Chapter 1

My back had gone sore against the seat and my eyes ached from staring. I was uncomfortable, but I was going home. I didn't care that the wind tousled my hair, I kept the window down. I loved the scent of evergreen trees. That was the best part of the highways in Ohio; the trees. Though, the scent was often marred by the smell of fresh asphalt and construction. That was the worst part of the highways in Ohio. They were also often secluded from the rest of the world, besides the occasional bridge and entrance ramp.

I liked being alone most of the time. Though, today I was anxious to see everyone again. I was practically as excited as a child on Christmas morning. Sure I had seen Rianne through the webcam everyday, and my mom occasionally peering into the one I set up at home. But going away to college was tough. I'd been doing it for two years, I should have been used to it. I hated being so far, nonetheless. I felt small and nervous at college.

My lack of composure and readiness to be on my own was mostly acquired by not having much of my teen years. No, I didn't literally skip them. I was writing a novel while I was in high school. I was still writing it in college because the work load at school increased, but I spent many Friday and Saturday nights writing instead of going out. I didn't allow myself very much time to grow up.

The comfortable silence was shattered when my cell phone rang. A song from my childhood, "Spice Up Your Life" by the Spice Girls blared out of my crappy cell phone. I grinned, it was Rianne. Only my best friend could have that ring tone. Only my best friend would completely understand how awesome that ring tone was. "Hey, Ri!" I called into the receiver, rolling up the drivers' side window. Rianne could be described as Memories and Fun. We had so many memories together and we always had a lot of fun.

"Hey there, Cam!" Rianne's voice rang. "I'm almost to your house. Are you there yet?"

"Um, no, actually. I'm running a bit behind schedule. I'll be there in ten." I glanced at my clock radio. Okay, so maybe it would be another fifteen minutes.

"Yeah, I've heard that before," she chuckled, stretching all the mockery out of her sentence. She laughed again and continued. "I'll grab some snacks, then."

"Get good stuff," I smiled, looking into my rear view mirror. I was practically alone on this stretch of highway. The semi truck I passed twenty minutes ago still rumbled along behind my small, blue car.

"Yeah, yeah. Of course," Rianne said. "I'll you see you at your house. Call me when you get there and your mom has stopped crying."

"Alright," I agreed as I switched to the right most lane. "Bye!"

I hung up and turned on the radio. A few new It songs played before I finally arrived home. My mom was standing on the front porch waiting. Just as Rianne had predicted, when I got out of the car Mom raced down the old, wooden stairs, crying. She almost trampled the pink tulips in her haste, mom cried into my shoulder, speaking incoherently. I promptly laughed at her. I described my mom as Emotions and Cookies. Meaning, she was a very emotional and caring person who loved to bake.

"Where's Zachary?" I asked when she finally pulled back. I looked around and didn't see his car.

"Oh, he'll be here for dinner. He knows how I am with these reunions. He stayed late with a student today anyway. And on a Friday, nonetheless! I swear, your brother. . . "She trailed off, wiping away her motherly tears.

"Of course." I smiled. "And where's Dad? I see his car."

"He's here somewhere. Probably out back in the garden," she said, leading us to the back gate. "Jillian!" She called. "She's here!"

Dad submerged from a line of hedges wearing a flowered, women's gardening apron. He beamed at me as he pulled off the matching gloves. His hands were dirtied anyway. He approached us and gave me a hug. He smelled like soil, like always. Dad was all Soil and Humor because he loved to work in the garden and he was a very funny person.

"I like your apron, where's your sun bonnet?" I joked.

"I was letting the sun bleach my glorious locks," he replied sarcastically, pretending to fan out his almost non-existent hair.

Mom gasped suddenly, she pointed to Dad's arm. It had a large gash and the blood was drying. I recoiled at the sight. Dad shrugged, looking at the wound.

"I slipped with the hoe," he said simply. "It's nothing serious."

I couldn't help but laugh at his terminology. Mom rolled her eyes.

"Help Camryn get her things from the car," Mom ordered and went into the house.

"What's with her?" I asked when she was out of ear shot.

"Oh, who knows? How's school?" He asked as we walked to my car.

"Pretty good. Mrs. Jordan really liked my poem this week," I said, kicking at a stone as we walked.

"Mrs. Jordan is your . . .?" he trailed off.

"Creative Writing teacher," I finished, opening my trunk.

"Ah, I remember. Speaking of writing; how's your book coming along?" He asked as he tugged my small duffel bag from the trunk.

"Great! It's close to finished. Rianne just has to give me her feedback on the chapter she has before I can finish," I replied, shutting the drivers' side door as Dad closed the trunk.

"That's good. Are we going to see Rianne today?"

"Most likely. Can I call her now?"

"Sure, your mom's done crying. She'll be glad to see Rianne," Dad said as he continued up the driveway to the house.

I pulled out my phone and leaned against my car. I punched speed dial number two for Rianne and waited. While waiting for her to answer, I looked around at the familiar setting. I didn't realize how homesick I was until I was actually home. A breeze picked up my shoulder length, brown hair and swirled it around my head. I smiled and closed my eyes.

Rianne finally picked up her phone. "It took you forever to get home! You know they only allow you to hang around in the drugstore for so long before they get suspicious and think you're gong to steal something."

"Sorry," I said. "But you can come over now, it's safe."

"I'll be there in five," she said before hanging up.

When Rianne arrived we had dinner with my family then decided to go swing on the swings at our old elementary school. My feet scraped on the mulch as I swung, getting wood chips in my socks. We talked about our old friends and enemies for what seemed like hours. That's all there was to talk about when sitting in the exact same place we met ten years ago.

"Remember when Danielle made us push her on the swings?" Rianne asked me, twirling the chains of her swing.

"Yeah, that one over there." I pointed. "That was the day we stood up to her and became friends.

"Yup." Rianne nodded.

"It's been forever," I sighed.

"Mhm, since sixth grade," she said, leaning back on the swing. She lifted her legs and allowed herself to spin as the chains untwisted.

Just then my phone rang. This ring tone was the Jaws theme. I picked it up. "Hey, Jared," I greeted cheerfully.

"Hey there, loser," he drawled.

"What are you up to? Are you in town?" I asked

ignoring his usual insult.

"Yeah, I'm in town. Are you?" He asked, his tone picking up.

"Yes, I am," I replied happily.

"Wanna give me a ride to Leah's house?" he asked hopefully.

"Uh, who's Leah?" My heart sank.

"Some chick who's having a party. I don't want to drive."

"Um, well, sure. I do want to see you before we all leave again," I responded. Rianne clicked her tongue behind me.

"Okay, I'll see you at nine?" He asked.

"Yeah, sure," I replied.

"See you then!" He said and hung up.

"What does he want now?" Rianne's tone was disgusted. I wouldn't look at her.

"A ride to Leah's. she's having a party," I explained simply with a shrug to indicate that I didn't care.

She was silent for a few moments before she said venomously "Jared is not Jacob." It was almost inaudible, but I caught it. I glared at her viciously.

"Shut up," I spat.

"It's true!" She scowled. "Jared is nowhere near your perfect Jacob. . . even if he is only a make-believe character."

"Rianne James! What are you getting at?" I stopped swinging now. She did as well.

"I know you write Jacob to form what you wish Jared was. And I'm sorry, but Jared will never be like that. So stop pretending," She said and kicked at the metal support bar.

I had nothing to say. I couldn't say anything. Could she have been right? No, Jacob was just a character in my book, and he didn't interfere with my reality. He's just a figment of my imagination, I created him. I have no control over Jared. So what could she be talking about?

"I- I think I'm going to go home now," I said and stood up. My mouth felt dry as all the moisture in my body rose to my eyes. I started to walk away.

"That's right, go get dressed nice for Jared. Make sure you wear your favorite lipgloss. Because you know he's not going to notice," Rianne called out to me.

I turned back to her, furious. I didn't know what I was doing, but I picked up a handful of mulch and threw it at her with a frustrated scream. I didn't stick around to see her reaction.

"Oh, very mature Camryn Bennet, very mature!" She yelled after me.

I ran to my car and noisily started it. Is that what everyone would think about Jacob? That I created him to be the perfect guy? I know I created him to be very desirable, but not what I desired out of Jared. I desired him just the way he was. . . .

Rianne as right in saying that I was going home to get dressed nicely for Jared. I couldn't help that I wanted to impress him. I changed into a tighter fitting top and better jeans. And yes, I wore lipgloss.

At nine o'clock I was in his driveway, which was only a few blocks from mine. I honked the horn to let him know that I was there. He came out of the front door seconds later. My heart swelled when I saw him. He wasn't dressed to perfection, though. His pants were too big and were ripped, and his shirt was too tight around his stocky build. I thought he looked great anyway. He opened the door and jumped in cheerfully.

"Hey, ugly," he greeted with a smile. He playfully ruffled the hair I spent twenty minutes doing.

"Hello, Jared," I replied with a smile to match his. "How's everything going?"

"Great. I'm in a class with all girls on Tuesdays and Thursdays at eleven. They all want me," he said smugly.

"Is that so," I grumbled. I didn't want to hear about it.

My annoyance sparked his monstrous side. I knew this was going to be a bad night. It was five minutes into our evening together and he had started.

"Yeah, and they're all really hot, too," he said, watching my reactions. I didn't give him the satisfaction and kept my face blank. "I could have any of them I wanted. So, how's your love life?"

"Fine, just fine," I lied. even I heard the lie in my voice.

"Right," he laughed. "Like any guys actually are interested."

"How would you know? You're not there," I snapped, looking at him now as we sped down the road.

"Believe me, Camryn. If a guy was interested in you, it would be the end of the world." He laughed at his joke.

"Jared," I warned.

"You know it's true!" He laughed again.

I did. So I didn't say more. I put in a CD and pressed play. Soon he started to sing along as well. We sang for most of the way, while Jared occasionally gave me directions. The time seemed to fly by until I realized we listened to a full CD.

"Wait, Jared, how far away is this party?" I asked him when he switched CDs.

"Uh, not much further," he mumbled. "Turn left up here."

I took a hand off the wheel to adjust my mirror and he gasped. "What?!" I exclaimed.

"Both hands on the wheel! Or this will happen!" He yelled. And before I knew with, he had grabbed the wheel and yanked it towards the road barrier. Horns blared behind me. I screamed and pulled the wheel back into my control.

"Jared! What the hell was that for?!" I screamed at him. What was with my friends today?

"It was to teach you a lesson," he said simply with a smile on his lips.

I couldn't respond; I was speechless for the second time that day. My heart was still pumping adrenaline through my body. He watched my every move. I kept both hands firmly on the wheel.

"Turn right up here and the intersection," he instructed. His voice was confusing. It was somewhere between amusement and maliciousness.

When I moved my mall hand from the wheel to switch on the turn signal, he did it again. "Both hands!" He bellowed. This time we struggled for control over the wheel.

"Jared, stop!" I shrieked putting on my brakes in the middle of the intersection. Horns blared all around me this time. I panicked and began hitting his hands away. He hit me harder. "Are you CRAZY?!" I screamed.

Then he stopped. "Go," he said calmly.

My eyes began to fill up with tears as I carefully maneuvered around other stopped cars. My breath came short and ragged as I struggled to recover.

"Is something wrong?" I asked him when my heart rate returned to normal. I could tell something was wrong. His attitude was off and he just didn't. . . seem like himself.

"No." Was his curt answer.

I decided to take another approach. "How's your mom doing now that you're out of the house?"

"Not good. She's upset I don't call enough. It makes her angry that I call my dad more. But I don't have a connection with her. I can't stand her, really. All she does is whine and complain about work, my dad, and how I don't talk to her. My dad's my hero, you know that. Even though he lives miles and miles away, he's closest to me," he responded. His tone was as if nothing had just happened.

"Mm," I said. I thought of something I'd been dying to know for ages. "So, uh, why did your parents divorce?"

"Apparently he beat her. I don't know or care. She probably deserved it. She has a big mouth," he said simply.

I couldn't believe what he'd just said. "Oh," was all I could gather.

"This is her street on the right." he pointed.

I turned down the street and instantly knew where the party was. Cars lined the street and people stood out on the front lawn of a house. Girls were dancing; their hips swirling in circles and their arms raised above their heads. Boys stood holding drinks, watching the girls. I started to park along the street. Jared looked at me weirdly as scoffed as I turned off the engine.

"What?" I asked him.

"What are you doing?" He chuckled with a condescending look on his face.

I raised my eyebrows and unbuckled. "Huh?"

"Why are you getting out of the car?" He continued to chuckle.

It dawned on me what he was trying to say. "I- I-"

"-thought I was brining you to the party," he finished with a real laugh. It sounded harsh in the quiet car. Heat rose to my face.

"Well, yeah. I thought you wanted to spend time with me," I said defensively. I didn't find this funny at all. If anything it was terribly embarrassing.

"And we did. Thanks, doll," he said cheerfully. He ruffled my hair again.

"But. . . why not take me?" I asked, trying not to sound heart broken.

"Because I don't want to. I don't want to have to stick with you when I could be lingering with the other girls there." He shrugged.

"Why says I don't want to meet some boys there?" I spat at him.

"Oh, please, Camryn. Look at those girls over there." I looked and he continued. "Now look at yourself." he adjusted the rearview mirror to show my whole face. I didn't look. He laughed again. "See? You'd just disappoint yourself."

Once again, tears welled up in my eyes. I looked out my window so he couldn't see how he effected me. He sighed, shook his head, and got out of the car. "See ya, doll!"

I watched him run across two lawns to the party. I refused to cry; I shouldn't be hurt. This was nothing, I was used to rejection. He greeted the guys standing and watching the girl I had been compared to. I watched him accept a drink from who I supposed was Leah, then turned the car back on. The engine stuttered and then started smoothly.

Soon, I was back on the road. Jared had been the one giving directions and I didn't bother much to memorize the streets. It took me a half hour more than it should have, but I made it home. It was about midnight when I pulled into the driveway. I hoped Mom didn't wait up for me.

She did. At least she tried to. Her head hung to the side onto her shoulder as she slept in the armchair. The news was over and reruns were playing. I smiled and moved to wake her up. I shook her shoulder. She was startled awake and looked up at me. "Camryn, why were you out so late?"

"Mom, it's only midnight," I reminded her. "Plus, I know how to get home safely. I've learned how to do that at college. Go to bed."

She smiled and stood up. "Yeah, well it's my job to obsess over your safety." she began to walk to the stairs to her room. "Don't stay up too late. We're going to Grandma and Grandpa's tomorrow."

"Okay, I'll see you in the morning. G'night," I said as she went up the stairs.

Once she was in her room I sighed. I didn't want to focus on the fights with both of my friends, so I went directly to bed in my old room. I woke up once at three when my cell phone played the Jaws theme. I didn't answer Jared's call. I knew he probably just wanted a ride home. When I didn't answer, I felt guilty. What if he got in the car with someone who was drunk? What if he drove drunk? I tried to convince myself that it wouldn't be my fault and managed to fall asleep again.

In the morning I was woken up by Zachary. "Wake up! We're leaving in twenty minutes," he called as he knocked on my door. I groaned and slowly got out of bed. Sure enough, I heard Mom, Dad, and Zachary rushing around downstairs.

Slowly, I found my overnight bag. Though I wanted to remain in my sweat pants and T-shirt, I had to get dressed. Grandma and Grandpa only saw me when I visited, so I had to look nice. I grabbed a pair of jeans and a plain blue top and rushed for a shower.

Every Sunday that I could remember was spent at my grandparents' house. It was Bennet tradition. Grandma and Grandpa were two of my favorite people on the planet. They always complimented me, fed me, and cared for me. Also, they were two of the funniest people. I don't think they ever meant to be funny, but they were. Constantly there was some kind of argument going on. Never anything serious, just little things like the garden, dinner, and who did the dishes. I loved seeing them. Even though a lot of the time I spent sitting on the back porch reading or writing.

Which was exactly what happened that Sunday. We had to leave earlier than normal, I had to get back to school. Which meant I had a three hour drive ahead of me. I hated the drive. But I called Rianne on the way back. I hated not talking to her and fighting with her, she was my best friend.

Of course we made up. We always did. It took us less than ten minutes to resolve everything. In all honesty, neither of us revoked our words. We still stood my our opinions, we just apologized for saying them in such harsh manners. The two of us had the combined stubbornness of a bull. It was a mystery as to how we remained friends for so long without killing each other.

Finally, I returned to school. I parked my car in the student's lot before making the ten minute walk to my dorm. I kind of hoped my roommate wouldn't be there. She was always way to chipper for the normal sanity level on weekends. Even as a sophomore she was more homesick than I was. And every other weekend she was spent the weekend in Kentucky with her mom. And normally we got back at about the same time. And usually I didn't mind her chipper attitude,

but after last night with Jared, I wasn't in the mood.

Unfortunately, she was there. "Good evening, Camryn!" She sang in her thick southern accent.

"Hey, Ginny. How was your weekend?" I plastered a smile on my face. She bought it.

"Great! Look at what I bought for us." She pointed to a new floor lamp. It has a silver pole with a cute vintage shade.

"Oh, it's cute! It livens up the nothingness of our room!" I said with a forced laugh. I set my bag on my bed and started to unpack.

Ginny snorted in a short laugh. "So true. So how did your weekend go?"

"It was the same as usual. I hung out with friends, had dinner with my family, visited my grandparents, you know," I half lied. Those i were /i my normal activities.

"That's good, that's good," she said and turned to her pink laptop for a few seconds before she turned back to me. "Can you help me study?"

"Uh, sure. What for?" I hesitated to respond. I had homework, myself. But I decided to help Ginny. She was a brilliant girl when she tried, but she had a hard time concentrating and studying for tests.

"World Lit.," she sighed. "I figured you'd know a thing or two."

"What part of the world?" I smiled. She was right, I knew a little.

"Middle Eastern stuff." she showed me her notes.

"Awesome. I learned that senior year of high school," I said and plopped down on her bed.

I helped her study for about two hours before we ran down to the local gas station for icees. We sat out on the curb watching the few cars go by. I hid my hands in the sleeves of my sweater to keep them warm holding my cold drink. Ginny kept her blue icee between her jean clad knees and slouched to drink from the straw. The street lamp above us hummed as we talked.

"So, you have a birthday coming up," Ginny stated.

"Yup," I said and sipped my drink.

"Do you have a party planned?" She asked eagerly.

"No, I didn't think twenty was a big landmark age." I shrugged.

"What?! Every year is a landmark year!" Ginny exclaimed. Her shrill voice making an unseen animal scurry into the dumpster.

"Okay, okay!" I shushed her.

"I'll plan your party," she stated rather than offered.

"Alright, but it has to be near my house," I said.

"Perfect." She smiled, much more confident now that I was agreeing.

"My birthday's on a Monday," I pointed out.

"Not a problem. You don't mind it being at a restaurant with just family and a handful of friends, do you?" She asked, already planning.

"No, that's perfect," I said.

"Great. Let's get back. I want to finish up studying before I plan your party," she said standing up.

We returned to our dorm and changed into pajamas. Ginny put on headphones and listened to music as she studied. I pulled out my laptop and turned it on. Once it was ready, I logged into my webcam. Rianne was already on and waiting for me.

"Camryn Elizabeth Bennet," she scolded.

"What?"

"You gave me two great chapters that end in a cliff hanger! How could you?" she continued in a stem voice.

I laughed. "Oh, come on! Ri, you're ridiculous."

She dropped the act and laughed with me.

"So, you liked them?" I asked.

"Of course! I sent you an email with a few notes," she said. "By the way, Sarah says 'hi.'"

I heard her roommate say the greeting in the back ground. I returned it.

"How did your party with Jared go?" She asked as if she knew I was upset about it. But I couldn't let her know that she was right.

"Great, um, we had a lot of fun," I said so perfectly that even I was convinced.

Her face brightened. "Oh, good."

"He was really great to me," I lied flawlessly.

Ginny turned around in her chair, taking out her headphones. She looked at me questioningly. I swear that girl had a sixth sense for gossip.

"Hey, Ri? Um, I'm actually going to let you go now. I have some homework to do and I have an early class tomorrow," I said.

"Sure, talk to you later," she said.

I signed off of my webcam and shut my laptop.

"Who's Jared?" Ginny asked. I knew that was coming.

"It's a guy I've known for years. We live only a few blocks away from each other. Jared was one of my best friends two years of high school. He was a nice guy until I let him get too close. But we're working on it," I explained quickly.

"What do you mean 'got to close?'" She narrowed her eyes.

"He just gets aggravated sometimes. And he knows what I worry about the most. Like my weight, for example. Now he's like the second voice in my head telling me that I don't need any ice cream or cookies." I pretended to be casual.

"I don't like the sound of this boy," she said, concern mingling with her smooth accent.

"He's nice once you get to know him." I turned back to my computer.

"Be careful, Camryn," she advised. I nodded to let her know I heard her.

"Actually, I'm going to call him and tell him about the party," I said picking up my cell phone. I dialed his number.

It was six rings before he picked it up. He sighed loudly into the phone before answering in a bored voice "What do you want, Fatty?" I knew he was only kidding.

"Good evening to you, too," I said and laughed. "I'm calling to let you know about a party."

"Party?"

"Yeah, my birthday party. It'll be on my birthday. Ginny, my roommate is planning it. I'll give you more details when their made," I explained.

"Sweet," was all he said.

"So you'll come?" I asked hopefully.

"Of course," he said like it was obvious. "And

what does this party involve?"

normal stuff," I said.

"Cake? Like you need it," he scoffed.

"Hey, you're not so skinny yourself," I pointed out. It was true. He wasn't as fit as he pretended to be.

"Shut up," he spat. "I'm supposed to be like this. Guys are allowed to have fat on them, girls aren't."

"Whatever," I rolled my eyes.

"In fact, maybe you're a guy. You could pass as one," he chuckled.

actually, I had a rather large chest and wide hips. I could never pass as a man. "Yeah right, Jared," I sighed.

"I mean from the neck up," he replied as if he could read my mind.

"No, you didn't. You just said-"

"Shut up, Camryn."

"Just keep you calendar open for Monday the fourteenth," I changed the subject.

"Next month?" He asked.

"No, this month. i May /i fourteenth," I corrected.

"Doll, I know your birthday," he said. I could hear the smile in his voice. "Alright, I will keep the date open."

"Okay, then I'll talk to you soon," I said. My homework beckoned.

"Sure, doll. 'Night," he said and hung up.

Ginny heard that I was off the phone. "Want to go get a snack? That icee didn't fill me up."

"Um, no thanks," I said getting out my notes. "I have homework." And eating at night doesn't help weight loss.

AN: NO STEALING!! IT'S A CRIME AND I'LL BE ANGRY!!!

on a much happier note, lol this is only a rough draft and may be updated when it becomes edited. but for the most part, i'm aware of the typos and crap. i just want feedback on the story itself. :)