Thanks for all the reviews and alerts! You guys are so amazing, and I'm so flattered. :) I have to apologize in advance however, because the updates may get just a tad slower in the future.

------------------

F O U R

-

The next few days that went by were practically the same. Avery would meet me at my locker first thing in the morning, give me a little quip or too (complete with a grin, naturally), and he would leave before Christine arrived. During English and Art, he would do that thing where he watched me but pretended not to, and then he'd walk by my side when classes ended, sometimes saying stuff, and sometimes not.

And I hadn't been able to work up enough nerve to tell him to leave me alone, like I thought I wanted to. I say 'thought' because now I wasn't so sure I wanted him to stop talking to me. I think I was actually growing fond of Avery Goodwyn – what on Earth was wrong with me?

Things changed on Thursday though; it happened in Art class.

Rather than just watch me from his own table, Avery surprised me by appearing in front of mine. I covered up my still life self-consciously, and he grinned down at me.

"This seat taken?"

"You know it isn't," I said shortly.

With a sigh, he flopped down in the chair across from mine, and he sat slightly turned in it, so that his arm could rest on the back of it. His gaze flickered down to my drawing, which I was still covering with my hands, and his grin widened.

"Don't want to share with me?" he asked, quirking one of his eyebrows.

"Are you going to try and make me?" I asked.

He shrugged and shook his head. "You'll have to move your hands sooner or later," he said.

I rolled my eyes and looked down at the table. Now was the time to tell him that I wanted him to leave me alone – to tell him that nothing would ever work between us, not even friendship. I swallowed and took a deep breath, trying to relax myself, but when I spoke, my words came out as a jumbled mumble.

"Avery, I don't think --"

"Excuse me, what?" he asked, using that patronizing tone with me. "You'll have to speak up, Mollie."

I sighed through my nose, and kept my gaze locked on the ring that I wore on my thumb – a plain silver thing that needed a cleaning. After a long pause, I took another deep breath and tried again.

"I said, I don't think you --"

"Maybe you should look up too," he cut me off once more. "I mean – you are trying to talk to me, right? And not your artwork?"

Heat creeping up my neck, I slowly raised my gaze to find that he looked positively gleeful – he just loved teasing me. He raised his eyebrows in question, telling me to go ahead, and the butterflies in my stomach went crazy for this simple motion of his, like little rabid Avery cheerleaders or something. The traitors.

"Nevermind," I said, more angry at the way my body reacted to him than I was at Avery himself.

His grin turned cocky, almost as if he knew the kind of effect he had on me. Still very irritated, I picked up my pencil and I tried to get some more work done on my drawing, while still trying to keep it hidden from him. I felt his eyes on me, but he didn't say anything for a long while, almost as if he were just content to watch me work. When he finally spoke again, I nearly choked on my own tongue at what he said.

"Go to the movies with me."

It wasn't a question, or even an offer – it was a demand.

I opened my mouth to ask him just who he thought he was, ordering me around like this, but much to my humiliation, the only thing I managed to get out was a squeaky-sounding, "What?"

"Tomorrow night," he said. "Go to the movies. With me."

My mouth opened, then closed, and coming to my senses, I shook my head quickly. "Um...no thanks," I said, face burning.

"Come on." He pushed his lips out slightly, tone turning into a familiar mocking one – I was given a small sense of deja-vu at this.

"I was hoping you only did that when you were drunk," I said.

"Don't try and change the subject," he said, laughing lightly. "Come on, Mollie, see a movie with me."

"Why?"

"Gee, I don't know," he said. "Maybe 'cause I want you to."

I flushed even harder, but I didn't say anything. He stared at me, waiting for an answer, and after a moment, all I could do was shake my head again. Call me stupid, and I'll probably agree with you – I wasn't ready to admit to myself that I wouldn't mind catching a movie with Avery, I wasn't ready to admit that I actually kind of, maybe sort of liked him.

With a tiny sigh, he leaned forward slightly. "You might as well just yes," he told me. "I won't stop bugging you until you do – and that's a promise."

"Wait a minute. If I go on one date with you," I started, holding up an index finger, "You'll leave me alone?"

Smirking, he nodded. "Mm hmm."

That was a good bargain. I knew I wasn't mean enough to outright tell him to leave me alone, but if one measly date would get him off my case? Well heck yeah.

"I know you want to," he said, pulling me from my thoughts. "I can see it in your eyes. You don't think I'm so bad a guy, right?"

"You don't know anything," I said, but my tone wasn't nearly as cool as I'd wanted it to be.

"I know I'm growing on you," he said, flashing me that cocky grin again. "Sometimes you even smile when you see me."

"I do not," I argued, face turning red again – just when my blush started to die down, he knew exactly how to bring it back.

"Okay," he said with a chuckle, and he shook his head. He paused for a moment. "So what do you say?"

"One movie?" I held up my finger again, and he nodded. "And I get to choose it."

He smiled. "Awesome," he said. "I'll pick you up at seven tomorrow."

"Don't come to the door," I warned him. "My parents will kill you."

"I guess I'll need to find some more rocks to throw at your window, then." He stood up slowly, pushing the chair in, and he stopped for just a moment. Then he gestured to my still life. "Lighten up on the shading, it's too heavy and takes away from your talent. Just so you know."

My gaze dropped to my work as he started to walk away. One of my hands was still covering a part of the paper, but he'd gotten a good look at it when I'd let my guard down. At his compliment, I couldn't help but smile to myself, and I looked up again. He'd returned to his table, and he was working on his own piece.

His bangs were hanging in his face just a little bit, and he was biting his lip slightly as his hand moved in wide sweeps across his paper, and I found myself strangely entranced.

And now I was pretty sure that I had a crush on him. Great.

* * *

"So what are you doing tonight?"

Christine's voice snapped me out of my daze, and I blinked at her. We were standing at my locker the next morning, and I'd been caught up in my thoughts of Avery. He hadn't been waiting for me like I'd expected him to be, and I was actually kind of disappointed. My best friend had been relieved though, and now she was looking at me expectantly.

"Oh," I said, thinking quickly of something to tell her. "My parents invited my grandparents down – they want Mark and I to spend some 'quality time' with them." Come on. Did you think I could actually tell Christine LeBeau the truth? There was a time and place for everything, and now was not it. I didn't know how she'd handle it.

"Really?" she asked, and I nodded. "Man that sucks. Maybe we can do something tomorrow then?"

"Of course," I said quickly. "There's a marathon of America's Best Dance Crew tomorrow." I wasn't a big fan of the show, but I knew how much Christine liked it.

And my ploy to change the subject worked, as she grinned. "Oh yes please," she said. "Mario Lopez and those shoulders – I know what we're doing tomorrow."

Mirroring her grin, I shut my locker. As we started walking, she did what she always did and started talking about random things, but I found my mind going back to Avery. Why hadn't he met me at my locker? Was he going to be in class?

And more importantly, if he wasn't in class, did that mean the date was still on?

When English rolled around, I all but ran into the room looking for him. When the late bell rang and he still hadn't shown up, I slumped down in my chair. With a little sigh, I pulled out my notebook. I couldn't have told you why it affected me so much that he wasn't there.

"Something wrong?" Ruby asked quietly.

"With me," I answered. "And my mentality."

"Want to talk about it?"

I paused for a long moment, and then I turned in my chair to face her. Maybe talking with someone would help me. "Promise not tell anyone?"

She smiled. "Of course." Her tone was genuine, and I knew I could trust her.

"I was supposed to have a date tonight," I told her slowly. "With...with someone, uh..."

"Unconventional?" Ruby suggested.

"Exactly."

She suddenly leaned forward in her chair, lowering her tone. Her expression looked like something Dr. Phil used on his guests. "Is it Avery?"

I cringed. "Am I that obvious?" I asked.

"Nope," she answered. "But he is – what with the way he stares at you and all. So what's wrong? Did you change your mind or something?"

"No," I answered. "But he isn't in class. If he doesn't come to school, are we still on for the date?" I blushed as soon as the words left my mouth, because it made me sound extremely silly and inexperienced.

"I'd say yes," she said, nodding her head. "Especially since he's probably just skipping – come on, Molls, he came to class almost every day this week. He did good, considerably."

"I didn't think about it that way," I said with a little smile.

"He probably needed a break after all the hardcore work he does all the time. You know, sleeping, drawing on the desk, smoking in the bathroom." she said playfully. "I wouldn't be surprised if the only reason he showed up at all this week was because of you."

Cue instant fire in my cheeks, and I lowered my gaze. "You think so?" I asked, and she nodded. Then we were both silent for a moment or two.

"So..." she said, "Avery?"

"Yeah." I let out a little sigh, and I shook my head as I grinned. "I don't know – it's kind of weird, right?"

"Just a bit," she said, holding up her hand, thumb and index finger a hair apart. "But I won't tell anybody, I promise."

Suddenly I wanted to hug her, and it must have been visible on my face, because she laughed and reached forward to squeeze one of my shoulders. It made me feel a lot better about my little secret – the fact that I might have been looking forward to my date with Avery – and I smiled once more.

"Thanks Ruby."

As I turned back around for the morning drill, I felt kind of bad that she and I had never gotten closer. Of all the people to be friends with, she was probably the nicest and most sincere at the school – why had I never bothered to make friends with her? I spun in my chair again, another smile coming to my face.

"What are you doing tomorrow?" I asked her.

"Nothing that I know of," she answered.

"Christine's coming over to my house," I said. "We're just going to hang out and stuff – do you want to come?"

She seemed kind of surprised that I'd asked, and she smiled slowly. "Yeah?" When I nodded, she said, "Sure, I'd love to." Then she pushed her open notebook towards me and told me to write down my address.

Feeling like nothing could bring me down, I started to scribble on one of her blank pages. I knew Christine wouldn't mind, and I knew the three of us would have fun together. I actually couldn't wait.

I'd tried to hold on to a bit of hope that Avery would show up to Art class, but he didn't. What Ruby had said seemed practical for him, but I couldn't help but wonder if something had happened, or if something was wrong. And I didn't know why not seeing him all day seemed to bother me so much.

* * *

That night, as seven o'clock got nearer and nearer, I was practically running to my window every few minutes, straining to see Avery or that God awful car of his. I'd changed into something a little more comfortable for the movies – old jeans and a plain tee shirt – but there was a part of me that almost wanted to dress up for Avery. Almost.

Of course, I didn't even know if he was still coming or not.

I lay down in bed with my novel for English, and as I tried to focus on the chapter that should've been read already, my mind was in other places. I was imagining how that night was going to play out. Would Avery try to kiss me? Would I let him? He kind of looked like he'd be a good kisser. As soon as I had this thought, I pushed it away.

When there was a soft clink at my window, I nearly threw my book across the room and dove to my feet. Throwing the curtains aside, I had to bite back a smile as I saw him standing on the lawn below. He waved at me, and I held up a finger so that he knew I'd be a minute or so. Then I turned quickly to grab my purse and slip my shoes on.

As I made my way downstairs, I caught my parents in the kitchen. "Hey, I'm going to the movies with some friends. Okay?"

"What friends?" my father asked, and I had to struggle not to roll my eyes.

"Some girls from school," I answered, "Haylie and Ashlee and some others."

I knew to use their names, because for some insane and completely crazy reason, my parents liked the Sinclairs. Or maybe they just seemed to think that if they were nothing but nice to the other family, they'd get a discounted car from Mr. Sinclair's dealership. After I grabbed a light jacket from the hall closet, I left quickly, before my parents decided to change their minds.

The Cadillac was parked in front of my neighbor's house, and Avery was leaning against the passenger side of it, hands in his pockets. As I stopped in front of him, his gaze swept over me slowly, making me feel kind of warm.

"Where were you today?" I tried to keep my tone indifferent.

"Did you miss me?"

"Of course not," I said, but even I wasn't convinced. "I just thought I might have been off the hook with this date thing."

He gave a little bark of laughter, and he nodded his head. "Sure," he said. "I was at a friend's house – just didn't feel like dealing with the teachers and their shit today. ...I missed you too; if it helps."

"Ugh." I went to the passenger side door, and pulled it open with a creak.

He was still laughing as I shut the door, and my face broke out into a small smile. It was becoming increasingly difficult not to let his good nature rub off on me. As he slid into the driver's seat, sticking his key into the ignition of the car, he side-glanced me, still smirking. I quickly tried to erase all remnants of my own smile.

"You should warn me next time," I said. "When you're not going to be in school or something, I mean."

"Why?" he asked slyly.

So I would know what days not to go to school. "So I'll know when I won't have to put up with you staring at me all the time." I shrugged.

"I'll remember to warn you next time," he said. "But only if you tell me the truth – you missed me, didn't you?"

I turned to him, and his cheeky grin returned. I rolled my eyes, then folded my arms over my chest. "Okay," I said, "So maybe I might have missed your company."

"How much?"

"Don't press your luck, Avery."

Chortling to himself, he shifted gears and pulled away from the curb. I turned to look out the window, and my small smile was reflected back at me. But for once, I didn't try to make it disappear.

------------------

I cut off before the date?! I know, and I'm sorry. I just didn't want this chapter to get too long. I promise the next chapter is better, or at least I think it's better. ;)