.o1. Mistaken Identity
"Looking for your froshie?" Kayla Saunders grinned as we walked through the hallway. I flashed her a knowing smile as we turned down the corridor where I knew one of my favorite people to bother would be waiting. For the past two weeks or so, Kayla had watched me as I attempted to haze my freshman day after day. She found it amusing, as did I, simply because she knew I never meant any harm.
After all, I'd known him for years. When we first moved here two years ago, I had discovered that Adam Bailey was my neighbor. He was an adorable kid at the time, at the innocent age of twelve. He was still in seventh grade, but I soon found out that he had as much of a passion for music as I did. When he showed up for the marching band information session at the end of my junior year, I wasn't exactly surprised.
I essentially took him under my wing at that point. All through the summer, we hosted social gatherings to let the freshmen become comfortable with the other members of the band. I was always there to make sure that no one messed with my dear little neighbor. But it wasn't until band camp in late August that I started to realize that the Adam Bailey I was getting to know was vastly different from the Adam Bailey I had been introduced to two years ago. He certainly didn't need my protection.
This version was actually annoying and did everything in his power to bother the crap out of me every single day.
So on the first day of school when I had seen him walk out of room 347 as I made my way to my locker, I couldn't hold back the desire to just kick him in the back. I couldn't even describe the satisfaction of seeing his backpack lift away from him before slamming back down, forcing him to topple over. When he first turned around to face his attacker, I couldn't help but laugh at the look of fear on his face. He had actually assumed that he was going to be picked on during his very first day in high school.
While it was a terrifying thought, I couldn't help but giggle at his paranoia.
When he realized that it was just me, Alexandra North, his annoying neighbor, the scowl on his face was priceless."What… the… hell, North?" he had growled as I gave him a look that just screamed false innocence. "You're so stupid." With that said, he had walked away without another glance as I stood there laughing with Kayla.
And thus, began the two most beautiful weeks of my life.
One would think that Adam would learn after being viciously attacked that one time. It would do him some good to look around before leaving his classroom and making sure I wasn't in the vicinity. He didn't seem to do anything different though; it was like he was asking for it to happen every day. He would always have the same reaction; he'd glare at me, spew a few curse words and then continue on his way.
Sure, it was routine, but it was a damn fun one at that.
Today was no different. I was making my way to my locker with Kayla after lunch. But this time, I still hadn't seen that familiar dark haired boy come strolling out of 347 with his gray and black backpack. I glanced around for a moment, seeing if maybe this time he had decided to switch things up and attempt to ambush me. But when I turned back towards the direction I was walking, I finally saw him.
Excitement coursed through me as I pulled my leg back, ready to punt his backpack. I heard Kayla protesting from next to me, but it was already too late. Without another thought, I kicked him under his backpack… hard… probably harder than I'd ever kicked him before. Yet, the moment my foot connected, something immediately didn't feel right.
People around us started giving me odd glares and the pointing and staring was already happening. I'd been doing this for two weeks; why were people making a big deal out of it now? For all the times I'd done it to Adam, not once had I ever gotten a reaction out of any spectators.
I heard Kayla blubbering from next to me, unable to form any words. It was probably at that moment I realized I had done something wrong. Kayla never opposed what I did when it concerned Adam Bailey; why was she acting so flustered now? "You are so screwed." Kayla finally muttered and when my victim turned around, I knew screwed wasn't even the half of it.
Instead of the baby-faced, but still freakishly tall, freshman I was so used to seeing, I found myself face to face with someone who did not appear very amused by what I had just done. Despite the fact that from the back they looked relatively similar, this was still a rookie mistake that I never should have made.
"What… the… hell, North."
Well, at least the reaction was the same.
But I definitely couldn't say that the vicious expression Conner Flannery's face was similar to Adam's. Yeah, this was definitely a huge mistake. I tried to shrink away as slowly as possible as he took large steps towards me, but there was nowhere to hide. I found myself staring up at the captain of our three time state champion varsity soccer team, and he did not look happy at all.
His blue eyes were livid, drilling holes through me as I tried to find use of my vocal chords. It wasn't that I was head over heels in love with him from a distance and unable to find my voice around him. No, that was not the case. I frequently found myself in his presence, but never had I ever been at the receiving end of his anger. That anger was usually geared towards the team he was playing on the soccer field, not his best friend's twin sister.
"Crap." I finally managed to squeak, wanting to smack myself for letting my fear come through. "I really, really didn't mean to. I'm so sorry; I thought you were somebody else."
He raised an eyebrow when I said that, shifting the duffel bag I hadn't seen a few seconds ago onto his other shoulder. If only I'd paid a little more attention, I'd realize that he was holding the duffel bag that every varsity member of the soccer team had.
Stupid, stupid me.
"You thought I was somebody else? You would think that after seeing me almost every day at your house, you'd be able to tell who I was just from seeing the back of my head."
"Shut up." I grumbled, slowly getting more nervous the longer his dark blue eyes held me rooted to my spot. "I thought you were Adam Bailey."
Conner snorted in disgust, running a hand through his hair as he looked up at the ceiling. Clearly I wasn't helping the situation by talking. Thankfully by now, our crowd of spectators had left when they realized that Conner wasn't going to pummel me to the ground. After all, it was a known fact that he and my brother, Blaine, were inseparable. "You took me for a freshman? Are you stupid?"
I smacked my forehead with the palm of my hand, not wanting to respond to the question that I had already silently answered a few seconds ago. There were times when I truly despised him, and this was probably one of those moments, despite the fact that I probably deserved his belittling words. It still hurt to hear. But regardless, there were times when I knew why I hadn't beaten him with a frying pan every time he walked through my front door. If he wanted to, he could be nice to me, but that was only about five percent of the time. The last time had been last year when I had gotten suspended for kneeing Tyler Vespucci in the balls for manhandling me at one of their soccer games.
Conner immediately came to my rescue when I found myself getting yelled at by my parents. He had actually taken two hours out of his day to sit by my side and make sure that they understood why I had done it. How could you hate someone who would do something like that?
Of course the very next week, he insisted on turning off my alarm clock and made me late for my first block class. That of course resulted in another detention and reminded me of just why he was such a pain in the ass most of the time.
"No." I mumbled back feebly, realizing that Conner was still waiting for me to make a mistake. "I just made a mistake. I'm sorry."
"Jesus Christ, Alex." Conner sighed, dropping his duffel bag down to the ground when he was getting tired of alternating it between his shoulders. "If it wasn't you, I probably would have beat the shit out of whoever did it. You should watch it; that kid you wanted to hit originally is probably off somewhere plotting your death."
I shrugged and looked around for Kayla to defend me, but she was nowhere in sight. I frowned at that; what a best friend she was to abandon me in my time of need….
"I know, I know. Just… please don't tell Blaine." I groaned, looking at him. "He's never going to let me live it down if you tell him."
A smirk crept on his face and I knew right off the bat that he had every intention of telling Blaine and probably the entire soccer team. They already knew all the embarrassing details of my childhood because of Blaine and Conner's inability to shut up. They didn't need to know one more reason as to why I was a complete moron.
"Of course I wouldn't. Why would you ever think I'd do such a thing? I'll see you later, North." He grinned, picking up his duffel bag and hiking it up his shoulder. Without another word, I watched him disappear through the double doors that led to the stairwell. Only when he was out of sight was I finally able to move my two feet towards the Alum's Stairs where my friends and I usually had lunch.
I tried to forget about everything that had just happened. It wasn't that big of a deal, right? All I'd done was kick Conner; shouldn't he be the one that's ashamed? But knowing them, the guys would somehow find a way to make my life miserable from this.
Fifth block rolled by and I still wasn't getting any sort of trouble from Conner's friends. I was a little surprised by the lack of a reaction, but part of me figured that Blaine had some part in that. At least he was useful for something.
I sat in the back of my AP Physics class, next to Conner and Blaine's other best friend, Travis Long. He too, was a captain of the Summit High School soccer team. In my opinion, Travis was the better guy between the three of them because he actually treated me like a friend and not someone to verbally insult every other week. The three of them were always inseparable and not surprisingly, the girls in school practically threw themselves at their feet.
What would happen to our school once the three of them left? I couldn't even imagine how far we would fall.
Mr. Wood, our Physics teacher, was pacing back and forth in front of the chalkboard. I could see his lips moving, but I couldn't seem to hear any of the words he was saying. The day was so close to being over… but yet still so far.
I heard the sound of a vibrating phone from my left. I smirked knowingly, quickly glancing towards Travis. Sure enough, his hand had slipped down to his pocket. Pulling out his iPhone, he read the message that he had just received. Suddenly, his eyes flashed towards me and then back to his phone. H lifted his gaze again, smiling brightly at me.
Obviously, I was completely oblivious as to what he found so hysterically funny. He lowered his arm underneath the bar of his desk as I tried to grab his phone as discreetly as possible. 'Read it'. Travis mouthed, taking a furtive look towards Wood. I didn't even know why he even cared about getting caught by Wood. He was the coach of the varsity soccer team and absolutely adored every guy on the team. If Travis had started beating the crap out of the boy sitting in front of him in the middle of a lecture about planetary motion, Wood would look past it and pretend he never saw it.
Regardless, Wood had his back to us as he began re-explaining the equations for finding the coefficients of static and kinetic friction. I grabbed the phone and laid it down on the desk to the right of my textbook. I leaned my left elbow against the cover of my unopened book and propped my cheek against my fist. I picked up my pencil, placing the point on my blank sheet of notebook paper so it seemed like I was working hard on the practice problem he was writing on the board. Instead, my eyes were flying over the text message that was showing up on the screen.
Give this message to Alex North – When you kicked me, all my fucking pens exploded and got over everything. Thanks to you, I owe $300 in textbooks. You're paying.
I gaped at the message. Was he serious? There was no way in hell I was going to pay him $300! I had freedom to use my debit card as much as I wanted, but any cash withdrawals that totaled more than $100 required parental permission and I was not about to do that. My parents were head over heels in love with Conner Flannery and I'd more than likely be grounded until I went off to college. Not only that, but they'd probably make sure I continuously gave him gifts after they made me pay off the debt until the day I died.
There was absolutely no way out of this.
I read the message again and again, not able to believe that something as stupid as a dumb hazing attempt had put me $300 in the red. I would be giving him $300 and receive absolutely nothing in return except the embarrassing memories of making a fool of myself in front of Conner.
In the midst of my thoughts, I felt something hit my arm and roll onto my desk. I stared at the crumpled piece of paper on my notebook and then back at Travis. He was tapping his pencil on the desk, while simultaneously pointing the eraser at the paper he had just thrown at me. Opening it, I saw Travis's messy scrawl.
What the hell did you do to the kid?
Shaking my head, I wrote my answer on the paper and sneaked a glance at Wood. Even though Blaine was another Golden Child of his, I was nothing to Mr. Wood. It didn't matter that I was his twin sister. I was just another annoying student who wasn't a part of his stellar varsity team. Luckily, his attention was now honed in on Phil Holiday, who had unfortunately been caught sleeping on his desk. Picking up his iPhone and the paper, I placed the items into Travis's waiting palms.
I sat in silence as I waited patiently for either the arrival of his note or the 2:27 bell that indicated the end of the day. Unfortunately, my Zen moment was interrupted, and not by one of the two things I wanted.
"Alex, what's the coefficient?"
Mr. Wood was staring straight at me as the entire class turned around to look at me as well. I cursed to myself, hating how my last name always seemed to have me stuck in the back row. Now, I had the entire twenty person class training their eyes on me. "Uh…" I dragged out, taking a peek at the board. The numbers and symbols were all familiar and I knew how to do it, but I just hadn't taken the few minutes Wood had given us to do the problem to actually solve it.
I blame Travis.
".14." Travis suddenly whispered quietly, making sure that Mr. Wood couldn't hear that he had just given me the answer. I was sure the other students around me heard him loud and clear, but they said nothing. Before Wood could reprimand me for not paying attention to his class, I had repeated back the answer. Wood faltered slightly, probably not expecting me to say anything and nodded just as the bell rang.
Quickly packing my stuff into my bag, I shoved Wood's words about homework out of my mind as I headed for the door. Travis followed behind me, but said nothing about me trying to escape quickly. I was sure that he could understand why I wanted to get the hell out of here so fast. Just as I attempted to make a swift exit, I felt someone pull me aside. I found myself staring into dark brown eyes that identically matched my own.
Blaine was standing in front of me, looking absolutely frustrated. He too was another star player on the varsity team. As one of the best goalies in the state by reputation, it would've been assumed that he would be the third captain alongside his two best friends. But because he was not a four year member, he wasn't entitled to that leadership position. Instead, the not-so-bright right field defender, Charles Hammond, was given the third captain position. It was an unfair move, but no one could argue with the long held tradition of seniority at Summit High School.
"You thought he was Adam Bailey? The little itty bitty kid who lives next door to us? How the hell could you mistake him for the guy you've seen almost every day for the past eight years?" Blaine groaned, pulling me by my arm towards our locker. Obviously because of the fact that we were next to one another in the alphabet, our lockers were located in the same area. Despite the fact that Blaine was yanking me along at a fast pace, Travis kept along side of us as we finally came to a stop in front of our lockers.
I groaned and leaned my head against the cool metal as I fiddled around with my lock. "You know he's my little freshman. He takes the same route every single day and I honestly thought it was him and not Conner. And for your information, he's not that short. He's Conner's height, I hope you realize."
Blaine looked at me for a moment, probably trying to figure out if I was lying or not before he shook his head. "That's not the point. Do you have any idea how much you owe Conner? This isn't funny and you can't make it go away with an apology. Why don't you ever think before you do anything?"
"Yes, please, I'd like to know the answer to that too." A new voice entered our conversation as I groaned. Now, I had Blaine, Travis and Conner standing around and waiting for me to explain my train of thought for those fateful few seconds. I didn't know what I was doing then; how did they expect me to vocalize it?
"I'm already humiliated enough. Do you have to rub it in even more?"
Conner smirked, swiping aside his unruly hair. "Maybe so. But hell, you should be ecstatic I'm not making you pay in cold hard Franklins. You destroyed two brand new textbooks so obviously I'm making you pay for it. I wasn't the idiot that decided to kick someone for no reason. The least you could do would be to treat me with the utmost respect."
"So how the hell do you want me to pay you then, if you don't want it paid back in cash?"
"Oh, ho, ho. We had a very interesting lunch block talking about everything we could do to you. We haven't established all the details, but we're giving you two options to pay me back."
"Wait, before you continue." I held up my hand. "Who is 'we' in this situation?"
Conner grinned at that and I almost didn't want to know what he was going to say. "The entire varsity team. And Gregg." I gaped at that. He'd stolen one of my best friends to help with his evil plotting? Just because they were soccer buddies in their outside league didn't mean he could make Gregg betray me.
"You stole Gregg?" I smacked him on the chest, eliciting a deep laugh. I hated how he found it funny, the stupid ass. "You're a terrible human being."
"Hey, don't push it. You're the one who's in debt to me; you owe me."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever Flannery. Now tell me what you idiots thought up."
"So here's how it's going down." Conner said, throwing his backpack into Blaine's locker. I knew they had practice later and it only made sense that they threw all of their stuff in one place. "Like I said you have two options. The first one is I want you to pay me the $300 up front, as in tomorrow. I expect an interest payment of seventy five percent within three days. That's a total of $525."
"Are you insane?" I shrieked, slamming my locker shut. "All of you thought of this together? Travis? Blaine? I thought you guys liked me!"
"You have another option, Alex." Blaine said, rolling his eyes. "Hear him out."
I glared at him, not liking how he wasn't able to stick up for me when it mattered. He was always around to scare around potential dates, but when it concerned Conner, it seemed that he was always trying to thrust him into my face and not keep him at bay.
"Fine, what is it."
"Option number two." Conner continued, letting a small smirk slip on his face. "You're my girlfriend for the next few months. Once you spend at least $300 on our dates, then you can stop."
He stopped his explanation and stared at my still figure. I wanted so badly to show how much I hated this; I wanted to punch him in the face, knee him in the balls or kick him in the gut. But I was frozen to my spot and couldn't do anything.
I couldn't even believe what I was hearing right now. My only two options were to pay him $525 within three days or spend $300 on Conner, my so-called boyfriend? Why hadn't anyone tried to stop him when he came up with this ridiculous plot? "Who was it?" I snapped, trying to glare as evilly as possible at the three guys in front of me. "I swear if it was one of you guys, I will hurt you so badly."
Travis laughed at that. "You shouldn't be looking at us for that; it was all Gregg. But if you ask me, he actually did all of us a favor. Not only did he save your ass from whatever Conner originally had planned for you, but this is gonna be so entertaining for us to watch."
I turned my gaze to Conner who was staring smugly at me. "You're going to let these fools play us like this? Have you no self respect?"
"Hey, the way I look at it, I get a girlfriend and free dates for the next few months. I don't give a shit about self respect. I'll be the one driving though, so you don't have to worry about gas."
Well, that's helpful.
I shook my head, internally debating the horrible situation I'd gotten myself into. Both choices sucked, no doubt, but was I truly willing to pay an extra $225 just because I wanted to avoid spending quality time with Conner? It honestly wasn't worth the hole in my bank account.
This also meant that I was selling my soul to the Dark Side by going on dates with Conner Flannery. In the end, did it truly matter though? Sure, he had an ego that deserved to be taken down a few notches but was he truly that bad? I knew he wasn't an asshole all the time; there had to be a reason why everyone in our school was head-over-heels in love with him. On the soccer field, I knew he showed that other side of him that he rarely let me see. He refused to hog the spotlight for himself. As a captain, he was always trying to include everyone in every play. His sportsmanship was the exact opposite of how he treated me, so I knew he had that sliver of kindness in him.
Maybe altogether, it wouldn't be so bad after all if I could find a way to pull that side out of him…
"Whatever." I spat out before I could change my mind. The three guys in front of me broke into similar large grins. "I'll go out with you a few times. It won't hurt."
"Good, good. So my teachers want the money by the end of the semester which is some time at the end of January. You think you can handle four months of us dating?" Conner said, leaning against my locker.
"I've survived being around you for the past eight years. What's another four months going to do to me?"
"Oh, you have no idea." Conner flashed me his signature grin, sticking his hand out in front of me to grasp. "So we have a deal? $300 of dates and we act like we're dating?"
I rolled my eyes, moving so that I could shake his hand. "Deal. Why do we have to pretend we're dating anyway? Wouldn't it just be simpler to go out as friends and not have to fake around everyone else?"
"Oh, come on, Alex. Don't be a party pooper. Think about how much fun this will be. Live a little, won't you? You gotta get ready for that crazy college life. Plus, you get to date me for more than two weeks; that's a fucking honor." He winked at me and stepped back when Blaine started clearing his throat.
Now the imbecile decides to step in… How useless.
"Oh, I can tell this is going to be so much fun. Don't you agree guys?" Conner said, flinging his arms over the shoulders of his two friends. "I can already smell the excitement and drama in the air."
Blaine snorted and shoved Conner's arm away from his body. "Whatever, man. We have to go to practice now. You probably need to get to practice too, right?" he asked, pointing at me.
I looked down at my watch and sure enough, my sectional practice was about to start in ten minutes. Mr. McKinley, our director, preferred if the section leaders started rounding up their sections at this time. I clearly already failed, considering how I was out here talking to the three of them.
"Yeah, I should go." I shifted my bag up my shoulder. "I'll see you guys later." I made a move to walk through the arc they had formed around me, but as I walked through, another hand grabbed me from walking too far away.
"Another thing, Alex." Conner's blue eyes flashed and I knew this was serious. "You can't tell anyone who isn't involved. That means it's only Gregg for now. You have issues, talk to him or any of us. Don't go running to Kayla. I'll see you tomorrow at the game."
He dropped my arm and gestured for the other two to follow him. The others silently waved goodbye and turned towards the men's locker room. The door slammed behind them as I stood there, speechless yet again. It was ridiculous to imagine that I had managed to get myself into this predicament.
To think it all started because of one stupid mistake.
This is version 4.2! Hah. I'd been meaning to edit this first chapter for so long and I figured this was probably the time to do it. Hope you all like it! I think it flows a bit better… or at least I hope it does, hah.
Originally Posted: December 28, 2007
Edited Version Posted: August 3, 2013