Thought Filter

written by whatthegreencarrot

Chapter 1

It was a beautiful day.

Now I was just waiting for some idiot to come along and ruin it completely.

The day had actually held out pretty well, actually, with only a couple of dumb people who were, well, dumb enough to get in my way. So I was in a (moderately) good mood when the bell signaling the start of lunch rang.

"Leigh!" screeched my best friend, Kayla. I turned my head away from the group of boys I was chatting up, and I noted the happy look she was wearing. That giddy expression on Kayla's face could only mean one thing . . .

"He asked me out!" she shouted for all of the people in the hallway to hear, too ecstatic to care about the is-this-kid-crazy looks she was getting all around. Several heads twisted to see the girl who was screaming in the hall, but she ignored the odd looks she was getting and bounced on over to me.

"See you later," I said quickly to my flirt-buddies (what could I say? I had an active social life). Then I grinned widely at her. "Finally! I thought it'd take the goddamn boy years to ask you out, but apparently it only took . . ." I frowned slightly, pretending to think things over. "Er, years."

Kayla smacked me on the arm in friendly indignation, still smiling widely all at the same time. "Don't be such a killjoy, Leigh, Damien finally asked me out! I mean, the boy has, like, killer abs. Aren't you happy? Because I am, I'm at the point of, like, hyperventilating."

"Big surprise there," I murmured as I put my books back into my locker. Kayla was extremely well-known for getting easily riled up, if not anything else. "C'mon," I said louder, "we should get to the lunchline before it stretches out to more than a mile." Our school's lunchline was notorious for being long enough to make a macho pro-wrestler burst into tears, no joke.

Kayla agreed cheerfully, clearly still psyched about Damien Ashton asking her out. At that point, I was fairly sure that I could've told her to jump of a cliff, and she would've happily obliged.

We got to the line, and it looked several million feet long. I gave it one short look, then shook my head determinedly at Kayla. "Nope, we're not waiting that long. here's hoping that we know somebody at the front of the line—preferably male, at that—" I craned my neck, then snapped my fingers in triumph. "Ah, yes! Lucas, old buddy!" I called jovially, skipping up to his spot. "How're you doing?"

Lucas, being my favorite flirt-buddy by far, graciously allowed Kayla and I to back-cut him in line without a word. He flashed an easy smile, brown eyes twinkling amusedly at my unwillingness to wait in the line. "Excellent. How's my favorite girl?"

Grinning lightly and winking at him, I linked my arm through his much more muscled and tan one. "Much better now that you're here, and that I'm at the front of the line." I winked at a bunch of freshers (which was what we Irvington high schoolers liked to call freshmen). "Tough love, kids. Someday you'll grow up to be a big senior like me."

"Wonderful," one of the freshman boys (who was, in reality, a good deal taller than my petite, five-foot-three frame) grumbled mutinously. "I get to grow shorter."

I looked at Lucas and Kayla, putting my hands over my mouth in mock-shock. "No! Is this really happening? A fresher standing up for himself? You must jest!" I gasped as Kayla and Lucas started cracking up. The freshie boy in question scowled unpleasantly at me.

Come to think of it, he was actually pretty attractive, once I got over the fact that he was about four years younger than me. Dark brown, almost black hair framed his tanned face, and his eyes were a curious olive green. But, of course, I wasn't a cougar. I only hit on boys my age and above; I did have a reputation to uphold (as sketchy as mine was).

"You really shouldn't insult people on a whim, Leigh," Kayla halfheartedly scolded me when the three of us got our food. We sat down at our table, which was already filled with people in our year. Cheerleaders, jocks, fashionistas, and some choice hot boys—that was our table for you. The seniors' A-list table. It was divided into three sections: the middle was the super populars, left hand side for the minors, and the right hand for the in-the-middles.

Lucky me, I was in the right side. Better than the left side, though, and better than no A-list table at all. I could've been looped into the B- or C-lists, or (horror of horrors) D-list table. Or maybe even the library-lurkers (even though I had a good amount of respect for the library-lurkers, since they seemed to pull the best grades). A good flock of my flirt-buddies came over to our side of the table, and a couple of Kayla and my friends, too.

The current conversation was beginning to slip into dangerous waters, i.e., my dating life (which was, rather famously, completely and utterly nonexistent).

Flirting I could do within the blink of an eye. Looks were never a problem. Commitment . . . ah, well. It was the reason why I didn't have a boyfriend—not that I wanted one, mind you. If there was one thing I hated, it was being kept on a leash and being limited. Imagining my pick of men being cut down to one? Terrifying.

"How many times have you actually gone on a date, Leigh?" said Kyle (one of my flirt-buddies, of course, and also twins with one of my best friends, Kylie). He was leaning back leisurely in one of the flimsy metal chairs that our school cafeteria provided us, tipping dangerously close to the ground—which was, naturally, cold tile floor. I resisted the urge to tip Kyle over and see what happened, because the cons beat out the pros. One of the cons being that he was on the school basketball team, and that basketball season was coming up quick.

. . . Yeah, definitely not because he was my friend.

My lips quirked up a bit, and I shrugged uncaringly. "Like, twice? But that was back when I was a total sap, and when I was a cute little fresher," I said, shaking my head in mock-sadness. "Ah, woe is me, I could've spent so much time partying, yet I wasted my time on actually being committed."

The whole third of our table snorted at this.

"Committed?" Devon Remington scoffed. "If you're committed, then I'm a fucking saint."

Once again, our side of the table snorted into our food. Devon Remington was a notorious playboy in our school, and he didn't exactly refrain from sleeping around. If he was a saint—well. Let's put it like this. When Devon was pronounced a saint, the world would be goddamn ending.

"Touché," I conceded, stuffing a handful of French fries into my mouth. "So maybe I was never exactly ever a devoted girlfriend, but maybe I don't want to be a devoted girlfriend. Besides, I don't need to be one to get some." I flashed a wink at the boys, who all laughed. The girls all groaned.

"Thanks for the gross mental image, Leigh," muttered Kayla, making a gagging noise.

I rolled my eyes dismissively. "Right, says the girl who was squealing over our good friend Damien's abs barely ten minutes ago. By the way, Dame, what took you so long to ask?" I asked the boy with glorious abdominals in question, smiling amusedly. "Anyone within a five-mile radius of you would've been able to tell that you both had the hots for each other."

Both Damien and Kayla blushed a bright cherry-red, and Kayla shot me one of those I'm-gonna-get-you-for-this looks that just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I smiled sweetly at her, then turned back to my burger and fries.

"Speaking of having the hots, is anyone else tempted to jump Josh Vaughn right now?" asked Kylie (Kyle's twin sis), shooting the boy in question a slightly dreamy look. "I heard that he and Stella broke up, and he's looking very single in the center of the table. Just saying."

Her boyfriend, Harry, shot her a slightly exasperated look. "Leigh isn't the only one who needs to work on her faithfulness skills, Ky. Maybe Josh is single, but you aren't."

"Sorry, love," she said angelically, planting one on his cheek. "But I can't help it, he's just sitting in the middle of our table, looking so damn good. I mean, look!" Kylie said the last word with surprising force, and all of our heads automatically turned to Josh. Kylie was, admittedly, a bit of an airhead, and when she said something with as much conviction as she just had, people tended to listen.

I could tell that it was a mistake to look at him, because the moment my eyes connected with him, I became speechless. And when Jocelyn Leigh (people called me by my last name) went speechless, you knew that there was something off.

The boy was freaking gorgeous. I mean, he'd always been a looker, but spring break had done him well. His sun-kissed skin was hotter than ever, and those striking sea-blue eyes stood starkly against the golden-brown tone of his skin. As always, his muscles were prominent (but not too big, like those overdeveloped gorilla-like thugs), and his long, denim-clad legs were casually spread out from underneath the table.

He didn't notice us staring, of course, because people stared at him on a 24/7 basis—no joke. Boys stared at me, sure, but both girls and boys practically popped their eyeballs out when Josh passed. Every girl wanted to have him, and every guy wanted to be him.

Trust me, if anyone deserved sitting in the A-list table, it was him.

"Damn straight, Ky," I said, smirking lightly at Kylie. "I'd do him, easy."

Her twin brother (Kyle) made a retching noise. "Okay, too much information," he said, narrowing his eyes at me. "You don't have to say who you'd do in public, Leigh."

Laughing, I shook my head at him. The poor boy really didn't know me well. "Kyle," I said patiently, tapping a manicured finger on my temple, "there's this thing in your brain called the Thought Filter. It processes your thoughts, and tells you which ones are safe to come out of your mouth. Me, I don't have one of those. So I think I have a fair right to say in public who I'd—"

"Too much information," the right side of the A-list table chorused back at me.

The end of lunch found me in a strangely amiable mood, even though my next class was Trigonometry, which I loathed with all my being. I skipped along the hallways, attracting a lot of stares (most from a bunch of drooling boys, but a couple from people who knew that I had Trig after lunch, and who were genuinely shocked to see me in a good mood). Humming to myself, I opened my locker and grabbed my books.

"Hey, beautiful," came a drawling voice next to me.

And there went my good mood.

"Travis," I sighed in acceptance, turning around to face him. I'd admit, Travis O'Donor was a drool-worthy hunk of man, but he was beyond annoying. He figured that if he annoyed me long enough, I'd go out with him. And that was never going to happen. Jocelyn Leigh never dated. It was a law of science, literally.

"Miss me?" he said, his typical smirk on his face. "C'mon, babe, I know you think I'm hot."

Of course, since I had such a pleasant habit of blurting stuff out, I agreed with him without thinking. Then I blinked, recalling who I was talking to. Whoops, I'd have to be extra mean to him now that I'd boosted his ego . . . Damn thought filter (or, rather, my lack thereof).

His smirk turned into a look of surprise, then a full-fledged grin. "Wait, you actually think I'm hot?"

I slammed my locker shut and glared angrily at him. "What's it to you, Travis? I'm allowed to think that guys are attractive, I just don't date. It's a well-known fact, doofus. Now get out of my way, I have a class to attend."

"Fiesty," he commented dryly, moving slightly to the side so I could continue my journey to the Trig classroom. My mood darkened at the very thought of solving equations under the watchful eye of our Trigonometry teacher. All thanks to Travis O'Donor—well. Maybe not the Trig part, but the mood part? Definitely.

Letting out a frustrated sigh, I stomped dramatically into my Trigonometry class, attracting several surprised looks. I shot all of the lookers down with my glare, and flopped into the last empty seat. The person sitting next to me cleared his throat quietly, and I turned to scowl at him. "What d'you wan—hey, did anyone ever tell you you're hot?"

Josh Vaughn's mouth flopped open to show a set of very white and straight teeth, and his ocean-blue eyes widened in shock.

My hands instinctively jerked to my mouth when I realized whom I'd been talking to, and my own brown eyes widened by several (hundred) fractions. Oh, crap—Would somebody please kill me now? I'd run into Travis O'Donor, and now I'd just called the King of the School hot to his face. Sure, I had guts, but this was out of the line, even for me. Not that my statement hadn't been true, but I really didn't appreciate having rabid girls on my tail (for hopefully obvious reasons).

Yeah. My idea of a wonderful day.

As I walked by, multiple heads turned to look curiously at me. One head in particular stood out, and her eyes narrowed immediately when she saw me. Uh-oh, clingy-ex-girlfriend-of-boy-I'd-just-called-hot-al ert.

Mm, I really needed to find a way to shorten that.

Inwardly slapping myself over and over again, I ripped my locker door open and shoved my books into my bag. School had finally ended (and I was thanking the lord for that), and word had spread around pretty quick about my "incident" concerning Josh Vaughn.

Someone tapped me lightly on the shoulder, and my heart sunk a little when I turned to face the Queen Biotch of the school: Stella Hughes, in all her blond, hot pink, and cheerleading glory. "Hey, Jocelyn, right?" she said in her high-pitched, slightly nasal attempt at a soprano voice. This was the first thing in a list of many things I didn't like about Stella: She was a fake skank, and tried making her voice higher than it actually was, in a pathetic attempt to depict innocence. I mean, I wasn't denying that I'd had some compromising moments, but at least I didn't change my voice.

Okay, so maybe there was a little bit more to my dislike of her than the voice thing—her reputation was even worse than mine when it came to men, and I didn't appreciate being upped by anyone. And yes, maybe I needed to get my priorities set straight, but that was all beside the point.

"Leigh, my name's Leigh," I corrected automatically. I had been called by my last name since sophomore year, and I didn't plan on that tradition changing because of some prissy girl who was was way too territorial about her ex.

"Yeah, whatever," she said. "Look, I don't like it when people call my boyfriend hot, even though he, like, totally is. I don't know who you think you are, but he's, like, totally mine. So you can, like, back off and get out of our lives?" Because I was totally the one who'd come up to her and asked to talk in that falsely soprano voice. (Note my sarcasm.) And what was it with cheerleaders and their wannabe girls saying "like" all the time? I thought they only did that in movies anymore . . .

"Well?" Stella snapped when I didn't answer.

I laughed and brushed past her. "Tough love, Stella. He's your ex, so deal with it. I can call him hot if I want to, and he's definitely hot. So I'm going to be polite and tell you to piss off. I'll see you later, O Amazing Queen."

Waving patronizingly at her, I breezed past a bunch of students who were gaping openly at me. I'd one-upped Stella Hughes, what now? Maybe this day wasn't that bad, after all.

I felt another tap on the shoulder, this one from a different person. Turning around, I flashed a grin at Josh Vaughn's puzzled face. "Sorry about dissing your ex, it was just really tempting, and she was saying 'like' too much. By the way, no hard feelings, right? I was just telling you as it was"—cough—"is, actually, in Trig. Bye!" I called before he could get a word in, then made a break for the parking lot.

Kayla was waiting for me, sitting on the hood of my beloved Ford Focus, grinning from ear to ear. "Is this actually happening? Did you seriously tell Josh Vaughn to his face that you thought he was hot?"

I shrugged. "Yeah, well, he is pretty damn attractive, you gotta admit. And you haven't heard heard half of it yet. I completely dissed Stella Hughes in the hallway, like, a minute ago. It was hilarious, trust me. Her face was priceless." My own face broke out into a grin. "And then I bumped into Josh and told him that he was hot again, and that I'd insulted his ex. This is the best day ever!"

After a moment of staring at me, Kayla burst into a fit of laughter and snickered in her mirth, "Leigh, you are so—damn—weird! I'm totally texting this to everyone, this is hilarious. It's also nice to know that our favorite ho is getting on alright. It's good to hear that Stella has finally been put in her place." She began texting at lightning speed on her phone.

I laughed at her antics. "Oh, Kayla, what would I do without you . . ."

"You'd die," she said petulantly. "And then you would never be able to make out with Josh Vaughn, which would be a huge disappointment. You know," Kayla said thoughtfully, looking up from her phone, "I think that you and Josh would make an adorable couple, for what it's worth. Except, you know, your commitment problem."

"Of course," I said dryly, examining my purple-painted nails. "You know, I think I'm going to paint my nails another color, can I borrow your nail polish remover?"

She shot me a withering look when I changed the subject so abruptly, but I just shrugged with a flippant air about me and said, "I know you've got the remover in your car, Kayla. And, you know, anytime this century would be nice."

Grumbling about how I would never get a good boyfriend (again, it wasn't like I wanted one), Kayla made her way over to her car, unlocked the door, and pulled her nail polish remover from the CD compartment (I know, I know, she has her odd moments). "Here," Kayla tossed me the bottle, "have fun with Josh Vaughn." She flounced off, smiling widely.

I stared after her, then shrugged. That was a whole bottle of remover for me, so I wasn't going to complain.