disclaimer: adventure time, wikipedia, vans, the simpsons, say yes to the dress, and anything else that is not mine, are clearly not mine. i own nothing but a laptop and a small brain.

"God," I say, my head tilted up to the ceiling and hands on my hips, lips pinched and looking slightly miserable, "Smite me now. Please."

Fourteen seconds later, when He does not, I fall back onto my bed, twisting my head so I can screech into the comforter.


"What in the world?!" yells back Mr. Kennedy, 47, profession gardener to any and every rich snob up in the Hamptons. He's the next-door neighbour, and, coincidentally, me trying to get electrocuted by lightning has a lot to do with his son. "Kid, get over here."

It takes me all of ten seconds to realize he's talking to me. I slowly get up off my bed and drag my feet over to the window, looking downwards into one of their huge ground level windows. There's a tree right in between him and me, but from what I can see, his eyes are amused and his mouth lies in an uneven grimacing line.

"Yes, sir?"

"What's got your panties in a knot?"

"Nothing, sir." I reply, eyebrows raised high on my nervous face.

"Then don't disrupt my gardening. My flowers are very sensitive and here you are breaking their eardrums." He sighs dramatically and then closes the window, and I realize that, yes, he's been gardening. There's this one section of their sitting room dedicated to plants and vines and flowers and cacti. From the outside it looks like a jungle. From the inside, it doesn't look much different.

In any case- my problem? Chace Kennedy. He plays on the basketball team, a sport which I know next to nothing about but have about four tabs opened on my laptop dedicated to learning about. He also has unbelievably dark eyes that swallow you up like a blackhole, and really nice hair. Really nice hair is vital to getting you somewhere in the world, I'm sure of it. Okay, the problem isn't really Chace. But it sort of is.

I've always been good at avoiding embarrassing situations. I get awful second-hand embarrassment just watching characters on TV go through awkward humiliating scenarios, and I've perfected a guideline to avoiding any and all of these scenarios. My high school life has thus far been mundane, normal, and, best of all, just about invisible. I tend to have a motor mouth, but as long as it stops at landing me the title The-Girl-Who-Talks-A-Lot, I let it run.

Except even when you have a no-nonsense, perfectly viable guideline, sometimes you stray a little. Or a lot.

It started somewhere along the lines of me going to his latest game, to be a good neighbour and friend. That, and to ogle his infinite beauty. While I was caught up in the moment, I turned to Jenn and my mouth shot off on its own completely. I like to think I'm level-headed and more focussed on school work than on boys. Chace Kennedy is not a boy. He is a man. So while I rambled on about how wonderful and great and helpful he is with math and how good he looks even when he's sweaty and out of breath (as he was at that particular moment, still not completely sure why. I'm sure Wikipedia will explain this to me if I read farther down.), I neglected to check my surroundings. To be fair, before I sound completely deranged, I've figured from watching billions of movies and reading hundreds of books that the number one rule to avoiding an embarrassing situation is really just to analyze your surroundings and ensure there's no one you can embarrass yourself in front of, and nothing you can possibly run into, at, trip over, or otherwise also completely humiliate yourself over.

I forgot my number one rule, and the result was that Chace Kennedy's mother and sister, sitting right in my blind spot, got to hear their neighbour's daughter run her mouth out to the mountains about their son and brother. It wouldn't have been so bad if I'd just stopped at, "Hey, you know Chace? My neighbour? #10? Isn't he great at basketball?"

No, with Jenn, you have to give her details. And if she hadn't known my infatuation and how much I fancy Chace before, I made sure of it.

"Hey, you know Chace? My neighbour? #10? Isn't he great at basketball? Jesus Christ, he's mad attractive. Do you see those forearms? Look at them. And he helped me with my math homework last night since I sort of cut class and he's so fucking smart, Jenny, is there no end to his perfection?"

Four minutes later, after I was thoroughly out of breath and Jenn had finished responding with a resounding echo of my own statements, I turned my head ninety degrees to see Chace's mother Caroline and his thirteen-year-old sister Tess staring a hole into me. If they had been sitting across the room, I could have passed it off as Tess pointing me out to her mother like Hey mom that's our neighbour!

They were a good two feet away and my mind just folded in on itself and I combusted spontaneously. Or so I wish. Instead, according to Jenn (because I'm not quite sure what happened at all), I fell right off my seat and the side of my head acquainted itself with the seat in front of me. That didn't really help my case.

Tess Kennedy has cute curls, expensive boots, and is the devil. She's also best friends with my kid brother Gordon, so sooner or later I can expect him to stomp up the stairs and laugh hysterically at both the burning bruise on the side of my head and the fact that half Chace's family know I fancy the pants off him. Re-living the experience makes me want to ram my head into the wall. That could be a little counter-productive considering I'm already injured. Also, unfortunately, my mother is in the room next door, and this would result in an hour-long lecture on why I shouldn't run head-first into the wall, because it will a) damage the wall and possibly the furniture should I rebound off the wall, and money shouldn't be thrown around carelessly just because I wrecked something in my upset rampage, and b) I might get a concussion, but that's unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

I moan. My phone lights up and vibrates around a little. A text message from Jenn greets me when I pluck my phone up.

Hey, how's the head? Chace hopes you get better soon.

Ha. Ha. This isn't funny at all. Jennifer Zhang is not only a gossip, she is also a traitor. I make note to demote her from best-friendship to dog poop. I text her back with the speed of Usain Bolt.


Eloquent and straight-forward, just the way I roll.

Just worried about you babe ;)


No reply comes after that and I grin at my short-lived victory. Then I hear talking outside my open window and peek over the sill. Mrs. Kennedy, 44, profession author, is talking to my mother, 45, profession businesswoman (or something). As if it isn't enough that she's cohorting with the enemy, she's agreeing to something. Food. No, dinner. Dinner together. At the Kennedy household. Tomorrow.

Dinner with Chace and Tess Kennedy.

Hello humiliation, how do you do? We're getting cozy in the next two days.

I stand back up, straight, and stare up at the white popcorn ceiling. Half a minute passes, and there is not even the slightest hint of any sort of smiting. Pity me.

Going to the neighbour's for dinner means dressing properly, and, as if I don't know how to dress myself, mom set my clothes on my bed for me to wear. Black tights, a maroon dress and a cardigan. Luckily for me, mom knows how to clothing. Unfortunately, Gordon has not inherited her ability to clothing half as well as I have. The utter shock of the other day's complete embarrassment has rendered me slightly incapable of stringing proper sentences together. How do you clothing?

I kid. I wish I were incapable of speaking properly at the moment, though; maybe mom would let me stay home. I slip everything on and marvel at how good I look in the mirror, un-tangling knots of dark hair that have collected over the day.

"Marley, let's go. Lips off the mirror!"

I groan. I love my mother, except for when she speaks.

"Coming," I squeak. Gordon Canmore, 13, profession stupid student and unfortunate little brother, has somehow been cleaned up by my mother. Gone are his baggy sweater and worn sneakers, and in their place, a dress shirt, bow-tie, and the Vans I bought him for his last birthday. I guess I lied about the sneakers, they're tearing at the toes. We sneer at each other.

"I don't get why we have to look nice. Mr. Hart sees dad in his bathrobe every morning." I wrinkled my nose distastefully as I finish the sentence.

"Social protocol, Marls, get it right," Gordon murmurs sarcastically. He's gotten over the bow-tie, which he's been tugging at for the past ten minutes, and has settled gracefully into the bitter realization that he won't be getting out of the dress shirt or the bow-tie any time soon. Mom shoots us both a nasty look and smacks us each on the arm before pointing out the door.

The dreadful journey seems far too short. Gordon has the honour of knocking. The door opens. We step in and shuck off our shoes. Chace is in a dress shirt and a woolly attractive man-cardigan. He could probably wear a garbage can and look attractive. I fight drool and look down a fraction, meeting Tess' eyes. We grimace at each other.

Dinner at the Kennedy's actually isn't all that formal. Aside from us having to dress up, it really is just grabbing a plate of food and sinking onto the couch to watch TV while the adults converse at the table. Gordon and Tess are both absolutely sucked into an episode of Adventure Time and at this point Chace and I are usually talking, either about school or people or music. Instead, as soon as we catch each other's eye, we whip our heads in opposite directions so quickly that I'm shocked neither of us have gotten whiplash.

I nearly opt to go join the adults at the table when I hear Chace clear his throat.

"So I heard-" he begins, and filled with dread I interrupt,

"There's a cat on the window!"

As luck would have it, that's Rudy. My cat. He is well-acquainted with the Kennedy family. Tess and Gordon lift their eyes from the screen to grant me the honour of being snickered at, and my face and ears burn red. Of course I can't be smooth. I have about a million rules floating around in my head on how to handle a situation like this, but instead I'm Marley Canmore, profession part-timer at the frozen yogurt shop at the mall and whose motor-mouth spouts out her vast affection for her neighbour to her best friend and the rest of the world, but cannot put two sentences together properly when Chace is around.

A smile creeps onto Chace's face. "Okay, Marley."

The thing with Chace is he has the biggest, best sense of humour. And we get along. He laughs at my pitiable jokes (What does a nosy pepper do? It gets jalapeno business.) and I think he's hilarious. And attractive. But we've already been through that. Clearly. The fear of him rejecting me and thinking this is all a huge joke almost overshadows how embarrassing this is, which I hardly thought possible.

Rudy, feeling neglected, drifts off the window and weaves himself around my legs. I awkwardly duck down to stroke him, attempting pathetically to hide my flushed face.

A rustle of clothing has me looking up at Tess and Gordon, who have gotten up and are making their way out of the sitting room.

"Where're you going?" Chace asks, though we both know he could care less where they go.


"It's cold," we respond simultaneously, and we both look at each other. I take my eyes off him and place them on Gordon, twisting my mouth to the side. "Wear a jacket."

"I'm not stupid, Marls," Gordon shoots back, rolling his eyes. I remember when he was nine and had no idea how to talk back. But alas, here he stands, his jeans inching their way down and what had been neatly-combed hair now a scruffy disarray of light brown hair.

Before they leave, however, Tess feels the need to tug me down and whisper into my ear.

"Go for the under-the-eyelashes approach. Works every time," she says smugly, then flits out the door after Gordon.

I look at Chace. He looks at me. I motion my hand to the couch, and he sits with me. I blow out a breath, mentally preparing myself. How do I word this?

Do I say, So Tess overheard me saying that you're really super attractive and I'm completely hot or you, and I was wondering if she told you. Or do I go with something like, So what's up? Anything new? Anything remotely humiliating on my end? Anything that will make me want to bury myself ten feet under the ground? Or maybe something else, like Spare me the embarrassment, please, and just start laughing now.? Oh, the possibilities.

While I contemplate what to say, I vaguely note in the back of my head that Chace is closer now than he was two minutes ago. He picks up the remote and flicks on the TV, and we watch half an exhilarating episode of The Simpsons before I snatch the remote from him and turn it to TLC. Ah, TLC. My guilty pleasure, my baby. Say Yes to the Dress is on, and momentarily forgetting my dilemma, I could not possibly be any more excited.

"Yes!" I crow. Chace groans, but really, I could care less. This show is the baby elephant to my mother elephant. He mutters something under his breath and I shoot him a look, to which he breathes a laugh. The couch on my right side sinks a little more with his weight, and my brow furrows when I notice what little space is left between us on the roomy couch. The night goes by without a hitch, and it is when my shoes are back on and we are making our way back home that I realize I've left the issue with Chace Kennedy unresolved.

Jenn is squealing on the other side of the phone about her new boyfriend Cameron Tucker, whom she is incredibly in love with since yesterday. We've been on the line for nearly an hour and a half now, and she's spent the entire time telling me everything I will never need to know about Cam Tucker. His birthday is the thirteenth of June, he plays lacrosse, his middle name is Jeremiah, he is half French, his little brother's name is Carl, and his favourite number is 11. The list goes on, but that's really all I've gotten.

"Jenn," I say finally. "I love you, but if you say any more I will castrate your boyfriend."

She squawks and goes silent for a millisecond. "Fine. Okay. Fine." We descend into the usual five seconds of angry silence before she bursts out, "How did it go with Chace?"

I thought she would never ask.

"I did nothing. He did nothing. We did nothing. This might actually be a good thing, since I really don't want to be utterly humiliated," I say cheerfully.

"Oh, Marls. You're pathetic," Jenn says maternally.


"I'm serious, you have to talk to him. you're gonna be humiliated either way, so take the faster way out."

Jenn always has the best advice. I let out a big groan before agreeing and turning off the phone. No time like the present! Chace's bedroom window is across from mine (as luck would have it, once again), convenient for spying on him. Not that I do, I mean. Because I don't. God.

His window is open, his blinds rocking with the breeze, and I slam my own window open. Stupid kid, leaving his window open in the middle of January. The chill must bring down the weather to a ripe -17, and yet he's completely oblivious to it. Right underneath both our windows is a small protrusion of building, set with roof tiles but completely unnecessary. I've never tried going out onto mine, but I assume it would make sneaking out ridiculously easy, hopping from the protrusion to the tree and then climbing down onto the ground. Goosebumps erupt over my exposed skin and I'm glad for the heavy oversized sweatshirt I've got on.

"Chace?" I say timidly, then repeat myself more loudly. There is no answer. Okay. Well, I tried. I close my window and lean against the cold glass and condemn myself to a life of unhappiness. Hardly a minute later, a sharp tap against my window has me whipping around.

Chace grins at me, knees on the tiles and one hand flat against my window. He gestures to it and takes his hand off, and I whip it open.

"What the hell, Chace?"

"You called?"

"Um- yeah, I guess. I just," I pause. "Do you want to come in? It's sort of freezing and you're in a t-shirt."

He laughs and his feet are the first to come in, followed by long legs and a sturdy torso. His head comes last, set with an uneven smirk. He closes the window and slides down onto the floor, and I perch on my bed, back stiff. His dark eyes are expectant.

"I, um, I was just wondering if Tess has told you anything lately."

His eyes take on an amused glint, opening up a little more in good humour. "She tells me loads of things, Marley."

"Um, something I said. About something." I bite my lip. I sounded so sure of myself in my head. The execution leaves something to be desired.

He shrugs, shoulders lifting with a grace I'm jealous of. The glint in his eyes turns wicked as he fights off an obvious smile. I swear I will throw him out my window if he is teasing me. Then again, it's what he does best.

Impatient, I push on. The Cliff of Rejection waits with open arms. I get ready to purchase a plot to dig myself into, over the cliff and down the ravine, among all the other moaning groaning rejects. "It was about you, I mean. I said something about you."

"Yeah? I think she said something, but I can't really recall."

It's an opening for me to swoop in bravely and tell him exactly what I think, but I can hardly stand the teasing lilt of his voice and the deeply entertained look on his face. It makes me even angrier that he manages to look good as he does it. Jesus. I look at him sullenly and shake my head.

"Never mind, guess it wasn't that big of a deal anyways." The Cliff of Rejection will have to wait another day (or nineteen). I'll have nothing news-worthy to report to Jenn, but it's better than being teased like this. I tuck dark hair behind my ears before getting ready to get up and show him the door. Or window, I guess.

"Marley, I'm playing. Sit," he says. I sink two inches back down onto my bed, knees bent and pressing into the blanket, and he unfolds his legs and comes closer to loom over me. I look up at him and shake my head.

"It wasn't important anyways," I say stubbornly. The fact that he isn't guffawing at me and making a big joke of my feelings for him is probably a good sign, but the way he's waving it in front of me- because I'm sure as hell he knows- is making me feel nauseous.

"Please," he says, softly now, as if speaking to Rudy. I take a deep breath.

"Do you really want to know?" I hear myself saying, looking at him underneath my eyelashes. He swallows thickly and nods, a little distracted. I guess Tess is dependable after all. I open my mouth and nothing comes out, and I close it, flustered. Half a minute passes with me stuttering and just on the cusp of speaking, and his mouth stretches slowly into a grin. Finally, I give up and tug Chace Kennedy's stupid smiling mouth onto mine. His lips are sort of chapped but warm on mine, and I wonder in the back of my head if our noses are supposed to be smushed like they are.

A beat passes and I let go of him when I realize I'm still gripping his shirt collar, but besides an emptiness beneath his face, nothing changes. He nips at me and I pull back so fast I'm surprised my head hasn't made contact with the wall a foot behind me. I'm absolutely sure my face is pink as a baby bum, and he looks a little dazed.

"That's- um, that's basically what I said. Paraphrased. I think."

Chace licks his lips, a corner of his mouth lifted high up in a content smile. "Yeah. My mom told me after the game, but I sorta wanted to hear it from you."


"Yeah, so I could tell it to you back." My mouth drops a little and I stare at him with bulging eyes, I'm sure. His cheeks are a little flushed, and he looks everywhere but at me.

"C...can you tell me again?" I ask slowly. His eyes dart back to mine and the big blackholes light up and he grins so big, his mouth eats up the rest of his face. His knees make contact with the floor and for a while, all we do is tell each other what there is to say. I guess the Cliff of Rejection is going to have to make do with a vacancy; I don't think I'll be digging myself a plot there for a while.

a slightly less pathetic second attempt at a poorly done one-shot i wrote ages ago. thank you for bearing with me.

6 jan, 2013