A/N: My first ever Skow Challenge. I had fun writing this one! Enjoy!
Challenge #17 - The Un-Cliche
General Idea: Insane parody of all cliche's so much that it sounds like a cliche, yet not a cliche.
3) Spiders and/or beetles
4) A replacement for a curse word like 'fudge' only never heard before
5) Nerd and athlete cliche, bad boy and good girl cliche, brother's best friend cliche
6) Use of the quote: "This little piggy went to the market, this little piggy stayed home, I ate roast beef and you have none."
- Obvious reference to the cliches, no use of the word cliche
- Reference to sex, at all
The Design of Pseudo Attraction
I sighed for the fifth time. I had every inclination to pound my fist (undoubtedly smaller than his hairy man-hands) against his head while yelling, "You idiot! Idiot, idiot, idiot!" as an expression of my dully held interest in his academic integrity. I'm good with turning D- students into borderline B+ miracles, but this was . . . an abomination of my scholastic magic. I was wasting valuable lunchtime. Hungry, Harping Hannah doesn't make for a nice tutor.
I watched as the guy sitting across from me squinted, chewed pencil's end, scribbled, scratched out, rubbed back of his head, squinted again, lather, rinse, repeat. It was almost sad—undeniably aggravating, oh yeah—watching someone struggle with the basic function of trigonometric application. Of course, math isn't suited for everyone, but come on; having a tutor as smart as me who drills this stuff in your head twenty times everyday should work out somehow. It should've been like teaching a three year old that toe-song: "This little piggy went to the market, this little piggy stayed home, I ate roast beef and you have none." That's how it goes, right?
Brown eyes stared at me now, and I jumped into action, glancing down at the problem in question. "What do you need help with?"
Adam grinned, seemingly taunting me for my lack of attention. "I finished."
I frowned and darted my eyes to his watch—rolex, no less. I bet he didn't even use math to calculate the cost; just handed the credit card over. "Already?"
He chuckled and lightly tapped his pencil against my head. "You were out of it for a whole ten minutes."
I rolled my eyes and moved around the table to sit in the seat next to him. Grabbing his worksheet, I set to work analyzing the math problems that were scribbled on fading spots, evidence of his uncertainty of getting the right answer. At least he had the drive to try.
My ignorance of his presence six inches away from me quickly dissipated when those six inches turned into five that turned into four, then three. Alarmed and annoyed that he interrupted my inspection, I turned to look at him, scowling at the loopy expression on his face.
Now, if I knew better or had any experience of the sort, then I'd say he was . . .
My eyes widened in absolute terror and I used my peripheral vision to scope out any modes of exit. We were alone in an empty classroom, a sticky situation that had every potential to become disastrous. Furthermore, I was trapped between the wall and his chair, so barging through his 200 pound body was impossible. And injurious.
If I had known that he had the strangest desire to be with someone like me, then I surely wouldn't have agreed to tutor him.
He stopped the rest of my objection by pressing his fingers against my lips, to which I instantly seized up in shock and horror. Those fingers are supposed to be writing math functions or throwing any athletic balls, not hushing me nor being anywhere near my body! And don't get me started on the hygiene. One, he's a guy. Two, he's an athlete. Those two don't equal the cleanest hands.
"I have something to ask you."
I kept my lips firmly glued. If I started spewing out passages of rejection, I might inadvertently take in the finger fastened against my mouth.
He leaned in closer and finally removed the ghastly appendage, grinning wolfishly all the while. I squinted at him and tried to figure out the logistics of this. Now, I wasn't going to chart possibilities and explanations and set up statistical equations—I don't do that kind of stuff, mind you—but I wanted to figure out why he was pursuing me. I don't know how to lead anyone besides out the safe confines of math problems! And I was an awesome Brownie in Girl Scouts; I got a leadership badge.
"Hannah, you're an amazing tutor."
"That isn't a question," I pointed out. And you're stating the obvious.
Adam shook his head. "I'm just easing into the conversation, okay?"
I backed up. The screech of my chair stopped a foot into my escape when it hit the wall. Adam followed much to my chagrin. "Whatever it is you're going to ask me, the answer is no, never, I won't, and spend your time wooing somebody who cares."
He laughed and thumped his chest which looked like a Neanderthal trying to say the Pledge of Allegiance. "That hurts, Hannah. Won't you give me a chance?"
"Why should I?" I practically folded into myself, but I doubted this math dimwit noticed anything besides his own shallow interest.
"Don't you want to be seen around school dating someone like me? People are saying that you're such a nerd, but I know you can be more than that, Hannah. You're hot underneath that whole self-preserving crap. I know you want me. Deep down, you do."
He looked startled by either my shriek or my strange curse word, or both.
I took that chance to shove him backwards. "I am not a nerd, and I do not want you!"
I was on my feet in an instant, and shot out of the room as quickly as I could. Unluckily for me, Adam's stealth surpassed his muscular built and eventually caught me when I was barely a foot out the door.
He enclosed my wrist in his hand, thus halting my escape. I scowled and opened my mouth to cry wolf—or harassment—but he pulled me close to him, jarring my words.
"Hannah." He moved closer to me.
"No," I snapped while tugging at my arm.
Adam frowned as if he considered my warding behavior like it was some kind of weird foreplay. Noplay, buddy.
When I nearly bruised my hand on some part of his deltoid on my fifth punch, he relented to whatever self control he previously had.
"You're such a freaking prude, Hannah! What's one kiss, huh? Can't you give me that much?"
My face screwed in serious displeasure, and I renewed my efforts to get away. "I'll give you three reasons why I won't ever kiss you, Adam."
Tug. "One, you're stupid and I know that I'm your fifth tutor this year. I don't kiss guys who don't think above their shoulders."
Tug. "Two, you're practically forcing me to give you the romantic equivalent of the time of day, and I don't kiss guys who use strength like some shackling device. Plus, I don't like athletes like you."
Tug. "Three, you called me a prude—no, worse, a nerd—and you expect me to kiss you after saying that?"
I finally wrenched my arm away from his grip, but before I could rejoice in my freedom, Adam played a huge foul by suddenly leaning forward and forcefully crushing my lips with his.
The moment I felt his lips on mine I squeaked and had my mouth the slightest chance of being able to move, I would've bit his lip. Instead I widened my eyes and froze for the first damning seconds it took my reactive system to chug to life.
When I finally regained control of my body, Adam had done far enough damage to my romantic immune system. His hands were on the sides of my face in some crude attempt to delicately frame it; it looked and felt like a clammy muzzle utilizing old aunts' tricks of cheek-squishing. I'd trade having Adam kiss me for having my cheeks pinched by all of my aunts for the rest of my life in the poor heartbeats I was losing.
I was beyond pissed. I was livid.
So, with my anger channeling strength to my limbs, I brought my hand up to his face and with steady aim, flicked Adam on his forehead.
The kiss immediately broke and he slapped a hand to his head, glaring at me as if I committed the near molesting. His cursing stream sounded like some archaic chant, and if only I had kicked him in the shins or stabbed his toes, he'd be doing a little accompanying dance.
Hand still firmly pressed against his bruising head, Adam seethed. "What the hell was that?!"
It took me a while to answer him as I was busy wiping my mouth. When it felt like the next swipe would take off some skin, I looked at him with a leveled stare. "What was that? That was a non-compliant girl getting a dumb brute off her. I told you that I wouldn't kiss you."
I didn't bother dealing with this incident anymore, so I turned and walked away. Adam returned to the classroom still spewing out profanity and cursing the world for having girls like me tutor him. Really, he should've cursed the world for giving him such a small brain. For such a strong guy, he sure made a big deal of getting flicked in the forehead by a girl.
Busy assessing the immediate and eventual long term damage done to my self-propriety, I didn't notice a girl standing by the water fountain until she called my name.
I stopped and looked at her, squinting until I realized who she was. "Oh, hey Sasha."
She looked perturbed by something. "Uh, is something wrong? You look upset," I said.
Her eyes narrowed and I had an eerie feeling about this—my nerves have already been mangled with, so I was extra sensitive to unhappy expressions. "I saw."
I tilted my head. "Saw wha—oh!" I frowned. "He was quite the jerk, indeed."
Sasha's glare didn't lessen any, making my confusion grow. I expected congratulations on defending myself, or even a sympathizing remark, but her stare unsettled me. "You kissed him," she accused, her voice clipped and full of complete malice.
My eyes widened and I shook my head. "What? No! If you saw then you would've seen that he practically molested me! Any notion of putting my lips near his is just . . . ew." I shuddered for emphasis.
Her lips pursed and I had an inkling feeling that she didn't like what she saw, regardless of how wrong it was.
"Why are you so angry, Sasha? What, do you like him?"
As I peered closely, I saw the resulting blush creep onto her cheeks, belying any denial she was going to say.
"You shouldn't have anything to do with him," she said a while after, glare firmly reattached.
"You shouldn't either," I smoothly countered. "How do you know him anyway?"
Sasha shrugged, feigning indifference. "He's at my house all the time."
That short circuited my shock. ". . . why?"
"He's my brother's best friend."
Seeing no end to this argument, I sighed and figured compliance was the only way to get her off my case for a while. "Well, maybe you'll have better luck kissing him."
I turned and left a flushing Sasha at the water fountain, wanting to catch the last half of lunch.
* * *
I chewed on my granola bar and words for a while before saying, "Adam Reynolds kissed me."
Connor didn't answer for a while—not because he contemplated the meaning of that sentence (it couldn't get any deeper than what I just said; I'm sure there were no underlying feelings involving that kiss), but because he was finishing the paragraph he was reading. Not that I wanted him to be jealous or anything. If so, I wouldn't have said it in such a revolting manner and would've added that doe-eyed look damsels in distress tend to give their heroes.
I waited until he cleared his throat to ask, "Did you feel the effects of the fireworks or float above earthly manifestations? Was it everything you've ever dreamed of?"
"I didn't want him to kiss me," I said in answer to all his stupid questions. I'm sure my pout spilled into overly childish, but this was a big deal.
"But he did anyway."
Sighing, I leaned back against the tree we sat under. "Forced kisses aren't ever fun. Or romantic."
"How's your dignity?" I heard the smirk in his voice without bothering to check.
"I think I about gagged on my fleeting propriety as it tried jumping out of my throat." I rolled my head to look at him. "Connor, am I a prude?"
He finally looked at me with his brow furrowed. "Did Adam call you a prude?"
I nodded. "Yeah, but I don't care about that. He called me something worse."
Connor closed his book and took the other half of my granola bar. "What could be worse?"
I exaggerated a sigh and said, "He called me a nerd."
Connor's lips twitched. "You really detest that word?"
I frowned. "I may be studious and academically gifted, but I do not see myself as a nerd. 'Nerd' is a derogatory term used for people who are smart—no, smart people who aren't popular. "Nerd" entails carrying pencil cases, wearing thick three-inch eyeglasses with tape on the bridge support, pushing through crowds with a rollie bookbag and gushing over last night's episode of Battlestar Galactica—none of which I do!"
He laughed at my vehemence. "No, Hannah, you don't. And what does it matter that Adam's calling you one? You value his opinion that much?"
I shook my head. "It's not just his. Probably everyone in our grade thinks I'm a nerd."
"But you don't think of yourself as one, do you?" he asked.
"Not one bit. You don't think I am, do you Connor?"
He shook his head. "I don't."
I smiled back and stood up, dusting off my pants. "Well, good. Your opinion is one that does matter."
The bell was about to ring, and I waited for Connor to stand up before heading towards the building. He walked a few feet behind me, but I remembered something else and turned.
"Oh, and Sasha Cuffee was for some reason really upset that Adam kissed me."
Connor slung his bookbag over his shoulder and raised a brow. "She likes him?"
I shrugged. "She didn't say it, but I could tell. I mean, no one would get defensive over someone they don't talk to, but then, it might be different considering the fact that he's over at her house everyday."
Connor's expression twisted and he echoed my earlier question to Sasha. ". . . why?"
I tapped my chin thoughtfully. "I'm assuming she has an unrequited love for her brother's best friend. Though, I never pegged Sasha as the kind of girl who'd like jockstraps over chains. I always thought that she and Raze made a cute couple. I mean, they're best friends and all. You know?"
"You can't help who people like," Connor said, though I thought that you could very much help people into growing affections for another.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Watch me." At the entrance to the main cafeteria, I bid Connor farewell with a scheme swiveling itself into existence in my head.
I visually scoured the cafeteria and used my common knowledge to pinpoint the area where Raze usually sat. I told Connor I would meet him under the tree after I finished some business I needed to take care of.
That is why I was inside the throng of the masses standing by the entrance looking for a guy I've barely spoken to in all our education history. It seemed like such a difficult task amidst seven hundred other people, but I was determined. My matchmaking skills were amazing.
I found Raze a few minutes later sitting at a long table in between crew team members and the step dance team. Hallelujah, he was alone. It was bad enough that I was going to such lengths to interfere into business that isn't my own, but if Sasha was with him I'd have no choice but to turn around and leave.
He didn't notice me right away. I hovered over his back as he read a novel and hesitated on whether I should tap him or not. It wasn't until my shadow blocked the light that he paused his music and twisted his head to look at me. I smiled a cheeky grin and offered a slight wave.
Raze didn't look absolutely disturbed that I was here, but he did challenge my bright greeting by raising an eyebrow into his fringy hair.
I took that as not a rejection and moved around the table—feeling his eyes following my movement—until I was seated directly across from him.
"Hi, Raze," I said kindly, because I've never had any prejudice against Raze or his outward appearance; that, and we've been attending the same schools since the fifth grade.
"Hey, Hannah," he said with a little less enthusiasm. But I secretly danced at the fact that he still remembered my name. The last time we exchanged niceties was when we were paired as lab partners during chemistry in sophomore year. Since then I was lucky to get a passing word from him. "What are you doing here?"
"Meddling," I answered. He looked confused so I decided to venture on to my original intent. "I think that Sasha can do so much better than Adam Reynolds."
The mention of Sasha's name had him tensing, but the mention of Adam's name had him frowning. To both reactions I grinned.
His gaze stayed attached to his half-eaten lunch. "Why are you telling me?"
"Because you can do something about it."
Raze frowned. "She won't listen to me. Adam's an asshole."
I nodded gravely, mentally adding to the list of asshole-y things Adam has accrued. "Don't you care about her?"
His widened eyes flew up and caught mine, and I saw the flush lightly coating his face. Bingo. Got him where I want him.
"I do, but . . . she really likes him."
Scoffing, I swept my hand across the table. "There's nothing to like about him. You're her best friend; you know her best. Can't you see that Adam Reynolds isn't the best for her?"
"Then what is?" he asked with a threat of an eye roll.
I gave him a pointed look. "Who else?"
Raze looked stunned as if I figured out his secret, and I smiled because I knew I figured out his secret. "She won't ever see me that way," he confessed after a short while.
I sat there, looking at the guy who had probably never voiced his feelings to anyone, yet managed to say so much to me. I wasn't sure if it was due to the fact that I would keep this secret, as I had no reason to blab to the rest of the school, or because it's been filling up his head that one tiny prod from a completely unbiased (okay, I was totally biased against a Sasha/Adam relationship) person would snap his control over his restraining emotions. Whatever the reason, he let it out and he never looked so defeated.
"Raze," I said quietly, "you just don't think that she could ever see you that way. You don't see how an outsider sees your relationship."
He gave me a suspicious look. "Like you?"
I nodded. "Duh. As an innocent bystander with slightly skewed judgment against a certain male, I see how perfectly well you two fit." He kept staring at me. My guilt seeped into my mind and I sighed. "Look, Raze. I'm sorry for interfering in your business, but Sasha really needs to see that Adam is not the guy for her."
Raze reached up to push his hair back, exposing the earrings lining his ear. I stared at his gauged lobes in awe. "Are you doing this because you want Adam, Hannah?"
"Don't even joke," I said. Raze smirked.
I leaned my forearms on the table. "Okay, I don't know why Sasha is all over him, but the matter is that there's someone so definitely better right in front of her eyes for her to be fawning all over that lame excuse for a quarterback."
"Are you really that concerned for the wellbeing of my and Sasha's relationship?" he asked.
My lips pursed and I decided to cut no corners with Raze. "No, not really. I mean, I do want you two to be happy, but I'm not running a marathon for your cause—no offense."
"None taken." His head tilted. "So you just want her to stay away from Adam?"
"In a completely Adam-Reynolds-is-an-asshole-and-needs-no-sensible-girls-vying-for-him bias."
He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you were that strongly against Adam."
I rolled my eyes. "I've been tutoring him for the past two months and yesterday he decided that it'd be great to kiss me—forcibly, I might add—in the middle of hall, which by the way is where Sasha saw us and subsequently got angry with something I had no active part in, making her feelings known."
He chuckled soundlessly. "That's Sasha for you."
Whether I acted on the sadness of his laugh (despite its silence) or whether I was tired of his inability to do something about this, I sighed a sigh that usually signaled disappointment in my younger siblings or impotent tutor students. It didn't fall short on Raze and I stifled my giggles at his cutting look.
"You must be some kind of masochist or something."
I tapped my fingers on the table and ignored the look our tablemates were giving us at our unusual company. "You'd sacrifice your happiness so Sasha can have one that is completely superficial on her part?"
"Hannah, it's more complicated than your assumptions. I've come close so many times to telling her how I feel but she just gives me a look that dares me to cross that line of friendship."
"Then be the rebel you're stereotyped to be and cross that line!" I smiled at his disgruntled look at my labeling statement. "Think about it Raze, if Sasha ends up getting involved with Adam, he's no doubt going to throw her to the side after some time. So what do you think's going to happen to Sasha? She'll be hurt and will turn to you for comfort. The way I imagine it, she's going to see in her warped perspective that you've always been there for her and will instigate a romantic endeavor with you. And wouldn't you rather have her happy from the get-go instead of going through shallow heartbreak turned happiness?"
After I finished Raze tilted his head with the same amused expression as earlier. "You're quite the romantic, aren't you?"
I shook my head. "No, I'm just saying that I'd rather see you two get together because of natural circumstances, not because she decides to fall in love with you after rebounding off Adam." His eyes narrowed and I shook my head. "You'll be the fall guy, no matter if her feelings for you are truer than those she has for Adam."
"Quite the optimism you have there." His sarcasm was as sharp as the end of one of his piercings.
"Okay, I kind of went over the line there."
Raze shrugged. "I guess I kind of understand your concern."
"Well," I said, "it's not really my place to force you two into a relationship. But I just wanted to tell you what I thought, Raze. I would hate for Sasha to fall into Adam's trap, only to get her heartbroken."
Raze smirked. "You're such a martyr, Hannah."
A cheeky grin quirked my lips up. "I try my best."
He stared down at his book for a while. I sat there quietly, wondering if I really did meddle too much. But then he raised his eyes and I saw something in there that belied any hardness anyone ever thought Raze exuded.
"Thanks Hannah. I mean it."
"Sorry for suddenly jumping into your and Sasha's love life," I mumbled.
Raze smiled. "It's pretty interesting hearing what someone else has to say."
I took that as my cue to stop prying. "I gave in my two cents, and I swear I'll never bother you again."
He shrugged noncommittally, but I saw the smirk ghosting around his mouth. "Hannah, we haven't spoken since tenth grade."
"Well," I drawled, "it doesn't mean I don't like you. You're a nice guy, contrary to everyone's beliefs."
"Again with the stereotypes," he muttered. I laughed.
"Sorry. But that's how it goes around here. Luckily for me I know no prejudice . . . for the most part."
I stood from the table and waited as Raze stuck his earbuds back into his ears. I smiled down at him. "I'll see you around."
His smile displayed a faint set of dimples and I wondered how Sasha could ignore this guy. "Bye, Hannah."
I moved away from the table and a cursory check on my watch notified me that I had about ten more minutes until the lunch bell rang. Not wanting to ditch Connor I hustled and maneuvered my way around students. Too many of them were just standing around, and I tried not to push too hard at the bulkier ones (i.e. Adam's sports buddies—which didn't limit themselves to just the entire football team. I elbowed through some wrestlers and basketball players in the horde.)
I nearly made it out unscathed, but as I was exiting the double entrance doors leading to our courtyard a hand yanked me into the hallway. I huffed and grabbed my arm back, turning and readying my words for a good tongue lashing. I don't approve of getting someone's attention by bodily measures, this development recently modified as of yesterday.
But whoever grabbed me didn't let me have my mini tirade. "Hannah," the female voice hissed and I questioned my luck today.
Rachael Derby is as prim and proper as a girl can get at the ripe age of 17. She shimmied her blonde hair (Go figure. Even if she was born with a darker hair color modern chemistry made it possible to dye hair to create a natural effect. Just recreate it every six weeks) away from her shoulders and beamed at me. Her cardigan matched her eye color.
"What do you want?" I said at last. It has to be noted that I do not go around in cahoots with the popular kids. Me, with my higher than average grades, was tasked with tutoring Rachael last year. Luckily for me (I suppose for her too, if you take into account her own academic needs rather than those for my sanity) she was a quick learner and it only took one month and daily meetings at her beloved Starbucks to get her grades up to par.
"I saw you in there," she nodded towards the cafeteria.
"Yeah well, one can't expect food to magically appear in their stomachs without the actual use of hands and feet to walk to the cafeteria and get it."
She rolled her eyes. "No, Hannah. I meant I saw you talking to Raze."
I shrugged, not understanding what my conversation with Raze had anything to do with Rachael. "What about it?"
"How do you know him?" The eagerness in her voice was suspicious activity and I narrowed my eyes.
"I just do. Why?" I asked.
She must have ignored the skepticism in my voice because she practically stuck her face in mine—giving me an awful whiff of her perfume which I could already smell three yards away—and implored, "Can you please introduce me to him? Or at least say nice things about me? Please, Hannah. I know we never talk, what with our social statuses and all, but this is the last thing I'd ever ask from you. Ever."
Her words took some time registering in my head, and when they did I asked, "Why in the hell would you want me to do such a thing?"
She peered into the window of the door and sighed—dare I say it?—dreamily. "He's so hot."
I think I added about 20 more blinks to my daily average in about ten seconds. "You're kidding me, right?"
Rachael sighed again and turned back to me. "Hannah, you don't understand. I'm like, in love with Raze. He has that dark, bad boy look to him and I guess not knowing his interior makes me want to find out more about him." She gestured with her hands. Her words were punctuated by the tinkle of her Tiffany bracelet that I was sure matched Adam's watch in terms of shininess and cost, and the fact that their parents paid for it.
She continued, "I know all the things he likes, and the places he likes to go to—"
"That's called being a stalker, Rachael," I interrupted.
She ignored me. "I know that he likes beetles, so, you know, I got one. It's super gross, but I make my little brother feed it and stuff."
"A beetle. I got one as a pet to have something in common with him."
Her misunderstanding was enough to put them on opposite ends of the spectrum of compatibility. "Rachael, I don't think you understand. You're talking about a beetle. Raze likes the Beatles."
She blinked at me. "What?"
"You know, John, Paul, George . . . Ringo Starr?"
Her eyes remained owlish.
"He likes the band, not the bug."
Rachael stared and I watched her mouth formed a small 'o'.
"And I don't think it's lucrative to either you or Raze chasing him around like that. It really makes you seem weird, Rachael. Have you ever even talked to him?"
"No. He'd never talk to someone like me!"
I dismissed her claim of Raze's antisocial manner, but I knew he'd never talk to her simply on general principle. She wore pastels and manicured her nails. She drives a car worth more than the average college tuition. Heck, I never talk to her.
I shook my head. "Sorry, but I can't do that." There was also the whole Adam/Sasha/Raze triangle that needed to be sorted out, but I left that out. "If you want to get to know Raze, do it the proper way: talk to him."
"I can't. It'd be too embarrassing."
"Then don't even bother if you're ashamed to do it. Keep it unrequited. Why don't you date Adam Reynolds instead? You guys are perfect for each other."
Rachael's nose wrinkled. "Ugh. That's so typical for us two popular people to get together."
I rolled my eyes and walked towards the door. "You're on your own, Rachael."
She huffed and I heard her heels click on the floor as I pushed the door open to outside. I didn't know what was up with these people, but I was tired of being stuck in the middle.
* * *
Connor was reading against the tree when I came over to him in my haggard state. When I slumped down next to him he looked at me questioningly, probably wondering at my condition.
"That must have been quite some business you had in there," he noted. He set his book down on his bookbag and rummaged inside it before producing an orange. I took it gratefully, as I forgot to get lunch inside.
"I spoke to Raze," I muttered, concentrating on peeling.
"You spoke to him about Adam and Sasha, didn't you?" Though his question had accusation in its context, his tone held amusement.
"I had to, Connor! I can't let Sasha fall prey to Adam's hands. And Raze is totally in love with Sasha."
"He told you that?" he asked.
"Not in so many words. But he's being dumb and selfless and letting Sasha vie after Adam. And now Rachael Derby is all in love with Raze and it's just so complicated now."
"Rachael Derby?" he repeated incredulously.
I nodded. "I know."
Connor sighed. The orange's citrusy aroma wafted between us and I tried not to get so much juice all over my hands.
"Hannah, you know it's not your business what happens between all those people," he said at last.
I popped an orange slice in my mouth. "I know. But . . . I believe it's for the greater good."
Connor smiled and nudged my shoulder with his. "I know you do, and that's what makes you such a nice person. But even if you meddle in some way, you can only do so much."
I threw an orange peel at him and scoffed. "Waxing philosophy now, are you?"
"I'm just saying the truth."
"And the truth shall set you free," I intoned, throwing Connor a cheeky grin. He plucked an orange from my palm and returned the smile.
Something in my stomach turned a little at Connor's contact and his smile directed at me, but then my hunger-rumbles overrode the feeling, giving me a worse one. I stuffed the rest of the oranges in my mouth and decided to let citric acid do its job.
So this is how the third day of this ordeal went. There were tons of chasing and confrontations which led to yelling which led to peace treaties which of course led to happily ever after. Kisses were exchanged, but details need not be mentioned, just to appease my gag reflex.
. . . just kidding. And though I had expected myself to be dropped in the bullring holding the muleta, things had surprisingly sorted out on their own.
* * *
I went through my morning as normally as any other, being phenomenally studious and having no worries whatsoever besides some really difficult partial differential equation. But I nipped that bad boy in the butt once I figured out that I switched the variable for the function and the derivative. No big deal!
By mid-afternoon I was feeling pretty good about my day, especially because I brought my lunch and baked carrot cupcakes the night before; carrot cake is Connor's favorite, and I figured I owed him for ditching the past two days. I was looking forward to at least that much, because I had a tutoring lesson with Adam today and so I ate the extra cupcake I brought beforehand, just so I'd be in a slight sugar stasis to last me through the period.
It was then that the trouble began.
I was late gathering all the textbooks needed for the lesson from my locker, so the hallways were empty on my walk to the classroom. I took my time, trying to ignore the fact that the shuffling I heard came from the bottom of my own legs, and not someone else's feet. But when I rounded the corner, I heard loud voices and quickly squatted behind the closest water fountain.
I peered around and saw Adam standing in front of the classroom talking to Raze. My eyes widened at their exchange, because despite how far I was from them, I could still hear their conversation and it wasn't nice at all. I'll give a slightly watered down version, only because I enjoy retelling their argument with their nasty words included.
"Look dude, I don't know what the hell you're talking about," Adam was saying.
Raze had his hands crossed over his chest, which accentuated the amount of bracelets he wore on both wrists. I noted that he could probably poke Adam's eye out with one of them.
"I'm only going to tell you once, Reynolds. Stay the fludgs (obviously that's not Raze's chosen curse word, but I inserted my own for vanity's sake—that, and I like that word) away from Sasha." He sounded angry, and I pumped my fist at his insistence. Seemed like my words got through his head after all.
Adam looked slightly confused under the irritation at being told what to do by Raze. He fired back, "I don't do what lame ass punks tell me to do."
Raze's jaw clenched but he didn't move from his position. "I don't care. You're too stupid to understand what anyone tells you to do anyway. Just stay away from her, alright?"
Adam scoffed. "Todd's sister? Hell man, I wouldn't go for that. She disappoints in some areas, know what I mean?" He paused for a moment and snickered. "But you two would look great for each other."
I didn't have to look to see what Raze did next. Actually, I didn't at first. But once I heard the sound of a punch and Adam's startled grunt, I looked and saw them on the ground, Raze on top and currently thumping Adam's spit out of his mouth.
From my position I wasn't sure if I should go there and break up their fight. It was apparent that Raze, in his skinny form with what surprisingly looked like muscle beneath his shirt, held some pretty hard punches under his dark clothes. But I knew that once Adam found his bearings he'd use his bulk and probably toss Raze into the trash bin without breaking a sweat. I didn't want to see that happen, so I made a quick decision to utilize the same books I was supposed to use to teach Adam and throw them at his head. I could then say I finally knocked some sense into him.
But someone beat me to it.
Rachael Derby beat me to it.
She emerged from one of the classrooms in the hall, presumably from the commotion, and at seeing her unrequited love get punched in the nose by her male counterpart she shrieked and ran at them. She pounded her purse on Adam's chest several times then scurried towards the wall Raze was limp against, leaning over him and asking frantically if he was okay. Her hands were all over him and I figured she was secretly delighting in being able to touch him. Raze's eyes were closed so I didn't think he knew whose hands were really touching him. I could imagine how he'd react at seeing Rachael all over him, and the image was way too funny.
Meanwhile, Adam's face already started swelling and if I had an ounce of pity to give him I would. But he deserved that. He's the punk.
With two guys laying on the ground winded and bruised and a girl preening over one of them, this scene was a hot mess and there needed to be some order around here. I was probably the only sane one around at the moment, so I made to stand while preparing my harangue towards Adam about not wanting to lecture delinquents.
But before I could stand fully someone else arrived on the scene, interrupting my interference yet again.
It was Sasha, and she didn't look happy at all seeing Rachael's hands all over Raze. I sat back down and smiled at the way things were turning out. Sure, Raze didn't have to get hit, but that's what guys do for women's honors, right?
She completely ignored Adam's sprawled and groaning form and marched straight to Rachael and knocked her hands away from Raze, taking the reigns on coddling him. She said something to the effect of, "Keep your hands off him. Wouldn't want to break a precious nail," and proceeded to help him up. Raze finally opened his eyes at her voice and the smile on his face surely should've registered in Sasha's romantic sensibilities.
Rachael huffed and stood there awkwardly, probably knowing that there was no way she would ever get an in with Raze when Sasha showed just how capable she was at being Raze's number one girl. I tried telling her that the day before. She then turned and looked at Adam's pathetic state and decided to lend some of her fake pity to him.
"Adam, oh you poor baby! Getting punched by that goth guy!" she cooed, kneeling over him.
This continued on for the next five minutes before I finally moved away from the scene. These people seemed to have a handle on things, so no need for me to be involved anymore. I'm sure once Adam sees how much Rachael would be willing to be at his beck and call he'd forget about me and stick with what's written by popular census. Besides, there's another student tutor who needs hours. I'm sure he'd be happy to take over for me.
I picked myself up and quietly walked away feeling better about myself and how quickly and smoothly (somewhat) things turned out. At the sight of the nearest faculty member I briefly described the situation with my best hysterical impression and went on with my way.
Now that everyone's hearts were in the right order, I had to sort mine out.
* * *
I spent the rest of the free period crossing and re-crossing the mental lists I made, because thoroughness and list-making was the best way of deciding anything in my world.
When I had crossed out and un-crossed the same thing the seventh time, I knew my decision was made. And it was such a logical one, too.
Connor was at this point in my life the best person to ever be in it. He was patient, kind, and put up with my eccentric attributes. He was the one who politely pointed them out to me, in any case. He was charming, good looking (in spite of my nose buried in textbooks I did happen to have a healthy attraction to the opposite sex), and seemed to know when not to say anything and the right words to say when he had something to say. He accepted me for all that I was, "nerdiness" and "prudeness" included. Connor was the only one I could see myself being with for the long run.
And, I've really wanted to kiss him since the day we met. That was reason enough for me.
* * *
This time it was I who waited for him at the tree. When Connor arrived the surprise was evident on his face. I smiled and held out a cupcake for him.
I waited for him to sit next to me and take the cupcake. "It's an apology cupcake for my frenzy these past couple days."
He bit into it and I so wanted to kiss the frosting off his lips. After the first bite, he looked at me with surprise again. "Carrot?"
A blush blossomed onto my cheeks (geez, I've never blushed around Connor before. Stupid hormones) and I sheepishly shrugged, offsetting my attentiveness to his effect on me. And he was very affecting, indeed. "I know they're your favorite and I just wanted to do something nice for you since you've been patient with me with all this craziness."
Connor looked at me for a long moment, and the back of my neck started to itch from anxiousness. Did I come off as too strong? I wasn't familiar with interacting with those I'm interested in! I just thought you acted normally—which I thought I had been doing. Connor's serious look begged to differ.
I was going to spurt out apologies, but then his expression shifted into something nice that gave my stomach a good lurching.
"Thanks, Hannah. You didn't have to do this," he said, but took another bite right after.
I smiled and ate a cupcake, contemplating this business of romance and hormones and the fact that I've been hit with Cupid's proverbial arrow. I've never believed in that, since it's Greek mythology and I'm all about empirical evidence, but the speed of my heartbeats belied my disbelief that a mythical arrow had something to do with it.
Connor and I sat in comfortable (more so for him, probably) silence as we ate our lunches. I was too busy thinking about if I could just hedge all this and pretend that I didn't have feelings for him, but logic couldn't nudge my feelings from my head and that was all I could think about for the ten minutes we were silent.
But since I wasn't the type of girl to let things sit in my brain for no other reason than to plod around and make me distressed over it, I decided to act out consequences be damned. If something needed to get done, I do it quickly and efficiently. And this was no different. I had feelings for Connor, and I couldn't just do nothing about that. It was my job to let him know. What he did with that information was entirely up to him, my own feelings aside. I just hoped he turned me down as gently as he could, and promised that we could still remain friends because if nothing else, Connor was an amazing friend. And a good lunch buddy.
After we finished our lunches I turned to him with all the questions I had prepared while he went to throw our trash away and asked them one by one.
"Are you an athlete?"
He didn't look surprised at my spontaneous inquiry about him. "I played soccer when I was eight."
"Are you a brooding bad guy?"
"I got into a fight sophomore year and got suspended for two days, but reasons were pretty valid, and in my favor. Does enjoying learning count as an act of rebellion?"
"Rebellion of what? Average high school standards of passing the menial of menial classes? Oh yeah, you're a total James Dean."
"So . . . I'm not a bad guy?"
I pictured Connor's eyes lined in kohl while headphones were permanently fixed onto his head with metalcore scene music creating a mini-venue around him as well as his wardrobe consisting of baggy pants (or skinny, as boys are wont to do nowadays) weighed down by chains linking nothing but his pockets together . . . uh yeah, I can't.
He nodded, looking pleased with my assessment. I continued, "Are you best friends with my brother?"
He frowned and looked at me askance. "You have a brother?"
I laughed, forgoing that question. "Are you my best friend?"
His lips quirked to the side. "If I answer incorrectly will I face the tempest of your fury?"
"Then I'll let you answer that question, Hannah."
For all romantic and strategic purposes, I answered, "Okay. No, you're not."
"Is it necessarily bad to not be any of the aforementioned types of guy? Is this your way of weeding out a romantic prospective?" he asked as he turned his head which subsequently caught a sliver of sunlight, lightening his eyes a shade. And that, my dear friends, subsequently lightened the pace of my heart akin to that of a newly morphed butterfly: unstable, choppy fluttering of freshly acquired wings.
"No." I drew out the coyness I was unfortunately not gifted with along with a deep nerve-steadying breath. "It's my way of making sure you're right for me."
He looked so serious at that moment that I panicked despite my inner cry at staying cool, calm, collected. I really didn't know where this surge of romantic feelings for this guy came from in the past day or so, but my reluctance at letting Adam's words sink within me caused this momentary lapse of cognitive thinking.
Then I blinked and next thing I knew Connor was kissing me, raw, furiously, and oh-so passionately that I felt all points of my nerves sizzle and fry and then come alive just to do it all over again. It was infinitely better than the kiss Adam bestowed upon me; whereas that felt like my dog finding my face the perfect canvas for saliva, this kiss felt like . . . well, it felt like Connor kissing me senseless. I've never had very much experience in this matter, so I had a lacking evidence of comparison, but Connor was doing a nifty job at bestowing upon me my first real kiss. It was amazing. His hands sifted into my hair as he drew breath from me, his lips pressed against mine in delicious pressure. I leaned into his body and felt around his neck for a jumping pulse, elated that I had this much of an effect on him as well.
When I surfaced from that beautiful drowning experience I breathed out, "Oh. That was nice."
Connor chuckled but he was breathing heavily too and I felt prouder of that feat than I did when I won last year's science fair with my electricity-producing windmill run by sunflower oil. "And am I right for you?"
I giggled and wrapped my arms around his neck, dragging him back down to me. "I think you're just about perfect, but another kiss would definitely make for sufficient evidence."
Connor gently pushed me back against the tree trunk and proceeded to kiss me again, this time slower, sweeter, and longer, allowing me to gather all formulas of the archetypal guy and toss it out the window.