So I finally finished this, you guys. One hundred and seventeen pages that started out as a one-shot about being a band geek, and I finally finished this. In all honesty, I had every intention of writing all of it, but I didn't think I would. Does that make any sense? Nope? Oh well. On with the story.
With all the upheaval going on in the stands and on the field, I was able to sneak behind the bleachers without anyone noticing me. From there, I followed the back line of trees leading up to the school and slipped into the building through the gym entrance door.
I headed toward the small cafeteria where the marching band students would drop their things off whenever we had a performance. Locating my black clothing bag, I took it into the bathroom and quickly changed from my uniform into the jeans and t-shirt that I had arrived in.
Now all I had to do was find Brady. I highly doubted that Mrs. Sanchez had let him go home, but they weren't in her office, and all the other classrooms and offices I had checked were empty. I figured I'd check one more room; the band room was closest to the field entrance and was often left unlocked for detentions during finals week.
Sure enough, I heard Mrs. Sanchez's livid voice from down the hall. With my back pressed against the wall, I stood off to the side of the closed entrance. After making sure I wasn't at all in front of the glass window that made up part of the door, I held my breath and listened.
All traces of the dean's usual disturbingly-pleasant smile were gone. I could hear Mrs. Sanchez pacing back and forth on the scratched-up band room tiles as she yelled.
I pushed my luck and took a quick peak inside. Fortunately for me, Mrs. Sanchez had her back turned for that split second. Brady was sitting in one of the front seats of the semi-circle formation. His elbow was resting on one of the music stands as he stared at nothing in particular. Despite the fact that he was getting mercilessly yelled at, though, there was a tiny smile on his face and his eyes gleamed.
"I cannot believe you, Mr. Hanson. You've pulled some stupid stunts before, but this is, by far, the worst."
Brady's voice found my ears next. Although not as loud as Mrs. Sanchez and twice as calm, his voice was still clear. "Ma'am, I really don't see why it was such a big deal."
"You can't be serious!" she yelled, practically cutting off his words. "You stole the announcer's keys from his back pocket. You broke into the sound room on top of the bleachers, locked the door, made a completely unnecessary announcement, and resisted letting myself, Mr. Bauer and Mr. John in. You had to be torn from the room, and, furthermore, you completely disrupted the entire assembly!"
It was quiet in the room for a few seconds. I strained my ears to hear Mrs. Sanchez's pacing, but she had stopped.
"Well, I didn't think it was a completely unnecessary announcement," Brady finally said.
Mrs. Sanchez scoffed. "No, apparently not," she retorted. "I'm going to my office call your parents, Mr. Hanson. I will be right back, and if I were you, I wouldn't move a muscle." Her footsteps started again, coming closer to the door.
I froze. There would be no time to take off or hide in another classroom. If I moved, she'd see me. I flattened myself out against the bricks of the wall, shut my eyes tight, and hoped she'd just walk right past without looking back at me.
"And you'd better get used to this room, Brady," she announced before walking out. "You'll have two hours of detention here every single day of finals week. Starting today." The door to the band room flew open, and the dean of students huffed by toward her office. Fortunately for me, she was too frustrated to even notice that I was pressed against the wall to the right of the entrance.
As the door swung around and went to close again, I soundlessly stuck my foot in the way of it, stopping the lock from clicking shut. When I was sure Mrs. Sanchez had turned out of the hallway, I stepped into the band room.
Brady had his arms folded on the music stand and his head buried in them.
"Bored already?" I asked.
He snapped up straight at the sound of my voice. "Andy…" he rushed. "What're you doing here?"
"Well, I'm here for a couple of reasons," I replied, walking further into the room. I stopped a few feet from him, though, awkwardly putting my hands into the pockets of my jeans. I shrugged. "One of which being to tell you that you're an idiot."
Brady's eyes widened. "Me?" he asked. "I'm an idiot? What'd I do?"
"You broke into the sound booth and managed to embarrass the shit out of both of us in front of half the student body," I replied casually.
His forehead creased in confusion, and then the look of puzzlement was replaced by slight irritation. "Yeah, well, maybe if you hadn't been such a pain in my ass and believed me in the first place, I wouldn't have had to--"
Brady's words were cut off when I put my hands on either side of his face and kissed him firmly on the lips. I didn't feel like fighting with him. That was all we had done since that day in his dining room at the start of the year, when his slice of ice-cream cake had miraculously ended up on my face. I wished I had known sooner that the only way to shut him up was to do the thing I had illicitly wanted to do all along. His initial reaction was shock as he sat completely still, but he finally relaxed and kissed me back.
When the two of us pulled away, the well-known smirk was on his face. But behind the arrogance of it, there was something else. Brady looked genuinely happy. "You just can't resist me, can you?"
I scoffed and kissed him again, softer this time, to wipe the smirk off his mouth.
"Miss Crowley, I'd suggest you get out of this room before you join Brady in two-hour detention for the next week."
I immediately stood up straight, my face beet red from embarrassment. Mrs. Sanchez was standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. The pleasant smile, however, was back on her face.
After murmuring to Brady that I'd see him later, I picked up my stuff and dashed out of the band room.
Nonetheless, though, I don't think I could've been happier if I tried.
My hand came down hard on the off button of my alarm clock. I hadn't set it all summer, and to hear it so early in the morning after so long was almost piercing.
The summer had passed by quickly and hectically. It wasn't one particular thing that made it eventful; it was just a whole bunch of things that suddenly started to fall into place.
Late June through early September, I had spent endless hours with Julie, Jess, Steve, Tompy and Beanie. Nothing about the group had changed except that (like Brady and I) Tompy and Julie had become an official couple. Despite the fact that they were glued to each other's sides twenty-four-seven, Tompy never got tired of staring at Julie with that stupid, far-away smile on his face.
Sometime in the beginning of the summer, Seth had rung my doorbell. He said he had been looking for me, not my brother, and despite my extreme urge to shut the door in his face, I refrained.
He told me how sorry he was about what had happened, and, even though part of the bet had been an act, part of it hadn't been. He had felt so bad about the incident that he wasn't sure exactly how he would tell me the truth; that was why he had gotten drunk out of his mind that one night before he spilled the beans. For that reason and a few others, he explained that he had refused to take the money that was owed to him. Seth told me how lucky Brady was, and how much he hoped we could still be friends if I ever forgave him.
He walked back to his car before I had time to respond, so I closed the door and pensively reflected on his words for a while. Even after everything I'd gone through at Seth's expense, his apology had been sincere and, quite honestly, one of the nicest I'd ever received. That night I asked Jaime to do me a favor and, next time he saw him, tell his best friend that I forgave him.
As for Brady and I, our relationship hadn't changed too dramatically. Even if we were finally together, the teasing and getting on each other's nerves didn't come to a complete stop. But now that I knew exactly why he did it, I found it to be a little more bearable.
I dragged myself out of bed and distantly went through my morning routine from two months previous. I went in the shower, got dressed, did my hair, threw on some light make-up and wandered down into the kitchen for some breakfast.
My mother was scurrying around, trying to get ready for work while she got Danny some breakfast. He was starting fifth grade this year, which meant middle school. It also meant going in to class an hour earlier than he used to.
"Well, looks like someone didn't get enough sleep," Jaime commented as I plopped down at the table. He passed me the box of cereal and I poured some into a bowl.
"Sweetheart, you look exhausted," my mother joined in.
I shrugged, absentmindedly chewing while I tried to keep my face from colliding with my breakfast. I was too tired to have an appetite, but I figured I'd better eat anyway; I had seventh period lunch this year, and odds were I'd be starving by fourth.
"Sleep schedule's all messed up… I couldn't get to bed last night," I explained. "Should be back in the swing of things in a couple days, though."
My mom shot me a sympathetic look before glancing at her watch. "Oh!" She snapped into gear and began rushing around the kitchen again. "I'm going to be late," she murmured, grabbing her blazer off the back of a chair. "Danny, let's get a move on. Get your stuff. C'mon, Honey." My little brother slid off the chair and went to put his shoes on.
My mother gave me a quick kiss on the head, and then she did the same for Jaime. "I'm going to drop your brother off at school and then I need to run to work. You two have a good first day, okay?" she said. "I'll see you tonight."
A car horn sounded from outside, beeping three times in a row. Jaime quickly stood up and dumped the rest of his cereal down the sink. "That's Seth," he said. "You need a ride?"
I shook my head. "No, thanks."
"Are you taking the car?" my brother asked, grabbing his books off the dining room table.
"Nah, I still don't trust that thing to start up. Brady's driving me."
Jaime nodded. "Alright, see ya there," he called over his shoulder. The front door shut and suddenly the house was silent. I was alone except for Blizzard who was dozing lazily in front of the stove. I emptied out my bowl, put it in the dishwasher, and gave my dog a quick pat on the head as I walked past.
Knowing that Brady was usually a couple minutes late, I didn't rush as I finished getting ready. Just as I was slipping on my shoes, I heard another car horn.
Brady was waiting out by the street in his silver car. He smirked at me as I walked around and reached for the handle, only to find that it was locked. I shot him a look and he pressed a button, but before I could give the handle another tug, the door was locked again.
He rolled down the window a little bit and raised his eyebrow challengingly.
I sighed. "Don't you think this is getting kind of old?" I asked.
Brady pursed his mouth to the side, seemingly debating it. "No," he concluded.
"Just open the door, Hanson."
He laughed and did as I told him, but not without murmuring his usual, "Aw, you're no fun, Andrea."
I got into the car and put my bag next to me. Then, after shutting the door, I leaned over and gave Brady a quick kiss on the lips. As I went to pull back and put my seatbelt on, he stopped me by placing his hand on the side of my face.
He stared at me pensively like he had so many other times before. This time, however, I knew why. Brady looked sincere as his eyes met mine. They were green today. I loved when they were green.
"Despite all the crap I put you through, I really do care about you…" he mumbled. "You know that, right?"
Brady was still stubborn and he was still infuriating, but every once in a while he'd let down his guard and say something to me like that. Even if it didn't happen very often, it was one of those things that made being with him worth it all.
I averted my gaze, but I still couldn't help the smile that pulled at my mouth. "I know," I replied. "I care about you, too. A lot."
Brady stared at me for a few more seconds before his hand dropped away from my face and he turned back toward the windshield. "'Course you do. Everyone does. I am just that charming." I let out a short sarcastic laugh and lightly punched his shoulder. He grinned and good-naturedly shoved me away with his elbow.
He brought his hands back up to the steering wheel as I clicked my seatbelt in and, leaning with my elbow on the window, propped my head up with my hand.
"Alright, ready?" Brady asked, turning the keys to start up the engine again.
Had it been precisely this day of the previous year, I would have done anything to resist going to Mapleford High School, especially when Brady Hanson was driving me.
But over the past year in this town, I'd learned a lot. I'd learned how to be the new the girl, and (on two particular occasions) the center of unwanted gossip. I'd learned how to sit through detention with my worst enemy, I'd learned how a job at a coffee-shop works, and I'd learned how to be part of an incredible group of friends.
Most importantly, however, I'd learned that something isn't always what it seems. In between the action of thinking something and displaying it, things could get pretty messed up and misinterpreted.
During my first year in that town, I'd learned that there was a fine line between hating someone and loving them.
Thank you so much to everyone who read this, to everyone who reviewed, and to the couple of people who edited before I posted. Thanks so much for being patient even though there was some massive gaps in the updating. Thanks for sticking with it, as this is (by far) the longest story I've ever written.
I really appreciate it, and I hope you guys enjoyed :)