A/N: New long-ish fic. Have a couple chapters written, we'll see where it takes us. Should be prettyy fun!
He wasn't a gruff boy, or a brusque boy, or even a particularly curt or short-tempered boy. (Well, the short-tempered part is open for discussion).
He was kind but not sentimental, sweet but not pure, and gently fierce.
All in all, in the very, very end, Will Monday was an oxymoron. He was a boy who defied convention, one of those rare souls completely content simply to be himself.
He wasn't always wonderful and amazing, he wasn't even wonderful and amazing roughly half the time. But whatever he did, wherever he went, he was at home.
And therein, I think, lies the majority of his appeal.
I didn't, and still don't, love him. He is not the sort of boy with whom you fall in love. Nor is he the sort of boy to be loved. That's not to say he wasn't loved—girls seemed to like him enough, and boys sometimes sought his friendship. But Will Monday was a loner, so desperate to be an outcast that he radiated a bad-boy chic sense of "cool." In his attempts to distance himself from the rest, he accidentally only became more deeply embroiled in their politics.
It was a Monday night in May, my senior year of college.
I hadn't spoken to Will in two years, not since the weekend he'd come to visit and we'd fought. I'd screamed and he'd yelled, and then I cried and he left.
But something drew me to the phone last night, like a musical note stuck in your mind, and no amount of tuneless humming can draw it out. I dialed his number by heart, fingers gliding over the keypad like they had so many times before. Maybe I typed his number out because I didn't want to admit to myself that he was still on speed-dial, or maybe I'd just forgotten.
It only rang once before he picked it up, the usual white noise telling me that he still hadn't changed from his ancient flip-phone. I almost wanted to laugh, to fall seamlessly into conversation with him as I once would have done, jokingly berating him for being a technological Neanderthal.
"Hullo?" His voice echoed magnetically across the line, faintly static, still tinged with a slight British accent on the vowels.
"Hey," I said quietly. "It's me."
He sucked in a breath, and for a minute I thought he'd hung up. I held my own breath, though part of me wanted to desperately cry his name through the line, begging him to listen to me. But our relationship had never worked like that; strength was something we both admired in the other, though it had been our downfall, in the end.
"Li Li?" He breathed, his voice heavy with an emotion I couldn't name.
I suddenly found myself at a loss of what to say next. This phone call had been my idea, and suddenly I was speechless. So I settled for the simple.
"Why now?" He asked, but I could hear the smile in his voice despite the defensive tone. "Why today?"
"It's Monday," I said, and stifled myself for what was to come. There was an outtake of breath—an approximation of a laugh, and then a brief silence. His tone hardened.
"What do you want?"
I could have fought back, asking snidely if he planned on making me beg. I could have come up with some snappy retort or sassy comment, further antagonizing him. But two years, while not forever, is a long time, and I had done some growing up.
"It's not that simple," he said.
"Yes," I replied. "This time, it is."
He was quiet, but I didn't stop and wonder if I'd gone too far. I knew this boy as well as I knew myself, and he was the one place I wouldn't second guess myself.
"So what's it going to be, Will Monday?"
I had hated Will Monday for as long as I could remember. The first time I saw him, when he swaggered into 9th grade world history, his shock of bright blue hair as bold as a jay bird, I knew I would dislike him. It was his casual arrogance, his studied disregard, his practiced mocking tone. It was his nauseating blue hair and penetrating green eyes (the colors of which clashed, by the way.)
But above all, it was his obvious dislike and disregard of me.
Barely a week into classes, and he had already taken it upon himself to mock every (correct) answer I gave in history class.
Needless to clarify, ours was not of the fairytale star-crossed lover romance variety. I was neither the school's golden girl or a nobody with no friends. I had no tortured past to brag of, but rather a fairly happy nuclear family, with a slightly crazy mom and a younger sister. We weren't thrown together as partners on some project, nor did he run after me in the rain one day, our personalities colliding passionately in the torrential downpour as he professed his love for me.
He was fairly popular, an edgy, moody, snarky art-boy with blue hair and a heaping of attitude. That being said, he was smart and sharp-witted, and used it unhesitatingly on anyone who couldn't keep up (and some who could.) I was athletic but nerdy, not heinously over-committed, but I had a fairly defined posse and he didn't fit the bill for membership. Normally, I simply wouldn't have considered him. He would have flown off my radar as quickly as his eyes slid over me.
But for some reason, I didn't slide off his radar quite as fast as I was prepared to expel him from mine.
"What're you looking at?" He snapped on the second day of classes, throwing himself in to the seat beside me and shooting me a glare.
Taken aback at the rapid insult and harsh tone, I blinked. "You know," I said placidly, "if you keep sneering like that the expression might stick."
Green eyes narrowed. I wondered what his natural hair color was—green eyes were a genetic rarity, I was pretty sure. It was probably brown I thought, although blonde might be striking with his darker complexion. I nearly asked, and then remembered we were being mutually rude.
He laughed unkindly. I turned away. But in the back of my mind, the image of the flaxen-haired boy with piercing green eyes prevailed.
Mr. Bolton, our teacher, was midway through his lecture on the Mongols taking over the world (I had long resorted to empty-headed doodles in my notebook) when I felt something suspiciously wet and sticky hit my cheek. I whipped around to glare at a grinning Will Monday, will an evil glint in his eyes. Another spitball hit me squarely in the mouth.
A wave of rage seared through me, but I shrugged it off, slowly wiping the paper off my mouth and wiping my mouth on my sleeve.
"Mr. Bolton?" I said primly, interrupting his lecture. "Will you please inform the new boy that it is against the rules to harass other students in class?"
Monday blinked at me in shock. I bared my teeth at him—in warfare, I was never above a good tattling. It was an art I had learned from having a younger sister. While no one likes to be the rat, sometimes it is just the thing.
"Allison, what seems to be the problem?"
"The new boy," I still refused to acknowledge him by name, "just spat two spit balls at me in quick succession."
Mr. Bolton sighed. "I see. Mr. Monday, this sort of behavior has an absolute zero-tolerance policy in my classroom. Please go to the principal's office immediately."
Monday stalked out, blue hair glowing in the fluorescent lighting, and I felt the warm tingle of satisfaction in my stomach at a job well done.
That changed that afternoon.
"Sim," I laughed, "I'm sure if you put it like that, Coach Eric would be down for anything…" I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively, and we both burst in to laughter.
"You know you want to find out what he hides under those zip-off shorts," Sim teased.
"So bad. Actually though, Matt Yu… Now him in a speedo, I would not be opposed."
Sim sighed at the thought of our beautiful assistant coach in minimal clothing. "Wouldn't we all… You know, I totally used to think he was stupid, but apparently he double majored in physics and math in college?"
"Yeah, we talked about it once. Why'd you think he was stupid?"
"Simone!" Krishna, Simone's older sister, was walking down the hall. We had just finished swim practice, and Krishna was clearly just coming from cheer, wearing her tiny uniform, black hair pulled back in to a tight ponytail. Despite the fact that she had just finished practice, her uniform hung perfectly, every hair in place, her brown skin glowing with perfectly done makeup. "You ready to go?"
Sim flashed me an apologetic glance and grabbed her bag, slinging it over her baggy sweatshirt with all the grace of an elephant. "Gotta dash, the monster's here," she muttered to me on the way out. I barely hid a snigger. Sim and Krishna were polar opposites in every way, the only thing in common being their appearance. If I hadn't known Sim forever, I'd think she and Krishna were twins.
"Allie," Krishna acknowledged me with a nod, and I stuck out my tongue at her back. Krishna giggled, knowing how much I hated any sort of nickname.
Turning back to my locker, I was about to sling my own bag over my shoulder, with a relatively equal amount of grace, when a large hand slammed into the locker next to mine. The nails were clean and well kept, but it was the large, tanned hand of a large, tanned boy.
As I looked up in to an angry pair of hazel eyes, I realized that I hadn't gauged quite how tall Monday was, which was quite odd, considering I was no shrimp myself. In later years this fact would continue to frustrate me, as I grew to push six feet and he remained forever taller and broader than me.
"So Daddy's little princess is a tatty-tale?" Eyes snapping, Monday leaned his face towards mine, clearly playing up the intimidation.
"Daddy's little princess is taking it a little far," I said coolly, pretending like I didn't care about the angry Neanderthal hovering a few inches in front of me. "Surely you can't judge me that quickly—for all you know, I could be a mommy's girl."
He eyed me up and down. "Definitely daddy's," he pronounced, his British accent glaringly evident on the "definitely."
"Regardless of whether or not that's true, it's also pronounced 'tattle' tale. If you're going to insult someone and go about making enemies at your new school, at least do it properly." I grabbed my bag, preparing to make good on my exit, but he grabbed my arm.
"Try it again," he growled, and I was surprisingly frightened by the animalistic quality of his voice.
"What?" I tried and failed to jerk my arm out of his grasp, and simultaneously found I couldn't quite break eye contact with him. It was at about this point that the mild anger and dislike I had felt upon initially viewing Will Monday began to churn uncomfortably in my stomach. "Excuse me," I began, but he cut me off.
"Try acting like a little proper princess in class. Try getting me in trouble. Try speaking to me in your prissy little voice and pretending I'm not intimidating you," he leered. "Pick one of the above."
"Intimidating me?" Despite everything, I raised an eyebrow. "You think pretty highly of your intimidation skills. Now, if you wouldn't mind, I'm late." I tried again to remove my arm from his grasp. This time, his grip tightened. "Ouch!" I cried before I thought to stifle the automatic response. It was now a bruising grip, digging into the soft flesh of my forearm, but I'd endured plenty worse from my sister.
Abruptly, heat flashed through me, flushing my face. How dare he detain me against my will? No one outside of my family had ever aggressively touched me in such an intimate way, and my temper burned.
I hadn't felt an anger as unadulterated as this against anyone but my parents and sisters.
"Let me go," I snapped, ripping myself away from him with vicious force, triceps and biceps that had spent long hours in the pool contracting with a strength that left his face blank with surprise. As I brushed by him, shuddering where I contacted his skin, I realized that the churning, clenching, boiling feeling in my stomach could adequately be described as hatred.
The silence continued for so long I almost couldn't take it. I almost took the coward's way out, almost hung up. But that was never the way I had handled him in the past, and I wasn't about to start now. We had lost each other before, and I could lose him again.
"I've never been able to stop thinking about you." The words echoed across the line. They felt good to hear, but they were neither a yes or a no.
As if he could hear what I was thinking, he sighed. "Li, we haven't spoken in two years. People change a little. You can't just call me out of the blue and expect me to love you like nothing's changed."
Except, of course, that I could.
"Everything's changed, Li," he sighed, and silence reigned once more. We had always been more about what wasn't said than what was. "Except, of course, that it hasn't."
For a moment I couldn't tell whether he'd said the words or I had.
"Where are you?" He asked.
"My room," I replied. "Have you graduated yet?"
"I graduate tomorrow." He hesitated. "I've been offered several positions…"
"But…you know me. I'm an artist. I can work from wherever."
"I'm staying in New York," I volunteered. "I've been offered a position as an online journalism intern at the Times."
"I was offered a job in the city. Gallery, regular installments, as well as private commissions, that sort of thing. There's a lot of graphic design opportunities there too, if I wanted to broaden…"
"Which you will," I supplied, and he laughed huskily.
"You always did know me better than myself."
"Come stay with me," I blurted out impulsively. "After graduation. Drive up."
"I…" He paused. I held my breath again. Sometimes things are meant to by easy, I whispered in my mind. Sometimes things are just that easy. "I can't come tomorrow," he finally replied, and my heart sank. "I have to pack up my stuff, go home, put some of my books and art in storage and get the rest ready for my apartment." Another pause.
"I'll be there on Friday."