Chapter 1: HowIt Started
"So then Weston told her to shut up, and then everyone just stared. It was WAY awkward." I zone out as Ashley rambles on, not even noticing that I wasn't listening to her anymore. Or either she did, and she just doesn't care.
My eyes skim over the crowd in line for food in the school cafeteria, and I recognize a few of the sophomore kids on honour roll. I motion them to come over as they walk around uneasily with their trays, unsure of where to sit.
"Really?" Ashley wrinkles her nose at me as she saw who I was waving to. "Do they have to sit with us?"
"I'm their senior, and they take almost every class that I do. It's my job as a senior honour student to guide them, y'know? Besides, you made me sit with your cheerleading squad last week." I counter. She gave me 'so?' look. "I was the only guy. Do you know how uncomfortable that made me?"
"Normal guys would kill to sit with us, okay? Count your blessings Oliver Aden Guardnight. Besides, you're my boyfriend; you'll sit wherever I tell you to." My girlfriend grins at me to show that she was just joking.
"I don't understand why you don't want other guys sitting around the squad. Kyra and Jen have their own boyfriends, too." I raise my eyebrows at her, demanding an answer as I notice that the sophomore kids, Adam, Hannah, Jonah, and two other kids are walking our way.
"Once they've been together for as long as we have, then Gabe and Zack can sit with us." Ashley digs into her chicken salad; spearing a few lettuces in one go. "Besides, I don't want people to stereotype us as slutty, dumb cheerleaders. The dumb part I can't do anything about, but I sure as hell won't let my squad by called slutty."
"Together as long us, huh..." I say, more to myself than her. Ashley giggles a bit, a knowing smile flashing across her face before it's replaced by her bubbly personality.
"Hi..." Adam Carver, the most social of their group, greeted me awkwardly. I laughed at their nervousness, (which was kind of mean, but it was so funny, I couldn't help it!) and flash them a reassuring smile.
"Hey, sit down, guys." I motion to the empty seats with my chin. "This is Ashley." They gave her weak smiles that she returned with stare, obviously still trying to figure out what to think of them.
"We know." Looks like Adam is the voice of the group.
"Really?" Ashley looks genuinely surprised. "I mean, I don't mean to be rude or anything, but don't you guys just study all the time?" She trailed off towards the end, realising that what she just said was kind of insulting. To my surprise, Adam laughed.
"Yeah, I thought so, too. I was the world's biggest nerd at my old school. I guess having the football captain as our RA pushes us out into the world, y'know?" Adam smiled, pushing a spoonful of food into his mouth. Ashley laughs, and I can understand why. Our football captain was most probably the pushiest guy in the entire school. But I give him credit. He'd gotten me to go for a group date once, but never again.
"I'm Adam, by the way." He continued after swallowing, and introduced the rest of his pack.
I watched Ashley's face as she meets the honour students, and I grinned as she faltered at the mention of Hannah Walters. She just sat there, stunned for a second, before flashing a blinding smile at the girl. I brushed her hair behind her ears and leaned forward to whisper to her.
"Well, somebody's got a crush." I quickly jerk back, laughing, before she can hit me. Her face was so red, it just made me laugh even harder.
"Not funny, Aden." She flipped her hair and turned her nose away from me.
"You know it's true." I continue laughing as I lean back onto my chair.
"Doesn't mean you have to point it out." She glared at me. "Bastard." She adds at the end, making laugh all over again. I wink at our insecure audience to tell them it's just a joke. I smile as they relax visibly.
Our table finishes lunch in silence, save the one question about how long Ashley and I have been together. So counting the year before high school, it'd be 5 years.
Ashley glanced at the clock on her phone and stood up to leave.
"Gotta go. See you later, babe." She pecks me on the cheek and smiles at everyone else as she picks up her bag. "Bye guys." A string of goodbyes come out of the honour students as she walks away, waving her fingers at us absently.
"You guys have anything after lunch?" Everyone shook their head. "Man," I sigh. "I've still got basketball and English Lit."
"And a five-page report on Moby Dick." Jonah Bernard said, giving me a slightly sadistic grin.
"What?" I stare at them, hoping that someone would tell me he was joking. "Damn." I said when no one said anything.
"Due this week." I wince as Hannah added in.
"Ugh. Mrs. Ally can't do this to us! Aw, man..." Adam and the rest of them are really, super smart. They're only sophomores (which meant they were about 16 years old), but they were taking senior classes. (Which are my classes, just to let you know. I'm not all brawn and no brains, okay? Truth be told, I'm more brains than brawn.)
I've still got another two essays to pass up by this week, and it's already Wednesday. Thank god I have a free day tomorrow.
"Ugh."Ashley groaned as turned her back to some blonde guy, who was walking away dejectedly. "Why can't somebody decent find me? Someone who doesn't stare at my boobs the whole time he's spouting shit about 'love at first sight'." She mimics them, badly, rolling her eyes. They land on me after their trip around her sockets. "Why can't I find someone like you? Someone who loves me even after knowing I'm this retarded." She glares at me because she knows I'm about to make fun of her again.
"Someone to pick me up, swing me around the room, kiss me, and make me feel special." My 'girlfriend' slid down the table, leaning her head on her arms.
"I did that. During junior prom." I told her, taking a sip of my drink.
We were sitting in Alexi's Palace, a small diner outside of town. And since practically no one goes out of town, the diner was normally deserted during weekdays. It was quite full on weekends, though, because of many traveling families.
"You know that doesn't count, A-hole. I want a real relationship, and not someone who uses me as a shield every time a remotely good-looking guy starts talking to him."
"I don't use you as shield!"
"Dude." She shot me a dry look. "You practically jumped behind me when Jen's brother started talking to you during her tryouts. You paled so much." Ashley started laughing as I winced at the memory. Jen's brother now grabs every opportunity to avoid me. "But he is hot." She admitted.
"Don't ever let Jen hear you say that." Ashley burst out laughing, surprising no one, because the diner was empty.
So Ashley Hannover was my girlfriend, and I, Aden Nightguard was her boyfriend. Thing is... It's fake. We've been childhood friends from since way back, and I'm pretty sure my life wouldn't be this awesome without her. She's what you can describe as the life of the party. Me? Not so much.
Why a fake relationship you ask? Well, first of all, ever since Ashley hit puberty, a lot of guys have noticed that she's very pretty and very –ahem- well-endowed. (If you don't get it, it just means she's got a huge rack, 'kay?) Random guys would start hitting on her all the time, (they still do) and she'd get pissed.
Did I forget to mention that I was gay? Guess I did, huh... A closet gay or something like that? No one other than Ashley knows, and I want to keep it that way. 'Dating' Ashley keeps people from asking questions.
Did I forget to mention that Ashley was gay, too? Lesbian? Is there even a difference?
"Good job, Mr. Night." Mrs. Ally raised her eyebrows at me, clearly impressed that I managed to pass up all three papers. She didn't have to be that surprised, I do get my work done. She walked back down to her desk after collecting all our papers, and stuffed them neatly into her bag.
"I'll be grading these over the weekend," she announced to the class, sitting on the edge of her desk. "And relax; these don't really have any effect on your final grade even if you get a low score. Take a breather, geez, guys. You're starting to make me feel claustrophobic." A few of us laughed at her lame joke, but I could feel a weight lifted off of the class. Some people took this too seriously.
"And since next week is a holiday," She paused to smile at us. Many of us groaned inwardly. We could already hear the word 'homework' before she even said it. "I want a story."
Huh? Everyone stared at our teacher with weird and confused expressions. She just laughed it off and continued talking.
"I want a two-thousand word story, in your own handwriting," All of us gapped at her. Was she being serious? "Of course, you can always go the extra mile and write more. Swearing is allowed, to a certain degree, but absolutely no inappropriate scenes, Sean." Everyone laughed and turned to look at him as he shuffled uncomfortably in his seat.
Poor dude. We had an assignment a few weeks back where we had to go back and describe the first thing we saw at a pond side. He misheard it as 'porn site'.
"Doesn't matter what it's about, romance, nonfiction, comedy, science-fiction, I don't mind any plot. But if I can't read your handwriting, I'll make you rewrite it. That or I'll fail you, your choice." Like hell it was our choice. "I'll want your final copies next Monday, and," Mrs. Ally smirks again. "This counts to 30% of your grade." She starts laughing as everyone starts panicking and looking around with wide eyes. Including me.
"Don't worry, just keep in mind that this is a story, and not an essay. I'll be grading it based on the way you write, and not on facts that you note down on the paper. Of course, I always appreciate little facts that I don't know about, and they have to be legitimate. I like your creativity, but don't get too carried away, alright?" Another ripple of laugh goes through out class, calming us down a bit.
"Think about what you would like to read. Maybe write out one part and re-read it. If you don't like what you wrote, or you found it boring, you know something's gone wrong. Maybe even get someone to read it for you. Get their opinion."
Mrs. Ally gave us a few more pointers, stuff like 'read more books'. To be honest, I'm not really worried about the story. The only thing I worry about is if she makes a connection.
"And one last thing," I snap back into attention at the word 'last'. "I'll be putting up the work of one of the stories that most caught my attention to the Keral Paper, and don't worry; I'll put it up under someone anonymous, or a pen name, if you want." A buzz went through the class, and even I couldn't help but be interested.
The Keral Paper was our state's most read magazine. They featured the works of international bestselling authors that have personally written them a piece. You'd grow big just having a small column in that magazine.
"No shouting in class, Jared."
"I wasn't shouting. How'd you managed to get a page on the Keral Paper? That's friggin' amazing!" Mrs. Ally frowned at his choice of words, but she didn't say anything about it.
"It's a secret."
Protests rose quickly at the fact that our teacher didn't want to tell us anything. Even I joined in.
"Oh, oops, there goes the bell. Well, I'll see you next week." She sang as she grabbed her bag.
"There wasn't any bell!" Jared exclaimed, stopping Mrs. Ally in her tracks. She looked to him and smirks.
"I know." She laughed evilly as she walked out of the class, leaving her students stunned.
"Guess its kinda fun to have Mrs. Ally as our teacher." Jared commented, picking up his bag as was the rest of us. No one responded, but everyone was thinking it too.
"An effin' story? What? She training you guys to be international book writers or something?" Ashley asked, her eyebrows going way up.
"Authors. They're called authors." I corrected her, taking a bit of my burger.
"Don't give a shit. You can't even sit still for 5 minutes, how do you expect to do that for the whole book?" Ashley dipped her nacho into the salsa sauce, stuffing the whole thing into her mouth. "I mean, how did you even become an honour student anyways?" She complained, stuffing another nacho into her mouth.
"I'm just that good." Ashley burst out laughing at my answer, making me smile because nacho bits come flying out of her mouth.
"Oh crap." She covers her mouth, her cheeks blushing pink, and wipes up the table with a napkin.
"You need anything, Ash?" Sarah, the waitress and daughter of the owner Alexi's Palace, asked, peeping out from the kitchen door. Ashley gave her a little dismissive wave. "You sure, babe?" A thumbs up this time. "Alright, just holler if you need anything, Aden."
"Thanks, Sarah." I call out as she goes back into the kitchen, most probably to prepare her own lunch. Because this place was as deserted as it'll ever get on a Friday night. I drop my voice as I whisper to Ashley. "She so has a crush on you." I tease her, laughing as she blushes even more.
Sarah is absolutely, a hundred percent straight and also updated on our situations, which made this diner the only place where we could actually be ourselves. Not 'Aden and Ashley', the childhood sweethearts, but just plain Aden and Ashley.
"You know she doesn't." I laugh again. "Besides," Ashley sneaks a glance at the kitchen doors. "She's straight and has a boyfriend. Or either the dude who picks her up every day is her bother. They dress up too similarly to tell."
"Ouch." I wince at Ashley's harsh comment. Didn't mean I didn't agree with her, though. Sarah is a hardcore Goth, with so many piercings I'm afraid to even ask. The only colour I've ever seen her wear is Alexi's Palace's red apron.
She spooked us real bad when we first walked in a year ago, but the moment she started talking, we warmed up to her like a fireplace. We've been coming here ever since then.