Chapter 1
The Flirting Fiasco

I must've started the fiasco when I'd raised my hand during Calculus class.

I didn't know that Stephen had been doing the same thing as well. After all, I was perched at the front desk and had been busy copying all the sums perfectly onto my notebook.

'Okay, Hailey and Stephen, please share your answers,' Kapoor said dryly. He stared at the board too, his eyebrows creasing as he went over the sums.

I always thought of Kapoor as a pretty cool teacher. He was old and balding but he'd an incredibly dry and sarcastic sense of humor that I liked and got.

'Oh, I was only yawning,' Stephen called out from the backseat, which ensued a laughter from most people in class.

I rolled my eyes. He was such a show-off.

'Very well, Mr. Parker,' Kapoor said in his cutting voice. 'Next time, do remember to think a little before you speak.'

'I will try,' Stephen said in a falsely meek voice that sounded as if he was about to burst into laughter at any second. I arched my neck to look at him.

When he saw me staring, he gave a smirk and a wink.

I jumped, immediately turning away, knowing that the smirk had increased to the size of an elephant now.

This might be an exaggeration but the guy was the most arrogant flirt I'd ever come across. Stephen wasn't the most popular person at school. That honor fell to the athletes with the six pack abs and the toned cheerleaders. But he was the class clown and one of those people who could get along with nearly everyone.

This was the only part about him that I'd admired very much. Most people at school hung around in cliques and refused to socialize with others. But Stephen was different. He'd always talk or do stuffs with others if they were willing. He didn't care too much about hanging around with people just to boost up his popularity.

He was pretty popular enough, anyway. Strangely, he hadn't had a girlfriend in quite a while though . Not that I'd known much about it but the fact that he was single was well-known around school.

I guess it was because everything he did could be categorized into charming or flirtatious behavior. According to yours truly, no one could be around someone like that for too long. Or maybe it was just me, given that he was friends with nearly everyone.

Stephen also happened to be cute with his black spiked up hair, pale complexion and hazel eyes. I didn't mind admitting this because it was the truth. He might not be athletic—he was too goofy to play in competitive sports—but I'd heard that he was in a band. And he was a drummer.

That would explain the muscular arms and abs he supposedly had. Not that I'd ever seen him without a shirt or anything or ever wanted to.

Ugh, why was I thinking about Stephen Parker being shirtless now?

Calculus for two hours must have made me crazy.

'So Miss Rose, do you—'

I didn't even let Kapoor finish because I'd sensed that Jason—the smartest guy at our class and who was also conveniently sitting next to me—was very close to figuring out the answer. And I wanted to stop distracting myself over Stephen and his stupid, annoying smirk.

'It's negative radical two over twenty-nine times pi,' I rushed. 'The only way you can find it is if you take the second derivative so that you know it's the maximum number.'

'Right,' Kapoor said, nodding. That was a compliment, I'd known it by now. Coming from him, 'right' meant that you had brains and you'd pass this class. 'Wrong' entailed that you'd fail. And 'very well' pretty much summed that I-gave-up-on-you-from-the-first-day. You can now guess where Stephen and I were in the hierarchies of Calculus 101. 'I hope everyone heard that, especially Mr. Parker.'

'What a nerd,' Aaron called out from the back seat where he'd been lounging and smoking imaginary pot. Some people started scuffling and hiding their laughter.

'Quiet, Mr. Whitman, you don't want to land in detention again, do you?' Kapoor said in a soft but contemptuous voice. 'Or is that your preferred place to be in?'

I wasn't the type of person, however, to shrink into the corner when I'd gotten an insult. I didn't even need a teacher to defend me. Mostly, I cared about putting the person into his position when I'd gotten the chance.

Turning around, I stared back at Aaron and said stonily and loudly, 'Smart is good, you know. That's how you go to college and get a job. Maybe you should do that instead of wasting time calling people nerds.'

Aaron looked like he was about to fire off and land into a weeklong detention once again but Stephen suddenly said, in a relaxed voice, 'Oh be quiet, Whitman.'

Aaron looked surprised, his mouth hanging open. But he backed down grudgingly after giving me a glare which I returned just as well.

Stephen also happened to be a ring leader among the rest of the back seat trying-way-too-hard-to-be-funny-and-cool guys.

However, when he caught my glance, he gave a wink and a small smile. For some reason, it seemed genuine and curious.

I merely rolled my eyes. I didn't want to simper to him or be grateful that he'd halted a gargantuan argument at class. As far as I knew, I could handle people pretty well.

I'd already made up a list of goals on what I was about to do at school. Number one was telling people off when they'd needed it. As far as I knew, I'd had good enough reasons for that.

During lunch, I began telling my two friends, Sharon and James about the escapade in Calculus class.

'For the last time, Hailey, we know about your goals,' James said, putting his arm around Sharon as if what I was saying gave him a migraine.

By the way, my two best friends were dating each other. It was cute but annoying as hell because none of them would ever side with me in an argument.

They'd only want my side when they were arguing. Of course.

'Yes, Hailey, you'd tell people off, you'd only concentrate on your work and jobs and get a flying scholarship to college,' Sharon said in an amused voice.

'Don't know about the flying scholarship,' I muttered hastily. 'But the other parts are crucial if I want to get to a good school. Preferably an Ivy League.'

'You are crucial,' a voice floated out, sounding full of laughter.

We all stared in surprise as Stephen came grinning and stood right beside me.

If it was any other person, it'd been awkward and we'd all remained silent. But it was Stephen and he'd had his ways of getting along with everyone.

'I always thought crucial sounded painful, though,' Stephen continued in a conversational tone as he balanced the tray with one hand and unexpectedly pulled out a chair. 'It has a ring to it.'

This guy was a wacko, I immediately made up my mind.

'Hey, man,' James called out, thrusting his arm out and giving Stephen the bro fist handshake that guys always do. 'How's it going?'

'That didn't make sense, Parker,' I pointed out in response to his statement. I didn't particularly like that James had already extended an invitation to Stephen so that he could sit with us.

'Stephen, why don't you have lunch with us?' Sharon immediately quipped.

I whipped my head in her direction, my expression full of open surprise. I was about to speak out about it when Sharon gave me the eye. What was that about? Sharon wasn't unfriendly at all but she'd always been quite shy around people she didn't know.

This explained the small size of our group.

'Of course it did, Hails,' Stephen said, plopping onto the chair and sitting way too closely to me. I frowned; the nickname felt too much. I gagged inside my head. 'Thanks, Sharon. That's why I came to your guys' table, you know. To stand and stare at Miss Rose as she answers everything.'

He said the last few sentences in the Indian accent Kapoor talked in.

I frowned.

'That's not funny,' I began. 'Trust me, you wouldn't like it if someone makes fun if you ever talk in Hindi or Urdu or Bengali-'

'I was just kidding,' Stephen interrupted casually. 'I love Kapoor, his lectures and humor. Everything. And thanks, Sharon. I'd be glad too.'

He then winked at me, nodding vigorously. I couldn't help but blush slightly even though I felt infuriated. I hated flirting, mostly because I didn't know how to and the fact that attention from him felt annoying.

This guy flirted with everyone, including the lunch-lady. Even though I'd give him credit for that. He'd managed to get the best food among all of us.

Sharon and James, however, laughed as if they were enjoying this. I felt like gritting my teeth. Why was he so keen on sitting with us instead of his usual buddies? Did he want me to feel grateful since I didn't swoon at his interference?

I'd immediately inched away as Stephen moved forwards so that his shoulders bumped against mine. Didn't that guy have any idea about personal space?

'Oops, sorry,' he said hastily as he reached out to unwrap his burger.

'It's fine,' I said, not meaning it all.

'So how's the band going?' James asked in an easy voice, seemingly oblivious to the expression on my face.

'It's going great, man,' Stephen answered, looking incredibly proud and happy. 'We covered a few gigs here and there, but I think we are almost close to finding a permanent place soon. And maybe getting out a demo CD so that we can tag along with some rock band during the summer.'

'That sounds so exciting,' Sharon said, nodding at me in a purposeful kind of way.

Huh? What did that mean?

'You guys should come and see us,' Stephen said, excitement ringing in his voice. I rolled my eyes, wondering what thoughts were swirling inside his head. As if that's what the three of us did on our weekends. Listening to high-school bands instead of working and for my friends, dating and making out furiously in some shop. 'And free drinks on me.'

'We would love to,' Sharon said, kicking at my feet.

'Ow,' I said, nursing it and glaring at her in return.

'You okay?' Stephen asked, leaning forward with a concerned look in his eyes.

'I'm fine, fine, fine,' I chanted, tilting backwards. I'd no idea why but sitting too close to him made me feel claustrophobic.

And I'd thought that I felt crazy in Calculus.

I'd turned around cautiously, drawing my feet to the leg of my chair so that Sharon wouldn't be able to use it as a target anymore. Instead, I found myself staring at Stephen as he chattered happily about his band, the Fluffer Nutters or something.

Okay, that wasn't it, but I didn't exactly hear the name when he'd mentioned it.

I couldn't help but feel drawn into the conversation even though I said nothing. He did sound passionate about drumming and music. I hadn't expected it from someone like him.

Plus, he had dimples when he'd smiled. And he smiled a lot.

I blindly reached out for the juice box, tugging at the straw so strongly with my lips that I'd made a disgustingly slurping noise.

My friends laughed—annoyingly—but Stephen reached out for his juice box and drank it with an even more pronounced sound.

Sharon must have completely lost her mind because she waved her hands and gushed, 'You guys are so cute.'

'I'd just started noticing,' Stephen said in the most fake and dreamiest voice I'd ever heard anyone use.

I blanched visibly at his words and the fact that I'd swallowed too much juice.

'She'll get over it,' Sharon said, trying to kick me with her feet again, apparently mad at my expression. However, I moved away quickly and ended up bumping my shoulders against Stephen's. It felt weird.

'I'm trying to eat my lunch in peace,' I said, ignoring her smile and Stephen's stare.

I was always a fast eater since my dad taught me to be like that. Eat fast and you'll be able to accomplish anything, he'd say when I'd asked him if I could go watch upstairs and paint.

The two things weren't exactly correlated but somehow, I'd had that knowledge ingrained within me ever since. Consequently, I'd always eat as hurriedly as I possibly could.

But it never ever caught anyone's attention before.

'That must have been like three seconds,' Stephen said, looking dazed.

'What?' I asked, reaching out for my napkin.

'You just ate that whole burger in three seconds,' he muttered.

'No, I did not,' I said, frowning. 'Even if I did, who cares?'

'Because no one eats like that,' he almost yelled out. He looked as if he wanted to shake my head so that I'd get the importance of my achievement.

I rolled my eyes at his over dramatic reaction.

'I'm sure some people do,' I said, offhandedly. This was a ridiculous conversation.

'Let me see if any of us can do it,' Stephen countered.

'I can't,' Sharon responded. 'This burger is gross.'

'It's not bad,' I disagreed. It really wasn't. Sharon happened to be enormously picky eater. She'd even pick upon pizza.

Who'd ever do that?

'You ate the whole thing around forty five seconds,' Stephen said, holding his burger tightly on his hands. 'I counted that in my head, Miss Rose. Now I will do it in approximately forty-four and a half second.'

'Wait, that's not fair,' I cried out, grabbing his hand as he tried pushing the whole thing into his mouth. 'You already ate around half of it.'

'Are you serious?' he asked, staring at me, his mouth covered with burger ketchup and mayonnaise.

For some weird reason, it didn't gross me out that much.

'Of course, I am serious,' I snapped. 'I've been watching you eat half of that thing when you were talking.'

Stephen continued looking at me with a blank expression as he quickly gulped down the ridiculous large amount of food he'd piled onto his mouth.

'You've been watching me?' he asked, a slow smirk forming across his face.

'Yes, I've been watching you stuff that burger into your face and claim that what you were about to do wasn't hugely unfair,' I said calmly.

'All I heard was watching,' Stephen said, copying my tone and gesturing to the other two.

I'd a strong desire to throw my juice at him and stalk out.

James smiled at us in the way he'd do when he'd look at Sharon.

Sharon nodded in agreement.

'I heard watching,' Sharon announced, looking as if she was about to split into gargantuan giggles.

'You guys are all suffering from hormones,' I said solemnly, pushing my chair and getting up. The lunch break was almost about to be over and I'd always wanted to get to class a few minutes ahead on time so that I could organize everything well.

'It's understandable scientifically but tone it down for people's sake,' I continued.

'I could kiss you right now, even after watching you eat that burger and looking as if it was the best orgasm you've ever had,' Stephen suddenly said.

I took a deep breath, knowing that he was saying it just to get onto my nerves and break down my reserve.

Sharon dumped her head on the table as if she couldn't handle it anymore.

'I'd rather eat the burger on your face than make out with you, trust me, ' I muttered, narrowing my eyes.

There was a short silence before Stephen held up his hands in a defeated fashion and said, in Kapoor-style accent, 'You're good, Miss Rose. You get an A plus.'

'I don't have any idea what you're saying,' I said but before anyone could say a word, I'd turned around and walked away as fast as I could.

History was the only class that I'd had with Sharon. I'd rounded on her as soon as she came in and sat next to me.

'What was with all the sucking up to Parker?' I demanded.

Sharon immediately gave me a look that said that I should lower my voice since people might be listening to us.

Poor girl, I thought to myself. I loved Sharon and she was my best friend. But she'd always spent too much time thinking about other's reactions.

'He came to sit with you,' Sharon pointed out quietly. 'He is so cute and he's been flirting with you.'

'Firstly, you have a boyfriend,' I pointed out. 'And secondly, of course Parker was flirting. He flirts with everything. He probably flirted with his…juice.'

'Of course I did,' a voice quipped up. 'Just think about all the sugar it had.'

My stomach dropped involuntarily but I felt mad at the innuendo the stupid statement consisted and his provocative tone. I didn't even know why. Couldn't the guy talk like a normal person for one second instead of being so goddamn flirtatious all the time?

'What are you doing here?' I said, astonished.

'Not stalking you, Your Highness, but merely looking for the book that fell into my friend's treacherous clutches,' Stephen said, straight-faced.

'Your use of antiquated language is sadly—and honestly—not that good,' I said.

'Your use of understanding my sarcasm is sadly—and honestly—not that good,' Stephen fired back. But he was grinning.

'Your use of talking in my class like senseless teenagers is sadly and honestly not good,' Howley barked as the class started giggling. 'Kid, with the Goth hair, out!'

As he was leaving, Stephen winked at me and mouthed I won, pumping his fist in the air as if he'd just conquered Mount Everest on feet.

I glared at his retreating back, tossing a note to Sharon that we'd be talking about this later.

Right now, I'd concentrate on history and later think of ways to avoid the flirt for the rest of my life.

Author's Note:

This was supposed to be a one-shot, but so was 500. I guess, you're seeing a trend here. Anyway, hope you guys think it sounds promising as a novel. It may sound like a cliché in the first chapters, but I do hope to add my own twist to it.

I'll be continuing with 500 as usual.

Enjoy reading! XD