08/06/10 N/A: Edited somewhat :)

Fish Know About Love


Sparkling Acrobat



I wished I had a dog.

If I had a dog, I wouldn't be now jogging at the park, evading everybody's gazes so that they wouldn't think I was a stalker. Who jogs without a dog or music these days, anyway? That's right, I didn't even have my iPod because my stupid fish killed it. Golden had killed my iPod –that sneaky murderer. I had, in a moment of confusion, accidentally dropped my poor, defenseless iPod into Golden's bowl and the assassin had used the opportunity to slaughter it!

That was the story I was sticking to.

"Stupid fish," I mumbled to myself as I kept jogging, still wondering why I had kept the animal.

Oh yeah, Mom loved it more than she loved me, and she would totally murder me if I did anything to it. Gah, what happened to letting your daughter grow up, be independent, choose her own pets, and all of that?

Out of the corner of my eye I saw an old man pass me. Wow, I was in wonderful physical condition.

"Hey," somebody said. A male somebody.

I looked at the Mr. Somebody jogging right next to me. See? This was exactly why nobody should get distracted thinking of old men's health when jogging –strangers tended to start stalking you.

"Hey," I said politely and then resumed looking ahead.

Mr. Somebody smiled at me but didn't say anything as he kept jogging by my side. It got very exasperating.

"Are you going to keep following me?" I finally snapped, looking at him.

I gave him a once over; but it was so not intentional. Something about him was very familiar –did he look like one of my thousands cousins? I squinted, I could swear he looked like that Michael in my family that was sixth or seventh time removed.

"I'm not following you," he said fixing his light brown eyes on my blue ones. "I just happen to be jogging in the same direction as you."

I frowned at him even if, deep inside, I wasn't even that mad. Again, I turned to look ahead of me –crashing into someone wasn't a good idea.

"Shameless liar."

"Maybe, but better a liar than a stalker," Mr. Somebody winked at me.

He dared wink at me!

"How do I know you're not a stalker?" I asked. I couldn't quite decide whether I should be scared or amused; but I had never been one to be unnecessarily rude to people.

Besides, if it came to it, I knew how to karate chop him into tiny, unidentifiable pieces.

"Because I'm telling you," he replied.

"A stalker wouldn't tell me he was a stalker."

Why I was still talking to the dude was a mystery; but, mainly, I was just tired of being bored.

"A stalker wouldn't come up to talk to you, either. That would totally defeat the purpose," he said casually.

I didn't say anything back, but I sure hoped that Mr. Somebody didn't talk from experience. He wasn't totally creepy. I mean, he was kind of cute even if his dark brown hair was sweaty –just like the rest of his tanned self. And he wasn't getting on my personal space, which could have been seriously detrimental for him.

"So, what's your name? Or do you want to just pretend like we are not jogging right next to each other?" He asked after a while.

A knowing smile was tugging at his lips and, paranoid as I was, I decided that he knew I was checking him out.


"Lorraine," I answered cautiously. Not because I wasn't sending him off meant that I trusted him; no matter how cute he was. "Yours?"

"So you are interested now?" Mr. Somebody asked cheekily.

I refrained myself from snorting. "If I have to sue you at some point for rape or something, I might as well know you name."

He laughed, a deep sound that I wasn't prepared. Oh, no. I think pheromones were kicking in. Dang them.

"Clay," he chuckled out.

I opened my mouth to say something, whatever it was, but my phone interrupted my meaningless comment.

Halting to a stop, I took the ringing thing out of the back pocket of my blue sweat pants before flipped it open. Somehow, I knew it would be Bryan.

Im ur front porch. Where r u?

I rolled my eyes at the text; he knew bad spelling in texts bothered me. After texting him back to wait for me I lifted my gaze and, to my utter surprise, Clay was still there.

"Your boyfriend wants you home?" He asked uninterestedly as if he knew who had texted me.

I shrugged, uncommitted. "I guess you could say that."

I didn't expect his expression to look so contrived; but I guess expecting something from a complete stranger was kind of ridiculous anyway.

"Nice stalking you, Lorraine," he let out.

I couldn't help but smirking. "Nice being stalked by you," I said before jogging off to the parking lot.

Midway I turned to see if he was still there, and, by the timed I had spotted him, he had resumed his jogging. I shook my head; one meets the weirdest people sometimes.

I was sulking; I would be the first one to admit it.

"Can you tell me again why did I accept to go with you to your family barbeque?"

Bryan smiled luminously at me. "Because you owed me one from that time I went with you to see that trashy chick flick –what was it called?"

I rolled my eyes and looked out of the window of Bryan's car. How do I manage to get dragged into these things? I had gone back to my house after jogging and, true enough, I had found my friend Bryan in all his blond glory, standing on my porch, flirting with my married neighbor. I must say it took me longer to rip him away from the cougar's claws than for him to convince me to come with him. Sad, I know.

I sighed. I loved Bryan's family –especially his mom when she decided to bake–, but reunions, parties, or whatever he wanted to call the darn thing to which he was taking me were just not my thing. I didn't like being with big groups of relatives –even if they weren't my family; it made me feel on display. I sighed again.

Call it a phobia.

"Keep sighing like that and you're not going to have any oxygen left."

I glared at Bryan, even though his light blue eyes never once returned my glare. What a safe driver, huh?

"You know I hate these things," I said, still sulking.

"I hate chick flicks," he replied and judging by his up-beat tone he knew he was winning the argument.

"Whatever," I mumbled.

A minute or two passed before Bryan spoke again, "Just look at it form the bright side, would you?"

"What bright side? The part where I get to act like I'm not phobic to the whole thing?"

Bryan frowned at the road.

"It's not a phobia, Lorraine. You are just overly dramatic," he said. That was a psychology major for the world. "The bright side," he continued cheerfully, returning to his actual topic. "Is that you get to meet my brother."

I just had to smile. Bryan's brother, Ryan (could it be more confusing?), was the mystery man that had somehow managed to avoid meeting me for the last three years. Not on purpose, but done all the same. It was almost a tradition now that whenever Bryan took me to one of his family gatherings, he would say how 'This time was The time'; however, The Meeting had yet to happen.

"How exciting," I said jokingly as he stopped his car next to an all-beige house that looked just like all the other houses around.

Except for Naggy, the neon-orange, plastic squirrel on the front yard. Naggy had come to adorn Mr. Walker's, Bryan's dad, perfect garden when one of the neighbor's kids had decided that skateboarding on somebody else's flowers was a good idea. That kid had never come back.

We got out of the car and Bryan led the way to his house. I was busy getting mentally nervous because, truly, Famil-o-phobia was totally real.

"Stop fidgeting," he half-ordered me as he opened the door and step in.

I wasn't fidgeting. I was just –doing my freaking out dance. Ok, maybe I shouldn't tell him that. I followed him in and immediately the distinguishable sound of many voices talking at the same time and country music came to me.

"Oh, great, you're finally here. And you brought Lorraine, too!"

Out of the kitchen came Mrs. Walker holding a huge pot and smiling brightly. She was warm and calm like the women in those motherly food commercials. I smiled back.

"Yeah. She could barely contain her excitement," Bryan said.

I shot him a nasty glare, but Mrs. Walker just nodded and motioned for us to follow her. Oh, joy. I considered sneaking silently away before Bryan caught my arm and (very rudely) took me with him. A few mental freaking out episodes later, we stepped into the pretty backyard –also kept by Mr. Walker–, currently overflowing with faces I didn't know.

Crap, I was sweating.

I heard Bryan say Hi to a couple of aunts and uncles and whatnots. Really, I wasn't paying much attention; I was way too busy resisting the urge to run away. I don't think many people would understand my fear. I had no problem being with my friends or random strangers; if it came to it, I was actually a pretty social and outgoing person. But I just could not stand family reunions.

Introverted much? Not really.

"Stop grabbing my arm like that," I heard Bryan mutter suddenly. "I think you just cut my circulation."

I giggled, but really it was more of a nervous laugh than anything else.

"So, this is the famous Lorraine."

I turned abruptly and found myself staring at –Bryan?

I looked back and forth from my friend to the other boy who was just slightly shorter and whose eyes were just a tiny wee bit more green than blue. Oh, my–.

I tilted my head in shock. "Ryan?"

He smiled as brightly as the sun –sunglasses, anyone?– and gave me his hand to shake, which I did still a little astounded.

"The one and only," he announced.

And then I snapped.

"Oh, my God. Finally, we meet!" Ok, so I practically squealed. But hey, we finally met!

In any other (less crowded) situation, I would have jumped at him and started to chatter his ears away because, really, I had heard way too much about Ryan to consider him a stranger. But in my current subsided mode, I opted for smiling a little and blushing at my outburst. He found it amusing, if his expression was anything to go by.

"You are not nearly as nuts as Bryan made you sound," he said, looking at Bryan for a brief second.

I glanced at my slightly more blue-eyed friend and then smirked at Ryan. "You obviously don't know much yet."

Laughing, he threw his right arm around my shoulders in a completely unexpected move and pried me away from Bryan. I felt naked.

"C'mon. Let's get you some friends and away from your baby-sitter." And then he asked getting closer, "Can you drink?"

I nodded. Yes, I could drink; didn't he see my mouth? He nodded back and walked me to his little group of friends. I looked back and found Bryan safely following us with a smug smirk on his face.

"Hey guys," Ryan loudly announced once we were close to the group of five people. They all turned their heads to look at us. Just peachy. "This is Lor, she's a friend of Bryan."

I waved over-enthusiastically; they smiled. Aw, the beginning of a sweet bond. I looked around the group and my gaze landed on a pair of warm brown eyes and a cheeky smile. Oh, no.

"…And Jason," Bryan's voice came into focus all of a sudden. Crap, he had just told me who these people were, hadn't he? "And the one smiling like an idiot over there is Clay, you 'member him, right?"

I frowned. Wait, how did Bryan know Clay? I searched in the dusty corners of my mind; Bryan wasn't jogging with me that day when Clay stalked me, he had just texted me. Is this a sixth sense of his that I didn't know about?

"You know each other?" I asked at last.

Bryan looked at me, confused. "What do you mean?" he asked back.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Clay smirking –and then it clicked.

I was an idiot.

Clay. The guy from Bryan's soccer team; that one I had met like a month ago when I was studying for that psychology test. Bryan had just come up to me while I was eating all the information I should have learned three weeks prior and introduced this random, very cute friend of his. I, naturally, had zoned out at some point in between 'Hi' and 'Bye'. I slapped myself mentally –he was definitely not my sixth or seventh cousin.

"Never mind," I said to Bryan, smiling as sweetly as I could, and then I turned to Clay. "Hi, how have you been?"

He looked entertained at the accusing look I was shooting him. How dare he not tell me who he was? He had obviously known from the very beginning who I was. And how had I not known who he was? This was way too embarrassing.

"Great, thanks," he said in charming complicity.

I felt Bryan pat my head as I was starting to search for a hole to bury myself in. "You're one strange Oreo."

I made a face at him, almost reminiscent of my childhood years.

"But a cute, strange Oreo," Ryan said devilishly, and then added in the tone of one who knows something: "Don't you think so, Clay?"

Clay nodded seriously, looking at me appraisingly. "Definitely."

I sighed.

"Yes. Yes, Mom. Yes. Uh-huh. Yup. Golden is, um, golden?" I nodded a couple more times even though my mom couldn't see me through the phone. Did we really need to have this conversation about the stupid fish? It wasn't like I was going to drown it or something. "Yes, I'll tell it. Right, I'll tell him. Yeah, love you too. Bye"

I hung up. Those were the most exhausting five minutes of my life. I wondered if it was normal that Mom loved that fish so much as I pushed the doors of Starbucks to get in. I mean, calling from Hawaii to ask me how Golden was doing? Seriously? I was her only child, wasn't she supposed to be protective of me and all that jazz?

"Definitely not normal," I muttered.

"Excuse me?"

I lifted my blue eyes to meet the very confused face of one of the workers at Starbucks. Oh, oops –I guess there hadn't been a line.

"Nothing," I smiled nervously, twirling my brown hair. "Could I have a hot chocolate, please?"

He smiled back. "Sure. Name?"


He told me how much it was and gave me my receipt before winking at me as the next person in line approached. He winked at me. I shook my head; there was something about summer break that just made everyone so flirty. I stood amongst all the other people waiting for drinks, distractedly gazing around. And that's how my eyes landed on Him.

That was my luck for the world. It had been a tiring task, but I had somehow managed to avoid Clay a couple of nights ago when I had been forced to go to Bryan's family barbeque. Besides, of course, the slightly awkward, random encounters when we both ended trying to nicely chat with some uncle or another. He had also waved at me a couple of times as if demanding my attention, but I had skillfully pretended that I had been looking at the spot behind him and totally had not seen him.

And now, this.

Unconsciously, I tried to shrink (ok, so maybe it was conscious). He was reading, sitting comfortably in one of the couches. Good, perhaps he wouldn't notice me –if I could only sneak out of here…

"Lorraine!" one of the Starbucks' guys shouted, waving my order at me.


I forced a smile and went for my coffee, ready to make a run for my life. Looking straight at the door, I dashed to it.

"Trying to escape?" I heard his husky voice.

I turned around, my smile still plastered on my face, and saw him smile at me from where he was. Why were those couches so close to the door?

"Oh. Hi, Clay! Didn't see you there," I said in my oh-so-innocent tone, my feet were still securely planted on the spot.

"Figures," he chuckled out.

Was he making fun of me? I sighed. Better to end this right now. Determined, I walked to him before my ounce of courage ran out.

"Look," I blurted out once I was in front of him. Did he have to look at me like that? "I didn't mean to –to not recognize you before. But, quite frankly, I wouldn't have even if I hadn't been thinking about Golden and ways to kill him and stuff. So, yeah. Besides, you didn't say you were you, so how was I supposed to know that you were you and not a creepy stalker? I'm not psychic –even if Bryan told you I was, because I'm totally not. And–"

"Lorraine," I shut my mouth sharply and focused on breathing. Not like I had forgotten to breath or anything –not at all. He closed his book calmly and smiled at me. Now, that was a pretty smile. "What are you babbling about?" he asked, mockingly.

"I –Well, I was trying to apologize?" I didn't mean for it to sound like a question, but it did.

"Oh," he seemed amused. And then he went back to his book.

I stood awkwardly there, not quite knowing if I should go or say something else. I drank some from my hot chocolate to stop myself from fidgeting. He lifted his brown eyes to mine eventually –was that satisfaction I saw in his face?

"Um, sorry," I said, feeling caught. "I was just going."

"Wait," he said, effectively stopping me from flying away. "Do you have anything to do right now?"

I tilted my head. "Um, no. Summer break left me with not much to do since my parents are on a vacation and –and I'll stop right now because I'm babbling again."

I smiled, blushing. He stood up, closing his book, and smiled at me.

"Wanna go to the movies with me?" He asked, almost sheepishly. "I was supposed to go with some friends but they bailed on me," he added, probably uncomfortable at all my staring.

Was he blushing? That. Was. Too. Adorable.

I nodded. "I pay for my own ticket," I said automatically.

He looked a little surprised, but agreed all the same before taking me to his car. This should be fun, right?


What was I thinking?

Really, somewhere in between seeing Clay at Starbucks and accepting to come to the movie theater with him, my brain must have shut off. How else could I explain that I had basically agreed to go on a date with a mere (hot) acquaintance? I mean, not that he had said that this was a date; but we had come to the movies together, alone –that made it a date, right?

Ok, maybe not.

He was fun, though. We talked and laughed while waiting for the movie and even made fun of those middle schoolers seating below us who just wouldn't stop squealing. We weren't sure why.

At one particularly dramatic point in the movie, Clay leaned toward me. "Her boobs are fake," he said with certainty.

I blinked at him –what kind of comment was that?

"How do you know?" I asked, still amused that he would talk so bluntly to a girl he had just met.

"Look at them," he emphasized. I didn't, of course, because I was suddenly too caught up on staring at his pretty brown eyes. Seriously, if we wanted me to look at the woman on the screen, maybe he should stop glaring me down like that. "Her lips are fake, too," he whispered, lowering his gaze to my lips while he said it.

I blushed. "I would have never guessed," I blurted out as my brain frantically tried to keep my neurons working.

I saw a glimpse of pearly white teeth before he got even closer and softly touched my lips with his. I stayed still as a statue for a few seconds while he moved his lips, taunting me to open mine –which I did. It was totally unintentional. I felt myself burn before leaning back, away from his (tempting) mouth.

I stared at him and he stared mischievously back. Shoot, he was cute.

"Sorry," he mustered, even though he didn't look sorry at all.

I cleared up my throat, trying to stay half calm and fighting all my awkward-ish tendencies. "We did not just kiss in the darkness of the movie theater –that is so cliché."

Yes, that was the best I could come up with.

I heard him chuckle as he turned back to the screen. I did the same in an attempt to calm my heart from its frenetic pumping. The explosions going on in the movie did not help. A few minutes later, I felt Clay's arm over my shoulders. Oh, sneaky little thing.

"What are you doing?" I asked, frowning.

"Um, putting my arm around your shoulders?"

I almost wanted to giggle at that. But I didn't, because I was being serious. Right.

"And why are you putting your arms around my shoulders?" I tried again.

"For the same reason I kissed you," he whispered close to my ear.

I opened and closed my mouth like Golden before finally settling on keeping it shut. I wanted to take his lead and ask him why he had kissed me –but I couldn't. My brain went blank and my insides hot; I couldn't think properly anymore. So, I just nodded and turned all my attention to the movie once again.

Except for that little part of me that was irrevocably aware of his arm around me and the way he was drawing invisible circles on my shoulder.

Ten minutes later, the movie ended with a big explosion and an awkward close-up of the two main characters. I jumped from the seat like it was bolting.

Clay rolled his eyes, calmly standing up. "I'm not that ugly, you know."

I laughed nervously. "No, of course not."

Wait, what was I agreeing to?

Following the herd of people exiting the theater, we walked/were pushed in silence. Outside, I plastered my best give-me-a-cookie smile on my face and looked at him.

"Well, thank you for this, um, impromptu –outing," I said, catching myself just in time to not say 'date'.

"You paid for your own ticket," he shrugged. But proceeded to add cheekily: "You have nothing to thank me for."

I blushed, not quite sure why. Gosh, I was so easily influenced.

"Yeah. I'm gonna call my Dad to pick me up," I lied blatantly as I took my phone out to dial a cab line.

"I can take you home."

"Oh, no, no." I waved my arms like an idiot. "Totally not necessary, really. I mean, you don't have to take me home –it's not like this was a date or something like that. And it's far, far away. Think of all the gas you'll waste!" Half way through my convoluted excuses he started smirking.

"C'mon. I won't bite, I promise."

I pouted and nodded. Like I believed him.

The drive to my house didn't take long, mostly because the town was so small you hardly needed a car at all. It didn't even seem long, since Clay had some of the best taste in music I had heard since my Dad, and that was a lot to say. So, right when we were supposed to, Clay parked in front of my perky, currently empty house and put his car in neutral.

"Thanks," I smiled at him, grabbing my bag and opening the door to get out.

"Anytime," he said easily. He seemed to do everything easily.


"I guess I'll see you around," I said, uncertain of how to end a non-date. Should I invite him in? Should I give him my number? Should I kiss him? Oh, no –we'd already gone over that.

"So," Clay started, not really seeming to go anywhere. He brought the hand holding the wheel up to his hair and messed with it in what I assumed was a nervous gesture. "Do you, um, do you want to go out sometime?"

I frowned a little, confused by his spluttering. Not because I didn't understand him –oh, I understood him well–, but because it seemed so out of place with the confident Clay that had kissed me during the movie.

"Maybe?" I replied, smartly.

I glared at Bryan. That is to say, I glared at the monumental idiot having a laughing seizure and hitting his kitchen counter so hard I was sure he was about to break it.

"You may stop now," I said, patronizing.

Too bad he didn't seem to care.

After four (interminably long) minutes, his maniac laughing resided to a manly-chuckle. Ha.

"Let me get this straight again. You freaked out because Clay kissed you and then told him it was cliché?" I nodded and Bryan's face looked slightly contrived as he tried to suppress another wave of laughter. "I'm sorry, Lor. It's just –Girls don't usually panic around Clay."

"And how do you know that?" I asked, waving a spoon full of ice cream in front of his face. "It's not like they'd tell you."

He raised an eyebrow at me. "Actually, they do. Right before they start drooling."

I scoffed. If it had been any other person, the comment would have sounded bitter. Bryan, knowing how good-looking he was, managed to muster it off-handedly. Sometimes, I wondered what happened to being humble and all that.

"Well, whatever," I finished off, introducing the large spoon of chocolate ice cream in my mouth.

Hmmm, chocolate.

I saw Bryan work on his kitchen counter, methodically chopping some tomatoes. I ate another scoop of my ice cream.

"You could help me some, you know," he finally said –like I knew he would.

"Why?" I asked innocently. "It's not my party, it's yours. I just came early."

He didn't look up, but I could see he was smiling. "You did –to help me set up."

I gasped. "Is that why?"

He rolled his eyes at me. Good. So I jumped from my chair and put the ice cream on his fridge, proceeding to grab the CVS bags and place the junk food on the table.

"Why are you throwing this party, anyway?"

He shrugged. "No real reason. Just, you know, wanna hang out and stuff. It's not technically a party."

"Yeah," I said, the spoon I had been using hanging uselessly from my mouth as I arranged chips in a plate. "It looks more like an eat-all-you-can and clot your arteries kinda thing."

"You can't look patronizing with that spoon in your mouth, Lor."

I shrugged, pointedly moving the spoon as if to show that I defied all his rules.

It didn't take long for the people to show up. Some gathered around the kitchen, some went off to the dance in the middle of the living room, and others roamed around watching a football game. I recognized half of the faces, the other half I didn't care about. I stayed comfortably sat on the lowest step of the staircase leading up the second floor, reading a sports magazine, and taking sips from my beer. For all intents and purposes, I was guarding the second floor.

Rawr. I am Cerberus.

Ok, not quite, but I tried.

A couple of random men wobbled my way and tried to make conversation, but I politely shoed them off by pointing to the many eagerly receptive females in the room. It didn't take much to convince them, really.

I was scanning a basketball article about last Thursday's game when a shadow fell over me, obscuring the little light I had to read. I lifted my gaze to meet chastising blue eyes.

"Hey, bud."

"What are you doing here alone?" Bryan said while he stepped over me to sit on the step above.

"Guarding the second floor?" I said in a dubious voice. I wasn't sure how much of that Bryan was going to believe.

"Go do something fun, L."

Huh. Not much, apparently.

I shrugged. "I know these people won't remember my name or theirs in the morning."

"Isn't that the point?" He asked, a grin on his face.

He would say that. I closed my magazine, since Bryan was trying to keep me company, probably under the false belief that I bored or whatever. My eyes wandered around the dark living room, only the TV and a couple of colored lights illuminated the place.

"Shouldn't you be dancing your brains off or having brainless sex somewhere?"

"That was last time, cupcake," Bryan said casually. "I gotta be the responsible host or my parents will kill me."

My face contorted into a pensive pout, mockingly appearing to think even though my brain had just drawn a blank. I gawked across the room, to where Bryan's brother was happily letting in some people –namely, Clay and a gorgeous blond bombshell hanging to his arm like a possessive harpy.

I might have been biased.

"What is that bastard doing?" Bryan said next to me.


I felt my mood worsen as the happy couple made their way around the room and Bryan tried to distract me. I knew that's what he was doing; otherwise, he wouldn't have been caught dead mentioning the trashy click-flick I made him watch. In any case, his distraction techniques weren't working –my eyes were irrevocably fixed on Clay and Ms. Bombshell. She giggled, he grinned. She talked, he laughed.

God, it made me so resentful.

"Stop glowering, L. They're coming this way."

Ok, so I had developed a mild affection towards Clay and didn't like seeing him in company of someone so openly pretty like Ms. Bombshell. Besides, I was entitled to glower as much as I wanted. But Bryan was right –they were coming this way; so I rearranged my expression into careful nonchalance and rolled my eyes at Bryan.

"It's a free country," I remarked.

A high-pitched, sultry woman's voice interrupted any reply Bryan had in mind. "Bryan! I haven't seen you in so long!"

"Melody," Bryan said, all charm and friendliness. "How are you?"

So, Melody, huh? She even had a pretty name. Fantastic.

"Oh, you know, just doing this and that," she waved it off in a way that suggested she had just discovered the cure for cancer. "How about you?"

"Same as always. Trying to get in trouble, school, and hanging out with friends," Bryan pointed at me at the last part, whilst looking pointedly at Clay.

I emerged out of my own stingy feelings to wonder why Ryan was being so strange toward his own friend, but it didn't last long as the next thing I saw was a svelte open hand.

"I'm Melody," said the owner of the hand I was so dumbly staring at.

Still, I managed to pull myself together and shake her hand. "Lorraine. Nice to meet you."

Seriously, where had all my outgoing bubbly-ness gone when I most needed it? I guess my fake-niceness had to do.

"Lorraine?" Melody intoned in her perfect little voice. I was sure she was in choir. Then, she turned to Clay, "Is this the Lorraine girl you couldn't stop talking about the other night?"

The other night? That made my heart do a funny little flip for whatever reason as all eyes went to Clay. He, on the other hand, seemed really focused on boring a hole on the spot right on top of my head. He wasn't even looking at me.

"Yeah, that's her," Clay mustered unimportantly.

I fought hard against the lump forming in my throat, my fake smile faltering a little.

"Whatever he said, it's a lie," I tried to joke.

Melody directed her pretty eyes at me almost cunningly. "Oh, I don't think so."

Silence descended upon us, only masked by the loud music blasting everywhere. I fiddled with the ends of my shirt, glancing around for something to comment on. No such luck.

"I'm gonna get more beer," I said eventually and squirmed quickly away before anybody could notice that my bottle was only half-empty.

I elbowed my way through the mass of people dancing and just overall stumbling around until I got to the kitchen. I was going to just get a beer, calm down, and go back to face my fears –but then I saw the door to the backyard and couldn't help launching through it.

. The night wind blew harshly in my face and the silence was so loud that I almost fell.

"Sweet heavens," I whispered, sitting on the steps of the door.

The wood was squeaky and uncomfortable, but I didn't care. It was much better than inside there

Really, they were perfect for each other. Melody and Clay. He was the cool, sporty soccer player and she was the classy, smart beauty. It was like one of those Geek and Hot Guy clichés I liked so much. Only that I didn't like this one.

I kicked an offending pebble lying around. If I could just do that to some people…

It hadn't been long when I heard the creaking sound of the door opening behind me, but I was too slow to react and the person coming out of the house tripped over me. Painfully.

"Shit," said person muttered.

I ended up belly down on the wet grass while the smart-ass who hadn't looked was a few feet from me. Oh, wait, I knew that smart-ass face.


Maybe he was a stalker.

He looked up from where he was sitting and rubbing his neck to lay eyes on me, dumbstruck. I almost went over to help him, but decided against him. For one, he had tripped over me, not the other way around. And I'm sure Melody could come help him, anyway. That made me cross, so I directed my gaze to the twinkling stars and purposely ignored Clay.

"Sorry," he said after a moment of silence.

Sorry didn't begin to cover it.

"No probs." I pushed myself up, alternating between looking at him and at the big, soggy grass stain on the front of my shirt.

I heard Clay shuffle as he got to his feet and walked mushy steps right in front of me, blocking my view of the sky. I was about to make a stupid comment, something about blue and Peter Pan, when I saw his warm brown eyes and my mouth shut like a trapdoor.

"No, I am really sorry," he said lowly, serious.

"It's really OK. I've been hit harder."

Uncertainty flashed across his face. "You've been –oh. I'm not apologizing for that. I mean, I'm sorry I hit you and all, but…"

"But?" I prompted, since Clay did not seem to have an inclination to continue as he stood there, hovering over me, looking sheepish.

"But I was apologizing for not calling you."


"Why would you call me?"

I wanted to sound nice and innocent with big-doe eyes; instead, I ended up sounding like a bad imitation of Oscar The Grouch, all bitter and crabby.

"To ask you for a date." Clay grunted, looking at me like I had grown a second head. "Fuck, Lorraine, don't you like me at all?"

"And what does that have to do with anything?"

Clay growled and started pacing, hands buried in his pockets.

I frowned at him, decidedly confused now. He followed me while I jogged, took me to a non-date, ignored me when he was with his girlfriend, and freakin' tripped over me, and he was the one looking annoyed?

"It has to do with everything," Clay finally exploded. "That's why I've been stalking you like an idiot to make you notice me. That's why I brought Melody along tonight. That's why I kissed you in the movie theater."

Seriously, did he expect a declaration of love when he had just paraded his girlfriend in front of me? Fat chance.

"What does Melody have to do with this?" I asked, suspicious.

"Is that all you got from my little declaration-speech?" He snapped at me.

Geez, people these days did not have patience. I was a little slow, ok? I had told him I wasn't psychic. I couldn't just figure the whole plot of the movie if he just gave me the random, unimportant details. I wasn't some–.

"Oh, my God. You like me," I blurted out of nowhere.

"No shit, Sherlock." A faint hint of a smile appeared in the corner of his mouth and all of my insides flipped.

"Well, how was I supposed to know?" I said, folding my arm across my chest defensively. Protection against his charms, that's what I'd call it. "I've seen you a total of four times."

His hint of a smile vanished to turn into a decidedly cocky smirk. "No. You've met me a total of four times. You've seen me a lot more than that."

I couldn't say he was wrong just as I couldn't say he was right, but, in horror, I realized I had seen him. Clay's face was there, in a hidden corner of the obscure back of my mind. There at Bryan's parties and barbeques, there at the casual study groups for classes I didn't even remember, there in the halls of that science building I didn't really like. Crap. I had the memory capacity of an eighty-year old granny with the understanding abilities of a three-year old. He was really, really, not my cousin Michael.

"Oops," was all that came out of my mouth. Yeah, I was brilliant like that.

Clay ran his hands through his longish hair, finally stopping pacing. "Look, Lor, I like you and I wanna go out with you. And I'm sick of you forgetting about me. Do you want to go on a date or not?"

I wanted to say Yes. In fact, I opened my mouth to do so, but what came out was, "What about Melody?"

Clay's brown eyes widened and he let out a grunt. Again. "What about Melody?"

"Well, isn't she your girlfriend?" I fidgeted.

Wow. This was uncomfortable.

"Melody is not my girlfriend. She's my cousin, sixth-removed, and I just brought her along to make you jealous." He folded his arms to imitate my position.

I blinked a couple of times at his half-angry, half-hopeful face. So that's what had been going on there. Standing up, I brushed off whatever invisible grass I had on my pants.

"It worked," I said, burning under his expectant gaze.

"Yeah?" He replied softly, a satisfied smile breaking in his expression.

I hm-mm-ed, feeling like this was our non-date all over again. What to do now? Thankfully, my defective brain didn't have to figure it out; else, it might have just imploded.

"So, do you wanna go out with me?" Clay asked. And then added, "And please don't make me repeat it."

"I won't," I said, smiling back at him. He frowned. Woops. "Make you repeat it, that is. I will, most definitely, go out with you," I corrected.

This time I got a better response as he walked the few steps left and threw his arm around my shoulder. It was casual and relaxed, but we fit together and it made me feel well.

"You know, I think I could like you," I said jokingly.

Clay started to draw circles lazily on my arm like he had before and pulled me just a little closer.

"Thank God."

Yeah, who needed an iPod now?

N/A: Ta-da! :D Let me just say that this one-shot had been 'in the works' for a year and a half... Yeah, I know. "This?" But it was and on-and-off project that started from a challenge issued by the Though and Dirty Newsletter. Needless to say I never entered the contest, huh? lol Comments, anybody? I'm hoping to come back to this and maybe work on it some more, so feedback will be really, really helpful :) It just didn't want it sitting in limbo for any longer...

Anyway, hope you liked it!



P.S.: FP is being stupid and not showing the Story Traffic properly. It says I have 0 hits, but then I've got a review and three friends who've read it. Gr, FP. Now I've got no way of knowing if anybody is actually reading this! Gah.