This story contains an excessive usage of clichés and should not, in all honesty, be taken seriously. And when I say excessive, I really mean it.

I OWN NOTHING YOU RECOGNISE (AND SOME THINGS YOU DON'T.) Please don't steal my work. I worked really hard on this and I don't want to read the exact same story on any other site with the names changed. Not cool.

© hotcheri.

Chapter Three

Two Steps Behind You

"Did you know he was gonna bring him?" I hissed, leaning across the table so that I was closer to Shelly, who looked up at Tyler and shook her head.

"Nope," she said.

His lips twisting into a grin, Vince drawled, "I'm right here, you can ask me to my face."

Tyler's back was towards us as he chatted to Brenda Hayworth, the library assistant and I glowered in his direction. What was he doing here? The last thing I needed was for him to spot Vince. Then he would join us, start talking and we would never leave and I would die of hunger. As if reading my mind and just itching to prove me right, Vince pushed his chair back.

Without preamble, I asked, "Where you going?"

"Calling Tyler over," he replied, as though it was obvious.

I shook my head, my earrings whipping the side of my neck. "No, don't,' I pleaded in a hoarse whisper. "He probably isn't even here for you!"

And if you leave him alone, he might go away without bothering anyone. Namely me.

"Sure he is, we made plans to meet here. BRB."

Before I could stop him (even though I'm not sure how I would have stopped him. I'm sure Mrs. Keith draws the line at tackling people in the library) he was on his feet, waving at Tyler even though he knew full well that Tyler was fully occupied by the smoking hot Brenda and couldn't even see him.

"Now we won't get any work done at all," I pouted, sounding remarkably like Arielle when she didn't get what she wanted.

Looking up from her book, Shelly sighed. "Stop bitching, you're acting like a baby. I know you're mad that Ryder stood you up but you're embarrassing me!"

"Like how embarrassed I was when you were practically drooling on Vince?" I propped my chin on my hand, staring at Shelly who blinked wildly, running a nervous hand through her hair. "When did this happen?"

I had to know. How the hell had Shelly and Vince gone from flat out hate to- this?

Whatever 'this' may be.

Shelly was shifty eyed, looking everywhere but directly at me. "I don't know what you mean." Even her voice sounded shady. "Just- be nice, okay? This whole experience will go down that much easier if you're nice."

"You owe me for this," I said. "Two burgers. With extra fries and a large Coke."

In a vain attempt to defend herself, Shelly protested, "I really had no idea that Tyler would show up, though."

Up by the librarians' desk, Vince had reached Tyler and was giving him one of those man hugs where it seems the main goal is to check and see that neither of you have weapons. Why else the lengthy patting down process?

"I think Tyler's the proverbial bad penny. Always showing up when you least expect to see him." I sniffed contemptuously, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. "He's a pest."

Shelly smiled, a dreamy look in her eyes. "I think he's kind of gorgeous. And he's sweet."

"Sweet is the ultimate mediocrity," I said knowingly. I should know. Both of my exes were sweet and they were as boring as all heck.

Ryder wasn't sweet. He was gorgeous and sexy and not sweet. And he was nothing like Tyler (thank goodness) who sometimes randomly started humming 'Six Little Ducks' in the middle of US History when he sat behind me. Can you say annoying? I actually had to move to the front of the class, just to get away from his singing. Now that I thought about it, he was probably doing it to get me to move. Jerk.

Vince sauntered back into view, Tyler dead on his heels. He had his typical cocky grin on his face, looking unfortunately edible (like I'd ever admit that to Shelly) as usual in a badass kind of way. Yankee fitted cap on backwards, white t-shirt that totally complimented his tanned skin, black cargo shorts and white sneakers with black laces. Not even I could deny it- Tyler knew how to dress.

He swooped down on an unsuspecting Shelly, who squealed, and hugged her, giving her a kiss on each cheek. Shelly flushed with pleasure while I steamed. It sure was her lucky day, wasn't it?

"Tyler!" she said in a reprimanding tone, even though her happily glowing eyes gave her away.

"Michelle ma Belle! What's up?" he grinned, dropping himself into the empty chair between Shelly and Vince.

Okay, where's the fairness here? Celeste gets Queen Celeste as a nickname, Shelly gets Michelle ma Belle and I'm stuck with Aayla Secura, the blue alien from the Star Wars movies who gets killed.

Shaking her hair over her shoulder, Shelly explained "I'm trying to work on our science assignment with Vince."

"You totally lucked out." Tyler leaned back in his chair. "My lab partner is a genius. I'm done with my assignment."

"Well, Kaylee probably wishes we were done with ours too," Vince cut in, pointing to me and grinning. "Her stomach's been talking to her for a long time."

As if just realizing that I was there, Tyler waved at me, a phony smile on his face. "Oh, hey there, Kaylee, I didn't notice you. How are you?"

"I'll be better once you leave," I muttered, hiding my face in a book. Shelly gave my shin a kick. "Ouch!"

I glared balefully at her as she mouthed 'behave'. Well, he asked me how I was, I was only being honest!

"That's what I get for trying to be nice," Tyler said, grinning at me. And despite myself, my heart flip-flopped in my chest. Ugh. He turned to Vince. "I'm headed to the gym. Did you find the controller?"

Vince nodded, reaching into his backpack and pulling out an Xbox controller. "Yup. You gotta buy batteries for that, though."

"Noice! You gotta come over tonight. COD, baby!"

Biting his lip, Vince muttered, "Um, I kinda had other plans." My eyes narrowed as he jerked his head in Shelly's direction. Oh, really now?

Flushing, Shelly managed to come up with what she thought was a save. "We're studying tonight," she tittered, sounding guilty. "Vince's gonna help me understand formulae's."

Interesting, especially considering that Shelly's been getting straight B's in Science for her whole life and Vince had to take remedial classes in junior year to keep him from flunking.

Whatever's going on, I'll figure it out.

Tyler gave a knowing smile, slapping Vince on the back. "Right. My bad."

"Maybe you can bring Celeste over and we can double- study," Shelly said, stumbling in the middle of her sentence. Ooh, these guys! And the nerve of them, not even thinking to invite me.

Biting his bottom lip, Tyler said, "I don't know what Celeste's doing tonight," a brooding look flitting across his face.

"I'll tell you what you could be doing tonight," I started, shaking my pen in Tyler's direction. Everybody looked at me as I continued. "Keeping Celeste away from Ryder. She's taking over my lab partner. I don't wanna be doing all these assignments by myself, you know."

Narrowing his eyes to slits, Tyler got to his feet. "Yet you're perfectly happy doing Ryder's homework by yourself," he said shortly, glaring scornfully at me. I quailed under the 'look' Shelly shot me. Oh, fudge. "Spare me the advice, Aayla. I really don't need the hassle. Peace."

And he strolled out of the library, totally knowing the crap he had dumped me in.

If you want to find something out, you have to do it yourself.

Which was why I was currently crouching behind a bookshelf in the math section of the library, staring in disgust as Vince and Shelly made out over an opened chemistry book a few desks over. It was day 4 after I had come across the duo in Shelly's driveway and so far, I hadn't been told anything at all. According to Shelly, there was still nothing going on between them, even though she had blown me off twice to 'study' with Vince.

Oh, so this is how people study these days, by sucking face? Well, somebody send Ryder a memo, please! Did Shelly think I was stupid? I read too many novels for me not to realize what was happening here. They were in denial if they thought I didn't know they were secretly dating. And now I had to resort to stalking my best friend because she couldn't be honest with me. Couldn't they find another place to study, though? I was sick of the library. Mrs. Keith kept shooting me suspicious looks, like she thought I was here to rip out random pages in her favorite books just to spite her.

Gripping the shelf with both hands, I murmured, "I don't like this at all."

"You know what, Aayla, just being in the library won't give you IQ points. You have to actually pick up a book and read it," a familiar voice said behind me.

I was starting to get sick and tired of Tyler Jason Li. The fact that he was always turning up when I least wanted to see him did nothing to help. I turned around slowly, a frown on my face. He was standing right behind me, a couple of books in his hand, a pencil stuck behind his ear and a grouchy expression on his face.

I said clearly and with great finality, "Tyler. Go away. Leave me alone."

Pretty self-explanatory, right? Of course, in Tyler speak, that means 'stay right here. I wanna talk to you, okay?'

"What are you doing here?" he asked curiously, peering through the gap I had carefully made in the bookshelf by pulling out a massive Trig book. "Oh, you're on your daily Shelly and Vince watch? I don't know, I personally think watching them make out is about as interesting as watching paint dry, but I know you're starved for action."

He wiggled his eyebrows at me. Cheap shot, but I couldn't even rise to the bait. My heart had sunk into my boots just watching Shelly and Vince giggle at something. Why was everyone giggling but me?

"They're dating, aren't they?" I asked, feeling desolate. How was I gonna handle Shelly dating Vince? I didn't want to be the third wheel! Maybe I would have to hang out with Janessa more. But I didn't want to join the girls' softball team, and softball was Janessa's life! Decisions, decisions.

Tyler sighed softly, tugging on his earlobe. "Look, if your own best friend hasn't told you what's going on between her and Vince, then it's definitely not my place to tell you anything." He looked uncharacteristically serious as he continued. "I told you before, anyway- I don't gossip, especially when it comes to other peoples relationships."

The nerve of this guy!

I had the supreme right to know what was going on- after all, I was the one who was gonna have to deal with Shelly's tears for 40 days and 40 nights when Vince ditched her, which he would undoubtedly do. And I seriously didn't need to be her shoulder to cry on. I hated Shelly when she was going through a breakup. She always made me, Brandon and Janessa watch The Notebook, A Cinderella Story, Another Cinderella Story, The Little Mermaid and Lady and the Tramp while she cried into the popcorn. I, for one, am sick and tired of the lake scene in The Notebook. And if you're anything like Janessa and would rather have a Terminator marathon, watching any of those movies is bound to kill you a little inside. Only Brandon enjoyed Shelly's wallowing sessions because it gave him a chance to practice his 'Dr. Phil' advice giving spiel. Luckily, Shelly didn't date that often, but I was sure I was in for a doozy of a wallowing session when this union turned sour.

I don't even want to think about it.

Eyeing Tyler thoughtfully, I remembered the lecture I got from Shelly a few days ago about doing Ryder's homework, all thanks to Tyler's snide little comment. Yeesh, you would think that doing somebody else's homework for them was a huge crime, the way Shelly told it. He'd gotten me into trouble purposely, the very least I could do was taunt him about Celeste. I wasn't worried that Ryder would be side-tracked by her for much longer, and anyway, I had waited for him to be mine for ever, surely I could wait a few more days, right?

"What say we talk about your relationship with 'Queen' Celeste, then," I started conversationally, a malicious glint in my eyes. Tyler's eyes narrowed dangerously, but I chose to ignore that as I continued. "That's not gossiping, is it? How's that working out for you?"

"Well, if you must know, we broke up today so it's not going so well." His knuckles whitened as his grip on the books he was holding tightened. Apart from that, you wouldn't have guessed that he was pissed.

My bad.

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," I replied, unable to keep the smirk off my face.

Rolling his eyes to the ceiling, Tyler said, "You can really be an insincere jerk, you know that?" Jeeze, thanks. "But I don't give a shit. It seems like Celeste is interested in your precious Ryder anyway, and he's just proved that he loves my sloppy seconds, so right now, you don't have a chance with him. Not that you ever did, but - yeah."

Belatedly, I realized that Tyler and Celeste must have broken up because of the Ryder angle. So that's why Celeste was crying in the bathroom today. This could be trouble for me, in a huge way, but I chose to think positive. Ryder and I, we were meant to be together. Celeste was a minor inconvenience. And Ryder positively does not like Tyler's sloppy seconds.

"I do too have a chance with him!"

"I do too have a chance with him," Tyler mocked while I glowered at him, my cheeks heating up. "You know, you're the queen of denial. He uses you to do his homework and brags about it and you think it's because he likes you? Dude's been laughing at you behind your back for years! Grow up!"

My lips tightened as I tried not to think about Ryder laughing at me. Tyler was lying! "You grow up! You're just bitter coz your girl dissed you."

Tyler shrugged carelessly, nodding like he agreed with me. "Okay, I'm bitter and you're delusional. Works for me."

"Well, you're also creepy and stalkerish coz you're watching your BFF make out with my BFF!" I snapped.

Aha! Pay dirt. You see what I did there? The old bait and switch. Tyler's mouth dropped open as a genuine look of surprise flashed in his widened eyes.

"What the fuck- I am not being a stalker! I found you here first!"

Pounding steps sounded behind us and I jerked as a finger poked me in the shoulder. Mrs. Keith loomed over us, her lips shrinking back from her teeth in a grimace.

"Okay, I've just about had enough of you two disturbing the peace in here," she told us sternly in her gravelly voice. "You need to go. Grab your stuff and leave!"

People near us turned to look at the commotion (muy awkwardo), amongst them Shelly and Vince. Shelly's eyes widened as she stood up to see me better. I tried to hide behind Tyler but he deliberately moved to the side, leaving me in full view, with a sheepish expression on my face.

"Kaylee? Are you stalking us?"

Since Tyler and I couldn't be in the library any longer or Mrs. Keith would have had an apoplectic fit, Shelly and Vince followed us outside. I stopped as soon as we hit the old oak tree in front of the library, turned to look Shelly right in the eyes and asked her point blank, "Are you dating Vince?"

Enough was enough. I'd just gotten my ass kicked out of the library because of her (kind of). My dignity was already low. I needed answers!

Nervously, Shelly tugged on her ponytail. "Kaylee," she started, her eyes shifting from me to the ground to the sky then back to me. I shook my head in disbelief, my hands on my hips. I knew all of Shelly's tics and habits. She was going all shifty on me. She wanted to lie her way out of this!

"Oh, no, girly, not today," I said sternly, preparing myself for a battle of wits. If she wanted to be slick, I could play that game too but it wasn't gonna stop me from finding out the truth.

Beside Shelly, Vince sighed and slipped an arm around Shelly's slim waist. "C'mon, Michelle, just tell her the truth. I'm tired of trying to hide it from her. She's tenacious."

Now I'm tenacious? This coming from a guy who drives everyone on the school bus crazy asking people to pull his finger.

"Yeah, Shelly, just tell me the truth," I agreed, folding my arms across my chest and sticking my chin out.

Shelly groaned, throwing her arms up in the air dramatically. "You see, that's why I didn't want to tell you anything, because I knew you were going to react like that!"

Oh, so now it's suddenly my fault? I see how this is!

Tossing my head to the side, I said "React like what?" in a suitably peeved tone.

Vince snickered behind his hand. "Uh oh, Kaylee's getting mad," he said in a sing-song voice.

"I am not getting mad." Blood was rushing in my ears, making my head pound, but I wasn't mad. Nope, simply furious. "Why would I get mad at the fact that my supposed BFF is dating a guy she supposedly hates, especially when she knows our history?"

"Here we go again with the dumb sandcastle story," Tyler groaned, obviously realizing what I was getting at with the history reference, stupid boy.

I turned on him, a vein in my neck bulging. He was really in the running for a punch to the face. Yet he didn't seem to realize that he was grinding my gears to the max. Or maybe he did realize it and he just lived to push my buttons. Shame on me, letting my buttons be pushed by Tyler Li. But then again, it wasn't my fault that he had a very aggravating personality.

"I can rant about that sandcastle if I want to," I spat, clenching my fists. "That was my ticket to a hundred big ones!"

Far from being scared of the angry that was seeping out of my pores, Tyler smirked, lifting up his t-shirt to scratch his stomach languidly. Probably just wanted to give a few passing sophomore girls a peek of his tanned abs. Boys will be boys. Even if they've just broken up with their girlfriends.

"It happened 3 years ago, Aayla, let it go!" he said wearily.

Before I could go off on him for calling me Aayla, (it was happening way too often for my liking, and I was getting sick of it, and him) Shelly intervened. Probably coz she spotted the crazy look in my eyes and knew that I was this close to bitch slapping Tyler.

"Look, Kaylee, I wanted to tell you so bad, but Vince said we should wait for the right time and place," she explained. Vince shrunk behind Shelly, not a mean feat considering he was about 6 inches taller than her. I glowered around at them all with narrowed eyes. Playing the blame game, are they?

"There is no right time-," I started, pausing to sniff the air while everyone stared at me like I'd gone crazy.

Wasn't that the sweet scent of Ryder's cologne wafting past? Perhaps he had decided that he was playing himself by messing with Celeste and he was ready to be my faithful lab partner again. I looked around, scanning my immediate surroundings expecting to see a glimpse of Ryder's honey blonde hair.

Shelly cleared her throat. "Kaylee?"

I snapped back to reality. Obviously there had been a mistake and Ryder was nowhere near where I was. Shelly shot me a worried look, Vince was trying his damndest to stifle his laugh and Tyler just looked plain exasperated.

"Yeah, I'm still here, I just- I thought I smelt Ryder's cologne - and-," I stuttered. Being stared down by a group of people that includes two attractive, if annoying, members of the male species wasn't my idea of a good time. It makes me increasingly nervous.

With a look of utter disgust flaring across his features at my expense, Tyler shook his head, muttered "Oh, for the love of- I can't with you. Really, there is no freakin' way- I quit! Vince, I'm going to practice," and took off, loping down the walkway in the direction of the gym.

Good. Less idiots to deal with.

"Glad that Negative Nancy's gone," I said to nobody in particular.

Vince spluttered with suppressed giggles. One of these days, he was going to prove that people can die of laughter. "Did you just call Tyler a Negative Nancy? Amazing!"

"Don't think that by agreeing with me you're gonna get on my good side," I warned him, shaking my finger in his direction.

A wide smile on his face, Vince stuck his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "I don't think I ever will get on your good side, so I'm good."

To get offended or to not get offended?

Luckily, the Shelly incident was more important to me than arguing with Vince, so I focused my attention on her. "I can't believe you didn't tell me, Shelly. I'm supposed to be your best friend!"

"You are my best friend, Kaylee," Shelly said fervently, wringing her hands to better emphasize her point. "But you always say that you hate Vince-."

"So do you! I mean, so did you. Before you changed on me."

Shelly sighed before continuing. "And when we got paired in Science, I discovered I really liked him." Vince slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him, giving the top of her head a kiss. Shelly's face glowed and I sighed. What kind of jerky friend was I? Holding a grudge just because Shelly hadn't told me about her blooming relationship with Vince was purely selfish of me. Anyone could tell that Shelly and Vince were smitten with each other. Ew. Tell me I did not just use the word 'smitten'. Never again. "I knew you wouldn't approve, so that's why I hesitated to tell you. I didn't want you to hate my- my boyfriend."

Shelly smiled up at Vince as she said 'boyfriend' and I almost kicked at a convenient rock. Life is so unfair. How come things were falling together for them when they hadn't even expected this would happen? Meanwhile, I had a Plan of Action drawn up and yet I hadn't ever had one-on-one time with Ryder (unless you count the afternoon at the mall where I spilt coffee in his lap, but I wasn't gonna do that).

Pulling myself together, I said "You're my best friend, Shelly." I sighed resignedly. "Even if I think your boyfriend is a moron and I loathe his best friend, I just want you to be happy."

"Aw, Kaylee," Shelly said, hugging me. "So you're okay with me dating Vince?"

Well, let me think about that for a second. Hell no! But I couldn't very well say that out loud. Could I? No.

"Whatever makes you happy," I said, hugging her back. Letting go of her, I shook my fist at Vince. "But if you hurt her, I will get you, I swear."

Vince's response was to laugh. Obviously. "I won't, promise. You scare me way too much. And I like Shelly too much to screw this up." He hugged her from behind, kissing her cheek. "I'm gonna go find Tyler. He's pretty upset with this whole Celeste thing. I'll see you later, sweetie."

As he walked away, I stared after him. "What the hell is this, hook-up season?"

Authors Note: Seriously, if anyone can tell me how to preserve the formatting (line spacing, underlining, bolding) in my story, you'll be my hero! It's driving me crazy!

So, a new chapter for you to enjoy. Hope you like it. I have a bad ass headache tonight so I'm not going to ramble on as usual. I'm happy you're liking the story so far and trust me, just because I don't reply back to every review doesn't mean I don't appreciate you taking time out to leave me one. I do a little happy dance every time I see an email in my fictionpress folder! You guys are the bestest, the only reason I write!

Review thanks: Emina, CreativeChick233, Mitchie, wizzy891, fullbloom, miraclez22, anon, Kiss-My-Sass87, Joker-Darkly, Lafayette, Char, em-gurl25, Midnight113, Whispered Destiny, bluz, Lea Brown, the poison apple, Professional Wisher.

Thanks for reading and constantly supporting me guys! See ya next week!