– Stalker Much? . . . Oh, Wait, You Go Here Too? Fudge –
Ah, that first day back at school.
Legitimately the worst day in the existence of this earth.
The one day where I would prefer to be dead than to actually partake in those torturous 'festivities'.
"Wow, it looks like someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Kenzi, ever the morning person, called as soon as she saw me entering the senior hallway of the local high school.
"It's too early for this," I moaned, both hands gripping onto my saving grace: my cup of coffee. I took a sip as I leaned against what would be my locker, unwilling to open it even if it would take my backpack from my shoulders. Opening that locker would make this horrid day all the more real, and I could do with this just being a really bad dream; a nightmare, really. "How are you so cheerful right now?"
"Some of us are born cheerful," she shot back, stealing my coffee and taking a sip, wrinkling her nose at the taste. "Did you forget to put cream in it this morning?"
"No. I need it black if I'm going to make it through today. Why? Too strong for you?" I smiled, gulping down about a quarter of my mug just so I could really annoy her.
She snorted. "Your brothers have corrupted you, my friend. I remember a time when you didn't drink coffee, but then when they found the drink they had to bring you in on the drug."
"Coffee is not a drug."
"The way you drink it reminds me of a crack head," she deadpanned.
I glared. "Coffee is better than being addicted to crack."
"Perhaps, but don't come crying to me when you find out from your doctor that you're not going to be getting any taller than what you are now."
"Fine by me," I answered. And I was fine with that. Five-five was not a bad height. Sure, it was nowhere near Kenzi's five-seven, but I was good with where I stood (I didn't have to worry about being too tall while wearing heels, unlike some people).
"So, what's your schedule?" she asked as I finally worked up the nerve to open my locker.
In response I pulled the wrinkled sheet of paper from the inside of the backpack.
"Hmm . . . looks like we have homeroom, first, second and third period together. Ooh, and lunch. Hey, how'd you get into Mechanics? I wanted that class! How did you manage that?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe it's because I know the difference between a carburetor and a radiator? Or maybe it's because I know how to change the oil on a car? Or maybe it's because I actually know a few things about cars, whereas you just want into the class because the teacher's hot."
"So what? I might learn something from him," she shot back, handing over my schedule.
"What about learning something to do with cars?"
She stuck her tongue out in response.
I just laughed, tossing my backpack into my locker and then slamming it closed. "Have you heard from Bo yet? She texted me last night about a ride, but when I responded she didn't text back. I stopped by her house this morning but she wasn't there."
"Yeah, her sister had an early shift at the diner, but she's going to drop Bo off during her break."
"Which would be now," I said, watching as the girl in question shoved her way through our fellow seniors until she reached us. She was scowling and looked royally pissed off. "Who made a sexist joke this early in the morning?" I sighed, knowing that there were few things that really grated on her nerves; sexist jokes being the main one.
"Nobody yet, but that's not it. My sister's got the night shift at the diner, which means that I don't have a ride to school," she grumbled. "And that means I'll have to wake up at five every morning just so I can walk. I hate walking! What if it rains! I hate the rain."
"See!" I cried. "That's how you're supposed to be this early in the morning! All whinny and complainy; not happy and peppy and a giant freaking ray of sunshine! This is normal. You, Kenz, are not normal."
Bo paused in her rant, looking between me and Kenzi. "Okay, what did I miss?"
"Nothing aside from the usual," Kenzi said. "Nat's just grumpy because she hasn't downed her pot of black coffee."
At the mention of coffee Bo perked up instantly. "You have coffee?"
"N-no," I stammered, hiding my mug behind me.
"You do!" she crowed, no longer pissed over the whole walking situation. She lunged for me, hands groping about for what was mine. "Can I have some?"
"No!" I screamed, drawing the attention of some guys a few lockers down. "It's mine! Get your own!" I ran away from her, hugging my coffee protectively to my chest (it was mine I tell you! Mine!). "Back off, Bobo!"
"Share! We're best friends, Nat! Please. I swear I don't have mono so you won't catch it from me . . . unlike that last time, which was just sad. The entire softball team got it at the same time and we had to forfeit so many games. But that's not the case this time! I swear I'm germ free, so please won't you share? I only want a sip."
"But I need it!" I whined, feinting left while I actually went right. She and I danced across the hallway, Bo trying to get my so very precious drink while I tried to save it.
"Nat, you're not being nice."
"It's mine! I don't have to share if I don't want to."
"But we're supposed to be friends! Friends share things, don't they?" She jumped at me, climbing onto my back as she struggled to reach for my coffee.
"Not coffee they don't; especially not my coffee."
From her spot lounging beside the lockers, Kenzi said, "You guys are acting like children. Why do I consider myself friends with the two of you?"
Bo and I paused to look at her, feigning shock.
"Kenzi, how could you betray me like that?" I asked, settling a hand over my heart. "You wound me. I . . . I don't know how I'll go on. We're best friends! Kenzi, how could you?" I turned to Bo who was looking as horrified as I was. "Bo, you're my only true friend."
"I know. And do you know what true friends do?"
"Share their coffee!" she cried, lunging once more.
I was caught off guard this time, and when I ducked to get out of the way of her outstretched hands, I ended up crashing into somebody and spilling my coffee (the very life saving drink that I had been striving to protect) all over the front of their shirt.
"Holy crap, are you okay?" Bo gasped.
At the same time I was mourning. "No! Coffee!" I cried, gazing forlornly at the brown mess that was made on the white T-shirt. "Coffee, come back!"
"Yeah, sure, I'm fine. It's not like it burned me or anything," a vaguely familiar voice said sarcastically from above me.
Slowly I lifted my head, taking in a strong jaw, lips that I remembered, and gray eyes that were opening wide as they met mine. "You," I hissed, glaring at the boy that I had been hoping to be rid of. Life seriously hated me. First it had to take away my precious coffee, and then it had to bring this guy back.
"You," he echoed, tone surprised instead of hostile.
"What are you doing here? Are you stalking me? Dang, I knew I should have reported you for sexual assault," I grumbled, taking a step away so I wasn't craning my neck so hard to look up at him (was he this tall before?).
The guy raised his eyebrows in shock. "Stalking you? Do I look like a stalker to you?"
"You didn't look like the type to pay a girl to kiss you, either," I shot back, folding my arms.
He winced, but smiled anyways. "Touché."
I rolled my eyes. "So what are you doing here?"
"Believe it or not, I go here. You?"
"Do you go here?"
I arched in incredulous brow. "What do you think?"
He shrugged. "Hey, for all I know you could be stalking me. I mean, I know I'm a great kisser, but once was enough, babe. You need to take what you can get. There's not enough of me to go around."
My mouth fell open in horror. "First off, don't you ever call me babe, or else I'll start calling you Honey Bear-y Bump-kins. And second, eww. I've had better kisses than that one. There was too much saliva for my taste. I don't particularly enjoy swapping that much spit while kissing."
There was a snigger behind us, reminding me that we weren't alone. I whirled around to find Bo laughing noticeably, while Kenzi was grinning by the lockers. Both froze when they found me looking at them, Bo having the decency to cover up her laugh by coughing (as if it wasn't so obvious what she was doing).
"I take it you two know each other," Kenzi said casually.
"Unfortunately," I grumbled, while at the same time the guy said, "You bet!" He slung an arm over my shoulders, and because I didn't like to be touched by random strangers who pay me to kiss them, I elbowed him in the gut. He huffed out a breath and took a step away, his arm falling back to his side.
I was saved from answering the embarrassing question as the warning bell rang for the beginning of class.
"Did you guys hear that?" I asked, starting down the hall towards homeroom. "We need to get to class. We can't be late. We don't want to get a detention on our first day of school, do we? C'mon guys!" I knew I was rambling to avoid responding to the weighted question, but I didn't care. I just didn't want to make myself seem like a whore who got paid to kiss strange guys (because I wasn't!). I know Kenzi and Bo wouldn't really care, but now that the kiss and trading of money was over, the deal the guy and I had seemed so stupid. It made us both seem desperate, and I was not desperate.
"Coming, Nat!" Kenzi called, smiling wickedly.
She was going to be getting her answer.
As it would turn out, the guy was stalking me. He showed up in each and every one of my classes, choosing the seat next to mine and being annoying throughout the whole day. I was coming so close to just kicking him in the balls and being done with it. Sure, that one act would send me down to the principal, and then I would be getting a detention (sticking with the Reide sibling norm for senior year), but it would be so worth it to finally be rid of him for at least five minutes as he nursed his injured appendage.
But I refrained.
So, by the end of the first day of school, I was detention free, and soon, hopefully, Adam (as his name did turn out to be) free too. When the afternoon announcements finally ended and I had collected my backpack from my locker, I told my friends goodbye and practically ran out the door.
I didn't get far before I was cornered in the parking lot by none other than Adam himself.
"Oh c'mon!" I cried, tossing my backpack onto the ground. "I tried so hard! Why can't you just leave me alone!"
He smirked, leaning against the side of my brother's ancient pickup. He'd let me borrow it while he was away at school, but that didn't mean I wasn't saving for a car of my own. In fact, by the end of this school year, I planned on getting myself one, and then taking a road trip over the summer before starting college. All I needed was another three grand before I could afford the down payment and have money left over to pay for gas and hotel rooms for my trip.
"Look, I have a proposition for you," he said by way of a conversation starter.
"No. I will not kiss you again. I know I'm a great kisser, but once is enough. I can't have you becoming obsessed with me," I teased, shoving him out of the way of the driver's door.
"Funny," he deadpanned.
"I thought so," I said with a shrug.
"But seriously, I have a deal."
"I don't make a habit of making deals with the devil."
"Would you just listen to me!" he hissed, growing angry all of a sudden.
I did not appreciate it. "No, so would you please move before I run you over . . . On second thought, why don't you stay there while I do just that?" I made to climb up behind the wheel, but his hand on my arm stopped me.
"Look, I swear I'll make it worth your while."
Okay, I'll admit, I was a little intrigued. "What?" I sighed, acting like I was just fed up instead of actually interested.
"When I enrolled here I didn't know Simone went here too."
"Yeah, she's like the class slut," I said before I could consider filtering.
He nodded. "She also thinks that we're soul mates because I made the mistake of flirting with her a couple months ago. She's been stalking me since then, and that's why I paid you to be my girlfriend last week. H—l, if I'd known you went here I would never have picked you out of the crowd. But I did, so now I'm screwed unless you help me."
"I don't like helping people," I stated seriously.
"I'll pay you!" he cried desperately. "Every Friday I'll pay you a hundred bucks to be my girlfriend. Just until Simone finally gets it through her head that I'm not interested. A hundred bucks. Please."
I hated myself then, but I was actually considering the offer. It was a hundred bucks! That's how much I made a week while working at my grandparents' pizzeria. If I brought home two-hundred a week, I would be so much closer to finally buying my car, which meant I'd be able to save up more money for gas and tourist attractions for my trip. Need I repeat a hundred bucks?
He looked relieved at my question. "Yes."
I groaned, but said, "Fine . . . only I have some rules."
"Anything so long as you pretend to be my girlfriend."
"There will be no hand holding unless absolutely necessary. I refuse to dote on you or hang off of you."
"Good, because I hate clingy girls."
"You will pay for all not-dates, and I get to pick where we go."
"Deal . . . even if that does seem a little dictatorial."
"And last but not least, there will be no kissing of any kind."
He froze. "What?"
"I will not be kissing you again, do I make myself clear? If I even get the feeling that you're going to be trying for a lip-lock I will punch you again . . . and then kick you in the balls. I will neuter you."
He gulped. "You know, you're a very evil girl."
"And you're asking for a lot, so take it or leave it."
"Okay, okay, okay. Deal. No kissing. We'll pretend to date, but we won't kiss. That'll definitely be believable." I couldn't be sure, but I thought I detected a bit of sarcasm in his words.
"Hey, you're the one who chose to have a fake relationship with the class prude. Maybe next time you decide to kiss someone you'll fish better in the sea of available girls," I said, unbothered by the implications. I held out my hand for him to shake to solidify this stupid deal.
"It's a pleasure doing business with you, Reide," he told me while shaking my hand.
"Whatever." I grabbed up my backpack and climbed up into the driver's seat, slamming the door behind me. Backing out of my parking space, I rolled down my window and called out loudly, "See you tomorrow, Honey Bear-y Bump-kins! Bring me coffee!" As I drove away I glanced into my rearview mirror and watched as Adam visibly fumed in the parking lot.
Maybe I could have fun with this crappy arrangement.
That would at least make it more bearable.