handsome and handsome guys usually date beautiful women (I am not complimenting myself here, I'm the weirdo he ended up with and it's not like he looked across a room and had to know me; I grew on him), so I bet Nicola is a knockout.

I guess I'll know soon enough.

"Of course." He murmured, climbing to his feet. "That was just...weird."

"Very weird." I replied, nodding my head in agreement. "Never would have planned that, I promise."

"I believe you."

I shot him a strained smile and then followed him out of the theater, wondering if we were just going to walk away from each other now. It seemed too soon to leave him, yet at the same time I didn't really have any reasons to drag out the pseudo-date any longer. Once we were out of the theater and standing outside of the building, I glanced down at my shoes and then took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, wondering how flexible he was with my quirks. I wanted to know more about Nicola and the only person that could tell me about her stood before me – I just needed to find a way to get the information out of him. And then hope that it wouldn't seem suspicious to him afterward when Huey fills him in on the fact that Nicola is back in time.

"Can we play twenty questions?" I asked, turning to look up at Thatcher. If he felt that my question was abrupt or weird it didn't show on his face. Instead he tossed his drink in the nearest trashcan and then shrugged.

"Sure, I'm guessing you want to go first?"

Okay, how to broach my questions without seeming like I'm on some kind of mission?

Better question: do I ever seem like I'm on a mission?

I don't think I want an answer to that question...

"How many women have you been with?"

Good God, that wasn't the question I wanted to ask.

Both his brows lifted in surprise and then furrowed in the middle of his forehead, "How many women do you think I've been with?"

Well, I guess I might as well commit to the question...

"One; that doesn't answer my question, it is a deflection of my question. And two; do you want that to count as one of your twenty questions?"

He shook his head, "No, I don't want it to count. I was just wondering what exactly you were thinking." He sighed, "Just the two: the woman that...the woman that..." He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, "The woman that abused me and Nicola. There's just been them."

"Really? Not even after Nicola did what she did?"

"In response to your second question: really, that's all. In response to your third question: no, not even after what Nicola did. I...after the woman that cared for me when I was young, after what she did I wasn't really interested in sex. So when Nicola came around, I was surprised that it could be...different. But I had already learned by then that it's not the same if you don't love the person you're sleeping with. So, no – I didn't sleep with anyone else just because she had been cheating on me."

Not having expected that much of an explanation, I just stared at him dumbfounded for a moment. Then I realized that he had counted each question separately – probably because of my being such a nitpicker in the beginning – so I was down to seventeen. Crud. How was I going to pump him for information on her if he counted all my sub-questions? "Is Nicola beautiful?"

I could tell I surprised him again, but he was being careful with his facial expressions. "On the outside she is exquisite." He answered, no emotion in his voice. "She modeled for some things in Italy and France, but she's not that well known."

"Oh." I whispered, toying with the hem of my shirt. "So you've been living with a model for the last year." He said nothing in response, realizing that it hadn't been a question. "Was Nicola your first love? Because I've heard that people are obsessive and really intense with their first loves."

"Yeah, she was my first love." He sighed, "You're questions are a little obvious, Nadine."

But probably not obvious in the way that he thinks. Although...a model? Why did he ever look at me twice if he had actually dated a model? I know I'm not ugly or anything like that, but I don't have a model's looks. Although, now that I think of it, a lot of them aren't very beautiful. Especially those models without eyebrows – they kind of look like aliens. Stick thin aliens.

"Has Nicola traveled?"


"Would you say that she's capable of a lot?"


"Would you say that she stands out in a crowd?"

"She's a model."

"Just answer the question."

He was silent for a moment and then nodded his head, "Yes, she stands out in a crowd."

"Is she comfortable in her own skin?"


"Does she—"

"—Nadine," he cut in sharply, causing me to look at him in surprise. He was staring back at me with concerned eyes, "you have eleven questions left, do you really want to spend them all on Nicola?"

My eyes stung with the threat of tears, "Why did you fall for me after her? Why go for second best?" Another question I hadn't expected to ask, but my mission plan was really kicking me where it hurt. She's everything I'm not – she'll make me feel like a shy, sheltered country bumpkin when I find her. How can I face her if she's already messing with my mind?

"You're not second best."

"Model, Thatcher."

He stared at me for a long, silent moment and then let out a breath I hadn't realized he had been holding. Running a hand through his hair, he began to exude vulnerability – the set of his shoulders and the look in his eyes let me know that he was struggling with his emotional control. Taking a deep breath, he turned his eyes to me. "I fell for you because you were everything that she wasn't." He said finally, his voice a strained whisper. "I loved her, I can't deny that. I loved her for saving me from the world I lived in... I was miserable and alone, and she...she's the kind of person that makes you feel instantly surrounded. She's the life of the party, she is the party.

"When you are around her you feel like you are a part of something bigger, something exciting. She has this way of making you feel like you belong and that her life wouldn't be the same without you."

"Sounds lovely." I muttered darkly, hugging my shoulders against the autumn chill.

He immediately unzipped his sweatshirt and draped it around my shoulders, cloaking me in his warmth and scent. "She's makes everyone feel like that." He went on as I pulled my arms through his sweatshirt and wrapped it against me. "It wasn't just me. She had every man in her world half in love with her and it took me a really long time to realize that. She...she hadn't been saving me, she had just been having a fun time with me. I was so wrapped up in her though that...that I didn't care."

He cleared his throat, trying to hide how his voice has gone hoarse with the memories, "She loved me, but she loved everyone. I wasn't that different from any other guy." He grew silent and I just watched him quietly, waiting for him to be ready to go on. If he would...I really wasn't used to him talking this much or offering up so much of himself.

"I wasn't the same after that, I'll probably never be the same after that." He whispered and then rubbed his face with his hands and let out a weary sigh. "I realized that no one could really save me from my world, it was something that I just had to live with. And I dealt with that, I wasn't happy, but at least I was surviving. Through her I learned that I can't depend on another person making me happy. Nicola was the life of the party, she made everyone happy for awhile...she was bright and shiny, everyone noticed that in her, everyone wanted a part of her and she loved the attention. She craved the spotlight and flourished in it."

"Where's the bad?" I asked, unable to keep the bitterness out of my voice. I began to walk away from the building and he followed me as we made our way toward the parking lot.

"That's all she was; the girl in the spotlight. There was nothing more to her, at least nothing good." He offered me a small smile, "You, with your many quirks and eclectic interests belong in a totally different spotlight. You shine for those who you love and those who love you; you shy away from people you don't know and fear won't understand you. You make people feel like they belong, because you believe with your all that they do. When you make someone feel like your life wouldn't be the same without them, it's because you life honestly wouldn't be the same. When you loved me, I knew that it was because you loved me, not because you love everyone. Although I do know that a part of you loves everyone, just like a part of you is afraid of everyone."

"Am not." I murmured childishly, fully aware of the fact that he was right.

"You are everything that she never was and never will be. You're beautiful, inside and out. I fell for you so easily and I'm guarded and defensive. You...you are what I always needed. You are stable, you have roots, you're strong in your own bumbling way, you..." He trailed off and I turned to look at him, finding him looking at his feet. "You were never second best, you were an upgrade."

We were both silent for a long time and I had to bit back my smile. Thatcher had said more than he had ever really said before and it was because he wanted me to understand. He wanted me to understand exactly what it was that I had meant to him.

Once we made it his car (I had walked thanks to my family's distrust in me and my driving abilities), he leaned against it and gnawed on his bottom lip for a moment. "You have eight questions left."

"Did I make you happy?"

"Yes." He replied softly, back to one word answers.

I smiled and then felt a bit like crying – I made him happy and then I destroyed him. "Did I hurt you more than she did?" I asked, terrified of the answer.

His eyes caught mine for a second and then he slowly nodded his head, "Yes."

Tears immediately filled my eyes and I looked away from him, "Wow, honesty h-hurts." I took a moment to gather myself, wiping at my eyes and taking a deep but shaky breath.

"Why didn't you tell me about Matteo as soon as you found out?"

He stiffened for a moment, but then his body slowly relaxed once more. "Because I was afraid to mess things up between us. I...everything was better with you and I didn't want to lose it all."

"I would've understood."

"You didn't."

"You didn't come to me and tell me what was going on. You tried to leave the country without me knowing anything about it. You were running away from me – you had rather run than try to help me understand what you were going through. I would've been there for you every step of the way if I had known what was going on...if you had trusted me. Instead you withheld and that...that was worse than anything. It meant that my complete trust in you wasn't reciprocated and that perhaps I was wrong to have it. It shook me to the core and changed everything. It changed me." I stared at him in silence for a moment and then sighed, "Would you have felt bad if you had gotten on that plane without me knowing what you were doing?"

"It would've killed me."

"Then why did you try for that? Why did you leave?"

"I...wasn't thinking clearly at the time. And I had a son, I couldn't just abandon him."

"Do you honestly think I would've asked you to? I knew how important he was to you. I could see how much you wanted him even when you thought him gone. I would've never...never asked you to abandon him."

He closed his eyes for a long moment and when he opened them he looked so vulnerable, so confused, so raw... "No, I...I knew you wouldn't you have asked me to do that... I just...I really wasn't thinking clearly at the time."

I stared at him and then took a deep breath and then slowly exhaled, getting ready for the big question. "Do you think that there is a chance that you've fallen back in love with Nicola during this last – "

" – No." He interrupted in a clear, strong voice. "That was you last question."

I nodded and leaned against his car as well, "Okay, fire away."

"Why would you ever think that I could fall back in love with her? She lied to me repeatedly, she tricked me into going back to Italy with her, she used our child as blackmail, she uprooted me from my family and friends, and she took me away from you. All of that in the last year and a half, though we can't forget her cheating, lying about an abortion, and everything else that I've already mentioned to you."

My jaw dropped in surprise at how quickly he went in for the kill and then I cleared my throat, "Uh... Well... She's—"

"—Don't you dare say she's beautiful; I'm not the kind of guy that would be swayed by just that alone."

"She is the mother of your child." I pointed out, "You lived with her for a year and knowing you, when you first found out about Matteo you probably were prepared to marry her."

He sighed, "So you think I'd fall back in love with someone that destroyed me before, because she's the mother of my son and because I was in close proximity of her."

"When you say it like that it makes me sound like an idiot."

"It's an idiotic question." He muttered, "I've been in love with you since my senior year of high school. That doesn't change just because I shared an apartment with my ex."

My heart seemed to jump and then decided to float instead of going back where it belong, actually...my whole body felt like I was floating. I opened my mouth to talk, but it took a couple of tries before I managed to make any sound come out. "You love me?"

"I'm working on it, I promise." He murmured offhandedly, "Why did you decided to date Skylar?"

"Because I..I..."

"You knew it would hurt me and you wanted to hurt me."

I nodded, "Yeah."

"Does he know you're here with me right now?"

"We broke up."

He wasn't able to hide his expression of surprise at that, "Re...uh...when?"

"Right after his party. I...I couldn't do it anymore, I couldn't act like I cared about him that way. And...I couldn't let him continue to hurt you through me."

He had to clear his throat before he could continue, "Why does Huey keep setting me up on dates?"

"Because I asked him to." I admitted with a sigh, "I thought that maybe it would help."

"Help what?"

"My master plan – and before you ask, it's a secret master plan."

"Could you please tell him to stop?"

"Sure." I replied softly, "You have thirteen questions left."

"Did I ever kiss you after Skylar did?"

I frowned, "I never kissed Skylar, why? Would it have been creepy if you had kissed me afterward?"

"Yes." He answered, looking at me in amazement. "You never kissed Skylar?"

"Not once."

He quickly looked away from me, "That's...uh... Question ten: are you stalking me?"

"What?!" I exclaimed, "Do I really emit stalker vibes? I mean, okay...there was that bunny incident – not to be mistaken with another bunny incident that happened in that movie – and I may see you on campus and watch you for a bit. But that does not make me a stalker."

He held up both hands in a calming gesture, "Okay, okay – sorry I asked."

"Is someone stalking you?"

"You know, I don't remember asking this many questions when it was your turn." Glaring at him, I pantomimed zipping my mouth shut. He grinned and then ran a hand through his hair, "What did you do when I wasn't around to take care of the monsters in your house?"

I unzipped my mouth and struck a fighting pose, "I dealt with them myself." I dropped my arms and smiled, "Meaning I took to hiding under my covers and chanting all the Bible verses I know."

He laughed, "Matteo would love you." He said softly and then shook his head, "When I gave my valedictorian speech, were you there?"

"In the very back, trying not to cry."

"Why didn't you trust me?"

"Trust you?"

"When I left with Nicola, you didn't trust me to stay faithful. You didn't trust me to still love you when I came back..."

"Why didn't you trust me?"

"It's not your turn to get answers."

I felt like hitting him, but instead I dropped my gaze and stared at the asphalt beneath my feet. "Because I...I didn't...couldn't understand why you loved me. I didn't understand how you could love me. You...you're so out of my league, Thatcher. It was hard to think that you'd never notice that, that you wouldn't want someone better."

"League?" He asked, frowning. "Uh...measure of distance, group with common goals, level of skill, or a sports group?"

"Huh?" I asked and then smiled, "Oh, it's this expression we use, it has more to do with the level of skill than anything else. Well, it's more of a way of rating our looks and social standings than anything else."

"How am I out of your league?"

"Wow." I whispered, "Okay... You're very attractive—"

"So are you."

"Not in the way that you are. You're the kind of attractive that Nicola apparently is; you stand out in a crowd."

"So do you."

"No, I don't."

He laughed, "You do. You're beautiful and you don't even know it." He smiled, "Right, anyway...go on."

"When people look at you, they see...greatness."

"Because I'm attractive?"


"That doesn't make sense."

I shrugged, "We tend to think pretty people are more capable than the rest of us." I frowned, "And if I count all these question, I think you may be out of them."

"If you count all my sub-questions to my one question, then I've only asked seventeen. So I'd have three more."

I stared at him as though I thought he were insane, "How did you keep track of that?"

He shrugged a shoulder, "What are you hoping to gain out of hanging out with each other?"

"That we could be friends."

"Do you honestly think that's possible?"

"I...hope so."

He nodded and then looked around the parking lot. Finally his eyes landed back on me, "Okay, last question: does SpongeBob make sense to you?"

"What?" I asked, already laughing. "That's your last question?"

"Matteo was looking at me like there was something wrong with me when we were watching that damn show earlier. It doesn't make any kind of sense to me – why is this sponge wearing pants in the first place? And don't even get me started on that squirrel."

"What's wrong with the squirrel?"

He smiled, "That would be getting me started on the squirrel."

"Okay, what do you need help understanding?"

"How isn't that sponge waterlogged from being submersed in water? How'd the tree get down there? What's with the jelly fish and the butterfly nets?"

I laughed, "You do understand it's a cartoon, right?"

"That doesn't mean that things shouldn't add up."

I couldn't help but laugh again and then I spent the next half hour trying to explain the many complexities of SpongeBob Square Pants to Thatcher, having to point out repeatedly that it seriously was just a cartoon – therefore it didn't need to make a lot of sense. When he drove me back after that half hour, I still wasn't sure he really understood the show.

However, I understood that he had given me the backbone I needed in order to face down Nicola.

...And that there was no possible way that tree was lasting down under the sea.

A/N: I have answered the calls of many – I've read a lot of "please update" reviews – and I hope I haven't disappointed. : ) I managed to answer two questions right off the bat: who is stalking Thatcher and what was up with Huey. So if those were bothering any of you, I hope you are now...you know...no longer bothered by those questions.

Now I'm wondering if I should have written some kind of recap at the beginning of this chapter, but I think that would've had to have been a really long recap. (I've learned that I'm really bad at recaps – I learned this when trying to explain to my mom what had happened Friday Night Lights when she came in on my marathon during the second season.)

I can't even explain to you how nice it is to go to Thatcher and Nadine's drama after spending so much time with Rosaline and Javier's drama. Not that I don't love them just as much, I just needed a little bit of a break in the lighter side of my stories. Granted going to Willa and Spencer's story would have been the ultimate break in drama...

Thank you all so much for reading! I'm sorry I was missing for so very long, but I'm back to work! : )