Mission: (Kinda-Sorta-Not Really) Impossible (but apparently dashes and parentheses are deleted in the title, so it's aka Mission: Almost Impossible)


Scanning the cafeteria, I spot the girl I'm looking for. I take a deep breath and square my shoulders.

"Hey, Krissa," I greet as I approach the table. She turns and smiles at me. For a second, I freeze. I stare at her stunning smile and stupidly think, Has she moved on yet? But then I catch her sapphire eyes and see the sadness hidden within and my heart falls.

No. She's still not over him.

Sighing, I slide in next to her and glance around the table. I nod at my friends. "Hey, guys." They chorus their hellos.

Two of them, a blond guy with green eyes and a brunette girl with round auburn eyes grin infectiously at me before turning back to their own conversation. I can't help but grin back.

I look down to focus on my lunch, biting into my sandwich, but my mind lingers on the boy and the girl. Julian and Evangeline.

The thing is, they're my friends and all – at least, now they are, they weren't before – but…I also can't help but blame them for Krissa's depression. It is their fault, basically.

See, Krissa, Julian, and Evangeline had been best friends since forever. However, Krissa had fallen in love with Julian. Unfortunately, Julian was in love with Evangeline. And later, Evangeline came to realize that she loved him back.

So now they're together, all lovey-dovey, but Krissa has to deal with her rejection. It's not that Julian and Evangeline aren't good friends; they are. They love her a lot and always try to include her and make her feel better but the thing is, they can't. They can't, because every time Krissa looks at them – especially Evangeline – she sees betrayal. I know she's too stubborn to admit it, because they are her best friends, after all, but I can see it in the pained way she stares at them.

Anyway, all of this drama and crap happened last year, junior year. This year, we're seniors, in the last year of our childhood before we're ready to leave the nest and take on the world.

Hah. Yeah, right.

That's not how I see this year. For me, senior year is my last chance.

Who am I, you ask? Well, didn't I tell you? Oh wait, I didn't.

I'm Chad Lawrence. And my mission is to make one Krissa Taylor fall in love with me.

. . .

Well, okay. That might be aiming a bit high. I mean, it's been like, what, eight months? And she's still not over him. So I guess my true objective is, in essence, to help her get over her heartbreak.

I know. I'm such a great friend. A guy like me is hard to find, I admit.

Of course, if, once she gets over him – with my eager help, naturally – she ends up falling for me, well, that's just a lucky bonus that will make or break my happiness for the rest of my life. No big deal.

Except I'm kinda embarrassed. I mean, she kinda already rejected me….

Yup, that's right. I confessed to her at the mandatory dance near the end of junior year (what was the school thinking? A mandatory dance? Jeez, forceful much?) but she was in love with dear old Julian…who had just confessed to Evangeline who accepted and confessed right back.

Yay for the happy couple. I guess.

Boo for the sad, broken-hearted not-couple. As a great man named Rudyard Kipling (who?) once wrote: "Pity us! ah, pity us!"

No really. Pity us.

No, actually, don't. We don't need your pity. Well, I can't speak for Krissa, but knowing how pigheaded and proud she is, I can safely assume she doesn't want your pity either.

We will stand strong and fight!

Er…what are we fighting?

Oh right. Heartbreak.

Look at me; I've become scatterbrained like an old man in my grief.

Crap.

. . .

"Alright class, your homework tonight is to read the next two chapters in your textbook. If I recall correctly, that's about forty pages. Be grateful for the easy assignment, because it will not happen often. Just because you are now seniors does not mean you can slack off and not be diligent in your studies." That said, Ms. Hay sits down at her desk and proceeds to ignore us for the last three minutes of class, signaling our dismissal at the bell.

Immediately, the class erupts into whispered conversation as everyone begins to pack up.

Stuffing my notebooks and pencils into my back pack, I turn to my right and poke Krissa. She glances up at me. I flash a smile and offer, "Want a ride after school?"

It's for her benefit as much as mine. If she says yes, she won't have to be a third-wheel, listening to Julian and Evangeline and their happy-talk as they walk home, and I'll get to spend some quality time with her in my beloved white Mercedes convertible as I try to convince her of my awesomeness and perfect-for-her-ness.

Good plan, right? This is why I'm a genius.

Lucky for me, she smiles gratefully and nods. "Meet out front after school?"

"Perfect." I sigh in bliss as I imagine my car in my head. "You'll get to admire my White Beauty in all her glory. It's a special privilege, you know?" I joke.

Rolling her eyes, Krissa mutters under her breath, "What is it with guys and cars?"

Faking an affronted look, I scoff, "What is it with girls and our cars? You make it seem like it's a crime for a guy to love his car." Shaking my head at her as if she's a lost cause, I sigh, "You girls just get so jealous, don't you?"

I laugh a little, but she doesn't join in. Peeking over at her, I see that there's a dejected and sort of angry look on her face.

Oops. Probably shouldn't have mentioned the word "jealous." Silly me.

I backtrack and try to cover my error. "Uh, I mean, so Krissa!" My tone is suddenly bright and sunny.

Startled, her eyes jerk up to mine. I grin. "Don't look so sad. You'll make me sad. Why are you sad?"

She pins me with a look. "Chad. You know why."

I shrug. "I was rejected too, but you don't see me crying over it."

Her eyes narrow at me. Uh-oh. "That's so insensitive. I cannot believe you just said that to me. Do you know how hard it is to just act normal at school when they're not around?"

"Do you know how hard it is to force myself to face you every day, no matter what, and act normal, despite being rejected?"

She opens her mouth to say something, but then she realizes that my situation is actually worse. Her mouth closes.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," I tell her. My natural-looking fake smile isn't even on my face anymore. I think I have no expression at all. Completely blank. "Krissa, look. I get that you're hurt, okay? I know it hurts you to see them together, and I can tell you feel betrayed because you liked him first. But you just have to accept that he doesn't like you. You have to move on."

She opens her mouth again, to interrupt, but I don't let her speak. "No, listen. It's been eight months. I know they're your best friends and you see them a lot, but you shouldn't still be this depressed. You should have started to get over it now. But you haven't. And that's how I figured it out." I lock my eyes on hers. "You don't want to move on, do you?"

She's speechless, I can tell. I make people speechless often. It's a natural talent.

"I can see it in your eyes; I'm right. So tell me, why don't you want to move on?" I raise my eyebrows questioningly.

At this, she quickly turns away. She won't tell me.

I nod to no one in particular. "Okay, I won't push you. But watch out, Kris. I'm gonna force you to forget him, even if you refuse. You better be ready." Giving her a pointed look, I stand up just as the bell rings.

As I walk out the door, I look back over my shoulder and see Krissa gaping after me. I grin and wave. "See you after school!"

. . .

"Psst. Chad."

I am studiously ignoring the idiot who is trying to break my concentration as I sketch my almost-perfectly symmetrical rose curve. Connecting the ends of the last petal, I lean back to admire the elegant graph.

Yeah. I'm good.

"Hey, Chad! What the hell, are you deaf or something?"

Heaving a sigh, I precisely place my pencil on my desk and sluggishly turn in my seat to the redhead on my left. "Dude. Are you blind? Can't you see I was trying to draw my rose curve in peace? People these days."

Ty rolls his eyes. "What the hell, man. Are you actually working on the homework?"

"I'm a good student, Ty. What do you want?" I inquire politely, though I am actually itching return to my calculus so that I can fantasize about all the ways I can make Krissa fall for me.

"So I heard you and Krissa have a date after school." He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. "Gimme some details, man."

"First of all, it's not a date. I'm giving her a ride home so she won't feel left out. Her two best friends are kinda dating, you know?" I say pointedly.

"Whatever. So, a ride home, huh? What else?"

"Nothing else, Ty. If you want gossip, go talk to Hailey or something."

"Hailey Rose? Dude, she's hot."

"Yeah, great, whatever." I wave him away. I turn back to my work, glad to be left in peace.

Or not.

I really should've known that he wouldn't just leave it like that.

Since the aforementioned Hailey Rose, school gossip machine, happened to be in my AP Calc class (how…?), her seat on the opposite side of the room as mine, Ty, being the loudmouth troublemaker he is, yelled across the room at her. "Yo, Hailey! Chad thinks you're hot!"

My shoulders lump. Groaning, I bang my head repeatedly on my desk for all to see.

Understandably, everyone laughs. Oh yes, go ahead, laugh at my utter humiliation. No really, it's fine to guffaw at me as I desperately think of a way to melt into a puddle of inconsolable goo.

"Thanks, Chad! You're not too bad yourself!" Hailey calls back.

"Thanks, I'm so honored," I mumble. Apparently everyone in the room has supersonic hearing because they all fell into laughter again.

Did they really hear me? They probably just assumed I said something funny. Idiots.

Glaring at Ty, I hiss, "Thanks Ty, I really needed to be embarrassed."

"No problem, man!" he replied, meaning it.

I gave him a withering look. I was surrounded by a bunch of dumbasses.

It was at times like these that I wish I was one of them. Stupid people have such easy lives.

. . .

"Whoa!"

I stumble over my feet and quickly regain my balance. Looking down, I see that I bumped into someone and, me being taller, made them fall over and drop all their stuff.

"Oh crap, I'm so sorry," I apologize hastily. I bend over to help the person pick up their stuff. Skimming the ground for more of their items, I see that they have a lot of books. Being the chivalrous person that I am, I stand up, holding a bunch of their books and ask, "Hey, where's your next class? I'll help you carry your stuff."

The person looks up and I see it's a girl. Her face is familiar, so I wrack my brain for a name but can't seem to come up with one. Giving up, I directly question the girl instead. "Um, do I know you? You look really familiar but I can't seem to place you."

Standing up with a load of books in her arms, she smiles up at me – Whoa, she's cute, a surprising thought sneaks into my mind – and answers, "I'm Lacey Dawn. We have gym together next, but I'm not surprised you didn't know. Most people don't notice me." Her smile is tinged with sadness and the tiniest bit of regret.

Unsure of how to cheer her up, I nudge her and say, "Stick with me, kid, and everyone will notice you."

I meant it as a joke, but she giggles, "I know. You're so popular."

Wait, rewind.

Say whaaaaaaat?

"I'm…popular?" I try out the word as we amble to the gym locker rooms. "Uh, right."

She can tell I don't believe her. "No really! Everyone knows you and at least three-fourths of the girl population is in love with you."

I repeat, say whaaaaaaaaaat? When did this happen?

I'm pretty sure my face is screwed up in an unattractive chagrined grimace as I articulate, "No way." Brimming with eloquence, I know.

Her baby blue eyes blink up at me innocently. "But it's true."

"If you say so," I shrug.

Pulling out of the conversation, I realize that we've reached the locker rooms. A girl standing under the shade of a tall cherry blossom tree fidgets and waves in my direction.

Huh? Who is she? Confused, I glance around, but there's no one else.

Except Lacey, who waves back and chirps happily, "Hi Cara!"

Ah. "Your friend?" I point out the obvious.

"Yup!"

As we move closer, Cara's eyes wander and land on me. They widen, and hysterical hyperventilation ensues.

Huh. That's gonna give people the wrong impression. I mean, an outsider would think that it was me who made her hyperventilate or something. The girl has horrible timing.

We arrive in front of the heaving girl. Lacey queries in concern, "Cara? Are…you okay?"

"Fine!" Cara huffs. Her eyes flicker to me quickly and her panting grows worse.

Uncertain of what to do, I simply hold out my stack of Lacey's books for Cara to take. She stretches out trembling arms and when my hand brushed her skin, she flinches.

Seriously. Horrible timing. Couldn't she flinch before or after I gave her the books? No it looks like I made her scared or something.

I smile apologetically. "Sorry to make you carry all these. I'd take them in myself, except I can't go in the girls' locker room."

Cara only stares at me, wide-eyed, while Lacey tries to comfort her.

Uh…right. Time to go.

"So, I'll see you guys in class, I guess." I wave lamely and practically sprint away. Awkward much?

Okay, so I didn't run away. That would be too obvious and rude, like I wanted to get away from them or something (which I did, but that's not the point).
As I duck into the boys' locker room, I hear girly squealing explode behind me and I assume it's Lacey and Cara.

I shake my head. Girls. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Spinning my locker combination, I stuck my back pack in and pull out my gym clothes while simultaneously evaluating myself.

I am severely lacking in the "cool" department. Three-fourths of the school's girls, crushing on me?

I snort.

Maybe in my dreams.

. . .

After I change into the hideous orange T-shirt and electric blue shorts is the PE uniform, I stroll out to the basketball courts where the rest of my class is milling around.

Gym is my last class of the day, and it's also my worst grade – a 96%. I know! 96! In physical education! What is the world coming to?

And trust me; it's not for lack of athleticism. I mean, I'm no Olympic athlete but I enjoy sports as much as the nest normal teen guy. So no, I don't just suck at PE. Therefore, I always wondered why my grade was so bad. When I finally gathered up my courage and asked my intimidating teacher a few weeks ago, this is what he told me:

"I have higher standards for you."

Well, great. Thanks. I mean, being fair and grading me like the rest of the school is just too easy on me, right? My life's not right unless something is totally unfair.

Well. Can't do anything about it. Good thing I always like a challenge.

A whistle sounds. Everyone rushes into alphabetical order and turns to face Coach Jordan, who is stomping toward us in his signature military march.

I swear, that man has yet to realize that we're in high school, not military boot camp.

"Form teams o' five!" he bellows, standing right in front of my row.

Yeah, I'm lucky.

"Argh!" I stagger drunkenly away from him, my ears still ringing. Seriously, what is his problem?

"No mixin' between the sexes! We wouldn't want one o' you girls getting' hurt in a man's game!"

We all roll our eyes. Jordan has some crazy misconception of girls being these fragile little weaklings who need to be "handled with care."

Yeah right.

He has obviously never seen a cat fight.

He's been missing out.

"Now go, go, go!"

"Yes, Coach Jordan," we chorus lethargically.

Immediately, people deviate to their little cliques.

"Yo Chad!" I look to my left to see Shaun Lucas beckoning over to his group of four.

I jog over to them. "Hey Shaun." I nod at the other three. "Hey Kayden, Jesse, Asher. We a team?"

"For sure," Shaun consents and the other guys chorus their agreement.

"Cool."

"We're gonna crush everyone, man!" Jesse yells excitedly.

"Yeah!" agrees Kayden. Asher simply nods. He's a man of few words.

I grin. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

. . .

Forty minutes later, the five of us are sweating like pigs in a sauna (whatever that means), huffing and puffing from exertion. We've played all the teams – all the male teams – and beaten all of them.

We're just that good.

Plus, the five of us had previously played on a basketball team together and we were used to each other. We didn't even need to yell out plays or anything; one meaningful look and we all knew exactly what to do.

Yeah, we're cool.

This is the last game. Coach Jordan said if we win again, then he'll dismiss us early, but if we lose, then we all have to sprint once around the track – 400 meters. Not that much, but still. Running is running.

Counting in baskets made, the score is four to three, us. To win, we need one more basket, but apparently the other team has found some hidden energy and now they're all bouncing around, all hyper and crap, and they can suddenly jump five feet into the air like they have springs attached to their feet. And here we are, all sweaty and dripping and tired.

Can you say unfair?

Kayden is dribbling in place, taking a momentary rest. For some reason, the other team has backed off a little. Kayden flicks his eyes to Asher, who nods unnoticeably. Quick as lightning, the ball is passed from Kayden to Asher, who dribbles for barely a second before bouncing it sideways to me, where I'm standing near the center circle. I dribble and step carefully forward. All of a sudden, Jared from the other team is in front of me, trying to block me. It's a valiant gesture, but with him at 5'2 and me at 5'10, it only serves to annoy me as I wipe the sweat from my face. He's like a little pest who keeps jumping in front of me, always catching my peripheral vision.

I step to the right and pass the ball casually to Jesse, who was expecting it (unlike everyone else). He's standing way to the right of the basket, right on the three-point line, but he has amazing aim. He takes a shot and I'm about to jump for joy when the ball slowly swivels over the edge of the basket.

"Nooo!" I groan desolately. Sighing, I force myself to endure. "good things come to those who wait," said someone I hate right now. Screw you, man, I'm impatient!

Shaun has the ball now, having run up to catch the rebound. I move forward and wait just outside the middle of the three-point line. After a flurry of precise passes between the other three, Shaun finally tosses the ball back to me. In an opponent-free zone, which is not an accident because we're awesome, it's the perfect opportunity for me to bounce, aim, and let it fly.

Time seems to slow as the ball arcs purposely toward the basket. I can only see the ball, but I'm aware that everyone, including all our spectators, has their gazes planted firmly on the soaring orange globe.

The ball lands just inside the metal hoop, spinning enthrallingly.

Please, please, please, please, please go in! I pray frantically.

And then, very anticlimactically, the ball rolls into the basket and drops out, where it bounces dully on the ground and twirls away.

We're all in shock, even Coach Jordan.

Except for me, who rips through the silence with an earsplitting "YESSSSSSSSSS!"

What? I don't do speechless. I make people speechless, remember?

Abruptly, everyone breaks out of their Chad-induced trance (see, I'm modest too) and starts jumping and screaming for joy.

Well, everyone except for the other team.

They're all dangling their heads, shoulders hunched, dropped over like wilted flowers. They suddenly look exhausted and I take pride in knowing that despite my own fatigue, I still manage to come out on top.

But of course, I'm nice too.

So that's way, after my teammates all chest-bump me painfully and slap my back until it stings like a female dog, congratulating me proudly and happily and manically and dazedly, I walk over to the huddled losers (in the dictionary definition, not the "American" definition, because that would make me a mean person) and grin, "Good game!"

They turn their heads to look up at me, and sullenly reply, "Yeah. Okay."

Uh. "No really. You guys were great." Kind of.

"You can say that 'cause you won," one of them sneers at me.

"No, I can say it because it's true. Seriously, it's just PE. It doesn't even matter."

"It does matter!" another one hollers. "This is a blow to our pride as manly men!"

Um…right. "Okay, whatever. Bye." I force a smile and let my feet take me far, far away from them.

"Alright! Dismissed!" Coach yells at the top of his lungs.

Immediately, everyone scrambles to the locker rooms. I walk in to yelling and cheering, people slapping me on the back, blaring congratulations into my ears, and just generally making it very difficult more me to get to my locker. Which happened to be almost right next to the door. See how popular I am?

I quickly spin the lock, change, stuff my PE clothes in, and lock my locker. Grabbing my backpack off the ground, I shoulder it and, with a huge smile pasted on my face, I shove through the masses of people and out the door.

Most of the people who are already changed have left early (aren't they such rebels) but I notice that Lacey and Cara are standing under the cherry blossom tree again. As I walk towards them, Cara notices and quickly excuses herself, throwing me a frightened look, before fleeing.

Oh wow. Way to hurt a man's ego.

Lacey, confused, turns and sees me. Understanding lights up her face. "Oh, hey Chad."

"Hey Lacey. Uh, is Cara okay? Did I do something to freak her out or something?" I ask hesitantly.

Lacey laughs (it's a nice laugh) and assures me, "No, it's just that your popularity scares her. She gets all tongue-tied around popular people."

I'm sure I look dubious. "Popular…right."

Lacey sighs, exasperated. "Seriously, Chad? You just don't see it, do you?"

"Don't see what?"

"Never mind," she shakes her head. She smiles up at me. "Walk with me to the front?"

We talk comfortably, like old friends. She's a nice girl, fun to talk to, and I wonder how I never noticed her before.

"You know, you looked really cool when you were playing basketball," she tells me shyly, blushing slightly.

"Thanks," I laugh.

"And when you made that last shot…" She sighs dreamily. "Wow, that was awesome."

"Well, you know," I scratch my head humbly, "I am pretty awesome."

This time she laughs.

Before she leaves, I pose an invitation. "Want a ride?" Somehow, the fact that I am taking Krissa home has completely slipped my mind.

"Nah," she declines. "I'll walk. My home's not far from school. Besides," she adds, "I need the exercise." She glances down at her figure distastefully.

I chuckle. "Alright, your loss. See you tomorrow." I wave and turn to go, when I see Krissa standing in front of the gate, staring at her two best friends walking home hand in hand. Instead of the jealousy or pain or betrayal I expect to see on her face, she looks thoughtful.

My heart thuds faster. Uh-oh. Don't tell me she's plotting something…

I hurry to her. "Krissa!"

She whips around rapidly, blinking as if she has come out of a trance. Seeing me, a smile tugs her lips as she beams at me. Relieved, I arrive next to her and grin back at her. "Ready to go?"

"Uh-huh!"

We amble to my Mercedes and I chivalrously hold the passenger door open for her. She giggles and thanks me graciously. Shutting the door carefully, I walk around to the other side and slide in. Conversation flows between us easily and I can feel her eyes observing me constantly, approvingly.

Maybe I won't have to work quite as hard as I thought to make her fall in love with me.

. . .

It's been a month since then and we've only gotten closer. I drive her home after school every day and we meet up almost every weekend to study and just hang out.

Like dates, but not quite.

I can tell she's feeling happier than she has for almost a year now. I'm almost giddy with the thought that this newfound happiness is thanks to me.

Almost.

I'm walking to the front of the school with Lacey again. She's funny and I'm laughing at something she said.

I don't notice Krissa storming over to me until her hand wraps around my arm and yanks me – literally – out of my laughter.

"Wha –?" I look around and see Krissa fuming at me. "Krissa? What's wrong?"

"Let's go."

"Wait – Krissa!" Helplessly, I look over my shoulder at Lacey, who seems to be in shock at the abrupt interruption. I lift my hand and wave, calling out, "Bye, Lacey! See you tomorrow!"

I only have time to see her smile back before Krissa viciously jerks my arm again, causing me to stumble.

"Key – Krissa! Krissa!" I wince as her nails dig into my arm. "Ouch – hey! What's wrong with you? That was pretty rude to Lacey."

She whips around, eyes glaring. I take a step back at the venom I see. "Oh, I'm sorry! Did I interrupt you? My bad, I just wanted to ask when you got a girlfriend!"

"What? Krissa, you're –" I try to explain, but she interrupts.

"I'm what? I'm being nosy? Well, I'm sorry! I just don't think it's right for you to hang out with me so much when you have a girlfriend!" she huffs.

We've been talking pretty loud and an audience is starting to gather. Squinting around inconspicuously, I lower my voice and plead, "Krissa, let's talk somewhere else. C'mon, we'll go to my car, okay?"

Her eyes flash with anger and some other indecipherable emotion. "No! Didn't you hear what I just said? That'll give people the wrong impression! You should go drive your girlfriend home, not me!" Apparently finished speaking, she twirls on her heel and stalks away – but not without flinging a frustrated "Bye!" behind her.

Flabbergasted, it's all I can do to make myself walk mechanically to my car and drive home with a bleak demeanor.

What have I done?

. . .

"Dude, it's not your fault that girls love you," my wise best friend informs me. "You're popular, so obviously girls are gonna wanna talk to you all the time."

"Finn," I drawl patiently. "This is me we're talking about, not you."

"I know."

My eyebrows scrunch together, even though he can't see it through the phone. "Since when am I popular?"

He snorts. "Really, man? Really?"

"Really." I sigh, rubbing my forehead. "Why do people seem to keep telling me that these days? First Lacey, then Kayden, Ty, Jesse, Shaun, even Asher, and now you. What is it with you people? Are you all blind? Or biased?"

"Dude." His voice is disbelieving. "You're popular. Get over it."

But I'm not, I want to argue, but I have more pressing matters to deal with. "So what do you think I should do about Krissa?"

"I dunno, man," he replies distractedly. "You know me; I'm not really good at this relationship crap."

Oh, I know. Finn is player; he's never actually had a girlfriend, and therefore has never been in a real relationship. I've always thought that it'd be good him to find a girl he likes for real and get to know her, and I'm always hoping but for now, he's still wild and free.

I really should've known better than to ask him for advice about my love issues, but he's my best friend. If I can't talk to him, who can I go to?

"Yeah, I know. The longest time you've ever been with a girl is what, a week? Five days? Something like that." I roll my eyes, unbeknownst to him. "And that was just 'cause she was good in bed, right?"

Finn chuckles at the thought. "Yeah, she was good. Like, when I –"

Groaning, I stop him before he can get into details. "Okay, stop. I don't wanna know."

"Fine, whatever. You need to get laid, bro. You're missing out." He sounds amused.

"It'll happen when it happens," I say. "No need to rush, you know?"

"Whatever, man," he disagrees. "So what're you gonna do about this Lacey chick? She sounds cute."

"She's just a friend," I insist. "I love Krissa."

He whistles. "Whoa, slow down, man. Breaking out the L-word already?"

"It's nothing new. I've known for a year now," I divulge, "but it was only because of Evangeline that I confessed."

He laughs, astonished. "Another girl? Man, you really are popular." He chuckles dryly now. "I'm almost jealous."

"Almost," I echo. "But you've got enough girls over there, don't you?"

"Yeah, you know how it is," he chortles happily. "They just keep on coming." I can practically see his wink. "Pun intended."

"Oh, God, Finn, don't start," I gripe at him.

"What? I can't help it."

"Sure, sure."

"It's true!"

"Right," I indulge him, knowing full well how childish and pouty he can get if I oppose him. "So I guess I should probably explain the truth to Krissa, huh?"

"Sure, if that's what you want," he concurs noncommittally.

"You're not helping at all," I growl.

"Look, Chad," he exhales, his tone serious, "I'm not the guy to talk to about girls. I mean, if you're just looking to get laid, then I'm your man, but this loving-one-girl shit…I don't do that. So I can't help you."

I drag a hand down my face. "Yeah. I get it. I just…you're my best friend. Who else can I tell all this to without feeling like a girl?"

"Heh, actually, I do think you're pretty girly, but I'm too nice to break your heart," he sniggers.

I grumble, "Well, maybe if you settled down and really got to know one of those girls you're always hooking up with, you'd understand what I'm feeling here."

He quiets down and I know he's really, truly contemplating my words. But in the end, all he says is, "Not yet, man. Maybe one day, but it's not gonna be any time soon."

"Well, don't get too excited now," I tease in a lame attempt to lighten the mood. "NO need to be so serious, Finn. It'll happen when it happens, right?"

"Yeah."

We're companionably silent for a few moments, before Finn's voice speaks into my ear again. "Hey, it's late."

I glance at the time. Eleven thirty. "Late? Isn't this early for you?"

"Not on a school night."

Surprise! Mr. Player is actually a straight-A student. Who woulda thought?

I snicker at his expense. "You nerd."

"Hey, as long as I keep my grades up, my folks leave me alone and I can do what I want. It's all good."

Though I think his parents give him a little too much free reign.

"Yeah, okay. 'Night, Finn. I'll call you next week?"

"Sure. Later, bro. Lemme know when all your girly shit is over, got it?"

I roll my eyes. "Got it." A thought slinks into my mind unbidden. "Oh hey! You should come visit soon."

"We'll see," is his mysterious answer. And then he hangs up.

I sit on my bed, staring at the phone in my hands. I smile and shake my head.

I feel better already.

. . .

Tentatively, I tiptoe up behind her and whisper, "Boo."

"Eek!" Krissa shrieks, spinning around. Her hand flies to her heart.

Wow. I didn't think she'd scream so loud.

When her breathing has slowed down, her eyes narrow and she frowns. "Chad."

Damn. I made her frown? Not good.

"Uh, hey." I shuffle my feet nervously, my hands twitching in my pockets. "Sorry 'bout that, I didn't mean to scare you." Yeah right.

"Oh…it's fine." She turns to go.

"Wait!" My arm streaks forward out of my pocket and snags onto her arm. "I have something to tell you."

She looks at me impassively. "Okay." When I don't let go of her, she looks at my hand pointedly and my hand drops her arm like it's poisonous. I think I see hurt flash across her face but it's gone before I can be sure.

Taking a deep breath, I tell it to her straight. "Lacey's not my girlfriend."

She looks jarred. "Huh?"

"She's not my girlfriend," I repeat. "I don't have one. I'm still single."

"O-oh. Okay."

Okay? Is that all she has to say?

"She's just a friend. I don't know why you jumped to conclusions so quickly, but you should've asked me for the truth before you blew up at me."

Cringing inwardly, I mentally slap myself. What the hell? Now it sounds like I'm scolding her! Crap!

"Uh, I mean, I guess I can kinda understand…Lacey and I have been talking a lot recently, but, well…" I sigh and run a hand through my hair. "I guess what I want to say is that you shouldn't decide things on your own without confirming it with me first, you know? 'Cause if it's about me, then obviously I should know the truth and…wow, this is coming out all wrong."

Krissa decides to speak now. "I see. So what you're trying to say is that you want me to run to you for everything, is that right? Well, excuse me if I like being independent!" Her eyes drill into mine even as tears start to form in her eyes. "If you like being depended on so much, go ask Lacey to do it!"

Before she can run off, I catch her and pull her to me, locking her arms to her sides. Something clicks in my mind. "Krissa, are you…jealous?" comes my incredulous conjecture.

"What? No!"

Despite the circumstances and mood, I can't stop the grin that is growing on my face. "Krissa Taylor, have you fallen in love with me already?"

"NO!" she shouts vehemently. She shoves me away from her and furiously scrubs her face.

Well. She didn't need to refute it quite so forcefully. She makes it sound like it would be awful for her to love me.

My grin is long gone to God knows where and all I can say is, "Oh." I try to swallow my utter mortification for even thinking that she might love me (even if I didn't voice this theory) but my throat clogs up. I somehow manage to croak, "I get it. Sorry for bothering you."

I walk away from the girl I love, the girl who has broken my heart not once, but twice, and hope with all of the heart I have left that the next girl I manage to love won't be so cruel.

. . .

It's been another two weeks since then. I've been avoiding her ever since.

Except that I felt guilty for taking away her choice of getting a ride home, so I started trailing her home in my car (very slowly). To my surprise, she always leaves school at least twenty minutes after everyone's gone, as if she's waiting for someone (I only know because I've been leaving PE as fast as possible, only able to wave bye to Lacey, so that I can watch Krissa) but I haven't seen her meet up with anyone. In the end, she leaves disappointed.

Yes, I have officially become a stalker.

It was easy to hope for a new love, but three years' worth of feelings for her won't go away in a day. Despite my longing to move on, it seems that I'm more lovesick than ever, now that I've decided to give up on her.

I can't give her happiness, but I can damn well make sure she gets it from someone else.

I sigh, averting my eyes away from Krissa's lonely figure amidst the crowd of rowdy students. Picking up my lunch tray, I take it outside into the bright sunshine.

Five minutes later, someone rustles the grass next to me and flops down. I rotate my head. It's Lacey (and a terrified Cara). Smiling slightly, I lie down and stare at the blue, blue sky. "Hey."

She scoots closer and reclines next to me. "Hi." Calling over to Cara, she demands, "Cara, come lay down next to me."

Slow footsteps beat the ground as Cara timidly walks closer and sinks to the ground by Lacey.

Sigh. Am I really that scary? Jeez.

"So." Lacey's voice slices through the quiet. "I notice you and Krissa haven't been talking."

I don't reply.

"Have you told her we're not going out?"

Whipping my head around to stare at her, I gape. "How – how did you know?"

"Please," she scoffs. "I'm a girl. I know how we think." She adjusts her position to be more comfortable. "So, did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Tell her the truth."

"Of course. But I think I probably worded it weirdly. I made her mad at me," I admit quietly.

She's silent.

Strangely, Cara is the one to pipe up. Her voice is trembling slightly, but her words hold conviction as she tells me, "Then go tell her again."

"What?"

"Tell her exactly how you feel." Her voice is stronger now. "It doesn't matter how you say it, as long as you tell her your feelings. Last time, you didn't tell her, right? You only said that you and Lacey aren't together?"

"Well…yeah."

"You should've told her how you feel about her as well."

"But she knows!" I exclaim. "I know she knows! I told her already!"

"When?" Lacey interjects.

"At that mandatory dance last year!"

Suddenly both girls break out into alarmed laughter. "Wh-what the hell?" Lacey sputters.

I'm bewildered. "Huh? What?"

"Last year?" Cara confirms."

I nod. "Uh-huh."

"It's been almost ten months, Chad! What the hell are you thinking? Girls are so insecure that it's scary! She probably thinks that you're over her now!" Cara screeches at me.

"Exactly!" Lacey puts in. "In fact, if you told her you loved her every day, she still might not believe you! The thing is, you have to tell her and show her!"

"Right!"

For once, I truly am speechless. "Uhh…"

"God, Chad, are you stupid?" Cara laments.

"At least you're not scared of me anymore," I mumble.

"Oh, yeah, sorry," she apologizes. "But you're really intimidating."

"Really," I say dryly.

"You are!" she maintains. "You're so well-known in school. It's scary!"

I mutter under my breath, "Right."

Lacey giggles.

Ignoring her, I wonder aloud, "So how should I show her my feelings?"

Immediately, Lacey and Cara begin to spew out suggestions faster than you can say "scuttlebutt."

"Hug her!" recommends Cara.

"Kiss her!" Lacey advocates.

"Sweep her off her feet!"

"Literally!"

"Ask her out!"

"And take her somewhere she's always wanted to go!"

"Make sure you have enough money though," Cara advises.

Lacey snorts indelicately, "Who cares? You must suffer for love!"

I'm laughing at them and the natural way they can so easily build on each other's ideas. I'm laughing at my insensibility and stupidity. I'm laughing at everything and nothing.

And finally, when I'm done, I'm grinning with determination and overflowing with confidence.

So I guess I told a lie.

I haven't given up.

Not yet.

Not ever.

. . .

The next day, I enter school with a single thought: Krissa.

Seeking her out, I find her squirming around near a recycling bin. She keeps looking around, as if she's looking for someone.

Well, too bad. That someone is gonna have to wait.

I march over to her and grab her hand. She's startled, but seems to go willingly.

All the better.

I pull her to a secluded corner and let go of her hand. Lacey and Cara has told me that the only reason Krissa had reacted that way to Lacey and I being so close was because she was jealous, so I figure I still have a chance.

Inhaling deeply, I pin my eyes to hers and tell her bluntly, "I like you."

She gasps.

"Well, actually," I amend, "the truth is I love you." Here, her hand flies to her mouth. She seems…touched? "But I don't wanna scare you too much. I know you might still not be completely over Julian, considering your…explosive reaction the other day when I joked about you being in love with me. But it's okay," I rush to assure her as she opens her mouth to speak. "I just want a chance. Just give me a chance to show you how much I love – like you." I take an experimental step closer. She doesn't back away. I take it as a good sign and tread closer to her, until only a few inches separate us. "Go out with me. I'll make you forget Julian. Please," I beg.

She waits a second before asking, "Are you done?"

Ouch.

Nodding fearfully, I start to back away but her hands reach out and capture mine, pulling me back to her. Still, I don't look at her.

"Chad. Look at me."

Damn.

I slowly bring my eyes to hers, my early confidence all gone. But then, she smiles. She smiles, and it's beautiful, and I feel warm. She opens her mouth and says "I'm so sorry."

I'm drooping. I know I am.

"No, Chad, don't misunderstand!" she says hastily. "I'm not rejecting you – really!" she reassures me. "I was just apologizing for being so horrible to you before." Stepping even closer, she smiles again and my heartbeat speeds up. "The truth is that I've been over Julian for a long time now. I just didn't realize it until a couple weeks ago, when you jokingly asked me if I'd fallen for you. Because Chad," her sincere eyes gaze into mine, "I have. I'm in love with you. Because you were the one who stayed with me in my time of need. You were the one who took care of me and made me happy." Her voice catches. "You're the one."

At her words, I swear my heart is ready to jump out of my chest and do a happy dance.

This must be a dream.

"This is…I'm dreaming. I'm actually asleep, aren't I?" I shake my head acceptingly. "What a great dream."

"No, Chad, look at me," Krissa commands worriedly. I do, with a goofy grin on my face. "Chad, snap out of it. Chad!" Her hand lets go of mine and pats my cheek sharply. "Hey. Hey!"

"Huh?" My head swivels around. "What? I'm not asleep?"

Krissa shakes her head.

"Oh. Then I must be dead." I frown. "Dammit. I still had such a long life ahead of me. What a waste." I heave a sigh.

"Chad. Pinch yourself."

I do. It hurts.

"Ow. Hey, it hurts. Why does it hurt? Can things hurt when you're dead?"

"You're not dead, you moron!" Krissa shouts at me. She huffs, "Is me admitting that I'm in love with you really so impossible?"

"You have no idea."

"But it's true." Her voice softens and soothes me. "I really do love you."

"I love you too," I whisper. Struck by a thought, I ask, "So does that mean I can kiss you? 'Cause, you know, I've been wanting to 'cause I love you and all, but I've been holding back because you didn't return my feelings, but now you do, and well, my self-control is wearing thin, but I don't wanna force you or anything but see, I really do want to so –"

She cuts me off with a kiss. Shocked at first, I get over my initial surprise, and wrap my arms around her body, reveling in the moment.

I love her. She loves me. Holy freaking crap, this is really happening. I can die happy now.

We pull away at the same time, breathing hard, and we rest our foreheads against each other. Out of nowhere, we begin to laugh. I hold her tightly, never wanting to let go.

And then –

"Chad and Krissa, sitting in a tree1 K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" someone's cheery voice rings outs.

Krissa and I jump apart, blushing hotly at being caught.

The voice registers in my brain and I recognize it. Embarrassment turning to anger, I turn and stalk towards the voice.

"Hey guys, over here! Krissa and Chad are making out!"

"Ty," I growl menacingly, "I'm gonna freaking kill you!"

"Ahhh!" he screams like a little girl and runs away, me chasing after him, and Krissa laughing behind me.

So we skip off into the sunset (read: run to class as the late bell rings) and continue on our paths into the bright future.

That's all we can do. And we're perfectly glad to do it.


Forgive me.

AS you have probably deduced, I am NOT - I repeat, NOT - a guy! I am, indeed, a girl! (GASP. Say it isn't so!) Surprise, surprise! So it was really hard making Chad like a guy. Soooo he's kinda girly and noy guy-ly. He turned out way more cynical and sarcastic and just different than I'd planned but, well, oh well. I actually like it. So yeah. Hope you do too. :)

Write on. Read on. That's my motto.


© Copyright 2011 by the Siege