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traffic lights

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Chapter Four

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Have you ever gotten the feeling that someone is watching you? Did you turn around in order to confirm your suspicion, only to find that the whole damn school was staring at you like you were the anti-Christ?

I was waiting on the front lawn of the school as Steve had instructed me to during Econ. Apparently, everyone finally knew of "the new girl" and decided to size me up. I really wouldn't have minded the staring contest that was currently happening with them and my back if they had at least pretended they weren't gawking at me.

Licking my lips to distract myself, I silently cursed about not remembering to grab my chap-stick that morning. I knew exactly where it was, too – at the bottom of that box of clothes I still hadn't worked up the energy to unpack yet. Load of good my chap-stick would do there. It might even be melted by now – actually, knowing my luck it had probably busted open and gotten all over my clothes.

After ten minutes of waiting, I was about to shuffle back into the school and make my way to the back where the buses loaded up, when a car screeched around the curved driveway of the school. Music emanating from the car's radio practically shook the whole sidewalk, and it wasn't until the Toyota pulled up in front of me that I realized who owned the car.

Clouds of gray smoke rolled out of Ridge's open window when he came to a complete stop. Steve, who sat in the passenger side of the car, leaned over Ridge in order to smile up at me. Ridge wrinkled his nose but didn't say anything, just looked straight ahead. Steve took a drag of the cigarette that dangled between his middle and index fingers, and then flicked the quickly forming ash out of the car.

"Get in, Riley. You might want to put your shit in the trunk though, it's a little crowded in the back," he said, his usual soft voice raspy from smoke.

At hearing this, I peered into the back. Rubber, Penny, and another girl I had yet to meet sat awkwardly squished together, as if Ridge's car was some sadistic version of a sardine can.

"Uh, actually, I can't work on the project today, Steve. I just remembered that I have to, uhm… clean my bathroom," I stammered, taking a large step back.

"Cut the shit, Riley, and get in the goddamn car," Steve ordered sounding lazy and not the least bit worried that I might refuse.

I was watching Steve's face, but I could still see Ridge, and I bit my lip when I noticed that he was staring at me with an apathetic frown.

Hesitating, I looked over at the crowd of my peers that'd gotten considerably larger since Ridge had driven up to me. None of them were necessarily staring at me, but three or four people kept glancing over their shoulders to see the progress of our conversation.

"Just get in, Riley," Ridge said, surprising me. While his voice was rough, pointed and hard, his eyes softened when I looked into them. "He won't stop bitching at you until you do," he continued, nodding toward Steve.

"How am I not surprised…" I muttered under my breath. Hearing me, Ridge laughed a short soft laugh. "Open the trunk."

There was a click, and then the trunk popped open in one smooth movement. After I threw my bag into the slightly disgusting trunk, I closed it and opened the back door of the car, and slid in. Rubber smiled manically from beside me, allotting me as little room as he could.

"Well, here we are again, Riley. You should think about learning how to keep your hands to yourself – some guys won't be as open to it as I am," Rubber laughed into my hair, placing a hand on my knee.

"Um, Ridge," I squeaked and pushed myself up against the door of the car, not even flinching as the handle dug into my lower back. "Could you please call your dog off?" I finished, referring to Rubber.

There was a pause in which Ridge stared at me through the rearview mirror, and finally he said, "Only if you apologize."

"What – why?" I narrowed my eyes at Ridge's reflection.

"For being a bitch yesterday," he shrugged.

"You can't just force people to say sorry to you, Ridge," I snapped, trying to swat Rubber's hand, which was slowly traveling higher, off my leg.

He grinned, watching me with satisfaction. "I can try."

Ridge knew I hated apologizing to people, which was one of the reasons my parents and I used to fight – because I wouldn't admit when I was wrong. I always felt so vulnerable and weak when I had to open up to someone in that type of way, and I usually tried to refrain from doing so as much as possible.

But with the combined weights of Rubber's hand sliding up my thigh and Ridge's stony gray eyes set on my face through the rearview mirror, I cracked. Sighing, I narrowed my gaze at Ridge's amused smile. "Fine - I'm sorry."

"For?"

"For? Are you serious, Ridge?" I shouted at Ridge's reflection. At that very exact moment, Rubber's hand decided to visit uncharted territory. "Fine, fine! Okay, I'm sorry for being a bitch yesterday, just get Rubber off!" I tried pushing him away, but that only made him chuckle.

"Leave her alone, Rubber," Ridge grunted, turning into a new street.

Rubber grinned, cocking his head to the side. "Do I have to?" He asked, running his lips across my jaw line. The sudden contact surprised me, and jerking away from him, I squeaked when his fingers wrapped around the back of my neck.

"If you want to keep your penis between your legs and not cut off in some type of animal's mouth, you'll stop touching her," Ridge commented dryly.

Rubber hesitated, letting his eyes dart between Ridge's back and then to my face. Sighing, he finally let go of me and fell against the car seat. "Next time, baby," he said rather solemnly, and nodded, more to himself than me, as if this was a test of his faith.

"Shut the hell up, Steve," Ridge barked, glaring at his friend. Steve, who had been giggling behind his hands this whole time, quickly sobered up, put his cigarette between his lips, and then started fixing his hair in the rearview mirror.

Penny, crammed between Rubber and the girl yet to be named, burst out in a fit of laughter. "Boys are so funny," she said in a loud whisper to the girl on her right.

She gave Penny a condescending look, as if she was a bad smell under her thin delicate nose, and flipped her long curly black hair over her bony shoulder. "Ridge is an idiot," she muttered back loudly, making sure she gave me a pointed look.

"Don't be so mean, Charlie," Penny laughed.

"I'm not being mean," the girl – Charlie – snapped, "I'm just being truthful."

Rubber, who'd been sulking with his arms crossed over his chest for the last few minutes, quickly forgot all about his lust for me and sat up, grinning like the fool he was. "Hell yes, cat fight."

"Fuck off, Rubber," Charlie growled, leaning over Penny to glare at him.

"All of you, shut up, we're here," Steve shouted from the front seat. Ridge shot him a disgusted look as he turned off the ignition. "What?" Steve asked sounding innocent.

Not waiting to hear the response, I slung open the door and threw myself out, barely staying on my feet when they hit the ground.

Rubber raised an eyebrow at me as he followed my lead and got out of the car. "What's the hurry?"

Coming up from behind him, Ridge knocked Rubber upside the head. "She's trying to get away from your perverted ass, moron."

"Me? Moi?" he sounded surprised. "What did I do?"

"Tried to rape her, that's what," Steve stated, wrapping his arm around Penny.

"I was just trying to have fun," he pouted, glancing over to me.

"Yeah, well, that type of fun will get you into jail, kid," Ridge said sorrowfully, patting him on the shoulder.

I glanced at each of them in turn, eyeing them with surprise and disgust. What - did they all get together and have a big o' raping party?

Penny was the one who started giggling first, and soon everyone but Charlie and I were practically doubled over from laughter. Rolling her eyes and sighing, Charlie stomped down the driveway and around to the back of the house. With Steve and Rubber laughing every few steps, we headed after her. It turned out that there was a door on the first floor of the house that led into a basement, and after Steve pushed it open, we all piled in.

Charlie was standing in front of an open refrigerator in a small kitchenette, rummaging around in it until she found what she was looking for, which I saw when she straightened up was a can Bud Light. She flicked it open, took a sip and made a contented sound.

"You didn't even ask, did you?" Rubber whined, sticking out his bottom lip in a pout.

"Hunter won't give a damn," Charlie muttered, taking another sip.

"Hunter won't give a damn about what?"

We all turned our attention to the left where a staircase was built into the side wall. The guy standing at the foot of the stairs was around twenty, with long brown hair that fell past his ears. Currently, he was leaning against the wall, wearing nothing but baggy sweatpants.

Upon Hunter's entrance, Charlie's eyes immediately lit up and she took another long swig from her can, before putting it down on the counter next to her.
"That you wouldn't mind if I had a beer," she muttered, flashing him a shy smile.

I had to keep myself from laughing at Charlie's mood swing. She was a complete jerk to her supposed friends, but when it came to the guy she liked, she turned into an angel. I glanced over at Ridge and hid a smile when I saw he looked like he was trying not to laugh too.

Hunter gave her a tired smile, as if he knew what she was doing and was used to it by now. "You guys know I don't care what you have. Any friend of Ridge is a friend of mine." His eyes traveled over to meet Ridge in a friendly gesture, but stopped when he saw me.

Ridge saw the question in Hunter's eyes and pushed himself off the back of the couch he was leaning against. "Riley this is Hunter, Hunter this is Riley." He came to a stop next to me, so close that are arms brushed together.

Hunter noticed the small contact between Ridge and I, and his tired smile turned into a grin. Immediately, I stepped away from him, but the damage was already done; Hunter winked at Ridge.

As we all got comfortable, I made myself relax in a small chair next to the stairs, away from everyone else.

No one seemed concerned about me, so I took this opportunity to study Ridge. Today he wore a light gray shirt and a pair of faded old jeans that sported at least five holes. The dark roots that had been showing under his hair yesterday were now gone, and his face was lifted up from the smile that was on his gaunt face. I wouldn't have said he was thin, but tall and lean; lanky almost, but with muscle.

Maybe Ridge deserved a chance again. No, that's not right. Maybe I deserved a chance at being Ridge's friend again. I was the one that hurt him. I just didn't know how to go about talking to him.

"Have you ever noticed how Captain Crunch totally fucks up the top of your mouth?"

I looked up and blinked when I saw Ridge standing in front of me, chewing on cereal with a contemplative look on his face. He peered into his bowl and stirred its contents with a spoon. "But it's just so damn good," he said sorrowfully.

"I prefer Lucky Charms. Captain Crunch is just too… peanut buttery," I mused, leaning back into my chair. So Ridge came to me – that made the whole making up thing a little easier, I guess.

He made a face. "Those little colorful marshmallow things are too sweet. And," he added, pointing his spoon in my general direction, as he was too busy studying the contents of his bowl to bother looking at me, "there is no such thing as being too peanut buttery."

There was a pause, and then he called over his shoulder. "Hey, Hunter, how old is this cereal?"

"What cereal? Oh, the Captain Crunch… um, I'm not really into that type so it's probably my brothers, and he left back in April…"

"So, what? About five months?"

"Probably more like eight. Rich didn't come down here much."

"Oh, cute," Ridge made a face at his bowl and put it down on the small end table next to my chair.

"Dude, are you seriously gonna waste that?" Rubber cried from his spot on the couch.

Ridge crossed his arms and proceeded to lean against the railing of the stairs. "You can have it if you want." His lips turned up in a crooked smile.

Rubber hesitated, then shook his head and faced the television once again.

Steve walked up behind Ridge, nudging him in the side and then looked down at me. "Can we just work on our Econ project later? I don't really feel like doing it today."

"Uh, sure, that sounds fine…"

Steve's grin widened even more and he cast a sideways glance directed at Ridge, who simply rolled his eyes.

"Dude," Rubber shouted from the couch, unintentionally interrupting our conversation, "this guy's girlfriend was his daughter." He muted the television and twisted around to gauge our reaction. "That's just sick."

We all paused. Finally, Steve asked, "His girlfriend was his daughter?"

Rubber nodded eagerly. "Yeah, man, he locked her and their kids in the basement."

Steve cocked his head to the side, considering this. "Dude," he finally said, "they must be so pale."

"What the fuck are you even watching, Rub?" Ridge asked, raising his eyebrows.

"The news…"

"Who the hell would want to report on that," Steve muttered, shaking his head.

"A better question to ask is why are you watching the news?" Penny's nose scrunched up at Rubber in distaste as she walked up to Steve and put her arms around him.

Shrugging, he turned back to the television. "It's interesting."

Hunter, who was sitting in a large cushioned chair opposite Rubber, threw his head back and laughed. "Everything they report on is a load of shit. They're in it for the ratings." He tossed one long leg over another and tilted backward. The look he gave dared us to contradict him.

An awkward silence ensued. Steve cleared his throat. "Let's talk about a lighter subject, shall we? I booked another gig for the band."

"Steve, for fuck's sake, will you stop booking us without asking?" Hunter growled, shifting in his seat to get a better look at Steve.

"We need more exposure if we're ever going to go anywhere with our music," he smoothly replied, untangling himself from Penny and walking over to where Hunter sat. Penny, a little deflated, scrunched her eyebrows together and followed behind him.

"That doesn't give you the right to plan shows without asking if one of us already has plans," Hunter snapped back, clenching his hands into fists. "You do this every time, Steve!"

Charlie started laughing from her vantage point on one of the kitchenette's counters. Rubber made a face at her and then turned back to the two guys who were fighting in front of him. "Guys, guys, calm down-"

"I'm just trying to do what's best for the band!" Steve shouted, paying no heed to Rubber's calming voice.

"We know you are Steve, but sometimes-"

"I think it's more like 'this is what I want, so I'm going to do it'," Hunter barked over Rubber, finally standing up. Flicking his eyes between Hunter and Steve, Rubber watched with wide eyes as the yelling and shouting continued.

I glanced up at Ridge. He was still leaning against the stair railing, watching with a slight smile playing on his lips. Clearing my throat, I got up and fidgeted next to him. His eyes brushed over me for a moment and then back to his friends.

"So," I ventured, twisting the fabric of my shirt between my fingers, "you're in a band?"

Ridge answered without looking at me. "No, they are though," he muttered, tilting his head to indicate Hunter, Steve, and Rubber. "I can't play anything to save my life. I tried once, back when I was fifteen – the bass. But I just couldn't get it." He shrugged. "I guess I'm just musically inept."

"Oh."

"What about you? Last time I saw you, you were in love with Britney Spears, I believe," he smirked.

I laughed; it sounded shaky and a little unsure, even to my own ears. Just relax, Riley, I mentally scolded myself. "It was the Spice Girls, thank you very much."

"Oh, right," Ridge nodded and grinned. There was silence between us for a moment, and then all of a sudden Ridge started humming. It took me a moment to recall what it was, but when I did I slapped his arm, offended.

"Stop making fun of me," I hissed.

Ridge bent down. "If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends," he sang into my ear.

"That is most definitely not funny," I said, horror etched into my voice, and pushed him away.

"If I wanted someone to be my lover, I don't think I'd want them to get with my friends first. Unless she's ugly and I want to know how good of a lay she is," Ridge mused, leaning back against the wall.

"Ridge! I cannot believe you just said that," I practically screeched.

"Holy shit, Riley, I'm kidding."

"You could get shot for saying a joke like that," I muttered, glaring at him.

"What, is a crowd of ugly girls going to come beat me up?"

"Quite possibly, and I'd be the one in the front waving around a pitchfork."

"You're right. Because you're just so misfortunate looking," Ridge said, rolling his eyes.

"Hey now. I never said anything about me being ugly. I might just want to stab you with a pitchfork."

"Oh, so you're conceited. Okay." Ridge shook his head.

I nudged him in the side. "Stop changing the subject."

"I believe it is you who is the subject changer, my dear."

"What? Stop confusing me. Now I don't even remember what I asked you…" I said, deflated, and crossed my arms.

Ridge grinned. "I believe it was something along the lines of, 'oh, Ridge, how does one become as devilishly good-looking as yourself?'"

I huffed out a laugh. "Oh, yeah. It was definitely something like that."

"You're right. I lied. You actually asked me out on a date," he said, and the face he made was so void of emotion that I barked out a laugh loud enough that everyone stopped in mid-fight to turn and stare at me.

I waved a hand at them, muttering a small apology, and then glared at Ridge. He was muffling his laughter with one hand, while the other held his shaking side.

"Ass…" I muttered under my breath, sliding down the wall so I could sit down. Ridge followed suit, sitting far enough away to keep our knees from touching.

He started tapping his fingertips against his leg, which captured my attention for a moment, but then he cleared his throat and I brought my eyes to his face. His gaze was steady and unobtrusive as he watched me. I was unhinged by how fast his emotion had changed, but I kept my eyes locked with his without turning away, trying to seem calm.

"I'm sorry about yesterday. There was no reason for me to be such a prick," he said, tilting his head forward in order to level his gaze with mine.

"You had every right to be a jerk. Wait," I shook my head, "that's not what I meant." I shut my eyes so I could think straight, which was hard to do with Ridge staring at me like that. "You were just reacting to me the way anyone else would have."

"Still," he sighed, "you didn't recognize me and I just threw myself on you. Plus, I should have realized that if you did recognize me it didn't necessarily mean we were going to be friends again. At least not right off the bat."

I shook my head again and opened my eyes. "Best friends."

"What?" Ridge asked, frowning slightly.

"You said friends. We were best friends."

Ridge hesitated for a moment, processing my meaning, but then he smiled. Without missing a beat, his arms were wrapped around me and I was pulled into one of the biggest hugs of my life.

Someone laughed, and I immediately pulled away to see who it was. Steve towered over both of us with a huge smile on his face and a tall glass of beer in his hand.

"Now you can thank me, Ridge."

x.

o.

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thankyouuu: Essevera, xbrunnettex0, Nona Lisa, svmgeleta, xlovextimes, my name is grace., Holiday in Spain, Electric Rose, Nefertiry, Number One Dancing Queen, Missus Finkle

my name is grace. : i'm so happy that you stumbled on this! i'm glad you like. ;D

Holiday in Spain: Haha, band of renegades. Who knows, maybe they are.

Nefertiry: Ack, i know, i hate when writers do that. it's really annoying, espsecially when the whole story is centered around the MC and his/her old love interest/friend, etc.

Number One Dancing Queen: haha, it's fine! i understand if you can't review everything you read - i don't, although i try. hehe

in my opinion the first half of this chapter sucks, haha, but at least we get to learn more about Ridge and his friends. i'll try to do some reconstructing on it in the next few days, because if i'm not happy with it, i'm sure none of you are.

(PS. please excuse the grammar mistakes. i'm looking for a beta and i still haven't been able to pick one.)

(PPS. i'm also going to be putting a playlist on my profile and character pictures, so check them out!)