I slipped into my bright yellow flats—size seven, the perfect size. Seriously, when you stop at a clearance rack, what size are all the shoes? Seven. There are no size elevens lying around as no one seriously has flippers for feet…well, my cousin, but that's sort of a touchy subject with her, I tend to just smile and thank God every time I slip my feet into that beautiful, perfect seven—my lucky number.

Hitting the play button on my Walkman CD player, circa 1996, I shoved it in my messenger bag and pulled the bulky black headphones on. No, they weren't those ridiculous headphones people working on the runway at the airport or working the track at the races wear; they were just plain ridiculous nineties headphones. None of those gorgeous little "ear buds" that are all the rage today. But really, what's the point? I couldn't afford the five dollars and ninety-three cents that ebay was advertising them for and my cumbersome, black headphones were in perfect working condition. Why change something when it functions perfectly? My motto for life.

"Everybody knows your name, but they don't know who you are!" I sang along with Lifehouse, my absolute love, as I sauntered on my way towards class, my dark brown bob hairstyle bouncing along with my step.

"Hey Marcus," I sang cheerfully to the blue haired boy I sat down next to. I studied his hair, as was ritual for me. Lately it marveled a wad of blue cotton candy and made me hungry every time I entered the lecture hall. Sometimes he even used a bit of gel but that only made it look more like cotton candy—the part eaten off of that then gets all crystallized.

"Chloe," He returned smoothly as he slumped casually in his chair. "Did you ever wonder why clowns wear red noses?"

I smiled, knowing that Marcus' brain was a constant slew of random questions. He was so sexy. Err, smart, right, he was a great person who just happened to be the epitome of beauty.

"It's because one time back a long time ago when there were no tissues—"

"What did they have to use?" Marcus asked, his eyes wide like a child as he leaned in to hear my story.

"Leafs. Now, leafs may sound like a good idea in theory but they are really rather rough to rub on your face—especially in the fall. So this boy, let's call him Ronald, had a cold and blew his nose so many times that his nose turned red."

"Oh dear."

"Uh-huh. All the children in town thought it was so funny and they laughed and laughed."

"I bet very gaily, like Kookaburra."

"Exactly. And so Billy grew up and thought it would be a great job to go out and entertain people—make them laugh, you know? So he did the only think he knew worked, he made his nose red. Well the people laughed and laughed. And that my dear child is how clowns began wearing red noses," I finished proudly.

"Wow. Now I just feel downright silly for being so poorly informed on this historical event."

I nodded, turning to the front of the room, "That's why you need me."

The gruff, homeless looking teacher appeared at the front of the room then, laying out his briefcase meticulously before removing the same four items he did every class period: a pencil, a notebook, the novel we were currently studying, and sign that prohibited cell phone use. He claimed that this was our example to follow as each class period those were the things we would need. But seriously, we weren't four years old anymore, he could have just told us orally once without laying them out each week.

"Chloe, why do you suppose it is that Professor Kreul is crazy?"

"I'll tell you're older, Chip."

Marcus raised an eyebrow, "Well tip you over and pour you out, Mama."

While I didn't exactly think it was a great thing for college boys to immediately catch Disney references, somehow Marcus made it look sexy. Instead of telling him Disney was for girls I smiled, pulled out my notebook, and tuned into the lecture.

"You heading to work now?" Marcus questioned as I let my eyes remain fixed upon his lip ring.

"You know I really want to kiss you when you wear that." I admitted before blushing profusely. "Sorry, that was blunt."

Somehow he turned me into a giddy drooling girl rather than the appropriate, modest, wholesome girl I typically was.

He simply smirked, "That's the idea, doll."

"Want to try it out then?" I questioned eagerly.

His eyes widened dramatically, "Chloe! Love! You can't be doing that in a public place, you'll have all my secret admirers beating you up."

"Well at least they won't be so secret anymore. Plus, I think I could take those girls…well maybe the boys too, no need to discriminate." I suggested in reference to my five foot three, 130 pound build.

"Hmm, I'll have to consider. That is tempting."

"How about you walk me to work and then we give it a go?" I tried with a shrug as I packed my messenger bag and pulled my headphones out, resting them around my neck—just another advantage that ear buds did not offer…well unless you hung them like a doctor's stethoscope but that's just plain cheesy.

Marcus smiled almost sympathetically at my shameless hinting. Well maybe it wasn't hinting but blatant directions. "That would be lovely."

I grinned and led the lanky, six-foot-four boy towards the hardware store on the other edge of campus boundaries.

Standing outside against the soda machine Marcus had his way with me as he ripped off my panties…

Okay, so that's not exactly what happened but still, a girl can dream, right? Instead of the hot, steamy sex I was wishing for from the perfect specimen of man, he left me with a lustful kiss before nodding, stuffing his hands in his pockets, and strolling away unaffected.

I sighed and headed through the propped open glass door reading 'Frankie's Nuts & Balls.' Although at one point it had read 'Frankie's Nuts & Bolts,' I suspect a bit too much fun on a Thirsty Thursday caused the vandalism. I mean if Asher Roth loved college that much and I'm in a whole college town, it's bound to be loved.

"Hey Hadley," I greeted the spunky blonde girl painting her nails behind the register as I grabbed the green polyester vest from the hook and slipped it on.

"Ya got a date this weekend?" Hadley questioned without looking up as I clocked in. Well, if you call 'clocking in' signing my name on a post-it with the time written next to it. It was more along the lines of the honor system than an actual clock as all the times were rounded anyway. Frankie was pretty low tech and simply wanted to keep his store standing. Rounding up time cards was all a part of 'keeping it standing.' Well, at least that's how Hadley had explained it to me and it made sense then, now it doesn't sound like such a strong argument anymore.

"No, why you want to double or something?"

Hadley shrugged, looking up at me for the first time. "I was hoping we could just happen to both show up at the same place so if my date is lame I can ditch him cleanly. You know, see you, get distracted, and never come back."

Typical Hadley, always an escape route in mind. "Where you headed?"

"Lasag's," she responded calmly, naming the cool hangout of the moment—the local underage drinking provider.

"I could probably come, but I'll let you kno—" I began but stopped mid sentence as my head jerked towards the other side of the store fast enough to give me whiplash as I heard a crash.

"It's your turn," Hadley chimed calmly, blowing softly on her now hot pink nails. "And you know, I don't think this counts as your turn considering on my turn had to clean out the clogged crapper."

"I've taken four turns since then to make up for it."

"Clogged, overflowing crapper," Hadley emphasized.

I sighed and headed towards the far aisle to reveal two boys chuckling in response to the rack of screws, nails, bolts, and other hardware accessories they had knocked to the floor.

"You have got to be kidding me," I muttered to myself, imagining the hours it would take to sort through the spilled items.

"He get's more feminine every time we see him," one of the boys said calmly, scratching his head through his light brown, nearly blonde hair.

"Don't clean that up," the buff boy with glistening black hair and olive skin ordered.

"Why not?" I questioned, my hands on my hips now.

"Where is the fat, foreign boy?" The buff boy said, his rich brown eyes scanning the store as best he could from the aisle.

"Oh you mean you?" I spat back to the boy standing before me who appeared to be Middle Eastern. What exactly was considered a part of the Middle East anyway? That's kind of a broad term in my mind.

He laughed heartily, "Darling, I'm not foreign. I mean that little Asian who works here."

"You are both…both…jerks." I announced choppily. I was never very good on the spot—especially with insults. "Making a mess just to watch some boy you don't like clean it up. Now move aside, please."

"My boy, did you hear that?" The darker boy questioned his friend. "I do believe she is a racist! Kicking us out! It's a good thing I have a top-notch lawyer who can make a case out of this!"

The other boy nodded, his blue eyes glistening with excitement. "I wonder how much you can get from this lawsuit. Probably more than from that ski shop last month. It didn't help much that the owner there was Indian as well."

Was India considered Middle East? More like Middle South. Just chilling in the ocean. The Indian Ocean. No wait, some bay or something. The Red Sea? Nah, Jesus was there. Was Jesus in India? Man, I needed to brush up on some geography. And religion. Maybe there was a class in geography and religion. Ignorance Avoider 101, perhaps.

"I dare say you're right! Now, let's go get a hold of my lawyer and see if his rate is still the same. Good luck doll!" He said, ruffling my hair on the way out. "By the way, when you get the lawsuit, I'm Nihar Vitaris. That way you'll recognize it's from me."

"Grand," I replied dryly as I squatted down and began sorting through the hardware.

"Whoa!" Hadley blew in surprise, "Those boys did that?"


"They were hot!"

"Not what I want to hear right now."

"With two t's!"

I glared at the girl as she sat down beside me to help sift through the wreckage.

"That was Nihar Vitaris! Can you believe it?"

"That means nothing to me."

Hadley nearly choked on her own saliva at that moment. After gathering herself together she continued. "Nihar Vitaris is rich! And he is a playa! I wish I could have his baby," she finished dreamily. "But I'd settle for pasty's baby too, he's rich too."

"Gold digger," I muttered wondering why she felt the need to attach his last name each time she said it.

Instantly Hadley broke into song, waving her hand enthusiastically as she sang. "18 years, 18 years. She got one of yo kids, got you for 18 years. I know somebody payin' child support for one of his kids. His baby momma's car and crib is bigger than his!"

"Don't ever sing that again. No one should be able to become famous singing about…well, gold diggers."

"Hey, if he made money with it, all the more power to him. Now hush little baby, don't you cry, everything's gonna be all right. Stiffen that upper lip up little lady, I told ya. Daddy's here to hold ya through the night!"

"Seriously, give up all your dreams about making it as a rapper."

"You just have no ear for talent. I mean, get this one: I'm supposed to be the soldier who never blows his composure, even though I hold the weight of the whole world on my shoulders," Hadley began passionately and confidently over the plink, plink of metal dropping into the respective plastic boxes.

"What song is that?" I questioned, suddenly captivated.

"Some Eminem one. He's a rapper though," the blonde whispered with a grin as if rappers were forbidden.

I rolled my eyes as I continued sorting.

"I knew I would find a rap song you liked!" She sang lightly, flashing a blinding white smile.

"I still prefer Lifehouse." I announced, purposely not drawing attention to Hadley's observation, as it was dead on. After weeks of trying, Hadley finally found a rap song I enjoyed.

"You aren't going to be able to avoid other music. I'm sure there are other songs out there that will speak to you besides Lifehouse, no matter how in love you are with the lead singer."

"It's just so beautiful, you can't even understand," I reminisced.

"This is 10 percent luck, 20 percent skill, 15 percent concentrated power of will! 5 percent pleasure, 50 percent pain, and 100 percent reason to remember the name!" Hadley sang again.

"That's a fun one."

"Don't lie to me, Chloe, I know you too well for lies to be flying by."

I smiled, "I'll try then: Cause it's you and me and all of the people with nothing to do, nothing to lose. And it's you and me and all of the people and I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you!"

"Sorry, girl, I don't swing that way," Hadley deadpanned as I laughed and shoved her lightly, watching her pop back up like a bobo doll.

"I put up with your singing!"

"Rapping, correction, you put up with my rapping."

"Same difference."

"I didn't try to woo you."

I grinned, knowing she had me there. "Can I try again?"

"No. Wanna know why?" Without waiting for me to respond Hadley continued on her own, "It's because you asked. Stop being so damn passive and obedient. You're like a little twelve-year-old Catholic schoolgirl who hasn't yet learned how to take advantage of the uniform. You're still sticking your nose in that history book and adjusting your glasses while you suck up to the teacher."

"Correction, I don't have glasses."

"It's still a perfect description of you. In a few years all that nose in the book stuff will backfire and you'll need glasses…or a man to make the money for you while you lounge by the pool with no need for sight. Best plan eva! But seriously, today do one thing that is in your face and unexpected."

"Don't you think I know exactly where I stand? This world is forcing me to hold your hand! 'Cause I'm just a girl, little 'ol me! Don't let me out of your sight! I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite, so don't let me have any rights!" I bellowed zealously.

"Now, I know that is not a Lifehouse song. Your future husband would not call himself a girl."

I grinned, "No Doubt."

"Who sings it?"

"No Doubt."

"That band Gwen Stefani was in?"


"That so does not count as your unexpected thing."

"Hi Chloe, Hadley," a short, beefy, obviously Asian boy greeted us. "Whoa, who knocked over the rack? Did you see it? Was it a cascade as liberating as I envisioned?"

"I didn't see it but it was friends of yours," I stated calmly.

"What? Friends of mine? Who?"

"That hottie, Nihar Vitaris and his buddy."

"Oh. I'm so sorry, I'll clean this up, don't worry about it," Adam stated.

"Don't touch it, Adam."

"What?" Hadley questioned dubiously, obviously eager to be done with the task.

I shook my head; "I'm getting over my passiveness right now." Taking a deep breath I continued, "I don't want those boys coming back to see you sitting on the floor picking this up. That's exactly what they want."

"You do not have to do that."

"I want to, you're my best friend."

"Well, my shift is over now anyway, thank God. Good luck working this out and Adam, do you think you could get me your hottie bullies' digits?"


"Can't blame a girl for trying." The blonde stood up, wiped her pants off, and nodded before taking off.

"Chloe, I'd rather you didn't restore this." Adam said in his calm, rational voice he used when he was teetering on the edge of yelling in frustration and anger.

"Don't even think about touching it. This is what friends do."

Adam sighed and headed towards the front of the store, needing time to think through the situation and return with an open mind and well planned argument.

"I'll do whatever it takes, to turn this around," I sang lightly as I pushed the remaining pieces to one small pile, the size of a medium pizza with black olives—my favorite.

"The Asian's got you doing his bitch work now?" Nihar questioned venomously.

"Like it or not it's the way it's gotta be. You gotta love yourself if you can ever love me!" I continued, acting oblivious to the ripped, 'hottie' as Hadley called him, standing above me.

I looked up with wide eyes as Nihar hit my head lightly.

"Oh, are you in need of assistance, Sir?" I questioned brightly.

He glared, "Where's the Asian?"

"That's me. I don't think I told you my name though. How did you know my name was Asian? Do I have a nametag on?" I questioned, frantically searching my outfit as the pale blue-eyed jerk in the background laughed so lightly and so briefly that I almost missed it.

A sound resembling a growl escaped Nihar's lips as I wondered if this is what Hadley meant by being less passive. It just seemed a little suicidal to me to piss off the powerful and rich. Damn Republicans.

I smiled as Adam turned on the radio and the calm beat radiated through the store as I piped in lightly, "I'm lifting you up, I'm letting you down, something, something, something, I'm fooling around, I'm not giving up!" And Hadley thought I only knew Lifehouse songs.

I looked up to Nihar with a broad smile as I dropped the last screw into it's slot and rose from the floor, brushing my pants off as I stood, "I like this song."

"I'm just going to knock it over again," he threatened.

"That's okay, gives me something to do. I'm not a fan of idle hands. What's that saying? Idle hands…make good work? Idle hands…huh."

"Why do you even work here? Do you know anything about hardware?"

"Do you? I mean you've wandered around but you seem too proud to ask for help."

He glared, "I know everything I need to know about hardware."

"Good wording because you might not need to know anything and then, you know all you need!"

"Egghead!" Adam yelled across the small store. "Phone's for you!"

"Oh! Idle hands are the devil!" I shouted with glee. "No wait…it's something about the devil. Maybe you're the devil? I'm the devil? I forget." I said with a casual shrug as I headed towards the phone, hearing the unfortunately, familiar crash of thousands of nails, screws, bolts, and other accessories hitting the linoleum floor.

"Just helping you out," Nihar spat as he walked by.

I raced up to him and threw my arms around his waist from behind, grinning like a madwoman as he roughly pried my arms off his torso.

"Thank you, Nihar. This is how I know we're going to have a beautiful friendship." I placed one hand over my heart as I smiled gratefully and headed back inside as Adam stormed towards the spillage. "Don't worry, Adam! I'll take care of it! What's that saying about the devil's hands?" I called cheerfully, fully aware that Nihar was still listening adamantly as he and Kurt left.

"Hello?" I chirped, picking up the old green phone from the counter where Adam had left it.

"Hi Daddy!" I greeted happily as I heard Adam's swearing and the crashing of metal. "Oh darn, well Adam's having a bit of an…hmm, what would you call it? An anger attack? So I only have a minute but what's that saying about idle hands and the devil?"

"Idle hands are the devil's tools," my father recited without hesitation.

"Oh, I was close. Thanks. So how are you and Brina?"

"We're doing well, I just called to ask you abo—" my father began as I heard another bang followed by a pattering that sounded unfortunately like more metal hitting the ground…

"Uh, I have to go, Adam's going crazy." I interrupted, hanging up abruptly and rushing towards the Asian boy who was throwing appliances in the small boxes, not sorting them at all.

I laughed lightly and he only glared.

"Adam, seriously, it's not that big a deal. I'll sort them."

"Why bother when they'll just throw it over again. Damn racists."

"Is that it? They are racist towards you?" I questioned in shock, having guessed that earlier by the nature of their comments but hoping it wasn't true.

Adam grumbled something incoherently and continued his slamming of metal.

Trying to hold back my laughter at the unnecessary rage I pulled Adam towards me slightly. (Only slightly, I mean I wasn't the Hulk.) "Buddy, go take a break; walk it off. I'ma get some Jason and do this again."

I was definitely hitting Hadley's goal for me today with anti-passiveness.

"Chloe, don't even start it."

"Well, generally I'm against singing non Lifehouse songs more than once in a day but I think here it's necessary." I announced more to myself than to Adam as I cleared my throat dramatically and prepared to repeat my No Doubt solo.

Adam placed his hand over my mouth. "It's superlative if you don't sing right now, I just need some time to…ponder."

I grinned, "Go think. I'll take care of those racist pigs for you. And I'll sort the nuts."

"Don't go trying to amend this," He instructed sternly.



"Adam, he's Indian! He can't pick on you!"


I threw my hands up in defeat as I started my CD and took a seat on the linoleum floor again.

Adam stood in silence for a few minutes before heading outside. I knew he was simply keeping quiet for fear he would say something he regretted. While I tended to never have the right words at the opportune moment, Adam always seemed to have the most hurtful words on the spot.

The second time through the CD I sang just as gaily, picturing the music videos in my mind. Singing along intently I jumped as someone kissed the back of my neck. Spinning around I found Adam standing, with a goofy grin on his face.

"Ready to blow this popsicle joint?"

I nodded; realizing it must have been a while as I threw the remaining unsorted material in a bucket. "Definitely. What are we doing tonight?"

"Hot, passionate sex?" Adam suggested as I grinned, knowing we would never cross that line again.

"So I should call Marcus. But who are you going to sleep with?"

Adam groaned and put me in a headlock as he led me to the front of the store while I protested.

"Adam!" I squealed like I had at the *Nsync concert I had attended all those years ago—what a phase. But you have to admit, Lance was some hot stuff. Too bad he sways the other way now or I'd probably stalk him rather than wait around for Jason Wade—the Lifehouse god. I couldn't stalk Jason. He was married and as much as I loved him, I was too moral to lust over him intently while he had a wife. That wasn't fair to the poor—well, probably rich—woman.

He released me several feet outside of the store as he shoved me away slightly, watching me stumble to regain a sense of balance now that I was no longer stuffed in his armpit.

"When are we going home?" I questioned eagerly, always having to wait for Adam to visit my family, as he was the one with the car. Not like I was that much out of his way though as his house sat kitty-corner from mine.

"I don't know. My ma's been calling but I don't know when a good weekend will be."

"This weekend!" I chimed in loudly, jumping slightly.

Smiling he shook his head. "What about your date with Hadley?"

I waved him off casually, "She's a big girl, and she'll survive without me."

"Have ya met the girl?"

I laughed and remembered why I liked Adam so much. He was exciting and never afraid to share his opinions; pretty much the perfect man.

"There's something going on every weekend, we can't always stay here just to not miss out."

He nodded, "This weekend sounds fine."

"Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Can we rent a movie tonight?"


"Please?" I tried.

He sighed. "I guess. Do you have any money?"

"We could just borrow one from Karen," I suggested, knowing both of us were severely in debt and between the two of us we couldn't scrape together the four dollars movie rentals cost—even with borrowing Karen's membership, not paying for one of our own.

"Sounds good."

"I'm sure she has at least one movie we haven't seen in a while."

"Plus her birthday is coming up so I'm sure she'll get more then," Adam reminded me.

I chortled at the thought that we were excited to borrow Karen's potential birthday presents.

"Oh, now I get why you did the Asian's dirty work," a voice behind us said.

I spun around and grinned broadly, "Good to see you again, buddy. Quick question though: are you stalking me? My father doesn't really approve of stalkers and he'll probably hire a hit man to take you out if you are stalking me. So I just need to know for sure before I give him the green light."

"You should have just told me you were screwing the Asian."

"Haha, I get it, a hardware joke. Screwing. Ha, that's a good one, bud!" I said punching him playfully. "You're so witty," I laughed as Nihar stared blankly.

"But seriously, you couldn't tell?" I questioned wrapping my arms around Adam and sliding my leg around his waist. "I thought it was obvious."

"Don't waste time, let's go," Adam responded to me although it was loud enough and meant for Nihar to hear.

I nodded and leaned in, pressing my lips against Adam's as he instinctively pulled me closer, all our old practice showing through as we melted into one another passionately, as momentarily I, and I'm guessing Adam too, forgot about our intended audience.

"Dude," Marcus chimed lethargically as he pulled me backwards, away from Adam. "Get your own girl."

"Hey baby," I grinned, staring at the blue haired individual who only seemed to want me more everyday.

"What are you up to tonight?"

"What'd you have in mind?" I questioned dreamily. God, I wished I could simply be normal around him, not an intense, attached, lovesick girl. I wished that I could at least control my drool.

Marcus shrugged, "I'm sure we'll find something to do."

I turned to Adam, as if asking his permission. He nodded, knowing I had a serious addiction with Marcus. He was my drug. Well, actually, I'd never done drugs but I imagine if I did, they would offer the same effect Marcus gave me.

"You really are his bitch," Nihar spat with a hint of surprise.

I smiled and leaned towards him, placing a hand on Nihar's chest. "And I could be yours too. For a price…"

He flicked my hand off with disgust and pulled away before making a dramatic exit.

Adam winked and headed off as Marcus took me out for coffee and a make out session between the science buildings.

"See you around," he simply exited with as he walked away, leaving me leaning against the Brian Tracy Building for the Sciences, feeling quite woozy. Maybe some chemicals were seeping out the windows. Either way, it didn't much matter; Marcus had given me his undivided attention for a good forty minutes—a great feat.

Congratulations, Chloe!

AN: Thanks for reading! Any feedback would be great and definitely taken into consideration! I've been working on this story for quite some time and have ridiculously high hopes for it. I've grown really attached to the characters and upcoming plot and would love to hear how ya'll react! Thanks! Colie Rae :)