The Epitome of Cliché

Chapter Twenty-Two

"Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge."

- Fritz Perls

Holy crap, what had I just done? That was not supposed to happen, not now! Shit, shit, shit. I was an idiot!

"Roxx, are you alright?" he asked softly from across the room, pulling his shirt on over his head.

I bit my bottom lip, not quite sure how to answer. Technically, I was alright. I mean, I hadn't exactly been opposed to the idea of sleeping with Bryce, and I guess I wouldn't change things if I could, but that didn't mean I wasn't freaking out on the inside.

"I'm fine, really," I replied quietly.

He cocked his head to the side, regarding me curiously. "Are you sure?"

Was I sure? No, not really. Bryce had a reputation – one that I was not quick to forget. He'd slept with many before me, and he'd left them all soon after. What if he dumped me now that he'd finally gotten me into bed?

Stop being melodramatic, Roxanne. You know Bryce would never do that to you.

"I'm sure."

He sighed, coming to sit beside me on the edge of his bed. "This doesn't change anything with us, Roxx." He wrapped his arm around my waist, pulling me against his side. "I know this was kind of sudden and all, but I really don't expect any more out of you now. We slept together, sure, and while I wouldn't mind making this a regular thing, I'm not going to push you into that. Like I said before, we've got plenty of time ahead of us."

That had to have been the most awkward and endearing thing I'd ever heard him say. And though it helped to partially quell my fears, it was unable to smother them entirely. However, he wasn't going to know that, because I sure as Hell wasn't going to tell him. No need to come across as overly emotional or something similar.

"I know, Bryce. I guess I'm just a little caught up right now."

He nodded. "I understand, but one question." I motioned with my hand for him to continue. "Was I better than Drew?"

I literally choked on air. Bryce laughed as I fought desperately to regain my composure. "I cannot believe you just asked that!" I sputtered out pathetically, attempting to glare fiercely at him. He just appeared rather amused. "I am not answering that, creep."

And with that, we were back to being okay, for then at least. The awkward moment had passed, and we were free to joke and laugh as we pleased. But I knew it wouldn't last. I couldn't get away with keeping things from Bryce forever.

The next Monday at school was absolute Hell.

After fighting with my insecurities all weekend long and having Becks and Seth constantly reassure me that I had nothing to worry about to no avail, I had to go to school and put up with the incessant tormenting of Annalise and Karen. Apart, they were one thing, a minor annoyance. Together, they were something else entirely.

"Roxanne, you don't seem to be in such a good mood today?" Karen cooed, grinning.

Annalise appraised me with bored eyes. "Did Bryce finally get sick of you?"

Now, I knew that violence was never the answer, and it would be in my best interest to just ignore them, but they were so goddamn aggravating!

"Don't you ever get tired of mocking me?" I spat, "Are your lives really so boring that you have to find entertainment in messing with lowly sophomores?"

Karen gasped and Annalise glared. Crap. Forget Karen Mathers; Andrew's sister honestly scared me to death.

She smirked, baring her fangs just slightly. Oh God, was she going to eat me? "You know, I've struggled for a long time trying to understand why my brother is friends with you. After a great deal of thought, I think it's just because you're Jason's little sister, nothing more." That really just made me want to rub mine and Andy's mistake straight in her face, but I refrained from doing so. Barely. "Considering you're really not that interesting or good-looking – I mean, you're decent, but you're pretty plain – that's the only explanation that I can come up with."

She sure did know how to destroy a girl's already fragile ego. Could the demon smell weakness and low self-esteem? Was that her special demon power?

I really had no response for that, and neither did Karen, who just stood there gaping at Annalise. Gaping in awe, of course. Karen could only aspire to be as much of a bitch as Annalise Jones.

"What's wrong, Roxxi? You seem a bit speechless," Annalise said, smiling now.

Before I could even think of replying, I was cut off by what sounded like one very upset Bryce. "What the hell are you doing, Annalise?" he growled out, coming to stand beside me. I hated to let him fight my battles, really, but whatever. I was a wimp, and I knew that.

Apparently, so did every female in the student body. It would definitely explain why I was preyed on so often.

"Me? I'm not up to anything, Bryce. Karen and I were just having a conversation with that lovely girlfriend of yours, nothing else. Why do you ask?" I wanted to claw that stupid pleased look right off her face.

Bryce roughly shoved me away from him, getting right in her face. "Do not fuck with me, Annalise. The fact that you're Drew's sister means absolutely shit to me. Your ego is large enough already, so stop tearing Roxx down. She's done nothing at all to you."

She surprised me by giving as good as she got. Personally, when Bryce was in my face like that, I had a tendency to back off and let him cool down some. I mean, the guy was a giant compared to me! Then again, Annalise was about five foot nine, so the height differential was much less pronounced. "Don't you dare speak to me that way, Bryce Walker. I have all the reason in the world to resent her, and you of all people know that, so don't act like you're ignorant to the fact." What the hell was she talking about? I barely even spoke to her when she didn't initiate the conversation, and that was usually just defending myself from another verbal attack.

Bryce looked even more pissed, something I hadn't really envisioned possible before. "Leave her alone, Annalise." He turned away from her and took my hand, dragging me off towards L Building.

Annalise glowered harshly as we left.

"Bryce, what was she talking about?" I asked gently, trying not to provoke him further.

"Nothing, Roxx. She was just being a jealous and vindictive bitch. Nothing else."

So much for him being helpful, at all.

"I don't get it, Becks. She acts like I stole her boyfriend or something," I whined to my best friend after school.

We were in my living room, sitting back on the couch. The house was quiet. My parents had gone out to eat, Carmen was at her friend's, and Jason and the rest of the guys were at Matt's.

"Maybe you did," Becks replied, shrugging.

"That is impossible. She didn't start bothering me so much until Bryce and I got together. I know for a fact that she and Bryce were never together. He may be dumb, but he's not suicidal."

She shrugged again, flipping casually through television stations. "Well, she's sure acting like they had something going on before you came into the picture. Or maybe she planned on getting together with him, but you showed up and wrecked everything."

I winced. "Thanks for putting it like that, Becks."

She sighed, settling on HGTV. "You know what I mean, Roxxi. Plus, I've heard a bit of gossip surrounding Bryce and Annalise." I raised an eyebrow at her. "Some people have been saying that she hates you so much because she and Bryce used to hook up a lot. They never really got together because Bryce didn't want a relationship and he didn't want Drew to find out. I guess Annalise liked him a lot more than she originally let on, if that's true."

I frowned, wondering when they could've ever been together. Before me, Bryce had been with Faith. He'd cheated on her numerous times with Kelly Sanders, but he'd never been quiet about it. That hadn't been his style. He hadn't put up a front to hide his less than angelic ways.

"That makes sense, but I can't figure out when it could've happened."

"I've heard it went on for months. I guess they hooked up sometime during the summer and kept it up until the middle of September, right before y'all got together."

Suddenly, I was feeling sick to my stomach. The thought of Bryce with that devil was utterly revolting. I'd known he'd been with plenty of girls, but Annalise Jones? That was on an entirely different level than all of his other past relationships.

I couldn't compete with Annalise Jones.

If she really wanted Bryce all to herself, there was hardly anything I could do to stop her. She was beautiful, she was intelligent, and she was experienced. I had nothing on her. She could take him from me with ease.

Yes, Bryce said he loved me and only me, but what if he was wrong? If Annalise were given the chance, she could probably make him change his mind. Every guy wanted her, just as every girl wanted to be her. It was only natural they ended up together, really.

"Roxxi, babe, are you okay?" Becks asked, turning her attention away from House Hunters long enough to take in the horrified expression on my face.

I shook my head. How the hell could I be okay? We were talking about Annalise fucking Jones wanting my boyfriend, for Christ's sake!

"Stop worrying, Roxxi. I'm sure Bryce doesn't like her. With the way he stood up for you, it's obvious that he really does love you. Annalise is just going to have to get over herself. She lost this one."

"Becks, how can you say that?" I yelled, startling her. "You've seen her! How can you possibly believe that I'm better than her?"

Andrew's family must've had one of the best gene pools in the history of the world. Both he and his sister had perfect skin, striking green eyes, and dark as night hair. Annalise was every guy's dream. She was all curves, yet toned from years of dance. Her hair was long and luscious and consisted of the kind of curls one would see in a conditioner commercial. She was the girl that poets and musicians wrote about, the girl that always got her way.

I was basically a puddle of mud next to her.

"You better not be pitying yourself right now." Becks glared at me. "You're better than her, and Bryce knows that. I know you're telling yourself that you're plain and whatever else, but that's a lie. I mean, yes, Annalise is gorgeous, but so are you. I mean, I'd kill to have your eyes, and if my hair was as shiny as yours, I could probably die happy right now." She smiled, trying to make me feel better. It wasn't really working, but I would humor her.

"Thanks, you're probably right. I'm just overreacting as per usual."

She scoffed. "Yeah, no kidding. You really need to learn to just chill once in awhile."

Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that life was about to get a lot more complicated, thanks in large part to Annalise Jones and my own tireless self-doubt.

A/N: Hello everyone! Here is chapter twenty-two, at long last! It's been a month and three days since my last update, and I'm hoping that I'll get new chapters out sooner and sooner now that I've decided exactly where I'm going with this story.

So, there is now drama in the form of Annalise, serious drama. Roxx may seem uncharacteristically weak in this chapter, but she really is intimidated by Annalise. Karen was nothing, really. And now that Bryce has been dragged directly into this, she's even more unsure of herself than before. She's not a very confident person, in truth. She acts confident, but she's easily broken. She's also very stubborn and doesn't listen to others when they reassure her that she's better than she believes.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please leave me a review and tell me what you thought, good or bad. I want to know, honestly. And considering it's 12:27 AM, and I have to be up early for school, I should probably be going.