A/N: This chapter is not my best, nor my longest. Sorry...I tried! There is a lot of Hannah and Leland fluff in here, though, so that's good. I suppose. Thanks to anyone who has been reviewing lately! I hope you enjoy the chapter!
It appeared to be a week of firsts for Hannah, because not two days after admitting to herself that she had a crush on Leland, she returned to school to find that she was the center of the latest rumor.
As one of the sweetest, quietest, most under-the-radar kids in town, Hannah was absolutely shocked to hear her name whispered in the hallways. And they weren't good whispers, either. It took Hannah a whole hour to figure out what the rumor was, exactly. For a while, all she knew was that nobody seemed to want to talk to her anymore. Not that she was very popular beforehand, but at least she had friends. Now, Chloe was the only person who didn't glare when she walked past.
Somebody respected Jake and Marshall a lot more than Chloe or Hannah had anticipated. Somebody was clearly unhappy with how Homecoming night treated Marshall. Somebody had told the whole world that Hannah was a bitch who ditched the poor boy to go hook up with the hot lead singer of the live band.
And everybody believed it. All day, Hannah had to deal with the sneers of her peers. She wasn't sure what was worse – having everyone hate her, or having to answer those few shallow girls who came up to her asking if "that sexy singer guy" was a good kisser.
"Relax," Chloe said. Her words did little to console Hannah, though. "The rumor mill is constantly changing; people will forget about this in a week. Trust me."
Hannah knew that Chloe was right (of course she was, she knew what it was like to have rumors spread about her) but she also knew that after this, her reputation as a polite and innocent girl was long gone. She would never get the same amount of respect as she got before.
For the remainder of the week, the shy girl tried to get used to the idea of being disliked. Chloe noticed how distressed her friend was and started chasing away anyone with patronizing questions, but a few did get through. Every time somebody asked Hannah if it was true, she had to explain that it wasn't as bad as it sounds. But generally after learning that she wasn't denying it, the question askers moved on to a different topic: Leland. And those questions always made her blush like a maniac.
Things did not get any better when Hannah went home, logged onto her computer, and saw that she had been tagged in a photo by Lucas Tillman. She knew what it was before clicking on it.
The photo of her and Leland asleep in the break room was actually really cute, but given the current circumstances she was not too happy to see it on her Facebook profile. Surely people would see it and it would only make the rumors worse. Not to mention her brother had told her to stay away from the guys…she could practically hear the phone ringing now, an angry Liam on the other side, overreacting as usual.
Actually, the phone was ringing. Huh.
She answered, although she really didn't want to. "What is it, Liam?" she asked. Creepy how that worked out so well.
"You're not dating him. Right?" was his answer.
"No," she said matter-of-factly.
Liam sighed in relief, causing Hannah to roll her eyes. "Good. It's bad enough that you're actually friends with an older guy…good enough friends that you'd snuggle up against him on the couch," he said in a stern voice, "but I'm glad you're not dating. I don't know if I could handle that."
Hannah blushed at the snuggle comment but then quickly grew agitated with her brother's need to control her life. "And why not?" she asked, defiant. His constant angry phone calls were starting to wear on her nerves.
"Because," Liam said. "You're seventeen. You are too young to have a boyfriend."
"You had a girlfriend when you were seventeen," Hannah argued.
"Yeah, but that's exactly why I know you shouldn't have a boyfriend. Teenage boys are disgusting and mean," Liam warned.
"Not Leland," she defended. "He's sweet and funny and very not disgusting." She didn't point out that he technically wasn't a teenager, either. She figured that would just set Liam off even more.
"What are you saying?"
"What do you mean?"
Liam said nothing for at least ten seconds. Hannah tried to figure out what it was that she said that caused him to be at a loss for words. Then, finally, he mumbled, "You're usually not this stubborn."
Hannah shrugged, even though he couldn't see her. It was true – but why did he sound so perplexed? "Maybe I've just been talking to Penny and Nettie too much," she said. She hadn't, but it was possible that her sisters' defiance was beginning to rub off on her. Chloe might've been a contributing factor, too.
"No," Liam said. "You're being defensive. You did the opposite of what I told you to do. You're not just friends with this guy, you actually care about him."
Hannah blushed but played it off coolly by saying, "People generally care about their friends, Liam."
"You know what I mean."
Now it was Hannah's turn to be at a loss for words. Eventually she just gave up. "Alright, fine," she said. "So I like him. What's the big deal?" Saying it out loud made it seem like a very big deal, though.
She could just see Liam punching whatever happened to be closest. A wall, maybe. Or the arm of his couch.
"He's too old for you," Liam said darkly.
"If you met him you wouldn't think that," Hannah said. She shuddered at the thought of Liam actually meeting Leland. "He doesn't act his age."
That ended up sounding worse than what she had hoped, but the damage had been done.
"Dammit Hannah, are you sure you actually like him? Don't do anything stupid and get your heart broken…it's better to just stay away from him…"
"Don't worry," Hannah said, although the thought of getting her heart broken did scare her. A lot. "Leland is…he's a really good guy. Trust me."
"I do trust you. I don't trust him."
"Forget it. Just don't come crying to me anytime soon," he spat before hanging up. Hannah sighed. She hated disappointing her brother. But sometimes he was just so hard to please.
As Hannah struggled with being called a bitch, Chloe struggled with being called a slut repeatedly by Wesley. Ever since Homecoming, she had been trying desperately to earn his trust back, but the cause seemed hopeless. The few times she called him, he answered just so he could hang up, and when she showed up at their apartment he slammed the door in her face. Things were not going well.
"I'm so depressed," Chloe sighed dramatically at lunch.
Hannah sipped her smoothie. "Me, too," she agreed solemnly.
"We're so pathetic. Anyway, you shouldn't let this whole rumor thing get you down. Who cares what all these people think? I still think you're fantastic," Chloe said.
Hannah smiled. "Thanks, but it's not all of them I'm worried about. I mean, I was at first…but you're right. It'll pass. It's just…Liam…"
"Oh, God," Chloe rolled her eyes. "What did he do this time?"
"He saw that picture on Facebook, and – "
"Ohmygod, that picture was so adorable," Chloe gushed. Hannah shot her a glare. She didn't want to hear any more about that picture after several people had confronted her about it that day. "Sorry, continue…"
"And he was mad about it. He was pissed. He says I shouldn't like a boy three years older than me, that I'll only get my heart broken. Although I'm pretty sure he would say that about any boy, regardless of his age or character," Hannah explained.
Chloe just stared at her.
"What?" Hannah asked, unnerved.
"You just said…that you like Leland," Chloe said. Hannah reddened. Oops. She had said that, hadn't she? Indirectly, but still…. "You admitted it! Ha! You have a huge crush on him!"
"Whoa, hold on, I wouldn't say huge, exactly – "
"Aww, this is so cute! You guys are fucking perfect together," Chloe said happily. "He put that picture as his profile picture, you know."
Hannah was about to protest when her phone started ringing. Again? She hoped it wasn't Liam this time.
"Who is it?" Chloe asked curiously. She, on the other hand, hoped it was Liam so she could bitch him out over the phone, and maybe throw in a few I-love-yous.
"Oh, it's Penny," Hannah said in surprise. She wasn't expecting a call from her sister. "Hello?" she said into the phone.
"You like a boy?" came the screech from the other side. Hannah pulled the phone away from her ear so she wouldn't go deaf and then stared at the device, bewildered.
When it was safe, she answered, "Are you a mind-reader?"
Penny scoffed on the other end. "No, Liam called me," she said.
"Oh, because I was literally just talking about this with Chloe," Hannah admitted. "So that freaked me out a little bit."
"I see how it is…you've told everyone except me! Why didn't you tell me?" Penny asked.
"I didn't know this was such a high order of concern!" Hannah answered. "What did Liam tell you?"
"Nothing," Penny said in frustration. "He just called me all unraveled and started grumbling about how you wouldn't listen to him and were going to get your heart broken. I could only assume this had something to do with a boy. And I was right. Is it the cute blonde in that photo on Facebook?"
Hannah was so red at this point that she was glad this was a phone conversation. But that wouldn't save her from the looks Chloe was giving her. "You are a mind-reader!" Hannah said.
"No," Penny laughed. "Just intuitive. So, tell me all about him!"
She didn't know what to say. "Um," she mumbled. She could already feel the butterflies beginning to erupt in her stomach, and she wasn't even talking about him yet. Oh, man, this was bad. "He's…uh…what do you want to know?"
Chloe shook her head and chuckled but Hannah ignored her. "Everything!" Penny said. "His name, his age, how you met, his hobbies, his personality…don't leave anything out, girl."
Hannah couldn't help but notice how excited Penny was getting about this. Usually her sister wasn't so…girly and gushy. Normally Nettie was the super feminine one. But she guessed this was a momentous occasion for her siblings.
"Well," Hannah tried to begin. "His name is Leland, he's twenty, he's the lead singer in this band called Sockdolager…"
"Whoa, hold up. He's twenty? No wonder Liam seems to hate him so much."
"Yeah, but he's not a bad guy, I swear. He's the sweetest boy I've ever met and he makes me forget about my fake hand and he has this really cute smile and a passion for history and an amazing voice," Hannah said. The butterflies were freely flapping around in her gut now.
Chloe was grinning ear to ear, and so was Penny, although Hannah couldn't see it. "See, those are the kinds of things I want to hear," Penny said happily. "That's so great! I'm really happy for you."
"Oh, well," Hannah said, embarrassed. "We're just friends…I mean, nothing has happened between us."
"Bullshit!" Chloe yelled, loud enough for Penny to hear it.
"Did I just hear an objection from Chloe? Explain," Penny inquired. Hannah looked at her best friend with wide eyes.
"Tell her about the dance!" she whispered.
Hannah bit her lip. "Well, we slow danced at Homecoming…but I don't really think that's proof of anything," she said.
"Homecoming?" Penny asked, confused. "If he's twenty years old, what was he doing at a high school dance?"
"His band was playing," Hannah explained. "They're really great."
"Oh, yeah, he's a singer. Did you know that Luke sang a song to Nettie when they first got together?"
"Yeah," Hannah said. She was only six at the time, but she was also in the hospital, and that was when Nettie used to tell her everything. Not that they weren't still close; she just felt a lot more distant now that she had her own family to care for. "Speaking of Nettie…you can tell her all of this, but don't tell anybody else. Especially not Mom. Not yet. I don't want her getting her hopes up. I mean, I'm not even sure Leland likes me back."
"Alright," Penny agreed.
Hannah could tell that Chloe wanted to grab the phone and tell the older girl otherwise, but she said a quick goodbye and hung up before the chance arrived.
The phone call had left Hannah in a state of embarrassment and Chloe in a state of elation. "I'm going to tell Lukewarm and Amber," Chloe said with a grin.
Hannah looked to her best friend in horror. "What? No! You can't!"
Chloe pouted. "Aw, why not? They probably already guessed it themselves. I just want to share my joy with somebody who knows both of you."
"But if you tell Lukewarm, he'll definitely tell Leland, and that is the last thing I want," Hannah said. "I don't think Amber would tell, but…still…can't you keep it a secret?"
Chloe sighed. "I guess," she said. "For now. But eventually…I'll at least want to let Amber in on the secret. Does it count as telling if she guesses?"
"Oh my god," Hannah groaned. "You're ridiculous. Fine. Tell Amber. I don't care. Just make sure you don't tell any of the guys. And make sure Amber doesn't, either."
"Yay!" Chloe rejoiced at her success. Hannah just smacked her head against the cafeteria table, not intending to rise again until the bell rang.
Hannah was driving to the grocery store when it happened. Shocked and excited, she immediately pulled out her phone (despite the no calls while driving law) and dialed Leland's number.
"Hey," the boy answered on the first ring.
If Hannah had not been about to burst with the news, she would've taken the time to blush at how happy he sounded to hear her voice. Instead, she skipped all the girlish giddiness and got straight to the point. "You'll never guess what just happened to me!" she shouted.
Leland chuckled. "What?" he asked.
"Turn on your radio," she said. "Station 98.3."
Leland was quiet for a few moments and Hannah assumed that he was getting to a radio so he could see what the hell she was talking about. After about thirty seconds, he answered.
"It's our song," he said, perplexed.
"Yeah!" she agreed with excitement. "They're playing your song on the radio!"
"No way," Leland said. "This is awesome!"
"Right? I thought you might want to know. The other boys, too. Are they there?"
"No, I'm the car. The guys are at home," Leland explained.
"You're in the car?" Hannah asked. "You're not supposed to talk on the phone while driving." She didn't mention that she was in the car, too.
"I know," Leland said. "But I knew it was you calling from the ring-tone, and I couldn't resist. Besides, if I get pulled over it will be worth it because I got to talk to you."
Now there was room for the girlish giddiness that came along with his compliments. Hannah didn't even know that he had a custom ring-tone for her, but apparently he did. And apparently he would risk getting pulled over just to hear her voice. This realization made Hannah grin and blush like an idiot.
"Well, that's really sweet, but I'd rather not have to bail you out of jail," she joked. "And I have to go, anyway. I'm grocery shopping and I absolutely cannot multitask while talking on the phone."
Leland laughed, but he sounded disappointed. "Alright," he said. "Go finish your shopping. But hey, can I call you later? Like when I'm not driving and you're not buying food? I feel that this conversation was not long enough."
Hannah was taken aback. She was not used to the idea of calling somebody just for the sake of talking. Normally, she only used her phone for practical purposes, like when she needed to tell somebody something or needed to ask a question. But she liked the thought of talking to Leland on the phone. It made her blush even more than she already was.
"Sure," she said.
"Cool," Leland answered. "Talk to you later, then."
Hannah smiled. "Talk to you later," she said quietly. And then he hung up.