Old World Charm

Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognise. The characters, plot and setting are otherwise mine. I'd appreciate it if you do not steal.

She was beautiful.

That was the first thing anyone would notice. She wasn't pretty, or sexy, or hot… she was just plain, old beautiful. In the swirl of colour surrounding her, her baggy black jeans and grey sweatshirt stood out, starkly. She looked like a tragic heroine of a black and white movie.

Her black hair was splayed over her shoulders. She had a small face with a small nose and a smattering of freckles, close-set grey eyes and a set of pink lips. Her body was hidden and she was extremely short, made even more so by the way her shoulders slumped and the way she walked– lethargically, eyes downcast and body curled inwards as though to subconsciously protect herself.

She was so beautiful that it astounded me that I was the only one who even gave her a look as she walked past.

I turned to Jerry, the guy who had taken it upon himself to show me around. "Who's she?" I asked, jerking my thumb in her direction.

Jerry turned his head and a slow smirk lit up his features. "Bridget Holloway." He said. The name didn't suit her. Jerry nodded knowledgably. "I know what you're thinking– how can anyone be so fucking hot? Don't worry, she's dumb as a doornail too, so she'll probably do anything you want her too."

I stared at him, mystified and just a little bit irritated. "Who the fuck are you talking about?" I demanded of him, sure that he wasn't talking about the same girl I was.

He looked at me like I was crazy. "Who are you talking about?" He asked me.

I turned to point the girl out to him. I immediately caught sight of Bridget, because she could only be the blonde bombshell eyeing me appreciatively. I scanned the crowd, but I couldn't find the other girl anywhere. It was like she'd just disappeared.

I turned back to Jerry. "Short, black hair, grey eyes." I said. Jerry looked at me, still confused. "Beautiful?" I offered.

Jerry snorted. "Don't want to go for the beautiful, man." He said. "It's the hot babes you want. They're the ones who'll do anything."

I shook my head. "Forget it." I said. I looked around Wilson High. It was a shit hole. That had been my first impression when I'd pulled up in the parking lot. The building was clean and impressive enough, I supposed the teachers were good, but it was the people that made the place so damn detestable.

Between the entire population of close to one and a half thousand, they shared maybe three brain cells between them. And for someone who valued brains just as much as looks, it was pure torture to be subjected to their mostly sex-driven drivel.

Sure, I liked sex as much as the next guy– probably more– but how many times could one have sex without talking? I used a lot of girls, mostly of Bridget Holloway's kind. Girlfriends were few and far in between for me, and quite frankly, I wasn't eager to change that anytime soon. But I did need intelligent conversation to keep me from going insane. And from the two hours I'd spent in Wilson High, I knew I'd be insane by the end of the week.

"Yo, Rawlings!" Jerry said, snapping me out of my little reverie. I scowled at him and he took a hasty step back. If I wanted to, I suppose I could have come off as intimidating.

"What?" I snarled at him, waiting for whatever asinine thing he was going to say.

Jerry eyed me cautiously. "You going to the game Friday night?"

"Which game would that be?" I asked, anger fading to be replaced by pure annoyance.

Jerry grinned brightly. "God's Own Game, of course!" He said. I stared at him disinterestedly. In my opinion, all sports were a waste of time. I had better things to do than watch overgrown monkeys skip around in tight underwear, grunting like Neanderthals and playing with the only balls they seemed to possess.

I smirked inwardly. "Which would be?" I impatiently asked.

"Football!" Jerry enthusiastically said.

I felt my lip curl. Of all the sports I hated most in the world, football was probably right on top of the list, tied of course with baseball and basketball… and soccer, tennis too… pretty much every sport. "I'll pass." I told Jerry.

Jerry's face fell. "But the cheerleaders, Rawlings!" He declared. "In bras and panties!"

I felt disgust fill me. "I'll survive." I said sarcastically. My voice must've had an edge to it, because Jerry dropped the subject without a word.

Four fucking days I'd been in this hellhole and I was already losing my mind. Because there definitely had to be something wrong with me if I found myself heading for the football stadium on Friday night.

In the end, the prospect of sitting at home and drinking alone hadn't appealed to me. So, I found myself pulling on my jeans and my shirt and heading for the stadium to watch a game that was probably going to make me puke later. I couldn't help but scowl as I walked through the parking lot.

After digging around in my pockets, I found my packet of cigarettes. They were full now, but I knew that by the end of the evening, the packet would be empty. I stuck the cig in my mouth, flicked my Zippo open and lit the end of it. It flared and I took a deep breath. My eyes fell shut involuntarily and all the tension drained from my body with the smoke I let into the air.

In the last four days, I hadn't seen that girl even once. It was like she was a figment of my imagination or something. Sure, I didn't expect to find her in a school with over a thousand people, but I couldn't help but hope. No matter how hard I scoured the hallways between classes, all my classes and the cafeteria, I couldn't find her.

Part of me was hoping that she would be at the game. But I knew that if I did find her there, I'd be disappointed. No girl that could capture and keep my attention would be caught dead at a football game. I headed into the bleachers, looking for Jerry's distinctive red hair. But there were too many goddamn redheads.

But apparently, Jerry wasn't as blind as me. "Rawlings!" He yelled. I glanced through the stands and found him in the third row. I languidly made my way there, still puffing on the cigarette as though it was my lifeline. In some ways, I suppose it was.

By the time I got to the seats, Jerry had bullied some freshman into leaving me a space. Sighing, I sat down. I still couldn't believe I'd shown up for a fucking football game. I would've rather slit my wrists. "Hey." I grunted to Jerry, taking a last drag on the smoke and stamping it out.

Jerry grinned knowingly. "Made it, huh?" He asked me. "What changed your mind?" I shrugged noncommittally and didn't answer. Jerry smirked. "The cheerleaders, weren't it?" I was tempted to correct his grammar but couldn't be half-assed to open my mouth. "It'll pay off." Jerry declared, clapping my back. "They're on in a few."

Indeed, a few moments later, some cheerleaders pranced onto the field. I had to admit that the sight of so much skin on display did appeal to a more primal part of me. But I suppressed that and forced myself to watch with detachment as they displayed their extreme flexibility and loud voices.

In some ways, it was like they were items on sale, displaying their wares to potential customers. I knew that there were several guys who would get turned on by their ability to bend into any shape and there were even more fuckers who liked screamers. They were like hookers and Jerry wasn't the only one greedily taking in their skin show. By the end of the night, every one of those cheerleaders would on their backs on a bed, probably drunk and drugged off their asses, their legs spread. Or more likely, they'd be on their knees, looking up at one of these guys.

I sat through all of two minutes of the football game. Then, I just couldn't take the barbarism anymore. Without a word, I headed for the parking lot. I lit up another smoke and took a drag from it. Time flew then. I was on my fourth cigarette of the night when I saw her.

She was emerging from the field, dressed like an oldies movie star again– faded black jeans and a dark black sweatshirt. Despite the way her black hair blended with the shirt, I could see the ends of them curling against her upper back. Her hands were shoved in her pockets as she walked along.

When she drew closer to me, she damn near took my breath away. The expression on her face was one of heartbreaking sadness. Her eyes looked listless and dull, her shoulders were slouching, her feet were dragging. But the worst of all was the tear streaks on her face.

She didn't notice me as she floated past. I wanted to call out to her, but I couldn't. I just watched her move further away. She lifted her hand and swiped at her face, before dropping it and moving forward. I couldn't tear my eyes off of her. I wondered why she was so sad, why she was crying. Why was she alone? Who would be stupid enough to leave an angel like her alone?

I didn't see her again for a while. A whole month actually. I went to every football game after that, religiously. But still, I didn't see her again. It was like she came and she went according to her own whims. It annoyed the shit out of me, because I couldn't get her out of my fucking mind. I had seen her all of two times, but I just couldn't forget her.

Maybe it was the way she'd looked so sad and vulnerable. She had made me want to take her into my arms and hug her. I wanted to protect her. I'd never felt that way before. It made me feel like such an idiot that at one of the after parties of a game, I just grabbed a random cheerleader and relieved all my frustrations by doing what came naturally.

I didn't feel any better.

It was October when I saw her again. There was some stupid Halloween dance. Every other guy in school had been delighted because rather than them being subjected to the torture of asking the girls out, the girls had been the ones to do all the asking.

I wasn't much surprised when several girls asked me. But they were when I turned them down. Sure, I was a bit cruel to most of them, but I couldn't be blamed. After all, how could they even think I could stand their mindless chatter? I expected to become a social pariah after that, but instead, I boosted my popularity. According to Jerry, I was now mysterious and the chicks dug that. I didn't care. I wanted her.

But despite not having a date, I went to the stupid Halloween dance anyway. It was partly to laugh at all the drama that was sure to ensue and partly to see what lucky motherfucker got to take her to the dance. I dressed up in my least ripped pair of jeans and a white shirt. I wanted to match her old world charm.

I was late. The parking lot was full as was the immediate street outside, so I had to park my car a distance away. The dance was completely crowded when I arrived. It was in the gym and I futilely stood on the bleachers and searched for her. I couldn't find her. I drank some of the spiked punch and ate some of the shitty food before trying again. She was still nowhere to be seen.

So, I gave up and headed out, ignoring all the sluts who were shoving their practically bare breasts in my face. Sure, I wanted to fuck someone, but in my state of disappointment and anger, I didn't think I'd get much satisfaction. I didn't want to deal with all the drama that was bound ensue, so I didn't do anything about my frustrations.

I neared my parking spot and stopped short.

She was near my truck. She was sitting on the back of my pickup truck. Her elbows were resting on her knees and her face was in her hands. Her hair was around her face, creating a curtain and her body was lightly shaking. My breath slowed and my pulse spiked when I saw her. In her ratty old sweats, she managed to inspire more lust than any naked cheerleader could.

My steps towards her were small and careful. She was like a wounded animal, in my opinion, and I was afraid she'd run from me. But I didn't have to worry, because she didn't even notice my presence. Until I sat down beside her.

Her head lifted and she stared at me. She was more beautiful up front. Her eyes were red rimmed and puffy, with bags under them. The grey shimmered under a sheen of tears. Her cheeks were blotchy and covered with freckles. I wanted to kiss every one of them. Her pale pink lips parted in surprise when she saw me. She was gorgeous and I felt like a loser for liking her so much after never having spoken to her.

For all I knew, she was just another bimbo among the millions I seemed to have encountered at the school. But then, I took a second look at her face. No one who looked so innocent and naïve could be as stupid and vindictive as the bitches I had had the misfortune of meeting.

She continued looking at me and I fumbled in my pocket for a cig. After a lot of silence and staring, I decided to speak. "You're sitting on my truck."

She immediately jumped and scuttled off. "Sorry." She murmured. Her voice tugged at me heart. It was perfect, low and sweet.

"It's fine." I said. I prayed that she wouldn't leave. I just stared at her. "What's your name?"

A small, rosy blush spread across her cheeks. I wanted her even more. "Stephanie." She shyly said. I was blown away. The name was perfect, a little innocent and suited her. She looked like a Stephanie. I liked her name. She swiped at her cheeks where the tears were no doubt drying. "Sorry about your truck." She repeated.

She turned to leave. I spoke up before I lost sight of her for another month. "Terrence Rawlings." I told her.

She faced me again. "I know." She said. I supposed she did. From what Jerry told me, I was a right celebrity in school. Great. My life was complete now. I could die happy.

"Are you okay?" I felt compelled to ask.

Tears flooded her eyes again and some of them silently fell down her cheeks. She just mutely nodded. I left my cigarette in my mouth and caught her wrist before she could leave. She froze in my grip. "What?" She asked, her voice coming out as a half sob.

My heart writhed uncomfortably in my chest. I brutally suppressed it and reeled her in. I pushed her into the seat next to me. "Do you want to talk about it?" I found myself asking. I was immediately disgusted with myself. What was I? A fucking shrink? I was horrified. God, I sounded like a pansy.

But she was shocked. She stared at me, her eyes going wide. "What?" She breathed.

I felt uncomfortable. No doubt she was wondering what kind of a man I was. "Nothing." I said. I watched as her face fell. I noticed that the small twinkle that had appeared in her eyes at my words had disappeared. And my mouth opened, words spilled out. "You wanna talk about it?"

This time, she didn't question my intentions or double check. In fact, she ducked her head and her voice was impossibly small when she said, "Just self-esteem issues."

"Self esteem issues?" I echoed, shocked. She looked up at me and nodded. Unthinkingly, I found myself blurting, "How can a girl as beautiful as you have self esteem issues?" I clamped my lips together. Jesus Christ! What the fuck was wrong with me? Why the fuck wasn't I thinking before opening my goddamn mouth?

She gaped. "I'm not beautiful." She said.

Now, I stared. Did she not know? Was she blind? "Yeah, you are." I argued. "I noticed you the first day I came in."

She looked me over. I knew she was wondering how a guy like me would notice her. I could understand. I was tall and broad shouldered. My hair was dark brown and my eyes were a routine green. I had a barbell in my left eyebrow and spike through the top of my right earlobe, not to mention the tattoo that no one could see. And I was almost always smoking.

It was probably my personality that scared people more though. I wasn't what Dr. Phil would call approachable. Except when it came to her. I would be whatever she wanted. I didn't want her to think the worst of me, so I promptly put out my cigarette and fiddled aimlessly with my hands.

Stephanie ducked her head. "I've gotta go. Bye." She softly said, standing.

Again, I didn't let her go. This time, I stood and turned her slowly towards me. She was so fucking perfect. She could nestle her head under my chin. It was like she was made for me.

"Stephanie." I said, and she shivered. I couldn't help the small smirk. I was so affected by her very presence, I wanted her to be affected by me too. "I don't know what people have been telling you," I murmured to her in a low voice. "But you're gorgeous. Really."

She looked up at me and her blush extended. "You wouldn't say that if you could see my sister." There was no bitterness in her voice, just infinite sadness. And I never wanted her to feel sad again.

"Who's your sister?" I asked, doubtful that I'd know her. Then again, knowing my luck, her sister would turn out to be the only girl I'd slept with since I'd come to this shit hole.

Stephanie's eyes dulled. "Bridget Holloway." She said. I was shocked. She was sisters with that whorish piece of work? How on earth had they come from the same people? Stephanie must have seen my shock, because more tears gathered in her eyes. "I wonder how we're related too. Everyday." She confessed.

I immediately gathered that she was of the impression that I was wondering how someone so 'ugly' could be related to Bridget. "What I want to know," I muttered to her, "is how someone as beautiful, innocent and intelligent like you shares the same blood as that sluttish bimbo."

Stephanie's eyes flew up and locked with mine. Her jaw fell. She looked so cute that I was seized with the insane urge to kiss her senseless. "What?" She asked, voice strangled. "Are you crazy?"

Just crazy for you. The cheesy line, even if it was in my head, made me cringe and wonder for the millionth time what the hell was wrong with me. "No." I replied to her. "I'm just not as blind as the rest of the dickheads in this school."

She flushed. "Thank you." She murmured.

"How old are you?" I asked suddenly, wondering whether she was a freshman. God, that would be weird. I was a senior. It was like cradle snatching; jail bait.

My question seemed to make her sadder. "I'm a junior, turned sixteen today." She told me, voice melancholy and low.

"Today's your birthday?" I asked. She nodded. I looked around at the street. There was a Pizza Hut opposite us, a video store, a bookstore. "What the hell are you doing here, and alone?" I demanded.

Stephanie looked at me like she couldn't believe I was asking her that. "I–" She stopped. "I don't know. I didn't have anyone to celebrate with."

I felt a fierce need to protect her. "They're all crazy." I told her. "They're crazy for not wanting to be around you. I mean, I've seen you all of three times and this is the first time I'm speaking to you, but I still don't want you to leave."

"Thanks." She shyly said.

I looked at her sympathetically. "Was that why you were crying?" I asked.

She mutely nodded and then hurried to explain, "I know you must think I'm crazy–"

"Not in the least." I interrupted her.

She looked at me. "You're different." She observed, the blush still on her cheeks.

"Good different?" I asked. Why did it bother me what she thought of me? Why was I already so attached to her? What was it about her?

"Very good different." She shyly said.

My heart leapt. Good different was awesome. Fuck, she was awesome. Without quite knowing what I was doing, I took her face in my hands. The smoothness of her skin nearly drove me mad with the sudden lust I felt for her. What was it about this girl that had me feeling like such an awkward thirteen-year-old?

Stephanie looked surprised at my motion. "What're you doing?" She asked me, a tinge of nervousness colouring the words.

"Proving to you exactly how beautiful you are." I murmured, wanting to slit my wrists after hearing the clichéd comment issuing from my mouth. But I didn't allow myself to dwell on it any longer. Instead, I leaned forward and claimed her sweet lips.

They were as soft as they looked; pliant and submissive. I pressed my mouth insistently against hers, willing her to respond to me. But she stayed unresponsive in my hands. I could taste the shock on her lips. But still, I didn't relent. I nipped at her lip, trying to get a reaction out of her. God, I wanted to feel her kissing me back.

But then, I leaned away. She was staring at me with wide eyes. I realised I'd just made a fucking fool of myself. I felt my heart twist and turn as I dropped her face and took a step back. I'd probably scared her. Shit. She probably thought I was a fucking rapist or something, kissing unknown girls. God, what the fuck was wrong with me?

"I–" Stephanie said. "I'm sorry."

I stared. "Sorry?" I echoed. "Sorry for what?"

She looked at me a little helplessly, a blush coating her cheeks. "I don't know what to do." She admitted. "I– I don't know how to kiss someone."

Now, I was just plain shocked. Why had no one kissed her before? What was wrong with the shitheads in this place? "You've never been kissed?" I demanded.

She retreated into a shell. "No." She softly said.

I cleared my throat. I tilted her face up to mine. She met my eyes and I lowered my head again. Her eyes went wide. "Close your eyes." I murmured. Her eyes fell shut obediently. "And just trust your instincts." I'd become like a goddamn book of clichés.

The small smile on her lips only heightened my desire to kiss her again, and properly. So, I did. I just took her lips with mine again, and pressed my mouth insistently against hers. She learnt quickly and hesitantly, pressed back. I nearly groaned. She really was something. I moved my lips slowly over hers and her lips parted to release a small gasp.

Instinctively, my tongue was slipping into the small gap. She tasted like apples, like sweet beautiful apples. She froze up and I slowed down my ministrations. I'd forgotten that she wasn't one of the whores I was used to. She was innocent and I needed to respect that. I began withdrawing, but then, her tongue darted out and shyly touched mine. This time, I really did groan.

Immediately, I deepened the kiss. One of my hands stayed at the back of her head– tangled in her beautiful hair– and the other moved to wrap around her waist and draw her closer to me. Her hands rested on my shoulders, bracing her against me. I pulled her as close to me as I could.

She let out a small whimper. Holy hell, she was amazing. I drew her tongue into my mouth. She was submissive to me, but in a pleasing, sweet sort of way.

And then, we broke apart. She collapsed in my arms, as though her knees couldn't hold her up. I knew how she felt. I ducked my head into the crook of her neck. She smelled even better than she tasted. Her perfume was exotic. I inhaled her scent and nuzzled her neck a little. I felt like an affectionate dog.

Stephanie let out a small giggle and just about made my heart stop beating with that intensely childlike sound. "Stop." She said. "It tickles."

I grinned and nuzzled her neck again, this time going as far as to drop a kiss on the smooth skin. My voice was low and throaty with desire when I said, "Happy birthday, Stephanie."

She pushed my head back. "Steph." She murmured, eyes bright with happiness. "Everyone calls me Steph."

I smiled softly at her. "I'm not just anyone, am I?" I asked, admittedly a little cocky. She gave another small laugh and my heart thudded dully. God, she was making me into a pansy.

"I'm glad I sat on your truck, Terry." She told me.

I grinned at her. "I'm glad you sat on my truck too."

She looked up at me, eyes soft. "Did you mean it? When you called me beautiful, I mean."

I smiled and brushed her hair away from her face, allowing the hand to get tangled in the thick black mass. "Of course, I did." I replied. "You are beautiful. And if you let me, I'm going to keep kissing you until you finally believe me."

The blush made another appearance, stronger than ever. "Okay." She shyly said. She mustered a bit of confidence. "But I warn you, I'm not going to believe you very easily."

I laughed. "I don't mind." I teased her. She really was something perfect. I let my hand drop to hers and entwined our fingers. I was nervous all of a sudden. I cleared my throat. "Do you," I began, before clearing my throat again. "Do you want to go out sometime?"

Stephanie stared at me as though she couldn't quite believe it. When I didn't hasten to take it back, despite my utter nervousness, she smiled brightly at me. Her entire face lit up and she took my breath away again. "I'd love that."

I looked at my watch. "Looks like I have time now." I said. "Wanna go for pizza?"

Stephanie stared at me in shock. "Now?" She incredulously asked me. "As in, this very moment?"

I grinned encouragingly at her. "No time like the present, right?" I asked. "And besides, we have a birthday to celebrate."

She shyly smiled at me. "Okay." She said. "Yeah, I'd like that."

"Great." I enthused. I pushed her stubborn hair back again and cupped her face with one hand. She leaned in to my touch. I felt my heart swell. This girl was going to be the death of me. "But first," I continued, "I have to give you your gift."

And I leaned down to kiss her again.

A/N: Today's my sixteenth birthday, so I thought I might as well get something up. My first original one-shot, so I'm a bit nervous. While writing it, I was giddy with excitement, but it turned out a bit iffy in the end. Anyway, review and tell me what you think!

Oh, and thanks to ForeverWasteAway for being kind enough to lend me her name.