A/N: My bad for taking so long to get this out. No, but honestly, I REALLY want to finish this. I'm GOING to finish this. I promise. Don't give up on it :D
ALSO - What the fuck, you guys? Chapter two literally only has like 35 hits. What is this? Ugh.
I Want to Hold Your Hand
It is 11:57 on a Saturday morning and I am parked in front of Alex Lavender's gate. Yeah, gate. I had to use Google maps in order to find his house, and it turns out it has a name: Lavender Vineyard and Winery. His family owns a vineyard. What the fuck? This is so 18th century Bordeaux.
So now I'm sitting here, waiting for the guard to "consult his list" so he can confirm that I am, indeed, supposed to be let in. Needless to say, I am not amused. Especially since, thanks to that bitch I used to call my friend and my fake date, I now have this black cloud hanging over my head that's only going to make my life uncomfortable until I graduate.
It's not that I actually have a crush on him (because I'm not fucking gay), but it's the fact that people think I do. I feel like I have to negate their claims or something, but then Alex is going to notice I'm acting like more of a douche bag than I normally do, and he's going to suspect something. Then he's going to eventually find out that I have a crush on him (even though I don't) and it will be this weird, awkward situation that will undoubtedly enrage me.
So, either way, I lose. Story of my life, right?
Finally, this bastard guard turns back to me and says I can go on in. When he lifts the gate, I suppress the urge to flip him off as I drive through, but only because it would probably result in me being shot. Even though I hate everything involving this world, I'd like to continue living my miserable existence, thanks.
I figure that, after I drive through the Hell Gates, his house will be right there and I'll be able to begin my sentence of doom on time. Wrong. When I drive through the gates, there's a whole lot of nothing. And by nothing, I mean a whole lot of grapes. I guess that's to be expected from a vineyard and all, but where the fuck is his house?
After driving through the grape orchard and passing a gift shop and a couple other random buildings that probably aren't random at all, I finally come to his house. And by house, I mean castle – or château, since we're pretending to be pretentious French winemakers. It has a fucking fountain in the middle of the driveway. What the hell?
I get out of my car (reluctantly) and slowly make my way up the front steps, my signature scowl plastered onto my face.
I ring the doorbell (which is stupidly shaped like a bunch of grapes) and wait. When the door opens, I see a girl who can only be Alex's little sister. She has the same chocolate brown hair and the same dark blue eyes as her brother, but she seems a little bit more… nerdy, for lack of a better word. I mean, she's wearing a skirt and a fucking cardigan. Come on.
"Hi," she says, opening the door a bit more so she can see me properly.
"Hi," I respond, weirdly nervous. I shove my hands into my pockets before continuing. "Uh, is Alex here?"
"Oh!" she says, smiling. "Are you his boyfriend?"
"What?" I swear to you I try my hardest not to shriek that word, but much to my displeasure, it happens anyway.
"Gabi." God. I inwardly sigh as I hear Alex's voice from the house's interior. That is not a sound I want to hear on a Saturday. Or ever, for that matter. "Who is it?" She shrugs and turns away from the door, allowing Alex to step in front of me.
"You're late," he says, but he's smiling at me. God, this is so awkward.
"Oh, excuse me for not having my fucking birth certificate and rap sheet on me so Ed could let me in at a decent time," I reply, stepping inside his house without an invitation, shoving him out of the way in the process. "You should have told me in advance I was going to be interrogated."
"Don't you think you're being a little dramatic?" he questions, leading me into a doorway off the left side of the entryway.
"Don't you think it's a little ridiculous that you have a house guard?" I counter, plopping down on a couch. "Or that you have wrought iron gates?"
"Seth," he starts, like I'm the stupidest person he's ever spoken to, "this is a vineyard. Where we make expensive wine. It's kind of necessary."
"Whatever," I concede. "Can we just get this over with so I can go home?"
"Sure, Seth," he says sarcastically. "Whatever you want."
"Really?" I ask dully, "Because what I want is to leave here and never come back."
"Anything but that," he states. "Do you have your homework with you?"
"Yeah," I sigh, pulling it out of my back pocket. He raises an eyebrow at me.
"Maybe that's why you're failing," he quips as he flips to the chapter we're working on in the textbook.
"What are you struggling with?" It seems my hostility is having less and less of an effect on him. Well, shit. In response, I clench my jaw and stare defiantly at the rug. You see, there's this thing about my pride: It refuses to be swallowed.
Alex has a hard time understanding that.
"I can't help you if you don't tell me what you need help with," he says, shifting a bit to face me. "Calc is hard, I get that. You're stubborn, I get that too. But I can help you pass, and it would be a lot easier if you weren't so impossible all the time."
Well, double shit. I am not okay with Alex Lavender acting like a human. He's mostly just this mathbot I enjoy yelling at, but he's trying to act like my… friend or something. Gross.
"Fine, whatever," I snap, pushing my body closer to the armrest so I can get as far away from him as the couch will allow.
"Let's just start with derivatives," he suggests.
"No," I say. "I'm not fucking stupid." This is where I insert an indignant scowl. "I know the basics like derivatives and integrals and anti-differentiating; I just don't know when to apply the concepts."
"Oh," he says, grinning. "That's easy." He moves a little bit closer to me, flips my homework page over, and starts scribbling notes on the back as he explains when to use each principle. I don't think I really need to state the obvious, but I will: This is awkward.
I mean, he's touching me. Literally, his right thigh is touching mine as he leans over me to write on my homework sheet, which is on my notebook, which is on my lap. What the fuck? This is not normal. This is so fucking abnormal. Who does shit like this? Nobody. No normal teenage boy would do this to another normal teenage boy. But I guess that doesn't really apply, since Alex is a f--.
"Huh?" I snap out of my mental rant and look to my left. Alex is still way too close, and I'd like to punch him in the throat for thinking this is alright, but that would be rude. Since when do I care about being rude? Oh yeah, since I found out my friend thinks I'm queer for him, thus robbing me of my abilities to be a complete dick lest I want him finding out. It's a delicate balance. Truthfully it's not one I'd like to be in limbo of, but life enjoys fucking with my head. Thanks, Life – you always have been a bitch.
"Seth?" I blink once and realize I still haven't answered him. So, instead of assaulting him like I want to, I just nod, look away, and cough. Oh, God, that sounds like a fucking physical. Only, instead of a doctor holding my balls in his hands, it's Alex.
Wait a minute. No. No, that is… not okay. That's not even okay to think. I'm going to kill myself now.
"Are you okay?"
"Peachy," I squeak, flipping my homework back to its proper side to start working on the first problem.
I work silently for a while, surprisingly able to finish a few of the problems without popping a blood vessel. I do, however, come across the kind of problem I despise the most: One of those "find the area of a figure revolving around a plane" ones. Fuck. Now I'm going to have to ask him for help. Suck it up. Suck up your pride. Don't swallow it, though – never swallow it.
"Hey, Alex?" I want to ram my head through a wall, but I refrain. He looks up at me from the book he's reading (Jane Eyre – what the fuck?) and raises his eyebrows. "Can you help me with this one?"
"Yeah, sure," he says, setting his book on the coffee table and moving over to invade my personal space again. Fuck me. No, no, no, no, don't. Please. Don't. "What do you need help with?"
"U-um." I clear my throat. It seems to have betrayed my discomfort. "I just don't really know which area formula to use, and I don't know which one is supposed to be subtracted."
"Oh, okay," he starts. "Well, you have to look at the line and imagine what the shape will be after it revolves around the axis." He continues explaining, and the more he does, the more I think I'm finally, finally beginning to understand how this crap works. How the hell is he doing this? Why can't it be this easy when I'm taking a test? Even though I hate him, I will admit that he's a fantastic teacher.
"So after I plug the equations in, I just simplify, anti-differentiate, and stick the limits in?" I ask, looking over my work so far.
"Yeah," he says. "But don't forget to add the constant at the end, so when you subtract you can show how it cancels out without figuring out the actual value."
"Oh yeah," I say, adding a tiny "+K" onto the end of the equation.
"Is this right?" I ask once I finish the problem. He glances down for a second to check the answer, and then he turns back to me, grinning.
"Yeah." Despite the fact I should be greatly annoyed that he knew the answer the whole time, I'm not. I'm actually kind of happy that I'm finally beginning to understand this stuff. I even manage a tiny smile in return.
"Wait a second," he says, grin blossoming into a full-on smirk, "are you smiling?"
"No," I say quickly, turning back to my homework to avoid revealing the traitorous expression.
"No, I'm not," I insist, but the stupid thing refuses to disappear. He's laughing good-naturedly now and he shoves my shoulder in that common gesture of masculinity. A laugh escapes through my lips before I can do anything about it. Alex stops completely, his hand still resting on my shoulder; his thumb is touching my collar bone and the tips of his fingers lightly brush against my neck.
"Did you just –?"
"No," I deny, cutting him off. "I didn't." Now I'm not laughing, not even smiling. The situation just got too… weird for me to handle. I shrug his hand off of my shoulder uncomfortably. He backs off a little and I duck my head down, but the warmth on my cheeks is undeniable.
Alex excused himself a couple minutes ago. I don't know what he's doing, but the important thing is that he's away from me. This whole thing is so uncomfortable for me. There's that little Alix voice in the back of my head shouting that I have a crush on him, and I'm trying to ignore it, but it's kind of difficult when he's touching me like that.
Not that it caused me to acknowledge the fact that I like him (because I don't), or that he even meant anything by it, but now that the seed has been planted in my brain, it won't fucking go away. I just get all these strange thoughts now. Like, when he was invading my space, I couldn't stop thinking about whether or not he could tell if something is off about me or if he did notice and just concluded that I have a crush on him or something.
I don't have a crush on him, obviously, but what if he thinks I do? What if he thinks I want him to touch me like that? God, what if he makes a move on me? What if he tries to kiss me? Oh my God. I would not be able to handle that.
I can't even think about that without freaking out. I'm starting to sweat and I feel like I can't fucking breathe. My face and neck are rapidly heating up because it's so damn hot in here. If I were wearing a tie, this would be the moment I would loosen it and clutch the armrest of the couch for stability.
"Hey, are you okay?" I look up sharply, and it does nothing for the color of my face when I see Alex leaning against the doorframe to the living room. I briefly note that it looks as though he's changed his shirt.
"I'm fine," I say, suddenly very annoyed at his presence, before looking back at my finished homework. I need to occupy my mind with something other than his presence, so I start to go over the work in my head. I don't get far, however, before I hear another,
"Hey." I sigh audibly and look up, about to tell him off, but there's another person in the room. And that other person is… Alex. Whoever asked me if I was okay is definitely not Alex, but he has his face and I'm totally fucking freaked out.
"What the fuck?" Alex smirks and his clone just looks confused. Actually, he looks concerned, like he thinks I'm a psych ward escapee or something.
"We're twins," Alex explains. "This is Riley." I blink once.
"Oh. Cool." I guess I may have overreacted. Shouldn't that be your first thought when you see two people that look exactly alike? That they're twins? My brain is kind of fucked up right now. But it's still really weird, seeing him look at me all curiously. He has Alex's face! It's creepy.
"Well," Riley says, clearing his throat, "I'm going to head out."
After he leaves, Alex starts to fidget. I find it extremely obnoxious.
"What's wrong with you?" I question, narrowing my eyes suspiciously.
"Hm?" He looks up at me now, but he still seems distracted. "Nothing, nothing. Uh, are you finished with your homework?" He's bouncing on the balls of his feet now and he seems kind of anxious.
"Why…?" If I wasn't suspicious before, I definitely am now.
"No reason," he says quickly, waving his hands a bit as if he's attempting to disarm my temper. "I just kind of have a date soon that I should probably get ready for…." He scratches the back of his neck sheepishly.
I don't know why, but for some reason his admission enrages me. Greatly. There's really no logical explanation for this sudden flare of anger, but nonetheless, it happens.
"Fine," I snarl, snatching my books off the table and standing up. "You were the one who insisted I come today, but go ahead, kick me out so you can go be queer with some guy you probably met off Craig's List. He's probably going to murder you or something, which is fine with me."
"Seth, don't be like that," he sighs, running a hand through his hair. He doesn't even seem pissed about the fact that I called him queer, and he doesn't even seem to care that I kind of let my deep, bottomless hatred for him slip out a little.
"I'm not being like anything," I say, pushing him out of my way so I can leave the living room. "I'm just being normal, okay? So don't read too much into it. I'm being the normal me, and I just thought you should know I think you suck. So. Whatever." I'm such an idiot.
"Okay, Seth," he says as I place my hand on the doorknob. He sounds pissed now. "Whatever you say."
"What is that supposed to mean?" I ask, turning around. I set my jaw and cross my arms, wanting nothing more than to punch him in his perfect fucking face.
"Nothing!" he shouts. "Fuck." He runs his hand through his hair again and exhales noisily. "You're such a fucking prick, you know that?"
"Yeah, I did know that, thanks," I reply, smirking. I have to admit, I'm kind of proud of the fact that I finally managed to get under his skin. He stands there for a minute, scrubbing his hand over his face, and when he looks up at me again, he just looks tired.
"I'm going to get ready," he says. "You should go."
After I slam my bedroom door behind me, I pull my shirt off and collapse spread-eagle on my bed. The air conditioning vent on my ceiling blows my hair into my eyes so I close them.
This is the worst day of my life.
I would tell you why, but I don't really know. I'm just… mad. Not the normal kind of mad, though, when I want to slam someone's head into a brick wall. It's something different, and I'm annoyed that I can't figure it out.
I was actually kind of happy today (because I was finally beginning to understand calculus) but then, for some reason, I just got pissed and stayed that way. I'm starting to think I'll remain perpetually angry as long as Alex is in my life. Not that he's in my life or anything – he's just there, you know? Whatever.
My phone starts vibrating in my pocket. When I pull it out, it reads "Alix." Now is probably a good time to tell you that Alix has called me a total of 57 times since my date with Camille. I think she knows I'm a little angry with her.
I tell myself the only reason I answer is because I don't think I could stand it if it rings one more time, not because I actually like talking to her or something.
"Seth! You answered!" she squeals.
"Oh, I did?" I ask dryly. "I didn't realize." She is silent for a beat, as if she doesn't really know what to say first.
"Look, I'm sorry I forced you to go out with Cami." Cami? Ugh. "I just had to know! I know it's a really shitty thing for a friend to do, but I was about to die from curiosity."
"I can't believe you did this to me," I sigh, rolling over onto my stomach. I'm not mad at her anymore, just kind of… hurt. Which is weird. I didn't know I was capable of emotions like that.
"I know, and I'm sorry," she says, sounding just as wounded as me. "You're my best friend. I should have just asked."
"Yeah, you should have," I agree. She's silent for a second.
"So… are you?"
"Am I what?" I wonder, absentmindedly running a hand over the back of my neck.
"Seth!" she shrieks. I roll my eyes. "You know what I'm asking." When I don't say anything, she pushes on. "Seth, are you gay?"
"No," I state. I feel sick, for some reason. "And even if I was I wouldn't like Alex Lavender." She sighs.
"Fine." It might just be my imagination, but I'm pretty sure I hear skepticism in her voice.
When I woke up this glorious Monday morning, my first thought was this: "This sucks." That was obviously a bad sign and I should have taken heed to it, opting to stay home from school instead of torturing myself further. But, being the punctual idiot that I am, I didn't.
Instead, I'm sitting on the ground in the hallway, propped up against my locker. I have my calculus book open on my lap, but I'm not looking at it. I finished all my homework at that prick's house on Saturday, but I opened my book out of habit. I'm staring off into space, eyes half-lidded in sleep deprivation. I wasn't even doing anything last night. I just couldn't fall asleep because it's usually when I do my homework. Fucking calculus.
I rub my eyes and yawn sleepily; when I open them, Alex fucking Lavender is walking in my direction. I tell myself he isn't coming to talk to me, that he's just going to calculus, but when he stops in front of me and says, "Hey," I can't deny that he's speaking to me. I sigh.
"Can I talk to you for a second?" he asks, stuffing his right hand into his pocket.
"Uh, why?" I ask, unable to think of a reason why he would possibly want to speak to me. He rolls his eyes and shakes his head a little.
"Can I just talk to you, please?" Technically it's a question, but the tone of his voice makes it seem like a demand.
"I guess." I shrug, flipping my book closed and stuffing it in my bag. He reaches a hand down to help me up. I glance at it warily before taking it and allowing him to pull me to my feet, blushing the whole time. And I know what you're thinking, but I'm not gay for him. It's just awkward because of that stupid fucking seed. As soon as I'm standing, I wrench my hand out of his, sling my bag over my shoulder, and cross my arms tightly over my chest. "So, what do you want?" I make sure to avoid eye contact so as not to reveal my current state.
"Well," he starts, rubbing the back of his neck, "I kind of wanted to… apologize."
"For what?" I ask, perplexed. My life is getting so fucking weird.
"For kicking you out, or whatever," he admits sheepishly. Well, at least he has the decency to feel guilty. "This guy I've been talking to called me Friday night and asked if I wanted to go out on Saturday. It was kind of short notice, so I –"
"Will you shut up?" I snap, annoyed at his explanation. "It's fine. It's not like I care or something. Whatever."
"Are you sure?" he asks, left eyebrow raised.
"Yes, Jesus. How was your date, anyway?" I ask conversationally. Fuck knows why I'm making small talk.
"I've had better." I don't even want to think about what that means.
"Er, right," I say awkwardly. "Okay. Cool. Well, um, I'm gonna go to calc now."
"See you there," he returns. He even smiles at me. Ugh. Disgusting.
I pretty much sprint away from Alex, unable to bear the awkwardness of the situation any longer. When I get to class, I'm surprised to find Mrs. Kushing sitting at her desk, looking quite frail. She's talking to Molly Peters, the rumored coke addict. She would need help. But it's not like I have any room to talk. Whatever, at least I don't do drugs.
I flop down in my seat with a roll of my eyes, taking my homework and checking it over since I have nothing better to do. People start to slowly file into the room, chattering away like fucking birds until the bell rings. Nobody else is responsible enough to quadruple-check their homework from Monday. I allow myself a smug smile, imagining that everybody around me is failing or doing worse than I am (was).
When I look up, Mrs. Kushing is gone. Honestly, she's the most elusive person I've ever heard of. And I say "heard of" because I realize I've never actually spoken to the woman. As I silently ponder this, Alex walks through the door, kicking it closed behind him, eyes focused on a stack of papers in his hand. My face heats up for some unknown reason, so I duck my head in embarrassment. What is wrong with me? Jesus Christ.
"Okay, guys," Alex says, tossing the stack of papers onto Mrs. Kushing's desk and finally looking up at the class, "I just talked to Mrs. Kushing. She wants us to finish working on Chapter 6, so finish up your homework if you haven't already. I'll be coming around if you guys need help. If you're done, you can grab tonight's homework from me and start on that."
I sigh. I predict that calculus is going to be quite boring from now on if Alex insists on continuing the stupid tutoring. My completed homework sits innocently on my desk, just waiting to be recognized. I sympathize with it for a second before I realize I'm actually sympathizing with myself, and then I just feel pathetic. So I wait for Alex to come around with tonight's homework, occupying my thoughts with nothing in particular.
"You finished?" he asks when he gets to me. I bring my eyes away from the window I've been staring out to glance at him. I just nod a couple times, expecting him to trade homeworks with me and move along. But, no, he has to be difficult. He leans down, pulls my completed homework in front of him (have I mentioned that I quadruple checked the answers?), scanning through the problems. "Wow, Seth, great job."
"Yeah, thanks for having so much faith in my abilities," I say, crossing my arms in annoyance. He just smiles before picking the piece of paper off of my desk and replacing it with a blank worksheet. I heave another sigh before pulling it toward me and slumping over my desk.
You know what's funny? I completely sucked at calculus last week, but one tutoring session with Aex has me feeling ridiculously confident in the subject. I take one look at the first problem and I know I have this down.
I smile – really smile – as I work on the first problem. I don't think I've ever been this happy before. And just because of calculus? This is insane. I never thought math would ever make me happy, but apparently it does.
I finish five problems before Alex makes his way back to me. "How's it going?" he asks, bending over to check the problems automatically. He seriously has absolutely no confidence in my calculus skills. It's kind of demeaning, but I just roll my eyes and lean back so he can get a better view of the page.
His hand is on the desk, I notice. I'm not really quite sure why I notice, but I do. I'm staring at it now, and I find my thoughts… wandering. Like, as in, back to earlier when he grabbed my hand to pull me up from the floor. I decide I really wouldn't mind if it happened again. His ring finger twitches. I have the vague urge to just reach out and grab his hand, curling my fingers around his.
Oh my god! I can't fucking believe I just said that. What the fuck? Oh, god. Now I'm blushing hardcore. Oh my fucking god. I wanted to hold his hand. What is this? I fucking hate myself.
I glance up at his face because I'm apparently mentally inept or something, and he's looking at me. Oh god, this is so awkward. He's smiling. Like, smiling. In that way. You know the way – like he's pleased at something.
Oh my god.