I've begun to notice a pattern in my life and it's this: if anything bad happens to me, it's usually on a Tuesday. They're awful days, and I've never quite gotten the hang of them for some reason. Sometimes I figure that it's best to just sleep straight through them, which is exactly how I ended up almost failing a fucking ceramics survey course freshman year, but then that's a different story.
Today, I end up with multiple potential catastrophes to choose from before 9am - not least of which is a three-hour Bio lab that I'm running late for - when who should I bump into right outside my dorm? A certain five foot eight, brown-haired demon leaning up against the brick wall, a late breakfast cig dangling from her fingertips.
It's none other than Juliet fucking Banks, and the second I see here I know that I'm in trouble.
She's wearing her typical uniform these days: all black, thigh-high boots, and a ridiculously low-cut top. If someone had told me a year ago that come today, I'd give anything to never see this girl again, I'd have probably laughed in their face. But dear God, if she isn't sexy - even I could never hate her enough to be immune to that.
When Jules spots me standing in the doorway, she tilts her head to the side and takes one slow drag from the cig.
"I'm beginning to think that you're avoiding me."
No fucking kidding, I want to say, what was your first clue?
"I'm late," I say instead, voice flat.
Juliet smiles, a little too sweetly to be trusted. And then in a fluid movement she drops the cig on the ground and pushes off the wall, coming to stand in front of me.
"You're not supposed to smoke within fifty feet of the buildings, you know," I say, feeling dumb as fuck as soon as the words leave my mouth. It's something Aiden would say probably, and that just proves that I've been hanging out with him too much.
"I'm not much of a rule-follower," Juliet says, smirking. "If you haven't noticed."
She's standing right in front of me now; I recognize her perfume and it makes something near my stomach ache.
"What do you want, Jules?" I say, suddenly tired, exhausted, and praying she'll take pity on me.
No such luck.
"I miss you." She looks up at me, head tilted, lips pouted, just perfect. "It was my birthday last week, you know."
I nod. Of course I fucking know, you scorpion child.
"I thought you would at least say happy birthday." Jules continues, her lips drawn into a pout. My jaw clenches and when I don't respond, Jules continues: "You know, I thought about how last year we drove into the city for my birthday. Do you remember that?"
"Yeah, I remember." This is the kind of dumb shit Jules is always playing at, and she's not bad at it.
"Seb, can we talk?"
I sigh. Talk about what? What is there even left to say between us? How many times can we do this same shit?
"You know, I don't really want to talk."
Jules smiles, a simpering sort of a expression on her lips. "Then let's not talk," she says, her voice low. "Let's do anything but talk. I just miss you."
I know where this all leads. It's a path I've been down so many times it makes me nauseous. But I'm an idiot, and only a man after all, and she's wearing this red lipstick that drives me fucking crazy.
"Jules," I tear my eyes away from her. "I have class right now. I'm late."
"So do I," she interjects, shifting so she's back in my line of sight. "Skip with me. Please." She reaches out, placing one small, delicate hand on my chest, a pleading gesture that makes my heart skip.
I look down at her, and her blue eyes pierce into me. Jules tucks a strand of dark hair behind her ear, the late morning sun catching the hints of dark auburn in her hair. She bites her lip, and she knows that's all she has to do; I'm a fucking goner.
I let out another sigh, defeated.
"Okay," I say. "Come on."
We barely make it inside the dorm before we are tangled in each other.
My heart is pounding as she pulls me in, her lips crashing down on mine. Her hands are in my hair and my arms are wrapped around her tiny body, and I'm just praying that Aiden doesn't come back early for any reason as we fumble into my room.
Jules is my kryptonite, just an utter sex bomb designed to totally destroy me. I hook my arm around her waist, the curve of her hip so familiar to me that all I can feel is relief. She pulls away to rip her shirt over her head, her skin pale and glowing and perfect. I dip down to snag a hard kiss from her and then push her back against the door, trying desperately to win the upper hand.
"Jules," I mutter, and I can feel her Cheshire Cat grin against my lips, so pleased to have won.
"Seb," she whispers mockingly, and a smirk mars her beautiful face. Or maybe it makes her more beautiful, I don't know anymore.
"Been awhile, hasn't it?" My hand tangles through her hair, pulling back so my mouth can find her neck, find that spot she always likes.
"Too long," she murmurs.
When she collapses onto my bed underneath me, it amazes me how I always find myself in this situation, no matter how much I want to avoid it. I will be sick over this tomorrow, completely disgusted with myself and I know it, but right now Jules is stroking my chest and dragging me down, and for just those few moments we're the only two people on the planet.
I wish that this was the way things always were. I wish that she would stick around when she's not just looking for sex or the attention or a way to hurt me. I wish she was mine like this forever.
I wish I had never met her.
The next hour is lost to gasp and pleas and unsatisfying pleasure.
This kind of encounter with Jules alone is enough to put me into a foul, brooding mood for days to come, but it gets even worse with her warped version of pillow talk.
"Have you talked to Andrew lately?" She's sitting up in my bed, sheet wrapped around her chest and trying to turn her shirt right-side out.
I furrow my eyebrows. Andrew Banks is Jules older brother. He's a senior as well, Jules is one year below us. And she knows full fucking well that no, we haven't spoken. Not in over a year, with no intents to ever change that in the future.
"No, I haven't. Why?"
There is something dark in Jules smile. Her dark eyes are dancing down at me and it makes me uneasy. "Have you talked to Linnea lately?"
My mouth tightens into a straight line. "I talk to Linnea every day."
"You know, you're taking that whole thing surprisingly well. We all thought that you would be up in arms about someone touching your perfect, precious Linnea."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" I growl.
Jules face stretches into feigned shock. "You mean you don't know?" she asks innocently, blue eyes wide in false surprise. "Hasn't Linnea told you?"
"Told me what?" My voice is low and dangerous. I don't trust Jules for a second and if there is something that she's holding over my head like this it cannot be good.
A simpering smile slides into place. "They're fucking."
White hot anger courses through me. That is bullshit and I think that it's pretty fucking sad that Jules would resort to making up shit about Linnea just to hurt me.
"Fuck off, Jules." I whirl away from her off the bed. "Don't come in here and try to start something with some dumb lie."
Jules expression is gleeful and it makes me sick. "You think I'm lying?"
I start throwing her clothes to her on the bed, just wanting her to get dressed and leave, the sight of her is making me pissed.
"I know you're lying." There is no way in fuck that Linnea would touch Andrew fucking Banks, not with all our history, and definitely not without telling me first.
"Are you sure?"
Her voice is calm and calculated and it makes me pause for just a second. That's just the slight hesitation that Jules thrives on.
She continues. "Ask anyone, Seb. I mean, you can't be all that surprised, can you? She's been obsessed with him for years. And besides, you can't blame her - Rawdy and Andrew are friends, they're both PKE brothers after all. So it's not as if she's being disloyal to Rawdy." Jules looks up at me, smiling. "Just you."
I swallow hard. Her voice is disgusting to me, and don't know how it's even possible to hate someone as much as I hate her in this moment.
"Fuck you, Jules."
Jules fakes another innocent pout. "Aw, Sebby. Don't be angry with me—"
"Get the fuck out!" I shout, and to my surprise she seems to listen. I half-expected her to stick around and taunt me some more. It's smart though, I think as I watch her throw her clothes on quickly, because if she stayed much longer and talked the same shit I don't know if I could keep myself in check.
Jules bends down to kiss me on the cheek and I shove her away.
She laughs, but it doesn't reach her eyes. "It's nice to know that I can still get under your skin like this. Reminds me of the good old days."
Anger hisses inside of me. "Get the fuck out."
Her laugh is laced with malice and she walks to my door. "I'll see you around, Seb."
And then she is gone.
An hour later, I storm into the Dining Commons at lunchtime.
"Where the fuck is Linnea?" I growl at Lucy as I approach our table.
Lucy glances up at me moodily. "Better question is, where the fuck were you? You were supposed to meet me thirty minutes ago."
I drop into the seat next to her. "Sorry, I'm running a bit late on account of a nice little chat I was having with Juliet Banks." I hiss harshly. "Mentioned that Linnea's been sleeping with Andrew Banks. Know anything about that?"
Lucy's face pales, and she bites her lip hard. She's got guilt written all over, Lucy has always been shit at hiding anything, and I feel like I might vomit. I was hoping this was all some stupid lie.
"Seb, just try to chill—"
"Chill?" I shout. "Is this a joke? Andrew fucking Banks? Are you joking me?"
"Oh, come on Darling, just because you're in some dumb feud with him doesn't mean that we all are. I don't think he's so bad—"
I run a hand through my hair. "Are you serious? Fuck, Lucy, he's such an asshole, if you only knew."
A voice from behind me speaks, "Who is?"
I twist around, anger rising in my stomach. Linnea's standing there holding her lunch tray and munching on an apple.
"Seb, don't make a—" Lucy starts to speak but I cut her off.
"Does Rawdy know?" I say to Linnea, who looks towards Lucy, confusion on her face.
"Yes," Lucy says, with a sigh. "Seb, it's really not how it sounds—"
"How what sounds?" Linnea asks. "What's going on?"
"You and Andrew fucking Banks are what's going on, apparently," I hiss.
Linnea's green eyes go wide. "Lucy," she says with a nervous glance to the side, "you told him?"
Lucy shakes her head, her brown hair tumbling into her face. "No! I swear, I didn't. It was—"
"Jules, actually." I interject with a snarl. "Really enjoyed that little revelation. What the actual fuck, Linnea?"
Linnea slides into the seat across from me at the table and looks up at me, her face tensed. "Please don't be mad, I just didn't know how to tell you yet."
"Don't be mad? Andrew fucking Banks? What, are you guys dating now or something? Last I checked we didn't even talk to Banks." I make a frustrated sound and rub my temples. My temper bubbles up inside me, threatening to explode if I don't check it.
"Darling, look," Linnea says, placing her palms on the table. "I was planning to tell you soon, it's all very recent. It just sort of happened."
"It just sort of happened?" I repeat, seething. "No, Linnea, that's bullshit. Weather happens. Accidents happen. Sleeping with one of your worst enemies isn't something that just happens."
Linnea looks down at the table, her face blank.
"He's not my enemy." She says softly after a moment.
"He's not my enemy, Seb," she repeats louder, looking up to catch my eye. "Look, what happened between you and Jules and Hayes last year...it was really fucked up, Seb. It was awful. And we all were there for you. And it wasn't always easy for us, but we all stood by you-"
"As you fucking should have," I interject. "What, now you want a medal for being my friend?"
"What I'm trying to say is," Linnea continues, "we were all there for you, and we're all still here for you when it comes to Jules and Hayes and the rest of it. But Andrew - I mean, come on. He wasn't even really a part of it. You can't hate him forever just because he happens to be your ex's brother and friends with someone you have bad blood with. It's time to move on from it, Seb."
"Oh my God," I say, rising to my feet. "What a fucking speech." I look towards Lucy. "That's how you feel too?"
Lucy bites her lip, her eyes full of concern. "Seb, it's…" she trails off.
"It seems pretty fucking simple to me."
"You never thought about how it was for us at all, did you?" Linnea interjects, raising her voice. "Seb has a falling out with someone and then we're all just supposed to hate them forever. Is that it? Get over yourself, Seb."
"A falling out? Is that what you'd call it?"
"Seb," Lucy says, trying to diffuse the conversation. "Please, just calm down for a second. Andrew and Linnea really have been friends forever. Think about it, they've known each other for as long as you and Jules were dating-"
"Oh right, because that's the barometer of a successful relationship."
"I really like him, okay?" Linnea looks as if she's about to cry. "And he likes me too. What are we supposed to do?"
"You're right, going behind my back and lying to me indefinitely was clearly the best option!" I snarl sarcastically.
"I wasn't lying!"
"You weren't honest!" I shout. "How could you not tell me something like this?"
"Because I knew you'd act like this!"
"For good reason! Banks is the worst kind of person, Linnea, if you only knew him."
"I do know him!" she replies hotly. "I know him better than you ever did. You just blame him because you need to blame anyone you can for what happened between you and Jules!"
I don't even notice that we are making a spectacle out of ourselves until Lucy starts to speak. "Guys, stop it. People are staring."
It is too late to stop now though, we are doing this here, in front of everyone.
"Linnea," I say through gritted teeth, "you don't know what the fuck you're talking about."
I know I've pushed the wrong button when I see a muscle in Linnea's throat clench, and the hysteria in her voice grows as she speaks. "I'm not a child, Seb! Don't you dare patronize me! He's not the bad guy—"
"Fuck!" I shout, my anger bubbling up into my throat. "You're just going to act like none of it ever happened, you're being that stupid." I say, running a hand through my hair.
A tear runs down Linnea's cheek, but she ignores it, chin quivering only the slightest bit as she stares me down fiercely.
"You don't have any right to make me feel guilty about this, Seb Darling." She says with total, unflinching conviction. "You've always been able to go around with whoever you want and I don't ever judge you for it, or throw a hissy fit just because I don't like who you're with. How many times have I watched you go in circles with Jules?"
"That's completely different!"
"How!?" she challenges.
I look away, glancing around the DC where people are either covertly trying to sneak glances towards us or full-out staring.
Linnea's staring me down, waiting for an answer and there's nothing else left to say, so I just say the truth of it:
"He's just using you to hurt me, Linnea. That's all this is to him, some fucking game."
I know immediately that this sounds stupid and dumb and childish, but I also know the way that Banks would jump at any opportunity to get to me because I would do the same to him. It's complicated, the way things are between me and Banks and Jules, and even Hayes for that matter, and I can't really explain it but I would think that Linnea, someone who's been there through everything, would be smart enough to understand and see Banks for the asshole that he is.
Instead, I watch Linnea's face turn stony.
"Not everything is about you, Sebastian. Andrew isn't the bad guy. I know that you like to see things like that, like they're black-and-white, us-versus-them, but it's not. Did you ever consider that maybe Banks might actually like me? Is that so crazy to think? Did you ever think that maybe he wants to be with me?"
I can't help but groan, this is so ridiculous. "Linnea—"
She cuts me off, gaining steam. "No, you didn't. But that's the truth, Seb, whether you want to see it or not, and now you're just throwing a tantrum because you're a child who doesn't like the idea that they could possibly be wrong about someone."
I shake my head vehemently. She is so wrong, that is not how it is at all. "No, you don't under—"
"Stop!" she shouts, interrupting me. "I'm done talking about this. You can storm off and be mad if you want, but I'm not going to apologize and act like I did something wrong."
She takes a heated bite out of her apple, signifying the end of the argument. I sigh heavily, and consider the storming off option, but even through the hot veil of anger I know that it will not solve anything.
Instead, I take a few deep breaths and try to clear my head. Lucy is looking between the two of us like she's unsure if we're still going to explode at each other, and I just feel so awful. I can't even want to think about how shitty the rest of the semester would be if Linnea and I were not on speaking terms, and I hate it when I fight with her.
We've only been angry with each other for ten minutes and it is already unbearable. I curse myself for yelling at her and not trying to be rationale. This whole scene reeks of something that Rawdy would do, and look where that's ever gotten him.
I'm not normally a person that swallows their pride, but when it comes to Linnea I just don't want to fight.
"Linnea, I'm not mad at you." I say in a quiet voice, reaching across the table to squeeze her hand. "I just don't trust Banks."
Linnea sends me a pleading look. "Just give it a chance, okay?"
I know that I will never give it a chance. I will always hate Banks, and hate that he ever touched Linnea, but I do not say this. I grit my teeth and nod my head.
In the distance, the church bell in the courtyard chimes 1pm, and we all three mutter 'fuck' under our breath at the same time, each of us thinking of the class we're late for, and this sends us into short, tentative laughter. Linnea leans forward and kisses me on the cheek and Lucy loops her hand and hauls me to me feet.
"Come on," Lucy says. "Let's get you two out of here before anyone calls the cops."
I walk out of the DC with my two favorite girls on my arms, and a sinking feeling in my gut.
After my last class, I head into studio for a few hours, hoping to kill some time and avoid going back to the dorm for a while. I just don't want to be around Linnea or any of my other friends right now, especially if we're all just going to act like everything is okay.
Aiden shoots me a text around dinner time: Where are you? I'm ordering pizza.
It's a lame attempt to lure me out of hiding, and I don't even bother responding.
It pisses me off on top of everything that Linnea told everyone, even Rawdy and Aiden, before me, and I feel like an idiot. It might be true that Rawdy and Andrew Banks are PKE brothers, but there's no reason for Aiden to take Linnea's side in all of this, and no matter what anyone says, I know this is going to end horribly.
After a few hours, I finish the project I'm working on, an experimental, mixed-media piece that even I know is no good. Annoyed, I take out my beaten sketchbook and flip through it, but after a few minutes I toss it on the table, uninspired. I am already the last one in the studio tonight, and I've really never liked being the only one here. It spooks me, for some reason, to be alone with all this half-finished art, especially at night when everything is quiet and dark.
I stand and stretch, and begin to organize my things slowly. I take meticulous care to clean all of my tools - something I never do - and walk around straightening the room before I finally run out of tasks to occupy myself.
Eventually, with nothing else to do, I grab my bag with a sigh and head towards the door. The auto-lock clicks as I walk through into the still, cold night.
It's seriously November now, with any pretenses of cool, autumnal evenings long past. We have reached winter in full, and it stretches out endlessly, making me feel glum already. Tonight, the moon hangs low in the sky, an unsettling yellowish glow around it, and as I walk along the path towards the dorm, a gnawing ache takes hold of my stomach again, my mind flashing back to Jules and this morning and Linnea and everything.
I am nearing the south entrance of campus - about halfway home - when without thinking, I change my course towards the entrance gates.
As I cross the sidewalk, I walk off-campus, thinking suddenly that a drink is just what tonight needs. It's been just a shit day, and turned into such a dreary, awful night and what use is it to face any of it sober? I head towards Finnegans Wake, the nearest dive bar which sits about a block or two away, popular with students especially because they don't card.
I cross 45th street, full of restaurants and shops and normally buzzing with students, but it is quiet tonight, probably on account of the cold. There are a handful of people milling outside the independent theater, but I don't recognize any of them as I pass.
In my back pocket, I feel my phone buzzing and I pull it out. Rawdy's name blinks across the screen.
With a sigh, I answer: "Hey, what's up?"
"Dude, where are you?"
"I'm…" I glance around, trying to think of a plausible excuse for my absence. "I'm in the studio still. Finishing a project."
"Ah," Rawdy says, buying it. "Okay. Jesus, you're turning into Aiden on me, what with all this thesis bullshit."
"Yeah, well," I say with a humorless chuckle. "My apologies."
"Linnea thinks you're avoiding us."
"Nah, just busy tonight."
"Okay," Rawdy says. "Well, will you be finished soon? Aiden and I are going to Finnegan's in a bit. They have $5 pitchers on Tuesdays."
I groan internally, pausing on the sidewalk and looking towards the glowing sign of the bar about half a block away. I'm really just not in the mood to deal with them, especially if they're already a united front, which I suspect they are. If Rawdy and Aiden are going to be heading this way soon, I'll need to find a new hiding spot.
"Ah, I...I'll try," I lie. "I dunno, I have a lot to do here still."
"Alright," Rawdy says, sounding disappointed.
We are quiet for just a moment, and I'm about to say goodbye and hang up, when he adds:
"Look Seb, about Banks-".
"Rawds, I really don't want to talk about it."
"I know, but just hear me out real fast, okay?"
"There's really nothing-"
He cuts me off. "I mean, look. I dunno why she has to go and decide to date the one git that you have issues with, but-"
"Yeah well, I guess I didn't realize I was the only one that had issues with him." I snap, my voice louder and harsher than I intended.
Rawdy is quiet. "Seb, I know Andrew… fuck, I dunno. Look, you know I think Ryan Hayes is a piece of trash. And same with Jules. But-"
I roll my eyes, I just can't fucking deal. What do they not understand? "Yeah. Got it."
"It'll probably blow over soon anyway. Linnea and Banks I mean."
"Look Rawdy, I've got to go." I say, turning back down the street, away from Finnegan's. "Talk to you later."
He is still saying something, but I press 'End' on my phone and shove my phone back in my pocket, thoroughly annoyed.
With Finnegan's Wake out of the running, I settle on the Funky Monkey, a small coffee shop where I can at least get some fucking amazing cheesecake. I pull the door open and enter with my hands shoved in my coat pocket.
Glancing around quickly, I spot none other than Cadence Mitchell, and I realize, oddly, that it's a relief to see her. She's curled up in an armchair, and she's got stacks of papers all around her and she's scribbling at them furiously, pen in one hand, and a bright yellow highlighter in the other. I feel myself smile and shake my head at her - is this girl ever not studying? This is just so like her.
"Hey," I say, sitting down on a couch opposite her.
Cadence's wide eyes snap up to me, and I think I must have startled her because she gives a little jump.
"Oh, Jesus, you scared me." She says, capping her highlighter. "I didn't see you come in."
"Sorry. Am I interrupting something?" I ask, gesturing to all the papers.
"Oh no, not really," she says, scooting some of her stuff into a neater pile on the coffee table. Then looking up at me, her eyes narrow. "Hey, you missed lab today. What happened?"
I groan involuntarily. I had completely forgotten about that until just now. "Fuck, I know. I...something came up."
"Okay, well, you have to make it up this week, you know. In order to get credit. And Seb, you absolutely can't afford a zero, so you really-"
I raise my hands, palms up, trying to calm her "Okay, okay. I know, I can make it up."
Cadence nods, her brows still furrowed in concern. "Is everything okay?"
I look at her for a long second. Her skin is glowing in the soft light. How can I even answer that? Yes? No?
"What are you working on?" I change the subject with a gesture towards the stack of papers in her lap, squinting to try to make out the typed words.
Cadence pushes a lock of red hair back behind her ear. "Oh, just the script for the spring play. I have to get it approved soon so I can start setting up auditions by January."
I reach forward to snag a paper from the top of the stack. "May I?" I ask and she nods.
"Guys and Dolls, huh?" I ask, skimming through the script and reading her short, scrawled notes on the margins.
"Yeah," she says. "Do you like it? I'm not settled on it yet. It's just what everyone wants in a spring musical I guess, something light and fun. But it's a bit..."
I look up at her quizzically. "Classic?"
Cadence laughs. "I was going to say cliché."
"What are your other options?"
Cadence shrugs and then a teasing smile slips onto her lips. "There's always Hairspray."
The fire is lit to the side of her, and the orange light flicks across Cadence's face. Her cheeks are tinted pink and the light makes her hair look impossibly red, and it occurs to me for the first time that Cadence is actually very pretty, in her own way. In a good way.
"You really are pushing the boundaries, Cadence Mitchell."
She laughs and then bites her lip for a moment. "I saw…" her voice is hesitant. "I saw your fight with Linnea earlier, in the DC. Looked pretty..." She trails off.
I feel myself tense. "Yeah," I say, expressionless. "It was."
"I'm sorry," Cadence says quickly. "I shouldn't have brought it up. You probably don't want to talk about it—"
"It's okay," I say. "It doesn't matter." Wincing slightly, I add: "Was it that much of a scene?"
Cadence lets out a short, breathy laugh. "Well...I mean, yeah, kind of. No offense."
I groan, leaning back into the couch. I feel like such an ass. I'm no stranger to making a public spectacle of myself, but I wish I hadn't had it out with Linnea in front of everyone. She's much more careful about herself than that.
"You know, I was pretty surprised when I heard about Andrew Banks and Linnea as well," Cadence offers kindly.
"Yeah. I mean she's so...elegant? I don't even know what the word is. I just think she can do better."
"You and me both," I mutter.
"Then again, I'm kind of poisoned against Andrew." Cadence admits. "He dated my friend Cece for a hot second sophomore year and that didn't go so well."
"Oh, right," I say with a small groan. Cece is maybe the sweetest, stupidest girl on the planet, with killer legs to boot, and from what I recall, Andrew didn't so much date her as fuck her quietly on the side while he was still dating Olivia Becker. But that's all a matter of perspective I guess. "Yeah, he was kind of an ass to Cece, wasn't he?"
"Oh man, he was the worst," Cadence says with a grimacing laugh. "Honestly, the way he treated her took the word 'scumbag' to new lows for me. But to be fair, that was two years ago. Hopefully he isn't like that anymore."
"Trust me," I say, "not much has changed."
Cadence shrugs. "Time will tell."
This is true, I guess, but not very comforting.
"How about you?" Cadence asks. "How's your love life going?"
I groan dramatically, sinking even further into the couch and covering my face with my hands as I remember this morning with Jules.
Cadence lets out a light, infectious bubble of laughter at my dramatics and I can't help but feel the corners of my mouth tug up into a small grin.
"That good, huh?"
"Yup, lovely, sweet Jules." I say in a low, ironic tone.
"What's that about?" Cadence asks, her head cocked to the side in earnest curiosity. "I mean, what's the deal? I've heard some rumors over the years to be honest, but I don't really get it."
"Who knows at this point. I have no fucking clue."
"But you guys...you're like not together? Completely?"
"Oh, we can't stand each other."
Cadence rolls her eyes, clearly not buying it.
"I'm serious!" I exclaim defensively. "Cadence, I really think there's no possible way that I could hate Juliet Banks more. And I'd bet you she feels the same way about me. It's scary, almost, how much we hate each other," I say, and it's all true.
Cadence nods, chewing on the cap of her pen.
"I slept with her this morning," I add, for the sake of honesty.
Cadence's eyes widen in surprise and then a moment later she recovers, pursing her lips in mock anger.
"Wait, is that why you weren't in lab today?" She says, swatting my arm and fighting off a teasing smile.
"Ahh, well," I laugh, ducking away. "I plead the fifth."
Cadence shakes her head, smiling. "Incorrigible."
"Cadence, please," I moan in self-pity. "I am only a man."
She rolls her eyes, the expression on her face softening. "So, just to make sure I've got this straight, you and Jules aren't together, you don't even like each other, but you're still sleeping together?"
"Sometimes," I say with a shrug. "I'm trying to tone down that last bit. She's not really one to take no for an answer though."
Cadence makes a noise in the back of her throat and nods her head. "Got it. That sounds pretty...I dunno, exhausting? The whole, you-hate-her-but-you-love-her thing."
"Yeah, well," I say, "it was definitely a lot easier back when it was just an I-love-her thing."
I look up at Cadence, sitting cross-legged in the over-sized armchair. Just all knees and long, thin arms and one freckled button of a nose. Her question, the question of all questions in my life right now it seems, hangs between us, and it is impossible for me to even begin to formulate an answer that Cadence Mitchell, pale-skinned, button-nosed, script-editing, crooked-smiling do-gooder of the century, could understand.
"It's a long story. Pretty boring."
Cadence nods slowly and makes a 'hmmm' noise in the back of her throat. "I see," she says.
"Enough of this. Enough about me. It's your turn."
Cadence shakes her head quickly, leaning back in her seat. "Oh, no. No way. I already spilled my guts to you about that."
I don't say anything, but the I don't have to. The smirk on my face makes Cadence burn into a pink blush.
"Seb, you better not say anything to anyone about Ryan, I swear. I'm serious, I will fail you, you know."
My eyes dance at the thought of this threat. "Oh, you will?"
"Yes," Cadence replies firmly, her cheeks glowing, "I will."
There is something so delectable about getting a girl worked up over these small things, I'm not sure what it is, but I can admit, it is a weakness of mine.
"Please," I say, "your precious secret is safe with me. It will be hard, but I can control myself."
A smile is tugging at the corners of Cadence's mouth. "I'm eternally grateful."
"So any luck talking to the bloke yet?"
Cadence's laugh is a half-anguished groan. "Seb, I'm so hopeless, I have no idea what to do. Can I tell you something? This morning I was thinking about sending him an e-mail, of all things. Something short and sweet like, 'hi Ryan, remember that time you kissed me? Can we talk about that? Signed, Cadence Mitchell, your dedicated obsessive lunatic stalker'. But then I thought that might be too much."
Her goofy self-deprecating expression cracks me up. I would be lying if I didn't admit that Cadence's schoolgirl crush on Hayes wasn't one of the more ridiculous things I'd heard recently, but there's something endearing about it as well.
"Good call. Although knowing Hayes, flattery might be a good approach."
Cadence's face suddenly turns serious. "You think so?"
"I—um, I dunno," I stumble, fearing I've misspoken. "I just meant, he might like to be flattered. Who doesn't?" Truthfully it's hard for me to imagine Hayes making a go for Cadence, but then again it just goes to show he'd make a go at nearly anything, the prick.
Cadence nods solemnly. "You know him pretty well, don't you?"
"I…well, I—" There is no simple answer to this, it is like walking a tightrope.
"I mean, you guys both run in the same group, right? You've known each other for ages."
"What do you think my best bet is? In terms of a next move?" Cadence asks, all business, her red hair tucked neatly behind her ears. "I don't mean to put you on the spot, but I would just so appreciate some guidance, since you know Ryan."
I am caught off guard so it takes me a moment to find the appropriate words. "Honestly," I say slowly, trying to be careful, "I think you're over-thinking it. Ryan is…well…your best bet is to be direct, I'd say. Be casual. Ryan…" I trail off, searching for a way to politely put my feelings into words.
Cadence leans forward, all earnest and clear-skinned, and something inside my stomach leaps up, some competitive flame ignites. How dare Ryan fucking Hayes, the worthless son of a bitch, win Cadence Mitchell, of all fucking people, without so much as a fight. How dare he win over someone so randomly, so effortlessly, without so much as lifting a finger. I'm not saying I give a shit about Cadence, but how dare he win.
"Ryan enjoys the chase," I finish, "so let him chase." Let him run into the ground, I think to myself, or better yet, off a fucking cliff.
Cadence bites her pink lip. "Okay," she says slowly. "But what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
I glance away, out the window. "I dunno. You know what? Send him that e-mail. Well, don't sign it 'Cadence Mitchell, obsessive lunatic stalker'. Say 'hey, great to see you last weekend. Want to get coffee?' Then do nothing else. Let him take it from there."
Cadence nods, her brow furrowed. "Okay. You think that will work?"
"Yeah. I do," I say, although I'm not sure why or if I mean it.
"You don't think it's too weird? Or too out-of-the-blue? You don't think he'll be creeped out?"
"It's not like you don't know the guy. He kissed you, didn't he? He already likes you."
Cadence nods slowly. "Or he did."
I shrug. "Well that's just my advice, anyway. That's what I would do."
Cadence nods, her bright eyes catching the light. "Thanks you, Seb." Her voice is soft and earnest, and I don't know whether to feel good or bad.
I just nod, and we fall quiet for a few moments. There is hardly anybody left in the coffee shop, and it crosses my mind that it must be getting late. Before I run out of time, I decide it's time to get what I came here for in the first place.
"Hey, I'm going for a slice of cheesecake," I announce, standing up and taking a step towards the counter. "You want some?"
The corners of Cadence's mouth slowly turn upwards in a mischievous smile, her upturned face glowing and impossibly smooth. Cadence is no Linnea, and she is certainly no Juliet Banks, thank God for that. She's something else entirely, and as I walk towards the counter the thought crosses my mind that after all, Ryan Hayes could have worse taste.
It's after midnight by the time I make it back to campus, and Linnea and Lucy are the only ones in the lounge. I haven't seen or talked to Linnea since lunch, but looking at her now she seems very well put together. That's the thing about Linnea: even when she's upset with you or mad at hell about something, she can reign it back in with the snap of her fingers. The way her face lights up into a beaming smile when I enter the room, you would never know we had fought at all.
Lucy is going on and on about something with Linnea and I watch the back-and-forth from the couch.
"Come on Linnea, please?" She is begging Linnea for something. I am not sure what because I came in late. So far, I have deduced it is big and loud and Lucy wants to store it in their dorm room.
"Lucy! I am not letting you put that huge ass thing in here." Linnea stomps her foot, crossing her arms. She is going to give in soon. The foot stomping is always the first sign.
"Please, Linnea?" Lucy's puppy dog eyes are in full force, and she looks so insanely adorable that there is no withstanding her power.
"Lucy! Don't do that!" Linnea shouts.
"Lena…" Lucy begs. "Petey already said he would send them, and my parents even agreed because I made a 3.0 average last semester!"
In my head, I wonder how the fuck Lucy pulled a 3.0, as I can personally attest that she barely made it to class last spring.
"Lucy, stop!" Linnea huffs, falling onto the couch beside me. "I'll think about it, okay?"
Lucy lights up. That's just as good as a yes as far as Linnea goes. "Thanks, Lena! You rock!"
"Lucy, I didn't say yes yet!" Linnea protests.
But Lucy is already gone, flouncing out of the lounge. Linnea turns to me, her eyes heavy, and sighs.
"What does she want to bring in here?" I ask.
"Her damned drum set." Linnea rolls her eyes and exhales loudly. "As if it isn't loud enough as it is."
I chuckle and lean back on the couch. "But she's good."
Linnea smiles, and then frowns. "Yes, but she will never study again."
"As long as she's happy right?" I ask.
She gives me a playful glare. "What about my happiness?"
"You are happy Lena. Not as happy as you could be, but you are happy." I smile at her mock glare before spreading out on the couch and laying my head in her lap.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she looks down her nose at me, her arms crossed.
"You know what it means." I grin and close my eyes.
"You want me to break it off with Andrew." Linnea is staring straight ahead and I see her jaw clench into place, like she's preparing herself for battle. I don't know why she is so willing to fight for this boy. He's a piece of shit, and she is my perfect, beautiful Linnea. She deserves so much more, she's only to scared to see it.
"I just want you to be with someone who deserves you, Linnea."
"Give it a chance. Promise me you'll put your differences aside and give it a chance."
I clench my jaw. I know that even Linnea isn't enough for me to put my loathing of Banks aside, and that nothing probably will ever be enough. But sitting there with her shamrock eyes staring into me, I don't want her to worry or to be angry or upset, so I lie for her.
thank you for reading.