A/N: Yeah. This is really long. Sorry. I'm pretty happy with it, though, so I hope you will be, too!

Summary: He was the kind of guy that corrected everything you said and was quick to point out your mistakes. He was always right, and he knew it. His presence made me want to punch a small child - it was too bad that I desperately needed his help. ONESHOT.

This is part ONE in the Howley/Davidson Trilogy.

Read part two: ht tp : /w ww .fi ctionpres s.c o m/s /289 8276 /1/Tr uth _Be _a_Liar

Read part three: htt p:/ /w ww .f iction pres s. co m/s/29 611 79/1/Nobl e_i n_Reason

"You bastard! You lying, cheating, filthy little scoundrel!"

I threw the nearest thing I could find at the boy in front of me. He ducked, barely escaping the wrath of the empty beer bottle. A look of fear flashed across his pretty face.

"Wha – oh, come on, babe! You're not going to tell Aubrey, are you?"

That deep, clear voice thought it could get away with anything.

"What the hell, asshole!" I scowled. Why wouldn't I tell Aubrey? Who did he think I was, some kind of backstabber? "I can't believe you would doubt my loyalty to her for even one second. Aubrey is my best friend."

"Hey, come on now; what she doesn't know won't hurt her – "

"Shut the fuck up, Flynn. You make me sick. Get out of my sight."

My best friend's boyfriend frowned and stumbled out of the room. He was hammered, and definitely pissed, but not as pissed as I was. Aubrey was dating a total dick.

I had to tell her. She wouldn't like it, but she had to know. That sweet girl deserved someone ten million times better than the dirty and deceitful Flynn Masters.

I pushed my way through the throngs of drunken teenagers, trying my best to get to my car so I could get out of that hell hole. Don't worry – I hadn't been drinking. There was no way I'd ever drive under the influence; I wasn't ready to die, thank you very much.

Once I made it to my car, I made a rash decision and drove straight to Aubrey's house. Yeah, it was two in the morning on a Sunday night, and yeah, she probably wouldn't even answer the door, but my news couldn't wait. I wanted to expose that douche bag as soon as humanly possible.

I swerved into the Howleys' drive way and knocked loudly on the front door. I knew Aubrey's parents weren't home; they were on vacation in Hawaii for a week, so I felt no remorse pounding furiously at the wood.

Almost a minute later the door flung open. "What the hell, Paige."

It was my best friend's twin: A.K.A the biggest pain in my ass to ever walk this Earth.

Aubrey's brother was the kind of guy that corrected everything you said. He was quick to point out your mistakes but not so quick at telling you how to fix them. He always had some sort of scientific fact to back up anything he said, and his comebacks were impossible to counter. He was always right, and he knew it. He also knew that I hated being proven wrong. His presence made me want to punch a small child. He was annoying, rude, and had no regard for others' feelings – especially mine. I bestowed upon him the title of the King of Jerks.

"Ugh, gross," I groaned at the sight of him. "Look, Maddie, I need to speak to Aubrey pronto."

I pushed past the disheveled blonde, who looked really irritated, might I add, and walked into the house that I spent more time at than my own. Mr. Pain-in-my-ass glared at me and shut the door.

"I told you not to call me that. Do you know – "

"There are tons of famous male figures with the name Madison; it's a very valiant name that was originally intended for boys; it actually means Son of Michael or some shit like that," I recited what he'd told me thousands of times. It was what he always said whenever I made fun of his name (which was a lot – it was a girl's name for Christ's sake!).

"Son of Matthew," he corrected. "And I was actually going to ask you if you know what time it is."

"It's 2:41; there's a clock right there, retard."

Madison rolled his eyes. "Go home, Paige. It's way too late, and you're drunk. Besides, Aubrey's fast asleep. She passed out around ten."

"I am not drunk," I said. "And this is important, so move."

"Fine." Madison shrugged and let me through. I made my way towards the stairs, but his voice stopped me from going any further. "But you know, she's not going to remember anything you tell her if you wake her up now," he finished.

I froze. He was right. Again. Aubrey was a deep sleeper, the kind that could sleep for days uninterrupted, and if you told her anything while she was half asleep she'd forget it within the hour.

I turned around, an irritated frown on my face. "Why do you always have to be right?" I sighed.

"You know me," Madison stated. "Now get out; you're disrupting my peace."

As you can see, Pain-in-my-ass wasn't too fond of me, either.

I could tell I wasn't going to win this one, so I begrudgingly left the house. "See you tomorrow, ass-wipe," I called out as I got in my car.

His response was dripping in sarcasm.

"I'll be counting the minutes."

As the next morning came, I was less enthusiastic about talking to Aubrey. The extra hours had given me more time to think about how devastating it was going to be for her once she found out. She really liked Flynn – everyone did – but I had to do it. She was better off without him.

"Aubrey," I called out to her in the hallways. First period had recently ended, and because she was not a morning person, my best friend was just arriving at school. She was lucky to have a free period first thing; it meant she could sleep in an extra hour every morning.

"Paige," she said with a smile. "I'm so tired; I could sleep standing up."

I hoped this didn't mean she would forget what I was about to tell her. But given the intensity of what that was, I doubted it.

"You're so weird," I said with a laugh. Then I remembered what I had to say. "Listen, I need to tell you something."

"What is it?" she asked. Her warm brown eyes twinkled with curiosity.

"Um," I said. "You're not going to like this."

Her eyebrows furrowed together. "Why?"

I was about to spill the beans when all of a sudden two strong arms were around her. It was Flynn.

"Morning, babe," he said sweetly. Aubrey turned around and gave him a good morning kiss. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. This guy really had her fooled.

"Hey," Aubrey said to him. I eyed their clasped hands with a frown. I opened my mouth to comment when Flynn gave me a look. Don't you dare, his blue eyes said. I gulped.

"What was it you wanted to tell me, Paige?" Aubrey asked. Her innocence was unnerving. How could I tell her that her perfect, handsome, football playing honor student of a boyfriend was really a major dickwad? Her fragile little heart would break into a million pieces.

Flynn gave me a subtle smirk. He thought he'd won. But he hadn't – I was still going to tell her. I was just….going to wait a little bit, that was all.

"Oh, it was nothing," I said.

Then I high-tailed it out of there before Flynn's penetrating gaze could make me throw up from guilt.

"I'm being serious, Aubrey," I said to my best friend. It was the next day, and I'd finally managed to find a time to tell Aubrey the truth. Unfortunately, she wasn't taking it too well.

"But Flynn would never do something like that," she replied. She was shaking her head in disbelief, her blonde curls bouncing.

"But he would, and he did."

She was silent. "What did you say he said again? Tell me word for word."

I sighed and got ready to explain for what seemed like the hundredth time. "He was bummed that you weren't coming to the party, because he was hoping it would be 'the night.' I asked him why you hadn't done it yet and he said, 'virgins are always the hardest.'"

Aubrey shook her head again. "No, he couldn't have said that," she said. "Are you sure you weren't talking to someone else?"

"I'm positive, Aubrey. Who else would I be talking to?"

"Okay," she said. "Well maybe he did say that, but so what? It's not such a bad thing to say; I mean it IS true…but he didn't hit on you. That I know for sure."

"But he did! I'm not making this up!"

"No, no, he wouldn't do that! Maybe he just fell over. You did say he was pretty drunk."

I sighed in frustration. "He didn't fall over. He grabbed me by the waist and told me that we could have sex instead, since you weren't there and he was getting antsy."

"No," Aubrey said quietly. She was in denial.

"Yes! Why would I lie to you about this?" I was starting to get really peeved. She didn't believe me!

"Well," she said. She shifted her eyes guiltily to the floor.

"Well?" I was curious. Did she have a reason to believe I'd lie? What was it?

"You did say you thought Flynn was super hot when he first moved here. And I know you like sporty guys. How do I know you're not just jealous, and trying to break us up?"

I gaped. She thought I was jealous?

"Are you kidding me? I only said that because he was the first decent looking new kid we'd had in ages. And sure, I do like jocks, but I would never do that to you. Plus, Flynn's an asshole. I wouldn't go for him."

"Oh, so now you're insulting my taste in guys?"

"What? No!" This was not happening the way I'd planned.

"Well that's what it sounds like."

"Will you listen to me? Your boyfriend tried to seduce me! He's a cheating bastard!"

Aubrey wiped the forming tears from her eyes and shook her head one last time.

"I don't believe you," she said.

I had never felt more betrayed in my entire life. This was worse than the time Aubrey gave Madison the extra concert ticket she won instead of inviting me back in the seventh grade. It was worse than when she sided with him on the always present argument of my hair color (it's not red, it's strawberry blonde!). It was even worse than getting no presents for my eighteenth birthday because my parents spent all their money on buying my no-good little sister a car she barely deserved.

My best friend thought I was lying to her. She thought I was trying to break her and her boyfriend up because I was jealous of them. How could she think I would ever do that? I'd like to think it was easier to believe that Flynn was a cheating jerk than it was to believe I was a lying slut. I guess I was wrong.

I had no one to talk to at school. Aubrey wouldn't come near me. She was mad, I could tell. Flynn had told everyone that I came onto him at the party last week, so the whole school hated me. The only person whose opinion of me hadn't changed was Madison, and I sure as hell didn't want to hang out with him. I got enough of his sass at their house and at the lunch table, where I was forced to sit across from him every day. He already despised me, anyway.

I ate lunch in my car. Not because I couldn't stand the mean looks every girl in the cafeteria was giving me, but because I hated seeing that satisfied smirk on Flynn's face as he cuddled Aubrey at our usual table.

The day went by slowly, terribly, until it was finally sixth period. My last class was science, and Flynn was my lab partner. I had completely forgotten about this predicament until I walked into class and saw him standing by my seat. Horror struck, I almost turned around and left school, but the teacher (who had found me skipping class before) caught my eye and gave me a stern look. I was trapped.

"What's up, Paige?" Flynn said to me in that cocky voice of his once I sat down.

"You are such an asshole," I spat without even giving him a glance. "I'll convince Aubrey eventually, just you wait."

"Sure you will," he laughed.

I tried my hardest to ignore him for the rest of the class period. It was a little difficult, seeing as we were doing a lab and we had to work together, but I managed. Flynn actually did most of the work while I just stood there brooding and wrote down our results. Believe it or not, he was a smart kid – probably the only person that rivaled Madison. He just didn't flaunt it like someone else I knew.

I knew for a fact that Flynn was competing in the regional science fair that was coming up. I'd been over at the Howleys' once when Madison was working on his energy-converter-whatchamajig, and Aubrey had mentioned that her boyfriend was participating, as well. It wasn't a surprise, really – since he'd moved to our school, Flynn had proven to be second best in our class.

I'd commented on how dorky Madison looked doing complex math equations with his thick rimmed glasses and unruly blonde hair, and he'd told me that I wouldn't be the one laughing when he won first prize – a full ride scholarship to the state university.

At the time, I was hoping that Flynn would win, just so I could rub it in my enemy's face. Given recent events, however, I could honestly say for the first time that I was rooting for Madison. It was a weird feeling.

"You know," Flynn suddenly said from across the lab table. "This is really all your fault."

I glared. "My fault? How so?"

He shrugged. "If you had just taken me up on my offer that night, then Aubrey and everyone else never would've had to know."

I gawked and looked around the room. Wasn't anyone hearing this? Why was nobody hearing this?

"You didn't have to feed those lies to the entire school," I spat.

"What, you thought you could reject me and get away with it? That's not how things work in my world. When I don't get what I want, I make the life of whoever's to blame a living hell."

"You are pure evil," I said in disbelief. Alright, I knew this guy was bad, but not that bad! Jeez, what an ego!

Flynn smirked in satisfaction. "That's right, baby." I felt a surge of anger burst through me.

"You know what?" I raised my voice. His smirk fell. "You may be winning now, Flynn Masters, but not for long – what goes up has got to fall."

He was not exaggerating. Flynn really did make my life a living hell – I couldn't sleep (too much to think about), I couldn't eat (not with people STARING at me!), and I couldn't walk the halls without feeling the sting of whispered insults from every direction.

Aubrey still wasn't talking to me. I tried calling her a few times, but only once did she answer.

"Hello?" she said happily. I immediately got the feeling that she hadn't checked her caller ID. I was overcome with sadness at this realization; a few days ago caller ID wouldn't have made a difference.

"Aubrey! I'm so glad you picked up," I said.

"Paige," she replied. Her voice was filled with apprehension, but at the same time, I could tell that she wanted to talk. We'd been best friends a long time; there was no way she could keep fighting with me much longer. The only reason we hadn't made up yet was because we were both too stubborn to apologize.

"Look, we really need to talk," I began. "I – "

"Wait," Aubrey stopped me. "Can we do this in person? I…I miss you."

I cracked a small smile. Maybe this would all just…blow over. "Sure," I replied.

"I'll be over in ten minutes."

Ten minutes later, Aubrey and I were standing out in the cold in front of my house, talking. We came outside because we'd always felt more comfortable in the fresh air. It was nice to know that some things never changed.

When she'd arrived, Aubrey had given me a huge hug.

"I am so glad you decided to apologize," she said. "I was really starting to miss having my best friend around. Not to mention I was hoping you'd come to the Science Fair with me, since I'd be bored by myself, and – "

"Wait a minute," I interrupted. "I never said anything about apologizing."

Aubrey stared. "But…that's why you called, right? You wanted to apologize for making a move on Flynn."

I could not believe it. She was still under the impression that I had lied! Well, she could forget it, because there was no way I was apologizing for something I didn't do.

It took a moment for me to gather my words. "Are you crazy?" I screamed at her. "I told you, he made a move on me!"

Aubrey laughed nervously. "Paige, come on. It's okay. I know you were pretty drunk, and he is irresistibly attractive. If you just apologize, then I'll forgive you and we can move on!"

"I'm not apologizing for something I never did!" I shouted in frustration. How could she still not believe me?

"Well," she frowned. "Then I guess we're still not speaking."

I calmed down. My anger instantly fizzed into depression. "Aubrey, please," I begged. "Why are you doing this? Don't you trust me?"

She hesitated. "I did trust you," she said slowly. "Before you started partying and dating jocks and calling my boyfriend hot. Now," she continued, "I'm not so sure."

That was the last thing she said to me before stalking off. Hurt and confused, I returned to my house, where I cried and cried until my tears led me to sleep.

There was only one thing left that I could do.

I winced as I knocked on the door. I couldn't believe what I was about to go through with – but it was the only way to fix things. He was the only one who knew Aubrey better than I did. He was the only one that she trusted more than me.

That's right…I was at Aubrey and Madison's house, about to ask my mortal enemy of thirteen years for help. Soak it in, ladies and gentlemen – this wasn't going to happen ever again.

He looked surprised when he answered the door. I didn't blame him; I was in a fight with his sister and I'd never come over for him before. "What do you want?" he asked in his reserved-for-Paige-only tone (which, by the way, was not a nice tone at all).

I scoffed, refusing to answer since he was being so rude, and pushed passed him to get into the house. I immediately made my way over to the fridge. Food comforted me, and I was nervous, okay?

"Aubrey's not here. She's at volleyball practice," Madison said. He was clearly irritated and trying to get me to leave.

"I know," I said sharply. Did he think I was stupid? Oh yeah, that's right, he did.

He watched with a look of disgust on his face as I took out five Yoplait Yogurts from the fridge and started to eat one.

"You know, my parents buy those for their children," Madison pointed out.

I said nothing and started gulping down my second yogurt.

"And you're going to get fat if you eat all of those."

"No I'm not," I protested. "Haven't you seen the commercials? They're healthy."

He rolled his eyes. "If you eat them one at a time. Downing all five of those in less than a minute not only takes care of a third of your daily calories, but it also makes you bloat up from eating so fast. So yeah, you'll get fat."

I frowned. Why did he have to be so smart all the time? I put down the yogurt I was working on and cleaned up my mess. See, I wasn't a total bitch – I knew how to be a polite guest.

"So what are you doing here, exactly?" Madison asked.

I peeked around the room. By the looks of it, he must've been working on his science fair project.

"Uh," I said. What was I supposed to say? I wasn't ready to admit that I needed his help.

"You just came here to eat all our yogurt, then, is that it?"

"No," I spat. "I…um…wanted to talk to you."

He laughed. The little punk actually laughed. Was it really so unbelievable? …Okay, yeah, it was. But still.

"I'm serious. Stop laughing," I said. He didn't stop. I felt that urge to punch small children begin to surface again – damn that smart-ass and his dorky glasses and his messy hair and his cocky laugh. He'd be the death of me one day, I swear!

I managed to calm myself down because I really needed him to listen. In a desperate attempt to get him to take me seriously, I shouted, "I need your help."

Madison chuckled; he seemed to think this was even funnier. All of a sudden, I couldn't even bring myself to be angry. All I could do was be depressed. Everything from the past few weeks really hit me in that instant, and I couldn't help it, I just started tearing up.

He finally realized the severity of the situation when he saw the state I was in.

"Are you crying?" he asked in surprise.

I wiped my eyes, but said nothing.

"Shit," he mumbled.

An awkward silence followed as I composed myself. Neither of us had ever been in this situation with the other before. Taking a deep breath, I launched into the spiel I'd practiced earlier that day.

"I need your help," I said once again. "Everything I told Aubrey about Flynn was one hundred percent true. I would never lie to her; you of all people should know that."

He stared. I think he was still surprised that I had actually shed a tear in front of him.

"Anyway," I continued nervously. "She doesn't believe me. But…I really miss her, and it makes me sick to my stomach to see her with Flynn every day. I've tried everything. I'm not smart like you; I can't just think of some complex plan to fix everything. Please help me," I said.

I choked on the last few words. The fact that I was actually begging Madison Howley for help made me want to puke. My pride would never forgive me for this, but it had to be done.

Finally, the demon spoke. "Why should I help you?" he said carefully. "What's in it for me?"

…damn. I hadn't thought of that.

"Um, nothing," I said.

He raised a brow. "Then why would I help you? I personally prefer not having you around. You being here is kind of putting a downer on my mood, actually."

"Yeah, I noticed," I said in agitation. "I'm not so thrilled about this whole ordeal, either."

Madison hesitated. "How do I know you're not just making all of this up?" he asked.

"Because I came to you," I said desperately. "When else have I ever asked you for help?"

He was silent.

"That's what I thought," I said. And with that, I grabbed my yogurt and left the house. I'd done everything I could. All that was left was waiting and hoping for the best.

I have your free Science Fair ticket if you still want it, the text message said. It was from Aubrey.

I sighed and hit reply. Sure.

I wasn't planning on actually going, given the current circumstances, but I'd talked myself into it. I had nothing better to do on Friday night, since I basically had no friends, and I'd tried to look at it in a positive light: either Madison or Flynn was going to win for sure.

No, I wasn't happy about that, but this was the way I saw it – if Madison won, then that meant Bastard Flynn lost, which was awesome. And if Flynn won, then Pain-in-my-ass Madison lost, and that meant I could rub it in his face. It was a win-win situation for me. A pretty sad one, yes, but one none-the-less. Plus, Aubrey had a free ticket for me. So why not?

She put the ticket my locker when I wasn't looking. I'd forgotten that she knew my combination; I was lucky that I had a best friend who wouldn't steal, not even from people she didn't like. Aubrey was admirable in that way. She had good morals.

Friday night came quickly, but went slowly. I made my way to the convention center downtown where the Science Fair was taking place, feeling stupid the whole way there. Why was I even going? I didn't understand science one bit.

When I got there, Aubrey was standing right at the entrance talking to Flynn. Fortunately, he was called back to his station at the exact moment I walked in, so I avoided at least one confrontation. The other, I wasn't so lucky.

"You actually showed up," Aubrey said to me. For a moment, her voice sounded how it used to: bubbly and excited. Then she realized she was still mad at me. "I didn't think you would."

"Yeah, well," I said. "I had nothing better to do."

"Hey," Madison came up behind his sister and put his hand on her shoulder. "Mom wants you to come take pictures, she's really camera happy right now…" He trailed off when he noticed that I was standing there.

I smiled meekly at him, which I knew Aubrey thought was weird because she gave me this look. Hell, I thought it was weird, too – as soon as I realized I was being nice to him I stopped immediately.

"Well," Aubrey said after a moment of awkwardness. "See you."

"See you," I replied. The twins walked off.

I sighed. I should just leave, I thought pathetically. Seeing Madison and/or Flynn lose a scholarship isn't worth this torture.

But I stayed. Why, I didn't really know – but I did. And it turned out to be a good thing, too, because what happened later…was awesome.

The judges were going around, looking at each table for the last time before choosing the winner. They had a camera man with them (the event was being televised on the local news) and the footage was being shown on the big TV screen overlooking the area. I glanced up at the screen and saw Madison smiling proudly as he demonstrated his energy converter.

I realized that he had a nice smile. I stared at the screen, transfixed; I'd never really seen him smile before. Probably because he can't stand me, I reasoned. Well, I can't stand him, either, so nyeh.

I decided to go take a look at Flynn's table. Yeah, I hated the guy, and yeah, there was a zero percent chance I'd know what the heck his project was, but I was bored and staring at Madison on the big screen was getting weird. I wasn't expecting Flynn to be alone at his table, but he was. I also wasn't expecting him to talk to me, but he did. Great.

"Look who showed up," he said. "It's Little Red."

I stared. Little Red? What was that even supposed to mean?

His smile faltered. "You…your hair is red. Get it?"

"My hair's not red," I retorted. Not him, too! "It's strawberry blonde, dumbass."

"Whatever," he said. "So why'd you come? One last feeble attempt to win your best friend back?"

"No," I said. I glanced at the big screen. The camera was moving to the next table. That was odd, since they seemed to really like Madison, and from what I'd heard, if they liked someone enough they'd award them with the prize right then and there. Maybe he screwed up?

"Good," Flynn said. "Because she'll never believe your story."

It was at that moment that I realized where the cameras were headed. Heart racing, I answered the jerk in front of me. "What was my story again?"

Flynn laughed. "Wow, you really are stupid," he said. "You told Aubrey that I tried to get in your pants at the party. You were telling the truth, obviously," he laughed some more, "but how could she believe that? I'm too convincing."

"Are we interrupting something?" the head judge spoke suddenly. Flynn's eyes lit up in horror as he realized that we had company.

"Um, no, sir," he said. "Would you like to see my project?"

"Of course," the man said.

"Hold it!"

Flynn and I froze. It was Aubrey.

"You dirty liar," she whispered. And then she slapped him.

The auditorium was quiet. Aubrey hugged me tightly. She whispered, "I'm sorry" in my ear and then turned to the camera man. "Carry on," she said.

Flynn was so shocked, he bombed his entire presentation.

Aubrey took me out for milkshakes as an apology after the Science Fair. What can I say, that girl knew how to get on my good side. Unfortunately, her brother came too, but I was in too spectacular of a mood to be brought down by something as trivial as that.

"This is the best day of my life," I said happily as the three of us sat down at a table. "Madison lost his fancy scholarship, Flynn got slapped, I got my best friend back…and I get a free milkshake! Life couldn't get any better than this."

Aubrey laughed. "Yeah, well, I may be paying, but you're getting up to order them. I'm tired."

"You're always tired, but okay," I said. "Man, I sure am lucky that Madison screwed up just in time for the cameras to catch Flynn's confession."

"Yeah, how lucky," Madison spoke for the first time. Aubrey gave him a look.

"Well, I'll go order. What do you guys want?" I asked as I took the money from my best friend.

"Chocolate," Aubrey answered.

"Same," Madison called out.

"'Kay." I bounded up to the front counter to buy our drinks, leaving the siblings alone at the table.

Now, this next part, I didn't hear – but according to Aubrey, this is what happened:

"What?" Madison asked his sister. She was still staring at him with that look.

"You little sneak," she said with a smile. "I can't believe you did that!"

"Did what?"

"Don't play dumb. You messed up your presentation on purpose just so Flynn would get caught. And you did it all for Paige!"

"Whoa, whoa," Madison protested. "Maybe I did mess up on purpose, but I did not do it for Paige."

"Mmhmm." Aubrey looked unconvinced. "Sure you didn't."

"I didn't!"

"Then why'd you do it?"

He hesitated. "I couldn't have you dating some sleaze," he finally said. "You're my sister."

"If you knew Flynn was such a sleaze, all you would've had to do was tell me and I would have broken up with him. You know I trust your judgment."

"But you don't trust Paige's?"

Aubrey faltered. "I do now," she said softly.

It was silent for a few seconds.

"…she was really upset," Madison said with a blush. (Really, Aubrey? He blushed? I found that part of the story hard to believe.)

"You know what I think?" Aubrey prodded at her brother with a smile. "You care about Paige. I knew you didn't really hate her!"

"Are you insane?" he countered immediately. "I hate her guts! I hate her stupid 'strawberry blonde' hair, and her annoying eating habits, and her incessant swearing. I hate everything about that girl."

Aubrey laughed. "No, you don't! You just say all those things because you're trying to cover up the fact that you like her."

Madison was so taken aback by the comment that he choked on his spit. "Okay, now you really are insane. Even if I did like Paige, which I don't, it would be in a strictly platonic way," he said.

His sister just rolled her eyes. "Platonic or not," she said. "You like her."

"I do not like her!"

At this moment, I re-entered the scene, carrying two chocolate milkshakes and one vanilla. "Who does Maddie like?" I asked teasingly. I had only heard the last part of their conversation, so I hadn't the slightest idea of who they were talking about. I was imagining some shy, smart girl in his AP Biology class or something.

"None of your business," he spat at me. Aubrey giggled.

I shrugged. "Whatever," I said. "Life is good!"

Things went back to normal after that. I was able to easily forgive Aubrey, especially since she apologized about a thousand times, and she instantly forgave me. The only thing that seemed to have changed was Madison. We still hated each other – that was for sure – but he appeared to be getting nicer.

Notice how I said nicer and not nice. He was still the King of Jerks.

I was chilling at the Howley residence about a week after milkshakes, waiting for Aubrey to get home from practice so we could go shopping. Madison came down the stairs to find me watching Drake and Josh on the TV.

"Ugh," he said when he saw me sitting on their couch, eating (more) yogurt. "My mom just bought more yogurts, and you're eating it all already."

"I am not," I said. "This is my first one in like a week."

"Better be careful," Madison said as he took a seat next to me on the couch. "It looks like you're already starting to pack on the pounds."

I punched him in the shoulder. He winced. "You're an asshole," I said.

"I was kidding. Jesus, Paige."

I punched him again. He yelped like a little girl.

"It didn't sound like you were kidding."

"It's called sarcasm," he whined. "Learn to take a joke."

"Sarcasm is stupid," I said.

He shook his head in disappointment. "A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear," he said.

I stared. "What the hell does that mean?" I asked.

"My point exactly."

A knock sounded from the door and he got up to answer it. I shook my head to clear it of any confusion Madison's comment had left, and turned to see who was at the door.

It was the principal of our school. I turned down the TV immediately. I was sure that the well-respected man didn't want to hear Josh shouting about spherical game consoles.

"Sir," Madison said in surprise. "Come on in."

I could tell that Madison had no idea what the principal was doing at his house. I gave him a questioning look, and he just shrugged.

"Miss Davidson," Principal Erikson addressed me. I nodded at him politely. He turned his attention back to the now-very-nervous blonde boy in front of him. "Mr. Howley, I'm here about the Science Fair."

Madison's eyes widened. "Oh, yes, of course. What…what did you need?"

The principal glanced at me, and then glanced away. "Your sister told me about what you did. I found the tale to be rather admirable. The board and I have decided that we want to see your presentation again," he said.

"No way," Madison replied. "That's great!"

"That's not all," Erikson continued. "The committee thought your idea was exceptionally impressive for someone so young. They'd like to give you another chance at that scholarship. That is, if you don't 'mess up' this time."

Madison was beaming. "Wonderful! Thank you, Sir!"

"You're welcome, Madison," Erikson said. "I'll talk to you more about it tomorrow. I just thought you'd want to hear the news as soon as possible."

"You thought right, Principal. Thanks again."

"I'll let you two be, now." Madison thanked the principal about a thousand more times before he left. I watched my best friend's brother suspiciously. Something was up.

"Congrats," I said once we were alone again. "That was sure nice of them to give you another chance."

"Yeah," he said happily. There was that smile again…the one I rarely ever saw.

"Except…" I trailed off.

Madison's smile fell. "What?" he asked.

"People don't just give out second chances," I said. "What 'admirable tale' did Principal Erikson hear that made such an impact on his decisions?"

"Um," he peeked at the clock in a desperate attempt to change the subject. "Shouldn't Aubrey be home by now?"

"She said 3:30," I shrugged. It was 3:48. Practice must've run long. "But don't change the subject – just what did you do?"

I had a theory, of course. I only needed one piece of evidence to confirm that theory.

"Nothing," Madison said quickly. He turned away from me, but not before I saw his red face. Bingo.

I couldn't help myself. Before I could process what I was doing, I ran up to him and gave him a big bear hug.

Madison froze. Physical contact was not a common occurrence between the two of us.

"Thanks, Madison," I spoke softly into his chest. He hesitantly rested his arms on my back. "You know, you're alright," I said.

"Yeah, well…" he mumbled in embarrassment. I looked up at him. Ha! He was blushing. This was amusing.

I was too busy laughing at the hilarity of it all to notice right away that Madison was looking at me with this calculating gaze, as if he were thinking really hard about something. I was about to ask him what was up when he started slowly leaning in.

Is he going to kiss me? I thought, panicking. But I didn't pull away. I just observed the odd mixture of apprehension and curiosity in his eyes as he got closer and closer.

His lips brushed against mine, and it was…weird. My initial reaction was to pull away violently, but instead I threw my bias on the shelf for the moment, wrapped my arms around his neck, and kissed him back…just to test it out. Hey, if he was curious enough to kiss me, then I was allowed to be curious enough to kiss him, too.

Not five seconds later, we jumped apart abruptly at the sound of some kids causing a ruckus outside. My heart was pounding; I thought for sure it was Aubrey coming home from practice. What would she say if she had walked in on us? I'd probably die of embarrassment. No, I would die of embarrassment.

Madison looked at me, disgusted. It seemed that he couldn't believe what he'd just done. Hey, I was just as shocked as he was!

"We never speak of this," I said in what I hoped was my most menacing voice.

Madison shook his blonde head vigorously. "Never," he said.

"Um," I began awkwardly. I made an escape for the door. "Just…tell Aubrey that I can't go shopping. I forgot I have to…uh…do…something." Then I ran out of the house and straight to my car.

I was in full-on freak out mode. I was in my room, sitting on my bed, just…freaking out. So many things had just gone wrong. The world must've been ending because 1) Madison Howley kissed me, 2) I kissed Madison Howley, and 3) I did not throw up afterwards.

I had only three words to say to myself: What. The. Hell.

I thought for sure I was going to regret kissing Madison for the rest of my life, even if it was barely more than a measly little peck, but then I started thinking about the scholarship.

The scholarship – the one he'd given up for me, even though we were sworn enemies. The one he'd gotten all flustered about, and smiled over, which was actually kind of cute if I thought real hard about it. And thinking about that smile got me thinking about Madison in general…and how maybe he wasn't so bad after all.

Damn that smart-ass and his dorky glasses, and his messy hair, and his cocky laugh. He'd be the death of me one day – I swear.