Hey guys! Sorry for the very late update, school has been very hectic. Here's another chapter to prove I'm not dead yet, so hope you read, review, and enjoy!


Chapter Nine

One Day at a Time

"What are you guys doing here?"

That was the sentence a slightly surprised Kalyn was able to utter the moment she entered her bedroom and found Chris, Michael, and Ryan standing expectantly on the small balcony of her room, behind the glass doors. She stepped inside the balcony and faced the three friends, who were looking quite solemn.

She sighed. "Look, you guys. If you came here to berate me for lying, then get it over with already. I know what I did, and I'm sorry about it. Go ahead."

Chris cleared his throat, looking quite uncomfortable. "Kalyn….actually, that's not why we came here."

"Really?"

"Yeah," Ryan stepped forward. "Kal, we just…we just wanted to say sorry for how we treated you these past few days. We were being a bit overdramatic."

Kalyn raised an eyebrow, although a bubble of happiness was threatening to burst within her. "A bit?"

"Fine, we were jerks." Michael said. "Look, granted, what you did was wrong. You lied to us."

"I'm sensing a 'but' coming along here."

"Alex….he started this whole game in the first place. He challenged you, you fought back. After we got to thinking, we realized that a boyfriend would be the last thing on your mind when you're caught up in a whirlwind like that. Besides," Chris paused. "We didn't expect him to hit so lowly in return. Liz is a nice girl, and she doesn't deserve to be used like this."

Kalyn wanted to tell him that Liz was happy playing the role, but merely nodded. Michael plowed on. "And anyway, it's your life. We have no right to tell you what to do, who to see…"

"Just, next time, warn us, okay? So nothing like this happens again," Ryan finished.

Kalyn smiled radiantly. "Thank you." She said simply.

And that was the end of that.

…------..

"No."

"Please?"

"No."

"Pppppllllleeeeaaaaaasseee?"

"Chris, if you ask me that one more time, I swear I will push you out the window," Kalyn threatened that next Monday. Chris had been begging ever since he saw her come out of AP French, and she was getting annoyed.

"But Kalyn, you're her friend. I'm your friend too. Don't you want to see both your friends happy?" he gave her his best puppy-dog expression.

Kalyn laughed at the pathetically adorable look, but shook her head. "Chris, I'm not going to help you ask Drea to the Halloween dance. That's her choice."

"Kalyn—"

"Why are you so interested in her anyway? I've never seen you act this way before," she asked.

"Because she's different. And I like her. Do you really need any other answer?" He stated simply.

His words, said so simply yet so full of actual sincerity pulsed a dull ache in Kalyn's heart. In that one moment, she knew Chris really felt something strong for Drea. No complications, no problems, just plain, strong feelings.

If only she could have that…

"I could hear the both of you from the end of the hallway. What's up?" Michael's uncharacteristically cheerful voice floated as he wedged himself between Kalyn and Chris.

Kalyn raised her brow suspiciously at the tone of voice but Chris merely sighed. "You. Tell her to help me persuade Drea to agree to going to the dance with me."

Michael gave a low chuckle. "No can do, man. You got yourself into this mess, it's your problem."

"Hey! Whatever happened to friend loyalty?" he demanded.

Michael smirked. "Your love-life, your responsibility."

Kalyn coughed, interjecting, "Sorry to interrupt such a poignant male bonding moment," she rolled her eyes, "But if I'm not needed in this discussion anymore, I have people to meet. Excuse me."

She started walking away, passing through the throng of people in the halls. She finally reached Shaye's locker, where she and Drea were standing, chatting as they did so.

"Kalyn!" Shaye's eyes were shining. "Excited about the dance this Friday? You do have a date, right?"

"Well," Kalyn said slowly. "I haven't really thought about it…and Nathan isn't available that night so…No, to both questions. Besides, I wasn't counting on going, anyway."

"You're crazy, Kal," Drea said flatly. "You can't not go; it's the party of the season! Everyone expects you to be there. Besides, you can just wear a simple dress, since Principal Aimes wants to keep things plain and simple this year---strange, I know."

"Speaking of crazy and the Dance," Kalyn said, carefully side-stepping the issue. "You'd better watch out, Drea. Chris is going to stop at nothing to get you to agree to go with him."

"Well…" Drea said slowly. Then her tone turned crisp. "If he asks again, then tell him to go to hell."

Shaye shook her head. "Not going to work. I've known those guys since kindergarten. He'll bribe even your family if he has to to get what he wants."

She turned to Kalyn. "But stop changing the subject. You're going to that dance, and someone is going to take you."

"The dance is in a few days. Even if I wanted to go, I can't get a date that fast."

"I'd be happy to take you," Ryan butted in suddenly, walking up to them with a smile. "I'm sure your boyfriend won't mind, and besides, I don't have a date yet anyway."

"Were you eavesdropping the entire time?" Kalyn wanted to know.

"Basically," Ryan's smile turned to a grin. "Anyway, Kalyn, what do you say?"

"She says yes," Drea butted in suddenly, before Kalyn could get in a word.

"Yeah. Pick her up at 7," Shaye added as well.

"Great!" Ryan grinned again. "See you then, Kalyn." Then he left.

Kalyn turned and glared at her two friends guilty, yet happy faces, knowing that the whole thing had probably been planned from the start.

"You two are in so much trouble."

.. ------..

Thursday came, and everyone was in high anticipation for the dance. It was a well-known fact that dances were where the best events happened---break-ups, hook-ups, scandals. Basically, everything the gossip-loving predators of Kentworth Academy lived for would be sure to happen there.

Kalyn had free period right now, so she nonchalantly walked around the school, looking for something to do. Her cell phone suddenly rang, signaling the arrival of a text message. She opened it and found that it was from Nathan. It said:

Kal. Meet me at your school's courtyard. I'm waiting by the stone bench near the tree.

Slightly puzzled, Kalyn headed to the courtyard. It didn't take long to find him, and smiling, she walked up to Nathan.

"Hey," Kalyn sadi, kissing him on the cheek.

"Hey," he smiled. "Why don't we sit?" Once they did, he turned to face her.

"Remember I told you that I needed to go back home on Sunday?" he said. "Well, turns out grandma got sick again, so I have to go home and help out. My flight's at 8pm."

"Oh," Kalyn said, not sure what else she could reply. On one hand, he leaving would lessen complications, but she would truly miss his company; the last few days had been fun. "I'm going to miss you."

"So will I." He gave her a small smile. "But…Kal…we need to talk."

A small weight dropped onto her stomach. "What about?"

He took a deep breath. "Look, I've thought it over and…I don't want to hurt you, and I don't want to seem like I'm betraying you but…I think it's best if we both break up."

For a moment Kalyn couldn't speak. Nathan was breaking up with her. Her shock-stilled surprise was evident in her expression. "Nathan, if this is about Alex---"

"It's not about him," Nathan sighed. "Or maybe it is. Look, I've seen the way you two look at each other. He likes you Kalyn, and I'm pretty sure you like him too."

"I don't---"

"Kalyn, don't be stupid. Everyone sees it, even Liz. You like Alex Donovan, and while I can't believe I'm saying this, but he seems like the guy for you. And I don't think I can be that selfish to keep you from something that'll make you happy. Admit it Kalyn."

And it all suddenly became clear.

All the times she thought about him, all the times she felt a tingle in her spine even when they just talked, how he was able to stir emotions in her with just a few words, the way he affected her with even just a simple touch, the fact that she was able to forget Nathan while she was with him….now it all made sense.

And as much as her pride refused to acknowledge it, her heart knew the truth.

Alex Donovan was a lying, manipulative jackass.

And she liked him. A lot.

Kalyn sighed. "You're right, Nate. I do. I guess I've been trying to deny it for too long, and I didn't realize that it was that obvious. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," he waved her apology away. "Because you're not the only one who fell for someone else."

"You mean---"

"Yeah," His smile was slight. "Carrie Brennan, remember her from our freshman year? I was just afraid to ask her, because I couldn't find an opportunity to break up with you yet. Besides, we had a great time together; I didn't want to ruin it because of a break-up."

"She's a great girl. Go for it." She smiled. "And you're right. We've both been idiots. We can't keep kidding ourselves when we both like someone else. So, it's over?"

"Yeah…Friends?"

"Friends," Kalyn gave him a hug. "Good luck with Carrie."

"Good luck with Alex. Something tells me you need it more than I do." He grinned and stood. "I'd better get going, I need to pack."

"Okay," she smiled. "Call me when you get there." He nodded, and they hugged one last time before he walked away.

A slow smile spreading across her face—both at the fact that they had parted as friends and at the fact that she had realized her true feelings for Alex----Kalyn left, feeling happier and more light-hearted than she had in weeks.

..------..

"Alex, we need to talk," Liz said that dismissal as she entered his car.

"Okay. What about?"

Her expression grew exasperated. "I want to talk about you, and your apparent stupidity to realize the most obvious of things."

He raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"I have been dropping hints for so long, and yet you continue to be so damn stubborn!"

"Okay, Liz, I officially do not understand what you are saying."

"I'm not going to lie to you, Alex. The only reason I agreed to date you was because I wanted you to realize that you like Kalyn! You're like a brother to me, Alex; do you really think I'd want to date someone who's been my friend ever since we were in diapers? That's like incest to me, and besides, I've seen you two together. You, most especially, need a large shove in the right direction."

"I don't like her that way." Damn it, why did everyone keep saying that?

"Shut up and listen," Liz said, all-authority. "I've seen the way you two are when you're together. You seem happier when you're with her. You don't like it when another guy approaches her, and you easily get angry on her behalf. When you found out she had a boyfriend, you hit back by dating me out of jealousy. And I saw how you were with her in the theatre, and ever since she came here, she's been able to unravel the best and worst sides of your personality, and not just the shallow arrogant pretty-boy façade in between. You like her, Alex."

But his expression was opaque, allowing no one to read it. "I don't know what you're talking about. I want her, but I don't like her that way."

"See, that's your problem!" Liz pointed out. "You've been so centered on the physical stuff for so long you've forgotten how it is to actually like someone beyond that. You don't even recognize the signs! Damn it, Alex, it's been three years! Get over it, already!"

"I am over it," Alex insisted. "Conniving bitch," he muttered.

"Thank you!" Liz said cheerfully. Then her tone turned serious. "You're a coward, Alex. Because everyone can tell you like Kalyn, but you're too scared to admit it to yourself, even if the rest of the word sees it."

He was having a battle of wills and pride. He decided to compromise. "Look, Liz, I'll be honest with you. I don't know how exactly how I feel about her. Sometimes I want to go away from her…but I…sometimes I can't stay away from her. She's irritating, hard-to-get, manipulative…but she's like heroin. I can't seem to stop myself."

"I have the feeling that Kalyn wouldn't appreciate it if you compared her to an illegal substance, but that's just me," Liz grinned. "Besides, with what you said…you've basically proven that you like her."

"Maybe," Alex muttered very indistinctly, like a sullen child who didn't want to acknowledge the fact that his ice-cream had splattered to the ground.

"Finally! An answer." Liz grinned again. "Ask Kalyn to the dance this Friday. It's a start."

"She's already going with Ryan," he said in the same hollow tone.

"Ouch," Liz said. "Jealousy's a pain in the ass, isn't it? But come on, you're Alex Donovan. Sweep her off her feet on Friday."

"But what about you? Somehow I don't think it'll bode well if I get close to her while you're my date."

Liz rolled her eyes. "For a candidate for class Valedictorian, you sure are lacking in common sense. It's so simple, Alex: We break up."

Alex found himself slowly nodding. Like it or not, he knew that his feelings towards Kalyn were changing, and without Liz, he would be able to take the reins and test the waters, to see where everything went from there. "Okay. We're over."

Liz laughed. "You know, there's something terribly anticlimactic about this whole thing, don't you think? But hey, as long as I've done my bit helping you two realize that you're made for each other, then that's good enough for me."

He gave her a hug, which she returned. "Right. And I'll think about what you said." She simple smiled at him one last time, before stepping out of her car and walking away, leaving him to ponder on his thoughts.

..------..

Ryan gave a low, appreciative whistle when he saw Kalyn in her dress that Friday night. Laughing at his expression, she twirled around and asked, "How do I look?"

"Well," he grinned. "Let's just say that I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Alex kidnaps you in the middle of the dance."

"I'm not doing this for Alex."

"Yes you are," Ryan said as he opened the car door for her. "You like him and you want to make him jealous. It couldn't have been more obvious if you had placed a sign over your head."

Kalyn sighed, knowing that it was time to come clean. Hell, if she admitted it to herself already, why not shout it to the entire world. "Fine. I do like him. Happy?"

"Very. You're the first sensible he's lain his interest on, and I've got to say, I approve."

The party was in full swing by the time Kalyn and Ryan got to the school gym, which had been decorated with skulls, knives dripping with blood, and other Halloween paraphernalia, an exact contradiction to the dress and polo-clad students occupying the place. They made quite a sensation as they entered, and Kalyn almost smiled once she saw the many jealous looks sent her way.

"Kalyn, you look awesome," Drea said as she and Shaye approached her.

Shaye eyed Kalyn's light green, scoop-neck dress. "Very cute."

"You too," she said, smiling. She looked around. "Who're your dates?"

At this Shaye burst out laughing. "Well, I decided to go solo---my eyes have been opened to the immaturity of the male population of this school."

"Drea?"

"Um…well…" Drea seemed hesitant to answer. "My date is…uh…"

"Talking about me?" Chris interjected as he walked up to them, grin in place. He placed his arm around Drea's shoulders.

"You…got…Drea…to…say….yes????" Kalyn simply could not believe it.

"Well, my arm is around her shoulders and she hasn't broken it off yet, so the answer would be obvious, right?" Chris's grin was now all-teeth.

Drea rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "One date, Maebry, and that's it. That was our agreement."

"Well, don't worry," Chris said, self-assured. "I'll make sure that there's going to be a next time…and a next…and another…."

Michael and his girlfriend Abby Gavin, a senior like them, walked up to them. Abby had readily been accepted into their circle because of her easy-going attitude, but she hardly got to spend any time with them as her extra-curriculars (a list so long it would trail to the floor) took up most of her time.

"Hey guys," Abby said. "Kalyn, your plan is working. I saw Alex narrow his eyes when you got here with Ryan. He was about to crush his cup."

"Why does everyone assume that I'm trying to make Alex jealous?" she said, but she was smiling. She foun the thought of Alex overcome with jealousy amusing and…hope-filling.

The night was fun—they talked, ate and danced, and though Alex and Kalyn tried to keep their distance, the laughter was still president.

It was close to 10:30 when student council president Alice Carson came on stage. "Okay guys, it's time to announce our Halloween Kind and Queen!" Whispers and excited murmurs broke out. "So here they are, to share the first dance. Our King…Alex Donovan! And our Queen….Shaye Collins!"

Both approached the main dance floor as applause broke out. Much to their surprise, instead of getting ready to share the dance Shaye walked to the podium, grabbed the microphone, and spoke.

"Okay…um…thanks a lot, everyone, for voting for me but…it's kind of odd to be dancing with your cousin at an event like this, so, as Queen, I order the first dance to be shared by Alex and Kalyn Roberts!"

Whispers broke out as people pushed a protesting Kalyn forward. Having no other choice—the spotlight was on them—Kalyn went to Alex, who seemed unconcerned as he took her hand. She mouthed to a grinning Shaye, "You are so dead," before the music started.

As the slow dance progressed they revolved around the spot slowly, feeling awkward. After moments of silence, Kalyn couldn't take it anymore. Without knowing what possessed her to do it, she whispered, "Nathan broke up with me yesterday."

Alex couldn't help but chuckle, and he ignored the lightness he felt at her words. "Liz and I broke up yesterday too."

Without warning the two gave out silent laughter, all awkward tension erased. The continued to dance in comfortable silence as other couples went to join them.

"Let's get out of here," Alex suddenly whispered.

"What?"

"We need to talk." Without thinking twice Kalyn nodded and very quietly, they slipped past the crowds and couples and made their way to Alex's car. Within minutes Alex pulled out of his parking space and drove ahead in silence.

The stars and a lone lamppost provided the only light in the otherwise night-blanketed place. From the top of the hill where Alex finally parked, Kalyn could see the tiny lights of Fall River flicker. She smiled.

"This pace is beautiful," she breathed as she went to go sir beside Alex on the hood of the car. They sat in silence for awhile, reveling in the scenery, until Alex spoke.

"So…Nathan broke up with you…."

"…and Liz broke up with you," Kalyn finished. "And in a span of one week we managed to go from having great relationships to being single. Funny how life works."

"Yeah," Alex said. "So…was it a mutual decision?"

She nodded. "And you?"

"Same," he said casually. "But hey, it's fine."

They sank into silence again, until she finally decided to ask the inevitable question. "Alex, why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Kalyn jumped off the hood and stood, staring at him. "This…toying around with my emotions."

"I'm not doing anything of the sort."

"Yes you are!" she exclaimed. "The first day I came here you immediately invaded my personal space. And all the time I've been here, first you act nice to me, like I actually matter you, then the next think I know, you treat me like a toy! Why, Alex? Does it give you sadistic pleasure to toy around with other people's feelings?"

Alex too jumped from the hood and appraised her, his eyes turning a searing emerald amidst the moonlight. "Why?" she said dryly, his gaze piercing. "Maybe I should ask you the same question, Kalyn. Why didn't you tell me that you had a boyfriend? Why did you feel the sufficient need to play along with me, then suddenly throw this piece of information afterwards?"

Kalyn didn't show that his words sparked guilt. "You started this game, Alex. Not me."

He took a step closer. "I may have started this game, Kalyn, but you played along, so you have to know that I have every intention of us finishing it together."

"Us?" You were the one who made it clear all those nights ago that there was no 'us'.' It seemed like all the pent-up emotions and thoughts had finally reached the surface, and they were letting it all out now. "You didn't give me a chance to explain, Alex."

He gave her a strong gaze. "Neither did you."

Kalyn sighed. "Alex, stop this. We both know it's an act. You don't care. You don't have any feelings, not for me, and not for anyone else."

His gaze bored into her. "Have you taken a good look at yourself, princess? This is the pot calling the damned kettle black, don't you think?"

She glared. "I don't have feelings?" she echoed in mockery. She had no control over her words now. "Damn it, Alex, I'm not one of your robots! How did you think I felt when I saw you with another random girl the mornings after you show me that I had a tiniest place in your heart? Why do you think I'm reacting like this?" The tears were threatening to fall, but damn him if she was going to let him see her cry.

"So you admit that you're affected by my actions?" He gave her a slight smirk. "Funny, I was under the impression that you didn't care."

"I didn't think you did, either," she retorted coolly. "Until you punched Nathan the moment I told you he was my boyfriend."

The comment hit home. Alex sighed. All the passion, the fight, was gone, and now they were both just tired. They stared at each other in silence, willing the other to talk. Finally, he spoke.

"Look about that…" he ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "I don't know why I did that, and I'm brave enough to admit that it wasn't just because I hated him. Hell, I don't know why I do half the things I do when I'm around you."

His expression grew deathly serious. "Look, Kalyn…I'm sorry. This isn't easy for me to say, but here it is. I don't know why but…I screw up a lot when I'm around you. There's this voice in my head that keeps telling me to man up, to be a better person because I know that'll affect how you see me. But I do the exact opposite. This is the first time this has happened. Usually, when a girl says no, which isn't often, I leave her alone—a waste of energy, you know? But you….the moment you pushed me away---"

"You kept coming back for more," Kalyn said to finish for him. She sighed. "Well, it's not like I was entirely unwilling. I mean, look what happened with the whole Nathan fiasco. I don't like taking risks, Alex, and as far as I'm concerned, you're a big one. But the thing is…I don't know if I care anymore."

Her words made Alex look up. Kalyn had basically admitted her feelings toward him, and it took all his self-restraint to yell to the world and kiss her senseless. But not know. He still needed to figure out a few more things for himself, make everything definite. For once, he wanted to take things slow.

"So…our actions ever since you got here. What does that tell us?"

"That we messed up?"

"Big time," He leaned against the wooden railings.

"Do you still want to fight?" she asked.

"Honestly, I'm tired to arguing all the time," he said. He turned and gave her an intense gaze. "We've proven that we can go a day being civil, and everything's out in the open so…what do you want to do now?"

"I don't know," she sighed. "Where do we go from here?"

"I don't know too," Kalyn looked at him; there was a small smile on his face. "But hey, we've got all the time in the world to figure it out. One day at the time, right?"

Kalyn nodded and leaned her hands against the wooden railings, looking at the scenery. Alex went close, placing his left had on top of her right one.

Kalyn smiled, reveling in the fact that, for the first time, the fighting was now over. They were now hand-in-hand in building back a better, friendlier relationship. The stood in comfortable silence, observing the still-flickering lights of the city below.

"Let's go out to eat," Alex said suddenly. "I know this great diner that's open 24 hours. Come on, let's go. I'm hungry."

His suggestion was so random and out-of-topic that Kalyn laughed out loud. "You want to eat?" she said in amusement. "At 12 midnight?"

"They serve pancakes," Alex said, as if that explained everything.

Kalyn siled. "Well, if they do, then let's go!" They entered the car, and within minutes they were back on the main road. And when Alex suddenly turned and smiled at her, she couldn't help but smile back.

It was all over, she realized. In one night they had managed to end a silent war that had been going on for a month, and instead, call a truce. They'd play the game to the end, but they'd both ended up hurt. Now was the start of a whole new page for them, and while Kalyn wasn't sure if he felt the same as she did, or even what would come out of it, she was willing to take it slow. It was just like Alex said, after all.

One day at a time.