The Day Lucy Broke Down


d a m n a t i o n

17.01.02 - 24.01.02

Warnings and Disclaimers: This is a completed story [Finally! A completed story from me!] designed to get me over my writer's block. I'm so happy I actually finished writing something!! *Jumps around* [You have to forgive me; it's 6.05a.m. now. Even my dog is sleeping.] So have no fear, you won't be left dangling again.

It's alternate, don't read if you don't like it. No violence, unless you count bad dancing, pushing and shoving violent. Ahh.. whatever. Something like that. Just read it okay? It's late. I wanna go sleep. Oh wait. I need to acknowledge people. *grumbles* [Wondering why I can't do all this later? Well I'm a perfectionist alright? And I'm impatient too.]

The two songs used in this story are not mine. They belong to Nickelback and P.O.D respectively. Great tracks.

Acknowledgements: Sandy, for giving me the idea of writing a happy story. Mindy, whose line of reply to 'Fuck you' I used in this story. *smirk* Lilian, for reading and re-reading my drafts even though I know she would rather sleep after a 10 hours shift. Ares, who went without attention whilst I wrote this. And to Lucy for being my greatest inspiration. *sigh* Okay I'm done. Go read.


It was a day like any other. The clock struck twelve somewhere in the townhall square but I was still sound asleep. The dark shades prevented any ray of light from entering, thus ensuring the dimness of the room. The soft whirling of the electronic fan was a soothing accompaniment to my slumber. It was all going very well, for right then, an absolutely gorgeous girl was about to plant a kiss on my lips. Her perfume flooded my senses as she neared, and even though I was lying prone on the bed in reality, my heart was beating a million miles a minute. Just as her lips were about to touch mine...

"Here's a good afternoon to those who have just tuned in to our station! The weather is fantastic this summer day, and if you aren't already out on the beach, tanning that beea-oo-tiful body, WHAT are you waiting for? Now get those..."

The voice of some cheery DJ shocked me into awareness and I reached out, annoyed -- not to mention highly frustratedly -- to hit... *crash* um... hit... *bang*... oops... hit... ahh... the snooze button on the clock radio. Balancing precariously on the edge of my water bed, I squeezed my eyes tighter, hoping that the brief interlude with lucidity would not bring me to full consciousness. But the more I wanted to fall back to sleep... Mm. Hate wind blowing in face.... the more I took in my surroundings. Mm. Hate wind blowing on arse. I rolled onto my back and burrowed my face under the pillow. Mm. Hate the damn wind. I shuffled around more, trying to build a wall of pillows around my body, but by the time that was done... "Bugger," I muttered under my breath and opened my eyes to yet another glorious day.

I lay on the bed, motionless and somewhat disappointed that I was awake. I should very well be, I thought to myself. At least in dreamland, you have someone who wants to kiss you. I sighed, feeling as pathetic as I sounded to myself. Rolling myself to the edge of the bed again, I felt around for my glasses. Armed with the equipment that I needed to get around the house, I finally stood up and stretched noisily, feeling as if I had already ran a long distance race just by getting to that very position.

The journey to the bathroom was halted briefly when the sole of my foot connected squarely with something furry. A piercing shriek was heard before something ginger-colored flashed before me and disappeared. "Sorry!" I called after my annoyed tomcat, saying it out of routine rather than guilt. "But it's your fault for lying around on the stairs, Jordie!" Unrepentant. That was how I was, as was my cat. Day after day saw him lying in wait for me on the stairs. Sometimes I wondered if he wanted to trip me intentionally. Rubbing my face, I winced. Padding quickly to the bathroom, I peered into the mirror. Gray eyes peered back at me before they shifted their focus on an angry, red blob. "Great start to a great day," I grumbled. "I hope I don't get my period as well. That would just top the charts, wouldn't it?" I pulled down my shorts and groaned.

I bravely went on with my day. What other choice did I have -- kill myself because I got my period? Jordie was nowhere in sight, probably chasing some unfortunate dog somewhere. Yeah, my cat had attitude and ten very sharp claws to match. Flinging myself on the couch, I turned the television on, and proceeded to feel depressed. Ten minutes of watching sweaty males running around with their rackets made me feel fat and unhealthy. That ended my telly-watching career. Wandering eyes fell on my one true love, and all seemed bright again. There she was, sitting like she always did on the table, beckoning me to her. Lucy...

Walking over to my table, I sat down and wondered if I should make the call. Bills ran high and I had promised myself that I would limit the usage... I looked at Lucy again and all my resolve to save money flew out of the window. One call would not hurt much. I would go without lunch or something. My fingers ran lightly and quickly over the keys and the familiar sound of connection made me grin.

"Reow..." I turned to see Jordie sitting on the window ledge, staring at me accusingly with his huge, blue eyes.

"You're too judgemental, Jordie!" I exclaimed in disgust; at him or myself, I was not really sure. "It's just one call! That doesn't make me a spineless, undetermined, weak-willed git, does it?"

He cocked his head at me, then looked away disinterestedly. Seeing that my cat was being unsupportive, as usual, I turned back to matters on hand.

"You have 10 mails in your inbox."

"Ooh..." I rubbed my hands together in glee. It was then that it happened.

Lucy's screen started to flicker.

And flicker.

And then... and then... Everything went black.

"No, no! I did not -- and I'm repeating this for the millionth time now -- download the virus into Lu... I mean, my laptop! Like I said, I was about to open my mailbox when she... crashed..." It was very hard, but I succeeded in keeping my emotions in check. I had to be brave. Lucy needed me to be strong. She would get well. I know she would.

The man behind the counter did not look sympathetic in the least. His treatment of Lucy was not very gentle and I was having second thoughts about leaving my precious with him for a day. A day! Lucy and I have never been apart for that long a time ever since we met. Oohh... "I'll have the technician look at it tomorrow," he said in a brisk tone meant to dismiss me. Oh the cruelty!

"You mean, you're not going to look at her now?" What if the condition got worse with his delay? Could I sue this bloke then? What would I do without Lucy? I could hear impatient clucking coming from somewhere behind me but I forged on with my anxious questions all the same.

He glared at me as if I was some moronic, computer-addicted kid, and shook his head. "No," he said in a flippant tone, "The technician's having the day off today. We will ring you when it's fixed. It shouldn't take more than a day." Then he forced a smile onto his face, confirming my suspicion that he looked worse smiling than he did scowling.

If only there was another computer shop in this bloody town. I fidgeted with my glasses and my floppy fringe, stared longingly at Lucy, and sighed. "Oh, alright. You..." I looked up at him imploringly, catching his roll of eyes directed at the customer behind me. "You'd call me as soon as she's fixed up, won't you?" I ignored his impatient glare, took one last look at the frail looking Lucy and stepped out of the shop.

Life sucks.

I kicked a loose pebble and watched as it rolled down the slope in break neck speed. Hope that hurt, I thought, feeling mean. I stuck my hands deep into the pockets of my scruffy pair of jeans and walked aimlessly with my head bowed.

"Kell? Hey Kell!" A loud voice rang out.

I looked up to see a large figure leap towards and on me before I could say 'Jack Robinson'. Something warm and wet proceeded to give my face and glasses a good wash before I started sputtering.

"Benny! Stop it! Come here!"

The large golden retriever finally got off me and I picked myself up gingerly whilst wiping my face on my crew neck shirt furiously.

"Sorry 'bout that." Martin's dog, Benny, had a very excitable nature. He also had very bad breath. I shuddered involuntarily. Even though he was truly adorable, he should really invest in some mints if he wanted to score with the ladies. By then, I did not know if I was thinking about Benny, or Martin. Fortunately, Martin did not notice that I was not concentrating on what he was saying. "... So, how about it?" He gazed at me expectantly, his rather handsome face beaming.

"Uhhh..." How about what? I looked at Benny hopefully to see if he could give me any hints. The little bugger merely rolled over, indicating that I should rub his tummy. Hmph.

"C'mon Kell, yes or no? You're just perfect for it." I looked from Benny to Martin and frowned.

Then I shrugged. Lucy was taken away from me so brutally, without any warning at all, and I had survived that. What could be worse? "Okay," I acquiesced. The smile on Martin's face brightened up considerably and that made me a tad uneasy. I hope I did not just agree to pose nude for some porn magazine the boys were starting.


Hoboy. When Martin brought me back to his house, I started feeling a teensy weensy bit panicky. I was on the verge of telling him that I changed my mind when I remembered that I had my period. Satisfied that no one would want me to pose nude no more, I followed him into his house confidently. He led me to the backyard and my eyes widened at the small crowd of people there.

"You're having a party?" There looked to be a small, make-shift stage of sort and many white plastic chairs before it. People were gathering round, chatting and eating those mini-sandwiches on toothpicks. Most, if not all of them lived around the neighbourhood.

Not answering my question, Martin pulled me over to the long table that was peppered with plastic cups, orange juice and dishes of bite-size treats. I ran a hand through my long and rather messy blond hair nervously as I picked up a cup of juice. "Jordan, this is Kelly. Kelly, Jordan." I transferred my attention from the rather delicious looking food on the table to the person I was being introduced to and I almost choked on the orange juice that was in the midst of entering my throat.

The woman standing before me not only had the same name as my cat. She also had the same, startlingly blue eyes and a head of gloriously ginger-colored hair that Jordie had. I wondered if she had those sharp claws as well. If Jordie was human and female, this would be how I would imagine him to look like -- tall, lithe, beautiful, and with an air of menace.

Then she smiled. I looked stupidly at her outstretched hand, then at her, and finally realized what was expected of me. "Oh, sorry. Uhh..." I stretched out the hand that was still holding on to the plastic cup and pulled back quickly. Placing the cup on the table beside me, I snuck a look at her and was relieved for some reason that she was gazing at me with mirthful eyes. I returned her handshake. "Hi, nice to meet you. I've heard a lot about you."

A thin brow rose. "Have you?" Her voice was sweet and lilting, and it sent shivers down my spine. I swallowed rather painfully and shrugged.

"Um, actually... no. I just... um..." I looked to Martin who shot me a knowing grin, and then back at Jordan. "That's what they always say, ya' know?" Yeah, and I know that you're a moron, MORON! I could not believe just how stupid I was behaving!

"Anyway..." Martin took over the speaking department, fortunately. "Good news, Jordan. Kell here just agreed to be your model, aka guinea pig." Two sets of blue eyes looked to me at the same time and I felt the urge to run coming back to me again. I wanted my Lucy. I wanted to be holed up in a small room with a power point and Lucy and literally hide behind her for the rest of my life.

Jordan immediately came behind me. "May I?" She asked, pointing to my hair. Slightly confused, I nodded mutely. She proceeded to fluff up and smooth down my hair. "Great potential," she announced, sounding rather pleased. I gave Martin a weak smile.

"Excellent." Martin looked pleased. Jordan walked back to face me, looking pleased as well. I figured whatever it was that I was doing, I was doing good since everyone was so pleased.

"Thanks, Martin." Jordan turned her blue eyes on me and flashed me a wide smile. "And thanks, Kelly, for saving my arse." I looked at the part of the anatomy she mentioned and decided that it was too good a piece of art to not save. "It's starting soon... shall we get started?" She motioned me toward the stage and I swallowed hard again. I hope I did not have to perform; I had the worst case of stage fright ever. I imagined myself hiccupping to the beat of a song and winced.

Jordan must have seen the sick pallor of my face for she hurriedly laid an assuring hand on my arm. "I promise I won't screw your hair up." I gave her an uncertain look. My hair? That was the least of my worries now. Seeing my unconvinced look, she flashed me a confident smile. "Really, I'm not that bad a hairdresser, ya'know." Oh. Ohh... Hoboy. What did I get myself into?

"You look great!" Martin enthused as I remained rooted in the hairdresser chair with a bunch of my brutally chopped hair clasped in my hand, in apparent shock. "Really! C'mon, Kell, let's go get a drink or something?" he implored as I continued staring at nothing in particular.

This day was taking the most horrendous turn ever. First, Lucy was gone. Now, my hair was gone. And the rest of it... was colored red. Red! I looked like a carbon copy of the lead singer of Garbage in her MTV, "Androgyny", and believe me, I did not carry that look well at all.

"Kell?" I believe I heard a note of worry in Martin's voice. To his relief, I got up from the chair. Jordan won the little friendly competition that they held in Martin's yard and was on her way to becoming the next proprietress of a small salon down the road. As for myself, I was going to get Lucy from the computer shop tomorrow and not see anyone till my hair grows out -- long and blonde.

"Um, I need to go to the toilet, Martin." He pointed to the general direction of the house and I excused myself gratefully. What I needed was a big mirror. Preferably three of them, angled, so I could look at the monstrosity that I have become.

I found the bathroom easily -- not many chances of getting it wrong when all the other rooms were locked. The first look into the mirror made me yelp. I took off my glasses and peered closer at my reflection. My head felt light; rightfully so since about eighty percent of its initial weight had been removed. I tried shaking my head a little and found that I could do that faster than before, and a small smile started forming on my face. The look might take a little getting used to, but it did not give me the same sense of impending doom as it did before. Maybe this was not so bad after all. I wondered if Jordie would be able to recognize me, though.

After looking in the mirror with and without my glasses perched on my nose a couple of times, I decided that the new haircut looked better if I did not wear my glasses. Rather pleased with that discovery, I held onto my glasses and let myself out of the toilet.

And walked straight into something black.

And dropped my glasses.

And heard a sickening crack.

"Fuck." I did not even have the energy to inject passion in my swearing. It figures that the moment I thought my day was looking up just a little, something would happen to make me wish that I had stayed in bed... and finished that kiss, dammit! I was seriously entertaining thoughts of taking a hammer to the damn clock radio. Or better still, go down to the radio station and put a gun to the DJ's head.

"That's fast becoming the most common way of saying hi," a low and decidedly female voice commented, sounding slightly amused.

I, on the other hand, was not amused. I wondered if she could see that from the expression on my face. Or maybe all she could see was a squinting, moronic looking girl with a screwed up haircut. I could feel defeat sinking in and weighing down on my shoulders. I wondered if Lucy missed me as much as I missed her. The thought of Lucy made me feel mad again and I did my best imitation of a sneer. "Well, if that's the case, 'Hey you' would translate as 'Fuck you', wouldn't it?" Now where did that come from? Normally my best come backs came ten minutes after I walked away from the person.

"Ooh... is that a demand, or a request?" Alright, that was it. I did the only thing I could do when I had nothing else to say: pick up my pieces and move on. So I bent down to pick up the three pieces that my glasses had become and was about to move on when a voice stopped me.

"Kell! There you are!" It was Martin. "I see you met my sister." Sister? I did not have to squint to see that the person who just insulted me was as tanned as Martin was fair and had a head of locks as dark as Martin's was blonde. In fact, I would have been more inclined to believe that Jordan, and not this stranger, was Martin's sister.

"Half-sister, he means to say," the woman corrected Martin. I instantly felt the dislike for this woman grow.

Martin gave a half-hearted shrug. "Kell, this is my half-sister, Mach. Mach, Kelly's a fri..."

Mach cut him off. "Yada yada... Hi, how are you? Oh, that's nice. Now I really gotta use the loo, so excuse me." She slammed the door in our faces quite literally. I was appalled, to say the least.

"Ah, don't mind her." I shifted away from Martin slightly when he spoke. "She's always been like that. She doesn't mean to be rude or anything," he said, rather unconvincingly, in my opinion.

I shrugged. I could not be bothered. Mach, whatzhername played a big part in breaking my pair of glasses and did not even bother to say that she was sorry or help me pick up those glasses. Instead, she stood there, dealing out sarcasms like she worked in the casino of sharp words all her life. She was rude in my book, alright.

"It's been nice, Martin, but I gotta go. I gotta... go feed my cat. Um, I don't think Jordan needs me to hang around, does she?" In a way, I was torn between wanting to stay and chat with Jordan and fleeing from Martin's and never look back. I might even buy a blonde wig on my way home and fix it on permanently so that I might convince myself that the events of the day had been a dream.

Martin shook his head. "Nah. Thanks for your help, Kell." He lowered his voice a little, and added, "You want me to fix you up with Jordan? She might..."

If I turned any redder, I would resemble the fire hydrant on the wall beside me. Why the hell is there a fire hydrant there? Oh who cares. "Wha--" I sputtered instead, almost choking on my saliva.

"Jordan and her? Kid, I think your match-making skills are a little screwed, if you don't mind me saying." A voice that I was beginning to detest made itself heard.

"Mach..." Martin gave her sister... okay, half-sister a part-annoyed, part-helpless look.

Before Miss Machiavelli -- my new nickname for her -- could reply, I quickly said my goodbye and rushed down the stairs, feeling humiliated for some reason. I could feel my face burning slightly even as I reached the front door of the house -- well, what I assumed to be the front door of the house.

"Kelly!" It was pure reflex that made me pause in my trek and turn when I heard my name. I nervously wondered if someone was going to ask me why I was heading toward the closet or something equally dumb, like the pantry. Preparing myself for the worst, I was rather surprised when Jordan approached me. "Are you leaving already?" Her voice was just so... sweet. Actually, 'sweet' did not cut it. It was more like... the kind of voice that made people stop to listen; not because it was loud or explosive or anything, but more because they wanted to enjoy the sensation that the sound caused. It was hard to explain, but Jordan's voice did just that. It made me forget everything and want everything that I could possibly dream of, if that made any sense.

"Uh... yeah. I gotta feed my cat," I repeated my excuse for bolting out of Martin's.

"Ooh. I love cats. Is it a he or a she?" she asked conversationally. I could not believe that she wanted to talk to me when she had so many other people she could chat with.

I glanced at the stairs warily, almost expecting something black and mean -- namely Machiavelli -- to jump down any minute. Not seeing anything of that sort happen, I relaxed a little and decided that a short conversation with the easily most beautiful female in the house would not matter. "He. His name is Jordan... Uhh... But I call him Jordie most of the time," I supplied helpfully. Jordie was a subject I could talk about for hours on end if I had a willing audience.

"You have great taste in names." Jordan smirked as I scratched the back of my head self-consciously, greatly surprised at the lack of hair at my nape.

"Um..." I was fast becoming a stuttering moron who could not form a sentence without the use of 'uh' or 'um'.

Jordan chuckled, sending a thrill down my spine. She knew that she was getting to me, and she was enjoying it. I swallowed rather loudly and looked to the door longingly. Surely night had fallen. I would go on home, take a long bath, and sleep. Upon awakening, I would go down to the computer shop and wait for Lucy to be discharged. Then everything would go back to normal, and all these people that I met in the brief few hours Lucy left my side would be nothing but memory.

"...So, how about it?" Dang. Jordan had asked me a question that went totally over my head. Second time that this had happened to me in a day. "Do you wanna?" Jordan tried again, her gaze questioning.

Well, it didn't hurt the first time, I conceded. "Yeah, sure." I hoped fervently that she would clue me in to what I had agreed to.

"Great." She flashed me a bright smile that made my insides melt, but it would not do any good if she did not let on to what I had agreed to do. The black and mean thing that I dreaded seeing made its appearance and looked as if it was coming our direction. The urge to flee within me must have shown on my face, for Jordan said, "I won't keep you any longer, then. We'll be there sevenish, and the reservation's under Rogers."

I could sense a menacing force coming toward us and I was already inching toward the door. I just needed one more piece of information: where was I supposed to be at sevenish? "Remember, it's 'The Corner'," Jordan provided helpfully.

I gave her a quick smile and nod and made a mad dash for the door, missing a look of amusement and the crinkling of electric blue eyes entirely.


It was barely five in the evening when I reached home. The clear and distinct lines of objects around me took on a fuzzy outline without my glasses and made me feel like Alice in Wonderland. Jordie was nowhere in sight when I let myself into my home, and I did not bother calling out for him as I made a beeline for the bathroom.

A long, warm bath later saw me emerging from the shower stall pink and squeaky clean. I had washed my hair like, five times, to see if I could get some of the vibrant color out of it. Using my towel, I wiped the moisture off the mirror and peered hopefully. No such luck.

The more I stared at myself, the more I was certain that I was looking at a stranger. Just how pathetic is it to have the equilibrium of your world rocked when your laptop is taken away from you for a day? I quirked a smile at myself, thought that it looked stupid on me, and shook my head. I should have opted out of that dinner invitation. Now, I had to face the prospect of meeting with God knows how many strangers. Was it worth it?

The thought of seeing Jordan again made me smile grudgingly. Maybe it was.

I had worried over what I was going to wear to the restaurant, running up and down the stairs with a different outfit on each time. God alone knew why I hung the full-length mirror downstairs instead of in my bedroom. After probably ten different combination of outfits, I settled on the first one I had come down with -- a black cotton crew neck that made the red in my hair stand out even more, and a very baggy pair of murky green cargos that hung precariously on my hips. In place of my glasses, I slipped on a pair of contacts that I hardly ever wore.

The hair was rather screwed up, though. It had lost the hairdresser's touch, as I call it, as soon as I allowed water to touch it. It could not be that difficult to style it, right? I mean, hairdressers are humans too... With a look of intense concentration, I applied a ghastly amount of mousse to my hair and hoped for the best.

After styling this way and that for almost forty-five minutes, I gasped when I looked at the clock. It was already seven, and I had yet to feed Jordie. In fact... I looked around and saw my ginger colored tabby glare at me disdainfully from where he was lying. "Sorry, baby..." I apologized distractedly. Grabbing the huge towel off the back of a chair beside me, I began to towel my moussed hair furiously, deciding to go for the natural look. Walking over to the larder, I picked out a can of cat food, opened it, and emptied it into Jordie's black bowl.

"I gotta go, sweetie. I'll see you later, okay? You have fun..." I frowned. "But not too much fun, you hear me? Keep off the furniture and leave that poor puppy next door alone," I lectured the oblivious tabby. Seeing that I was not going to get much reaction out of the feline, I pulled on a pair of skater shoes and let myself out of the house, attempting but failing to whistle along the way.

I wondered if I should hang around outside the restaurant to make sure that I did not seem like an eager fool by being the first and only person at the dinner table. But if I did not enquire about the table, I would never know if they had arrived; I did not want to be the last one to arrive either. Sighing at the many choices I had to make a day, I threw caution into the wind and strode up to the man standing at the entrance of the restaurant.

'The Corner' was a nice restaurant situated in a small nook that many would pass by without a second look, and for that reason alone, it was almost always never crowded. I had been to this restaurant a few times with my father, and had really taken a liking to the place. I never did like crowds and loud noises. The other side of the restaurant overlooked the water, and, like most places situated near the water, gave me a sense of calm and peace. Tonight, however, the above mentioned feelings were nowhere to be found as I followed the man to the table that was out in the open, blanketed by numerous gray clouds and the beautiful but quickly darkening blue sky.

Hope it doesn't rain, I thought. It was so much nicer outside the restaurant, with the cool breeze blowing and the soft, soothing sound of the water. I could see seagulls dotting the sky and frowned. They were nice if they stayed far away. I once had a fat, psychotic looking seagull chasing off every other seagull on the grass patch that I was on, so that he could stare at me alone. Needless to say, it freaked me out pretty badly.

As I approached the long table, I recognized a few people from school immediately. Waving a hi to Martin's buddy, Sean, I took the seat beside him.

"Hey, didn't think I'd see you here," Sean said with a bright smile. Unlike his best friend, Sean was a skinny, bespectacled and lanky teenager. He had the same sunny disposition as Martin, though, and his dark brown eyes shone behind those thick glasses.

I shrugged. Have I mentioned that I was quite a loner in school? I had friends, but no... friends, if you know what I mean. No? Well, I knew people and hung out with them periodically but I preferred my own company. My world, as you have seen, consisted of me, Jordie and Lucy.

"Martie told me you were Jordan's model. Good on ya'. The new do looks good, by the way." Sean beamed and I gave him a weak smile, slightly embarrassed. I caught a look of animosity directed my way and turned to study the person discreetly.

The arrogant looking male seated on the opposite side of the long table looked a lot like Jude Law, I noted with a start. However, the perpetual dissatisfied look on his face made his beautifully sculpted face... lacking, somehow. He was holding a long stick of cigarette between his fingers, and was doing a rather efficient job of reducing it to ashes.

Seated on his right was Tony, a guy I knew from school. Sean and he were engaged in a very technical conversation on... I leaned in closer to determine the topic of discussion but was thrown off by all the long and foreign terms. Shrugging inwardly, I returned to my rather enjoyable task of observing my dinner companions.

"Really? I used to study that when I was in college too. What a coincidence! Maybe we could... you know, have a chat about it one day? You know, over coffee or something?" Hm. Interesting. I eyed the earnest looking male to Tony's right who was, apparently, making a fool of himself to Clarissa, another one of my schoolmates. Sean and I were the only two people on my side of the table, and I wondered who I was going to sit next to for dinner.

"Hey you all," a cheery voice greeted. Everyone looked up and saw a beaming Martin making his way towards us. "Jordan's parking the car," he added, looking at me. I flushed for no reason as he sat beside me. I took a sip of my ice water and started choking in a very unladylike manner as some of the water went down the wrong pipe.

"I don't give that good an entrance to warrant a choke, do I?" A dark figure slid into the seat between Martin and Clarissa and smirked in my direction. I finished choking, waving away Martin's concerned hand, and threw the best glare I could muster in the evil woman's direction. It did not cross my mind for a moment that Machiavelli was going to be here. Now that I had my contacts on, and the world became clear defined lines again, I could see her clearly.

Machiavelli seemed to like the color black a lot. She was garbed in black from head to toes, wearing a ribbed t-shirt that showed off her rather impressive washboard stomach, black leather pants and black shiny boots with silver buckles. The only hint of color on her was that of her piercing blue eyes, not unlike Martin's and Jordan's, and her rather full lips that were curled up in a half-cruel, half-amused smirk at this moment. Her arrogance was unnerving and she seemed unaffected by the glare I gave her.

Clarissa, on the other hand, looked absolutely delighted that Machiavelli had taken the seat next to hers. Her pretty green eyes lit up and her reddish-goldish locks gleamed in the light as she leaned over to the dark, unnatural creature. I looked away with a good measure of irritation and spotted Jordan coming towards us.

There was something in the way Jordan moved, I decided, that made her seem as if she was floating, not walking. I could still remember the way her soft fingers worked through my hair that afternoon, and that thought alone made me grin rather stupidly. I sensed that I was not the only one giving Jordan her much deserved adoration and looked to see who else had fallen for her charms. Somehow, I was not surprised to see Jude Law lookalike follow her trek towards us with appreciative eyes.

What if she had forgotten that she invited me? What if she had forgotten who I was? What if someone else came and needed a seat and she realized that I was the redundant guest? "Kelly," Jordan said warmly and my breath caught in my throat. She looked positively radiant in her sky blue t-back top and denim hipsters that exposed a silver navel ring.

"Let's get on with the program, shall we? There are people who came to eat, Jordie," Machiavelli said in an off-hand manner, snapping me out of my gawking mode efficiently. I shot her an annoyed look, at the same time feeling a prick of familiarity at her calling Jordan 'Jordie'. What was she trying to imply anyway? Machiavelli returned my look with a raise of her brow, challenging me to correct her. I sat rooted in my seat with no good comebacks.

So I did what I did best. "Um, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to the washroom," I mumbled to no one in particular.

"This is fast becoming a habit, isn't it?" I did not have to look up from the sink to know who was standing behind me, blocking the entire doorway. The washroom was a rather crammed affair, consisting of only one cubicle. "We must stop meeting this way," Machiavelli continued in her amused tone. I wondered if she was always this amused with herself. If I were like her, I would be laughing my head off all the time. I found my inner voice hysterically funny more often than not.

"Next time, tell me where you'll be. I'll make sure I won't be there," I answered stiffly, a little hurt that this devil of a woman was so bent on baiting me. This was why I would rather talk to a screen. There, I was safe. There, I was protected. If someone said something I did not like, I just had to click on an ignore button and he or she would disappear. Faced with situations like this, I was really quite helpless.

"Okay. I'll be at the table you just came from in approximately five minutes, give or take..." There was laughter in her voice and it served to fuel my anger more. I felt tears coming and I was horrified; I was not going to cry in front of this woman!

Fine. I did not give a shit if I had this damn dinner or not anyway. I would just go back to Lucy... uh, scrap that. I would just go back and see if Jordie wanted to cuddle or go to an internet cafe or something. I did not think I could eat very well with this arrogant, annoying, insulting, overbearing bitch! around anyway.

"Betcha feel like hitting me now, dontcha?" She gave me a cocky smile and my right hand curled into a fist unconsciously. I could feel a rather strong energy building inside of me and I had to clench my jaw to keep myself from screaming nonsensically at her.

The moment passed and I shrugged. This threw her off-guard and her brow rose involuntarily. "Let me out," I said in an even, impatient tone, as though she was wasting my time.

Machiavelli, surprisingly, adhered to my request and shifted to let me pass. I considered this a small victory and decided to stay for dinner.


I thought I felt her staring at me a couple of times but each time I looked in her direction -- both blatantly and discreetly -- she would not be looking my way. After this happened a few times, I got fed up and stopped bothering. I looked down at my chicken dinner and stabbed at it viciously.

I felt a little uncomfortable, sitting between Sean and Martin. They tried to include me in their conversation but I did not appear to be very interested. Granted, everytime I made a contribution, the smart mouth Mach would shoot off a biting and witty remark -- at my expense, of course. The seat beside Sean was empty for there were only nine of us, and I wondered if I could move there inconspicuously. "Kelly." I looked up. "Why don't you sit over here with us? You seem a little quiet over there."

The knowledge that Jordan actually took notice of my discomfort warmed me considerably. I waited for Machiavelli to chime in with her ever so witty comments and was disappointed when it did not come. I looked to her, annoyed, and caught myself. Are you mad? You're annoyed that she did not say something mean and spiteful to you? Shaking my head at myself, I picked up my plate.

"Are you sure you're not confusing being boring with being quiet, Jordie?" Ah. There it was. I stopped my movements and the conversations died down considerably at that. I looked up and past concerned, appalled and interested looking faces to settle on a smirking one.

And snorted.

I was wondering what she could say to Jordan's innocent request for me to change my place and what she said was actually pretty funny. I had to give it to her; she had a quick mind. Wonder what she did for a living?

My mirth was highly unexpected. I suspected that more than a few people were just waiting for an explosion to come. A few sighs of relief could be heard as I sat down heavily beside Jordan. Amused eyes greeted me and I gave her a sheepish grin. "What? It was funny." Shaking her head, Jordan lifted her glass and took a sip of her red wine.

Clarissa was obviously very interested in Machiavelli. She hung on her every word and laughed at every single smart-ass remark that woman made. The look of pure lust and adoration on Clarissa's face made my skin crawl. Seeing that Jordan was talking to Jude Law lookalike -- his name is Haley, by the way -- I focussed my attention on my schoolmate.

Everyone knew who Clarissa was. Born with the sweet girl-next-door look and a body many would die for, Clarissa easily made it into the popular crowd and the elite cheerleading team. She played hard but apparently studied hard as well. The points that she made in the one class we shared were always very well thought out, which was more than I can say about my own. Tutors who stereotyped students were normally in for a shock when they encountered Clarissa. Then why was she reduced to this giggly, gooey heap now that she was in Machiavelli's company?

I continued gazing at the fetching looking cheerleader for a little while longer, then shifted my attention to the object of her affections: Machiavelli. I realized that I did not even know whether Mach was her first or last name. Jordan, I had learnt, was Martin's cousin and they shared the same last name. Mach, however, with her little speech about being Martin's half-sister, might not have the same last name as they did.

I started studying the dark haired woman's demeanor closely, not put off by the fact that I had to crane my neck a little because of our sitting positions. She had just said something that made Clarissa blush prettily, and I wished I could hear what it was. It made me a little pissed, though, that Clarissa got the nice treatment from this insolent woman. Pretty girls get it all, I thought.

Just as I was about to look away, Machiavelli looked up and caught my gaze, giving me a knowing look. I pulled my eyes away quickly as my heart raced. I felt as if I was caught peeping at someone changing. The rest of the dinner went by with me trying -- and succeeding, mind you -- my damnest not to look in her direction.


"Never made it as a wise man
I couldn't cut it as
A poor man stealing
Tired of living like a blind man
I'm sick of sight without
A sense of feeling
And this is how you remind me..."

Nickelback's How you remind me was blasting in the disco/pub that I had tagged along to. I wondered if Jordie missed me. Timothy, the guy who was trying to chat up Clarissa, Martin and Sean had decided to leave after the dinner. Martin and Sean were going to play some computer game at Sean's place, and Timothy was probably put off by his lack of progress with Clarissa. Haley was definitely here for Jordan, as Clarissa was for Machiavelli... so that left me. A friggin'... fifth wheel. Strangely, I had not felt like going home. So here I was, sloping in my seat with my legs wide open, finishing my fourth mug of beer.

"It's not like you to say sorry
I was waiting on a different story
This time I'm mistaken
For handing you
A heart worth breaking
And I've been wrong
I've been down
Into the bottom of every bottle
These five words in my head
Are we having fun yet?"

I was singing along to the song mutely, with my eyes closed when a warm breath in my ear startled me. "So are we having fun yet?" It was Jordan. Her voice was a notch lower than usual, and her eyes were slightly glazed due to the consumption of alcohol. I gave her a full-fledged smile and secured one in return. "I'm glad you came along, Kelly. I really like you."

Now, that was heartstopping. Answer her, dammit! "You're not too bad yourself." I shocked myself when I gave her a wink. That was one good effect of alcohol, I decided. It gave the otherwise stuttery-and-slow-to-react me some wit.

Jordan was in the chair behind mine, and she had one arm resting over my chest, putting us in a rather chummy position. Normally, I did not really like people touching me much. But like every other rule, there were exceptions. I really liked Jordan, too. She was beautiful, caring, and funny. She was also semi-involved with Jude lookalike, Haley. That explained for his watchful eyes throughout the dinner. It was a long shot, but I could actually visualize us becoming real friends. That is, if I could get over the still lingering flustered feeling when I was around her.

Then suddenly, Jordan's warmth left me and I turned to see that she was leaning over to listen to what Clarissa was saying to her. Somewhat annoyed, I got to my feet to get to the bar for another drink. Machiavelli had disappeared a little while after we arrived, leaving a disappointed looking Clarissa keeping a lookout for her every so often.

"It's not like you to say sorry
I was waiting on a different story
This time I'm mistaken
For handing you
A heart worth breaking
And I've been wrong..."

I pushed myself through the swamped dance floor and wondered briefly why the dance floor was between the main sitting area and the bar. It made no sense, really. Each time you wanted to get a drink, you had to brush up against a million and one sweaty, stinky humans. That thought made me grimace.

"...I've been down
Into the bottom of every bottle
These five words in my head
Are we having fun yet?"

Most people on the dance floor were banging their heads to the song, and some were swinging their bodies rather violently. I was ducking another wild limb when something wound itself around my waist and pulled me backwards. Yelping loudly, I found myself pressed against a warm body. Cringing at the thought of having someone else's perspiration soaking through my shirt, it took me a while before I got indignant at the intimate position I was in with... A turn of the head identified my assailant as Machiavelli and I instinctively jabbed my elbow into her ribs.

"Ow! This is what I get for getting you out of harm's way?" Machiavelli acted like the jab actually hurt.

I gave her a disbelieving look. "I think you're more likely to do me harm than any of these..." I flailed my hands about to indicate the people around us and continued, "... these... awful dancing things..." I retracted my arm quickly when a young punk was pushed in my direction. A man came towards us and pushed the teenager again. The menacing look in his eyes worried me. A warm hand cupped my waist and pulled me in the opposite direction. I followed Machiavelli blindly and was led to a miraculously empty spot.

"You can get your hand off me now," I said evenly, staring at the offending appendage still wrapped around my waist.

Machiavelli gave me a wide-eyed look but pulled her arm away. "What? No gratitude? I'm hurt," she bemoaned. I narrowed my eyes, seeing through her act. What I did not understand was why she was switching to a different tune now, so to speak.

"What?" The genuinely confused look on her face made me want to scoff. Was she acting stupid? Did she not know what a constant pain in my arse the whole day? This one day was one day too long, and I hoped that I would never see her again. "What?" she repeated herself, apparently not going to be satisfied until I answered.

Could I be bothered? I decided I was not and shrugged. "Nothing," I said off-handedly and turned to go to the bar. Another favourite song of mine, Alive, was playing now, and I was determined to enjoy myself despite this Machiavellian character.

"Everyday is a new day
I'm thankful for every breath I take
I won't take it for granted
So I learn from my mistakes
It's beyond my control sometimes it's best to let go,
whatever happens in this lifetime
So I trust in love
You have given me peace of mind..."

Just when I thought I was homefree, a firm hand grabbed mine and spun me around. Surprised, I put out my free hand to brace myself against... Machiavelli. What was it with this woman? I opened my mouth to give her a piece of my mind when she swooped down to press her lips to mine. Huh? My heart raced irrationally as I tried to comprehend what just happened. Coherent thought, however, was the last thing I could generate in my overloaded brain. After the initial shock of what was happening dissolved, I actually wanted to start kissing her back when one word screamed in my head: Machiavelli!

I pushed myself away from her and glared at her in confusion and anger. I touched a hand to my lips and fled from where she stood, all the while replaying the smug look on her face.

"I, I feel so alive
For the very first time
I can't deny you
I feel so alive
I, I feel so alive
For the very first time
And I think I can fly..."

Aw crap. Life sucks.


This was quite possibly the worst day of my life. Ever. Gentle needles of rain started pelting down on me seconds after I exited the club. I was past being angry. All I wanted right now was to get home, jump into the shower and then go to bed. I never should have gone anywhere. Watching the Australian Open would have been more rewarding than... I looked down at my rapidly dampening clothes... this. A surprised Jordan had allowed me to leave after eliciting a promise that I would give her a call in the near future. Clarissa looked as if she did not bother if I was there or not anyway, and Haley actually gave me a smile for the first time this evening.

The rain started coming down heavier, and I increased my pace. The hard pelts of rain were actually beginning to hurt a little. Beside me, the cars drove past. I paused to reach into my pocket for my wallet, wanting to check if I had enough money to take a cab home. A quick peek inside told me that the answer was no, and I cussed loudly.

"Hey kid!" I quickened my pace when I heard that. Robbers came out and walked in the rain too. "Hey!" I heard something pull up beside me and was all geared up to run. "Kelly!" I turned at that and saw with a jolt of surprise that the person shouting for me was Machiavelli. I was even more surprised that she knew my name.

She was driving the most hideous looking heap I have ever seen. The vehicle was an antique -- no, ancient would be a better word to use -- truck that had more rust than paint on it. The engine was almost louder than the rain and the creaking sounds that it was emitting made me wonder if it would collapse.

"C'mon, get in." She motioned for me to go to her and her truck. Yeah right.

"Thanks but no thanks," I said loudly to be heard in the rain. What, did she want to murder me now? And what made her think that I would hop into her truck when I left the club because of her? Obnoxious shit.

The monster truck inched forward as I did. "Aw, stop being such an immature little git and get in, willya'?" The rain got harder if it was possible, and I was positively drenched now.

"Can something that's not mean, insulting or hurting pass through your lips?" I shouted at her from what I considered a mature position on the sidewalk. Was there such a thing? I shrugged inwardly and continued squinting at her. I seemed to like doing that very much.

"Oh yeah, and standing in the rain when there's a perfectly good truck for you to get into is mature. I'm just stating the facts, little girl, and you are immature!" Machiavelli looked exasperated.

I stomped off. "Flattery will get you nowhere!" I took to running so that I could reach a shelter soon. Reaching one quickly, I started shaking my head vigorously like a dog to shake as much water off my body as possible. My eyes strayed involuntarily to the road and was curiously disappointed to see that the hideous looking truck was no longer there.

Shrugging it off, I started wringing my shirt but quickly saw that it was futile. Looking around, I saw a brightly lighted shop and saw that it was a 24-hour eatery. Pleased, I strode toward it with loud squelching noises.

The loud sound coming from the drying machine in the washroom of the eatery lulled me as I attempted to dry my shirt. Not caring if anyone were to walk into the washroom and see me with my shirt off, I stared idly at a crack in a tile on the wall. So occupied was I in my activity, I failed to register the presence of another person in the washroom.

"You don't look like someone who would get a tattoo," a low, familiar voice commented as my heart leapt. Turning around quickly, I covered myself with my almost dry shirt. "Nothing much to hide, really." The note of smug amusement was in the voice again and it made me clench my jaw. Fuming, I put my shirt on quickly and proceeded to ignore her. She was just too confusing for someone whose interaction with other human beings were limited to those online and in the grocery store.

She came to stand directly behind me, forcing our line of visions to collide in the mirror. I turned the tap off and turned to leave the washroom. This is the third washroom that recorded our interaction, I thought, and for some reason, that amused me. Seeing the ghost of a smile on my lips, Machiavelli took a step towards me.

"Just what is your problem, anyway?" I asked wearily, wanting more than anything to go out and order myself a cheeseburger with fries on the side and a large chocolate milkshake. The mere thought of that made my mouth water.

"You're my problem," came the quick reply, but without the sarcasm. Once again, I was stumped for a reply. "You bring out the worst in me." She sounded almost rueful.

"Enough with the compliments already, okay?" Sheesh! Just cos' I'm not as pretty as Clarissa doesn't mean that I have to put up with crap like this! Speaking of Clarissa... "Why are you here anyway, since I bring out the worst in you? Isn't Clarissa entertaining enough for you? She sure is pretty enough," I added, sounding jealous to my own ears.

At that, Machiavelli's eyes lit up. I presumed that it was at the mention of Clarissa and I rolled my eyes not too subtly. "You're jealous," she crowed. Huh? She seemed to bring out the stupid side of me. She stepped closer and I was backed into the sink. I felt around me nervously. "You like me, dontcha?" It was that same taunting glint in her eyes again and it ruffled my feathers good.

"The hell I do!" I blurted out. Damn, I should have just snorted or something. Now I sounded defensive.

Blue eyes peered into mine. She was standing so close I could see the individual hairs of her eyebrow. I continued bending backward as she bent forward until I could go no lower. "You do like me," she said with wonder in her voice. She was beginning to sound like an idiot child and it was beginning to scare me.

I placed a finger on her chest and pushed tentatively. She snapped out of her trance and noticed my digit. Breaking into a radiant smile that I had to grudgingly agree made her look gorgeous, with her damp hair pushed back from her face and shirt clinging onto her body... yada yada... she grabbed me by my waist again and pulled me away from the sink and towards her.

"Hey!" I complained, pushing myself away from her again. "Look, just because I did not refute what you just said does not -- and I say this again -- does not mean that I agree with you, you big oaf--"

I did not have time to finish my angry outburst for she had, once again, captured my lips in hers. I should have known that was going to happen when I saw her staring at my lips moments ago, but I had never been kissed before. Well, prior to tonight, that is. I pushed against her, annoyed by her audacity and her knack for cutting me off time and again. This time, however, she persisted and I slowly relaxed against her. I felt my eyes flutter shut but I just refused to let her win! I pushed against her again, and because it took her off-guard this time, I succeeded.

"Damn, you look so hot when you're pissed off." Her gaze was an admiring one. This woman was a sicko!

"Will you stop doing that when I'm scolding you?! It's annoying!" Hot? She thought I looked hot? Definitely psycho. "And what's your problem anyway? I know you said it was me earlier but... jesus! You've been nothing but mean and insulting the entire day and now you kiss me? Not once but twice! Are you sick? Do you have a weird fetish or something?" I finally got everything out without any interruptions from Miss Smarty-mouth and it felt good, dammit!

Machiavelli started to chuckle. I waited patiently and politely -- unlike some people I know -- for her to finish. "No, no... no fetish..." She snickered lightly, took one look at my petulant face and broke off laughing again. I refused to admit that I was thinking that her laugh sounded rather nice and continued glaring at her. Seeing that I was unamused, she collected herself. "Contrary to what I might have led you to believe, I would really like to get to know you," she said finally, in a serious tone.

At the disbelieving look on my face, she continued, "Okay... fine. That might be too big a jump, I admit. Why don't we call it truce and... go outside to have something to eat, huh? And we'll go from there. What do you say?"

I blew out a breath and shook my head. "I can't believe I gave you, of all people, my first kiss," I mumbled, not entirely meaning it in a negative way. Machiavelli, despite her quick mouth -- actually, because of her quick mouth if you see it another way -- was damn attractive in the bad girl sort of way. Not too bad, if I might say so myself.

Her eyes widened. "First kiss?" she squeaked. Ooh. Ain't that lethal afterall, eh?

I knew a truce was too good to be true. "Yeah, yeah. Bring it on." I waited for another snide remark but it never came. People usually had lots to say about that. Twenty and never been kissed? At this time and age? Yeah well, no one whome I had cybersex with would have guessed that. I read heaps of trashy novels. Plus I had a good memory for details.

When she remained silent, I gave her a curious look. If she was not going to say anything, could we please go out so I could get my burger? Maybe she was a washroom fetish.

"I... It wasn't that bad, was it?" she asked in a meek voice.

Huh?! for the millionth time tonight!

"I mean... shit, I didn't know. How could I? It's not as if people have it branded on their heads or something ya'know?" Great. Now I have reduced her into a rambling idiot. She sounded as if she just took my virginity or something. She looked uncomfortable, though, and sadistically, it made me feel good.

For a moment. Then I started feeling bad for feeling good. Jesus, I don't understand you sometimes! I scolded myself. "Can we get outta here? I'm hungry..." I said, in a way of truce. She followed me out obediently and trailed after me like a puppy dog.

We placed our orders and found ourselves in an awkward silence. Now this is new. Silence from Machiavelli? Maybe we're progressing in our relationship already. Then, slightly appalled, What relationship? Are you nuts? Rolling my eyes at myself, I started fidgeting with the paper napkin, salt and pepper holders.

I gasped out loud when a quick hand grabbed mine, stopping me from my laborous chore of stacking and balancing the salt and pepper holders on the paper napkin holder. "Sorry." She actually looked sheepish. It was not clear what she was apologizing for but I shrugged anyway. "I hate it when people move things around on the dining table." I pulled my hand away as though it was scalded. "Although that's not as bad as people who mix weird stuff in their leftover food," she continued, looking at me hopefully to see if that appeased me.

Apparently not. "I do that," I informed her calmly. She threw her hands and eyes skyward in exaggerated despair then started shaking in silent laughter. Curiosity got the better of me. "What?" I demanded.

"You're everything I dislike," she said mirthfully. "So why do I find myself so drawn to you?" Jesus, this woman needed to take classes in flowery speeches!

Thankfully, our orders came at that moment and saved me from having to comment. I shamelessly stuffed my face. Machiavelli looked up from her slice of pecan pie to stare at me. I swallowed the fry in my mouth and took a gulp of my milkshake. She was still staring, her eyes dancing in amusement. "Take a picture," I said dryly, "it'll last longer." Hah! I have been dying to use this line since I read it off some online story.

"I might do just that, Kelly..." she said softly, and it made me feel funny inside. We finished our meal in companionable silence after that.


"So your mum married Martin's dad and they had Martin when you were six, that right?" I repeated what Machiavelli just told me to make sure that I got the story right. She nodded. "So what's your full name?" We were walking side by side to where she parked her truck.

"Darrell Rivers Mach," she answered ruefully. The name sounded really familiar. I racked my brains to think of where it was that I heard it before. "My mum liked Enid Blyton. A lot." Ah, that was it.

"Right... Darrell Rivers in Malory Towers, right?" I was an avid reader of Enid Blyton myself. "I never met someone who was named after a character from her book, though." Probably because anyone old enough to name a twenty over year old individual today would not be reading Enid Blyton so much as to like her character enough to name her child after it.

"Yeah." Machiavelli rolled her eyes. "But I'm glad she didn't call me Moonface or Whatzisname or something stupid like that," she said, referring to characters from The Faraway Tree series.

I started snickering. "Or Washalot or Saucepan Man or Silky..."

She unlocked her truck and chuckled. "Hey actually I won't mind being called Silky..." She wiggled her brows. I gave her an innocent look and she groaned. "Aw, you virgins are no fun," she grumbled.

"Hey, watch that!" I smacked her upper arm, letting her know that I did not appreciate that comment at all.

"Sorry," she looked at me apologetically. "Can't help it. Sometimes they come out automatically. It's scary." She rounded her eyes at me, attempting to look pathetic like that boy in Sixth Sense when he announced that he saw dead people. When I gave her a grudging look to indicate that I accepted her apology, she started her engine and I paled at the loud rattling sound the truck made.

"Are you sure this heap is going to hold?" I glanced around me uncertainly. Even though the exterior of the truck was less than appealing, it seemed that Machiavelli kept the interior clean. But cleanliness said nothing about the state of the engine.

"Hey, Betsy here is not a heap, okay?" She eased the truck into the non-existent traffic.

"Betsy? As in the Betsy from the Archie comics?" The comic character, Archie Andrews, had a beloved antique car that he named Betsy and she broke down so much that he was probably better off walking.

"Spot on!" Machiavelli turned to me and flashed me a big grin. "Hey, you're good. Maybe this getting along thing ain't so bad after all."

I rolled my eyes. "That still remains to be seen." My words belied my feelings, however. It was turning out to be quite a surprisingly nice... I looked at my watch... morning. Ah... a new day. Lucy was coming home.

"So, um... Wanna do something together tomorrow?" We were outside my place, sitting side by side in Betsy. It amused me that Machiavelli actually looked a little nervous.

"Maybe," I gave her a non-commital answer. I could not believe that my day was ending the way it was! And I could not believe that she actually wanted to see me again the next day. It was still hard to reconcile this Machiavelli with the earlier one I met in Martin's place. I had yet to ask her why she was so mean about him wanting to match make Jordan and me, though, and tucked that aside to ask another day. Oh dear, I was already planning for the future. Bad sign.

"A simple 'yes' or 'no' would suffice, Kelly. 'Maybe' is so childish," she said with a dramatic roll of her eyes.

Yes, yes, yes! I wanna see you tomorrow, and I hope you'll kiss me again tomorrow. Actually I'd like you to kiss me again now! Is that what you want to hear? Jesus... "Yes, Machiavelli, I'd like to see you tomorrow," I said out loud.

"What did you call me?" Dark brows furrowed.

Huh? What? "I called you Machia... oh shit."

"Oh, you did not..." she began slowly and disbelievingly, shaking her head. I gave her an innocent shrug. Maybe she would not know what the name meant. I mean, we could not have read so many of the same books, right? "Nicolo Machiavelli? 'The Prince', Machiavelli? That Machiavelli?" Ah shit. She knew Machiavelli.

"Do you know of any other?" I rolled my eyes at her. Inwardly, I was actually a little afraid that she would be offended. Not that being dubbed the man who was believed to be the first great political philosopher of the Renaissance was anything lacking, mind you. Her slightly aghast expression turned into one of wry amusement after a moment's thought.

"Ya' know, I really like the way you think," she said finally with a note of admiration in her voice. She gave me a crooked grin that slowly slipped, changing the amused look on her face into something more serious.

Leaning over, she made her intent clear and gave me every opportunity to pull away if I chose to. Which I did not. Eyes fluttered shut as breaths mingled. My world became one of pure sensations and I gladly succumbed to it. Her lips were soft and velvety, caressing mine with such gentleness that it felt like butterflies touching my lips. I realized with a start that this was the reason why they were called butterfly kisses. When I sighed, she leaned in closer to me and cupped my cheek in her hand, stroking my face softly. The kiss deepened and I freely responded for the first time tonight. It lasted both an instant and the whole of eternity, and it left me wanting more.

I opened my eyes and saw her looking at me with a breathless expression on her face. I was sure this was not her first kiss, so why the big reaction?

"I have stopped kissing for the sole reason of kissing for a long time," she said wryly, answering my unspoken question. You could probably predict my next thought: Huh? Thankfully, she continued.

"Somewhere along the line, I stopped having first kisses and started focussing on the first time I have sex with... whoever. Then it became whether I was going to have sex with whoever. Everything's so rushed and... well I guess I just stopped smelling the flowers, so to speak."

Please take into account that I had a very trying day, four mugs of beer and a long walk in the rain. Add all that to the time, which was 3:47 in the morning by the way, you would get Kelly with a very slow working brain. It took me quite a while to digest all that information and realize that Machiavelli was actually saying something sweet to me.

I think she was starting to get worried that she might have offended me again with all this talk about sex when I remained silent. Then I gave her a wide smile. She blew out a breath and smiled back. So we sat there, just smiling, and smiling at each other.

She broke the silence. "I think I better go. I have to get to work at nine."

"Oh. Okay. Um, I'll see you then." I was out of the truck and walking to my door in the matter of seconds.

"Hey Kelly!" I turned back. "Is seven a good time for you?" Huh? Oh god, stop thinking that!! I finally worked out what she was asking and nodded. "Okay, see you at seven then." I did not notice this when I first met her, but Machiavelli had the most brilliant smile. Maybe if my glasses were not broken... nah... I would have still hated her.

It was only when I was getting into bed when I realized I did not know where I was meeting her at seven.


I ran from the kitchen to the phone and picked it up breathlessly. "Miss Preston? I'm calling from TKY Computers. Your laptop is ready for collection anytime from now to six pm." Yes! Lucy! I glanced at the clock and saw that I had an hour left before the shop closes. I felt slightly guilty about spending more time thinking of seeing Machia... I'd better start calling her Mach in case I call her Machiavelli out loud again.

"Hello? Are you there?" The voice in the receiver called out upon hearing no response.

"Yeah, I'll be there soon. Thanks!" I hung up gleefully without waiting for the person on the other end to say goodbye. "Jordie!" I shouted, "Lucy's coming home!" I announced. My cat came to me and rubbed himself against me. He had been especially affectionate this morning, actually making me believe that he had missed me the day before. One leap brought him onto my shoulder and I shot him a bemused look. "You wanna come along, huh? Okay..."

I ran out of my house in my worn 'Undertaker' shirt that I had bought at a WWF match that I went to years ago, a pair of ridiculously large pair of shorts, and slippers with Jordie perched on my shoulder.

"Jordie, stop digging your claws into my shoulder!" I complained, swatting at my ginger colored tabby as I made my way down to the computer shop. I did not know if he really understood me or whether all thoughts of pain just vanished at the sight of the computer store. I pushed the door eagerly, and made my way to the counter with a big grin on my face.

The counter was empty.

Frowning impatiently, I tapped my fingers on the counter top. Service was so bad in this store. Footsteps and the ruffling of paper announced the entrance of the unfriendly man in the store the day before. "Miss Preston?" Well, he definitely was not this polite. Neither was he female. I was grateful that I did not have to face the annoying man. This must be the technician.

"Yup!" I called out happily. Jordie leapt off me and settled himself on the counter.

Stunned silence followed when a familiar form emerged from the storeroom in the shop. Mach? One look at her face and I knew what was coming. I could feel it in my blood... I stiffened as I waited for the imminent outburst. "Your name's Kelly Preston?" She gave me an incredulous look before bursting into laughter.

Annoyed but used to this reaction, I waited patiently with Jordie until Mach collected herself. It was not that funny, was it? Sheesh! "Yeah, talk about enamored mothers, huh?" I said wryly. Jordie threw a disdainful look at the uncultured Darrell Rivers who was guffawing in the most unladylike manner, termed her to be of no danger, and returned to licking his paw.

Mach snickered one last time and came out from behind the counter. "Your cat?" She tilted her head at Jordie.

I nodded. "Jordie, short for Jordan," I introduced. Hearing me speak his name, Jordie's ears pricked up but he did not bother looking at me. Other than a small raise of her curved brow, Mach did not comment on my cat's name.

"I didn't expect to see you this early," she said instead, in a tone that I have learnt to be her 'sweet' tone. "I've been thinking about you..."

Now that wasn't so bad, was it? Mach could definitely do sweet if she put her heart to it, I decided as I blushed a little.

"Kelly Preston..." With that, she burst into another round of laughter and I rolled my eyes skywards. Why me?

The End

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