Chapter Ten

"Wow, Abs," Andrew said as he threw his pack of cards down on the card table. "Dating for money? Really?"

"Yep," I replied, raking a hand through my untamed pink locks of hair. "Does it surprise you?"

"Kind of," he admitted, then paused. "Well, not really. I guess it just depends on how you look at it."

"He's got a point," Gracie said, gathering the cards together so that she could shuffle them. "I mean, I'd expect you to do almost anything for money… I guess I just never expected you to try out dating."

"Yeah, yeah," I said, rolling my eyes. "You got anything to say about this, Jane?"

"You're a dumbass," she replied simply, snapping her gum.

"Yeah," I muttered, burying my head in my hands. "Thanks."

"Aw, come on, Abs," Andrew said. "Cheer up. One day, when you're a married, rich, stuck up bitch, you'll realize he was the only reason you didn't end up working at McDonalds."

"Comforting," I muttered.

"Well, I think you're doing the right thing," Gracie piped up, dealing out the cards.

"Since when does your moral compass ever point north?" Jane pointed out.

"I mean, you need the money, right?" Gracie continued, ignoring her. "And if you really feel like you can't deal with this Chris dude, you can always just go for his brother. Double win!"

I glared at her. "Really, Gracie?"

She shrugged. "I'd do it."

"You'd do anything," Andrew said, picking up his hand, then added, "and everyone."

"Point taken," Grace replied cheerfully. "Come on, now, I want to win this round."

"Well, I'm out," I said, pushing my cards away before I could even look at them.

All three of them looked at me like I was growing a second head.

"Is she okay?" Andrew whispered.

"I don't know," Gracie replied. "I mean, she sounded like Abby a few minutes ago… Maybe this whole Chris thing has made her develop multiple personalities?"

"Ha ha," I deadpanned. "You guys are hilarious."

"It's the best explanation we have, Abby," Andrew replied. "You never sit out on a hand."

"Well, now I am," I said, standing up. "The past few days, I've had the worst luck ever. I'm not going to get into that again until karma decides that I'm its favorite again."

Gracie glanced at me, but otherwise didn't react. She already knew my theory, though–I'd told her about it Saturday, when she'd decided to stay the night.

"Don't you think you're being overdramatic?" she had asked. "I mean, maybe you're getting this all mixed up. Maybe this is the best thing that has ever happened to you, you know?"

"No, I don't," I had said, looking away stubbornly.

Gracie had rolled her eyes. "Well, you're the one who agreed to the deal," she'd pointed out. "You can get out of it whenever you want. Just give it a try, and if it's as bad as you seem to think…"

She hadn't finished her sentence, but she didn't need to. I could break off the deal, and I knew that. But then what? I'd be out of the money that I actually needed, that's what. I may not have liked Chris very much, but I knew that, financially, he could help me out a lot; he'd probably even be willing to pay me extra, if he knew I needed it. Besides, it's not like he was going to leave me alone either way, now would he?

So, yes, in case you were wondering, I was a bit overdramatic, and yes, I was completely selfish, but really, does that surprise you? This is me we're talking about.

"I'm going to class," I said, reaching around for my backpack before I remembered that I'd lost it in detention. That day seemed so far away, even though it had been a little less than a week ago.

"What?" Andrew sounded so surprised that I could have just told him that I was his biological mother. He probably would've sounded a little more disgusted if I had told him that, though. "Abigail Jenison, going to class? Gracie, screw multiple personalities–I think we've found ourselves in a parallel universe."

Gracie grinned but didn't look up from where she was carefully reshuffling the cards. She was anal about that–if she accidentally dealt an extra hand, she had to redo the whole thing.

"You're an asshole," I informed him. "And yes, I'm going to class. During my meeting this morning with Henke and McCarthy, they informed me that I was on the fast-track of failing, and that if I skipped many more classes, they'd force me to come in during the summer."

"Sounds like they're cracking down on you," Andrew said, taking out a pack of cigarettes.

"No shit." I glanced longingly at the cigarettes, but turned away with a sigh as I heard the bell ring. "I'm off to go wallow in my self-pity now, if you don't mind."

"Have fun with that!" Gracie called after me as I plodded up the basement stairs.

When I got to the basement teeming with students, I crossed my arms and sighed. For some reason, it felt so weird to be here. Five days away from school and it feels like it's been a year.

"Abby," I heard someone call.

I turned around to see a mass of blond hair come bobbing towards me. Attached to it was Delilah.

"Abby," she said again when she reached me, smiling. "You're back!"

"I am," I said, forcing a grin. "What'd I miss?"

"Not much," Delilah admitted as we walked through the crowds toward Psychology. "Well, actually a lot, class-wise. Hefford was about to get through a lot without you there. But nothing really interesting."

"Glad to hear that class is boring without me," I said with a smile.

"Class is boring either way, Abby," Delilah said, elbowing me lightly. "You just make it more interesting, sometimes."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence."

"What are best friends for?"

Delilah and I exchanged a smile, and I couldn't help but feel better.

"So, did you learn anything over those days of suspension?"

I thought about that. I considered telling her about Chris, about everything that had gone on, but I decided not to. I knew it would all lead to me telling her that I decided to go out with Chris for money, which would definitely get a reaction of disapproval from her. I guess I could always say that it was a real relationship, no money involved whatsoever, but I knew that Delilah knew me better than that. Besides, the only thing I'd really learned was that I was really good at being stupid, and I knew she wasn't looking for an answer like that.

So, instead I shrugged and said, "No, not really."

Delilah sighed. "Not even that it's bad to escape detention?"

"I don't regret a thing."

Delilah sighed again and shook her head. "Okay, whatever you say, Abby."

We were at Mrs. Hefford's class by then. And what do you know, the old devil was standing outside her class, glaring me down.

"Nice to see you again," I said, grinning at her.

"One wrong move and I'll crush you like a bug," was her tame reply.

Delilah raised her eyebrows and looked at me, her expression alarmed. "Did you just hear what I heard?" she whispered as we walked into the classroom.

"Loud and clear," I replied, unfazed. Just because Delilah thought that all teachers were wise, knowledgeable beings who had the sun shining out of their asses didn't mean that I did.

"Hey, Pinky!" Mark called the second he saw me. "Long time no see, right? Miss me?"

"Not at all," I replied, sitting down.

"You know you secretly want to bear my children," he said, leaning in close to my desk. "So, what's the bet for today?"

"I don't think I'll be holding one today," I said, trying to ignore the looks of surprise from… well, pretty much everyone who was within earshot.

"Aw, come on, Abby!" Amanda said, joining Mark and I. "You've been gone since Wednesday! Mark offered to hold a pool, but we all know he'd steal half of what we put it in."

Mark just smiled. I think he was trying to look innocent, but he looked more like an imp fornicated with a monkey and had… well, his face as a child.

"Please," Mark begged me quietly. "It's my last twenty, and I have a date scheduled this Friday. Twenty ain't gonna get me anywhere."

"A date?" I scoffed. "You? Yeah, whatever."

"Well, it shouldn't matter to you anyway," he said. "I mean, you plan to win, right?"

You know, he was making it so hard to abstain from something that was so in my nature. I just wanted to let my unlucky streak pass, but everyone was so intent on pushing me right back into my not-so-old ways.

And hey, I was strangely alright with that.

"Okay, okay," I relented, pulling out my wallet. "Money and time slots, please."

"You're the best Pinky," Mark said, getting out his wallet.

"Yeah, I don't need you to tell me," I said, rolling my eyes.

Mark ignored my comment as he handed me his twenty-dollar bill. "I'll go for… eh, well, seeing as you're back, five minutes."

"But she's had five days of relaxation without me," I reasoned. "So I'm going to have to go with at least seven."

"I don't know," Amanda piped up from behind Mark. "I'm going to be safe and try for two."

I rolled my eyes. "You guys are so overdramatic." I leaned forwards, towards where Dre was sitting. "Hey, Dre, you in?"

He glanced over his shoulder at me and shook his head. "I'm broke," he replied. "Sorry."

I knew that wasn't a very good sign, considering I knew enough about Dre's family to know that if he was broke, so was everyone else. "Alright, Big D, if that's what you want."

He didn't reply, just turned back around. Yep, things were definitely not all right in Dre World.

I shrugged that thought off, though. "So, we got a two, a five, and a ten. Is that all?"

Considering everyone else around us ignored us, I'd say that that's a definite yes.

The bell rang then, causing everyone to scramble back to their seats. I stuffed the money I'd collected into my pocket and out of Mrs. Hefford's view as she stomped into the class. She stood in the front of the class for a moment, her eyes roving between us, as if she were just challenging us to do something, anything that might set her off.

Which, really, when you think about it, is pretty much an open invitation.

"Okay," she grumbled, stomping over to her desk and gathering a stack of papers together. She gave the large stack of papers to the girl sitting in front of her desk. "Pass these around the room, please."

As papers rustled, I kept my eyes glued to the clock, only taking them off to receive my paper and hand the stack to the next person. Two minutes had already passed, so Amanda was out. Before long, Mark would be, too.

"Today, we're going to talk about observational learning," Mrs. Hefford said, walking up to the board. "This is a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating novel behavior executed by others." There was a pause, before Hefford asked, "Yes, Mark?"

I whirled around in my seat to see Mark smirking. "Um, did you get that definition off of Wikipedia or something?"

I could already see that her patience was dwindling. Maybe they were right about her this time.

"No, Mark," she replied. "It's in your book. You can find the definition on page two-thirty-seven."

"Really?" he asked, sounding curious. "Because, you know, Abby said she saw you printing off a bunch of Wikipedia pages to learn all this stuff."

I gaped at him. "I did not!"

Mrs. Hefford ignored me, though, instead choosing to glare at me. "I actually learned all my information in school," she informed us, her voice cold. "Something you couldn't bother to do, correct, Abigail?"

"He was lying!"

"Well, Abby already thinks you're a crappy teacher," Mark spoke over me. "She wanted to get you Psychology for Dummies for your birthday, but I stopped her."

"Abigail," Hefford said harshly. "I will not have you disrespecting me like that!"

I gaped at her. "I–"

"She also said she saw you printing out a fake teaching certificate," Mark chimed in cheerfully. "Is she right? Because I mean, I think you're an amazing teacher, but I just want to know if you'd really do that…"

"Of course not!" she defended, then glared at me. "Abigail, what is with this slander?"

"I didn't do anything!" I cried.

"Oh, like hell!" she yelled, surprising us all. "I have had enough of you and your insolent attitude. I've had enough of all of you! I work my butt off every day to try to make you successful, intellectual scholars, and all you do is–"

I glanced up at the clock. Five minutes exactly.

I turned around and glared at Mark. I was about to say something, but I was interrupted by Mrs. Hefford.

"And you, you pink-haired little wench, I want you out of my class! You can walk your ingrateful little fanny all the way to Ms. Henke's room and reconsider your existence, because she's got some punishments waiting for you!"

"Yeah, whatever," I sighed. I glanced back at Mark and gave him the middle finger salute. "Thanks a lot, asshole."

"Abigail!"

"Yeah, yeah, I know." I grumbled, wiping my hair out of my face. "Adios."

When I got into the hallway, though, I didn't go to Henke's office. I didn't really do anything. I didn't want to go down and be yelled at by Henke –I mean, I liked her and everything, but that was kind of her job –and I didn't want to go back to the basement, because I know that I'd be tempted to lose even more money. I mean, hell, I just lost the betting pool, which hasn't happened in ages! The only reason Mark still put in is because he was determined to beat me, Dre because he actually needed the money and, a lot of the time, I let him split the profit, and Amanda because… well, I never really did figure out why Amanda still put up with losing all the time, but still! This was not the way it was supposed to go down.

I glanced around, unsure of what to do. I could always just sit here, but I knew that, with my sudden luck, I'd be caught and escorted right down to Henke's office, or worse, McCarthy's. Maybe this time he would get so pissed off and annoyed that he's find something to press charges over. Maybe he'd get me arrested. All I knew is that it would be the recipe for disaster. So yeah, no basment, no Henke's office, and no... well, no anywhere else in the school, either.

So, I did what any rational person would do. I went to the roof.

It wasn't hard to get up there, really. Like the basement, the janitor was too stupid to keep the door locked, and the rest was all a matter of not getting caught. Which, of course, I didn't. Despite my pink hair and the fact that every teacher has been alerted about me and my "shenanigans", they never seemed to realize when I was up to no good. They seemed to catch me the most when I was absolutely innocent.

The warm air rustled my pink hair the second I stepped out, like how my dad used to tousle my hair when I was younger. It tugged on my too-big shirt and motioned me towards the edge of the building. I followed it, surprised at how high up I really was. If I fell, I'd probably die on impact. Not like I was stupid enough to do that.

I stared out at the stretches of land covered in little jack-in-the-box houses and ribbons of winding roads, intertwining and untangling in all directions. From up here, it didn't look so neat and organized as it did when you were riding your bike or driving through the neighborhood –from up here it looked like a jumbled mess that someone had thrown down carelessly, the town spilling out in its own directions.

It amazed me, sort of. I'd only been up there once before, during freshman year. My friend Gregory Pratt, who had been a senior at a time, had brought me up here when we were skipping class so that he could smoke his weed. We'd been quiet, mostly, because that's kind of how Greg was, especially when he was high. But after we'd spent a nice amount of time out there, him smoking his joints and me lazily hanging over the ledge of the roof, watching the town live and breathe.

"You see, this is what life really looks like," he'd said, prodding me idly with his foot. "They try to tell you that it's all perfect and organized and shit, like they've got everything under control, but they don't. It's all an illusion, and all it takes is a different perspective to show you that it's all an attempt to cover the truth–that life isn't as tame and controlled as those corporal jackasses want you to think. They're just wasting their time playing God."

At the time, I'd thought that he was being completely ridiculous, that maybe he's smoked a little more than his poor brain could handle. And, well… I still do, honestly. But I don't think that his revelation was far off. If you can imagine, it had been Greg who really made me the radical humanitarian I was today.

I stayed up there until I realized that the bell was going to ring soon. That's when I hurried back inside and towards Mrs. Hefford's class, where I'd wait for Delilah.

Sure enough, the bell rang about as soon as I got there.

"Abby!" Delilah said as soon as she burst out of the classroom. "You're out of Henke's office already?"

"There wasn't much to say," I said, which was pretty much the truth. I mean, I'd tell her that it was Mark's fault, and she wouldn't believe me, and that's how it would go.

She shook her head, looking disgusted, and for a second I thought that she knew I was lying. But then she said, "I can't believe Mark did that. He's a pig!"

"Yeah, well, I guess," I replied, scratching my arm.

"Hey, Pinky!"

"Well, speak of the devil," Delilah muttered, but we both turned around to where the voice was coming from anyway.

Mark was walking towards us, followed by Amanda. "Pinky, where's my money?"

"You mean this money?" I asked, pulling it out of my pocket. "I don't think you deserve this money."

"I won it fair and square."

"No, you lied," Delilah piped in. "That's cheating!"

I was still surprised that Delilah was standing up for me. She was my best friend, yeah, but she'd never approved of this whole gambling thing, and usually it seemed like she couldn't care less if I won or lost.

"Is it, really?" he asked, giving us a knowing look. At least, I think that's what he was going for. He looked more like he was doped up on cough medicine or something. "Abby does that thing all the time. I was just giving it a try."

"He does have a point," Amanda butted in, strutting up to stand next to us.

"You heard the lady," Mark said, holding out his hand. "Give me the moolah."

I thought about that for a second. "Half of it."

"All of it."

"Half," I repeated.

"All."

"Half."

"Abigail!" I shrill voice cried, and I knew I had to get out of there–Hefford had spotted me.

"Fine, here," I gave in, hastily shoving the money into his hand.

"Sweet!" he cried, grinning triumphantly. Then he whirled around to face Amanda. "Hey, Calloway, since I won, you want to go on a date with me Friday?"

I was about to get the hell away from there, but I was so surprised by his words that I had to stop. Mark… and Amanda? But they couldn't stand each other!

Amanda looked just as stumped as I felt. "What?"

"You should go on a date with me," he said, sounding confident. "I've got cash, you've got lips, and I'm ready to make out."

Well, that comment was enough to sober Amanda up. "No way," she answered in abhorrence, shaking her head and smiling like it was the most ridiculous thing that she'd ever heard. "I'd never go out with you."

"Oh, you know you want to!" he called after her as she walked away. Then he turned to Delilah and I. "She wants to."

"Abigail!" Hefford shrieked again. "Why aren't you in Ms. Henke's office?!"

"Um, sure," I said to Mark, glancing over to where Hefford was giving me the stink eye. "Well, I'm going to get going, then."

I hurried down the hall, Delilah trailing after me. "I can't believe he asked her out," I said when I felt a safe distance away from my Psychology teacher. You know, just in case she decided to go homicidal.

"Mark and Amanda?" Delilah asked, then shrugged. "I don't see how it's so surprising."

"Come on, Lilah." I rolled my eyes, as if it were obvious. "I mean, they hate each other! Have you seen them together?!"

But she just laughed and shook her head. "You know, you can be so blind sometimes," she said, knocking on my shoulder with her fist lightly. "All those arguments and dirty looks… That's their way of flirting."

I made a face. "That's supposed to be flirting?"

"I'm pretty sure that's the only way they know how to," Delilah explained with a smile. "You've seen them, right? They never complain about anyone else, only each other. And did you see Amanda's reaction?"

"She was disgusted."

Delilah rolled her eyes. "Wow, you're worse at reading people than I thought," she muttered. "She was covering up. She wanted to say yes, but, because their way of flirting is so… derogatory, she pretended like he was the last person she'd ever want to date. Like hard to get. It's simple, really."

Well, it didn't seem so simple to me. In fact, I thought it was complete and utter bullshit, but I didn't want to say that to my best friend–I mean, she might get hurt or something. "Wow, you should be a relationship consultant, Lilah."

"Maybe," she replied. "Just as long as you promise not to be one."

"You don't have to worry about that."

"I'm glad," she said, then hesitated, like she was thinking about something. "Hey, want to hang out tonight? We can do what we used to do, rent a movie and get some moose track ice cream or something. What do you think?"

"She can't," a voice said behind us–the next second, Gracie was walking beside us. "Abby's got herself a date."

"A date?" Delilah sounded surprised, and–ah, hell, there was that hurt. It was covering her face, plastering against it like make up. "You have a date?"

"Uh, yeah," I said, scratching the back of my neck and shooting a glare at Gracie, who gave me a thumbs up and a wink. "It's not like it's very important or anything…"

"Not important?" Delilah asked, sounding betrayed. "Abby, I don't think you've ever gone on a date. How is that not important?"

"Okay, I have so been on a date," I argued, planting a hand on my hip. "Remember… uh… Henry Conwell?"

"You mean Harry Conner?" Delilah asked with a sigh. "Abby, that wasn't really a date… you took him to the carnival because you accidentally ran over his dog and broke his Mom's window and you didn't want any criminal charges pressed."

"Yeah, whatever," I replied, waving her comment away. "This is, like, the same thing."

"Yeah, except this time she's going out with some rich guy because he likes stalking her and he's going to pay her," Gracie butted in cheerfully.

"Okay, why do I tell you anything?" I glared at the brunette.

Gracie simply grinned. "Because you love me."

"Money?" Delilah was looking at me, her eyes wide. "Oh, no… Abby, she's lying, right?"

"I don't lie," Gracie informed her.

"Oh, like hell!" I retorted.

But Delilah was focused on me. "Why would you do that?" she asked me. "Why would–" She stopped mid-sentence though, her eyes growing even wider than before. "Chris. You're going on a date with Chris, aren't you?"

"You know him?" Gracie asked her, sounding almost incredulous.

"Yeah, met him a little while ago," Delilah informed her, then turned back to me. "Abby, are you only doing this for money?"

"Well, yeah," I snorted. "Why else would I? I don't like dating, and I don't like Chris."

"But he likes you." She massaged her temples and then looked back at me. "If it's just for the money, don't do it."

"Why not?" I asked, aware of how defensive I sounded.

"Because, Abby, just because it might not mean anything to you, that doesn't mean that it doesn't mean anything to him."

She tried to walk away then, tried to make me think about what she said, but I caught her backpack and pulled her back. "Wait a second," I said. "Why would you think that?"

"Because, I'm the relationship consultant, remember?" She offered me a small smile, one that held all of the disappointment that I had caused her that she was trying to hide. She wasn't very good at it. "I've seen you guys together, remember?"

"Then you should know that we can't stand each other."

"You guys don't get along well," she admitted, "and I really think you drive him crazy. But he likes you. By the looks of it, a lot."

Before I could reject her answer or call her on her crap, she managed to get away from me and hurry away. I wasn't sure which was affecting me more: her words, or the look she had given me, the one that screamed of her displeasure towards me.

"Well," Gracie said after a second. "If it makes you feel any better, I think she's full of shit."

I didn't say anything, because the truth? The truth is that it made me feel even worse.


Author's Note: Wow... that has to be the longest filler chapter in the history of the world... That's kind of what this turned out to be, unintentionally. I just wanted to show how things would be for Abby once she got back to school, and I was going to add the "date" scenes to it, but there just didn't seem to be enough room, unless I wanted a 10,000 word chapter :) So sorry! I know it's boring...

Anyway... Abby's just getting herself into a rut! Maybe Chris will help her get out... ;)

Okay, don't think I'm giving you a clue, because I honestly don't know... I've sort of stopped planning these chapters, because nothing ever happens like I expect it to. I think my fingers have a mind of their own!

I'll just be crossing my fingers that next chapter will be better... a LOT better...

Thank you to the reviewers: sappyromancelvr, pinkeclipse, applenica, rainstains tarte, Epic-Lee Fayeld, Melodies of Life, and Heil

Thanks so much :)

Love, Autumn

PS: Sorry about how the "chapter ten" isn't centered. It's annoying me like crazy, but it completely refuses to!!! So yeah... I give up. You win this time, fictionpress...