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Warning: language, sex, underage drinking and…general teenage debauchery?

The 23rd

That explains everything. Now that I think about it, Jacob has been sticking pretty close to Nora these last few months, ever since that rugby game…or maybe even before that? And at Halloween, Ryan and Jacob's little scuffle was presumably over a girl. I watch Nora smile brightly at Jacob as he leads her to his car. Were they fighting over her? To my shame, the first thought that comes to mind is how I can use this information to get back into Hanna's good books.

I watch Jacob drive away. No. They deserve to be together, and God knows Hanna would tear them to shreds if she knew. I wonder why Nora didn't tell me. But then again, I didn't exactly tell her about me and Danny.

Later at night, I drove over to Caleb's house for some post-game celebrations. Turns out he did wave his stick in the air, he did gloat, he did point, and he did find me MIA, much to his chagrin. But I made it up to him in the bedroom. I made it up to him twice.

December came by in the blink of an eye. With exams looming, I didn't have much time to spare a thought for anything else but parabolas, enzymes, and the bloody ending to Macbeth. I snuck into one of Danny's swim meets, and silently cheered him on. It's weird seeing him in a speedo. The dull grey swimming cap hides his hair, and the goggles obscure his eyes. It's weird seeing him so undressed in a setting that is so sterilized and un-sexualized. Still, I can't help but feel proud when he wins first place for the 200m butterfly, and the 800m freestyle.

For the rest of the month Hanna, MJ, and I fall back into our old comfortable routine. Life is idyllic again. I haven't felt this way since Jon went off to Mec U. After the chem final – my last exam – I just want to go home and sleep for a week. Unfortunately, I can't.

Every year on the last day of classes we have a Christmas Concert. It has been taken over by the Drama Club these last two years, and we've been fed an unceasing array of skimpy costumes and over-acted skits. However, there is an age old tradition of bringing in spiked eggnog to chug in the dark of the auditorium. After a couple swigs the show becomes awfully funny and witty, and the twenty dollar entrance fee suddenly becomes worthwhile.

I've never been to one of these Concerts in my three years at SMHS, but as student council president, I have to put up an appearance. I showed up half an hour late and wandered in and out of the auditorium until the show has almost ended. I'm so preoccupied pretending like I'm enjoying myself that I didn't even see Caleb until he spoke.

"Listen, A, can we talk?"

I give him a Hanna-smile. "About what?" There's an alarm blaring in my head – he didn't call me "babe". Is he still mad about the hockey game? Maybe. But it's not like Caleb to hold grudges, especially over something small like that.

"I think–" He stops abruptly and looks around. The auditorium is dark and we're standing in a corner, but Caleb still seems uneasy. I feel butterflies forming in my stomach…no, they're more like wasps. I have a bad feeling about where this is going.

Caleb looks at me, then at the ground. "I think we should break up."

I feel my jaw drop, shocked as much by the suddenness of this and by Caleb's uncharacteristic forthrightness.

"Don't give me that look." Caleb says, scowling. He's nervous and fidgety, sticking his hands in his pockets and then crossing them. "The first week we were going out everyone tells me you're sleeping with the principal, or with the swim team loser. When that blew over, people start telling me that they saw you making out with Ryan at my party—in my fucking house. What am I supposed to think?"

I try not to look hurt. "Those are just rumors."

"Yeah, well, some rumors start out with something true. And what about that time at the Toros game?" He glares at me, then looks away, "I don't know, okay? I'm just— I guess—" Caleb lets out a long breath. "I don't trust you."

"So…" I say quietly, "what do you want to do?" I hear how I sound and I want to kick myself. What a stupid question. He already told you, he wants out.

"I want to take a break," Caleb tells me, still avoiding eye contact. "I just need some time to sort things out on my end."

It's such a lame ass excuse it makes me mad. I feel like I can breathe fire at this point. "Sort what out?" I demand angrily.

"Alexis." His eyes are pleading with me; those green eyes are brilliantly luminescent in the dark. "Look, that it. It's done." Despite how hard he tries, he didn't sound too sure.

"Okay," I shrug stiffly. What else could I say?

Caleb nods once and walks away, eager to go somewhere else, anywhere.

As I stand there by myself I feel other people watching me. Curious eyes flickering my way, words whispered behind raised hands, but I can't see anyone. My vision has suddenly narrowed to a tunnel. I spin around, looking for someone I know, a familiar face, a friendly face. I spot Hanna's perfect teeth flashing in the dark. I walk so fast I almost forget how to stop. Hanna widens her eyes at me, asking what happened?

"Caleb just broke up with me." I try to choke down the sobs. MJ is next to me in a second, her arms around my waist, cooing and patting my back. Oh god, people are really looking now. Fuck, Alexis, don't cry, don't you dare.

Hanna doesn't look sympathetic, or even surprised. "It's your own fault, you know?" MJ makes a shocked sound at that, looking between Hanna and me in horror.

I glare at Hanna. "That's not helping," I snap irritably.

She shakes her head. "Who says I'm trying to help? You're a fucking mess. No one deserves that kind of crap, not even Caleb. Think it out, A, what do you really want? Ballet school or Loserboy?"

MJ gasps and raises her hands to her lips. "Oh my god! Hanna!"

"What?" Hanna raises one perfect eyebrow. "She knows we know."

Then Hanna's words really hit me – ballet or Loserboy? – it's like someone just dropped a Steinway piano on my head. I just screwed over my one chance of going to ballet school in Moscow.

I back away from them. MJ makes a move towards me, like she's approaching a bull that's about to charge. I back away from her quickly and run for the doors. I bump into somebody's shoulder. I sidestep them and keep going, almost sprinting now. Someone swears as me as I almost knock them to the ground. I don't care. I need to get the hell out of here.

As I step out into the foyer, someone grabs my arm. I turn to punch their fucking lights out, but it's Jacob, and my fist doesn't make it very far.

He looks slightly alarmed. "You okay?" He's eyeing my left hand, still clenched and raised, ready to strike.

"Yeah." My voice sounds wobbly. My hand starts shaking so I lower it.

"So." He looks into the dark auditorium. "Caleb."

"He told you about it before hand?" I assume, tone bitter.

Jacob's face is carefully schooled into a nonchalant mask. "He asked me if he should do it," he tells me calmly.

My head snaps up at that. Narrowing my eyes at him, I growl, "And you said…?"

"Does it matter?" He grins but there's no humor in his eyes.

Caleb had only really hurt my ego and shit on my plans, but Jacob, he cut me deep. "Why are you being such an ass?" I ask. It's not a rhetorical question.

Jacob has the grace to look taken aback. "I'm an ass?" he demands. "You played my best friend."

My anger is rising, my blood is rising, and my face is burning hot. "Now you know how I feel," I shoot back.

Jacob frowns. "What?"

"Hanna." I say simply.

The space between Jacob's eyebrows creases a little. He looks less annoyed than I'd like. "That was different," he says quickly. "She jumped me." He flicks his head as if he's dismissing a mildly irritating fly. "I never led her on."

"Really?" I layer on the sarcasm.

"It just took me some time to hitch up my balls and say no to her," Jacob retorts. "But you led Caleb on. You played him." Some time? Try two months. That's how long they fucked around for before he just dropped her like a puck, no warning or anything. Come to think of it, that's what Caleb did too. Is it a hockey player thing?

"What do you want from me?" I'm tired and I want to go home. For our friendship's sake I'm going to let Jacob get whatever he wants to say off his chest.

"Tell me why you're doing it." At the look on my face, Jacob persists. "You're just not that malicious, Alexis. You're not the kind of person who fucks other people over just for kicks. Tell me why."

I don't like that question. "Go away." I head for the door.


I spin around in a fit of frustration. "It's none of your fucking business!"

Jacob was just throwing dynamite in a hole before this point, but he really pushed me too far. He knows very well that I wouldn't get this angry over nothing. He makes a sound like someone just knocked the wind out of him. "You don't even like him, do you?" He says slowly, as it dawns on him. Now he looks pissed.

"I saw you with Nora the other day." The words are out of my mouth before I even realize I'm thinking them. "Does Hanna know about that?"

Jacob thinks for a minute. "Are you threatening me?"

"I'm warning you," I clarify.

Jacob makes a disgusted face. "I can't believe this," he looks away. I win this one. He knows it.

I turn just in time to see Hillary staring openly at us. She's not even pretending she's busy texting or something. I glare at her, daring her to say something. I stare her down, rooted to the spot until she turns away, rolling her eyes, as she sashays off.

More and more people are milling around as the concert comes to an early end. I elbow my way to the door, tightening my fingers around my car keys. I feel the wetness in my eyes and the knotting of my insides when I hurry through the parking lot, but when I lock myself in my car, the tears don't come. Instead, I'm hot all over, humiliated, disoriented, and downright outraged.

My phone buzzes.

New Post Notification: It's the breakup we've all been waiting for – bye Alexis, we won't miss you.

Incredibly this post almost makes me laugh. I don't delete this one. In fact, I pin it in the Featured section. Everybody who I give a fuck about is already in the loop and the rest of the school is bound to find out one way or another, so go ahead – work that gossip mill.

I reach into the glove compartment on the passenger side. Nestled between the owner's manual to my Mercedes SLK and a stack of various documents is the Bolshoi letter. I would never be sad over Caleb, but losing the chance to go to the best ballet school in the world is something I can bawl about. I stare at the letter and ready myself for a nice long cry. But it doesn't come. I'm just too damn mad.

Whose fault is this? I ask myself.

Danny's, it's Danny's fault. Of course it is.

So what am I going to do?

I'm gonna make him pay.

I throw the car into reverse and step on the gas. Beeeeeep! I almost back straight into a passing car. I take a deep breath and try again. Ten minutes later I'm on the highway. Where would Danny be? I glance at the glowing numbers on the car stereo – it's half-past nine. He's probably working.

I stomp on the pedal and the engine revs as the hand of the speedometer climbs higher, higher, higher still. I tear down the highway, merging into the exit lane at the last minute and fly into the plaza. It's as lit up as the last time, when Danny took me here. I pull the car into the parking lot, screeching to a halt in front of the convenience store. It's almost ten now, and customers are still coming in and out. I turn off the engine and crank my neck to see if Danny is in there.

I spot a mop of feathery hair, rendered black under the fluorescent lights. I grit my teeth and wait until the customers stroll out, one by one. Finally there's only Danny. He takes his place behind the cash and yawns, raising his arms above his head. I get out of my car in a hurry, slamming the door behind me.

I run up to the convenience store and ram into the door with all my might. It's lighter than I thought it would be. It hits the wall and bounces back. I manage to stick out my palm right before the glass breaks my nose.

Danny looks up, startled, one hand reaching under the counter. There's probably a panic button there, just in case he gets robbed.

He sees it's me and his face lights up with a smile so sweet that it almost douses out my fury. Almost. "Ally?" No one's called me that in so long I'm confused for a second. Danny straightens, examining me. "Ally, you okay?"

I lose my train of thought. "Fuck! Fuck you." I stammer. That's about the most expressive I can get at the moment.

Danny's face closes. It's like someone took an eraser and wiped all his emotions away.

I was going to shout, scream, curse. But now it seems like a door, a big hulking vault door, just clanged shut, locking me out, away from him. I'm rendered speechless And now–of all times–now the tears come. And they come streaming down, like a dam has been broken.

The next thing I know Danny is over the counter and I have my face pressed into his chest. His arms tighten around me, and his hands are petting my back, stroking my hair. I stand there, limp like a ragdoll, getting his stupid t-shirt all wet.

"I'm sorry," I calm down enough to sniff.

Danny's voice is soft and husky. "It's okay–"

"No, I'm not. I'm not sorry." I came here to let him know that he just inadvertently screwed up my whole entire life, so why did I apologize? I take it back.

Danny pulls away a little to look down at me. His eyebrows are furrowed and his eyes narrowed, puzzled.

I wipe my face with the sleeve of my jacket, feeling defeated. "Caleb broke up with me," I say it like it explains everything. Danny probably thinks I'm retarded or something.

But he just has a look like he's trying to make sense of everything. "Caleb broke up with you," he echoes. I nod. "And you're not sorry about it?"

That's not what I mean. I shake my head, but then I figure I don't really want to sit down and explain everything so I shrug. Danny pulls motions at the counter, telling me to sit down. It's too high for me so Danny gives me a hand.

"Well, you know it could be a good thing right?" Danny says, watching my legs sway back and forth. "I mean, I didn't really get the impression that you liked him all that much."

Was it so obvious that everyone can tell? I stare at my Gucci boots. "But he like me, like really liked me."

"So you felt obligated to go out with him?" Danny smirks. "I think that makes you obligated to go out with me too."

I refuse to meet his eyes. "Danny, I don't—"

"The difference is I think you really like me." He sounds so sure. It scares me.

"What?" My throat dries up and my heartbeat is thumping high in my chest. I'm feeling a little light headed. "Yeah, right," I laugh dryly. "You wish."

Danny's face is drawn, solemn and determined. All I can think is oh shit, he's not in the mood for games. Danny reaches for my hands, trapping me. "Look me in the eye and tell me that you don't feel anything for me. Go ahead, lie."

My stomach muscles spasm. "I don't," I say steely.

"You don't what?"

I grit my teeth. "I don't have feelings for you, I don't do feelings."

Danny releases my hands. "You're lying."

I feel my irritation stir up again. "Read my lips, Danny. I don't like you." I say it slow and loud. Do you hear me, Loserboy?

Danny shakes his head. "I really like you, and I'm pretty sure you like me too. And I think that we're perfect together." I can't think of anything to say to that. Danny continues. "Well, I was thinking about it and it's like this, listen. You know how I feel about you, and I think you feel the same about me. If I just go all in what's the worst that can happen? You'd shoot me down, I get upset, and maybe you draw up a restraining order."

I barely suppress the smile that Danny can always draw out of me. "That's the worst case scenario?" I ask.

"Yeah. And it's really not that bad."

"Danny." I want to say something nice, something that won't hurt him, or make those eyes sad. "I can't like you."

"Can't." Danny emphasizes. "You can't. Doesn't mean you don't, and doesn't mean you won't."

I shake my head a try again. "I'm not…" I don't know what to say. Caleb is out of the pictures. Moscow is not going to happen anyway. Everything I've worked for since I was eight is now going down the drain. Why not date Danny? Because I already told him I won't. "My head hurts. And I'm gonna go." I move to hop down from the counter. Danny blocks my way.

"No. Your head hurts because you make everything complicated," he tells me. "It's really simple actually. Look. I want to kiss you forever. What do you want?" I can't help but smile at that. Danny watches me carefully. "What does that mean?"

"I–" …I can't say it.

But Danny seems to have inexhaustible patience and unwavering doggedness. He leans in closer and whispers, "Three."

I look away.


I close my eyes.


My arm is wrapped around his neck as his lips touch mine.

It's a slow kiss, gentle and sensual. Danny turns his head, reaching up behind my head to press us closer. I suck at his lips, in the way that he likes. Danny makes a small sound deep in his throat that sends shivers down my spine. His hips move forwards, hitting the counter. I hold him in place with my thighs and clamp my arms around his neck in a death grip.

His hands move down to hold my thighs. I scoot to the edge of the counter, pressing our bodies together. Danny's tongue flickers across my lips, and his warm breath is sweeter than honey.

I break the kiss and hold his head with my hands, looking into his chocolate eyes. "Can we go somewhere? You apartment?"

Danny misses my real question and kisses my lower lip, sucking it like it's candy. "Mm, yeah," he exhales. "Okay."

He pulls me off the counter. I go outside and lean against the shop window, tapping my fingers on the glass impatiently as he locks up the store. He bussed to work apparently, since his car broke down again. So we ran to my car, and I drive towards the west side of town with our smiles lighting up the night.

When we get into his apartment, Danny throws the keys on the little dining table and hugs me around the waist. I give him a light kiss on the cheek. "I need to use the bathroom."

Danny nods and points at one of the doors. As I pick my way over the shoes and books, Danny asks, "So do you want to watch a movie or something?"

I turn to stare at him over my shoulder. Yes, I'd like to do "something". But he's totally clueless. "Sure," I say, humoring him. I close the bathroom door behind me and unbutton my Burberry jacket. I toss my blouse in the bathtub, leave my Hermes scarf on the floor, and kick off my jeans. My bra and my panties don't exactly match, but I'm pretty sure my sexy lacy camisole makes up for it.

I open the door slowly, without a single word. I pull my hair over my left shoulder and wait for Danny to turn around.

He does.

"Ah," he says quietly. I worry for a second if he's going to react like he did at Hanna's Halloween party, but then he bites his lower lip and he gets that look in his eyes. I smile.

He stands there for the longest time, gawking at me, looking very incredulous and very, very aroused.

Caisele: I didn't want to have a super long chapter randomly in the middle of the story so I moved the next part down to chapter 17. But I swear I won't keep you guys (or Danny, for that matter) waiting for too long.

Anyway, leave me a review and tell me what you think!