I'd caught him cheating on me again. He had been denying my suspicions with flimsy excuses, but he hadn't tried all that hard to cover it up. Why should he when he knew that I was lucky to be with him? He was at the top tier of popularity and wealth at our school, so I couldn't do any better than him.
"You're blowing this way out of proportion," he'd told me. "It was just a kiss."
That was the proverbial tip of the iceberg, because I knew that he wasn't the kind of guy to be satisfied with just a kiss. Regardless, it was still cheating. I'd already swallowed my pride once before when he claimed that the girl had come on to him.
Now I had decided to see how he would react to "just a kiss." I scanned the hallway for a good candidate, and I spotted a guy who was the opposite of Craig. He wore faded, ripped jeans, which were obviously not fashionably 'distressed' but worn out from actual wear and tear. His t-shirt had also seen better days, and his shoes were dirty—unlike Craig's assortment of brand new sneakers. This guy was definitely from my part of town, a nobody just like me before Craig elevated my social status.
"Hi," I said as I walked up to him.
"Hi," he replied.
He looked at me quizzically when I stood there gazing at him. "May I help you?"
It was the kind of thing that Craig would never think to say, because it would never occur to him to be of service to someone else.
"Yes," I answered. "May I kiss you?"
"You want to kiss me?" he asked in bewilderment.
"Yes," I confirmed. "If you don't mind."
My angry desire for revenge had propelled me to request a kiss from a stranger without embarrassment, but I began to feel my face heat up while he scrutinized me. I was starting to feel very foolish as I waited for his answer.
Then he smiled, but only just barely. "Yes, Amanda. You can kiss me."
I hadn't expected to feel so nervous. It wasn't surprising that he knew my name, since I had been dating the most popular guy at school for a year. I had chosen the nobody before me precisely because he wasn't important enough for me to know his name. So I shouldn't care what kind of impression I made on him.
That didn't prevent me from hesitating after I stepped closer to him. It didn't help that he wasn't doing anything except watching me. Ignoring my inconvenient case of nerves, I determinedly made myself keep going.
Since he hadn't budged from his casual stance against his locker, the disparity in our heights forced me to grab his shoulders and stand on tiptoe to reach his mouth. Only after I awkwardly pressed my lips to his did he finally accommodate me by lowering his head.
Then he began to slowly kiss me back. The light, soft pressure of his lips made mine tingle in response. Craig had never kissed me like this. His kisses had been demanding and insistent from the start, and he would quickly invade my mouth with only his own selfish goal in mind. Kissing was only a step on the path to what he really wanted.
My kiss with the stranger was supposed to last just long enough to get the attention of the other students in the hallway. I wasn't supposed to indulge in it. Instead of coolly ending it after a decent interval, I wound my arms around his neck and threaded my fingers in his hair. His hands were now splayed on my back and moving up it in small increments as his sensual kiss made my lips part in desire for more.
Rather than plunging his tongue into my mouth, he gently sucked on my lower lip. The loud ringing of the warning bell covered up the small sound emitted from the back of my throat. I pulled away from him, feeling slightly dazed.
His demeanor wasn't quite so casual anymore due to his somewhat altered breathing and intensified gaze. He made no comment on what had just happened though.
"Um, thank you," I said.
A half smile played over his lips. "You're welcome."
I attempted a smile in parting and walked away feeling unsure now that I'd actually gone through with it. Craig hadn't seen me kiss some random guy, but other people had, and news soon got back to him. He confronted me immediately after my first class.
"Are you cheating on me?" he asked incredulously.
"You're blowing this out of proportion," I said, using his own words against him. "It was just a kiss."
He smiled thinly as his eyes narrowed dangerously. "Don't play games with me."
"You're the one playing games," I retorted. "And you keep changing the rules. You said that a kiss wasn't cheating, but now you're saying that it is. Which one is it?"
"You think that I'm gonna let this guy do this to me?" Craig demanded. "We're gonna settle this today."
When I decided to seek revenge, I hadn't considered all the consequences—like that Craig might take his anger at me out on the guy I kissed. "I was just mad," I explained desperately. "I don't even know his name."
"I know who he is," he stated in a menacing tone. "And he's gonna know who I am."
Craig was in excellent shape from weight training and playing sports, and I was pretty sure that he had training in some kind of fighting technique that he'd taken lessons in while growing up. He could afford lessons for anything that interested him.
I didn't know anything about the other guy except that he was an excellent kisser. That certainly wouldn't help him in a fight with Craig. "He didn't kiss me. I kissed him," I explained. "It wasn't his fault."
"If he thinks he's man enough to touch my girlfriend, then he better be man enough to take on me," he said.
What had I been thinking? I should have known that I'd bring trouble down on this guy. I had never seen Craig act jealous before though. He'd taken it for granted that I had nowhere else to go.
I anxiously followed him at his behest as he led the way to the guy's locker. How he knew exactly where to find him was beyond me. I'd tried repeatedly to get him to let it go with warnings about detention, but he was set on his course like I'd been set on mine.
I felt sick to my stomach as we approached the guy I had kissed, and I hoped that he would be able to hold his own in a fight against Craig. In fact, I hoped that he would win the fight. Most of all, I wished that he would somehow get through it unscathed. I couldn't say the same about my feelings toward Craig, because I found that I didn't care if he got hurt. My resentment toward him must have been stronger than I thought.
"Sean Gallagher," Craig called out in his booming, falsely jovial voice.
The guy turned to face us. "Yes?" He regarded Craig expectantly.
"I'm Craig Thompson, and you already know my girlfriend, Amanda." Craig dropped the polite act and glared at the guy whose name I now knew. "Did you think I'd let you get away with that?"
Sean's brown eyes flicked toward me. "Sorry man. I didn't know that she's your girlfriend."
"You didn't know that Amanda's my girlfriend," Craig sneered. "We walk around school together everyday, but you expect me to believe you've never noticed a hot girl like her?"
"I thought I saw you with someone else," Sean shrugged. "My mistake."
Craig stiffened with fury at Sean's nerve in bringing up the other girl in front of me, but Sean didn't crack under his hard scrutiny. His blank expression seemed to convince Craig that the guy was merely stupid rather than purposely mocking him.
He turned away from Sean and spoke to me. "I know you were just trying to make me jealous. I'm sorry if you've felt neglected lately, but I promise I'll make it up to you."
He pulled a small box out of his hoodie pocket. "I was going to surprise you with this later, but I think you should open it now. Happy anniversary, Amanda," he said and held out the box to me.
I didn't know how to react, and he smiled widely as I gaped at him. "You thought I forgot, didn't you?"
I accepted the box and opened it to reveal a pair of diamond earrings. I'd wanted them ever since I'd borrowed a pair like these from the rich best friend I'd acquired when I started dating Craig. Having them in my grasp tainted the pure anger I'd felt toward Craig for his behavior. I should give them back to him and end my relationship with him, but I didn't want to give them up now that I had them.
"I've got another surprise for you," he told me. "We're going to Cabo for spring break."
"You know my mom needs me to babysit my brother," I protested.
"I'll hire a nanny," he said carelessly. "Don't worry about anything, Amanda."
"Hey, Craig," one of his buddies called him over.
My gaze caught Sean watching me as Craig crossed the hallway to talk to his friend. I hadn't realized that he was still standing there, and I felt ashamed that he'd witnessed my greedy acceptance of Craig's gift.
Contrary to what Craig thought, I knew that Sean wasn't stupid. His comment about seeing him with someone else had been a thinly-veiled reference to the girl I'd caught Craig kissing. Sean was obviously aware of Craig's cheating, and I could tell that he knew I was aware of it too.
His expression seemed to be challenging me to admit the truth. Then Craig returned and possessively put his arm around me, declaring that he was taking me somewhere special tonight.
I saw Sean's cynical smile before he turned away from us and walked toward the exit. Smiling wanly at Craig, I slipped the coveted earrings into my purse and knew that I'd wear them out to dinner with him that evening.