"How about her?" Jules asked, pointing towards a pretty black girl in a t shirt with a goofy skeleton on it. "She's got legs up to my eyeballs and I think I just saw her looking over here." Rhys and Jules were sitting in the food court at the mall sipping Tim Hortons coffee and 'scoping out chicks', as Jules put it. It wasn't really Rhys' first choice of ways to spend a Friday afternoon, but with his new resolve to fix this 'friend zone' thing he thought he really shouldn't turn his nose up at anything that Jules thought was important. So, when she'd ambushed him after class and told him they needed to do some 'work' before Kyle's party on Saturday, he had reluctantly cancelled his plans to go to the movies with Derek and some other guys and gone along with her instead.
He still wasn't entirely clear on how 'scoping out chicks' would help him with Katherine, though. He was getting very suspicious that Jules was actually the one who wanted to do some scoping.
"You're not looking," Jules complained, "Take a look at this girl before she notices me staring at her and gets all creeped out."
Sighing, Rhys did as he was told and investigated the girl who apparently had legs up to Jules' eyeballs. She certainly was pretty, with full lips, straight dark hair with a red streak in it, and tight jeans and a black babydoll t shirt. She also clearly had a lot of piercings, in her ears and in her eyebrow, which intimidated him a little bit. "I dunno… the punk types always seem to be bored with me."
"You do look a little clean-cut and boring," Jules agreed.
Rhys snorted, "Thanks,"
"But you've got me here to cool up your image, and anyway she likes Social Distortion so she must be alright!"
Jules groaned loudly and threw up her hands in aggravation. "We really need to introduce you to some decent music. And you're probably right about the punk girl, she'd have no use for you."
Rhys was getting used to Jules' casual insults. He knew she didn't mean them that way and it was too much trouble getting offended about it. "Is this all we're going to do today? Scope out girls that will probably never talk to me?"
"You're way too negative," Jules scolded, "But no, this is not all we're going to do today, not that your flirting techniques couldn't use a lot of work. But I also need to make sure you've got something decent to wear to the party tomorrow."
"Jules!" Rhys mocked, "Are you telling me that you actually obsess over what to wear to a party like a normal girl?"
"Believe it or not, I am actually a girl. And I'm not going to be obsessing over what I'm wearing. But as your love coach I need to tell you that the cute boy-next-door look is probably not your best bet. From what I know of you, you were probably planning on going in a button down shirt or something."
Rhys took a swig from his coffee cup, trying to hide the blush that crept into his cheeks, since that was exactly what he had planned on doing. "I don't see why I have to change my entire style." He mumbled into his cup.
"You don't. You just have to… spice it up a little." Jules explained, emphasizing her words with grand hand gestures, "The way you look now it too… safe."
She had stopped making sense again. "What's wrong with safe? I don't want to scare people."
Jules sighed and rubbed her temples, like Rhys was being purposefully dense. "Haven't you ever done something a little crazy, or a little dangerous, or something you shouldn't be doing and felt that rush? You know, like when you get really drunk in the middle of the night and you and your friends go out and steal a shopping cart and push each other around in it until somebody gets hurt?"
"You sound as if you're speaking from experience."
"And then you feel really exhilarated and kind of high on adrenaline and you think it's a little exciting to be doing something so obviously stupid?"
"I've never really felt the need to injure myself in a shopping cart, if that's what you mean." Rhys said blithely.
"That's not what I mean! I'm talking about a rush, a natural high that gets your blood pumping! Because you can get it from people too, when you're just a little bit scared or worried and that adrenaline gets pumping and your heart beats faster and your fingertips tingle… you want to create that kind of feeling in a girl, and to do that, you have to be just a little bit dangerous. Not so much that they run away screaming, but just a little."
"I'm not really sure how you're going to achieve that," Rhys sighed. "Katherine knows I'm safe. She comes over to my house all the time, she hangs out with my sister and helps herself to my fridge. Are you going to recommend I get a Mohawk and a leather jacket? Maybe take up smoking?"
"Of course not," Jules rolled her eyes, "but are you opposed to getting a tattoo?"
Rhys just about spit his coffee across the table. "You can't be serious!"
"Okay, okay… how about a piercing?"
"What?! Can't you at least consider it? I hear eyebrow piercings don't hurt at all! Or you could get a lip ring. They make kissing really interesting, although your lip might swell and that is not a good look for a party…"
"I am not getting any tattoos or piercings." Rhys said firmly.
"Are you sure? Because I piercing and a nice shirt that shows off just the right amount of muscle… you do have some muscles under that hoodie, don't you? – would give off just the right amount of danger."
Rhys groaned, "Can't we just stick with flirting?"
"Fine," she gave in at last. "Let's go wander around and see if we can find some girls to hit on."
The pair left the food court at last and wandered towards the music store where Jules claimed a lot a girls were sure to be. Figuring she would know, Rhys followed listlessly, allowing his mind to wander until Jules roughly elbowed him in the side.
"Ow! What was that for?" Rhys hissed.
"Hot girl, 11 o'clock," she whispered to him, keeping her head straight. "Catch her eye and smile, but don't look back after she passes."
Rhys barely had time to interpret her words before the girl in question swayed into his sight. She was a tall brunette with heeled boots and a swaying walk. She was arm-in-arm with two of her friends, but it wasn't hard to know which one Jules had meant. The brunette girl seemed to have a presence that made her stand out in a crowd.
Rhys glanced towards her and was surprised when he was actually able to catch her eye. At first when she caught him looking he was stunned and nearly looked away in embarrassment, but he managed to recover in time and gave her the best, nervous smile he could manage.
It nearly floored him when the girl smiled back and turned her head just a bit as she and her friends walked by to look at him a bit longer. Rhys nearly tripped over his own feet. Had a girl that pretty really just given him a flirtatious smile? He would have followed her walk all the way down the aisle until he lost sight of her, had Jules not given his arm a sharp tug.
"That's plenty, lover boy," Jules chuckled. Behind them the girl burst into giggles and Rhys longed to see if they were still looking at him. "Keep your head straight and don't look back," Jules reminded him, "You don't want to look desperate."
It was hard to do as she said. "Did you see that?" He questioned. "She actually smiled at me!"
Jules laughed, "Didn't you believe me when I told you that girls check you out all the time?"
"It's not that I didn't believe you, I'd just never noticed it."
"Well there you go; your first proof. That was very well done. I should reward you with a nipple piercing."
"Ah! Gross, Jules," Rhys scowled, good mood forgotten.
Jules' only response was to laugh heartily at his discomfort. She led the way to the discount music store and immediately got a look on her face like someone had told her she could have all the free chocolate she could eat. "Let's go see what they have in the bargain bin!" she said. And then she pranced off towards the back of the store.
Having nothing else to do, Rhys followed reluctantly. Jules dug eagerly into a pile of CDs tossed carelessly into the bargain bin, all with bright yellow discount stickers on them. Rhys didn't really see anything of value in there at first glance, though Jules was obviously intent on digging all the way to the bottom to see what treasures she could find for only $5.99. Passing over the 'bargains', Rhys idly started flipping through some CDs nearby. He wasn't a huge music geek though, and he downloaded most of what he did listen to, so the place didn't really hold a lot of interest to him. He wandered down the aisles, trying to ignore it as Jules squealed over finding an old Alanis Morissette CD.
"Three bucks!" she called over to Rhys happily, showing it to him. He gave her a thumbs-up and turned back to the CD racks. Seriously, Alanis Morissette? His mother listened to Alanis Morissette. He was so distracted with trying to ignore Jules that he didn't even notice that someone had come over to stand beside him until he nearly stepped into them.
"Oh, sorry," Rhys said immediately, glancing up to see who he had almost run over. His jaw nearly hit the floor when he recognized the pretty girl he'd smiled at earlier. "Ah, hi,"
"Hi," she replied, flashing him a dazzling smile.
Rhys really wasn't sure what to say after that. He was vaguely aware of Jules suddenly and very noticeably ducking behind the bargain bin, the top of her head peeking out so she could spy on him. Seriously, Jules? Rhys thought grumpily, What happened to being 'practically a ninja'?
"Is that girl over there your… girlfriend, or something?" the pretty brunette asked curiously, leaning over to stare at Jules in her hiding spot.
"Jules?" Rhys almost laughed at that, "No way, she's just a friend. Anyway, I'm pretty sure she's a lesbian."
"Oh," Rhys thought she almost looked relieved. "Well, I'm Leah,"
She was introducing herself to him. Rhys had no idea what that meant or what to do. His mind was a total blank. He could see Jules gesturing to him frantically and he scowled. Well, he could at least introduce himself, right? "I'm Rhys,"
"That's a cool name," Leah said with a smile, "Are you into Die Mannequin?"
"Huh?" Rhys looked down to where his hand was still resting on whatever random CD he'd been glancing at. "Oh, nope, never heard of them." Rhys said honestly, inspecting the case more closely. "Unicorn Steak?" he questioned, reading the name of the album. "Interesting. Were you looking for this?" he asked her.
"Not exactly, though they are pretty cool. You should check them out."
Now was the perfect time for him to throw in some light banter to relax the mood, but he couldn't think of anything particularly clever. Should he compliment her eyes or something? Or would that be creepy? He decided to play it safe. "So, any other recommended listening?"
This was the right thing to say, apparently, because Leah immediately went on to tell him about all her favourite bands. Rhys hadn't heard of half of them, but he nodded politely as he listened and managed to make a few comments when Leah mentioned something he did actually know. Maybe Jules was right when she'd said he needed to be introduced to some new music.
"I really like Garbage. Shirley is just so pretty, don't you think?" Leah asked him.
Rhys had no idea what Shirley from Garbage looked like, but he'd replied anyway, "I think you're way prettier." Jules would have been proud. He spared a glance back at her and saw her staring at them so intensely she didn't even notice Rhys looking at her. He didn't bother himself about it, though, because Leah was blushing prettily and he was feeling pretty darn pleased with himself. Screw Jules, he did too know how to flirt. He was going to be fine at the party tomorrow.
It was then that his cell phone started to make an obnoxious noise at him. "Hush, hush!" it growled, followed by a squawky "What Whaaaat!" Rhys jumped and Leah's chatting cut off suddenly while he fumbled around looking for his phone. He had no idea when Jules had found the time to change his test message alert on him, but he didn't have any doubts that it was her. There was a text message waiting for him when he found it. It was from Jules and it simply said: ABORT!
Rhys frowned at it, then turned to frown at Jules. She was making frantic waving motions at him, though Rhys could not figure out why. Was she telling him to stop flirting with Leah? Why would she do that when she had been the one to point her out to him?
"I think you friend wants you attention," Leah pointed out, glancing curiously at Jules.
"No kidding," Rhys sighed, "Sorry about her. She's a bit… weird."
"That's okay, I think it's nice that your so open about having gay friends. It's really cool."
Rhys thought that was a strange thing to compliment someone on, but he let it slide. Jules being gay was not his problem with her; it was her personality that got annoying sometimes. His phone growled at him again, "Hush, hush! What, whaaaat!" A new message now said 'GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, IDIOT!'
Jules obviously wasn't about to give up, so he stuffed his phone back into his pocket and gave Leah an apologetic look, "Sorry, looks like I have to take off. It was nice meeting you though, Leah."
"Yeah, you too, Rhys," she said, watching as he went to collect Jules and let her practically drag him out of the store. Rhys stubbornly kept his mouth shut until they were well out of earshot of Leah before he exploded on Jules.
"Okay, what the hell was that about?"
"Holy crap Rhys, I am so sorry," Jules gasped, surprising the hell out of Rhys. The last thing he'd expected her to be was apologetic. "Do you have any idea who that girl was?"
"Um… Leah?" Rhys guessed.
"Not just any Leah! Leah Winchester."
Rhys stared at her blankly, "Am I supposed to know who that is?"
"She goes to Southshore and she's the most infamous crazy-psycho-stalker-maneating bitch in the city! How can you not have heard of her?"
"She's what?" Rhys laughed, "She seemed perfectly nice."
"That's how they get you!" Jules gasped, "She seems nice at first, but then she starts calling you all the time, asking you to go places with her or coming over unannounced. And then she starts harassing anyone who talks to you, she stalks you and spies on your emails and sends threatening notes to your exes! Before you know it, she's planning your wedding and threatening to kill herself if you ever leave her! Rhys, you cannot get involved with her!"
"Obviously I don't want to get involved with her," Rhys pointed out, "I'm after Katherine."
"It may already be too late," Jules said, nervously chewing her fingernails. "If she's set her sights on you we could have some big trouble."
Rhys rolled his eyes; Jules certainly did have a flair for the dramatic. "How do you know all this anyway?"
"Something was nagging me about her, so I snapped a picture and sent it to Alex. He confirmed my worst fears: Leah Winchester is major BBC."
"Bitches Be Crazy, Rhys!" Jules explained breathlessly, "And Leah Winchester be the craziest of them all!"
Rhys sighed and pushed past Jules to continue walking. He wasn't sure where he was going, but he knew he didn't want to just stand around in the aisle of the mall blocking traffic. Jules reluctantly followed him, but she was still worked up. "Look," Rhys said, trying to calm her down, "You said she goes to Southshore, right? So I'll probably never see her again and she'll forget all about me and put her BBC claws into some other guy. Relax."
Jules stared at him, wide-eyed for a long time before she finally nodded her head, "Maybe you're right. There's no need to panic yet. It was just a short conversation in the music store. She's probably met half a dozen guys today who could take her interest. Panic is an overreaction."
"I'll say," Rhys rolled his eyes. "Can we leave now?"
"What? Leave? No way, we still haven't actually done any shopping. And you still need to get a piercing."
"I already said no piercings! My mom has scared me with stories about the kinds of diseases you can pick up from those places all my life. If I came home with one she'd flip!"
"Oh come on!" Jules whined, her panic attack from moments before all but forgotten. "I know the guy who runs the cleanest shop in town! There's no way you'd get Hepatitis from him!"
"If you get a nipple ring I'll pay for it!"
"Or what about a Prince Albert? Then when you tell Katherine you got a piercing and she asks to see it, you can just whip it out-"
"Argh! Seriously, Jules?!" Rhys gave her a light shove while she laughed at his red face.
He and Jules continued their shopping excursion without further incident, crazy Leah Winchester all but forgotten.
Rhys was surprised to learn that Kyle lived only a few blocks away from his house. He would be able to walk there within ten minutes, which was fine with him because it meant he didn't have to worry about finding a ride home after a night of drunken debauchery. Derek, Jules, Jake and Alex had all agreed – without his consent – to meet up at his house and leave their cars there so they could all walk to the party together. Rhys had a sneaking suspicion that they also intended on crashing there if they didn't feel like getting themselves all the way home. Jake had been designated the driver for afterwards, but from the way they all talked about how trashed they were going to get, Rhys thought he had no intention of sticking to that.
Thankfully his mom had been more than understanding when he explained that a gaggle of rowdy teenagers might invade their home in the middle of the night and pass out on the furniture. She was no idiot; she knew well enough what teenagers did when they went out to party. "Don't do anything too stupid," was all she said in warning, "And try not to wake Delilah up when you come in."
"I want to go, too!" Delilah had complained when she heard about it.
"No," Rhys and Nora had both said, almost simultaneously.
"C'mon! I'm old enough now." She begged.
"You're thirteen," Nora pointed out, "too young for high school parties."
"I'll be in high school next year!"
"Then next year we'll talk about it." Nora stated. Delilah gave them a grumpy look but dropped it. Despite how she complained, Rhys knew Delilah wasn't too upset about it. She'd just gotten a new video game and she'd probably be playing it until the wee hours of the morning, completely forgetting about the party.
Derek was the first to arrive, just in time to mooch dinner off of them, as was his habit. "Hello Dr. H!" He greeted, giving Nora a hug. "Hey Del, what'cha playin'?" he joined Delilah on the couch to peer over her shoulder at her 3DS as if he lived there. Delilah barely acknowledged him, "Ocarina of Time," she said without looking up, "I'm in the stupid water temple."
"I hate the water temple," Derek agreed, settling back to watch her play. "What time are the rest of the nerds due to show up?" Derek asked of Rhys.
"Not until at least eight," Rhys replied, looking up at the clock. It was only six thirty.
"Who are these 'others' you're talking about?" Delilah wondered.
"Some other friends of mine from school; you haven't met them."
"One of them is his love coa-ack!" Derek yelped as Rhys frantically tried to shut him up before he could tell his family about his stupid arrangement with Jules. But it was too late; Delilah's eyebrows went up to her hairline and she looked away from her game to stare at him.
"Love coach?" she questioned, "Is that what you just said?"
Rhys blushed while Derek giggled, "Yeah, Jules agreed to help Rhys catch Katherine's eye at last."
"More like volunteered herself and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer." Rhys grumbled.
"Are you serious?" Delilah laughed, "A love coach? Not that Rhys doesn't need all the help he can get, but that's pretty cheesy, even for him!"
"I know, right!" Derek laughed, "And you'll love this girl, Del! She's a riot!"
"She's not a riot, she's insane."
"A girl? You got a girl to help you get Katherine?" Delilah asked disbelievingly.
"A lesbian!" Derek pointed out. Delilah joined him in laughing over Rhys' silly predicament while Rhys wanted to bury his face in the cushions of the big easy chair he was lounging in and never come out again. He figured it was inevitable that Jules and her posse would eventually be introduced to his family, but he had hoped to keep this stupid 'love coach' thing a secret. He reminded himself to kill Derek tonight and make sure it looked like an accident.
The goofing off only intensified when eight o'clock rolled around and there was knock at his door. Rhys got to his feet to answer it, but his mother beat him to it. She opened the front door to see Jules, Jake and Alex all standing there. Jules was smiling brightly and immediately held out her hand to introduce herself.
"Hi, I'm Julia, but most people call me Jules," she said, "You must be Mrs. Harris?" her manners were surprisingly impeccable. Jules was wearing tight jeans, a simple grey scoop-necked top with rainbow suspenders and a pageboy cap. She looked less boyish than she usually did; it looked like she might have even put on eyeliner for the occasion. Jake and Alex looked about the same as they usually did, though.
If Nora Harris thought Jules' appearance was odd, she didn't mention it. Rhys' mother's manners were also perfect. "That's Doctor Harris," she corrected with a soft smile, "Come on in, guys."
"A doctor?" Jules asked as she accepted the invitation inside. "Rhys never mentioned that. That is so cool. Can I call you 'Doc'?"
"If you'd like," Nora said uncertainly. She then turned and accepted similar introductions and handshakes from the two boys and then everyone crowded into the living room.
"Nice digs," Jake said as Rhys greeted them.
"Thanks," Rhys replied. His mother being a doctor meant that they could afford a decent living, even if she was a single mother.
"Alright," Jules said, "Let's see you." She stood in front of Rhys and inspected his outfit with a critical eye. He had put on his nicest pair of jeans and the shirt that they'd bought at the mall yesterday. It was short sleeved and black and just tight enough to show off his 'rather disappointing' muscles, as Jules had put it. He had his favourite hoodie on overtop and his hair was clean. She shouldn't have much to complain about.
"Lose the hoodie," she told him sternly.
"Because the ladies want to see your arms. Now lose it!"
"What if it gets cold later?"
"Lose it!" she snapped, and he sighed and took it off.
"Better, though I still wish you had a six-pack and a piercing."
Rhys almost blushed when he remembered exactly what kind of piercings Jules had suggested for him the day before.
"You must be the love coach," Delilah said, snapping her DS closed. "I'm Delilah,"
"The little sister!" Jules said happily, "You're the one Rhys gave his kidney to because he'd possibly the nicest guy in the world."
Delilah blushed a little, but nodded, "He's the greatest," she said seriously, "So you'd better take good care of him."
Rhys wasn't sure how to feel about Delilah's sudden protectiveness. He was the older brother, after all, wasn't he supposed to look out for her? And it also wasn't often that Delilah affectionately declared him 'the greatest' either. Rhys expected Jules to laugh at the seriousness in Delilah's expression, but she met her hard stare just as evenly and replied, "I promise, I'll look out for him."
Delilah nodded and jabbed Derek harshly with her elbow when he snickered, "Good then," she said, and opened up her DS again.
Things seemed to calm down a little after that. Jules, Jake and Alex got acquainted with Delilah and Nora. They toured the house and scoped out possible sleeping spots and Jules – who was in fact wearing eyeliner – went to fix it in the bathroom mirror. After stalling and hanging around for more than an hour, they all said goodbye and retrieved their stashed booze from the back of Jules' car and headed for the party on foot.
Kyle's house was easy to spot as they came down the street. The bass line of the thumping music could be heard down the street, and the lawn was already scattered with milling teenagers and discarded plastic cups. The house looked very similar to Rhys' own home, as most of the houses in the suburban neighbourhood did, and the front door was wide open, streaking yellow light out into the night. Silhouetted figures stood inside the house, bouncing to the music, standing in groups talking or lounging on various items of furniture.
Rhys felt his stomach do a little flop as they approached. He felt a little wrong about going to Kyle's house for a party. It wasn't because he had every intention of doing whatever he could to steal Kyle's girlfriend, either. Rhys knew he probably should have felt at least a little guilty about that, but he really didn't. His real problem was that Kyle and Katherine would probably be all over each other all night, and that was the last thing he wanted to see.
The feeling didn't subside when they squeezed in through the door. The music became almost unbearably loud and there was a huge press of students all jammed in there together, shouting at each other to be heard over the music. There was an actual DJ set up in a corner, with multiple huge speakers spread around the house, which explained why the music was so loud. Furniture had been pushed to the edges of the room to make space for dancing, and in the kitchen there was a table set up with snacks, alcohol and mix. Rhys wondered how long it would take the cops to show up to break the party up. Kyle was certainly not being sly with his underage drinking.
Almost immediately, Rhys cast his eyes around the room for Katherine, but he didn't see her. Jules must have noticed his anxious look because she nudged him and pulled him over so she could yell in his ear. "Relax! She's here somewhere! But don't talk to her! Go and mingle!" That was all the advice she had before she slipped away and disappeared in the crowd. Jake and Alex likewise gave him a slap on the back each and a thumbs-up and also took off.
Derek remained at his side only long enough to spot Hayley in the crowd, and he took off after her. Rhys felt a twinge of jealousy when his friend put his arm around her shoulders and was greeted with a big smile. Why couldn't he and Katherine have that?
"You look a little lost there. Rhys, was it?"
Rhys turned to see who was speaking to him and stopped dead when he met with a pair of beautiful brown eyes and a killer smile. He recognized her as the girl from the mall. Getting over his initial shock, he managed to return her smile and nodded, "And you're Leah. I didn't expect you to be here."
"Yeah well, I heard about it and just thought 'what the hell', right?" Her laugh would have normally been enough to make his knees weak, but Jules' warning about her rang out in his head. Leah Winchester was major BBC, and now he had been cornered by her. Crap.
Author's Note: I didn't proof read this before I posted. Sorry if it shows! Feel free to point out spelling/grammar mistakes and typos so I can correct them!
Poor Rhys' love life just got a lot more complicated, hah! And I love his conversation with Jules about piercings. She's so dirty :P Rhys' new text message alert is from Archer. If you've never seen it, do so, it's an amazing show.
A lot of people in this seem to be based at least loosely off of people I know. Alex looks and may even act a bit like my IRL friend Alex. Delilah reminds me more and more of my younger brother every time I write her. Anyway, tell me what you think of the latest chapter, and thanks so much for reading!