Disclaimer: These two look like a sexy warrior and bard, but they’re not. They’re all mine.

Subtext: Yep. It’s in there.

If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com


by Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman

Part 1

I leaned against Mr. Rodman’s desk, my books in my arms as I tapped my foot to the beat of the song in my head. That damn Britney Spears. I can’t even stand her, but I’d heard one of her songs on someone’s car stereo in the parking lot, and now I was stuck with it.

"Trying to tap through the floor?" I turned to see the older man walk into the classroom.

"Yeah, that’s exactly what I was doing. You’re late."

"Sorry. A student caught me out in the hall." The physics teacher sat behind his desk, shuffling through the stacks of graded and un-graded tests. "Okay, today you only have one, I think." Grabbing a folded paper, he pushed his ever sliding glasses further onto his nose, and read over the names. "Yeah, today you have Haley Corregan. She’ll meet you in the library at four." He looked up at me to see me staring at the page in his hand.

"Haley?" He nodded, tossing the sheet aside.

"Yep. That’s it. She’s a bright girl, so I don’t imagine it should take long. We have a test coming up next week, and she’s worrying herself silly about it."

"Okay. Thanks, Hank."

I glanced at the large clock over the chalkboard as I walked out of the room. I had just under an hour to kill before I met her for tutoring. I had been surprised when Hank had said her name. Why would Haley Corregan need anything? Wasn’t she supposed to be perfect or something?

I headed to my locker to dump my books from my last class and get mine for my homework tonight, making sure I had them balanced well for the fifteen minute walk home. There was nothing worse than book edges pushing into your back.

I walked the long halls of Winston High School in Winston, Minnesota, two thousand students strong. To me it felt more like a prison, two thousand inmates strong. I still had another year to go after this one. It was only September, the beginning of my junior year, but I didn’t count it. I had already started it, right?

Glancing around, I saw my peers standing around, talking, laughing together, looking through me as if I didn’t exist at all. That was me, the perfect wallflower, and I liked it that way. No one bothered you, and I was able to get through my classes without incident. I had talked to more students in the last year through my tutoring than I had in the last five years of classes.

Running a hand through my blonde hair, cut short to stay out of my face during Tae Kwon Do, I turned down the hall that would lead to the library.

"Good afternoon, Andi," Mrs. Runyon said as I walked by the circulation desk. I smiled at her.

"Hello, ma’am. I have a student coming in, and I’ll be over there." I pointed toward a table near the back. The librarian smiled and gave me the thumbs up. I sat down, laying my backpack down on the table, and reaching in to take out my pre-calc book to begin my homework while I waited.

"Hey," I looked up to see Haley Corregan standing next to the table, backpack slung over one shoulder, dark brown hair tied up in a ponytail. Jeans and a blue t-shirt. She smiled.


"You’re Andi, right?" I nodded.

"Have a seat."

I put my book aside as she sat. I took my mechanical pencil out of my bag, more for something for my hands to play with than for me to use.

"How are you?" I looked at her, surprised by the question for some reason.

"Um, fine. Um, you?"

"Great, thanks for asking." She gave me another winning smile. "Are you new here?" Ah, the standard question. I smiled to myself for a moment, then shook my head.

"Nope. I’ve been here since I was a mere zygote." Haley looked surprised.

"Oh. I’m sorry. Guess I just missed you."

I chuckled ruefully. "Yeah. So what’s the problem?"

"Oh," she took her physics book out of her bag. "Test. Soon. Scared." I grinned.

"Okay. Well, from what I know of you, I really think you’re more worried than needs be. Is this the first of the semester?" She nodded. "Okay. Open up to where you guys are at."

"Are you a senior?" Haley asked as she flipped through the book to find the right page. I shook my head.

"Well, I will be next year."

"Oh, god. I’m being tutored by someone who’s younger than me?" She looked at me with horror on that beautiful face. "You must really think I’m stupid."

"Not at all. I just ended up a science geek for some reason. It happens. Sometimes you just need a little push, you know?" I shrugged, trying to make her feel as comfortable as possible. She smiled, nearly blinding me with the brilliance of it.

"Thanks. Okay, so the test will be over chapters two through four."

"Alright. Let’s take a look," I went over the entire thing with her, explaining what everything was and meant. We went over the vocabulary and results of the experiments in the book.

As Haley worked on a few test questions I looked at her. I had been pleasantly surprised by her. For one, most in her school status count on their looks and popularity to get them through, and knowing physics certainly wasn’t a huge priority in their rather busy social schedule. I respected that about her, as well as how nice she was to me.

"Okay. How bad did I mess it up?" She looked at me, her blue eyes hopeful. I read over her answers, figuring them out in my head, then grinned at her.

"You did good. They’re all right."

"Really?" Her excitement was almost catching. I nodded. "Wow. Who would have thunk. It’s not that hard." Haley looked over her paper with amazement on her face.

"Nah. Once you get the main properties it’s not as bad as it looks." Haley looked at me as she slammed her book shut.

"Thanks, Andi. I really appreciate this." I shrugged.

"It’s my job."

"Yeah, but you do it well." Standing, she shoved her book and notebook into her bag, checking her watch. "Oh, I have to go." Slinging the bag onto her shoulder, she smiled once again, then with a little wave, she was hurrying through the library.

I stood, shoving all of my own stuff into my bag, re-balancing it all before slinging it onto my shoulders, headed for home.

I pulled my coat a bit closer to me as the wind whipped through the trees, and through the all too thin material of my flannel jacket. I was glad it was my night to chill; Thursday, one of my only free days after tutoring, which was slow so far with classes just beginning. I knew I should take advantage of it now before things really started to kick in.

The leaves made beautiful sounds as the wind turned up a notch, and really began to get things started, blowing the leaves clear off their branches, making them swirl around the sidewalks in a dance of the harsh fall and winter to come. My house wasn’t far now, and I was grateful, chilled to the bone. I turned up the circular drive, pushed through the front door with one of my mom’s craft projects hanging on it; a fall wreath with a little scarecrow sitting on it, and a wooden sign with the word WELCOME painted in orange paint across it.

"Hey, sweetie. I’m heading out now, so I need you to make dinner for you and Chris tonight, okay?" My mother was running around the house like a little whirlwind as she got her hospital badge clipped to her scrub top. She hurried over to me, the perfume that she’d worn since I was a kid, wafting behind her.


"Did you have a good day?"

"Yeah, not bad. I aced my history test today."

"You rock, girl." My mom grabbed me in a hug until I could feel my ribs nearly crack, and my eyes bulged. "You’re so smart." She kissed my forehead before buzzing upstairs to grab her shoes.

Shaking my head with a grin, I dropped my bag on the couch, and headed to the kitchen for an apple. I was starving.

"I’ll be in the ER tonight, honey," she yelled from her bedroom.

"Okay," I yelled back, searching through the fridge to see if my mom had bought that caramel I loved to dip the apple slices in. Bingo!

"So if you guys need anything, just call the 188 extension." Suddenly my mom was behind me, grabbing her purse from the coat hanger next to the door leading to the garage. I looked at her.

"God, no wonder you’re so skinny. You don’t stop for a minute." She grinned.

"No time. I love you."

"I love you, too." She opened the garage door, hitting the button for the large garage door opener, and closed the door to the house. I could hear the Outback’s engine roar to life as I cut my snack into slices, perfect for dipping.

Taking the entire cutting board to the table, I sat down and began to eat, looking around the small table that sat two in the kitchen. Our full-sized dining table was in the dining room just off the kitchen. Me and Chris used to color in our coloring books at this table. I looked at the clock on the microwave; he should be home soon from football practice. The little slug was a Freshman at Winston High this year, and was so proud of himself for making the team his first time out. I have to admit, though I never would to him, I was proud.

My mom had left the mail on the table, and so I grabbed it, searching through for something to do as I ate. Never knowing why, especially after all the years of martial arts, I had to have something to keep my interest. My mom used to say I was just like a little jumping bean, never able to keep still.

Bill, bill, bill, ads for County Market. My eyes narrowed when I saw the return address. Rick Littman. Why the hell was there a letter from my father in here? I looked to see where he was now, NM. Where is that, New Mexico? What the hell is he doing there?

My fingers burned to rip that sucker open and see what he had to say, but it wasn’t addressed to me, and wasn’t my business. To take my temptation away, I slid it under the stack of mail. You know, out of sight, out of mind. Yeah, right.

The front door opened, the screen door slamming shut.

"Don’t slam the door, moron. How many times does mom have to tell you?"

"Shut up. What’s for dinner?" Chris dropped his football equipment on the living room floor, and sauntered into the kitchen. He looked more like our mom, medium brown hair and brown eyes. I had gotten the blonde hair and green eyes from our father, a.k.a. the sperm donor.

"Well, funny that. Mom told me she wants you to make it." I grinned, licking the apple juices off the knife I had used on my snack.

"What?" he turned to look at me, milk carton halfway to his mouth. I nodded. "Yup. She said how will you make anyone a good husband someday if you don’t know your way around a kitchen."

"You don’t know your way around it." He drank, then slammed the container back onto the fridge shelf.

"You wish. Anyway, I’m off to start studying. She left instructions on the counter." I hurried out of the kitchen, bounding up the stairs two at a time.

My room was filled with everything that was me. A huge poster of Albert Einstein hung over my computer. A lava lamp was my bedside lamp, and of course a poster of my hero, Han Cha Kyo, on the back of my door. He was a Tae Kwon Do master who had achieved 9th Dan, highest honor in Tae Kwon Do. He was the Grand Master. My Sabum Nim had been devastated when he’d died in 1996. All my ti’s from white up to my black belt, were folded over the mirror on my dresser.

Of course one of my biggest accomplishments was the three shelves holding my collection of Beanie Babies next to my closet. Hey, every girl has her vice.

I plopped down on my floor, clicking the stereo on first, then spread out all my books and papers. Pencil in my mouth, I began to study and work on my pre-calc homework, and started on my psychology project. I hated psych, but had no choice but to take it. It all made no sense to me. How do you feel about your mother. Who cares? It wasn’t due until the end of the semester, but I figured I’d better start on it now before I let the Procrastinator overtake me.

"I’ll be back," I muttered in my best Arnie impression.

As the music played on, I wrote down questions, answering more, until all my math was finished, and I could fully concentrate on my psych. Mrs. Fields wanted us to do a project where we compare and contrast. Compare and contrast what?

With a sigh I sat back against the side of my bed, looked out the window. The sun was beginning to sit low in the sky, the bright, intense rays of sundown nearly blinding me. I was shocked to see it was nearly six.

"Yo, dipshit! Dinner!" Chris yelled from downstairs. I grinned at my cleverness, and tossed my pencil aside to go eat.

* * *

The shrillness of the bell hurried everyone along to their next class, the chatter, hurried footsteps and slamming metal locker doors nearly deafening as I made my way to AP English with the ever nutty, ex- hippie Mrs. Graham. Though I didn’t much care for the subject, with her you couldn’t help but learn and enjoy yourself. Her soft spoken way, but intelligent and insightful way of looking at writers and literature was refreshing and amusing. If my passion wasn’t so strongly set in science and medicine, I may have tried a different path, with English a stop on the way.

The walk home today was even colder than the day before, the tale-tell signs of winter with the infant stages of leaves turning. It would come early this year for sure. One thing I have to give my father credit for. Before he and my mother split when I was eleven, he would take me out and we’d go look at all the trees and plants around this time of year. He taught me what to look for when the seasons began to change.

It would be a cold bike ride to work, that was for sure. When I got off at seven it would be even worse. Definitely time to pull out the sweaters.

"Hey, honey. How was your day?" My mom sat on the couch reading the newest Reader’s Digest.

"Hi." I plopped down next to her, her arm automatically reaching around to play with my hair, my head going to her shoulder. "My day was okay. Long. You?" My mom leaned her cheek against the top of my head.

"It was okay. My only day off this week with Vicki quitting. I absolutely refused to be productive today. I don’t understand why they think they don’t have to hire any more nurses when one quits. I mean, do they honestly think we all can cover for one less body?"

"I’m sorry, mom. They’re rich assholes who care about the almighty buck instead of their employees or patients." My mom took her head from mine, looking at me.

"How on earth did you get so pessimistic?" I grinned with a shrug. "Well, you are right, though." She sighed. "Norman is after me again to go work for him in his private practice. The money wouldn’t be as good, but the hours would be a lot better."

"Well," I pulled away from her so I could look into her tired face. "If it comes down to keeping your sanity or making the big bucks, I don’t really see the choice, you know?" She smiled, hugging me.

"Go get a snack. Made fresh brownies." My face automatically brightened.

"Ghirardelli?" She nodded. "Score!" I hopped up, nearly tripping on my face in my haste to get my hands on the chocolate.

"So what’s your plans for tonight?" I held up a hand, my mouth too full of the sweetness from the cocoa bean to answer. My mom walked over to the counter to get herself a cup of coffee.

"I have to go in to work. Marty called off."

"Oh. Well, why don’t you take the car tonight? It’s getting too cold for you to ride. The last thing I need is a sick Andrea on my hands."

"Thanks. I really wasn’t looking forward to it." Leaning against the counter, we were both quiet for a moment, me eating, her sipping. "Where’s Chris?"

"Over at Brian’s, that new family that moved in. He’s become pretty good buds with him." Shrugging my indifference, I grabbed the keys from the coat rack.

"I have to go. I’ll see you later."

"I love you, hon. Be careful."

"I love you, too. Will do. Later."

* * *

I lay on my bed, my ankles crossed as I stared up at my ceiling, the glow in the dark stars there twinkling at me as I listened to my Eagles Greatest Hits CD. Work had been hectic, all three hours of it. I worked at Rothman Labs as an assistant, and loved it. Right now we were working on samples from an asbestos clean up at the elementary school. It felt good to relax and clear the brain, especially since it was Thursday, my favorite day, since that meant tomorrow was Friday.

The phone rang, but I let my mom or Chris get it. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Not that it would be for me, anyway.

Knock, knock.

"Andrea, honey. Phone." My mom said softly on the other side of the door. Looking at the closed door with a shocked expression on my face.

"What?" The door opened, and my mom entered, holding the cordless phone out to me. I took it, and my mom hurried out of my room. I looked at it for a second like it was a snake that would bite me. Was it my grandmother?


"Hi, um, is this Andi?"

"Yeah," I totally didn’t recognize the girl’s voice on the other end.

"I’m really sorry to bother you. This is Haley Corregan." My brows drew. What the… "My test is tomorrow, and to be honest, I’m starting to really freak out. I didn’t see you in the library after school, so I didn’t know how else to get a hold of you."

"You want help?" I asked, laying back down on my bed, one leg up, the other ankle crossed over my knee. There was silence on the other end of the phone for a moment, then in a tiny voice,

"Yes." I couldn’t keep the grin from my face.

"Okay. Do you know where I live?"

"No. The school directory just has your phone number."

"Oh, okay. Well I live right on the corner of Theo and Lark."

"Really? That’s only about six blocks away from me."

"Well good. You won’t have far to go."

"Thanks, Andi. I really appreciate this."

"No problem. See you soon."

I clicked the off button on my phone, and sighed. Wow. Haley Corregan is coming to my house.


I popped up, looked around my room to see what mess there was. Not bad, but I still shoved any bit of clothing from the floor into my hamper, stacking my books on my dresser instead of spread all across the floor as usual.

I heard the doorbell chime, and checked myself in the mirror, smoothing my cowlick down before looking down at myself. I wore shiny green soccer shorts with a white tank, my feet bare.


"Yeah, yeah," I mumbled, hurrying toward the door, opening it just in time to hear,

"So, do you like brownies?" Rolling my eyes, I hurried down the stairs to see Haley standing just inside the door in a pair of flannel pants, sneakers and a heavy coat. She looked up at the noise my hurried steps made. My mom disappeared to the kitchen.

"Hey," she said. I waved. "I’m getting a brownie." She smiled, obviously happy about this.

"Well, as long as you can listen and review at the same time, we’ll be fine."

My mom hurried over to us with a plate stacked with little brownie squares and two napkins.

"Thank you, Mrs.," she looked at me.


"Littman." She smiled, as did my mother.

"Theresa, and enjoy. You two have fun." She turned to head back downstairs where the TV was on.

"Well, um, ready?" Haley looked at me, a brownie already in hand. I turned to lead us up the stairs, and could hear her chewing and moaning in pleasure as she scarffed the treat down. I switched my light on, and stood to the side to allow her to enter. As she ate, she looked around, taking in my eclectic collection.

"This is most interesting." She said with a grin, looking at my Beanie Babies. For just a moment I felt embarrassed, knowing it wasn’t exactly what a 17-year-old girl should be keeping. But I just couldn’t bring myself to part with a ten year obsession.

"Yeah, well. You know." I shuffled my feet, staring down at the floor. "So, um, how are the brownies?" I could not believe this; Haley Corregan was in my house, and not just that, she was standing in the middle of my bedroom! It’s like inviting Julia Roberts to your house, but teenage style.

"They’re wonderful. Want one?" She offered the second one to me. I shook my head putting my hand up.

"No. I’ve had my fill for today. I think six is already topping the scale as it is, you know?" She grinned, stuffing the entire thing into her mouth. "Alrighty, then. Shall we?" I indicated the floor. She nodded, chewing as she knelt down, dropping the text book in front of me.

"Help." She managed to utter after an impressive swallowing act. Shaking my head, I opened the book, and began the review. I could tell Haley was scared to death to take the test. She hung on my every word, watching me intently as I explained the different parts of gravity, and went over the experiments once again.

"So, you think you’ve got it?" I asked, tapping the book with the pen in my hand. She looked at the book to her notes, then finally at me, and took a deep breath.

"Well, I just hope I’ll be able to retain all this overnight."

"If you need any further help, I usually try to get to school early."

"Oh, that’s okay. I have the test during first hour, so I think if I don’t know it by the time I wake up in the morning, I might as well give it up." I grinned, nodding.

"Okay. I really think you’ll do fine, Haley. Hell, you knew most of what I was covering tonight before I even went over it, anyway." She sat back, holding herself up on her hands.

"Well, maybe. I think I just needed that little bit of a safety lesson, you know." She smiled sheepishly.

"Eh, you’ll be okay. Really. My services are guaranteed."

"I sure hope so." She laughed. Haley glanced at her watch. "Oh, shit. I have to go. I was supposed to meet Kelly at ten, and it’s almost ten-thirty."


"Yeah. Thanks again, Andi, or Andrea." I glared as she grinned.

"Yeah, call me that again and see if I help you again." Haley stood, gathering her book and notebook, sticking her pen in her pocket.

"Let me know how it goes." Haley smiled, then walked toward the door. I walked her downstairs and opened the front door for her, letting in the cold night air. She walked out onto the porch, our sensory light clicking on to illuminate the front yard and the black Acura Integra parked at the curb. She clicked the automatic locks open, loaded everything in, and drove off into the night.

* * *

I slammed my locker shut, feeling freer without the weight of my backpack, my lunch bag in hand as I headed for the cafeteria. Well, the ring of lockers that surrounded it. Finding locker number 218, my locker of choice, I plopped down and opened my brown bag. I hadn’t been very hungry this morning, so I’d only brought a bagel and an apple. The bagel just didn’t speak to me, so I rubbed the apple on my sweatshirt, and took a nice, noisy bite. The fruit juice squirted in my mouth as I chewed. I looked out at the other kids in the cafeteria, making noise laughing and talking as they ate. I was always amused by some of the things I saw and heard. If you asked, I was a fountain of knowledge when it came to the students of Winston High.

"Hey." I looked up to see Haley standing over me.

"Hello." She knelt down.

"Not a big eater, are you?" She nodded at my apple, which I looked at, then shrugged.

"Not real hungry, you know? Besides, how do you know that I didn’t just finish off a seven course meal and this is my dessert?"

"Because I saw you sit down."

"Ah. Okay, so you got me. How was the test?"

"Well, I’m not real sure, yet. We don’t find out until Monday or Tuesday."

"Oh, yeah? Hank is making you guys wait that long?"



"Oh. You two are pretty close, then?" I shrugged. "So, um, you guys talk?" She cocked her head to the side a bit, her ponytail falling over her shoulder. I narrowed my eyes, knowing exactly where this was going.


"Well, you know, if you guys are close, then maybe he’d tell you, you know, what I got."

"So you want to use me for my connections, eh?"

"And your brain."

"Oh, I see how it is." I grinned, shaking my head. "Meet me at his room after school."

"Oh, you are so cool!" She reached out and set her hand on my shoulder. "Thanks, Andi. I just know that having to wonder all weekend would kill me." She smiled, so did I. "Look, there’s got to be something that I can do for you. I mean, you’ve been so wonderful with this whole tutoring thing, and now trying to help out with Mr. Rodman."

"It’s not necessary, Haley, really. It’s not that big of a deal."

"It is to me." She looked at me for a moment, finally taking her hand away from my shoulder. I watched it out of the corner of my eye. "Do you drive?"


"Oh," She looked dejected for just a second. "But I don’t have a car." Instantly brightening again, she smiled.

"If I get an A on this test, I’ll take you to and from school on all the bad days. Rain or snow. How’s that?" I nodded, liking the idea.

"Okay. It’s still not necessary, but alright." A huge smile spread across her face.

"Great! I better get going, but I’ll see you after school, okay?"

"See you." I watched Haley stand and bounce her way back to her friends, who looked at me with obvious questions in their eyes, made more apparent as their heads leaned in to, I’m sure, ask Haley a zillion questions.

"Andi, why on earth should I give this girl her score now? I barely have her test graded." I leaned over Hank’s desk, looking into his eyes, enlarged behind thick glasses.

"Come on, Hank. Just for me. This girl is my protégé, and I want to see how I did." I smiled, and he stared at me for a moment.

"That is the biggest pile of horse shit I’ve ever heard, but it was such a good excuse I’ll do it."

"Oh, man! You’re awesome." I slapped the old science teacher on the back, a huge grin on my face. About then the classroom door opened, and Haley stepped through. She looked from me to Hank, then back at me, hope in her eyes. I nodded, she smiled.

"Okay, Haley. Know this won’t happen with every test, but I’ll go ahead and give you your grade." The teacher said, looking at her over the top of the spectacles.

"Thank you so much, Mr. Rodman. I really appreciate this." Haley heaved the backpack further up onto her shoulder, and walked to stand next to me. I could smell the slight scent of perfume on her sweater. It was too faint for me to be able to tell what it was.

"Miss Corregan," My attention was ripped back to Hank, who was looking at stapled papers in his hand, which I assumed was Haley’s test. "You received a 92." He looked up, pulling his glasses off.

"Yes!" Haley turned to me, sticking her hand up in the air. I slapped it. "Thanks, Andi. You are so awesome." I grinned.

"Thanks. Congratulations." I felt proud for some reason, pleased.

"You heading home now?" Haley asked after thanking the teacher. I nodded. "Come on, I’ll give you a lift."

The drive to my house was nothing compared to the walk, and it seemed that in no time Haley pulled her car into the driveway. She turned to me.

"Thanks again. I’m sure I’ll be in need of your guaranteed services again." I grinned.

"Just give me a call."

* * *


"Charyot!" yelled Sabum Nim Kyung. I stopped immediately, as did my sparing partner, Tracy. We walked to our places on the matt and knelt down to our knees, our eyes downcast out of respect for our teacher. Our Sabum Nim stood before us, arms crossed over his chest as he waited. "Sunbae Nim Andi." My eyes raised to his, and I jumped to my feet, joining him at the front.

"Charyot!" I yelled, the class looking at me. "Remember, championships are coming up in January. You guys must try harder." I looked at the face of each student, most of which I’d known for many years. "Dustin and Kyle, next week you two will be partnered, and I don’t want to see you fall again, Kyle." The twelve year old’s gaze dropped, and he nodded. I turned to my Sabum Nim, and bowed.

"That’s all for today." He clapped his hands, and everyone jumped up and scattered. Tracy walked over to me.

"Nice job today, chief. Your second week as the Sunbae Nim." I grinned, nodding.

"Kind of cool, isn’t it?"

"Well, not really. You could kick just about anyone’s butt in here."

"Yeah, well you’re just jealous. We still on for tonight?" she nodded.

"Yeah. I just need to get showered and changed, and we’re off."

Tracy and I had started in the Kyung dojang at the same time, but she’d left when she was eight when her family moved away. When they came back three years later, she had re-joined. By that time I had moved far ahead of her, starting with Tae Kwon Do at age six. I had earned my third degree black belt over the summer. I was now the senior student, or Sunbae Nim. Tracy was one of my best friends, well, one of my only friends.

"It feels so good to be out of there. Though I have to admit I’m bummed Yoga was cancelled," Tracy said as she steered her Jeep through the streets of our town.

"I know." I said. I ran my hands through my still-damp hair, combing out the strands with my fingers, before they became tangled. "I can’t believe I forgot my brush."

"I told you I had mine. Jeez, what do you think I have?" I glared at her as I continued. "So I hear this movie is supposed to be pretty good."

"I hope so. It’s been so long since I’ve seen anything that was worth watching. The way I see it, if it hurts my brain to watch a movie, it’s just not worth it."

"Well, yeah, but just about everything hurts your brain." Tracy glanced over at me as she turned onto Pacos, the street that would lead to the theater complex.

"This is true."

The place was busy, Tracy having to park near the end of the lot. We made our way through the cars, finally getting to the doors that were open as the line was too much for the lobby to hold. We looked at each other, surprised.

"Oh, boy. Still want to do this, do you?" I crossed my arms over my chest.

"We’re staying." Tracy patted my shoulder, knowing how much I hated being in a huge group. "The line will move quickly. I hope."

I looked around, seeing who all had come out for the grand opening of the new Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant flick. I usually wasn’t a fan of romantic comedies, thinking how stupid they were, and that no one ever acts that way or goes to those extremes for love. Tracy said I was far too cynical for my years, and maybe she was right.

"Hey." I turned to look at Tracy, but saw that she was talking to some guy, so I looked in the other direction, stunned to see Haley smiling at me. She was in line just a little further back, surrounded by her entourage.

"Hi. Fancy seeing you here."

"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. What are you here to see?"

"Some Sandra Bullock movie."

"Oh, I hear that’s really cute. I got drug here to see the new J. Lo movie."


"J. Lo? Jennifer Lopez?"

"Oh. The whole J. Lo thing is new to me." I grinned sheepishly.

"Wow, you are out of the loop, aren’t you?" She pulled the ends of her jacket a little closer around her body as the wind began to whip around the theater.

"Well, I do my best." I grinned, so did she.

"Who are you here with?"

"My pal Tracy."

"Huh?" Tracy looked at me, then back at Haley, then back at me with huge eyes.

"Oh. Hello." Haley smiled at my friend. Shyly Tracy waved at her.

"Haley, they’re making two lines. Come on." One of Haley’s friends grabbed her by the sleeve, tugging her away. "Girl, what are you doing?" I heard hissed at her. I didn’t listen for Haley’s response.

"You talk to her?" I turned to see Tracy looking at me expectantly. "Better yet, she talks to you?"

"Gee, thanks. Yes."

"Wow. Call me shocked." The line moved up a bit, and we were finally inside the building. I looked around, trying to not make it obvious, seeing where Haley had gone. She stood with a group of about four or five, all huddled together talking and laughing. She ran her hands through her ponytail, fixing it a bit. I had never seen her with her hair down. It hadn’t occurred to me until just now.

The entire time I’d gone to school, I had been in awe of Haley Corregan. Not only was she popular and beautiful, but she was known for being sweet and kind to everyone. I was finding that to be true. My opinion of her crowd could certainly be higher, but she had gained my respect for the most part. She seemed separate from them, somehow, like even they were out of her league. It was so unfair for one girl to be so talented, a star soccer player, intelligent and unbelievably beautiful. Why was it that just certain people were blessed by the gods with every single attribute? With everything going their way? And why on earth would someone like her hang around with those circus clowns?

"Hello, earth to Andi." Shaken out of my reverie, I looked around to see we were at the front of the line. I reached into my pocket for my money, handing the girl the right amount, and taking my ticket. "Where did you go?" Tracy asked as we headed to the concession stand.

"Oh, nowhere. Just kind of lost in my own thoughts for a second there."

"Yeah, I’ll say. What do you want?"

We ordered our junk food, feeling justified after the workout we’d had in class, and headed into the huge theater, packed with anxious movie-goers. We found two seats as close to the middle as we could. I felt the movie experience wasn’t nearly as good unless I sat as close to the middle as I could. Hey, we all have our things.

The movie ended, we stood to leave.

"Oh, I loved it," Tracy gushed, wiping the tears away from her eyes.

"You are such a sap." I grinned, easing my way into the main aisle as people herded out.

"Yeah, so? Oh, it was just so sweet!" she exclaimed, wiping her nose with the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

"You’re a nut. Wait for me, will you? I need to go to the bathroom."

"Okay." She sniffled as she headed toward the lobby. I hurried to the ladies room, the large coke I’d had going through me like a funnel. The bathroom, too, was packed as several movies got out at the same time, so I leaned against the tiled wall, waiting for my turn.

"Well, I just can’t get away from you today, can I?" I turned to see Haley lean against the wall next to me. I grinned.

"Sorry about that." She looked confused.

"Why?" Because your friends are assholes?

"Oh, nothing. Just kidding."

"Oh. So did you enjoy your show?" She heaved the strap of the bag she carried, further up her shoulder.

"Not as much as Tracy did." I grinned. "She’s blowing her nose as we speak." Haley chuckled, then indicated that I should move up in line. I slid across the wall.

"Oh, one of those kinds of movies, huh?" She smiled. I nodded.

"Apparently. I liked it, but didn’t really feel the need to cry. What about yours?"

"Well, let’s put it this way, I wish I had gone into yours. I can watch Sandra Bullock any day. But J. Lo? Well, I’m not such a fan. But Ralph Finnes is pretty cute. Pretty green eyes. You don’t see those very often." She narrowed her eyes, and leaned toward me. I stared at her like she was nuts. "You have green eyes." She stood up again, arms cross over her chest. "Huh. I never noticed that. They’re pretty." I, for the first time in my life, blushed, looking away. I hated to be affected by what other people said.

"Um, thanks. Oh, it’s my turn. See you later." I smiled, and hurried to the deserted bathroom stall.


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