Can't say I was never wrong
But some blame rests on you
Work and play they're never okay
To mix the way we do
"Work" by Jimmy Eat World
The one day I don't wear a sweater, honestly. Rayleigh paced next to the fence rubbing her hands over her arms in an attempt to keep herself warm. It didn't work, of course; that just would have been too easy, wouldn't it?
So she settled for muttering about the dumbass county policy for a fire drill once every month, her dumbass principal for making the dumbass fire drill when she was heading to class on the other side of the dumbass school from her locker (and jacket) and her dumbass self for wearing a zip-up hoodie instead of her usual knit sweaters. Oh, let's not forget the dumbass weatherman who said it would be in the mid-sixties.
"Mid sixties my ass. It's fucking forty degrees out here," she grumbled to herself as a powerful gust of wind sent her hair flying in a thousand different directions.
How could she ever leave out the dumbass wind fucking up her dumbass hair?
She managed to wrestle most of her curly hair into a hair-tie, but some of the shorter strands she tucked behind her ear, which took just enough time to make goosebumps raise on her upper arms. She resumed her warm-up dance, which she figured looked somewhat like one of those cool tribal dances, but significantly less cool.
It was a good thing she came out of the door that people hardly use, because whatever she was doing was most likely extremely unattractive. And of course, in the times she would act like a idiot, a hot guy would walk up to her.
"Hi," she greeted, her teeth chattering loudly.
He nodded his head back. "Do you want my jacket? You look like you're freezing." Before she even had a chance to answer, he took off his jacket and handed it to her. Without hesitation, she graciously accepted the garment and slipped it on. Immediately feeling the warm letterman jacket heat her up, she let out a contented sigh.
With a shrug, he said, "No problem." After a beat of silence, he added, "I'm Alex, by the way."
"I know. You're in my AP Lit class, and even if you weren't, everyone in school knows your name, mister sports star." She gave a lighthearted eye roll at the end of her sentence and gestured to the jacket she was wearing. "I'm Rayleigh, by the way, it's nice to meet you."
She held out her hand for him to shake, but the sleeves were a tad long, and completely covered her hand. "You know what, never mind."
"It's good to meet you, too, Rayleigh," he said with a laugh. "That's a cool name, by the way."
"Why thank you," said Rayleigh, taking a mock bow, "I've had it all my life."
A particularly strong gust of wind blew by the two, almost knocking Rayleigh off her feet. Alex reached out to steady her.
"You cool?" he asked, his hand still on her shoulder.
If it wasn't for him being so close, she would have said yes, but she was too entranced by the discovery that Alex Laymen had really, really pretty light gray-blue eyes and settled for a nod.
He released her and leaned back against the fence, crossing his arms. Well, hello biceps.
"What?" she asked, only catching his last two words. "Sorry, blanked out for a second there."
"What d'you think: drill or real?" he repeated with a small chuckle.
Rayleigh shrugged, mirroring his crossed arms. "Dunno, but I'm kind of hoping it's real, because it's cold as balls out here, so some heat would be nice."
"Did you just use the term 'cold as balls?'" Alex questioned with a slightly incredulous tone.
"Well I can't very well say that it's hot as balls, now can I?" She turned to him with a serious expression. "Which, of course, begs the question: how can balls be so hot and so cold at the same time?"
"That is probably the most enigmatic question I've ever heard," he told her after a moment's consideration.
She nodded knowingly. "Isn't it though?"
They fell into a contemplative silence for a few moments. Just as Rayleigh was going to open her mouth and say something about his Weezer t-shirt, Alex spoke. "Where the hell did that saying even come from then?"
For a second, Rayleigh was confused as to what he was talking about, but then she started laughing. "It's like all other sayings, I suppose. None of them make any logical sense whatsoever, and yet, people use 'em like water."
Alex opened his mouth to reply, but their principal's voice on the PA cut him off, and he let out an annoyed groan instead.
"That was a well-done fire drill guys," the principal said, her voice ringing though the sound system loudly. "Go straight to your fourth-period classes. I should see no more people dilly-dallying in the hallways. Yes, Mr. Dougal,that means you."
Rayleigh rolled her eyes. She didn't want to go back in yet, in spite of the fact that she found it cold enough to be compared to balls.
"Who in the hell would decide to have a fire drill right in the middle of the entire student body changing classes?" she muttered angrily under her breath. Fire drills never lasted long, and even though it was chilly, she was having a nice conversation with a cute guy. Damn end-of-fire-drills.
"Considering our principal, I'd say that's a pretty fair assumption."
"Well," Alex said in a deadpan, gazing at the school with as much distaste as she was feeling. "I guess we should get to class."
They strolled back to the building together in silence. When they got to the double door to the entrance, Rayleigh took off Alex's jacket and handed it back to him, trying to ignore the coldness that over-swept her body.
"Thanks for the jacket again, Alex. I'll see you around."
And with that, she strolled calmly to her next class with just a ghost of a smile on her face.
Alex stood up from his chair and exited his office feeling— and looking— like he was in some sort of trance. He needed a drink. Hell, he always needed a drink when she was involved, which, he had to admit, was a lot more often than he would have liked.
But alas, it was nine in the morning and he was at work, so coffee would just have to do.
Once he finished brewing the pot of coffee (because of course his co-workers couldn't be bothered to fill up the freaking pot once they finished it) and pouring the steaming liquid into his coffee mug, he held it for a few seconds, just staring at it.
It couldn't have been her. The last time he saw her was seven years ago at graduation, and she had just finished breaking his heart. She was going to Colorado, while he decided New York University would be nice. Of course, distance wasn't their only problem; they had been heading toward a break-up anyway, but living on opposite sides of the country made it so final. Even more so than their last conversation.
No, definitely not her. Anyone could have dark red hair. It'd probably be dyed, unlike Rayleigh's locks, but still red nevertheless. Plus, Rayleigh's hair was curly, the girl he saw had straight hair.
It's possible to straighten hair, he thought optimistically. The logical side of his brain, however, shot down that motion. Last time he checked, she was still writing for the Denver Herald, though, he hadn't tortured himself into reading any of his ex's articles for a few months now.
God, he was pathetic. Seven years and he still couldn't completely forget about her.
"So," a voice started conversationally. Alex's blood ran cold. Or hot. Or maybe his heart stopped beating. He didn't know, and it didn't matter to him. He knew that voice. He had just spent the last ten minutes convincing himself that the owner of it would never and could never be in the same building as him. "Are you gonna drink that, or gaze intently until it tells you the meaning of life?"
Slowly, he lifted his gaze from his coffee to the woman talking to him. He almost dropped the cup, but managed to keep both slightly shaking hands firmly around it.
So his mind wasn't playing cruel tricks on him. Was that a good or a bad thing? He didn't know. But there she was, Rayleigh Cavanaugh, in all of her wretched beauty: his ex-girlfriend, first (and probably only) love, and the biggest reminder of how much of an idiot he was.
"Don't mind him, he's practically mute," another voice told her snidely. Derek Dickhead walked through the lounge door and leaned up against the frame.
Half of Alex wanted to throttle him more than usual. The other half of Alex wanted to drop to his knees and thank him for bringing him out of Rayleigh-land.
"Hey," Alex said to Rayleigh, choosing to ignore Derek. They stared at each other for a second before she greeted him back.
"Hi." The corner of her lip quirked upwards ever-so-slightly in a shy kind of manner Alex would have never associated with her.
"Raleigh here is writing that new fashion column," Derek interrupted.
What new fashion column?
"It's Ray-leigh," she corrected, snapping her head in his direction to glare. Alex held back a smile; it was his first sighting of the infamous Rayleigh temper in years.
"Yeah, okay." Derek stepped toward the pair and reached in-between them to get a croissant. Either he was oblivious to the fact that they were having a very uncomfortable meeting-of-the-exes and would like to be left alone, thank you very much, or he simply didn't care. "This is—"
"Alex Laymen," Rayleigh supplied. "I know."
"You two know each other?" Derek asked with a mouthful of food, wagging a finger between them.
"Yeah, we, uh— we went to high school together," Alex explained, not taking his eyes off Rayleigh.
Taking another bite of his breakfast, Derek turned on his heel and walked toward the door. "When you're done with your reunion shit, you know where to find me or whatever."
And then there were two.
Alex took the ongoing silence as a chance to put down his mug, not trusting himself to hold onto it any longer.
"It's been a long time, Alex, how've you been?"
He didn't know how to answer that question. Truthfully, he was fine until he saw her, but how bad did that sound? After a quick second of deliberation, he settled with a shrug. Then, without thinking, he added, "So I see you've met Derek Dickhead." Clearly, she still had the power to make his speech filter non-existent.
Rayleigh looked highly amused. She crossed her arms over her chest and raised her pierced eyebrow. He wanted to stare at both, but settled for looking into her dark green eyes instead. Not exactly what he'd call a bad trade-off.
"Did you just call Derek Delaney 'Derek Dickhead?'"
Alex scratched the back of his head, not knowing how to get out of his current situation."Well—I—I mean… if the shoe fits."
She didn't try to hide her grin at that, and even started to chuckle. "Wow, Alex Laymen openly saying bad things about someone. Shocking."
"I don't say it to his face," he told her. In fact, he'd never even spoken of the nickname to anyone else.
Rayleigh shook her head, as if disappointed in him. He didn't miss the glint in her eye the made him assume that she would be calling him by the same name, and wouldn't be sorry if the man in question heard it.
"You look good," he blurted out and only just restrained himself from slapping his hand on his forehead. It wasn't because he was lying. Actually, 'good' didn't even begin to cover it. She was just as stunning as he remembered, maybe even more so, but he officially thrust them into the cliched scenario of exes making small talk.
Honestly though, if he was expecting not to get tongue-tied around Rayleigh Cavanaugh, he was kidding himself in the worst way.
However, the beautiful grin plastered on her face when she thanked him made it seem not so bad.
A/N: Just to clarify, the first part of every chapter (which will always be italicized) is them back in high school, and the second part (which will always be normal) is them in the present day.