A/n: So, here it is! The sequel to The Covington House. But this one isn't a ghost story. It's something a bit different, but I promise to keep it exciting. As of right now, I'm not really sure how many parts this will be, though I'm going to guess around five or six. Don't really know when the next update will be, either. So...just keep an eye out.
Beast in the Barrens
I am a loser.
Why? Because it's been about two weeks since we were at the Covington house—two weeks since I asked Sam out and he kissed me—and guess where it's gotten us?
Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere.
It's both of our faults, really. I mean, Gwen's mission in life is to monopolize the majority of my time with her ridiculousness, and Sam has stupid soccer practice basically every night of the freaking week. Then there's the fact that I'm a social retard and all my courage deserted me the moment I stepped out of the Covington house. Just like I knew it would. And as for Sam…
Well, it turns out Sam is shy. And I don't mean the type of shy you get over within a while of being around a person—I'm talking about the kind of shy that enables you from holding a conversation with someone or looking them in the eye for more than a second at a time. It makes him nearly as socially awkward as me.
Nearly, mind you. 'Cause his athletic abilities make up for it, you know. It's an unwritten rule: If you're great at sports and not a douche bag (and sometimes even when you are a douche bag; but Sam's not, so that's beside the point), everyone will love you. And it's true—everyone at school does seem to regard Sam in high esteem (something I just started to take notice of, now that I finally realized I'm, uh…interested in him). It doesn't matter that he barely talks to anyone besides Evan, or his teammates (and even then, he doesn't seem to associate with them much off the field/court); he's still got his own personal fan club. It probably helps that he's cute, too.
But this does not help me. Or him. Or us. At all. I mean, I'm inept enough on my own at talking to people—add Sam's shyness to that, and what do you get?
Nothing. No progress. No dates. No more kisses. Ab-so-lute-ly no-thing! He doesn't even say hi to me when we pass each other in the hall anymore! He can't look at me without his face turning scarlet! And frankly, I can't look at him without turning the color or a freaking stop sign, either!
Ugh. I don't know what to do. Well…I do. But I can't. I just can't go up to him randomly and ask him to the movies or something. For one, I don't think I have the spine or the balls to do it. 'Cause like I said, my confidence completely deserted me when I left the Covington house. And two—even if I did have the guts to walk up to him, I doubt I'd be able to get the question out of my mouth. My tongue has a bad habit of forgetting how to form words at the most inconvenient of times. It would much rather choke me instead.
Which is not pleasant, let me tell you.
Sighing, I close my locker then head towards the library. Gwen told me to meet her there after classes. I'm not really sure what she wants, but she seemed really excited about something when she told me to meet her. Seriously. She was practically jumping up and down. It worries me a bit, to be honest. From experience, I know that, nine times out of ten, nothing good comes from something that gets her that enthusiastic.
I round the corner, not really paying attention to where I'm going because my mind's busy terrifying me with the things Gwen might be excited about, only to almost walk into somebody standing on the other side. I stop myself just before I collide with him, stumbling backwards a bit and cursing whoever decided to put a bulletin board there in the first place. This is about the hundredth time in the past four years I've nearly walked into someone reading it going around that corner.
After regaining my balance, I look up at whomever I was about to run into with an apology ready on my lips. But when I see who it is, the words die in my mouth before I even get the first one. I stare at Sam, my face instantly feeling like it's burning, and Sam stares back me, flushing deeply as well.
And we just stand there awkwardly like that. Just staring at each other, both of us the color of tomatoes, for two minutes. Two whole torturous minutes that feel like an eternity. I want to hide in a locker.
Then, miraculously and shockingly, Sam opens his mouth, and after a few failed attempts, manages to get out a timid little "hi," his voice no louder than a whisper. And, of course, he then turns a darker shade of red—one that I didn't even believe was possible for a human blush. But apparently it is, and I experience it first hand as I give him an equally awkward and quiet "hi" back.
Sam shifts nervously on his feet, his eyes flickering to the floor and his hands twisting together. I rub the back of my neck uneasily, incapable of looking him directly in the face for more than a few seconds.
"So, um…" Sam says after another tense minute. He visibly struggles to find something to say, sighing and shrugging helplessly when he can't. I feel the corners of my mouth twitch upward a little. His bashfulness is oddly endearing, probably because you would never expect it out of someone who is, you know…popular like him.
And for some reason, that thought gives me the little push I need.
"So…what's up?" I ask. No pressure or anything. Just an easygoing, normal question which will hopefully lead to an easygoing, somewhat-normal conversation. That's where we need to start. I mean, we need to be able to talk to each other before we move onto the, uh…other stuff…you know?
"Nothing much," Sam answers, looking grateful and relieved I started the conversation. I smile a little to myself. "Just signing up for basketball." He tilts his head towards the sign-up sheet on the bulletin board, before adding, "Then heading to soccer practice in bit."
"Oh, I see," I say, and Sam nods a bit.
He then goes to say something else, but hesitates at the last second. I wait patiently for him to continue, which he does after taking a deep breath.
"And what about you?" he asks. "Normally, you don't stay after."
Immediately after saying that, Sam flushes again and looks away, embarrassedly. I blush too, but not because I'm embarrassed (not completely, anyway). It's just kind of…flattering that he pays that much attention to me. It makes me feel really good.
And to let him know that it's fine, I smile openly at him when he glances at me. Sam blinks a few times, and then smiles tentatively back, though his face is still red. Well, that's okay, because I'm sure mine is too.
"Gwen wanted me to meet her in the library about something," I tell him.
"Oh," Sam says. He blinks once more, and then his face suddenly brightens. "I'll walk with you!"
"I thought you were headed to practice?" I say, slightly furrowing my eyebrows at him in confusion.
Sam's vivid expression shatters. "Well…it doesn't start for another fifteen minutes," he says, mumbling and avoiding my eyes. "But if you don't want to walk with me, then that's fine… I get it…"
He hangs his head, now looking like a kicked puppy, and begins to turn away. I stare at him, bemused. What's going on? Was it something I said? What—?
Ah, fuck me—of course it was something I said! It's always something I say, because I'm an idiot who puts his foot in his mouth whenever he opens it!
"No, Sam—that's not it!" I say hastily. "Wait!"
Sam turns back towards me, though he still doesn't look at me. It kind of crushes my heart and soul a little. And also makes me feel like such an ass for putting that gloomy expression on his face. But, hopefully I can fix it.
"I didn't mean it that way," I tell him. "It's just…you said you had practice, and I thought—well, okay. Maybe I wasn't thinking, or else I wouldn't have said that—but, anyway…" I sigh, forcing myself to stop blabbering, and give him a small, cautious smile. "What I should have said, and meant to say, was yes—I'd really like it if you walked to the library with me."
Jesus bloody Christ. My face is on fucking fire.
But that's okay. Really, it is, because Sam's grinning again. And let me tell you that I have yet to see another grin as charming as Sam's. It makes me want to kiss him. But—no. I can't. Not right now anyway. Soon though? Maybe?
God, I hope so.
"Great!" says Sam cheerfully. He then flushes and clears his throat, his eyes flickering everywhere except to me. "So, um…"
He adjusts his bag on his shoulder, just to give his hands something to do, fidgeting again. After a moment, he glances timidly up at me with a nervous and uncertain smile. I can't help but smile back at him—only a bit awkwardly—because he really is that adorable.
"C'mon," I say, beginning to walk towards the library again.
Sam falls into place next to me, matching my stride step-for-step like it's the most natural thing for him. I'm left slightly dizzy by how warm and pleased that makes me feel.
We don't say anything else to each other on the way, but I think that's all right. It's a bit more comfortable than talking. I don't know whether or not that's necessarily a good thing, because we kind of need to be able to talk to each other if we want to, you know…date.
But silence is something we both understand and are used to. In a way, I think it's a good sign that there can be silence between us without that being awkward. Most of the time, it's not like that with other people. I mean, yeah—there's still an underlying tension in the air between Sam and I, but I'm sure that comes more from the fact that we both know we like each other than simply our innate awkwardness and shyness.
He opens the door for me when we reach the library. Blushing—again—I smile my thanks at him and walk in.
Immediately, I hear a familiar voice huff "Finally!" and then call my name. I turn in the direction it came from to see Gwen sitting at one of the computers, impatiently waving me over to her. I sigh and head over to her, quickly before she gets anymore irritated with me than I can see she already is.
"What took you so long?" Gwen snaps as a greeting. I close my eyes briefly so she doesn't see me rolling them.
"I was talking to Sam," I tell her.
Gwen cocks an eyebrow, her gaze flickering to Sam, who's still standing silently by my side. She stares at him critically, a shrewd and slightly distasteful expression on her face. And without looking, I know he's avoiding her eyes and shifting uncomfortably; I can sense how uneasy she's making him.
Taking a half-step in front of Sam, I shoot Gwen a warning glare. Despite how immature and ridiculous she is, that doesn't change the fact that she's still one of the most intelligent people I've ever met. She's knows something is going on between Sam and I—she isn't stupid or blind—she just doesn't know what exactly is going on between us, because I haven't told her a goddamn thing.
Why? Because, honestly, I don't trust her not to completely freak out about it. She dislikes Sam on principle just because he's Evan's friend. So, knowing her, if I told her that Sam and I were together or anything like that, she'd probably accuse me of "fraternizing with the enemy" or some stupid shit like that.
Whatever. I don't care if she doesn't like Sam—I do. And regardless of what Gwen might think, she is not the supreme ruler of my life. It's really none of her business who I like and want to date, so she's just going to have to get over herself and deal with it.
But, god—she would tear me to shreds if I ever said that to her face. Damn…
Gwen looks away from Sam to give me a sharp, narrow-eyed look. And I know that look. It's the one she gives me whenever she's thinks I'm doing something stupid. Or, in other words, when I'm doing something she doesn't like or approve of.
And normally, that look would affect me. But right now it's just annoying. I stare back at her, unimpressed.
"What did you want?" I ask, trying to get her back on track. Because, really. I doubt she told me meet her in the library just to glare at and be displeased with me over liking Sam.
In answer to my question, Gwen turns towards the computer to pull up a webpage. But from the way her eyes narrows further at me before she does, I know that she's not going to let the Sam thing go. I'm probably in for one her rants later this evening.
"This," she says, pointing to a picture on the screen. It's of a slightly disturbing creature that kind of looks like a deformed deer mixed with a bat standing on its hind legs. I stare at it for a moment, and then look questioningly back at Gwen.
"What is that?" I ask.
"The Jersey Devil," Gwen says promptly, smirking slightly. I look at her askance, suddenly very wary.
I don't trust that smirk. Whenever she wears it, it usually precedes something that will either get us arrested if caught; possibly cause severe injuries; is just so completely stupid and ridiculous that it makes me wonder why I even went along with her in the first place; or all of three of those things mashed together.
I'm going to take a wild guess here and say that this time is going to be one of those times.
"And why are you looking at it?" I ask hesitantly, even though I should probably just walk away right now. I know by asking I'm just egging her on, which is honestly the last thing I want to do. But I can't help it; my curiosity always gets the better of me and my senses.
Gwen's smirk turns into a full on grin, and—shit. The grin is worse than the smirk. I curse violently to myself. I know where this is going now, and I am so screwed.
So. Freaking. Screwed.
"Because," Gwen begins, sounding excited, "there's this museum in New Jersey that's offering a $1000 reward to the person who can get legit proof that it exists, and—"
"Sam! There you are!" Evan says, appearing out of nowhere. He claps Sam on the shoulder, and throws Gwen and I each a quick smile. "Hey, Gwen. Hey, Reese," he greets respectively before turning back to Sam.
"You're going to be late for practice if you don't hurry up," Evan tells him. Then, he blinks and looks questioningly back at Gwen. "Wait…why are you looking at pictures of the Jersey Devil?"
Gwen scowls at him. "That's none of your business!" she snaps.
"Something about a museum offering a cash reward for proof that it exists," Sam mumbles, speaking for the first time since we entered the library. Gwen snaps her head towards him and gives him an extremely nasty look, which I think is completely uncalled for. I glare at her, but she doesn't notice me.
"So—wait," Evan says, laughter in the back of his voice. At it, Gwen looks back at him with the same expression she was giving Sam. Evan just grins at her, though. "Are you saying that you want to go get proof the Jersey Devil actually exists so you can get the money?"
"Yes," admits Gwen, grudgingly. "But that's still none of your—"
Evan cuts her off by chuckling openly this time, and Gwen flushes angrily.
"You?" Evan says. "You believe in Jersey Devil? You?" He chuckles some more at her, making her turn even redder. I have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing at how comical she looks. "I'm sorry, Gwen. But I find that incredibly difficult to believe."
Gwen puffs herself up haughtily. "Well, I don't recall asking for your input anyway." She waves her hand, like she's batting an annoying bug away. "So, you can go away now. You too," she adds darkly, shooting Sam another distasteful look.
"No," Evan says. Gwen narrows her eyes at him, but Evan ignores her and continues in a curious and thoughtful tone, "I want to understand this. Why do you believe in the Jersey Devil?"
"After what happened in the Covington house, I decided that I need to keep an open mind about all things supernatural," Gwen says, sounding extremely condescending. I roll my eyes at not just her attitude, but how what she just said is a complete understatement.
Keep an open mind about the supernatural, my ass. More like she's become obsessed with it. That's why I'm really not all that surprised this is happening; I knew something like this was bound to happen sometime soon.
"Okay," says Evan, looking at her dubiously. "So you're telling me that just because you know ghosts exist now, you think this thing does too?"
Gwen nods curtly and snootily at Evan, only to flush and glare at him in the next second because he starts laughing at her again.
"That's so ridiculous!" he says. "Ghosts are completely different than something like the Jersey Devil! That thing is just a myth!"
"How do you know?" Gwen demands furiously. "There are plenty of eyewitnesses! Even people in the 1700s claimed to have seen it!"
"Yeah," Evan says. He gives her a flat and unimpressed look. "And how accurate of a source do you think people 300 years dead are?"
Gwen stands up, pointing her pen angrily and threateningly at Evan. Or… it would be threateningly if she was a bit taller. The top of her head barely reaches his nose.
"There are people who have claimed to have seen it recently, too!" she tells him.
"What those people have seen is a deer," Evan snaps, finally getting aggravated with her. "Which can easily be perceived as that thing—" he points towards the picture on the computer screen, "—when someone only gets a brief glimpse of it when it's dark out!"
"Then how do you explain people seeing it in trees?" Gwen hisses. "Explain how people have seen it fly—"
Rolling my eyes, I tune Gwen and Evan out then look towards Sam. He notices, and turns away from them too to look back at me. There's a wary but reconciled expression on his face. I match it, nodding empathetically.
"What do you want to bet this will end with them deciding to go wherever it is that this thing supposedly exists, dragging us along with them?" I ask him quietly.
"I'm not even going to take that bet," Sam tells me gravely, "because I know I would lose."
We both sigh, and then turn back towards Gwen and Evan, resigned.
Their argument lasts for about another five minutes, only ending when Sam points out that him and Evan are ten minutes late for soccer practice. Sam and I were right, though: Sure enough, before Evan rushes out of the library with Sam, Gwen and him inform us that we're all going to the New Jersey Pine Barrens to prove (or, in Evan's case, to disprove) that the Jersey Devil exists.
Oh. And we're leaving tomorrow at 6 A.M.
Which is great! Absolutely lovely! I can't wait! I mean, who wouldn't want to go tromping though a forest in the middle of then night looking for a rather disturbing looking creature that, depending on it actually existing, seems like it could kill us?
I cover my eyes with my hand, shaking my head.
I told you I was screwed.