by: urtenshii

Chapter 3: Cloud Nine

"Melissa is having the time of her life," Noelle observed as she noticed that, once again, her friend and Allen is missing from their usual table at lunch. They both didn't tell them anything about that day when they all bailed out on them but she was sure something happened. They both have that mysterious glint in their eyes whenever they happened to look at each other. And they seemed to be always missing.

"And I thought I was the one who's missed," Jane managed, unable to hide a smile. She had a certain feeling Allen has something to do with it. And she's very happy for both of them.

"Where is she anyway?" complained Heather.

Noelle merely rolled her eyes, "Notice anyone else missing?"

Stephanie and Heather turned their heads to look at the others but they both shook their heads. "Other than Mel, we don't see anyone who's supposed to be here but who's not."

"It's Allen," Stella answered, grinning widely.

A look of contemplation crossed Stephanie's face before it morphed into something akin to intense evil. Rubbing her hands together like some evil villain, she declared, "Melissa's going to have to do a lot of explaining or else."

They all laughed at her weird antics. Jane, however, was immediately on defense for her very close friend.

"Don't kill her on the interview." At the glares from her friends, she hastily added, "Not yet, anyway. I mean, it's the first time that she got comfortable around boys and I don't want her to turn awkward all over again. So, please? If this friendship turned into something major then we'll act. Deal?"

"Well, Jane's right. I've never seen her this comfortable in ever!" Noelle supported.

Heather merely rolled her eyes as the other two hastily agreed. "Okay, I guess I'm in but a little phone call wouldn't hurt right?"

They all grinned evilly as she dialed her friend's phone number.

At the other end of the city, Melissa was busily watching Allen's band practice when her cell phone rang. Silently, she left the room and answered it outside.

"Yes yes?"

"Where are you right now?" five voices shouted in unison.

Lifting her phone off her hear, she shook her head. Were her friends planning to destroy her eardrums?

"I had someplace to go."

"And where is that, exactly?"

She swallowed. If she'll tell them where she is, the teasing is bound to begin anytime today but if she lied, she's sure to get caught. She never could lie to the five of them. They have their way of knowing the truth. So, she decided to run. It was the best option and it was something that she's really good at.

"Umm, you guys, I really have to go now! Talk to you later," and she killed the line with their shouted protests.

She was about to go back inside when she saw Allen go out, talking to his own phone. He gave her a smile before returning to his own conversation. She returned it and started to walk in when his hand stopped her. She turned to him questioningly when his own phone was thrust into her hands.

"It's Heather. Said she wanted to talk to you," he told her.

Her eyes bulged and she immediately turned the phone off. Now, she's really in for it.

"I am going to kill you," she told him warily.

His brows furrowed in confusion, "What did I do?"

"You just subjected us to an endless ride of teases and gossips from our beloved friends who have nothing better to do but snoop in into other people's lives," she told him, annoyed. "I should know; I've been there."

He laughed at her while she glared.

"Why do you even get affected? I mean, so what? Just let them. Else, they'll think you're actually secretly attracted to me," he replied, still beaming. "Well are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Secretly attracted to me?"

An incredulous look from her face sent him into another bout of laughter. She was so easy to tease and anger that he didn't wonder why Jane and the others made it to a point to annoy her. She reacts in the perfect way that you want her to.

"You're annoying. I'm out of here," she declared, huffing. She was tired of being the butt of everyone's joke and Allen was making her feel as if she was some kind of stupid girl that didn't know her left from her right.

"Whoah! Wait! Relax. I was only teasing."

He didn't mean to hurt her feelings. He was just honestly joking around. Now he was guilty. The girl was close to crying because he was stupid enough not to stop. He was sorry and she was gonna listen to him, whether she wanted to, or not.

He held her wrist to stop her from turning back and looked into her eyes, "Hey. I'm sorry. Let me make it up to you. Lunch?"

She was gonna refuse. She was gonna reject the invitation and go back to school to mope. But one look at those pleading eyes and she was a goner. With a sigh she nodded.

And surprisingly, she didn't regret her decision as she laughed to another one of Allen's joke over lunch. He was one of the few people that could manage to bring a bout of laughter to her lips.

"So where do we go next?" he asked and before she even gave a suggestion, he knew that he would be agreeing. It was an unusual feeling that engulfed him. She was weird, dense and naïve but he hadn't met a woman that interested him as much. He wanted to peel away the layers that managed to conceal the beauty that was within. He wanted her to open up to him and tell him all of her problems and worries. He wanted to know her greatest wishes and, if it was within his powers, he would make them come true.

From then on, a series of get-togethers followed: trips to the mall, sing-alongs to KTV bars, jamming during his band practice, outings to the beach and many others. Whether it was with friends or plainly with each other, they enjoyed it together. They didn't see it as much as their other friends did but it was very obvious that there was something unsaid between them; something intense and precious but fragile. It was better to keep it as it is, for now.

"Guys! We're having a gig tonight! Be there at eight!" Allen proclaimed the moment he arrived at their usual table at lunch. He sat at his usual seat which was now beside Melissa. The girl did not turn rigid anymore but she welcomed the company and smiled at him, more brightly than what she gave her other friends.

"I'll try. But I won't promise," she told him.

He turned to him and touched a finger to her nose, which hadn't gone unnoticed by the perceptive eyes of their friends. "I expect you to be there," and he turned to the rest of the group, "Same goes for all of you."

They all murmured their agreement but in the back of their minds, they were wondering what that little gesture meant for both of their friends.

A little after the appointed time, the six of them were gathered in a table near the corner of the room. They were buzzing with excitement as they waited for the appearance of their friend.

"So, what do you think he'll be singing?" Stephanie asked, thoughtfully. "I hope he'll be singing 'If ever You're in my Arms Again.' Now that will make my day!"

"No, he's going to sing something they've composed," Melissa stated off-handedly.

"Oh, and you know this because?" Noelle inquired, devilishly.

"I've seen them practicing it. It's a beautiful song composed by the group."

"So you've been camping out in their practice sessions?" Heather asked, eyes gleaming with excitement. She was gonna toast her friend tonight!

"No not really. Just hanging out. I don't have anything better to do anyway," Melissa answered, once again, without any notion of what's going on in the minds of her friends. Ignorance indeed is bliss.

"Right. How come you didn't invite us over?" Stephanie inquired.

Melissa looked at their expectant faces and flushed. How was she going to tell them that she didn't want them there? That she enjoyed the band's company and was rather afraid that the magic of the moment would break if they'll be there. And that she's afraid they're just gonna tease her to death if ever they knew.

"I – ah – well, didn't think that you'd be interested," she stammered and inwardly cursed herself. If she knew her friends and she did, they'd interpret the stammer in the wrong way.

Stella raised an eyebrow and nodded, "We're music lovers Mel. You know that. Why don't you just tell us the real reason why we weren't there and you were?"

Opening and closing her mouth like that of a fish, she began thinking of several excuses to get her out of the situation. Luckily, she was saved when Allen's band began to play and all the attention of her friends were transfixed on stage. She sighed in relief and silently thanked the man performing on stage for the save.

The moment he was up, he unconsciously searched for her presence. It was unnerving how his head busily swiveled around till they landed on her. He grinned, overwhelmed by the intense pleasure he felt just with her presence, and winked. She laughed and waved back, fueling him to take his performance to the next level.

'He was spectacular up there,' she thought as she cheered for him. It was the first time that she had seen him perform up stage and she can see why his friends chose him as the vocalist. He has an appealing voice albeit a little rough. It draws your attention and commands you to listen to it. His face turns solemn and his eyes soulful as he worked up his magic to the audience. His cocky grin gave him the charm that was needed to balance the intense emotion seen on his face.

"She's a goner," Noelle muttered as she observed her friend whose eyes were transfixed to Allen.

"And I'm worried," Jane whispered at her. "She's so up in cloud nine right now that she didn't notice that he's already earning a special place in his heart. More than the one she gave Jazz."

Melissa didn't tell her but she knew that her friend never moved on from Jazz. And she was quite positive that the scars she received from him are the one that made her so frightened now.

Noelle smiled at her, reassuringly. "Allen and Jazz are not the same. Besides, I think he's going to take good care of her. Look at them making goo-goo eyes at each other even though they're several meters apart. You have to let her do this, Jane. It's all a part of growing up."

"I guess. But I can't help but worry. I'm her friend. It's my privilege."

She laughed at this. "Now you know how she feels every time you go out with Noah."

"Yeah, I guess. But Noah's different. He's our friend."

"Just like Allen."

"And Allen's never been serious with anyone. What if he's just toying with her? What will happen if he breaks her heart? Noelle, this is the first time that Melissa trusted a male so much. I don't want it to destroy her if ever things don't work out," she told her, while promising to herself that Allen wouldn't see the light of day if he would hurt Melissa.

"And Allen's also a guy who could fall in love with the right girl. Time will tell who'll hurt who. Then again, there's still the possibility of them falling for each other."

For this, Jane had no response. Still, she looked worriedly at the two before nodding. "Yes, only time can tell."