She was fuming. The heat she felt creeping up her neck and chest earlier in the day was now boiling in the pit of her stomach. Instead of going back to class and finishing her last couple hours of school, she found her feet carrying her toward an exit of the building. She didn't care about the repercussions she would likely face the next day (if she decided to go back), all she cared about was going home and crawling back into her bed.

Everything was fucked up.

As she sat in the driver's seat of her car, she wondered how she let her life get this out of control. Everything that was wrong was because of her own choices and all she wanted to do was kick herself for being so stupid. Things wouldn't be so complicated with Ryah if she hadn't let herself get involved with him; if she hadn't gone to his house. You're such an idiot, she thought to herself. Who the hell goes to their teacher's house and doesn't expect something to happen?

And Andrew? Would he still be bothering her had she not slept with him? Absolutely, but she wouldn't have the guilt and shame and disgust she was harboring right now if she hadn't. She wouldn't be the topic of every conversation in the school. Life would continue on as usual until she graduated and moved out. She was used to it and to him, why couldn't she just suck it up and deal?

Cora eventually pulled out of her spot in the student parking lot and drove away before someone caught her sitting in her car. Being reprimanded right now was not something she could take. She was normally a well-rounded, well-mannered student who respected all adults and authority figures, but she knew today was different and she wasn't sure she could bite her tongue about something that seemed so insignificant to what she already going through.

When she arrived home, she noted that she had about two and a half hours before she would have to leave again to pick Jaycee up from school. No one should be home right now so she wouldn't have to answer any questions from her mother or Rick as to why she was home so early. She also could be the one to intercept any phone calls the school might make for when they noticed she was missing.

She kicked her shoes off in the doorway of the kitchen and scanned the counters and the inside of the fridge. She had barely eaten anything in days but still didn't have an appetite. The sight of the food in the refrigerator and the thought of eating it made her stomach turn. As she shut the door, a figure behind the door was casually leaning against the wall to the right of the appliance. Cora jumped.

"Hey, babe."

"Are you kidding me?" She shouted, vocalizing the exact disbelief and desperation she felt.

"What are you doing home?"

"What are you doing in my home?" She turned to leave the kitchen, not wanting to engage with him anymore than she absolutely had to.

"Do we have to have this conversation every single time I'm here?" he asked, seemingly exasperated.

"We could just not have a conversation at all."

Cora continued walking away, not turning to look as he followed her up the stairs and down the hallway.

"Oh, come on, Cora. We haven't spoken in like a week. I think you could have a civil conversation with me."

Cora entered her bedroom and without a word swung the door shut, hoping to cut him off but he caught the door before it had the chance to latch and afford her the opportunity to turn the lock and freeze him out. She finally turned in his direction to shoot the iciest stare she could muster. Instead of screaming at him to get out or chucking various bedroom items at him, he watched as she turned away again and moved toward her bed. He pulled the door shut behind him.

"What? No witty comeback or hurtful comments?" he asked.

She scoffed. "Nothing hurts you."

He shrugged. "I don't let it."

As Cora sat on the edge of her bed, she rested her head in her hands, her elbows perched on her knees.

"Seriously, what's your problem?"

Something switched inside her. She went from feeling pitiful and weak to a type of fury that welled inside her stomach and spread throughout her body to her fingertips. If she was ever going to swing at him, it would be right now.

"What's my problem?" She spat through gritted teeth as she looked in his direction. "Are you seriously asking me what's my problem?" He stood still, displaying no emotion or inclination that he even knew what she was talking about. This made her more angry; that he could care so little that he doesn't even acknowledge what happened. "You! You're my problem!" She shouted, standing from the bed. "It wasn't enough that you harassed me for months, making me feel uncomfortable in my own home, but then you had to go and completely destroy any life I had outside of here too."

Andrew scoffed, half smiling. "Destroy your life? Really, Cora, you're going to be that melodramatic about a hook up? A hook up that you were one hundred percent apart of? A hook up, you initiated."

"I just wanted you to stop!"

He grinned. "Actually, you didn't, remember?" He licked his bottom lip and winked.

Cora's skin crawled. Her body betrayed her that night, giving him the exact power over her that she didn't want. He knew what he did to her; there was no way for her to deny or argue against it.

She sighed, defeated once again. "You got what you wanted Andrew, okay? Can we just go back to not speaking now? It's the only good thing to come out of this bullshit."

"Actually," he spoke softly, stepping forward. Cora tensed, not wanting to ever experience the closeness or intimacy they shared a week prior. She was afraid of how her body would react again to his touch. "I have a proposition for you."

Cora crossed her arms over her chest as he stood barely an inch in front of her. He placed his hands on her arms, gently running them up and down. She was certain if her body tensed any more she would turn to stone and break into a million little pieces.

"I can't imagine it's anything I would be interested in." She replied.

"Oh, I think you will be. See, I did get what I wanted, sure. But I've had the week to think about it and I don't know if one time really did it for me. I've been pursuing you for a long time, Cor."

"Not sounding enticing at all to me."

"You and I both know how I made you feel. I think you're more interested than you're letting on."

"If your head gets any bigger, you won't be able to fit in this house."

"Cora, how do you think your mom will feel about you losing your virginity? And to her boyfriend's, probably future husband's, son no less?"

Despite wanting to hold her poker face, Cora's eyes widened. "This sounds a little more like blackmail than a proposition." She stated.

"Tomato, to-mah-toe," he smiled.

"What makes you think I was a virgin? Do you really think you'd be the first person I ever sleep with? I'm on birth control, you idiot, my mom put me on it for a reason." Back to lying.

Andrew rolled his eyes, the smirk never leaving his face. He was an asshole but he wasn't stupid. "Cora, don't bullshit me. I've heard you and your mom talking about why you're on the pill. It's not because you were sexually active beforehand."

"Do you just listen to every conversation you're not a part of?"

"Do you always try to deflect conversations to get out of them?"

"With you, yeah."

"Let's cut to the chase here, sweetheart. I still want you and I know that despite you hating me personally, you enjoyed every bit of me physically. So, I want to keep this going," he said, as his hands dropped to her waist, closing the gap between them. "But if you're going to make it difficult, I have no problem filling your mom in on our night together. But if you make it easy, I'll make sure all the talk around school stops."

"Did you -"

"No, I didn't start it, but my name's involved, too. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that people talk in high school and someone watching you run out of a bedroom where I'm pulling on my shirt and zipping up my fly is definitely something worth talking about."

"I told people it didn't happen."

Andrew chuckled. "Of course you would say that. The girl usually does deny anything happened. You're fighting this when you know I'm offering some pretty good incentives."

She scoffed. "Incentives? Not getting me disowned from my mother or shunned from my peers is an incentive?"

"Technically, yes."

"It's blackmail, Andrew."

"Again, tomato -"

"Yeah, I get it. Your messed up little brain doesn't see the difference."

"Sweetheart, you know there's nothing little about me." He winked and pulled her closer. If Cora rolled her eyes any harder, they may have gotten stuck. "You know my terms, are you in or out?" His voice was husky as he dropped his head to her ear. His nose grazed the skin of her neck, his breath hot as his mouth hovered over the sensitive spot behind her ear.

Cora felt goosebumps creep up her arms. She tightly shut her eyes, hating everything in this moment. Hating Andrew for being Andrew, hating him for putting her in this disgusting situation, and hating him for making her feel good at the same time.

"I don't think you're really giving me a choice," she deadpanned.

She could feel him smile into her neck right before pressing his lips to her bare skin. His mouth traveled along her neck and jaw up to her lips, where he hesitated. "Kiss on it?" he murmured. To seal the deal they just made, Andrew pressed his lips to her, surprising her again how gentle he can be. She didn't reciprocate right away but eventually found her mouth moving against his, opening enough to let his tongue in. His hands dropped to her bottom and lifted her off the ground; her legs dangled as he moved toward the bed.

He laid her back on the mattress and positioned himself on top of her. Her hands rested on his chest, not pushing him away but not allowing him any closer, while his own hand dipped below the waistband of her jeans. Cora's breathing hitched as his fingertips grazed her center over the thin panties she had on. His hand caressed and teased her, her back arching in pleasure and wanting.

Then he pulled away.

Cora's breathing was heavy as he stood from the bed.

"I told you that you want it more than you would let on," he said as his eyes traveled to her lower half. "I'll see you later, Cor."

Cora was dumbfounded as her head fell back against the pillow. What the hell did I just get myself into, she wondered as Andrew left the room, shutting the door behind him, leaving her alone and even more confused than before.

.i.i.i.i.i.i.

Cora barely moved from her bed until the last minute when she needed to leave to pick up Jaycee. On her way out the door, she played messages on the phone's answering machine, erasing the one from the school saying that she wasn't in her 7th period class or seemingly anywhere else in the building.

Cora put a smile on her face as Jaycee jumped in the car from school. That little girl was very perceptive and any slight falter that Cora may have in her face or attitude would be easily picked out by Jaycee. Obviously, everything that was happening in Cora's life was not an appropriate conversation to have with her little sister, so she wanted to avoid letting on any indication that something was wrong with her.

"Hey Jay, how was school?" Cora greeted, looking in the rearview mirror to see her.

Jaycee smiled as she buckled into her seat. "Good. It was Piper's birthday so we had a party and cupcakes at the end of the day."

"Uh oh, cupcakes. Nice of them to send you home on a sugar high."

Jaycee laughed. "I only ate one!"

The rest of the short car ride was filled with conversation about Jaycee's day and upcoming things at school that she was excited about. Cora knew that Andrew and Rick being back in the house was bothering Jaycee as much as it bothered her, but the kid hid it well. Cora found herself wondering if maybe what she agreed to with Andrew would make things easier on Jaycee. Without Andrew seemingly bothering her like he did, she wouldn't get upset all the time and cause rifts between herself and her mother and Rick, that ultimately made Jaycee upset that everyone was fighting. As long as Rick could be a little nicer to Jaycee, then things might get along decently well.

At this point, Cora would cling to just about justification she could muster. Anything that made her deal with Andrew seem less stupid.

If she was honest with herself, she knew that she was reaching, but at this point it was all she could do.

Jaycee was half unbuckled from her seat by the time Cora put the car in park in the driveway and she was out the door and running up the sidewalk before Cora could even pull together the energy to get herself out of the car.

When Cora entered the house, she found her mother in the kitchen, already preparing dinner (weird), and Rick planted firmly on the couch. No surprise there. She scanned the kitchen and surrounding areas for any signs of Andrew, but not even one of his shoes was present.

She hadn't realized it but she was holding her breath.

"Jaycee, why don't you go up to your room for a little before dinner, I need to have a talk with your sister." Jess stated, kissing Jaycee on the top of her head.

"Okay, momma," Jaycee replied, as she bounded down the hall and up the stairs.

"What's up, mom?" Cora asked, leaning against the kitchen island.

"I think you know what's up, Cora," Jess retorted, much more stern than she was with Jaycee. "I got a call from the school today that you skipped your last two periods?"

I deleted the recording, she thought.

"They call my work when I don't answer the home phone. I saw that there was no message here, so I'm assuming you got to it first."

"Mom, it's not a big deal -"

"It absolutely is a big deal Coralynn! How could you not see the seriousness in you just walking out of school without permission? On top of missing school for a full week! Do you even care about your grades and graduating anymore?"

Cora involuntarily rolled her eyes. She wasn't in the mood for this. "Of course, I care, mom. It was just a really rough day and I don't know. I just got upset and I left."

"That's not excuse," Jess said, her mouth in a firm line, obviously holding back wanting to say more.

"The girl needs taught some respect," Rick chimed in, walking into the kitchen and crossing over to the refrigerator. "For you and the teachers and principals at her school."

"Nobody asked you, Dick." Cora spat, the anger from earlier welling up inside her again.

"What did you call me?" Rick puffed his chest and took a step in Cora's direction.

"Rick, don't," Jess stopped. "Cora, apologize to Rick, you're out of line."

Cora laughed. "I'm out of line? Why is this guy even here? He's not my dad, he's not Jaycee's dad. He's just using you for God knows what, but wants to step in and tell you what I need taught? No."

"Cora, I will not have you disrespecting Rick in my house. Whether he is your father or not, he is my boyfriend and an adult in this household. You need to treat him with as much respect as you would me."

"Just get to my punishment for ditching school and get this over with mom. No car for a week? That's fine, but I don't know who would drop off or pick Jaycee up for school. No phone for a month? That's fine, too, but what if the school or a friend's parent can't reach you and it's an emergency for Jaycee?"

Cora knew she had her mother in a corner. Those would have been the exact two things that Jess would take away from Cora, but she knew that her hands were tied because of how much she and Jaycee depended on Cora a great deal.

"I just don't even know what's going on with you anymore, Cora. I don't know who you are anymore."

"Oh, please, mom, if you were around more than five hours a week and actually spoke to me you wouldn't have to be so dramatic."

"I'm just trying to make a living and provide for you and your sister."

"No respect, Jess. She's an ungrateful brat, sorry to say, but I've been seeing it more and more lately." Rick interjected again.

"Oh, fuck. Off." Cora spat.

"Cora!" Jess shrieked, caught off guard.

"What, mom? Am I not allowed to stand up for myself? Someone has to because you sure as hell won't."

Jess flipped the switch to the stove, turning off the burner that a vegetable stir fry was sizzling in. "I just – I can't even be around you right now, Coralynn. You're acting like a child but worse." Jess began throwing various items back into the fridge and different cabinets. "Jaycee!" Jess called.

Not surprising the Cora, Jess was hiding behind the wall in the hallway, listening to everything. "Am I in trouble?" She asked in a voice so small, Cora's heart broke.

Jess rushed in front of Jaycee and kneeled down to her level. "No, no, sweetie. We're just going to go stay at Rick's house for the night, so I need you to go pack an overnight bag, okay?"

Jaycee looked up at Cora, her eyes were almost pleading that she didn't want to go.

"But I want to stay here with sissy." Jaycee spoke barely above a whisper.

"Your sister isn't acting right, sweetie, so we're going to give her some time to think about her behavior."

"Mom, just let her stay with me. She doesn't want to go over there."

"Don't tell your mother what to do," Rick retorted, still from the same place in front of the fridge.

"I'm not," Cora glared. "I'm telling her what Jaycee wants. If you want to be pissed off at me and run out of the house because I'm so awful to deal with, fine. But don't punish Jaycee for being a kid."

Jess stood up to face Cora. Cora could tell she was furious with her and probably wanted more than anything to backhand her, but she would never bring herself to do it.

"Fine. I'll be back tomorrow afternoon and I hope you have a new attitude, Cora. I don't like the kid I'm looking at right now."

Without another word, Jess and Rick retreated from the kitchen and out of the house. Jess has basically a home set up at Rick's house too for when she stays there so there was no need for quick packing.

Cora took a moment to consider how weird her situation at home really was. Most parents send their kids to their rooms when they're mouthing off or being disrespectful, only in Cora's house does her mother completely abandon the situation. Cora's been wondering for a while now if it was just because her mother really didn't want the burden of dealing with her on the days where she was a difficult teenager, or if it was because her mother trusted her enough to let her sort through her own shit without being screamed at along the way. At this point, Cora was leaning more toward the first part. Her mother had the capability of removing herself from uncomfortable situations like this, and as much as Cora would like to do so, especially after today, she didn't have that luxury.

Cora picked up where her mother left off with dinner and set the table for her and Jaycee to eat. The two had a fairly normal dinner despite what preceded it. No matter what is happening in Cora's life, she tries her hardest to make sure that Jaycee's life is normal as possible.

After dinner, Cora helped Jaycee get bathed and ready for bed. The two of them sat together on the couch to watch a short movie together before Jaycee's bedtime. The movie was about over when the front door opened.

Cora jumped. She wasn't expecting her mother or anyone to be coming home but she couldn't say that she was surprised to see Andrew standing in the doorway, a smile plastered to his face.