I watched her closely from across the ballroom. She was fresh meat to these parties. I would know. I had been attending these asinine functions thrown by my parents since day one. As the only son of the coveted Dr. Terrence Scott and his wife Delia, I had a certain reputation to uphold. I put on my best suit a few times a year and waltz around the gala complimenting the women and holding light conversation with the men. I had become quite charming from a young age, and now at sixteen I could easily manipulate conversations in my favor. Most of the time, the couples did not even register that fact that I had been openly mocking them for over a half an hour.
"Did you see the new girl? My sister said she bought her dress off of the rack and should be avoided at all costs," my best friend Jack said with a laugh. Our sisters had always been ridiculous like that.
"Yeah, I was just observing her, actually. She's been fairly interesting to stalk, I must say," I joked back.
She was dressed in a muted green dress that was semi-conservative. She hugged the corners of the room, as if silently begging everyone to avoid her. I pegged her to be about fifteen, and most likely the painfully shy and mundane daughter of one of the esteemed guests. I toyed with the idea of approaching her, simply for my own entertainment. However, it was when she began to speak Mr. Binoche, a French politician.
"Uh-oh, there goes Binoche. She's in for it now," Jack commented.
Now, this man had been creeping on underage girls for years, and I figured he was just welcoming her in his own unique, creeptastic way. But what surprised me was that they had been talking for quite a while. Longer than a cheesy pick-up line and snub exchange should require.
I hastened my way over to the dessert table to be within earshot of the conversation.
"Well, while that may be relevant, I feel as though you continue to miss the point I wish to convey. I agree whole-heartedly that meddling in other countries' affairs is dangerous and in most cases, unacceptable. However, I feel that encouraging underdeveloped countries to form more stable governments and infrastructures should be embraced by all established countries, either by providing aid or simply advice." Damn. New girl is smart.
"Ah, but you misjudge those who need help. Many times it is not in our best interest to coddle those who do not seek guidance," Binoche replied in his stuffy accent.
"Monsieur Binoche, no degree of courage comes without some amount of fear. Pride may stop them, but your example of compassion and bravery to reach out to those in need can speak even louder than their apprehension, sir." He chortled at her response.
"The American tenacity never ceases to amaze me."
"And the French ignorance, me. If you'll excuse me, sir, I'm going to refresh my drink."
Holy. Mother. Of . God. I just witnessed new girl put a prominent French politician in his place. I mean, talk about whipping out a can of whoop-ass. She just verbally smashed Snooty McCreeperson, and I for one was dumb-founded. Binoche must have been too, because he stood there with this ridiculous look on his face.
I watched as she refilled her champagne glass and glanced around the room. She noticed my amused stare and flushed, instantly looking for a corner to hide in. She found better though; she spied a hallway and made a beeline to leave the room.
I found myself faced with a dilemma. Should I follow her? I seriously wanted to know this girl's name. But I didn't want to freak her out, either. I mean, she just ran down a hallway because I was looking at her. What would happen if I so much as tried to talk to her?
"Carson, darling, what are you staring at?" My mother pulled me away from my thoughts.
"Nothing, Mother. I was just contemplating something." I gave her a smile in hopes that she would leave me to my own devices.
"Well, would you be a dear and go ask the chef when he will be serving the shrimp appetizers? The party is almost half over and they have yet to make an appearance." Excellent. The kitchen is just down that hallway.
"Sure, Mother. I'll be right back."
I walked slowly down the passage, listening for any sounds from the rooms. I was about to give up when I heard some shuffling and what sounded like a stumble from the last room on the left, our library. I opened the door very slowly, as to not alert her of my presence.
I expected to see her sitting in one of the chairs, lounging out of boredom. But what I found was so much better. I find her climbing the shelves in her dress to reach the top rack of books. She quickly grabbed one of the books and jumps down, making a perfect landing in her heels.
"You know, we have a sliding ladder in the corner for dilemmas such as that," I said to alert her of my presence.
She jumped back and stared at me with wide eyes. She had beautiful eyes. They were the strangest shade of blue. Almost like a graying blue.
"Sorry, I just figured it would be faster to climb."
"Eh, you're probably right. I'm Carson Scott, by the way. This is my parents' party."
"Oh, well then sorry I was just climbing all over your furniture," she said, flushing a little.
"Don't be. It was the second most entertaining thing I've seen tonight."
"Glad to be of service. What was the most entertaining thing you've seen?"
"You wiping the floor with Monsieur Binoche will forever be engraved in my mind."
"Oh, you saw that?"
"Saw it, heard it, praised it. It was nothing short of miraculous."
"I wouldn't go that far. I actually think I could have handled the situation better. I was a bit harsh."
"You don't understand this guy, though. You do realize that he only approached you to flirt with you shamelessly. The fact that you threw it in his face and then some is exactly what this guy needed. I have never seen him with that look on his face, either. I think you just saved yourself from years of creeping and torture from Binoche. Trust me; he followed my older sister around unmercifully for years before she left for college."
She stood there staring at me. I was not sure if she didn't believe me, or if she was simply deciding what to say. She seemed to do that quite a bit; she never said anything unpremeditated.
"Well, then I don't feel that bad, I suppose. Besides, he was a complete political pansy. I may be tenacious, but I'd rather be that than a coward."
I laughed heartily. This girl was hilarious. I never knew what to expect from her. Just when I think she is going to clam up, she blows me out of the water.
"What's your name? I don't think we've been formally introduced?"
"Alayna. Alayna Rettick. My parents and I just moved here a few weeks ago."
"Oh, what do your parents do?"
"Well, my father is a lawyer and just made partner with a firm in the city, and my mother decorates and orders people around." I laughed again as she cracked a smile.
"I see. My mother is quite fond of ordering people around as well."
"Maybe they could be friends," she suggested with a coy smile.
"Maybe we could be friends," I retorted.
"Don't you think that would be risky? We have already established that I am a little volatile, and you find these antics amusing. We could cause quite a bit of trouble."
"You're absolutely right. Instead of friends, we shall be partners-in-crime." I smiled my best smile to try to charm her. I would fully be willing to participate in any shenanigans that involved her.
"Now you wouldn't be flirting with me right now, would you? You have already witnessed what happens to these unsuspecting gentlemen."
"I'm sorry, I can't help it. It is just that I have been the sole troublemaker in this town since before I could talk. The prospect of having help is much too tempting."
"Oh, really. Well, what kind of trouble have you caused?"
"Let's see. When I was five, I spiked the punch at one of my parents' soirees with whiskey. It was great. At twelve, I switched all the coat check tags. It took two hours to sort out that mess. Recently I have given my parents a break and moved on to torturing the unsuspecting females. Last year, I tricked this senior girl into meeting me in the laundry room. Imagine her father's surprise when he found his naked daughter waiting for a suitor next to the clean underwear." She laughed at my brazen behavior, and I could not help but join her.
"That is quite a list. I don't really do prank stuff. I mostly stick to terrorizing credulous town's folk. That's not the first time I've told a politician to stick it where the sun don't shine, and I've made enough teenage girls cry to start my own water treatment facility." This girl had an answer for everything.
"Well, I hope New York is ready."
"I don't think anyone ever could be," she giggled.
"True." We talked for a while longer about random subjects. Alayna was an avid reader and we had similar tastes in music. I was getting ready to ask for her number when I heard my mother's shrill voice at the door.
"Carson, dear, what are you doing?"
"I was just showing Alayna Rettick the library, mother. Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked."
"Ah, Alayna. How are you doing, sweetheart? Enjoying the party?"
"Very much, Mrs. Scott. I thank-you for your hospitality. Carson was just telling me you take great pride in your home." Alayna knew how to play the parents, too? This girl is unreal.
"I do. It has given me great pride these past eighteen years with Terrence. If you don't mind, I need to borrow Carson."
"Not at all. Thank-you for lending him to me for an hour," Alayna said, pushing a light chuckle. My mother of course reciprocated the sentiment.
"It's our pleasure to have you in our home, Alayna. Enjoy the rest of the evening," my mother commented, pulling me by my arm out the door before Alayna could say anything more.
"What exactly do you think you're doing, Carson? Do you even know who Alayna Rettick is?"
"Well, Mr. Rettick is a lawyer, and she enjoys debating politics. I didn't get much farther than that."
"Thank God. You need to stay away from her, Carson. She is trouble from the word go. She refuses her trust fund, and I heard she is planning to be a writer or something equally as whimsical and asinine as that when she graduates. She has no future or substance, Carson."
"Perhaps that is what is best for her, Mother." My mother whipped around and glared at me.
"Don't tell me she was able to so easily sway you in an hour. You know that your future holds a medical degree and a good wife."
"I know, Mother. I was just commenting on the fact that this life is not for everyone. I question my own sanity sometimes as well."
"Well, you just remember who you are, Carson. And remember who she isn't. Don't ever forget."
"I'm going back to the party now, Mother. I will see you later." I turned to leave before I lost my temper and caused a scene. My mother could be so wretched sometimes it made me physically ill. Alayna was a great girl, and she deserved to be respected as one. She did not want to be associated with her name and family once she was an adult. More power to her; I wish I was that ballsy.
I made my way back into the ballroom and could not help but search the room for her. Even if I did not get the chance to speak to her for the rest of the night I wanted to be able to just watch her. But I was surprised to find that I did not see her or who I remembered to be her father from earlier in the evening when we were introduced.
"Where did you go, man? You disappeared for an hour!" Jack said as he saw me lurking around the room.
"I was with new girl. Her name is Alayna."
"Right on, man! You've always had better game."
"We didn't hook up. We just talked in the library."
"You just talked? Why?"
"Because she's not like that, Jack. Shut the hell up," I snapped at Jack. I do not know why I was suddenly so defensive of Alayna, but I certainly did not like my mother and Jack talking about her as if she was an expensive vase.
"Sorry, man. It's just it's the first time in your sixteen years that I've seen you following a girl around like a puppy."
"I'm not following her around like a puppy."
"Oh, really. So you wouldn't be interested to know that she just left, but she handed me this paper to give to you?"
"Give it to me now!" I all but screamed at Jack. He started laughing.
"You're funny, Carson. Here's your little girlfriend's note," he said handing me the paper as I glared at him.
I opened the note quickly.
I did not want to leave wondering when I would see you again. We are to be partners-in-crime, after all. I live in the Woodbury estates, fourth house on the left. If you go in the backyard, a trellis scales the house up to a balcony. I know how your mother feels about me, so I forgive you if you don't come.
But I hope you do.
"Jack, tell my mom I wasn't feeling well and went to bed early if she asks where I am."
"I thought you weren't hooking up?" Jack asked with a smug grin.
"We're not! I just didn't get to talk to her for very long earlier is all."
"Ok, whatever you say, Casanova. See you Monday."
"Back at you." With my departing words, I ran to my room and changed into a t-shirt and shorts. It was still balmy outside for September. I wondered if she would go to the prep school Jack and I went to in the city. I certainly hope so.
I ran to my car and snuck out the back gate to avoid the security at the front of the house. If they saw me, they would be sure to tell my mother, and I could not have her knowing I left, especially to visit Alayna.
I wondered why Alayna wanted to see me. I knew I definitely wanted to see more of her; although I couldn't place my sense of urgency to be near her. It was just a strange feeling I had; as if if I didn't see her regularly, something would be off.
I parked down the street from her house, just to be safe. No need for her parents or possible security to be alarmed. I crept slowly into her backyard, avoiding the windows in case someone was awake in the house. I felt kind of like James Bond, and like any normal sixteen-year-old guy, I reveled in it. I even contemplated rolling across the lawn at one point to heighten my spy nature. I wish I had taken karate.
I finally found the trellis she must have been referring too. It was quite a ways to the balcony, but I could see a faint light coming from the room, and used that as my excuse to get over any fear.
The climb was surprisingly easier than I thought it was. I slipped a few times, but made it to the railing relatively unscathed. I was able to toss my legs over the edge and hoist myself up. Success. The curtains to the room were closed and I all of the sudden found myself unsure of what to do. Do I knock on her door? It seemed like the courteous thing to do. But I doubt she has visitors through this door regularly, and I don't want to scare her.
I decided to man up and just knock. Worst-case scenario, I make a break for my car and race home, and I was fast. I knocked three crisp taps, not too loud as to not wake anyone.
She whipped open the door and grinned brightly at me. I couldn't help but grin just as widely back. I was suddenly so grateful that I came.
"I'm so happy you came. I was worried that Jack kid would forget to give you the letter. And then I was worried you would think I was creepy or expecting something by inviting you over."
"Yeah, Jack can be kind of a tool. But he's cool. We've been friends since elementary school. And I thought I would be creepy coming over so late and knocking on your balcony door."
"Well, I for one don't think it's creepy at all for partners-in-crime to visit each other at odd hours."
"I like the way you think, Lane," I said with a smile. She stared at me with a strange look.
"What's wrong?" I asked, suddenly worried that I had said something wrong.
"Nothing, it's just no one has ever given me a nickname before, and you've known me for three hours and throw one around like we're old friends."
I thought for a moment. I hadn't even thought about it really, it just fit her.
"At the risk of sounding cheesy and like a bad romantic-comedy, I kind of feel like I've known you for longer than three hours. I wish I have known you longer than three hours. I feel like I've been missing out on life so far."
She cracked a smile at me and led me farther into her room. I noticed she had quite a few books of her own, almost three bookshelves worth. She also had a keyboard and many records in the corner. I immediately began to sift through her things, soaking every little piece of her. I turned when I felt her gaze on me and realized we had yet to say anything in almost ten minutes.
"Find anything interesting?" she asked.
"I can't believe you have Thriller on vinyl." She giggled.
"Yeah, it took me awhile to find it in a record store."
"Why didn't you look online?"
"I enjoy the chase too much," she replied coyly.
I began to look through her bookshelves after her comment, because I found myself becoming very attracted her and I didn't trust myself to not make a move. Alayna was different from the usual girls at school; she didn't fall for all the old tricks. Not that she should; she was so much better than that.
"Like what you see?"
"You're not like most girls." She laughed at my pathetic comment.
"Well, I could have told you that," she said through her giggles.
"It's just you love to read, but not just tacky romance novels like most girls. You have great taste in music, and you listen to more than just what is popular. You're also terrifyingly smart, and you don't hide it, which I find refreshing."
"Terrifyingly smart, huh? Do I terrify you?"
"Not in a 'fatal attraction' way. More just like an 'I-could-get-my-ass-kicked' way, because I don't think I could win in an argument." She laughed at my confession.
"I'm really nothing special. I just have had to fight my mother tooth and nail for anything, and I learned from an early age that if it sounds like you know what you are talking about, people tend to let you be. Never underestimate a strong vocabulary."
"But I think you underestimate yourself. What you did to Binoche was more than just a strong vocabulary." She blushed at my compliment.
"Eh, he had it coming. If I hadn't done it, someone else would have."
"There you are wrong again. I think we have been waiting for someone like you finally to do it. I know I have," I said, whispering the last sentence. She gazed at me through her lashes, and in that moment, she looked so beautiful.
"Carson, I know your mother has already caught wind of my reputation. And I know she doesn't approve. I can't see your father warming up to me either. I don't know if we should let this go beyond friendship."
"You should know then that I could not care less what my parents have to say. I do what they ask most of the time, sure. I plan to go to medical school. But not because I plan to follow my father's example, but because I've always had a dream to work with a medical team in third world countries. Providing medical treatment and advice to those who can't help themselves. I think it's great that you've asserted that you want to live off of your own work instead of your parents', and I think you'd be a great writer. You have such a presence in person; I can't imagine how amazing that would translate to paper."
I looked into her eyes to see they were a bit moister than they had been before. Crap. I said something to make her cry already. I'm such an idiot. Should I just leave? I don't want to upset her by staying if she doesn't want to be near me anymore.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "It's just that no one has ever said something like to me before. My parents always wanted me to go into a more 'practical' career. My father tells me that all writers are bottom-feeders and can't support their families, and that his daughter is going to be more than that." Tears were streaming down her face by the end of her confession. "I'm sorry. I normally don't get so emotional."
Without thinking, I crossed the room and wrapped my arms around her. She seemed to relax in my arms almost instantly, thankfully.
"I didn't mean to upset you, Lane. I'm really sorry."
"No, don't be, Carson. You've made me so happy."
We stood in the center of her room for a long while, just holding one another and enjoying the silence.
"Alayna?" I asked after what seemed an eternity, but merely a few minutes at the same time.
"Yeah?" she sniffled.
"I know you said that you're afraid of my family and that you don't think we should be more than friends, but the truth is I don't know if that's possible for me. I don't see you in a friendly way, and I don't think I ever will. I will always want more of you, and all of you. And I will always want you to have all of me."
She looked up at me with her chin resting on my chest. "I want that, too. I just don't want you to have to go against your family for it."
"You let me worry about my parents. Maybe we'll hold off on telling them for a little while, just until you get settled in here." She smiled up at me.
"So I'll be your secret girlfriend? That sounds so bad teen movie."
"Not for long. Just until they get comfortable with me visiting you. I'll tell them when I'm with you."
"I don't think your mother is ever going to be comfortable with you seeing me."
"Well, she's going to have to be, yes?" I asked, smiling to her. She smiled back.
"Yes," she whispered. We spent another moment just smiling at one another.
"Can I kiss you?" I asked softly. I had wanted to kiss senseless for about an hour, but I didn't want her to think I was being too forward. She laughed at my cheesy question. I was just loaded with sappy comments, tonight.
"I think I'd like that." She barely got the words out before my lips were on hers. And for the first time in my life, I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted to do forever: kiss her. It was unreal how connected and whole I felt around her. I had known her for 6 hours, but it felt like I had been waiting for her my whole life, even though I didn't know it.
She was right, she is trouble. It was the night my life was irrevocably altered, and I couldn't have been happier.