Maybe Too Late

©2014 dear-llama. All rights reserved.

A guy and a girl can be just friends, but at one point or another, they will fall for each other… Maybe temporarily, maybe at the wrong time, maybe too late, or maybe forever.

–Dave Matthews Band

1. Maybe Temporarily

"Do you think maybe he likes me?" Iola asked mournfully, sneaking a sideway glance from beneath her long, dark eyelashes.

Kara looked up and saw Dietrich Summers looking in their direction. He looked away when their eyes met. He was sitting on the ground, leaning against the wall, legs stretched out in front of him. Sometimes one of his friends would walk past and stop for a moment's conversation, but then they'd move on after a while and Dietrich's gaze would drift over again.

"Probably," Kara observed. "He keeps looking over."

"I talked to him yesterday," Iola confided, a small smile crossing her lips. "He asked to borrow some money for lunch."

"Did your skin tingle when his fingers touched yours?" Kara teased, laughing a little at the cliché.

Iola blushed. "There were sparks alright," she said softly.

Kara privately thought that Iola and Dietrich would probably get together sometime before the year was through. He was always looking over, and judging from Iola's anecdotes, was always finding ways to talk to her. Plus, Iola was both pretty and nice – which guy wouldn't fall head over heels in love with her after getting to know her?

It didn't matter that Dietrich had a veritable fan club of girls always hanging around him - he would have to be utterly senseless to pass over such a good catch as Iola.

Kara always laughed a little, at herself, when she remembered how she had also been one of the smitten girls at the beginning of the school year, when they had first met. He was tall, mysterious and the private school uniform really accentuated his good looks. She had always been a sucker for boys in collared white shirts and ties, especially if said tie was always hanging loosely around said boy's neck. He had really good taste in shoes and bags too, she deduced. She had – still, really – really liked the way he looked.

But it had just been a superficial little crush. It had been easy enough to get rid of when Iola had told her, three months into the school year, that she had a crush on Dietrich. When Iola had divulged her little secret, Kara had sworn to help her best friend in any way she could.

Now, when she looked at Dietrich Summers, all she felt was a detached admiration for his good looks. He looked good sitting there, leaning against the wall, and he knew it. She could appreciate that. But of course she never told Iola.

Besides, she'd never really wanted to include herself in the group of tittering, often unbearably obvious girls who approached him every chance they got. Maybe it fed his ego, because although he often looked irritated at their giggling devotion, he never truly cut them loose. He even benefited tangibly from some of the more academically-inclined ones – they'd voluntarily do his homework for him. She had never understood that. How could these clearly intelligent girls be stupid enough not to realise that their actions were never going to change his mind about them?

Guys like him were not interested in the kind of girls that would throw themselves at him, that much she knew. He had been spoilt by all that attention and had gotten immune to it. He would probably decide to go for the one girl that seemed the most unavailable to him. This was why she always advised Iola not to seem too over eager, to play it cool. That was bound to catch his attention, when he was used to girls who were so desperately... desperate.

Judging from the signals she was getting from him, Iola's single days were numbered. Pretty soon, they would be together and her role as wing-woman would be over.

That thought made her a little sad. But that made no sense, because it was what she had been working towards since the day Iola had sat her down, grasped her hands and said, 'Want to know a secret? ...I really like Dietrich.'

She shook her head, tearing her gaze away from him before anyone caught her staring.

He'd watched them dance around each other like a pair of skittish deer from the very beginning.

Craig had never acted more like a pansy than he did with Kara White. It had taken him a full six months to finally confess his feelings for Kara, and even then he hadn't quite asked her out. She had been the one to laugh, shrug and say, "Well, then, how about we go on a date?" From his corner against the wall, Dietrich had heard everything.

And he'd inwardly scoffed.

That wasn't to say he didn't understand the other guy's obsession. He was a victim of it himself.

The moment he'd set eyes on the petite brunette, he'd felt a jolt straight in his groin. She was positively tiny compared to his six-foot-one frame, but there was something... cute about that. She didn't have much in the chest area, but there were definitely curves beneath the white blouse of her uniform. She wore her skirt just a little shorter than was allowed, and that showed off her slender legs perfectly. For a girl so tiny, she had a good figure. There was nothing child-like about her. He'd never expected to find himself attracted to such a midget – she was likely an entire foot shorter than him – but attracted he was.

It was really too bad Craig had dibs on this one. Sometimes he wondered how things could have been different if he'd spoken up earlier.

But he had been the first, before Craig had revealed his feelings, to speak to her. It had been quite successful, too – she'd laughed at all his jokes and given him her phone number.

Then all of a sudden, the wind had changed.

Before he could've gotten off his ass and called her up for a coffee date, she'd somehow started something with Craig. Craig hadn't been interested at first, but a few chats later, he had been hooked. And he'd told the guys that he wanted Kara White.

There had been nothing Dietrich could've done after that.

"Dietrich," a nameless, faceless girl was tugging at his sleeve, trying to get his attention. With great effort, he turned and raised an eyebrow at the floozy. She had really sexy long legs, but otherwise nothing much to offer.

"What?" He asked, none too nicely. It was ridiculous, what these girls would put up with. He was aware that he was an ass to them most of the time. But they still clung onto him regardless of his attitude.

Kara, on the other extreme end of the spectrum, barely even acknowledged his existence. The one girl that he wanted to notice him... didn't.

"What are you thinking about?" The floozy pouted, her lips quite a striking shade of red. Dietrich's eyes were drawn to them for a second – too plump – before drifting back to that spot where he knew they always occupied in the courtyard.

Kara was laughing and she leaned toward her friend, speaking animatedly.

He cast his eyes away, frowning. "Nothing."

From the moment Kara and Craig had started dating, Dietrich had resolved to stay away. He did that by focusing undue attention on the girls that surrounded him.

The old adage: 'bros before hoes'… It was easy to swear to out of principle, but things weren't so clear-cut when you were sitting at home at 3 a.m., staring at her name on your phone screen – or when you walked past the school courtyard and saw her sitting alone with her face buried in her hands.

All things considered, he thought he had done a pretty good job of it.

Sometimes, though, he slipped up.

Since she'd gotten together with Craig, Dietrich had contacted her exactly five times. Each of those times had been in the middle of the night, sometimes when he couldn't sleep, most of the time when he was halfway drunk.

They had talked.

He knew she never read too much into these late-night conversations – her heart was entangled in all that drama she had going on with Craig – but they had been... special to him. He knew she never bothered mentioning them to anyone, and he'd never told anyone either, not even his closest buddies. At school, they barely mingled. It was like these talks were a secret only they shared.

And that made him feel stupid.

Pining over the same girl for so long... That was stupid.

Sometimes, though, it wasn't his fault.

Sometimes, she had been the one to strike up conversation with him via text. 'What do you think of Iola?' One of them had asked.

He had been bewildered. Iola? Kara's-best-friend Iola? What about Iola?

'She's nice,' he'd texted back cautiously.

'Do you like her?'

He'd stared at that one for a long time. Was there some sort of embedded message in her questions about Iola? If so, he had no idea what they were. He'd shaken his head. Girls confused the crap out of him.

'She's nice,' he'd replied finally.

"He thinks you're nice," Kara reported to Iola. The latter was fidgeting from her seat on the bed, wringing her hands anxiously.

"That could mean anything," Iola argued, jumping up from the bed in her agitation. Kara had never seen her behave that way before. She privately thought that Iola must really like Dietrich. In all honesty, though, she didn't think Dietrich Summers was that much of a catch. Sure, she'd had a little crush on him herself, but that had just been temporary. When you looked past the good looks and mysterious broodiness, he was simply too much of a playboy. He always had a group of girls hanging around him, for goodness' sake.

She knew, from their sporadic late-night chats, that he could be really sweet and caring, but… The whole fan club thing really annoyed her.

"He didn't give a straight reply, though," Kara pointed out to Iola now. "Maybe he's just embarrassed to admit that he does like you."

Iola looked like she was trying to tamp down the hope that had sprung up in her eyes. She shook her head, like she was too afraid to believe. Her hands had crept to cover her mouth and she looked at Kara with wide blue eyes. "Will you ask him for me?" Her voice came out in a squeak.

Kara smiled. "You're really cute, you know." She reached over and hugged her best friend tightly. "Don't worry, he'd have to be nuts not to like you back."

Kara was texting him a lot all of a sudden.

But the clincher was, she kept asking about other girls.

Was this her way of showing her interest? Of testing the waters? But as far as he knew, she was still with Craig…

'Why?' He asked, having to retype that one word a couple of times because his fingers felt like clumsy logs all of a sudden.

He sat and stared at his phone until the reply came.

'Iola likes you, you know.'

He balked at that information. Was that why Iola had been coming up to talk to him so much recently? Was that why Kara had been texting him so much lately? To gauge his feelings toward Iola?

Annoyed, he shot off a text to Kara: 'I will never like Iola that way.'

Then he opened up a new message and typed in, 'I like you.'

He deleted that one.

Kara had a couple of not-so-nice words for Dietrich as she looked at Iola's crumpled expression. "He's a jerk," she said fiercely, reaching over to get rid of the accursed phone that Iola had dropped onto the bed upon reading that one-liner. Inwardly, she berated herself for letting Iola open the text message. If only she'd read it first… She could've broken the news more gently. But she'd been confident – way too confident – that Dietrich returned Iola's feelings… How could she have been so wrong?

Iola laughed through her tears. She was trying to be brave about it, the poor thing. "I knew he didn't," she murmured, her voice hitching. "I was stupid to get my hopes up… I…"

Kara hugged her friend tightly, inwardly cursing Dietrich. "It's his fault for giving off so many mixed signals," she said, even though a small part of her knew it was her fault as well. She shouldn't have so casually gotten Iola's hopes up based on a few glances and Iola's recount of her interactions with him. Stupid, stupid, stupid. "It's his loss."

"I shouldn't have read so much into it," Iola was apparently on the warpath of self-pity. The tears hadn't stopped coming, and she had to sniffle with every word. "So he talked to me, so what? Gosh, I'm so blind."

"He's the blind one," Kara assured her. "Forget him, he's not worth it. Let's pig out on ice cream and watch some movies of people blowing up each other. Who needs love, anyway?"

"You're just saying that," Iola said, wiping at her eyes. They were bloodshot but at least now she was smiling. "Your relationship with Craig is so perfect."

Kara suddenly felt like she'd sucked on a lemon. "Nah," she said, turning away. "Nothing's perfect."

Iola grabbed her hand. "Oh," she exclaimed, "I can't believe I've been so self-absorbed! Mooning about Dietrich… Is everything alright with you and Craig?"

"It's fine, it's fine," Kara waved a hand dismissively. She didn't want to talk about it. "Look, tonight's girls' night, okay? We won't let these stinky boys spoil our fun."

Iola giggled reluctantly and Kara felt the guilt within her ease a little.

So that was it, Dietrich thought.

It had been a week since that last text he'd sent Kara, and she hadn't replied. At school, both she and Iola now steered clear of him – he barely even saw them in the school courtyard anymore. She really had been just testing the waters for Iola.

His phone beeped and he hated the spark of hope that surged through him at that little noise. He looked down and read the message. 'Party tonight?' It was from Rion, one of the guys.

Heaving a sigh of disgust, he threw his phone across his room. It hit the wall with a loud smack and bounced across the carpet.

Damn it all to hell… Who needed love, anyway?

A/N: My first attempt at a chaptered story! Well, it's not going to be too long, probably just 3 or 4 short chapters (I haven't really decided how many exactly). It's probably going to be even shorter than some of my one-shots, really. People who've been reading my A/Ns for a while would probably know that my stories tend to be inspired by real-life issues or events… These scenes just wouldn't leave me alone. Ah… When you have FP, who needs love anyway?

I'll probably post the next chapter sometime next week. The scenes are all seared into my brain, so it's just a matter of getting them out. And I'm sorry I've gotten back into my fragmented writing style. Maybe one day I'll come back and edit everything, but right now I just want to get it all out. Oh, I have to say though: I'm not really a believer of that Dave Matthews quote... Though I do think it makes for some really good story ideas.

Please review!