See what I'm talking about? There is only one person who can create such a huge personality switch. I'm Colie, the nice girl. Note that; not Colie, the girl who likes to bite everyone's head off. But being Ryan Gunderson, he pretends not to notice my bubbling glare.

Having moved on from watching me glare at Ryan, Natty is showing Luke the songbook, gesturing to the song she wants to play. He starts out nodding, all business, but pretty soon they're back in flirt mode. I roll my eyes, crouching down to plug my base into the amp.

He rests his elbows on his knees, looking down at me. "Why do you keep looking at me like that?" He asks. "You look constipated." Ah, there's the Ryan Gunderson I know and hate.

"I'm glaring," I clarify venomously. I don't even look up as I fumble with the dozens of wires clumped together, searching for the one that I plug into my base.

"Well, don't. You look stupid."

I quickly glower up at him. "I do not," I grumble.

"There, you just did it again. You do look constipated. What, did no one ever teach you how to glare before? Jeez Colie, what do you do when you get insulted?" He wants to know, smirking. "Thank them?"

Finally finding my cord, I plug it in and stand up, refusing to give him the pleasure of seeing my face as red as it is. "I don't get insulted, for your information. Unlike you, I'm very well liked." Okay, that sounded better in my head, I'll admit.

He leans back against the futon—my futon—and grins up at me. "So, you're saying I'm not liked, at all."

"Yes," I sniff, "that's exactly what I'm saying. But hey, aside from that whole face deformity, at least you've still got your hearing." I smile sympathetically.

He chuckles lowly, resting his chin on his palm. "So then…I guess if we went up to my baseball team, they'd say I was a total jerk."

"Yup." I should probably shut up before I dig my own grave. But, I'm me. So I don't.

"And about half the girls in school."

I make a face. "Ew… Yes; definitely yes."

"And—"

"Stop it!" I shriek, loud enough for Luke and Natty to glance over, alarmed. "Ugh, Ryan, you are so conceited! Just…grow up. Why are you even talking to me? Why are you even here? Don't you know The Rules?" I lean in, hissing, "What are you trying to do? Well, whatever it is, just know I'm on to you." I point two fingers at my eyes and then drop one finger, my index jabbed in his direction.

He crinkles his brow. "What rules?"

I drop my shoulders, exasperated. "You know The Rules, Ryan. With a capital T in the, and a capital R in rules to signify their importance!" When his frown just deepens, clearly not getting it, my eyes nearly roll all the way back into my head. "Oh, come on. We established these, like, eight years ago."

"Colie, I have no clue what you're talking about, seriously. I knew you were crazy, but this is just extreme. What rules?" He says. Squarely, I bring myself down to eye level with him, causing his lip to curl slightly.

"Don't play dumb. You know what I'm talking about," I say hesitantly. I squint my eyes at him, as if looking for something I'm missing.

"No, I don't. I really don't. But here's your chance to explain; I'm all ears," he says, shrugging his shoulders. He seems…genuinely confused. I can't believe it! Almost nine years of Hell, and he doesn't even know about The Rules!

"It wasn't a verbal establishment," I explain slowly, hoping drawling out my sentences might trigger his memory. "It was more of you deciding you hated me. In fact, you're the one who started The Rules!"

He stands, towering over my five foot three frame. I notice that tell-tale red face beginning to bloom as he closes his eyes, probably in an attempt to calm himself. It doesn't work.

"What are you talking about?" He explodes loudly. I'm too focused on trying to stare him down (which doesn't really work because my neck is starting to hurt) to glance over at Natty and Luke, but I'm pretty sure they're gaping, jaws dropped.

"My God, Colie, just explain something to me, for once!" He exclaims, still yelling.

"Okay, fine!" I huff, crossing my arms. "You want the rerun? We were eight years old. Bored in daycare, we played games. I sunk your battleship, and even though I clearly warned you of my skills at battleship, you got pissed at me, and when I refused your rematch, you basically called the female gender inferior, so then I got pissed and pushed you in the mud."

His expression begins to shift. I continue, "I tried to make everything up, so we could be friends again, but n-oooh, you had your pride to consider. First, you ignored me, which was bad, but then you started teasing me, spreading rumors, pulling at my hair! All of which were way worse!"

I exhale a few times noisily, letting my breath catch up with my heart rate. His cheeks are back to their normal color as he observes me with a strangely thoughtful expression.

"Are you done?" He asks. His voice is surprisingly soft.

I snort and fold my arms again. "No," I stutter, confused at this look he's giving me, "I'm not. I haven't gotten to The Rules yet."

"Please do," he says.

"I am. So, after you started being just flat out mean, we started establishing rules. Well, I mean, not to each other, since this is the first time we've held a conversation this long in eight years, but you get my gist. It was a mental thing."

"And what are these rules?" Ryan's tone is still soft, but now there's a trace of amusement laced in.

"Well…the first rule is that we don't approach each other willingly. That was the first rule you broke. Then, we're not supposed to talk, which you broke again. And then, we're supposed to hate each other, which, thankfully, is still valid," I say, completely serious.

For a moment, he just observes me. Then he presses his lips together, as if to hide a smile. "Okay," he squeaks, sounding dangerously like he's trying to hold in laughter. And sure enough, moments later, he snorts out a bark of laughter, nearly doubling over in his mirth.

I gasp indignantly. How completely rude, I think. He was the one who asked.

"Can you believe this Nat—" I turn to Natty for support, but to my utter surprise, she and Luke are clutching each other, caught in their own fits of giggles. "What? What is so funny?" I shout, putting my hands on my hips.

"S-So-Sorry C-Colie," Natty gets out between laughs. "But you j-just sounded so…" She can't finish her sentence as she buries her face in Luke's chest, shaking violently.

"So, what?" No one responds for a near full minute. "Will someone please tell me what you guys find so funny?"

Ryan, having collected himself slightly, leans down, so we're at eye-level. "How old are you, Colie? Ten? You do realize how ridiculous you just sounded, right?" I can feel my face flushing, surprisingly more out of embarrassment than anger.

"I don't have to listen to this!" I yell, and in typical rock star (I wish) diva fashion, I storm out of the garage.

I head straight for my favorite part of the neighborhood; towards the north end of our cull-de-sac is a small green patch, where a tree that's probably older than the town itself sits, as if always waiting for me. I started going there the night after my dad left my mom, where I climbed to the highest branch I could and cried my heart out.

The week after Ryan started ignoring me I got so angry with him (and myself) that I went back to that tree and cried there, too. I'm admittedly somewhat of a cry baby, so after my first boyfriend dumped me, I climbed a little higher in the tree and let out a few soft tears. In short, it's my crying tree.

Now, I wasn't about to cry, but I'm still plenty pissed off enough that the tree might do me some good. Muttering curses in Ryan's name, I grasp the first branch and hoist myself up. I keep climbing for a few more branches, but eventually I get so angry I can't see straight, so I simply collapse on a particularly thick division.

Burying my head in the bark, I muffle my aggravated scream.

"Colie?" A deep voice calls a few minutes later. I recognize it immediately.

"Go away!" I shout down, crossing my arms. "You've done enough, don't you think?"

"Yeah," Ryan returns. The leaves of the tree rustle as he, with ease, pulls himself onto the first branch. Oh, no, he better not be coming up here. This is my thinking/crying/screaming tree; he can't have it! "Which is why—" He starts, but I swiftly cut him off.

"No way are you coming up here! This is my tree, go get your own!" I shout, helplessly watching him climb closer and closer.

"I wasn't aware this was your tree."

"It is!"

"You own it? I thought the Home Owner's Association owned it, since they technically run this land."

"Well, I'm the only one who uses it! It might as well be mine," I protest. I stare at him as he straddles the branch, hair disheveled and panting. For a few blissful moments, he doesn't say anything, just looks down at his hands, blinking slowly.

"Look, I just want to talk," he says finally, voice sounding tired.

"Talk?" I ask, incredulous. "What on earth do we have to talk about, Ryan?"

"Everything?" He suggests, shrugging. "I'm…sorta at a loss for what just happened. I'm surprised, is all. I didn't know you felt this way." I don't say anything. "Did you really think I hated you?"

"Of course I did," I reply, shifting uncomfortably. "What evidence did I have to show otherwise?"

"What about basically eight years of friendship? We were pretty close, from what I remember." I'm not by any means composed yet, but I feel a strange rush of calm spread over my body when he says this.

"That wasn't enough to stop you from teasing me all those years," I point out, my tone lowered.

He just looks at me. "Colie, I always treated you like that. We always fought, always teased one another. I wasn't acting any differently; you just thought so because I ignored you for a little while. I was angry, what did you expect?"

"That's not true. You were way out of line most of those times, nor were you ever that bad to me before," I say.

He runs his tongue over his teeth, silent for a moment. "Yeah, I guess you're right," he says finally. "I was a lot worse. I was just acting my age, though."

"Like that justifies anything!" I cry, throwing my hands into the air.

"I'm not saying it does! Look, I only had my older brother to go off of, and my dad was still working late night shifts at the time; plus, you know what Nolan's like. He still prefers the immature way, even at 21," Ryan says. Wait, what? What do his dad and brother have anything to do with this?

"What are you talking about, Ryan? Now you're just being confusing."

He blinks and raises his eyebrow. "You really don't know?"

"Uh," I say intelligently, ignoring the ironic sense of déjà vu. "Obviously not."

He sighs, rubbing his cheek nervously. "I, uh… I liked you, Colie."

The very world around me seems to freeze. My breath catches in my throat, the wind seems to stop, and my body tenses up. Well. That certainly wasn't what I had been expecting. "Oh…"

Eyes widening at my expression, he quickly adds, "I mean, I was eight and it was Nolan giving me the advice. I reacted in the only way I knew."

"I understand. I think," I add under my breath. I meet his gaze. "You don't…any more though, right?"

His eyebrows draw down. "Hey, hey! The key word there being 'liked'. Note the past tense. I've moved on, trust me," he says, staring me straight into the eyes. After a moment, he continues, "You can't like a person you don't know anymore."

Unable to find my voice, I just nod and ignore the sting his words have on me. "I kind of got that today. Starting from you playing an instrument to having a garage band or the fact that you're a songwriter really…opened up my eyes. I realized that I really don't know you at all anymore."

"Don't get all deep on me," I mutter, rolling my eyes. He closes his mouth and for a moment, I just watch a lone autumn leaf descend from the mighty tree. "What are you going on about now? Trying to hit me with another apparent reality check?"

He shoots me a mildly amused glance. "I think we should try being friends again. We were friends for all those years for a reason. It seems silly to throw it all away. You know?" As he sits there across from me, intently searching my expression, I feel a sudden flash of regret burst in my chest.

Looking back, we had been great friends. Sure, he was a little (okay, a lot) competitive, I was a little (apparently) oblivious, and we were both incredibly stubborn, but we had made it work. Maybe it could work again.

"Yeah," I say finally, slowly. "I do. But are you sure you can resist my charm this time? You better make sure you don't fall passionately in love with me again."

He snorts. "I think it's you that'll have to do the resisting, Colie. Seriously, I dare you to try. I've filled out in the last eight years. Don't tell me you haven't noticed."

I had. But I just rolled my eyes.


Ach, I'm never writing something this cliched again. I feel a bit of my soul breaking off. xD

Please review to console me.